Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of Food for Thought

by Barbara McQuain
edited by Angela Stockton

As Leo and Jessie help Karen set her table for dinner, they discuss Jessie's impending birthday party at a bowling alley. Karen is obviously enjoying the preparations and the chance to be motherly. Eli breezes in with a passing reference to his band and a blown amp and is then gone, with Leo following to help.

Karen and Jessie sit to begin dinner by themselves. Jessie politely refuses her mother's offering of the entree, saying she already ate. Concerned and searching for the right words, Karen tells Jessie that she and Rick have made an appointment for her with a therapist to talk about her eating. The words pierce Jessie's heart, and a dazed look of shock and dismay passes over her face. Karen tries to reassure her daughter that she has done nothing wrong, this is not a punishment. Jessie protests anyway, becoming more and more visibly upset. Karen tells Jessie it is no big deal, but to Jessie it already is.

During a meeting at Rick's office, Miles, David and Rick discuss the Atlantor deal and possible conflicts awaiting this corporate Goliath. Even a scaled-down replica cannot hide the vastness of the project, and the generally unshakable Miles notes that even he may have underestimated the neighborhood opposition to the project. David's growing disdain for Miles is obvious as he utters one sarcastic comment after another, while Rick tries to stare him down. Miles decides on a pre-emptive strike --to befuddle the opposition with concern.

On the day of Jessie's appointment with the therapist, Rick, Karen and Jessie wait in his anteroom. Karen and Jessie note that Rick and Atlantor were mentioned in the morning paper. Karen asks Rick if the project is really going through. When Rick replies, "It better," Karen is annoyed. She obviously sides more with the opposition. Talk turns to the birthday party and inviting Grace and Zoe. Jessie has not decided yet whom to invite and acts rather ambivalent about the whole situation and party.

The therapist, Dr. Daniel Rosenfeld, emerges and introduces himself. He asks to see Jessie alone, offering next time to talk to all three. Rick and Karen present a united front, but alone in the waiting room, tension builds between the two as they talk about how Leo came to recommend the therapist.

Rosenfeld takes Jessie into his inner office and asks her what she is doing there, to which Jessie replies, "They made me." He tries to put Jessie at ease, but with arms crossed, she makes it obvious that she would rather be anywhere else. Rosenfeld asks Jessie what she likes, inquires about her school, etc. She hesitantly speaks of herself, her achievements and her family's. However, when he asks about her grades, she matter-of-factly tells him that she makes all A's, and that once, when she received a B, Karen spoke to the teacher and for the rest of the year, Jessie received A's.

"I guess if you got a C, you could never show your face again," Rosenfeld comments.

"Why would I get a C?" she replies disdainfully.

Rosenfeld remarks that she must demand a lot of herself, to which Jessie replies that it is more her family's demands. Jessie begins to slowly open up about her awkward feelings, the uncertainty she feels from her parents' take on her problems, and why her parents made her come. Eli's learning disability is mentioned, and the doctor slyly suggests that this, and her parents' divorce, seem like contradictions in her family's record of achievements.

"No one's perfect," Jessie says defensively.

"Except you," the doctor declares.

Rosenfeld indicates that Jessie's lack of eating may be a means to draw attention to herself, and expresses his wish to see her again -- but only if she chooses. Jessie is put more at ease as Rosenfeld subtly allows her to take some control over her life. However, after the session, Karen's concern for her daughter prompts her to ask prying questions.

Upon returning to her office, Karen learns that her law firm has been asked to represent a group which wants an injunction against Atlantor. One of her partners asks Karen if she wants to head up the case. Karen asks for time to contemplate the issue.

In the locker room at school, Jessie feels out of place and nervously eyes the other girls. She sees Grace and asks her to the party. Grace, in a hurry, says the bowling party sounds like fun, but she doesn't give Jessie a definite answer as she hurries off to soccer practice, giving Jessie the impression that she doesn't really want to come.

Miles phones a surprised Rick to notify him of Karen's possible opposition to Atlantor just as Rick is headed into Rosenfeld's office for the family therapy session. During this session, when Rosenfeld asks them to talk about both her good and bad points, Rick and Karen shower Jessie with praise, and Rosenfeld wryly notes that they all agree Jessie is perfect. He asks about Rick's and Karen's post-divorce lives. Rick almost immediately tells him about Lily, even letting it slip that he has entertained thoughts of cohabitation, even if not "actively."

[In a flash-forward to that night at Lily's house, Grace overhears Rick and Lily talking about Jessie's therapy. Lily encourages Grace to keep mum when Grace perceptively picks up on Jessie's possible anorexia. Grace is only mildly surprised, estimating that half the girls in her school are anorexic.]

Karen, meanwhile, can barely admit that Leo is her boyfriend. Jessie casually says Lily and her children are "okay," but Rick mentions that Jessie feels Grace does not like her, much to Jessie's chagrin. Her discomfort over seeing her parents with others is palpable to Rosenfeld, if not to her parents. [In a flash-forward to dinner that night, as Karen discusses with Leo the Atlantor project, Jessie is dismayed at the possibility of Karen's representing the anti-Atlantor faction.]

When Rosenfeld asks if she prefers one household over the other, Jessie is taken aback by the question. Rick and Karen concede that the only real dilemmas now are "life concerns" such as car pool, etc., but it is apparent that they are out of sync with their daughter's emotional character. Jessie continues to try and hide her confusing emotions, but the therapist notes that if there are issues between Karen and Rick, it doesn't help if they don't explore them. He asks to see Rick and Karen alone next time, without Jessie.

In the parking lot, unknown to Rick and Karen, Jessie looks on as they discuss Atlantor and its personal versus business politics. Rick cannot fathom Karen's contemplation of what he clearly sees as a conflict of interest. He urges her not to take the case -- seeing it as "entirely personal" -- and not wanting to put either Eli or Jessie in the middle of a possible war between them. Karen becomes defensive. Unsure of her own decision on the matter, she tries to quickly separate the various sides of the issue but opts out of the discussion, saying that they will talk about it later.

On the morning of the third therapy session, Rick tries to fend off Lily's attempts to wake him, pressing his face into his pillow and mumbling, "My bed is warm, my pillow's deep, today's the day I'm gonna sleep." He makes a Freudian slip, saying that he has to go to therapy with his "wife." It's a slip Lily playfully takes note of, and which Rick then corrects. Lily is surprised when Rick tells her he and Karen have to go to therapy together, without Jessie. She is even more surprised when he tells her of Karen's possible opposition to Atlantor.

In the third therapy session, Rosenfeld inquires about Karen and Rick's disagreements and their vehemence. Rick brings up Atlantor, but Karen shuts him down and tries to dismiss the subject. [In a flashback, Miles and Rick hold a photo-op at the future Atlantor site at the same time Karen makes a fact-finding tour of the neighborhood with her potential clients. Rick introduces Miles to Karen, and they exchange stiffly cordial greetings. Later, Miles comments, "She seems somewhat formidable," to which Rick replies, "You have no idea."]

Rick and Karen disagree on the approach to Jessie's eating problem, and Karen notes her own confusion on the subject. Rosenfeld tells Rick and Karen that they must help him to uncover the "unwritten rules" of their family. Only by examining the unspoken messages, and what Jessie takes from them, can they learn to help her.

Interspersed with this therapy session are seemingly jovial scenes of Jessie's bowling birthday party. However, Jessie is clearly going through the motions, and is made uncomfortable by Karen's worrying that her daughter will eat too much junk food at the party, and by Leo's joke that he'll make Jessie "a pizza you can't refuse." Grace tries to make conversation with Jessie and alludes to her therapy. She tries to be reassuring, sympathizing with how difficult it must be, but Jessie is aghast at the thought that someone -- let alone Grace of all people -- knows. After the party, Jessie castigates her father, erroneously thinking that he told Grace. Rick admits to telling only Lily. Karen too is astonished that Rick would confide such a private family matter to Lily. Karen and Rick try to comfort Jessie but she is inconsolable, fearing that Grace will tell the whole school.

Back in the therapy session, Karen notes Jessie's sensitivity to and interactions with people in general, but also notes the dangers in taking it too far. Rosenfeld coyly asks "who gets to decide" the limits. Karen wants simple answers -- how does she know her daughter is sick, and how does she know how to help? Rosenfeld responds that there are no easy answers: they must look for clues in Jessie's reactions to behavior, most notably between her parents.

At this time Rosenfeld reapproaches the Atlantor subject and how Karen tried to gloss over it and make it all right when it really wasn't. Rick and Karen begin to argue again over Atlantor, more heatedly this time than previously in the parking lot. The argument escalates into an unexpected outburst from Rick, who reminds Karen that he has spent eight months working on the Atlantor project, and that she can do good works only because he pays for her mortgage and other expenses. "I am enabling you to do this thing, even though we're no longer married, so don't freakin' tell me what I should do with my life!" he shouts.

Rick's fury shocks himself as much as it does Karen, and Rosenfeld stuns them both when he calmly says, "You may not want to hear this, and I know you have a piece of paper claiming the opposite. But from where I sit, you're still married. Who gets mad like that? Married people. People who have gone off and started new lives just don't have that kind of investment."

Rosenfeld tells them that when a girl Jessie's age doesn't eat, it means she's trying to stop the clock in her body and stay a little girl. He observes that Karen and Rick are still too much invested in each other's lives and in past anger and disappointments. They are not helping their daughter move on. Still, the concerned parents are puzzled as to how to confront their upsetting present. Rosenfeld counsels the two that they must form a new kind of bond in order to help Jessie, a bond that gets past any previous pain.

Later, after the therapy session, Karen and Leo are alone. Leo ries to assure Karen that she is the right person for the Atlantor lawsuit, while Karen frets about Jessie's situation. Karen will not let Leo console her, nor does she think he is capable since he has no children.

At the same time, in talking with Lily, Rick recognizes his own continued involvement with his ex, as Lily does hers with Jake. As she puts it, "You think you're the only one with an unhealthy attachment to an ex-spouse?"

In another one-on-one therapy session with Rosenfeld, post-party, Jessie agonizes over returning to school where, she is sure, everyone now knows she is anorexic. Jessie confides to Rosenfeld that she fears she is a loser. [In a flash-forward, in the locker room again, Grace apologizes for making Jessie feel uncomfortable at the party and shares her own desire to confide in someone. For a moment, Grace and Jessie connect and Jessie's mind is eased somewhat.]

[In a flash-forward, at Karen's house, Karen bugs Jessie about writing thank-you notes. Feeling pressured, Jessie angrily confronts her mother about making her feel bad, to which Karen has no immediate answer other than to leave. Later, when Rick comes to pick Jessie up, Karen asks Jessie if she can talk to Rick alone for a moment and Jessie goes to wait in the car. Karen tells Rick that she has decided to take the Atlantor lawsuit. She asks Rick to respect her position on the case but also confesses that Rosenfeld was right -- she still cares too much about what Rick thinks. Apologetically, she asks Rick to understand her efforts to forge a new identity for her own welfare as well as Jessie's. "How can I not?" he answers. From the car Jessie sadly, but knowingly, watches Karen show Rick out.]

[In a black-and-white moment within the flash-forward, Rick marvels at the beauty of Karen and remarks that he still sometimes catches himself thinking of her as his wife. Still, he is thankful to be out of a bad marriage. He wanted out and is glad he has moved on with his life. Yet for the first time, he suddenly has become cognizant of the fact that he has actually lost Karen.]

[In her own black-and-white, Karen fondly remembers how safe she felt in Rick's arms when he held her. She laments how she could not admit how protected it made her feel. She recalls the "terrible, wonderful details of life" -- children, home, work -- that Rick helped give her and which molded her into a different person. She sadly admits to herself that she has never felt as safe since. Having shown Rick out, she sinks onto the stairs, slumps against the wall and cries.]

At the therapy session, Jessie wishes she did not cause her parents so much trouble. Rosenfeld chides her to not take things so seriously. Finally Jessie breaks down crying and acknowledges the seriousness of her problems and lack of appetite. She cannot fathom her own emotions and behavior. She wonders if there is something seriously wrong with her.

Rosenfeld assures her that they will work to figure things out. Gently he concurs that she has problems; she is not perfect, but he comfortingly also tells Jessie that she is not shameful or less deserving either. "Figuring out the world is really hard work. Give yourself till you're fifteen at least," he says, reminding her that even her parents sometimes struggle. Jessie must learn to tolerate stupid people and stupid things -- including eating, even if only a little bit.

The End

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