‘The Patient’ Episodes 1-2: Recap And Ending Explained – Who Are Alan And Sam?


FX’s latest offering, “The Patient,” is a somber presentation of a twisted tale of psychotherapist Alan Strauss and his patient, Sam Fortner. With a runtime much shorter than the usual TV series episodes and a narrative that stays restricted to a single place for long stretches, the miniseries relies heavily on its characters and their psyches. Although it does look intriguing in the two episodes released so far, much due to a solid performance from Steve Carell as Alan, what “The Patient” will ultimately be like is still hard to guess.

Spoilers Ahead

Episode 1-2: Recap

Alan Strauss is a psychotherapist struggling to get used to living by himself after the recent passing of his wife, Beth. Every day, the man follows a routine of waking up, looking after his solitary needs, and then practicing his profession at an office, which is possibly inside his own house. One morning, he receives a voicemail from a potential new client, a young man called Gene, who wants to consult the therapist. Soon after, this man comes to Alan’s office and gradually talks to him about the mental struggles that he feels are weighing him down. Gene says that his father used to regularly beat him up for the smallest of matters, and he feels that this troubled childhood has taken him off the path of normal life at present. When Alan asks for more specific information, though, the young man does not really provide it and instead just goes about in roundabout ways, saying the same things. The exercise seems so fruitless that, almost three or four months later, Alan tells his new patient that he cannot really help him if Gene does not open up some more about himself. A little while after this, Alan hears noises in his backyard one evening, almost as if somebody has broken into his property, and goes to check it out. But this turns out terribly for the man, as he is struck down by someone and loses consciousness.

When Alan wakes up next, he finds himself in some unknown house, on a bed with sheets and all the basic facilities, except that his foot is tied to a hook on the floor with a thick metal chain (the scene that “The Patient” begins with). Utter shock and confusion grow in his mind as he tries ways to free himself and then desperately shouts out for help. Despite there being a glass door that opens up to a lawn only a few steps in front of him, nobody seems to respond to his cries, and Alan himself cannot reach any of the doors. It is evident that someone has abducted him and intends to keep him alive, at least for some time, as his medicines have been neatly placed on a table beside the bed, and things he would need to relieve himself have also been provided. At some point, this kidnapper of the psychotherapist is revealed to be his new patient, Gene, who now reveals that his real name is Sam. In a number of ways, Alan tries to talk the young man into letting him free, but nothing seems to work, for Sam actually still wants his therapist to help him out. He finally does reveal more about himself and talks about how he is a serial killer addicted to the act of killing humans. His modus operandi of removing all identification from his victim’s body, which he started doing because he wanted to make things difficult for the police to investigate his crimes, has got him the name “the John Doe killer.” However, Sam also acknowledges how psychopathic and strange his addiction is, but is unable to control himself; he, therefore, wants his therapist to help him out.

Alan understandably denies talking to the young man, or even eating any of the food that he brings him, but soon gives in to his fate. He sits down with Sam in the same way that he would in his office, other than the fact that he is still tied with a chain, and talks to his psychopathic serial killer patient. Sam talks about his urge to kill people and then reveals that he has already chosen his next victim. He tells the therapist of an incident from some four months before, when he had gone to a restaurant as part of his job as a food safety inspector and had found things worthy of reporting to his supervisor. However, the owner’s son, who ran the restaurant, behaved all smug and tried to present that he knew how things had to be done and did not care much about Sam’s authority. 

A few days later, his supervisor did indeed tell him to go back to the restaurant for a fresh inspection, as if nothing had happened, and this time the manager was even more arrogant with Sam. The man had now decided to make this manager his new target, and out of his obsession with the interaction, he had even driven to the store that very night. But Sam had somehow stopped himself from doing anything harsh because he claimed he did not want to get into trouble. Alan tries to use this as a basis to help Sam, saying that it is important that he did not ultimately kill the man and could control his urges. But this sort of analysis does not work with Sam, as he now says that he is going to kill the man soon anyway, and that talking with Alan is not working the way he had supposed it would work. The next morning, Sam leaves the house for his work when Alan hears footsteps from upstairs; he had earlier heard noises coming from above as well when Sam was not in the house, and now shouts out, asking whether the person is fine. At the end of “The Patient,” episode 2, someone walks down the stairs and Alan greets them with a confused but friendly hello.

Why Had Sam Kidnapped Alan? Why Does Alan React The Way He Does?

The reason Sam gives for abducting Alan and keeping him prisoner at his house inside the woods is that he could not comfortably open up at the therapist’s office. Sam obviously feared that Alan could have informed the police about his real identity as a serial killer, and had therefore not said anything to him at the office. Besides, he had also lied about his identity, calling himself Gene and not even telling the man that he had also been married in the past. As of now, not much specific is known about Sam’s past, and Alan’s psychoanalysis of him still remains incomplete, which is perhaps why it does not work. What has been revealed about Sam till now is more information than what his psyche is like. What marks him different from other serial-killer characters in such media is Sam’s self-awareness, which is also largely due to his interest in his own condition. Sam talks of books on psychopathy which he has read, including those written by Alan himself, and he has given much thought to the whole matter, especially with regards to which therapist to consult. He admits that he had tried out three different therapists before opening up to Alan, in the dark and twisted manner that he found comfort in.

On the other hand, Alan’s reaction to his whole situation is more backed by the mental state in which he had been living. He had recently lost his wife, and the man also seemed distant from his children, not much by his own choice. Early in the series, he is seen leaving a voicemail to his daughter Shoshana, informing her of his work timings for the day. Although this seems like almost a part of his daily routine, we are not shown any conversation that he has with his daughter, perhaps signifying an absence of strong relationships between the two. Alan’s son Ezra had also made certain decisions for himself, most probably religious ones, which had distanced him from his parents. After Beth’s death, Alan had taken her guitar to Ezra, wanting to give it to him, and the absence of any tight familial bond between the two becomes apparent here too. Even while held captive at Sam’s house, the psychotherapist remembers the times spent with his beloved wife, and even has nightmares where he wakes up to the cries of a baby, supposedly their own, only to see a dead, decaying face on the baby lying in the cot. Clearly, Alan still struggles a lot to get used to his life, and there might even be darker shades in his past that will be revealed later on.

What To Expect Next From Episode 3?

With how “The Patient” Episode 2 ends, the biggest reveal to wait for is the identity of the other person that walks down the flight of stairs to meet Alan in Sam’s house. Sam self-admittedly had a lot of issues with his father, so could it be that he was holding his own father captive as well? It is very evident from the two episodes that the series is less of a crime-thriller than a slow drama concerning not just a serial killer but the psyche of his therapist as well, and therefore, both the characters are equally important. What more is revealed about the two would be something to wait for. But overall, we still know very little about “The Patient” to expect anything specific to be coming up next.

See More: ‘The Patient’ Season 1: Episode 3 – Recap & Ending, Explained – Who Else Was Living In Sam’s House?

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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