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'Mental' nostalgia recap: The Gallagher family reunion

Season 1 | Episode 11 | “Lines in the Sand” | Aired Aug 7, 2009

In the Mental episode “Lines in the Sand,” Dr. Jack Gallagher has finally found his missing, mentally ill sister, Becky, who turned up on his doorstep last week. However, surprising no one, the Gallagher family reunion is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Jack has brought schizophrenic Becky (Amanda Douge, from Space: Above and Beyond) to Wharton Memorial, and phoned their mother, who’s bringing the whole family in from Australia. Yep, you probably didn’t remember that Jack is Australian, did you? Chris Vance is actually English by birth, but he did spend several years in Australia, most notably playing a different doctor: He played Sean Everleigh on the long-running medical drama All Saints, a role he finished some two years before Mental. Wrap your brain around that.

Ma Gallagher and the stepfather that Jack so clearly dislikes are brought to see Becky. While mother and daughter have a reunion, James and Jack have an awkward conversation in the observation room, including whether or not Jack is still single. Jack does not want to discuss this, nor does he want to see his mom, stepdad, and sister look every bit the happy family.

But she’s not the only patient in the ward. Veronica is treating Clay Jefferson (Arlen Escarpeta, Into the Storm), an Iraq War veteran diagnosed with PTSD after intentionally shooting himself in the hand. Clay’s wife is on the verge of an emotional breakdown of her own. She’s forced to ask Jack for help in getting through to the “completely impenetrable” Clay. Plus there’s some other random guy in this week’s team meeting, whom we’ve never seen before. Jack tells Clay, with a straight face, that he wants to “get a bearing on how much of a nutcase you are.” Oh, Dr. Gallagher, how we love your bedside manner.

It turns out Clay has constructed a diorama in the basement that recreates one of his memories from the war. One of his commanding officers (Glenn Morshower, aka Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce from 24) finds out that he’s at Wharton Memorial, and turns up offering a copy of Clay’s service record. He adds that PTSD was never diagnosed previously, which lends credence to Clay’s assertion that he doesn’t have the disorder.

Nora cautions Jack that caring for his sister could take up what little remains of his personal life. Jack brushes this off with his trademark grin and goes to have another chat with Clay, revealing to the soldier that he spent part of his teenage years on Naval bases (in addition to the work we already knew he did with veterans when he was in Vermont)—so he has some familiarity. Clay tells him about the incident that still haunts his memories, in which his best friend was killed, but says he’s never heard of the man who just claimed to be his CO.

After the obligatory scene in which Jack’s mother worries about her son, Jack gets into Clay’s basement (what is it with this guy and wandering around other people’s houses?) to see the diorama. Clay’s wife tells him and Veronica that the diorama came to be six weeks ago, after Clay ran into one of his former Army colleagues at the grocery store. Speaking of running into people, after Jack goes back to Wharton to spend the night by his sister’s bedside, Becky once again hallucinates her supposed friend (that’d be Brando Eaton, who’d go on to play the son of the Trinity Killer on Dexter).

Jack plasters photos of Clay’s diorama on the back wall of his office, like a football coach going over the world’s worst game film. When James sees the photos, he tells Jack that Clay’s setup doesn’t make any sense. Jack therefore goes to see the faux CO, who says only that Clay “may have a decision to make.” That involves the revelation that he killed his best friend—to keep him from shooting an innocent boy. With his memory back, Clay remembers the shooting and everything after, but lets sleeping dogs lie … much to the relief of the Army.

Speaking of decisions, Jack’s mother and stepfather inform him that they want to take Becky to a treatment center in Florida. A visibly upset Jack asks Nora for legal advice, prepared to take his parents to court to keep his sister in California. You know, since he’s spent so much time and so many resources combing the streets of Los Angeles to recover her. He finds Becky crying in the corner of her hospital room, still seeing her imaginary friend, and reassures her that he’s got her. Yeah, this family reunion is going to turn ugly fast.

This is absolutely the least fun episode of Mental so far, and with good reason. We’re talking about Jack finally being brought back together with the sister he’s obsessively chased for the entire run of the series, and soldiers being killed in Iraq. Neither of these topics is really material for humor, and it makes the show feel entirely different.

What it also does, though, is give us further insight into what makes Jack Gallagher tick. We’ve spent the whole show watching him figure out other people, and now we’re getting to figure him out instead. “Lines in the Sand” gives us a greater appreciation of his character, as well as the dramatic acting chops of Chris Vance. At least on this show, he’s not getting hit by a car.

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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