Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start (to coin a phrase). I also want to make sure those of you who are in the U.S. and Canada aren’t upset by any discussions that go past what’s available on Acorn TV. As of Monday, Oct. 12, E1-3 will be viewable, so I will keep this post confined to those three episodes. We can always add more once we have additional episodes to watch.
Although E1 is entitled “Rescue Me,” and we can see how they arrived at that designation, I would submit they could have called it “Failure to Communicate.” They might argue that that would be too obvious, but for me it says a lot. This show is built on the constant inability of its two protagonists to communicate with each other. Many times they misunderstand each other. Sometimes that’s because they have trouble expressing themselves clearly or because they have trouble interpreting what the other person is saying. Other times it’s because they are interrupted. Then there’s the regular instances of Martin simply being lacking in insight and responding literally and undiplomatically to what Louisa says.
Their inability to talk to each other reached its zenith in S6 when Martin stopped talking to Louisa about almost everything. She never heard him tell his mother that his family consists of his wife, his son, and Ruth; she wasn’t there when he told his mother to leave or when he spoke to Ruth. Around her Martin was tongue tied at best, as in when he objected at first to taking James to the music group, and utterly stifled at worst. We don’t see him able to express himself to Louisa until he needs to race to the airport and take her off the plane. When he finally has an opportunity to say something to her from his heart, she is sedated and we’re never sure she can remember it.
We start S7 without knowing what happened once Louisa was released from the hospital, but we have to think that Martin never reiterated what he told her in the hospital or she wouldn’t have taken James to Spain. We know Louisa didn’t want to return to the way things were before she had the emergency surgery; however, it’s hard to imagine that if Martin had appealed to her to help him be a better husband, she would have left. Logic says he was once again unable to bring himself to tell her outright that he didn’t want her to leave and what he had finally done about his mother. Principally, the first episode emphasizes many communication impediments. Nearly everyone has many problems hearing and/or talking to others by phone, by radio, and in person.
Martin hasn’t heard from Louisa in 3 weeks. He brings himself to call her but has to leave a message. She calls back on the surgery phone and he can’t hear her. She texts that she has poor reception where she is, then she calls and he’s in a place with poor reception. Her final try to reach him by phone is when he’s with Dr. T and he doesn’t get her call. It’s heartening to see that she continues to attempt to contact him; and deliberately frustrating for him and for us that he never actually talks to her. Since she is so persistent we can’t help thinking that all he had to have done during those 3 weeks was to have tried to call her. Her voice messages and text message are all pleasant and conciliatory.
Martin also has been trying to reach Ruth without success. Once he finds her at home, he informs her he’s been calling her for days. When he manages to get across that he wants to start therapy, she doesn’t at first understand that he wants her to provide therapy for him.
Beyond the Martin and Louisa situation, there are several other times in this episode where there are communication hangups. Morwenna and Martin misunderstand each other almost from the outset of the episode. She wants to participate in the boat rescue event, she wants a pay rise, she wants to reschedule his afternoon patients, and he considers all of these things inappropriate and unnecessary. Then, when she’s crashed in an isolated bay and trying to reach him on the phone or the radio, Martin can’t hear her or she can’t hear him. The rescue squad has its problems too. It can’t reach Steve and the boat’s radio can’t get a message out for some time.
In addition to all this trouble communicating, Steve Baker withholds information from Martin and Barry. No one from the press knows what’s going on, and Martin disrupts their transmissions. Moreover, Al doesn’t tell Ruth the truth about the condition of the B + B, and Steve is forever telling Al to trust him while giving him no reason to do so.
The whole episode is truly a massive amount of failures to communicate. My assessment is that we start this series with this theme because it is at the crux of the troubles between Martin and Louisa and always has been. Furthermore, communication is the key to interpersonal interactions of all kinds and this episode magnifies that.
Episode 2 has fewer miscommunication examples; however, there are enough to sustain the theme of communication being at the heart of this series. Louisa shows up at the surgery unexpectedly, although Martin acts like he thought she would arrive later. Several of their conversations are interrupted, and when they do have a chance to talk, they are both very awkward. It’s clear that they are struggling to converse because the elephant in the room is the future of their marriage and neither one of them is ready to talk about it…until dinner. Even then, the tension in the air is inescapable. One of the truly meaningful exchanges between Martin and Louisa in this episode occurs when Martin is packing so that he can move out to please Louisa. His first attempt at telling her he likes having her and James back comes when he says, “You know I don’t miss the peace and quiet.” She needs clarification and he repeats that now that she’s back he didn’t miss it. What he’s saying still doesn’t make sense to her, and she asks him what he’s trying to say. This time he is clear and says, “When you and James weren’t here, everything was neat and tidy and quiet, and now that you’re back, it’s not, and that’s fine.” In this example, we get a glimpse of the effort Martin is making to express himself better and to make himself more vulnerable.
Martin’s first appointment with Dr. Timoney is a mixture of the doctor setting the tone and of Martin making real attempts to reveal intimate information about himself. Even at this early stage in the clinical setting, she knows more about Martin’s early childhood than Louisa, at least to the best of our knowledge. Still there’s a sense that there’s so much more she should find out and more probing is necessary.
In other parts of the episode we note that Al’s guest couple have very different ideas about what a fishing holiday should entail. He wants peace and quiet while she wants relaxation and time spent together. The two positions are very much at odds and lead to one mishap after another. The funniest depiction of inability to communicate to me is when Bert tries to tell Al he has no lobsters for dinner and ends up looking like he’s playing castanets.
But it’s in this episode that we start to see more withholding of information. The act of hesitating to say what’s really essential is just as important as anything that can be said outright. Sometimes silence means more than any words can convey. Lack of communication includes what we leave out and neglect to say. Many times during this and later episodes there are pregnant silences during which either Louisa or Martin or both don’t know what to say and just stare at each other. Ruth, too, withholds much about her symptoms, probably as much from herself as from Martin. It isn’t until Ruth finally can’t walk steadily and Martin prevails on her to go back home with him that she gives in. (Can we think that this scene presages what may take place between Martin and Louisa?)
[For those of you who are interested in literary theory, Jacques Derrida’s philosophy could apply here. Perhaps Derrida’s most quoted and famous assertion, which appears in an essay on Rousseau in his book Of Grammatology (1967), is the statement that “there is no outside-text” (il n’y a pas de hors-texte). For most of us this means that what is left out of a text is as important as what is left in. (I am being very reductionist here, but getting into Derrida is really outside the scope of this post.)]
It’s amusing that E3 is given the title “It’s Good to Talk” because this episode is once again filled with scenes during which communication, or lack thereof, is prominent. Bert has lost the restaurant and has received a letter from Jennifer breaking off their engagement, but he chooses not to tell Al anything about it and he’s very evasive with Ruth. Al does his best to avoid telling Ruth that business is bad, and later finds himself at a loss for words while on the radio. The entire secondary story about Dermot and Elise is filled with misunderstandings and much withholding of information. Their daughter Ellie has nothing but resentment towards her parents and they see no value in what she wants to do with her life. Interestingly, Ellie is a writer of songs that express her feelings. When direct communication fails, some turn to writing.
The radio station creates lots of opportunities for communication problems, but it’s most notable for the so-called “dead air” DJ Melanie has to fill. After all, what is a radio station without sound? And how often is “dead air” filled with so much meaningless babble?
Martin and Louisa are clashing and Louisa gives him a comeuppance he is stunned by. Later Louisa’s view of Dr. T is complicated by Ruth’s devious method of making Louisa think again about couple’s therapy. By the end of the episode Louisa first finds it hard to give Martin some praise for saving Ellie’s life even though she is obviously proud of her husband and makes a special point of telling James. On the other hand, she is the one to approach Martin with a conciliatory gesture of agreeing to couple’s therapy and telling him “it could be a means to an end or a new beginning.” This last scene holds out hope to Martin even though the statement is somewhat ambiguous.
It seems quite likely that communication will continue to be a major hurdle in Martin and Louisa’s effort to reunite. We see some improvement, and therapy should be a place where the therapist facilitates better communicating. In fact, as some of the therapists in this group have noted elsewhere, the best assignment Dr. T can give this couple is to talk about the things that have been a disruption to the marriage and about what they would like to see in their future together. Talking things out can often help. The show is built around intrusions that keep them from having a chance to express themselves adequately, but lately we have seen fewer interruptions and that’s a good sign.
[I want to add that we see another scene of forgiveness in episode 3 when Ellie’s mother, who has been acting angry at everyone actually tells Ellie she’s not angry at her and gives her a hug. She has decided to hire someone to help with the pigs until Dermot is well and not expect Ellie to do that work. She understands Ellie wants to write and sing songs. (It’s at least ironic that the song Ellie sings after her mother leaves is about how her parents care more for the pigs than for her, but she is singing from her heart!)]
Originally posted 2015-10-12 18:07:17.