Ann finally does what looks like some reasonably competent therapy this week on State of Mind — and then she bemoans what she did and apologizes for it. I would never, ever make it as a therapist. That doesn’t matter, though, because we get to see Lili Taylor croon a country song about being drunk when mom got hit by a train as she was on her way out of prison, and really, what more could you ask for out of life than that?

Spoilers ahead.

Apparently, the Dream Sequence will usher in every episode, and I’m torn on it: On the one hand, it seems so clichéd for shrinks to sit around analyzing their own dreams. On the other hand, I’m kind of looking forward to Taj’s dream — which will probably involve scantily clad nubile young things of all persuasions — and Cordelia’s dream — which will probably involve inflicting violence on Taj. As for Fred and Barry’s dreams, I have no idea.

This week’s dreamer is James, who is trying to shove a shower of feathers back into a pillow. One of his bear puppets tells him to give it a rest — what’s done is done. And wouldn’t you know it, this may have some bearing on James’ storyline this week — his second ex-wife, Sonoma, appears to say goodbye. She’s dying. James is too shocked to ask her exactly why she’s dying, and therefore doesn’t find out that the symptoms involved black chakras an absolutely no medical diagnosis until he’s enlisted Taj to help. They think she’s a nut, but then she passes out, so maybe the chakras were right! Nope: She just forgot to eat, and passed out from low blood sugar and mild anemia.

But while they’re waiting for the diagnosis, James and Taj bond — James  laments that he drove Sonoma away by being too work focused and unwilling to spend a lit of time discussing charkas and auras. Ok, not being present in the marriage is bad, but that’s no reason to jump the nearest goat-cheese maker, even if he is the best in Vermont. Taj comments that if he ever found his wife knocking clogs with anyone, he’d kill them both. I’m not sure that’s the best solution either. Oh, hey, this is where we realize that psychotherapist types have problems too, right? How clever! Sonoma asks James if they can try it again? I’ve changed! I haven’t, says James, and my work habits, etc. would drive you into the arms of Vermont’s second best goat-cheese maker. They part.

Other office news: The waiting room looks like someone is holding an open casting call for The Sopranos. They’re Barry’s clients, and they include one Teddy Rivers, a slimy TV "personality" who mentions that Barry’s dad owes him some favors. Barry reluctantly agrees to talk with him.

Ann is in a bit of a state because Phil served her with divorce papers. Cordelia and the diner owner are incensed — apparently divorce etiquette states that the wronged party is the one who gets to file the papers, and since Phil was the one cheating on Ann, Ann should get that pleasure. I had no idea there were rules about this. Does Ms. Manners know? These questions may distract Ann a bit from her client, who is talking about how her baby was taken from her, 13 years ago. The baby in question wasn’t kidnapped — Mary was a teen mother, and she gave the baby up fro adoption. But she thinks she was manipulated, that she’s a victim, and that she needs to find her kid to make things right. Ann gently says she may be having so much trouble with this because she hasn’t come to terms with the choices she made, the role she played. Mary explodes -my choice? My role? Bah! I knew you couldn’t help me! Personally, I think this is all stuff Mary Brigit needs to hear, and no matter how much a hallucination of Freud chides Ann on her timing, I still don’t see what was wrong. Like I said — I’d never make it as a therapist.

Ann feels horrible, especially when she discovers that slimeball Teddy Rivers has decided to help Mary find her son and plans to televise the reunion. Teddy spreads his usual charm: "Gosh, you must be a really, really bad shrink." Lovely. Ann explodes at Barry — your icky clients are messing with my client’s brain! Barry agrees to try to get Teddy to back off, which he does by offering to take care of Teddy’s DUI for free. Teddy is magnanimous. But he’s already found Mary’s son, and she’s on her way to the reunion. Mary freaks out and calls Ann for help, who agrees, even though the last time they talked, Mary said Ann could never be a mother — hell, she shouldn’t even be trusted with a dog.

The reunion is awkward, to say the least — Mary is freaked, and Brian, her son, is reluctant. When Mary says she always loved Brian, always wanted to know him, thought maybe he wanted to know her too, Brian replies "No, not really." He has no desire to talk to her. He stalks off. Ann goes out to sit with him, and reverse-psychologies him into realizing he was being a schmuck (an understandable schmuck, but a schmuck nonetheless). He throws Mary a lifeline, and she’s grateful. Ann convinces Mary that she’s not a horrible person, and they can work on things in therapy. Mary agrees, but tells Ann she seriously needs to get a life. Mary’s kind of a shrew.

Back at the office, Fred finds Teddy trying to break into the office computer — his producer wants him to pursue the mother/child reunion story, even though Teddy agreed to drop it. Fred tackles him, and they call the police. Teddy escapes, but Barry brings him back. Teddy is shocked when Barry declines to act as his lawyer, and instead turns him over to the police. You punk — you only have clients because your dad is sending us to you! Teddy yells.

Barry seems to agree with Teddy — he’s packing up his office when Ann returns. She convinces him to stay by singing him the aforementioned country song about drunkenness, incarcerated parents and rail accidents. She also mentions two of my favorite country song titles: "I’m So Miserable Without You (It’s Like Having You Here): and "If I Shot You When I Met You I’d Be Out Of Jail By Now." If only she’d mentioned my all-time favorite: "I Spent My Last $10 On Birth Control And Beer." Now that is something I’d pay money to hear Lili Taylor sing.

It’s getting better, folks. It’s still not quite the vehicle I’d pick to showcase Lili Taylor’s talents, but there are enough bright spots to keep me tuning in. I’d be happy to see much less of James, and Fred just grates on me. But Ann is starting to grow on me, especially when she breaks out of her calm shrink demeanor. Plus, Taj and Cordelia seem like lots of fun, and the Barry storyline has potential. What do you think?

Posted by:Sarah Jersild