Can’t Stop

We are now at S7E5 and I have noticed that there is a refrain going through this series. We have talked about the question of whether people can change, and that several characters (notably Martin, Louisa, and Ruth) think they can. In this series they have added the undercurrent of being unable to stop, whatever that can be construed to mean.

On at least three occasions that I can think of characters have literally announced they can’t stop. The first time is when Martin runs past Louisa near the school on the way to see a patient, she calls out to him, and he says “I can’t stop.” The next time is when Louisa is in a hurry to get to work after Janice has shown up late and she runs by Martin. She says “I can’t stop.” The third time I noticed is when Angela Sim tells Mrs. Tishell she can’t stop as she runs up the road to the surgery. Angela repeats this refrain a couple of times.

We can see that there is a literal reason for each of these characters to say they can’t stop. Martin has to get to a patient, Louisa has to get to work, and Angela thinks she has an urgent message for the doc. But repeating that phrase makes it stand out in a way that for me gives it more substance.

We know there are many issues related to control in this show. More specifically and immediately, we are now hearing from the therapist that she notices that Martin likes to be in control and she wants Martin to let Louisa control an activity. We may find that a bit jarring since we know Louisa usually has been the one to determine the direction of their relationship, but we also know that Martin’s behavior denotes significant problems with repression and a need to control his environment. The refrain of “I can’t stop,” therefore, takes on the meaning of lack of control and an inability to change.

In S6E1 I was impressed to hear Louisa say to Martin during a romantic moment “anything you say.” Of course, he responded “I didn’t say anything.” Nevertheless, for that moment at least she was handing over control to him. The rest of the episode, however, was a battle of who was in control. He walks off in search of a phone and with no thought about her difficulty in keeping up with him, she tells him they’re going the wrong way but can’t get him to stop, she refuses to wade across the stream and he carries her, she walks off in a rage because he never understands what she’s saying, they reach the caravan where she grabs the flashlight from him, soon she grabs the rifle and demands an apology from the caravan owner, etc., etc. By the end of the episode, they’re walking arm in arm and are back on equal footing. Nevertheless, who’s in control is a major stumbling block for them, and being unable to stop trying to do things their own way only ends when they work together to save the caravan owner’s life.

In this series we expect to see both of them make an effort to change so that their marriage can recover. But what if the hitch is they can’t stop…they can’t stop being who they are and acting out in their customary ways? There is always a point where we plateau or make little progress. It’s like being on a diet and losing weight consistently until the weight no longer drops off, and that’s when we have to dig in and not give up. We may have reached such a place with them at this stage in their therapy.

Bringing in the phrase “I can’t stop” at regular intervals reminds us that stopping is an important step in the process of changing. Martin has to stop being so closed off and so sure of how each day must proceed. He can’t follow the rigid sequence he’s always had while living alone and that he has gone back to in some ways now that he’s once again living by himself. We see him starting his morning with a cup of espresso, always wearing his suit and tie, marching down the street to work like clockwork, and going through his day as if nothing has changed. But it has changed, and now he’s seeing a therapist with Louisa and visiting Louisa and James, and he’s beginning to realize that he needs to accept more disruptions. Maybe Louisa likes eating sausage on occasion and he can’t expect her to want fish every day just because he does.

For her part, Louisa needs to stop assuming his problems are causing their troubles and accept that she now has to share space and make compromises for their marriage. She also has to stop expecting him to make dramatic changes in his behavior because that’s a long term process, as the therapist says. She has to take the trust he puts in her and reinforce it by her actions until he can relax and give in to her. We may never see that whole process, but it will hopefully be implied.

I took great interest in watching Mrs. Tishell throw away the food she cooked for Martin and then throw away all the containers she had bought in preparation for making him many more meals. She has been able to stop finally, or at least it looks that way. The preview of the next episode shows her telling Clive that he can rejoin her in the bedroom. He has offered an authentic apology including not wanting to know what she’s been up to. He simply wants her to take him back and give him another chance. As predicted by Luskin’s prescriptions for forgiveness, she has a positive response to that request. I have to admit that I had reached my limit with Sally Tishell’s obsession with Martin. This series they are using her for much better purposes and I appreciate that.

I hope to see Bert stop living on the good graces of his son and Ruth, Al and Morwenna stop being so worried about being a couple, and perhaps Penhale stop being so alone. Most importantly, of course, I hope to see Martin and Louisa stop erecting defenses and admit they both need to work on themselves and on their marriage. Mrs. Tishell is the first chink in the armor of feeling unable to stop. She shouldn’t be the last.


Originally posted 2015-10-07 11:47:21.

11 thoughts on “Can’t Stop

  1. Laura H

    As always, you’ve proposed a theme that rings true and broadens the scope to include many of the characters…hope to get back with comments.

    Just now, though, I want to applaud your performance in E5! I’m pretty sure I spotted you at the end of the narrow alley as the Doc heads to the surgery two consecutive mornings? And again walking behind Penhale where he attends to the young girl sitting on the harbor street curb?
    Kudos! What fun to spot you! Well done!

  2. Post author

    It was great fun and I am shocked that I can be seen in 3 different shots. It’s all very fleeting, but exciting anyway.

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

  3. Laura H

    I especially like your analogy of perhaps Martin has reached something like where a dieter comes to a plateau of reaching goals and then coming to a standstill…I had a very different feeling from the therapy session in Episode 5 than the previous ones…maybe because Martin speaks up to Louisa’s description of not hugging spontaneously by saying she didn’t either. They both cringe at an activity where Louisa is in control and Louisa hits on the blood phobia…again… Your noticing the “can’t stop” motif is really intuitive of where they are at this point…Martin can’t stop controlling or at least desiring control and Louisa possibly not being able to stop seeing him as letting her down.

    There seems to be an energy in this episode not previously present in the series. Martin’s irritation escalates with each frustrating encounter with Buddy and Angela’s aggravating-to-him procedures. I get a sense that he arrives at therapy in a bad mood about not being in control or able to rid himself of Buddy. And both Buddy and Angela seem symbolic of his feeling a loss of control. This seems to be the old Martin previous to this episode and even episode 6. Can one little dog undo so many concessions and changes Martin has been trying to implement? Maybe by reaching that plateau where not much progress is forthcoming Martin’s hopes of moving back in with Louisa is so frustrating that he displaces that on Buddy…much like the dieter falls off the wagon and binges on a hot fudge sundae. Martin falls off his wagon and has to get extreme in his dealings with Buddy. In many ways his “can’t stop” is as radical as Angela’s.
    I, too, am impressed with what the writers have done with Sally Tishell. Likely, we can still count on her to be, as Louisa once said, a bit of a fruit cake, but she has found inner strength somehow to stop pursuing Martin and recognize Clive as a caring person who is trying to make amends. Oh, wow, the irony of it is just amazing that Mrs. Tishell and Clive are on the way to accomplishing what Louisa and Martin might not. Hats off to the writers…again:)

  4. Santa Traugott

    It seems to me that Martin in E5 has become extremely frustrated because he HAS been trying to change his ways, as best he understands how to do it. And it’s apparent from the first scene that he isn’t making any real progress. He’s still in his cramped cottage, Mrs. T. is still mooning after him, the dog is still chasing him, and Louisa isn’t giving him any real encouragement that their stalemate will end any time soon. So he’s tried to step out of the negative cycling of their relationship, but so far it doesn’t seem to have done him any good. When nothing’s working, it’s pretty easy to get discouraged and to regress, even off that plateau. We may think he he’s only taken baby steps, but to him they no doubt seem huge.

    l and Clive are very significant here, because they truly point the way forward, starting with Mrs. T’s little disquisition to Ruth about what a couple should do if they want to reconcile. But basically, because they forgave each other for ways they had hurt and let each other down, and agreed to put the past behind them. . They showed us that it can be done, and I think that is the single most hopeful sign so far that we will see something like this as the resolution for Martin and Louisa. I would think of what happened to make Clive and Mrs. T’s reconciliation possible, as a letting go, rather than as a stopping. Stopping seems more passive to me. Letting go seems like a more conscious and more positive act.

    Both Martin and Louisa have much to let go of. We’ve rehearsed them many times I think. Louisa must let go of her idealized picture of how her husband ought to behave interpersonally, and of her own fear of commitment to people she loves who might let her down and leave her. Martin must let go of the picture of himself as defective and unworthy, and I will add, of the idea that he needs Louisa in order to be happy. He needs to be able to be to contemplate letting Louisa go, if she cannot bring herself to accept him and commit herself fully to their marriage. I actually think that may be the only position he can take that will bring Louisa to recognize what she stands to lose, by her refusal to let go of her hurts and insecurities.

  5. Laura H

    Santa, I really like what you’ve said about distinguishing between “stopping” and “letting go.” And what a good example of the “letting go” there is in the changes between Sally and Clive.

    As regards to Martin and Louisa, I keep thinking back to the pre-surgery scene in the last episode of series 6 when Martin asks for Louisa’s help and how he wants to learn how to be in a marriage. I think he hit on something important in that scene. He doesn’t know how to act to give her what will fulfill her interpersonal needs, yet Louisa seems to conceive of his blunders as resistance to remain in control (possibly some of that is true) or even his way of remaining distant. I wonder that if she could ever get a grip on her tendencies to take flight when he irritates her or doesn’t give her what she needs that she might “stop” and find a way to coach him into the action she wants and then reinforce that, actually a standard teaching and education procedure.

  6. Post author

    One of the best parts about how Sally and Clive are depicted as reaching a better place is that she immediately tells him how much he hurt her by not coming to visit her. She recounts how she called him and sent him directions, but he never came. She still doesn’t own her culpability because she says she was not responsible for her actions, but we know she was taking meds that she should have known would lead to problems. But the point is that she doesn’t beat around the bush and that’s a big step in letting Clive know where she stands. I must say that I think Clive has every right to feel betrayed since she was definitely scheming behind his back.

    One thing about Sally that I’ve recently thought about is that Clive is away all the time. He’s not in the military, but he is on a rig and spends a lot of time apart from her. She is lonely except for the pharmacy, and she guards that space like a bulldog. Although I think her character has been developed primarily to provide some lighter moments, I started wondering if she is somewhat like Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger in M*A*S*H. He always provided lots of laughs but also came through with some very profound insights about war, mental illness, and gender status. Sally has that sort of combination of qualities and they give her speeches that can cut to the heart of things pretty quickly. She acts like a looney many times, yet can come across with some remarkably meaningful statements at other times.

    We have to think that they are there to model the best way to get over some major difficulties in a marriage. Previously I thought the scenes with Bert and Jennifer were used to model the best way for romantic moments to be handled, and for how Martin could have stopped Louisa from leaving if he had given it some thought. Yes, she called a taxi, but a taxi driver can be paid to go to another destination where you can talk in private. That departure scene in the last episode of S6 gave us several points when Martin could have stopped Louisa, and she looked hopeful that he would. The idea was that he was still so wrapped up in himself and his own worries, and still so clueless as to what action to take, that he had no idea how to dissuade her.

    Without Ruth, would he ever know what to do? S6 she tells him he doesn’t have a medical problem and he needs to change if he wants to keep Louisa with him. Immediately after that he tells his mother to leave, apologizes to a patient, and makes plans to follow Louisa to Spain. S7 she tells him he should call Louisa and she finds him the right therapist.

  7. Santa Traugott

    When I think of it, what is really astonishing to me is that both of them are in professions where there is a premium on communicating well. Louisa is a teacher, as you point out, and she needs to coach, teach, impart information and as well, diagnose when a pupil is having trouble parsing what she’s said and needs additional help, and what the issue is that prevents them from understanding.

    Martin as a doctor has to make sense of whatever his patients are telling him, often a confusing jumble with the most important bits left out. And then he has to tell them clearly what they need to do to get better.

    So, one would think they could apply something of those skills to have an actual conversation, where one person tries to get something across and the other listens carefully to try to understand and then gives cues about whether they’ve got it and whether they agree or not.

    On the other hand, as a clinical social worker who saw a lot of older clients, when it came time to deal with my own aging parents and their problems, I was almost (but thankfully, not entirely) as much at sea as anyone else is in that situation. Things look different when you’re in the middle of your own problems.

    That “better husband” speech has long been a thorn in my side. If she heard it, either then or some version of it later, her reaction seems to have been, deal with your own stuff first, then I’ll think about helping you to be a better husband. If she never heard it at all, then or later, then the speech, which says everything Martin needed to say, was pointless, except as nice set piece for MC to show off his acting chops. Either way, a fine dramatic moment was just alllowed to happen without any consequences. I find that sort of stuff very annoying when it’s just dropped into the show.

  8. Post author

    Here’s my current thought on the subject of that speech:
    Overall this show has been about Martin’s poor communication skills and the constant interruptions when he and Louisa try to talk. Either he screws up any intimate conversations or someone comes along or calls to interfere with what they are trying to say to each other. Of course, there’s a great deal of humor in that, but it is also true that Martin doesn’t like to talk, especially about personal and private matters. Even when we have a moment when they tell each other intimate things, Penhale appears because he’s lost his pager or the chimney blows up.

    To the best of my recollection, the one time when they are not interrupted is during that speech to Louisa in the operating room, BUT she is sedated and may not remember it. It is in the surgical setting that he finally has the courage to open up to her and tell her he realizes he’s having trouble knowing how to be a good husband and wants to be one, and that he needs her help. They still want some ambiguity about whether Louisa heard him, and so far she sure isn’t acting like it, but he has had a chance to tell her. Maybe he even feels more willing to tell her there because she is in no position to answer back. At least we hear her say that she was imagining how it would be nice to have him with her in Spain. And now that she’s back from Spain, it would be a good time for him to say it again, yet he hasn’t.

    That said, I also think it was a scene they wanted in there to show off MC’s acting skills.

  9. Laura H

    You make some really great points about Sally. Especially like your comparison of her to Klinger in MASH. Possibly, because we have such a history of her crush on Martin, the import of her development is that much more profound. Her throwing away the food she has prepared for Martin is much like when she comes home from being away to counseling and rips the newspaper clippings about him from the wardrobe door, except there is less anger; it’s more of a decision than an outburst. In fact, on the former occasion, she’s quite angry at first, especially when she finds out he married Louisa while she was absent, even putting Buddy through the front door because she knows it will irritate Martin. Like Louisa, who on many occasions is emotionally brought back to Martin through a medical superhero act of his, Sally is humbled by Martin’s saving her from a possible heart attack. While we see Sally begin to renew her infatuation of ME, it is during a time when Martin is separated from Louisa and makes her act of discarding the food and containers meaningful.

    Santa pointed out that while we watch from the sidelines and try to coach Martin and Louisa to do this or do that to successfully get back together, watching and actually being in the thick of one’s troubles are very different. Ruth has done a whole lot to help both Martin and Louisa ( and Al and Bert, for that matter). Possibly, she will help again, though seems like she is an example of what Santa said of helping others but not so much oneself, as she misdiagnosed herself in S5, stubbornly refused to be cooperative when Martin recommended not taking the London job and now we see her in S7E5, as Al takes note, seeming to be going at the same work pace as before…yes, very hard to see our own situations.

  10. Gabriele

    Hi Karen, it is a long time I haven’t read your blog, because I started to watch series 7 only recently. Now we have reached episode 5. So I am well behind all your entries and comments.
    I hope you forgive me that I am very late with a comment to episode 5. (And forgive me if I write something which perhaps someone has already said in a different way in a different place.)
    “Who is in control?” being the major theme in this episode, I would like to say something about that. Those who are supposed to be in control of a situation aren’t really in this episode. And those who until now were not capable to control a situation gain the strength to do it this time.
    Martin strives fervently to be in control of the dog, but the more he strives, the more he loses this control.
    “Everything-is-under-control”-policeman Penhale again loses control of a situation, when the obligation to drive home the dog lady ruins his love-barbecue.
    Ruth, who normally is a person who is in control of her affairs, loses control of her matter with Bert. She had strictly given him notice to leave her premises and then he seems to obey and pops in at her house pretending to say thank you and good bye, offering her a bottle of whisky. But later this obeyance proves to be illusive. Ruth never was in control of Bert. When she goes to the site where he had parked his camper, he should have left by now. But Bert hasn’t moved anything, his chairs, everything is untouched and at the same place as before. Bert gets praise for his whisky and the permission to stay longer. He is the one who controls Ruth.
    BUT: Mrs Tishell, who had no control of her emotions and her behavior until now, is the only one who gains complete control of herself when she throws away the meal and the meal containers she had in stock for the doc. I find this a remarkable detail in an episode which deals with “control”.

    By the way, I like your observations about “Can’t stop”. And I am looking forward to reading the next entries and comments concerning the following episodes when I will have watched them.

  11. Post author

    As always, it’s nice to hear from you again Gabriele. S7 has yet to begin in many locations throughout the US, and is likely to start in January, so you are not behind at all. Many other viewers haven’t seen any of it yet.

    Your ideas about the theme of control are very interesting. You’re right about the dog; Martin’s only source of control is deciding to euthanize the dog, and that is too extreme a solution. Besides, Louisa stops him and then the dog goes back to being a problem. I hadn’t though about Penhale losing control in relation to the BBQ, but I can see how you reach that conclusion. Bert is slightly different, although Bert is doing his best to delay. I consider Ruth pretty tough and hard to divert, but Bert does his best to avoid doing what she asks. Then Ruth decides to give him some more time.

    Mrs. T keeps wavering, and you’ll see how that continues. However, in this episode she makes some deliberate decisions that seem to be in the direction of controlling herself.

    Thanks for the comments. I look forward to reading more from you.

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