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'Mental' nostalgia recap: The kids are not all right

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “Manic at the Disco” | Aired June 16, 2009

In the Mental episode “Manic at the Disco,” Jack Gallagher takes on his first child patient. Considering that Jack can be like a big kid himself, you’d think this would be easy. But not only does he have to help the kid; he’s got to mend the family and give his boss advice on what to do with her own wayward daughter, while still trying to pin down his sister. Norman Rockwell would never have painted this.

Jack takes a break from swiping painting supplies for the day-clinic patients to check on eight-year-old Conor Stephens (Billy Unger, way pre–Lab Rats), who’s in the ER for apparently injuring himself with a knife while making a sandwich. The injury isn’t that bad, but Jack is convinced there’s something going on in the kid’s head. He asks to do an evaluation, and it’s hard for the kid’s bullish father (Holt McCallany of Lights Out) to argue with him when Conor throws a fit as soon as his dad tries to take him home. Plus, Mom also has a suspicious knife wound, which might have come from stopping her son from stabbing himself.

It all unravels from there: Dad, who just happens to be friends with Nora as well as a powerful businessman, is not having his son admitted to a psych ward. Mom is too scared to be more than just apprehensive wallpaper. Conor isn’t saying anything, because he’s too busy playing the video game in his head. Carl finally comes in handy for something, helping to defuse the situation long enough for Nora to get the kid admitted. And we finally get a glimpse of Jack’s sister, Becky—revealed to be homeless on the streets of Los Angeles—as well as Nora’s teenager daughter, Aynsley (Kay Panabaker), who thinks Dr. Gallagher is hot. Awkward.

Jack “observes” with amusement as Conor flies into a rage, destroys the expensive contents of Carl’s office, and then calmly asks for a tuna sandwich. Carl calls the kid a “sociopath” and immediately wants to load him up on drugs. Everyone else just thinks he’s early-onset bipolar. Jack takes Conor to the park, where he finds out that Ian took away all his son’s video games and stopped bringing him along to work, calling him “not normal.” In response, Conor has manufactured a video game in his head to replace the ones he lost, where the goal is for him to make it to a safe place. Yet Dad is offended by Jack’s suggestion that he’s not Father of the Year.

The next day, Conor has another meltdown after doing poorly at basketball with Malcolm. He doesn’t think he can control his outbursts, and Nora tells Jack that they can’t control him past the 72-hour hold. She also asks for his advice on what to do about the scantily clad photos of Aynsley she found on her daughter’s laptop. Discussing the end of your marriage with your ex-boyfriend? Awkward, again.

Elsewhere in the hospital, Dad finally cracks, admitting to Carl, of all people, that there are problems in his marriage and he wonders how they got here. Carl points out that these things don’t happen overnight. Meanwhile, Conor gets a brain scan, which he visualizes as being attacked by robots in his game. He tells Jack he doesn’t want to “be like this” anymore, then goes missing. But rather than punch Jack in the face, Dad finally confides that his mother also suffered from mental illness.

The two quickly realize that Conor must be at his father’s factory, just like the good old days. In his head he’s still playing his video game, and with encouragement from Jack, he rewinds and beats every level. Dad happily reunites with his son and begins to come to terms with the diagnosis, but Mom bails. And our hero overhears Nora having made up with Aynsley—now that Nora has apologized for shutting her daughter out during her battle with cancer—before continuing his search for his sister.

It’s nice to see a Mental episode in which the patient’s family actually helps contribute to the solution instead of solely exacerbating the problem, although you have to wonder if there’s anyone in Los Angeles this hospital staff doesn’t know. “Manic at the Disco” has a nice way of illustrating that while illness may be a condition, there are so many factors around a patient that can either help or hinder them.

If Conor’s father had paid more attention to him recently, he’d still be bipolar, but Dad’s perceived rejection only made the situation worse. Likewise, if Nora had been willing to let Aynsley be part of her treatment and recovery, maybe it would have been easier for her too. And, of course, Jack is being held at arm’s length by his sister, when he just wants to help. Everyone’s got family issues on this show, but that also means everyone’s got family.

Mental is available on DVD.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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