What do Aunt Joan and Aunt Ruth think about Martin and Louisa?

I have been asked to address how Joan is depicted as viewing the relationship between Martin and Louisa. It’s an interesting question because she is somewhat mixed about it. I thought while I’m at it, I might as well look at Ruth too.(I noted Joan’s uncertain response to their decision to be together in my post “Mothering,” but didn’t go into any detail then.)

As I’ve begun thinking about this topic, I realized that Joan is the only one who M accepts hugs from and who he offers to hug, and fairly regularly. He tolerates hugs from her even while recoiling from physical contact with most others (with the prominent exception of Louisa of course). As I’ve said in a previous post (Mothering), Joan is really a surrogate mother for M. He has chosen to come to Portwenn after his hemaphobia forces him to leave his position as a vascular surgeon primarily because Joan is there. He needs Joan’s TLC, whether he consciously recognizes it or not, and she’s pleasantly surprised to know that he’s chosen Portwenn. During their reunion we learn that the last time she saw him was 30 years ago when he was 11 yo and he was still wetting the bed. We also learn that she and Martin’s father (her brother) don’t get on. She asks Martin to forgive her for cursing her brother and then calls him a “bloody idiot.” Thus, despite the long break in their interaction, Martin has never forgotten his aunt and, from the way she reacts to seeing him, she still has a soft spot in her heart for him, and they both hate Martin’s father. I think this aspect of their relationship is important in connection to determining how much Joan’s approval of Martin’s pursuit of Louisa means to him. We also could imagine that being drawn to Louisa so quickly contributes to making him decide to stay in Portwenn. Indeed, one of the last scenes in E1, after he’s had a terrible initiation to Portwenn and has told his agent Chris Parsons that he intends to leave, has him passing by the school again and staring at Louisa through the window. Soon after, he stands at the front window to his surgery building, looks out towards the school across the way, and takes out a saw to cut down the “For Sale” sign outside. Both Joan’s presence and Louisa’s appeal, in addition to the comments Bert makes and the likelihood that Martin hates to give up on anything, contribute to him deciding to stay in Portwenn.

The other thing that’s important about Martin’s first meeting with Joan is how much emphasis she puts on his love life. First she wonders if he left London and performing surgery because of some difficulties with a woman or lack of any female contact, next she remarks that he’s pale and needs to eat better if he wants to find a woman. So right away we know that Joan cares about Martin having a woman in his life. Later in the first episode there is a scene where Martin stares at Louisa while she is working with the students. Nearby Joan is unloading some vegetables from her truck and notices Martin “skulking.” She deduces that he and Louisa have not gotten along, but he denies that he is skulking, and says that he just happened to spot Louisa. Still, we as viewers are now aware that Martin is interested in Louisa and that Joan notices. Soon we also know that Louisa is interested in Martin. She flirtatiously approaches him at the street fair and they have a short introductory conversation. The interplay is established, and it’s pretty obvious that how their relationship develops will be a key plotline. With that in mind, Joan’s reaction to it carries importance.

The way the writers, et. al. have involved Joan in the development of the relationship between Martin and Louisa is by making her the intermediary between the two. Oftentimes she functions as the confidant or vessel for their comments about each other. Some examples include:
In S1,E2, Louisa and Joan have words about Martin and his unsympathetic behavior toward Roger and others. Louisa at this point thinks Martin is not treating the people of Portwenn nicely enough.

In S1,E4, Louisa first asks Martin to join her at the community dance, but he turns her down. Louisa offers to give Mark the ticket instead and Mark mistakenly assumes that she has asked him for a date. When Louisa arrives, Mark asks her to dance and she dances with him to have fun. Despite having chosen to skip the dance, Martin shows up there in order to find Mark. When Martin walks in, Mark and Louisa are dancing and then appear to be having an intimate chat. Martin decides not to bother Mark and Joan notices Martin leaving. She immediately picks up on Martin’s disgruntlement about Louisa and Mark. She notes that he really wanted to interrupt Mark. Joan’s attitude indicates amusement at Martin’s apparent interest in Louisa, but her remarks should also be interpreted as trying to encourage him to not back down. (In fact, she encourages him to pursue L on several occasions, especially when Danny appears.)

Then in S1,E5, John Slater returns to Portwenn. Joan tells Martin that she wants to renew her love affair with him, and Martin is against it. He knows John has a life-threatening heart condition but tells Joan he just doesn’t think that starting up their relationship again is a good idea. She tells him she doesn’t need his blessing, but she would like it. I expect that if Joan would like his blessing, Martin would like hers as well. She also tells him that she gave up John for him because his father wouldn’t let her continue to see Martin if she carried on her affair with John. This revelation also explains why John is somewhat spiteful towards Martin. By the end of the episode, Martin admits that he would have said anything to put Joan off John and he tells her about John’s condition. The scene ends with Joan crying and Martin putting his arms around her, something he rarely does with anyone, even Louisa. As a result of these exchanges, we know that Joan and Martin are very close and neither one would want to disappoint the other.

The next time Joan has anything to say to Martin about Louisa takes place in S2, E8 when Joan stops Martin to thank him for giving up his flat in London so that she can keep the farm. They are once again situated on the street near the school and, though I missed it previously, Joan notes that Martin is afflicted with the “Ellingham curse,” which she defines as “never talking about anything…keeping your emotions hidden.” (We can certainly vouch for the “Ellingham curse” coming back to haunt Martin’s marriage.) She follows that with a hug and then mentions that rumors abound that Danny is very keen on Louisa. She literally tells Martin to “do something, say something.” There’s nothing subtle about Joan’s awareness that Martin is attracted to Louisa, and perhaps that Louisa is attracted to him too. Of course, at that exact moment Louisa exits the school with some students, and Joan strongly encourages Martin to approach Louisa. He clearly wants to, but also looks a bit like a little boy taking advice from his mother. Martin manages to speak to Louisa, although she wants to talk about Mark Mylow and the trouble with Julie. However, her final comments about Mark are filled with innuendo as she tells M that she admires Mark for not holding back. Martin is tongue tied again at this point until he decides to ask her if she’s going to “go for it” with the architect. Naturally he ruins the moment by sarcastically asking her if she’s waiting for a “signal from on high.” So Joan’s effort to get Martin to intervene between Louisa and Danny somewhat backfires. Martin’s comments may, however, have had an impact on Louisa because later in the episode she turns down Danny’s marriage proposal and tells Martin that she wants to have a drink with him and talk. Joan has surely been instrumental in getting these two together even if it’s in an indirect way.

In the final episode of S3, Louisa seems to think Joan is an instigator of Martin’s endeavors to find a way to link up with her, as she immediately presumes Joan has suggested to Martin that he give her a birthday card. It’s an amusing way for Martin to attempt to recover from telling Louisa she’s a stalker. He also wants to ask her to have dinner with him, but Louisa’s father’s appearance eliminates that option. Joan becomes the source of Martin’s information about Louisa’s father and is the person who saw Terry steal the lifeboat money. Joan’s integrity is so beyond reproach that once Louisa asks him directly whether Joan is lying, Terry cannot look Louisa in the face and maintain his position that he wasn’t responsible for the theft. Joan is a pillar of the community, and, as such, wields special influence. I doubt that’s lost on either Martin or Louisa.

It’s when we get to S3, E4 that Joan’s comments begin to get contradictory. Her conversation with Martin after he’s walked in on her and Edward having sex on the kitchen table is remarkable in that she attacks M for disapproving. She comes to see Martin to talk to him about her relationship with Edward, but this time (as opposed to when John Slater showed up) she does not seem to want his blessing. Even more significantly, M wants to diagnose her attraction to Edward as due to her HRT implant and she tells him “this is not a medical problem.” (Sounds a lot like what Ruth tells Martin in the last episode of S6. When it comes to emotional situations, Martin is always going to look for a medical condition first.) In terms of Joan’s influence on Martin and his love life, it’s when she tells M that Edward’s attentions make her happy that we get down to what’s essential. She, like Louisa later, considers happiness important and she accuses Martin of wanting “everybody to be as lonely and miserable as you are.” Of course, Martin immediately denies that he is either of those things, but we know Joan thinks he is. Ipso facto, for Joan life is better when you have someone in it who makes you happy.

We really get down to business in the next three episodes during which Martin and Louisa go through some ups and downs with Joan involved in a fairly serious way. First, Martin and Louisa bump into Joan when they get to the concert and she seems quite pleased to see them out together. They only see her again when the concert breaks for intermission and Joan discovers that Martin has insulted her friend, the caterer. Joan looks decidedly let down when Martin takes a bathroom break, and she can tell Louisa is unhappy about the recent interaction. Joan first looks at Louisa as she leaves, then back in the direction of where Martin went and sighs deeply. We get the sense that Joan would like things to go well between the two of them.

Of course, the date ends badly, Martin can’t sleep because he’s so unhappy that Louisa has told him she doesn’t want to see him again, and when he decides to “do something, say something” by going to Louisa’s house to talk to her, he gets cold feet and can’t follow through. It’s the middle of the day but Martin is the one who’s emotional now. He’s reached a low point when Joan walks through the back door. She notices he’s glum and wonders how the date went. She mentions that Louisa seemed fed up at the concert and, somewhat dishearteningly, tells Martin that “any outing between the two of you is an accident waiting to happen.” She’s being matter-of-fact until she sees that Martin is close to tears. She knows better than to say any more, but she appears quite sorry for him. Nevertheless, she returns later with dinner and makes some more observations about Martin and Louisa. At this point she tells him that L and he are like chalk and cheese and that L would never have made him happy. Joan seems to equate happiness here with having the same approach towards people: Louisa likes them and Martin, “well, you’re you.” This time it’s Martin’s turn to make a derogatory comment about Joan’s life. Joan is certainly hurt by this, but doesn’t back down. Thus, in the span of this episode we’ve not only been taken through a potentially good evening out between Martin and Louisa to a dismal end to their excursion, but also seen Joan go from being regretful that Martin and Louisa’s date isn’t going well to being convinced that they could never have a successful relationship. I suppose Joan is being a realist who cares about Martin enough to try to comfort him by telling him to move on. Ultimately, their conversation about the prospects of Martin and Louisa being able to get along revolves around the question of whether people can change and Martin sets out to demonstrate that he can the next day. Even though Martin’s attempt at being more concerned about Holly’s condition is unconvincing to Louisa, the day certainly ends with the outcome he was hoping for. I think we have to view this vacillation on Joan’s part as a combination of practical assessment and concern for Martin.

By the next episode, Martin and Louisa have decided to get married and have spent the night together. Naturally, all of this takes Joan by surprise when she hears about it from the postman. However, by the time Martin gets to Joan’s house to tell her, she is totally on board and thrilled for him. She’s a little put out that it took him so long to tell her, but she’s got a family ring to use as an engagement ring and gives it to him gladly. During the last episode of S3, Joan has become anxious for the wedding to go well. She makes sure the flowers get to the church, worries about who will officiate, and wonders what Bert and Al are going to do about the food. She also stands outside the church nervously looking for Martin and Louisa to arrive. I would imagine that she is very disappointed when the wedding couple don’t show.

Joan’s attitude switches to being very supportive of Louisa once Louisa returns to Portwenn pregnant in S4. Throughout this series Joan questions Martin’s lack of involvement with Louisa, often accompanies Louisa to either see Martin or to her appointments in Truro, and generally seems angry at Martin for not doing more or for acting unkind to Louisa. It’s apparent that once again Joan thinks Martin isn’t doing enough to convince Louisa that he’s interested in her and the baby. I suppose she would like to see him demand to be a part of the prenatal care and finds him too willing to accept Louisa’s rejection of his help. We see a particularly irritated Joan during the labor and delivery scene where she is obviously vexed that Martin takes so long to tell Louisa that he wants to be with her. Of course, Joan can breathe easy by the end of the episode because Martin has come through after all and is with Louisa when the baby is born.

I know this has turned into a very long post. I have to admit I got very caught up in doing a thorough analysis. I was going to look at Ruth too, but will put that in another post. I hope I’ve done a decent job with the question I was supposed to answer. Please let me know what you think.

Originally posted 2014-03-28 00:39:41.

27 thoughts on “What do Aunt Joan and Aunt Ruth think about Martin and Louisa?

  1. Stephany

    I love your post. I loved Auntie Joan. I have nothing to add and can’t wait to read what you think of Aunt Ruth. Joan was so supportive of Louisa, I’m not sure that Ruth is in Louisa’s corner – unless “Leave the poor girl alone” is any help. Louisa needs a friend!

  2. Carol

    Thanks for this post. It has always amazed me to watch how Joan seems to waver on her opinion of whether or not L and M should be together. She wants M to be happy, and knows that he is attracted to L, but deep down, as you say, I think she tries to be a realist when she tells M to move on. I just wish she would have asked him why things went “doolally” between them at the concert. If she had asked, and he had told her about the conversation under the trees, and his “urine-like” comment, she could surely have helped him out.

    But old habits die hard and despite the fact that they obviously love each other, Joan and M still don’t communicate well. And I think it is as much her fault as his. You would think that when she saw him red-eyed she would have asked what happened. He might not have told her, but then again who knows? It might have made everything turn out differently.

    That is the way of this show though, isn’t it? One question, sometimes just one comment, either spoken or unspoken, can have such a domino effect, for good or bad. And, once again, this is where the writing is so important to the path of the show. The small things that the writers put in or leave out so often cause an avalanche.

    Thanks again for such detailed analysis.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks Stephany. I will try to do Ruth justice and hope to get to it soon.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure Martin would have confessed to Joan about what he said to L. He never likes to admit he’s made a mistake. Besides, the comment about her perfume was sort of the last straw not only for that date but also for all the other times when Martin ruined a passionate moment. I have to think that Joan didn’t ask M about his teariness because she had been going on without considering the impact her words were having on him until she looked at him. Also, she’s got some of that Ellingham curse too, and maybe she was sorely lacking in sympathy at that point. Even when she comes back, though, she continues to counsel him that L and he are too different to be a couple. She really underestimates how much he wants to be with Louisa. And boy does she change her mind once she finds out Louisa is pregnant!

  5. Mary

    I so enjoy your observations….you almost seem to read the characters minds! Joan is one of my very favorite characters and I was very sad to see her go. She had great influence on Martin since she “loved him like a son” and he knew and appreciated that love, even though it wasn’t always readily apparent. Again Martin Clune’s acting is beyond reproach. I am always trying to see if I can catch him off guard but his performance is just about flawless; he never fails to impress me with his talent and truthfulness to the character. Joan seems to add just the right amount of glue for this ticklish pair of lovers. They may be “chalk and cheese” but there is no denying a very strong attraction. Joan seems to sense this and wants to “fix” things for Martin, or at least prod him in the right direction. She is like a parent who wants to shield their child from loneliness.

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Mary, I agree. I was surprised when Joan died and thought it would be a major loss. I have enjoyed Ruth though and think she brings a different, but important, influence on Martin (and Louisa).

  7. Mary

    Yes, Ruth is just superb, and who the Doc needs most at this point in his life….he seems to circle around his issues like a boxer, never really making the connection between his horrendous upbringing and his inability to connect meaningfully with the people he loves. He seems to think that putting on a facade, like a good suit, is all thats required for success in life. But he is missing out on so much, and I think he really craves intimacy, he is just flummoxed by how to achieve it. As Martin Clunes discussed in an interview once, “being loathed by both of your parents” created quite a gap in his psyche. He may be a great doctor filled with all sorts of facts but he is on shaky ground when it comes to the give and take of an intimate relationship, like walking in pitch dark. It is so great when he is telling Aunt Ruth about all the physical tests he has done on himself and then she sets him straight (with more than a touch of exasperation!) “for God’s sake Martin, you must know this is not a medical issue!”. Funny and yet poignant too.
    I think the Doc must know on some level that there is something missing, because in the scene where his father talks about visiting Aunt Joan and then resumes watching tv rather than spend time chatting with his son, cuts to a shot of Martin looking really peeved. His frustration with his father’s lack of interest in him is very apparent in that scene, and he deals with it by just leaving the room, instead of confronting his father.

  8. Oliver

    In series 4 Joan takes a very pragmatic approach to Louisa’s pregnancy. She is proactive in helping Louisa in offering her a place to stay, taking her to her appointments, finding a new house and helping her move in to her new house.

    She points out to Martin that Louisa is going to need his help and that he should go check on her. I think she was hoping that Martin would be more involved, but she doesn’t give up reminding him the baby is his responsibility and that he needs to be there as the child is growing up. The epitome of her practicality and wisdom was when she said “a long distance father is better than no father at all”. I loved that line. She really wasn’t going to let him off the hook, and continuously reminded him of his responsibilities. He was always trying to fall back on the fact that Louisa didn’t want him involved. “She said she was fine and I wasn’t to worry”. She says bollucks, because he has a right to the child, even if it were true that Louisa was pushing him away. Joan was balancing a lot of roles in series 4 – as caretaker and relative to Louisa, and as Martin’s conscience. Series 5 would have to have been a very different series if she had still be on the show.

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thank you for all the great observations. Joan definitely inserted herself in the middle of Martin and Louisa’s ongoing interaction in S4. As viewers we see that both Martin and Louisa want to have more involvement with each other, but both of them are too stubborn and tentative to be willing to be honest about it and make the first move. Joan tries to maneuver them into closer contact a few times with little success. It’s only in the last episode of series 4, when Joan is limited to wringing her hands and hoping that Martin will do more, that her entreaties are realized and Louisa finally admits she wants Martin with her during the birth of the baby and Martin finally tells Louisa that he was wrong. At least Joan was listening when that happened.

  10. Linda

    I think both Joan and Ruth want Martin and Louisa to thrive as a couple but they know the man and realize it will be hard. Still, they love him and encourage him and they are really the only ones he truly listens too. I love the chats they have with him him at the farm. They both see him holding back and making stupid comments when she tries to romance him. Apparently, he over came his shyness when he asked Louisa to marry him and spent the night. That episode is my favorite because we see as softer side of him and yet it still is funny how he bumbles along! I wonder if he ever really smiles or laughs?

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    To this comment I would point out that his lack of smiling/laughing is a key aspect of his personal behavior. He rarely sees the humor in anything and has trouble identifying when someone is joking or something should be taken as funny. That makes some of the show even more amusing because Martin Clunes is famous for being a comedian and because not getting the joke can sometimes be funnier than if he were to recognize the humor in some situations. The rare occasions when he smiles come early, e.g. when he visits Roger Fenn in the hospital in S1E2, on occasion with Joan, e.g. when he tells her in S3 that he and Louisa plan to marry, and at times with Louisa, e.g. when she has the baby and after they are married and spend some time in the lodge. He even tells a joke then. To love ME is to accept that he will not be lighthearted very often. By the time they get married, I have to assume Louisa has gotten to that point of acceptance even though she has wanted him to lighten up previously.

  12. Santa Traugott

    Here’s a question that I’ve recently been thinking about: what does MARTIN think about Louisa? We know that she can make him angry, hurt his feelings and confuse and bewilder him. But does he basically think that their difficulties are because he is so inadequate as a husband, or does he have some clear sense that she has traits that contribute to their difficulties (besides that he wants her to stop working). And if he has bones to pick with her, why doesn’t he deal with her more directly? I re-read your original post above, and was struck by the term “borderline antagonistic” which I think is exactly right. He was angry, and I would even call him passive-aggressive except there was nothing passive about his storming off! So I wonder if he has some unhappiness/dissatisfaction/anger with some of her behavior, that he just can’t access in any way, knows it and suppresses it, or actually thinks their problems are his fault.

    But I must say, I do agree with your defense of Louisa, and have no wish to be critical or put forward a laundry list of all the ways in she fails to be a living saint.

  13. Maria

    Santa, I think this is just a great question and one I have thought about also. Ruth verbalized his unconscious belief that he doesn’t deserve to be loved, by Louisa or anyone else, so that is now in his consciousness and he can actually think about it. So that is a step, but he is still at the point of agreeing with that sentiment. So I think his basic feeling is confusion or a kind of disbelief that Louisa would want actively choose to be with him. By pushing her away, he will cause her to leave, thus confirming his belief that he is unloveable. I think at this point still he thinks that the fault is all his. Louisa’s “faults” have been less the focus, and personally, I would love to see some scenes in which she reflects on the effects of her own baggage on the relationship. I also don’t want to be critical of her either; of course she could handle some situations better, but who couldn’t? And we also need to remember that we see more of Martin’s interior life than she does. She doesn’t see the reflective moments or realize how his voice totally changes when he’s talking to her. The one thing I would have liked to see was for her to seek out Ruth before deciding to leave for Spain. I think she has a friendly relationship with Ruth and could have said something to her like, “I’m having trouble reaching Martin and was hoping you might have some insights.”

    I just rewatched the Christmas special, where her father returns. That’s also the episode where the unctuous “patient care consultant” or whatever he was comes to investigate complaints about Martin. He threatens to recommend that Martin be removed, to which Martin basically says, “fine, whatever”. Louisa goes to his office and tells him that she wants him to stay. The look on his face when she says this (an absolute masterpiece of acting – MC’s face changes only slightly but it speaks volumes) essentially says expresses a combination of amazement and an tiny hope of something developing between them.

  14. waxwings

    Santa yes, this is a good question and has been for several seasons. I did and do still feel as Marie does that Martin has embraced AR’s notion that he believes he doesn’t deserve love and therefore subconsciously sabotages the relationship by always acting to push Louisa away. This does not mean that he would answer your question with a finger pointing at himself.

    Of late I’ve had another thought about the question which was crystallized by the way you posed it: Does Martin think their problems are due to his inadequacies as a husband, or, does he believe Louisa’s at fault?

    I doubt either is the answer.

    What is really important about your question Santa is that it is a RATIONAL question asked by a person who is thinking logically—who sees cause and effect; understands behavioral impact on others. I doubt that what Martin thinks or feels is rational. His behavior can’t be explained—with reason—to himself or anybody else.

    I don’t even think Martin asks himself your question! Yes he has doubts about himself, but not conclusive ones that can show him how understanding his past can give him much needed current insight and help change his behavior. His befuddlement about himself is so deep that he doesn’t even realize it.

    You ask (logically) “If he has bones to pick with her, why doesn’t he deal with her more directly?” He can’t even deal with himself directly, so how would he do so with Louisa? Self insight is so unattainable for Martin that it leads him to very destructive behavior. And Louisa is constantly blind-sided by the results of this sad (and mostly unknown to her) childhood legacy of Martin’s—that her standard answers are either to “fix it” or flee. (Fleeing seems to push Martin the furthest on his journey of knowing).

    Some may want Louisa to shoulder the blame equally, but it is simply not equal. Her reactions get progressively more strident yes, as his behavior becomes more withdrawn, unloving and destructive. But I doubt he thinks consciously about who is to blame here, he just knows he can’t cope with his new life. (A life carefully constructed over decades to seal out others, not let them in).

    So I don’t believe so much anymore that Martin thinks their difficulties are because he is so inadequate as a husband and he doesn’t deserve love (even subconsciously). Perhaps it feels closer to the truth to say that he has no capacity to consider the question or to consider it objectively beyond what someone like AR says to him about himself. It’s still an intellectual statement (“you feel you don’t deserve love”), not one he can emotionally grapple with and understand and whose lessons he can apply to the present. He can’t contextualize it or interpret it inside his own limitations right now—and will probably never do so without very good therapeutic help.

    Is this not the tragedy and pathos of Doc Martin? The great catastrophe of the couple who we know individually have such deep and abiding love for each other? Seeing the degree of honor and goodness and love within Martin (and the kindness, insight, intelligence and love within Louisa) are we not deeply disturbed by the tectonic emotional collisions we increasingly witness between these two in Series 6?? This is why it was so painful to watch, relative to other seasons! Martin’s inability to show affection, speak kindness, become a partner to Louisa in a way that is meaningful to her constantly opens up ever bigger fault lines. How could love ever bridge this divide without much work, first with Martin and then together with Louisa??

    With such work (if successful) Martin may very well be able to answer your question Santa, but then the conditions that prompt the question in the first place might not arise….

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I want to give a fuller reply and will soon. My initial reaction is that we have some indication of how M feels about L insofar as he has said she’s being too emotional on several occasions, e.g. when she kisses him after the concert, or when she gets upset with him at Sports Day, and several other occasions. He also thinks she always looks nice, that she can be too demanding of his time (especially when she calls him to the school too frequently), and that she is not as much in control of the school and its activities as she should be (e.g. when the boys are licking the floor or she allows students to come to school when they are sick). He also doesn’t consider her as organized around the house as he would want to be. We know, however, that he can’t stop thinking about her and wanting to catch glimpses of her. We also know that he loves her and is willing to stay in Portwenn to be with her. He was about to tell her that he will always love her when interrupted by Penhale at the end of S5. I think his love for her has never waned despite her doubts, but that he has turned inward so much in S6 that she can’t feel the love anymore. In S5 he showed his love with a variety of tender moments, but after E2 in S6 there are no more of these. Who wouldn’t wonder about a spouse’s feelings once those tender moments end?

    I will be adding a post soon and may get a chance to work on it today. Thanks again for your comments, Santa and everyone.

  16. Santa Traugott

    I think the reason why I posed the question in the first place is that so many in other venues have been so critical of Louisa that it occurred to me that there is only one really crucial evaluator of Louisa’s behavior here, and that is Martin Ellingham. Some have trouble seeing what Martin sees in her, and some are even angry with Louisa for what they perceive as her off-putting behavior towards Martin. So it occurred to me to wonder, are these reactions somehow mirroring reactions of Martin’s?

    The important point here is yours, Waxwing. His reactions to her, both positive and negative, are not accessible to him. I suspect that he couldn’t put into words what draws him to her (although I am reminded that Louisa, on her wedding day, had the same problem). And he can’t even recognize, much less articulate, things that truly bother him about her or living with her. He literally has no access to his own deeply buried feelings, except in moments of very high stress, when he either must own those feelings or lose something very dear to him. (birth scene, e.g.)

    Even if, as Aunt Ruth says, he has the unconscious belief that he is not worthy of Louisa and therefore must shut down, that’s only one layer of the onion. I think that beneath that, other feelings, some of them negative reactions to the stresses of trying to live with another person(s) for the first time, must be roiling around, but have to be kept deeply buried and hidden even from himself. So that’s why I was intrigued by Karen’ts remark that his behavior at Sports Day was borderline antagonistic — b/c those feelings of anger, resentment, hurt that are so deeply buried, had to find an outlet, like magma creeping ever closer to the surface of a volcano. I stress that I don’t find these negative reactions in themselves pathological — none of us have positive feelings towards our partners all the time. It’s the fact that he can’t acknowledge them, never mind deal with them, that gets him into trouble here — first shutting down to avoid having to acknowledge them (and other feelings) and then, as is inevitable, having them erupt inappropriately.

    I guess I think that they were locked in a very unhappy vicious circle: as he withdrew, Louisa became more strident, and in reaction to that, he withdrew further, until the final climactic negative interaction. It was painful to watch, and as an aside, I still cannot understand why so many, perhaps most viewers, took Martin’s “side” in this, and felt more sympathy for him than Louisa in this situation.

    Linda commented a couple of posts ago about the scene where he cried in the bathroom. Perhaps that was a very hopeful scene, in that it marked a moment where he was able to sit with a real, strong emotion — in this case, I think, grief.

    It is true, as Karen said, that he thinks that Louisa is “over -emotional.” But I think you have to put that into the context that he seems to feel that any behavior that is more emotional than the ticking of one of his clocks, is over-emotional. And therein lies the source of most of his trouble!

    But when he says that she is over-emotional, it is rather ironic, because (in my opinion at least) it is exactly that which draws him to her. She CAN feel, express, act out (sometimes too much) strong emotion, and he is fascinated with that and needs it from her. Only sometimes it all gets too much for him.

  17. waxwings

    Santa and Karen, I just want to say thank you for both your posts. Santa you always seem to say so well what I have tried to say so poorly. Your reply to mine immediately above really captures and refines the crux of the matter for our poor Doc — and by spinoff, poor Louisa.

    And I agree with you that the viewer sympathy for Martin and his bad behavior is perplexing, and the examples of Louisa’s bad behavior (and being “emotional” that Karen has listed) are, IMHO, rather minor in comparison. LOL: any emotion “stronger than a clock’s” would be considered “too emotional” by Martin! Thus the bathroom scene in which he lets “emotion” course through him is indeed a signal that a breakthrough may be at hand. The volcano-like eruptions and the oozing magma metaphors are perfect analogies for how the “breakthrough” is being laid.

    And you are so right that the great irony of it all is Martin’s attraction to and longing for the very warm, emotional Louisa that he wants to love and be with always. He is just terrified (and incapable) to match those emotions in any meaningful way….Keep writing ladies.

  18. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am in total agreement with both Santa and Marta (waxwings) about M’s inability to express why he loves L or any other deeply emotional feelings he may have. Most of us women would say the problem is not just Martin’s but must be on the Y chromosome. Many men have trouble verbalizing their feelings and understanding women’s emotions. What Santa says about M that is so essential is that he is more at a loss than most men because he often can’t recognize those feelings much less act on them. The few times we see him suffer due to emotions are so significant because of that. The two times that stand out are when Louisa tells him she doesn’t want to see him again and he can’t sleep and looks tearful when AJ visits, and the time in the bathroom stall following the operation when he again tears up. The second time is left purposely ambiguous but there can be little doubt that he feels relieved that Louisa is out of danger from the AVM, and that he has a second chance at working on their relationship. I suppose Santa’s sense that he feels grief is to do with grieving for the state of their relationship. In fact, those two scenes show that he does have emotions, but that he tries to keep them hidden. What we want to see in the final episode of S6 is another time when he opens up to Louisa. I would like to see her open up to him too. She rarely tells him how much she loves him either. (BTW, the AVM did not appear because of the car accident; they are congenital. The accident may have exacerbated it though.)

    I also agree that part of his attraction to L is that she has passionate feelings. He likes the fire she shows even from the first meeting when she tells him “you’ve got a problem.” Boy was she right!! And then his problems become her problems too (or their problems). She doesn’t put up with his many off-putting actions and comments; she gives it right back to him. And I love that about her. I even think that makes them a well-matched couple because he needs a strong woman and would never be attracted to someone like Carrie Wilson, for example. Let’s face it, Louisa is a very pretty woman and has many other personal traits that make him interested in her. Of course, she’s not perfect and he can find things he’d like to change in her as much as she’d like to change him too.

    His inability to be introspective is a major obstacle to both of them. She’s not so good at self-examination either. That’s where, in my opinion, their marriage needs help and will hopefully get it soon. Those scenes could be both serious and comedic.

  19. Linda

    Does it surprise anyone else that Martin and Joan didn’t see each other for 30 years? Surely with the affection he felt for her, he would have made the trip to see her in all that time? I suppose he might have been in contact with her by phone or other means, but it just seems odd to me that they would not have seen each other. He was well past being under the control of his parents, presumably by the time he went to university. And, didn’t Joan tell Louisa he had brought Edith to Portwenn? that must have happened because Edith, recalled seeing “Auntie Jill”. What’s up with that?

  20. Santa Traugott

    I think that the authors just live with these inconsistencies when they find it necessary for plot purposes, much like they change babies throughout episodes, even scenes, and we are more or less willing to play along with it. Certainly, bringing Edith down to see Aunt Joan when the first episode tells us Martin hadn’t seen her in 30 years is a glaring contradiction. I imagine they must just cross their fingers and hope no one notices the inconsistency, or if they do, that it isn’t too jarring.

  21. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s so true that he had introduced Edith to Joan years ago, but it couldn’t have been 30 years ago. Good point!

  22. Linda

    Oh, I think Ruth has come round a bit about Louisa. She has only known her for a short time so their relationship is really just beginning. Ruth is pragmatic and realistic. When she tells Martin that he and Louisa should stay together for the baby, she may be playing “the devil’s advocate” or she may really mean it. She reminds Martin of the effects of his dysfunctional parents and his upbringing. She sees that Martin loves Louisa and James Henry so she begins to encourage them as a family unit. She just does not want a repeat of the past debacle. She can help both of them with her knowledge – especially Martin for whom she has a great deal of affection and respect.

  23. Mia

    I thought that too. You’d think there would have been more visits from Martin.

    I am watching reruns on Netflix and am where Joan dies. It always floors me that after Martin paid for the farm she leaves it to Ruth. Unless Martin is 50% owner. Maybe that is coming up. Its been awhile since I have seen these.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for joining the conversation Mia. I think it’s a little strange that Joan gave the farm to Ruth too except that they had to find a way to get Ruth to stay in Portwenn. Martin isn’t much for farming either and Ruth makes a somewhat subtle comment that Joan was always trying to get her to leave London. London kind of takes a beating in this show. Louisa doesn’t like it, Joan wants Ruth to leave it, and Martin’s efforts to return are pretty unsuccessful. It’s a place where there are a lot of bad memories, although Ruth says she loves the noise, etc. On the other hand, she has now decided to visit London and live in Portwenn. I suppose she’s come to the conclusion that family is important to her and that she’s needed in Portwenn. And she’s right!

  25. Amy Cohen

    Of course, adding Ruth was obviously an unexpected character addition when the actress playing Joan decided to leave the show. But I always thought it odd that no one had ever mentioned a sister Ruth when Martin and Joan discussed Martin’s family and then, poof, she appears. I think the writers could have handled that more smoothly somehow or made Ruth a cousin instead of a sister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *