Hugs and kisses

Now that Acorn has posted E4, we can turn our attention to the assignment of hugging 3 times a day. Dr. Timoney gives them that assignment after seeing them together for the first time. She precedes the recommendation by observing that they seem very self contained. At the time they are seated next to each other on a small bench, but Louisa has also said she feels a little smushed and asks Martin to move over. He has no place to move.

We can say there is some symbolism in that.

Also, Dr. T tells them that most couples touch in some way, possibly holding hands. I think that is a rather surprising remark to make to a couple seeking marriage counseling. They are evidently experiencing some tension in their marriage. If they were holding hands, that would be a signal that their relationship wasn’t nearly as imperiled as we would presume, wouldn’t it?

Interestingly, the one sort of touching they’ve done most throughout the show is holding hands. Holding hands, like most forms of touching, makes people feel closer to each other, and the times we’ve seen Martin take Louisa’s hand are definitely accompanied by both of them responding with pleasure, e.g. following the concert or after they’ve retrieved JH from Mrs. Tishell at the Castle.

Asking Martin and Louisa to hug each day and say something positive to each other makes some sense. Dr. T is perceptive enough to notice that outward signs of affection are sorely lacking in this couple, and starting with that could break the ice. There is some truth to the idea that hugging, or any kind of physical touch, has a significant impact on humans. An article in Psychology Today lists three major benefits:

  1. Security. A lot of time has passed since the Harlow studies, showing that poor monkey babies prefer a cloth doll without milk as a mother substitute over a metal doll with milk [2]. Worldwide we agree that babies need to be held. There is evidence that adults who were frequently hugged and cuddled during early childhood display fewer stress symptoms than less-hugged counterparts [3]. Physical affection also alleviates stress reactions in adults who report less existential anxiety even when touched only briefly [4]. We are simply wired to find touch reassuring, as many studies of first impressions show [5].
  2. Positive Feelings. As adults, we can live without hugs, of course, but we do seem to be happier with them. We release the hormone oxytocin when touched, which elevates feelings of attachment, connection, trust, and intimacy. [6] When we’re hugged, we feel less lonely. I speculate that students feel less devastated by academic problems when well-hugged, well-assured, and well-bonded. Apparently, hugs facilitate social bonding and the experience of participating fully in this life, which, to me, is  true happiness.*
  3. Better HealthAnother commonly mentioned benefit of hugging lies in our improved health, as when we are touched our heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of the harmful stress hormone cortisol are lowered [7]. Reach out and hug, and your life might not only feel better, but last longer.

It is the power of touch that has driven the worldwide movement to offer hugs to strangers that began in 2004. For more on this you can check out wikipedia. The idea is that we can bring the world together by offering hugs to random strangers. There has also been a study of strangers and kissing that you may want to watch. See here. If you watch this video, you can see that a kiss can cause just about anyone to let down their guard even though it is accompanied by some embarrassment. We don’t see that with Martin and Louisa at first, but later kisses elicit more loss of inhibitions.

Martin has clearly suffered from not being hugged and cuddled as a baby and now he finds hugging generally unappealing. Aunt Joan gets away with a few hugs, although sometimes Martin looks mighty uncomfortable in her arms. He usually avoids physical contact with others and recoils when they try to touch him. Louisa is the only person he wants to touch and wants touching him.

Thus, the assignment to hug is grounded in a bona fide effort to bring Martin and Louisa together by having them touch each other. At this point in their marriage they have grown apart to such a degree that physical contact has diminished to almost nothing. Once the assignment is given to them, they do not shrink from it. In my opinion, Louisa likes physical affection and it’s not surprising that she would be the first to initiate a hug. The first hug is awkward and they hug again almost immediately. The ice has been broken, although nothing is ever simple with them, and Martin once again ruins the moment by telling Louisa his watch is caught on her cardigan. Nevertheless, by then Louisa has admitted that she likes hugging Martin and that she isn’t going anywhere. (One of those hints that the marriage will recover.)

By the end of E4, Louisa decides to hug Martin one more time. This time Martin asks her if the hug is spontaneous or part of the assignment. For me that is the one problem with making it an assignment…how will anyone know if the hug comes from a sincere desire to be affectionate or is a way to fulfill the assignment. Not only does his question create some ambiguity to the end of the episode, but also it points out the uncertainty that still exists in their relationship. But hey, we finally get some overt affection from this couple and it’s something to enjoy even if it is short-lived.

Originally posted 2015-10-21 22:01:52.

48 thoughts on “Hugs and kisses

  1. Mary F.

    Yes! Finally a bit of affection, even if prescribed is good to see. Although Martins remark about getting stuck on Louisa’s sweater was a bit akin to “you’re crushing my windpipe!” In the wedding episode. I noticed how Martin seems able to say something positive along with the hug, but Louisa is still holding back from saying anything positive in response. Could it be that she still doesn’t quite trust the therapist or think much of the idea that she is at least partly responsible for their troubles?

  2. MARJE

    I did not feel the remark about holding hands was surprising at all. Marriage counseling is for couples who want to save their marriage. They usually still have love for each other and often hold hands or even pet the others shoulder when they know they are having a hard time communicating their thoughts. The fact that they are both there at all means there is great hope for their relationship.
    Being told to hug someone three times a day seems odd to me. I guess if it were me, I would look for even the smallest reason to give the hug. I would not just walk up and hug. That would seem so cold and unfeeling. I would need to be a good actress. What is the good of a hug that is not from the heart. Perhaps the doctor could have told them to look for reasons to hug and hug a lot more.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Mary, it is getting quite obvious that Louisa is struggling to respond in kind either during the therapy sessions or in private. Martin even points it out by saying now it’s your turn, but she says her positive remark was how committed to the therapy he is. During therapy I would expect the therapist to force Louisa to contribute. Since that doesn’t happen, my guess is that we will reach a scene in which Louisa finally no longer contains herself and says a number of positive things as well as admitting that she has contributed to their marital problems. I would love to see her have a speech like Martin had at the end of S4 or S5. It’s time she puts herself out there and giving her a speech like that would be another reversal of what’s happened before. We’ll see…

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I seem to have less faith in couples doing marriage counseling than you do. I figure they would be pretty unhappy with each other at first and hopefully come around after therapy starts to break down their defenses. In this case, Martin and Louisa are not openly affectionate in public on the best of days. It took prompting for him to kiss her in front of the guests after they said their wedding vows. The therapist is right to notice their reluctance to touch, and we should never discount the humor in how they carry it out. It was especially funny to see Martin give Louisa a hug when he’s holding some bags and she’s got toys in her hands. It was a big step for him to initiate the hug though and it was the one time when she came close to saying something positive to him while they hugged.

  5. MARJE

    In the beginning Louisa knew Martin was unable to show affection . However she married him. I wonder if, like so many women, she thought he would change after they married. At this point I see her as afraid to let him back in because he has not changed enough and she could be hurt again. She , even at first, seemed to find it hard to steer Martin towards being a more openly loving man. Some women are really good at this and can get the man to open up. Right now she is so distant that I actually get angry with her more than with Martin. When she seemed happy that he said he could not let go of her I was glad. Then it was ruined by the watch being caught. She was so disappointed . The therapist telling them to touch more was on the mark for sure.

  6. Laura H

    Hugging and hand holding by Martin and Louisa seem to be as ambiguous as many other things in their relationship. In some ways, Martin’s displays of affection often are precipitated by the degree of emotion leading up to them. Take his relationship with his two aunts, for instance. Although we might discount or question the Martin of Series one and two, we do see quite a compassionate Martin curl Joan to him in a big hug to console her after she breaks down from the reason for the departure of John Slater. Is that because she is his mother figure? He acts differently with Ruth. He accepts but sloughs off Ruth’s hug after he tells her she is going to live in S5, and looks puzzled when she admits she was trying to give him a hug in S7E3. He seems to regard Ruth as an advisor and fellow doctor, and someone to talk about medical matters, not to hug. In another medical setting, he pulls his hand away from Louisa’s after Peter Cronk disappears through the emergency room doors in S1E6. Yet he holds his hand gently over Louisa’s in S3 while telling her he’s going to need a stool sample from her to determine more about her illness. Louisa holds his hand outside before Joan’s funeral, and he allows her to. He’s emotional about Louisa at the concert and holds her hand walking away from the concert, yet it prompts Louisa to pull him aside to kiss him, which seems to be more than he was ready for and that is when he defensively begins the medical tutorial.
    I agree that ambiguity seems to be involved in Dr. T’s hugging homework…her comment that they aren’t displaying affection…so maybe that’s part of why they are there? I can only agree with you, Karen, that Dr T is hoping to break some ice between M and L. Yet we get defiant vibes from Louisa in placing her hand on Martin’s, as if to make Dr. T wrong. Interesting how different views arise as to the true situations in Martin’s watch snag and Louisa’s ring snag during those two separate hugs. I think Martin does indeed snag his watch on her sweater and does not want to leave a mark on it. Louisa seems irritated that she almost let herself believe his lasting hug was genuine. Still wary of Martin’s ways, I think she pretends that her ring snags in the final hug of S7 E 4, sadly still protecting herself from committing too much.

  7. DM

    The hugging assignments are a great ploy especially as Martin would not be wont to participate unless prescribed. to do so Nonetheless, he did express his willingness to “learn to be a better husband”, so good marks for him for engaging in the curriculum!

    Hugs and kisses and any and all gestures of affection are certainly overdue for this couple, even if the true underlying intimacy is what is needed. The hugs are a perfect visual to what I’d wrote earlier as two bodies in orbit with one another, in syzygy; sometimes in conjunction and sometimes in opposition. It’s the deeper intimacy that will ultimately hold them together in a gravitational bond.

    A well-known and perfectly apt allegory of the complications of such intimacy is the Hedgehog (or Porcupine) Dilemma as it applies to our nature and all close human relationships. To paraphrase: a pair of hedgehogs are drawn close to one another to share their warmth and companionship, only to hurt one another and force themselves apart again from their sharp painful spines. Repeatedly they are drawn together only to again be driven apart. The cautiousness and hesitation which ensues tends to result in weak and unfulfilling relationships and entirely paradoxical to the true intimacy that is desired.

    The crux then is that, “human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm.” To that end, I’m willing to watch all the awkward hugging that Martin and Louisa are willing to engage!

  8. Paul

    Hi,
    I’m a Newbie to your blog, and this will be my first post. Please bear with me if I ask a redundant/silly question, since I haven’t read all of the posts yet.
    My question concerns S7 episode 2 – “Shock of the New”. Actually it is a two part question that centers on Louisa’s return from Spain. But first I need to prefect the question by discussing the last part of Season 6 E8 (“Departure”). The final scene takes place in the hospital between Doc Martin and Louisa. Louisa tells him that “this doesn’t change anything…” referring to her surgery. The scene ends with Martin telling Louisa, in response to her thanking him for coming after her, “You’re my patient and my wife”. This scene left the viewer with some unanswered questions. Mainly, would it still be possible for Martin &n Louisa to work their issue out, without leaving for Spain. It showed me that she was expressing gratitude and perhaps wanting to reconcile.

    Now jumping into the scene where Louisa walks into the Surgery waiting room and catches Martin by surprise, my impression. He says something like you’re early and she ether acknowledges that she is early or she plays along because the waiting room is filled with people staring at her. My first question is when they are alone together in the kitchen there appears to be a definite distance coolness between them, especially by Louisa. I was expecting them to at least embrace and Martin say “glad you’re back”, or something. I was like she came back and served him with divorce paper. Actually she doesn’t even face him, until he asks if he should take her suite case upstairs. Even after that, she immediately changes the subject by telling him about a gift she picked up for him, the second part of my question. Based on how S6 E8 ended, why is she so emotionally distant? I need some help sorting this one out.

    Second part my question is about the Chorizo (Spanish Sausage). What was the point of it? She would, or should have known that Martin would regard food like this as unhealthy and not desired. Was this an innocent gift, or was there a hidden, subtle message on Louisa’s part?

    I really like this site you created and hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on the other S7 posts. I appreciate the level depth care in the writing of the comments; it’s kind of like a Thinking Man’s Guide to Doc Martin.

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I agree that the hugging and hand holding over the years is very mixed and may have something to do with which series it shows up in. Another reason is how early in their relationship it takes place and whether it’s in a public or private setting. At the hospital after Peter is taken into the operating room, their handholding is almost subconscious until they suddenly realize they are doing it and drop it. After all they haven’t had much personal interaction yet. But Martin seems to like the fact that Louisa falls asleep on his shoulder while waiting to hear the outcome of surgery. For him it’s a great achievement to take Louisa’s hand, but for her it signals greater openness and readiness to be more passionate. At some point I wrote that by taking charge of the moment and bringing him under the tree for a kiss she has sort of stolen his thunder. He’s made that all too difficult first move and then she runs too far with it. She should have let him have that moment. But there we have it in a nutshell — who’s in control, Martin or Louisa?

    For me the ring snag was meant to be funny and was an example of Louisa making another joke. This time it isn’t offensive in any way; she is making fun of how his watch got snagged and, IMO, telling him that she is hugging his neck longer than any assignment would require. But it is another scene that can be interpreted in more than one way.

  10. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Hi, Paul. It’s nice to have a new member of this blog writing comments.

    The way I see this show and how they have developed each series is that they make a special effort to leave a lot of ambiguity and unanswered questions. They leave us to interpret it however we like, although I would argue we should stick to the material they provide as much as possible. I would have thought that Louisa would have been willing to stay and work things out if Martin had repeated his appeal to her to help him become a better husband. But maybe she is so inclined to leave whenever they hit a rough spot, that we shouldn’t be surprised that she went to Spain to think. We also shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t go with her, partly because that would be an exceptionally hard thing for him to do and partly because she probably wouldn’t have wanted him to.

    When she returns and she meets him in the kitchen, her stance is extremely uncomfortable. She’s taken the step of coming back, and we can imagine that his call helped convince her to do that, but she’s still in a quandary about what to do. She has returned and even says it’s nice to be back, but the relationship is in doubt and she hasn’t quite worked out what the next step is. She’s back, which is important, but where do they go from here? They rarely embrace, and at this point, Martin is particularly unsure about their status. He’s happy to have her back and doesn’t want to do anything to rock the boat. In a way the gift gives her something to say and do that relieves the tension a little. That it is such a strange choice of gifts makes it hard to know what to think. It doesn’t show much thought on her part, or it was supposed to be something associated with Spain that a tourist would pick up. Her mother runs a restaurant in Spain and might have suggested it. There is a joke imbedded in it too, although it isn’t very funny to most of us. My opinion is we shouldn’t make too much of the sausage.

  11. MARJE

    I thought the watch snag was awful for Louisa. When Martin said I can’t let go she seemed so moved. Then it was spoiled by his telling her about the watch. I was disappointed too. At that moment I thought this is what Louisa is looking for. She does not want meaningless hugs, she wants to hear words of love and feel that Martin is able to convey at least some of his feelings for her.

  12. Laura H

    Thanks, Karen, for your interpretations of Martin and Louisa’s history of affection. I think you are right about the subconscious hand holding in the emergency room scene, and your clarity of the concert hand holding made me think how parallel that scene was to the earlier scene of M and L coming back home later in the back of the taxi. It was huge for Martin to place his hand next to Louisa’s. His mere touch prompted her to initiate the kissing, and like the later concert scene, patience on her part might have allowed him to take the lead.
    Especially enjoyed your take on the final hug of S7E4. She does have a smile on her face that might have something to do with pleasure that M had backed down from arresting Peter, but it does seem like a joke, which she can enjoy and have the physical contact, too. It maybe keeps M guessing as well.

  13. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Yes, Marje! She was delighted to hear him say he can’t let go and disappointed when he said it was because of the watch. She lets her guard down at times only to be sorry that she did. If he were the least bit aware of the opening she gave him, he could have brought an end to their tensions, but then he wouldn’t be ME and we wouldn’t have the same show. It’s all a very accomplished way to frustrate things (and us) over and over. We are growing a bit tired of it now though. At times I feel we have reached a point where the interruptions have been taken to the point of absurdity.

  14. Paul

    After watching the first four episodes, it looks like both Martin Clunes and Caroline Catz have lost weight. Or could it be the camera angles, aspect ratio, etc. Clunes does look a bit grayer and thinner, likewise Catz, also looks a bit thinner from past series. Also, the way she dresses somewhat differently than previous series. That is she doesn’t where jeans or pants in this series. Is this because they want to portray Louisa as an older women and a mother?

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Of course, I really don’t know. MC lost a lot of weight approx. two years ago, if I remember correctly. Apparently he has been able to keep it off. CC is quite thin and I have no idea if she has lost weight. She looks great in person. I do think they are aging, but then aren’t we all?

    Now clothes are an interesting subject. There’s no question that the clothes Louisa wears in recent series are much more upscale than what she used to wear. I have to think that what Louisa wears now is meant to reflect her new status as ME’s wife. She has always been the best dressed woman in Portwenn, but she has reached a new level of quality lately. I would assume that CC and other wardrobe people are selecting Louisa’s dresses to match Martin’s habit of wearing suits every day. To me what Louisa wears coordinates well with Martin and is one more example of compatibility. Often in this series I notice that the dresses Louisa wears match in color and style the suit Martin wears. All of this works subtly on us as viewers to see them as synergistic, IMO.

  16. Brendan

    After re-watching episode 4, I have come away the several new perspectives. The episode begins with DM and Louisa in counseling session with Dr. Timoney. One thing that stood out for me is the aloofness between Louisa and DM, Especially Louisa. However this completely changed when Martin asked to name three positives about Louisa. I noticed that when he said “she’s very beautiful”, she immediately turns looks at him and gives him smile. Additionally, she initiates the first huge session. Then after the second (humorous) hug session, she asks Martin is very thing ok, to which he replies “…seems odd to leave”. Louisa gives him a certain look of like sympathy, or sorry it’s like this, etc? Here is my point – Louisa appears to change her disposition towards Martin. She goes from coldness to affection. Does her change relate back to that one complement when Martin says she’s beautiful? If this is true, then can we infer that Louisa is insecure regarding her looks? Or is it more personal since this is coming from Martin himself? Or could it be that women relate acceptance to physical appearance. If I remember correctly back in S2 E8 when Martin and Louisa are having a type of heart-to-heart talk and Martin, tells something like “you’re so beautiful”, “you’re so very beautiful”. Louisa seems to be really tune into him. I believe they actually kiss. Now he could have said “you’re so intelligent”, or “you’re such diligent teacher”. But I doubt this would have had the same effect. Maybe Louisa needs to here more of these types compliments from DM. Any thoughts?

  17. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    My take on this Brendan is that any compliment coming from Martin, especially when they are first getting to know each other, but also at this strained point in their marriage, means a lot to Louisa. On principle I would agree with you that a remark about her beauty could be taken as a sexist or condescending comment by Louisa, but in this context where Martin has trouble expressing his feelings and showing any sort of vulnerability, I am not surprised that Louisa finds it a welcome comment. We have heard her say she wants Martin to say nice things to her sometimes, and saying she’s very beautiful is certainly nice for her to hear. It defuses the tension, for one thing. We all would agree that finding someone physically attractive is an integral part of falling in love. In the scene with the therapist, Louisa has just said that Martin always dresses smartly, an observation that we take as being something she admires in him. So having him return the favor, so to speak, is a good way to demonstrate that they both consider each other physically attractive.

    I do think that Louisa would like Martin to view her as intelligent. Therefore, when he tells Louisa that Dr. T is intelligent, she is probably somewhat hurt. However, she might also be somewhat disappointed that he didn’t share the article with her OR that he didn’t at least tell her he was bringing it with him to give to Dr. T. We can’t say for sure, but her demeanor while Martin talks to Dr. T gives us the impression that something is amiss. As a therapist, Dr. T should have been more sensitive to how Louisa would feel and included her in some way in the conversation with Martin about the article. But then there’s a lot about therapy that is glossed over in this show.

  18. Laura H

    I agree with Karen’s comments. Just wanted to address your referral to the wine-drinking scene between M and L at the end of S2, Brendan, when Martin tells Louisa she is beautiful. That heartfelt confession on Martin’s part gets cancelled out, possibly, in Louisa’s mind, because of the encounter they have the next day where Martin blames the whole thing on a condition of Louisa stalking him. He doesn’t remember telling Louisa how beautiful she is, so possibly when she hears it from him in counseling and is emotionally impacted by it, she is indeed getting, as Ruth said, what Martin thinks…there is no memory lapse or defensive medical tutorial. We know from the first episode of the show that Louisa is a bit fashion savy, as she jokes about wearing Prada when she really isn’t…and maybe we can speculate that a teenage girl growing up without a mother has missed out on shopping trips and help in choosing clothing and getting compliments from that mother to validate a young girl’s self-esteem. We can recall several times throughout the show when Louisa fishes for compliments from Martin about her how she is dressed, maybe because she might be feeling a lack in that area and maybe because Martin is a smart dresser she says as one of the positives she says about him, that she values his opinion.
    As a side note, what the two of them say as positives of each other in counseling is rather telling, IMO. Conservative that he is and a non-stop advocate of Louisa being a stay at home mother throughout S4, S5 and S6, his positive statements of Louisa have to do with motherhood and her physical appearance. So maybe in some ways Martin’s positive comments have gotten him out of the dog house of his past stances of wanting her to be a stay at home mother, quit eating the chocolate digestive cookies and retaining post pregnancy weight, and owning the opinion that he thinks she is beautiful. Interesting, too, that she names his keeping the house tidy as one of his virtues when they have clashed in the past about cleaning up after oneself:) I think Louisa does need to hear compliments from Martin and further that they are legit.

  19. Brendan

    Louisa desperately needs to feel that Martin really cares for her, other than just medicinally. In previous scenes throughout the DM series, Louisa seems to perk up when Martin unexpectedly gives her a compliment. For example; in the scene when he tells her (out of the blue) “you would make a lovely mother”, one sees Louisa’s countenance suddenly change. Then in a scene where Martin and Louisa are having a dinner date at her flat (town home), he almost gives her a compliment. Instead he says “Louisa you look very busy” What he should have said, or perhaps wanted to have said is “you look stunning”, or “you look great in your outfit”. Louisa takes it in stride accepting it as a compliment. Then in season 6, Martin inexplicably changes towards her. Not only does he not give her any compliments, he becomes a thoughtless and inconsiderate person about her needs. If this was intended to be humorous, I never found any, and I’m not sure why the writers decided take his character in this direction. Maybe they were laying the foundation for S7, in which DM has to come to grip with his inner demons (?). In the past, Martin was portrayed as being quirky and awkward (a real klutz with women), but at least there was some humor in it. Season 6 changed all of that. Seeing him in the wedding scene with Louisa, one gets the impression that he is miserable and can’t stand being in his own skin.

  20. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Brendan, your examples of when Martin compliments Louisa are great and demonstrate how he is capable of saying nice things to her. So I guess we agree that she shouldn’t be insulted by his decision to say she’s beautiful.

    I also agree that they way Martin was depicted as behaving in S6 was very contrary to his previous manner. However, I think he was quite loving towards Louisa during the wedding episode and found it hard to believe she had married him. So there we disagree.

  21. MARJE

    My take on the wedding was that Martin was uncomfortable due to the fact he was taking part in something that included so many people. I never thought for a moment he was not happy to be marrying Louisa. If he had his way he would have married very privately. Any social event for Martin is like walking a tightrope.

  22. DM

    Karen’s and Laura H.’s comments regarding compliments seem very accurate to me; neither Martin’s character or Louisa’s character are portrayed as being so shallow or egocentric as to require compliments on their appearance and being “beautiful” or “well-dressed”, for that matter. Neither character behave as if such attributes define or disproportionately comprise their identities (such attributes would only seem to complement the conceptions of their identities in a healthy way).

    Rather it seems to me that what we see on the screen is their mutual inability to express much about one another, on the other hand, is probably what makes such basic compliments sound so lavish, particularly for Louisa. Perhaps stating the obvious, there is no more natural expression of feelings (for non-hedgehogs and non-porcupines, at least) than the physical gesture of affection which this topic began with.

    That being said, Karen’s description of the need for compliments nonetheless is dead-on. As our individual identities are challenged, flex, stretch, contract, or change, simple compliments become especially important from those around us. This is why someone navigating a career change or a new mother or newlyweds will long for even simple compliments that are meaningful to even the healthiest of egos.

    BTW Laura, my opinion about the scene at the end of S2, is that Martin does very much remember telling Louisa that she is beautiful and declaring his love despite being intoxicated. His reaction the next day to Louisa’s sober reciprocation avowal of love suggests far more discomfort than surprise and that he well remembered and was all too aware of what he’d said. His clumsy denial-by-diagnosis seemed more like reaction formation, an ego defense. Louisa may have recognised as much at some level and hence the “slap” we hear panning out- her reaction to his denigration of their mutual feelings and not his denigration of her psychological state (a projected psychological state, I might add! i.e. “All I think about, every day, is just catching a glimpse of you.”)

  23. Santa Traugott

    I have always thought he did remember, because he began their conversation by saying that he was afraid he had embarrassed himself last night. I have wondered if, in some conscious, ultra-rational part of his mind, he struggled against his feelings for her, and really warned himself against getting involved. He’s seemed to have a kind of “approach-avoidance” posture towards her …. he can get so close and then has to quickly back away.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Yes, I’ve always thought his accusation that she was possibly stalking him a way to cover up the fact that he was really stalking her. Although, actually they both follow each other and often check to see if the other person has noticed them. He was finally fairly honest with Louisa when she told him that Danny was gone when he said, “I miss him already.” He is so worried about being vulnerable that he can’t admit that he expressed his true feelings even after she tells him she loves him too. But it’s also amusing and her slap makes us laugh because it’s so deserved. Then the next day she catches him following her and wonders if what he’s doing could be called stalking. Beautiful! Especially since he explained de Clerambault’s as someone pursuing another who is of higher social status.

  25. Laura H

    DM and Santa, you make good cases for clarity or interpretation of Martin remembering that he told Louisa she was beautiful and professed his love to her in S2. Possibly, what made me think Martin did not remember was Louisa’s joke when he asked if she was there for anything medical was that she needed the morning-after pill, joking that something sexal had transpired to which he says “what!” and gets flustered. But I’m recognizing more and more that I don’t always “get” where the writers are going with Louisa’s jokes, so Martin’s reaction to them could be just as much a puzzle for me. It does beg the question that if Louisa thought she could get by with a joke like that…that he wouldn’t remember what transpired…that the joke wouldn’t be effective and she’d merely seem gauche. This one might be categorized in the ambiguous scenes and somewhat akin to Louisa’s remembering or not what he said to her before surgery. I do like what you both have to say about his remembering. Thanks for giving me a new perspective!

  26. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Laura, my recollection is she brought Martin a morning after substance to help him with a hangover and he jumped to the conclusion that she was referring to the other sort of morning after pill. Then she had to correct herself and explain what she meant. That time the joke she made was inadvertent rather than deliberate.

    I like it as another example of language being ambiguous and easily misinterpreted.

  27. Laura H

    Thanks, Karen…have come to the conclusion that I need to watch that episode again…memory does not serve like it used to:)

  28. Doris

    After reading your blog for a couple of months, I decided to post my first comments. Before commenting on the first two episodes of Season 7, I need to say something about the ending to Season 6. The hospital scene in which Doc Martin tells Louisa that he needs her help in becoming a better husband and the last scene where he tells her you’re my patient and my wife. I think it can be assumed that Louisa had no memory of what Martin said before surgery. Had he told this and had he told her what his true feels were for her (men’s room scene), no doubt Louisa would left for Spain. I also find it puzzling Martin’s reply after Louisa thanks him for coming after her. His reply was you’re my patient and you’re my wife. It would have come across better for Louisa if he had left off the patient, and simply said you’re my wife and my love, or something like that. In my mind he can’t he has trouble separating himself as Louisa husband and her doctor. I have always found this difficult.

    In episode 2 of season 7, Louisa enters the surgery. There is a moment when they both gaze upon each other, before Martin speaks. I suppose this was to convey surprise, since he was not expecting her? The next phrase he speaks is you’re early and she responds yes, sorry. He later repeats this in the kitchen, telling us that he actually didn’t expect her. Are we to believe that Louisa and Martin actually talked, other than when she first arrived in Spain? Episode 1 was about Louisa and Martin playing phone tag. So should we assume that there may have been one occasion for either a quick verbal or at least one instant message exchange?

    During the dinner scene (episode 1) Louisa tells Martin that she spent the entire time in Spain thinking about how to solve their martial issue. This answers any questions about why she went and what she was doing.

  29. Paul

    Could it be that Martin deep down feels he doesn’t deserve someone like Louisa? Other than his medical abilities and intelligence, he knows he doesn’t possess the qualities that a women like Louisa desires. That is, he knows he doesn’t have the looks, personality or charisma that he thinks Louis wants in a man. Just an opinion.

  30. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I have arrived at the same conclusion: Louisa does not remember what Martin said in the operating room. That may seem like a ridiculous circumstance because the speech was so heartfelt and meaningful, but it goes along with the many times when they are interrupted while trying to say something important to each other. This time she is sedated and in no condition to remember anything. It would also be my position that if she remembered it, she would have been less likely to leave. That Martin says she his patient and his wife is also typical of him. He sees people first as patients when he is treating them medically, regardless of how he knows them. I felt it was a good sign that he concluded that statement with “and you’re my wife.” He was essentially putting her in a different category and accentuating the fact that it means a lot to him that she is his wife. But, you’re right that there are many times when Louisa seeks his medical care, or when Martin treats her for one thing or another, and generally in those cases they both have trouble with the awkwardness of the doctor/patient relationship and how it works for a dating couple and later for a woman pregnant with his child. I like that concern because that is something doctors have to be careful about. In such a small village, the villagers and the doctor rub elbows all the time. The villagers often feel rather chummy with the doc, but he usually tries to keep his distance.

    As far as Louisa’s return to Portwenn and her sudden appearance in his waiting room in S7E2…they have made an effort to allow for more than one interpretation. Either he was aware that she would be returning that day, but expected it to be later or he’s covering for being so surprised to see her and makes that comment so that the people waiting to see him, and there are many that day, don’t think she came back without notifying him. It makes more sense to think that it was the latter because he was not looking at his watch or behaving as if he was on the lookout for her.

    She must have thought it would help to get away so that she could try to figure out what she should do. On the other hand, she comes back having still not reached much of a solution. Simply deciding that they should live apart until they can find a way to get things back on track is not really coming up with any good way to approach their marriage problems. We all notice that she never (they never) sits down and talks. Most of us would want to do that!

  31. Doris

    One final thought on episode 2. It seems like most every time Martin and Louisa had time together, they were interrupted. When they were together in the kitchen after her arrival, Morwenna interrupts them. Then again coming back from viewing the flat and Martin is discussing moving into the flat himself, and Morwenna interrupting when Martin is backing and talking with Louisa. Personally I found this annoying.

  32. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Their relationship has been built on the constant interruptions when they are together. At first it was funny and we laughed when it happened so often. At this point, it has become absurd, especially since it is so frequent. It has become annoying, but that may be the reason the writers, et. al. have chosen to do it. They like getting a reaction out of viewers even if it’s one of irritation. For me they’ve taken it too far this time.

  33. MARJE

    “He sees people first as patients” this always stuns me ,no matter how many times Martin does it. When he gave the eulogy for Antie Joan I was not at all surprised. His discussion of obesity and the fact that she died of a heart attack was Martin all the way. I feel like I understand why he is the way he is (at least to some degree) however, his flip flopping confuses me. At times he seems to be so aware of the right thing to say and at other times he is completely dense. I would defend him a lot because the people who profess to love him do not accept him for what he is. Even Auntie Joan disappointed me when she said in one episode that he had no idea about family. He had saved her farm and if that is not what family does, what is? Also he is always there when Louisa, Joan or others need him. I know people, women in particular , like compliments and romance, but all of that is nothing without true loyalty and he has that.
    I believe in unconditional love, so I feel that Martin must be LOVED the way he is We can see he is capable of love in how he treats his child and Louisa. When told about his lack of social graces, he asks why he has to be so nice and say nice things. I ask that too. Dr. Martin takes really good care of those people in the village as well as his family. Why isn’t that enough for them? One thing I would like is that they stop writing in his annoyance with dogs. Give it a rest with that.It’s the only time I cannot tolerate
    his behavior. Mrs Tishell is the only person who truly accepts him AS IS . She is so crazy about him he could do just about anything and she would say bravo.

  34. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    In various posts over the last two years I’ve written about that strange remark by Aunt Joan and about how we shouldn’t want Martin to change in any sort of intrinsic way.

    I can’t get too worked up about his treatment of the dogs because it is used as a deliberately off putting trait of his. They know many people will react to it adversely and that will give Martin Ellingham an even stronger anti-social persona. It’s so obviously opposite of how most people feel about dogs that it stands out and sets him apart.

    It’s surprising that you find Mrs. Tishell’s obsession with him akin to unconditional love. She is delusional and imagines she is professionally on a par with him and that he respects her intelligence and adoration. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is funny to watch her make a fool of herself in the early series. She sees him as a totally different person from who he truly is with the exception of his medical skills. No matter how many times he contradicts her, she still believes he has a special place in his heart for her. I don’t think of that as something to admire.

  35. MARJE

    I understand what you are saying about Mrs. Tishell. Of course she is delusional. I don’t admire her or her feelings for Martin really. I just feel that she is the only person, that accepts him. Maybe one has to be delusional to do that? I think about the kind of person he is and I think I would just stop trying to change him. Seems like everyone in the village wants him to be this friendly, sociable man. I rather like him just the way he is. Tell, me, am I delusional too. lol
    I am enjoying reading your thoughts so much. It is certainly refreshing to find such interesting insight.

  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you so much for reading the blog. I enjoy reading your comments and am always excited to read what others think. It’s all been such a learning experience!

  37. Paul

    After viewing the first five episodes of Season 7, I have this question: What have we learned about Louisa and her own issues regarding the marriage? One of the things that I thought season 7 was to unveil was Louisa’s own demons. Any fan of Doc Martin knows what his problems are as they pertain to his marriage. But what has been revealed about Louisa’s contribution to their marriage woes? One thing I found somewhat disappointing in the first five series, is that little effort has been given to character of Dr. Timoney and the sessions with Louisa & DM. For me, I would have liked the counseling part to be given more time to develop, since this was one of the major themes of S7. Instead, the writers have made the counseling aspect to be almost incidental. Perhaps the remaining episode will focus more on counseling with Louisa’s issues, as well. Tell me if I’m wrong about this.

  38. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Paul, my reaction to the therapy is very much like yours. The therapy sessions have been given short shrift. Unlike all the medical cases we’ve seen Martin diagnose and treat, we haven’t learned anything valuable about marriage counseling. Their sessions are supposed to be one hour per week but all we see is about two minutes of that hour. What happens during the other 58 minutes is a mystery and is never referred to. So far we haven’t learned anything new about either of these two, although they have both been made more aware of how Louisa’s childhood may have led to her responses. Real marriage therapy would be much more of a delving into each of their pasts and expect more sharing of their views about various issues. I realize we aren’t watching a show about therapy, but when they decided to include it, they could have tried to be more accurate in their portrayal of it. It’s not a series of assignments each week with no follow up, and it’s not likely that a therapist would suggest they are better off separating after only 7 weeks of seeing them. That’s just utterly misleading and makes therapy appear very lacking in competence and success. I do not expect to see much more therapy at all, and that leaves us with the sense that therapy doesn’t work. Shame!

  39. Doris

    In reference to Paul’s post –
    Here is what I have learned –after 5 episodes:
    1. Louisa returns with the intention of salvaging the marriage, but on her own terms.
    2. She initiates her own plan by telling Martin that she and James will be moving out.
    3. She locates a place, and even though it’s pretty abysmal, she decides to take. Martin, as a good will gesture agrees to move in and suffer it through.
    4. Louisa resists couples therapy, even berates Martin about it. However changes her mind when Ruth uses reverse psychology. Louisa is making sure that the therapist doesn’t get any wrong impression about her.
    5. In therapy, she blames Martin totally for their marriage problems, and accepts no blame herself. As far as she sees it, this is Martin’s therapy and she’s there to enforce this.
    6. Martin becomes the submissive partner, as he always asks when he can enter and leave the surgery. Martin is the one who asks if they are staying together. Louisa even decides when Martin will ever be allowed to move back with her.
    7. She takes the lead when it comes to the hugging exercise and it becomes her decision to join him in therapy.
    8. Louisa exhibits a type bipolar nature by warming up to him, one minute, then being cool with him the next.
    9. The therapist seems to be more in Louisa’s corner. This is evident in e5 with Louisa planning an activity of her choice. The activity is strictly Louisa’s show.
    10. Louisa talks Martin out of having Peter arrested. Again we see Martin yielding to her.

    In short, it is Louisa that’s calling the shots (most of them) and Martin submitting to them. Maybe this changes in subsequent episodes

  40. Santa Traugott

    She sure has the upper hand. She doesn’t seem to know what to do with it though. It would be helpful if she would use her one-up position to set up some objectives for her husband to meet, if he wants to get back in her good graces. But, I suppose, as long as what she wants t remains ambiguous, she can keep him off-balance and guessing. Until it doesn’t work any longer.

  41. MARJE

    Doris, I agree with you totally on number 5. Louisa seems to be there to help Martin and does not see this therapy as having anything to do with her own faults. I find her unreasonable in many episodes. The male who took care of James so well and also organized the house was a thorn in her side. She seemed jealous of him. Having someone like that was a blessing since they were both so very busy. The sitters she found were horrible. This includes her mom. Even if one partner is mostly at fault, couples must see therapy as a two way street. When Martin criticizes Louisa , she is bothered by it, but seems to want to have things her way . I also notice how there is a lot of opportunity for her to show Martin what it is like to be loved and she lets the moment pass. Instead of harping on his lack social graces, she could soften him up by being understanding and explaining things more clearly. He once told her he wanted her to help him. I don’t see her doing that. I think they are not utilizing the therapy enough in the episodes. Maybe they don’t want us to understand this couple too much?I would like it if they had us sit in on the sessions for a longer period of time.

  42. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Doris, thanks for taking a stab at what we’ve been shown about Louisa’s contributions to their marriage woes. I did neglect to get into that, partially because I think they haven’t done enough in therapy to enlighten us about Louisa’s pathology. The one occasion when Dr. T talks to Louisa about her childhood, Louisa is rather coy and dismissive about it and the doc doesn’t explore it much. I was expecting therapy to challenge Louisa’s presumptions about Martin being so damaged and unable to interact socially and have been disappointed with the lack of probing.

    As you say, we have learned some things about Louisa, although I find they have obfuscated her character in this series. As you say she wavers between being caring and sweet to Martin at times and being really thoughtless and even harsh towards him at other times. We are getting a picture that is schizophrenic and unpredictable. I suppose what we can say is that she is confused and hasn’t figured out either what she wants from Martin or from their marriage.

    I agree that Louisa has been put in a position of strength and empowerment in this series, and she seems unwilling to compromise much. She agrees to go to therapy sessions and to allow Martin to bathe James regularly; she takes the therapy assignments to heart; and at some points she acknowledges that Martin belongs in the house where she’s living. She’s changed a lot since we first met her, and spends much less time with members of the community than she once did. She’s become more serious and less tolerant. I am not sure why she was taken in this direction, and I was hoping they would take her back to a more fun loving persona. I guess they had other ideas.

    She has always been quick to leap to conclusions and to leave rather than to discuss any problems. It’s hard to get Martin to talk, but she could have tried. She hasn’t asked him much about his past and seems to be uninterested in learning about his phobia, or anything about his professional or extracurricular interests. She really doesn’t know her husband very well. All of this is to say she has contributed to their marital woes by being intrigued by Martin while never truly knowing what intrigues her.

  43. Linda D.

    So very true Santa. One would think she would have returned from Spain with some specific needs itemized for the changes she says she wants. How could he possibly know what is in her mind? I think her performance in this area has been very weak and it is laughable that she is criticizing him for ALL the problems when it is so blatantly obvious that he has tried to change and to do everything she asks of him, all the while pretending she is normal! Poor Martin. He believes he is the one to blame for everything so she has got him right where she wants him. This might work well is she KNEW what she wanted and if she could convey that to him! But, she is spinning her wheels in the mud and pretending to be “Holier than thou” so it is no wonder that things are stalling.

  44. Linda D.

    So right Marj. I think the therapy sessions were under-utilized and that so much time in Series 7 has been devoted to re-introducing characters and trying to tie up their story lines as well as cameo appearances, that they kind of missed the boat on the main issues. I have felt frustration when each episode ended without much progress between Martin and Louisa. I have found the series a bit choppy. Just when it seemed we might see some real progress between Martin and Louisa, they flew off into another story line that was also under-developed. Their so-called attempts to bring back humour have fallen flat too. Things were much too serious for random funniness. Take snagging his watch on her cardigan as an example. That could have been a funny thing except that she needed to think he didn’t want to let her go at that moment. They threw in some “slap stick” like head banging, knocking over children, falling in mud, but for the most part, I didn’t WANT to laugh at things like that. I wanted to see them making headway on their issues. I did like the humour around Mrs. Tishell and Clive, and with Joe Penhale and Janice. Thank God for those moments! Every interaction between Martin and Louisa was a struggle and it left me very dissatisfied.

  45. Amy Cohen

    I’ve commented elsewhere I think on the fact that one reason there is less humor in s7 and S6 is that we have come to find Martin’s social awkwardness sad and not something to laugh about because we have seen how it has prevented him from creating a relationship with Louisa. So I think the writers lost their way a bit in trying to add comedy (the snagged watch) to a scene that should have been poignant—a hug between two characters trying to connect. It was painful to see Louisa’s face when she realized what had happened. It was NOT funny. We ache for M & L and thus the interruptions, the attempts at humor, etc., are all annoying and not funny any more.

    I think the writers would have been better off using the therapy more extensively to get the characters to a place where they weren’t hurting each other. There can only be humor again when they are together and we feel like Martin (and Louisa) are safe. If S7 had focused on that growth, if Louisa had been more tender and patient in recognizing Martin’s efforts, she could have teased him, he could have been more awkward, and it might have been funny.

  46. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I agree with you entirely on the effort to add humor no longer being funny, and have also written about this. It’s too forced in S7 as well as too farcical. If you read the post on the formula and where it fails, you will see my thoughts on some of this. Also, there is a long post on the therapy and how it was a great disappointment. By deciding to minimize the therapy sessions and show us only assignments they ended up diminishing and eliminating the sort of work therapy should have covered. I would never have expected any more than a few minutes of each therapy session to be shown in any episode; however, I did expect them to address the clear previous references to how their childhoods had impacted them and continued to, as well as their communication difficulties.

    I think your suggestion is spot on that S7 could/should have focused on some growth in their relationship, that Louisa did not have to become uncharacteristically so intransigent and unsympathetic, and there would have been plenty of room for forms of humor that were more organic.

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