'Professor T' Recap: Season 2 Episode 3
September 17, 2023
Professor T airs Sundays at 7:00 pm and is available to stream via the PBS app and wttw.com. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Dan’s kindness to Lisa’s father when, addled, he appeared at the police station led Dan to Lisa’s home and then into her bed. Dan is shocked to learn about her father’s dementia but happy to spend time with him, especially on behalf of Lisa. Dina broke up with Dan, so he is free to date Lisa.
But for now he’s using his day off to make some extra cash, working security with his friend Calvin even though it’s not necessarily condoned by his day job. He does worry about what, exactly, he is guarding, and whether it is shady, especially after he is paid a handsome sum in cash—but not enough to refuse another gig at double the pay.
Lisa doesn’t have the day off, and arrives at work to learn of a heartbreaking case: a family of four all found dead on the couch together. Madeline, the daughter, has a broken neck. Alexander, the son, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the stove, which was left on. Nicholas, the father, also died of carbon monoxide, but from the car, as traces of other gases show. And Dr. Harriet Hill, the mother, died with her feet up and a glass of champagne in hand, thanks to an overdose of sedatives.
Dr. Hill was a prominent proponent of assisted death—Lisa notices amongst her files a patient who decided to commit assisted suicide because of a diagnosis of early onset dementia. Dr. Hill had just celebrated her tenth anniversary working at a care home. An administrator at the home said Dr. Hill seemed anxious to get home—perhaps in part because of Kenny Holland.
Kenny is the father of a champion diver named Stacey who became paralyzed from the neck down in an accident at 17. She had decided to travel to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide, but her father resisted the idea and blamed Dr. Hill—aggressively and violently. Dr. Hill typically traveled with patients to Switzerland on their last journey, but she had just told everyone at the party that she wouldn’t go with Stacey.
When Lisa and Dan track Kenny down at a strip club, he leers at Lisa and is rude. He says any questions must go through his lawyer, but adds that he’s glad Dr. Hill is dead.
Any further questioning of Kenny is stalled by the arrival of a detective named Simon at the station. He explains that Kenny is being investigated for drug smuggling, and that Lisa and Dan can’t interfere lest they ruin that operation. Simon then flirts with Christina and asks her on a date.
Dan asks Lisa on a date, but she doesn’t want to leave her father and so invites him over for a homecooked dinner with her and her father instead. Dan happily accepts. As he does the dishes, Lisa suggests that one of them could put in for a transfer so that they can date without also being partners, preventing work from interfering.
Despite the possibility that Kenny might have sought revenge against the doctor, Professor T is fairly certain the deaths all occurred within the family. There’s no sign of struggle in the house.
Professor T’s therapist has suggested that the professor was not a part of a death in his family, despite his recurring nightmares about the birthday where he held a gun to his father because he was abusing his mother. The professor’s therapist suggests that he has formed a false memory of pulling the trigger, partly due to hypnosis he underwent as a child in an attempt to address his compulsive disorder, partly due to guilt he feels for his father’s suicide. The professor is the one who found his father hanging from a noose in his childhood home.
The professor is eager to try to address his issues, showing up at his therapist’s office before it even opens with a plea for an extra session. She tells him that he must face his fears about his past and understand his fear of intimacy in order to address his compulsions.
So he borrows his mother’s beloved dog for a few days, as a test in encouraging empathy. It doesn’t work. He leaves the dog on the roof in the professor’s favorite spot after becoming disgusted while feeding the dog.
His mother brings him an old stuffed animal of his as a replacement, but he has instead hired an intimacy coach to try to help him.
Dr. Hill was also trying to help her daughter, Madeline, having sent her to therapy as well. Lisa finds a video of Madeline playing guitar on her laptop, but she is interrupted by her brother complaining about the noise and then her father begging her to stop on her brother’s behalf. Her guitar is found smashed in her bedroom.
Alexander, Madeline’s brother, is autistic. Her father, Nicholas, has his been Alexander’s primary caretaker for a decade while their mother was busy with work. Madeline’s friend Alice says that Madeline hated her house because of her father’s obsession with Alexander and the restrictions on what she could do because she would upset Alexander. She talked about harming herself—and there’s evidence of that on her laptop. But she died of a broken neck, and there’s not a noose in sight in the house.
The professor has an explanatory theory. He thinks Stacey reminded Dr. Hill of her own daughter and her suicide threats, and that is why she didn’t want to travel to Switzerland with Stacey—so she wouldn’t have killed Madeline. Madeline died between 3 and 4, when only Nicholas was home. He must have argued with her about playing guitar when Alexander was around, then smashed the guitar in an escalation. Madeline ran out and tripped on an upturned corner of carpet at the top of the stairs, breaking her neck.
Nicholas, who may also have been slightly autistic, put Madeline’s body on the couch in a last gesture of care and then went to kill himself by turning the stove’s gas on. But then he suddenly thought of Alexander and worried about how his son would survive without him, so he picked him up from a day care center.
He then told Alexander he was going to teach him how to drive, opening the windows of the car in the closed garage but keeping the car running while Alexander held the wheel, as fingerprints on the wheel show. Nicholas succumbed first, and Alexander tried to escape—but came across the stove gas in the kitchen and died.
Dr. Hill then came home to find her whole family dead. She put the two males on the couch, then took off her shoes, overdosed on sedatives, and had a glass of champagne to speed the effect. It’s impossible to prove, but seems the likeliest scenario.
Case closed, Christina heads off for a drink with Simon. Professor T dances with his intimacy coach at home, with her continually drawing closer. And Lisa dances with her father to an old song that reminds them of Lisa’s mother. Lisa thinks of assisted dying while they dance.