Change is in the Air, Take Two

This blog has addressed the topic of whether people can change several times; nevertheless, it’s time to do it again because series 7 is set to determine whether Martin and Louisa can change. Martin Ellingham is the character for whom change has been the target. We’ve seen him assert to Aunt Joan that change is possible and that he can change if he wants to. At the end of S6, Martin was specifically told by Aunt Ruth that if he wants Louisa back, which he unequivocally states that he does, he will have to change. She tells him it may be harder for him to change, but he must if he’s to have any chance of keeping Louisa.

During S6 we witnessed Martin’s devolution into a Major Depression due to the recurrence of his blood phobia and the return of his evil, ego deflating, mother. Ultimately, the marriage that began so hopefully starts to sink under the weight of too much psychological baggage until Louisa suffers a terrible accident followed by the discovery of a life threatening brain AVM. Martin has withdrawn from his family, and from almost everyone, until he has become a shell of himself. It takes the prospect of Louisa dying to motivate him to take action.

The brain surgery he performs to save Louisa’s life also has the effect of turning his life around. He was able to overcome his aversion to blood to successfully complete the surgery, and he is seen having an emotional moment during which he appears relieved probably because he saved Louisa and also because he once again was able to perform well in the operating room. Even so, the series ends with this couple acknowledging things can’t go on as they had been. There needs to be a change.

Series 7 has now begun, and the show has turned many things around. Instead of starting, like S6, with a happy event — the wedding, this series begins with Louisa in Spain and Martin living on his own again in the surgery. However, despite his sadness that Louisa and James Henry are not in Portwenn with him, he no longer seems depressed. This time he has found new energy and made up his mind that he will make every effort to change to get Louisa back. The most momentous of these changes is to seek therapy. Other changes include, getting up the courage to call Louisa and not just wait for her to call him, leaving a message rather than simply hanging up when he gets her voicemail, and sleeping on his side of the bed to sort of save her side for when she returns. He also looks ruefully at the hairbrush she has left behind. (By the way, there are several signs that she plans to return during this episode and the brush is, to me, one of them.)

Ruth’s recommendation to see a young, female counselor does not put him off, and when he first meets her, he doesn’t walk out on her. This time he agrees to return for another appointment. He also accepts her rules, relinquishes his phone without resistance, and takes a seat as asked.

We also see Martin being thoughtful and less angry. Morwenna makes note of this when he doesn’t snap at her about canceling his patients for the afternoon so that she can volunteer on the lifeboat excursion.

We are never sure that Martin and Louisa have talked to each other before she appears in E2. Martin looks startled to see her come through the front door. We get the feeling that he covers by saying he didn’t expect her so early, and Louisa plays along. But later, when they are away from prying eyes, he once again tells her he didn’t know she would get there so early. We can only assume that this comment is included to lead us to believe they had been in contact, and that he may have known she was coming, just not when exactly.

E2 is when some other significant changes in Martin become evident:

  • He tries to take over his first session with the therapist but backs down quickly and confides that he was an unwanted child, that he probably has attachment difficulties as a result, and that he’s had trouble forming relationships as an adult. He also admits he’s afraid of losing Louisa and that he cares about her happiness but not his own.
  • Once Louisa arrives, he confronts her at the dinner table and directly asks her if she plans to stay.
  • He tells Louisa that he’s no longer concerned about how tidy and quiet the house is.
  • He offers to sleep in the small bedroom where he’ll be much less comfortable.
  • He gets up with the baby and she finds him feeding JH the next morning. (In S5 he had woken Louisa to take care of the baby.)
  • And finally he insists on staying in the only rental property available rather than have Louisa and JH move there. This marks the first time Martin has moved somewhere else instead of Louisa. (We may suspect some ulterior motives, e.g. keeping them at the surgery means he’ll see them fairly often and interact with them too. Still, he’s never offered to move out before and it’s a change.)
  • He’s always shown concern for Ruth, but this time he races to the train station to keep her from leaving because he’s so worried about her. He also thanks Al for helping her.
  • Overall he acts much less angry and annoyed with everything and everyone.

The changes in him are noticeable enough to be apparent to Louisa and she thanks him over and over for the various things he does that show his concern for her. Ruth, too, responds positively and relents about leaving for London. His new approach seems to be going well and hasn’t caused him to feel disingenuous at all.

Furthermore, Martin’s depression has lifted and his blood phobia has diminished to the point of being back to where it was before S6: an embarrassing irritant but not a huge impediment.

Thus, even before he has spent much time on the therapist’s bench (or dare we call it a settee?), Martin has managed to muster many alterations in his behavior. The therapist’s job may be easier than she might have imagined! In addition, the question of whether people can change appears to have been answered by a resounding “Yes!” (We’ll see if it lasts and if there will be further changes in store.)

Originally posted 2016-05-22 14:49:26.

23 thoughts on “Change is in the Air, Take Two

  1. Post author

    We only know that she thinks people can change. She’s never actually thought about whether she should change though. In a sense she has changed because she used to dress much more casually and she used to be inclined to be more passionate. Martin seems to have had a dampening effect on her.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say she will change by being as stunned by revelations about her childhood and how that impacted her as Martin has been. I’d like to think she will also be changed by what she learns about Martin. I don’t think she’ll be reading the DSM though.

  2. Santa Traugott

    Yes, she has said a couple of times that people CAN change, if they want to. What seems to be ironic here (maybe they’re aiming for that) is that Martin IS now changing, as evidenced in the ways you’ve listed above. This is in spite of the fact that Martin Clunes has said many times that he’ll never change DM. And Louisa has seen some of this evidence and I think so far doesn’t know what to make of it and certainly isn’t ready to think of it as real and substantial enough to warrant trying again. She may be one of the last people to really give credence to his changes.

    And she may turn out to be the one person resistant to change — particularly resistant to the idea that SHE might have to change in some respects, and I think that she will be very resistant to changing her view of Martin. She’s based a lot of her actions on a certain view of him, which is that he cannot change. (Which is why I think she left for Spain and way she won’t resume living with him again.) It will be very hard for her to admit that he has changed — enough for her to take a chance on trying again.

    So far, we see the old defensive gestures immediately deployed when he starts to tell her something. As in the last scene where he tries to tell her that he’s (now) fine with noise and untidiness. She immediately is suspicious that there’s a stinger there, and you can see her jaw tighten. So it will be very hard to get through to her.

  3. Laura H

    I wonder if we possibly get a hint of at least thinking about change in Louisa when she’s been told by Martin that a quiet and tidy house held no attraction for him when she was absent. It’s like he is giving her permission to be as messy as she wants, as he doesn’t care anymore. Interesting that during kitchen prep that she flings the towel over to the table, rethinks that and instead hangs it on its hook…not because she has to but because Martin has made so many concessions and behavior gifts to her, it is like she is doing this as a gift back to him. This feels like a case of kindness be getting kindness…very interesting to watch:)

  4. Post author

    So what we’re really saying is that Louisa has an internal battle going on in which she still doesn’t trust Martin and his effort to change but also can’t help recognizing that he is trying and has already been working on himself.

    That small gesture of replacing the towel is invested with a lot of meaning, and was definitely meant to show us that Louisa is coming around. We are aware that there is hope and that she isn’t impervious to Martin’s changes yet still needs more time to reach a point of being convinced. Her defensive inclinations will be back when she sees the therapist and hears that she is also to blame for their marital problems.

    I love what Santa says about MC saying ME will never change. We could say that ME has always treated Louisa differently from anyone else and this is another example of that. What he may mean also is that he will never be anything but gruff, unsmiling, brusque, and stiff, but that we also know that he has emotions and a conscience.

  5. Santa Traugott

    That’s just how I saw it — as a reciprocal gesture of kindness. I hope we see a virtuous cycle beginning.

    I keep thinking of an old ploy from solution-based therapy, for couples — “do something different.” That is, change the pattern, so that hopefully your partner responds differently, instead of reflexively in the same old dysfuncional way.

    Martin is certainly doing “something different” and we see Louisa perhaps beginning to respond in kind.

  6. Laura H

    Very good points about Louisa’s reticence about accepting ME’s “change” right away. Possibly, she might be watching her own actions as well…as she brings him a Spanish sausage that gave me pause as to how she ever thought that was something Martin would enjoy…smoothes that faux pas over with regarding it as a gift and should be received in that context…but we see her giving the framed family picture to him later ( Ahhh, yes, much more appropriate) and so are we led to believe that she can also see errors of her ways?

  7. Santa Traugott

    Yes, that’s exactly it, I think. The major battle will be going on INSIDE Louisa. She wants to believe in him, but she doesn’t want to get pulled back into a bad marriage. She fully expects that Martin has not changed while she was away, and knows she cannot live with that. If she doesn’t move out (in her view, I think, being as charitable to her as I know how to be) then either she will be sucked back into a stifling, unhappy marriage or more likely, spending more time with the Martin of the last episodes of S6, would lead to the end of their marriage.

    Well and good, but that makes Martin’s task (and hers) much harder — how will he ever convince her that living with him again will be more tolerable, even if not smooth, if they don’t live together, and how will she gather the evidence that living with him would not be the disaster she appears to think it would be? So it will take a lot of small and not so small gestures by Martin for her to put the pieces together. That, and coming to accept that some of the changes that would make their marriage work better are ones that she has to make, not Martin.

    Some final precipitating crisis will probably push Louisa over the edge into one of those choices — try again, or leave the marriage for good. I hope they don’t end S7 with her still poised between those choices, sort of like the old Lady and The Tiger Story.

  8. Post author

    Laura, your comment about her second gift is excellent! I think that is exactly what they were doing with these two gifts. The first one is totally inappropriate and even offensive, leading us to consider her both unkind and trying to test him; while the second is very thoughtful and sweet. One thing she can never say is that he hasn’t been interested in James Henry. From the time the child was born, ME has been fully active in his care and welfare. His willingness to get James in the morning and feed him shows how much he wants to be a part of James’ life. When he moves to another location, he will miss being around James as much as he will miss Louisa. Plus, that picture is a reminder that they are a family.

    I think they are being very subtle about giving us hints as to how this couple will end up. He’s being very conciliatory already, and, as Santa said previously, that is influencing Louisa to make some conciliatory gestures. I truly expect her to ultimately see the errors of her ways.

  9. Post author

    C’mon Santa, you know a precipitating crisis will be much more likely to bring them together than anything else!

    As far as the living apart thing goes, it seems to me that if he finally can’t live in that apartment anymore and gives her an ultimatum, she may just love to hear that. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s subconsciously hoping he will stand up to her and demand to come back. Most of the passionate scenes between them have been due to Louisa taking charge. It would be a welcome change for Martin to stop going along with her decisions. If anything demonstrates real love, it would be making it clear to her that he can’t live apart any longer. Kind of like when he told her he can’t bear to be without her.

  10. Santa Traugott

    I love the way you think! Yes, maybe she does want him to stand up for himself and I certainly would like to see that too.

    I think that ultimately he will tell her that she has to make a choice, and while she’s pondering, the crisis will arise which will precipitate her decision,one way or the other — we agree, hard to imagine any other way than re-committal to their marriage.

  11. Mary F.

    I have only seen the first two episodes so I am being very selective about which of your comments to indulge in since I don’t wish to spoil any upcoming episodes for myself! That said, I am delighted with the direction the new series has taken and I have loved all those little things you noted like the towel Louisa decides to hang on a hook the way Martin would….it does appear possible that they can change just enough to be comfortable with each other and to trust each other at long last. Much more work needs to be done of course, but I’m feeling optimistic. I really did not think the Doc would get this far with only a few weeks apart. It will be fascinating to see how Louisa awakes to the idea that she needs to change her behavior as well. She had spent most of her time thinking he was the one with the problems, not her. But it often takes two to make things go awry.

  12. Cathy R

    I liked the bit about Louisa hanging the towel up as well. And forgive me if someone has already commented on it, but another effort at change I noticed in the episode 7-2 dinner scene was when Louisa asked Martin how the meal tasted, and he remarked it needed more seasoning. Martin has made comments several times in past episodes about the overuse of salt (even being so rude as to tell his dinner guests that they didn’t need to add salt to the food he’d cooked) and I felt that either Louisa had purposely held back to please Martin, or perhaps to avoid criticism and disagreement; then Martin said the opposite of what she and we would expect of him. Of course, he then uses the pepper grinder instead of the salt shaker, but at least they agreed on something.

  13. Post author

    That’s a really good point that we haven’t made before. Thanks! She may have brought him a food that she should have known would not please him, but she is cooking him dinner and hoping he likes it. Plus they agree on the food needing more seasoning. So true!

    This may be another hint they throw in to imply Martin and Louisa will get back together eventually.

  14. Mary F.

    Great observation! It’s very possible too that it was a coarse salt grinder (my former life as a chef tells me) and very likely because when people say something needs more seasoning, nine times out of ten, they’re looking for a bit more salt. Martin is definitely warming up to change…or at least making a good try.

  15. Amy

    Wow, there are still posts I haven’t read! I hadn’t seen this one before, and I love how prescient you all were, predicting that Martin would give her an ultimatum about moving back in and that a crisis would then force them to reconcile. Brava to you all! 🙂

  16. Post author

    Glad you are still finding posts to read! Some of what we come up with is pure guessing; some is based on what has come before. The crisis thing is what tends to get them back together quite often. But thanks for the compliment!

  17. Martha Magee

    Ms Traugott:

    Are you by any chance related to Dr John Traugott? He was our family dentist in NY. Lived in RIVERSIDE CT, married to Jeanette.

    Just curious. It’s an usual name, you don’t hear every day, so thought I’d ask.

    HE was also related to ELMO LEGG!

    All the best to all Doc Martin fans

  18. Martha Magee

    Hello Fellow Doc Martin Fanatics,

    Doc Martinfest immersion currently going on here. Can’t get enough!

    As I reach the entire series (now in Season5) I can’t help but realize that Louisa’s childhood, although she was spared the evils of an ice queen mother such as Martin’s, wasn’t much better. Both of them suffered from terrible parenting and childhood neglect and both got terribly hurt. Both entered helping professions ( as do many of us with damaged childhoods) and even Auntie Ruth admits to having issues.
    It’s understandable how these two were magnetized to one another. And although Louisa’s background is rather provincial by comparison and certainly of a lower and less educated social strata compared to Martin, she is a force for good in his life and he respects her.
    As with many couples who enter therapy, it is quickly made evident that Martin is not the only one who’s got issues. Auntie Ruth is a major catalyst for Martin’s light bulb moment where he realizes at her vehement behest that he’s “going to have to change.” From that moment on be is committed. It takes Louisa a bit longer to get down with her own stuff and and Dr Timmany (sp) is helpful getting Louisa to self examine

    I love how Martin loves her. I love how respectfully he speaks to her and his devotion is touching. I love how hard he tries with the exercises. Sweet. And I love how he holds that baby and walks around with him. He’s a tender father. That tells me there is a loving warm heart underneath all that barking. Love him love him love him!!

  19. Martha Magee

    Apropos of nothing ( except perhaps the discussion about seasoning) I love how the doc likes to buy fish and how he walks in with a whole fish under his arm hardly wrapped and just pops it into the fridge.
    I wonder what kind of fish that is. The sort of longish dark one). Anybody?
    As a seafood lover I do quite envy the Port Wenn easy access to fresh fish, crab and lobster just pulled from the sea! Yum.

  20. Post author

    Thanks for joining the conversation Martha. You appear to have a lot of enthusiasm for the show. As you might imagine, since this blog has been in existence as of 2013, we have covered many topics. That is especially true because of the two year breaks the show always takes. I would venture to say there’s very little you can bring up that we haven’t discussed. You just have to find the best post and discussion. I can tell you have read a few of the posts. Enjoy!

  21. Post author

    Port Isaac does indeed have lots of fresh crab and lobster to eat. I live on the coast of NC and love having fresh fish to eat all the time too. I think part of the humor in his regularly buying a fish and preparing it is the fact that Brits like meat better than fish in general. Of course, the most obvious reason is there is usually no blood and he can demonstrate his dexterity with a sharp knife while he surgically dissects the fish. In fact, he might even be said to be practicing his surgical skills while preparing the fish! While he carries any meat items by holding them as far away from his body as possible, he carries the fish much more closely. It’s all well planned, I think. (I am not sure what sort of fish he tends to get, although some of the fishmonger’s selection is offered in S5.)

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