Professor’s podcast parses psychology in “The Patient”

The first episode of Hulu’s “The Patient” opens on Alan, played by Steve Carrell, waking up in a basement bedroom. He sits up and stares in horror as he realizes there is a cuff and chain around his ankle, holding him prisoner.

As the show progresses, it is revealed that Alan, a therapist, has been kidnapped by one of his patients. The young man, played by Domhnall Gleeson, has homicidal ideations and is desperate for Alan to cure him of his murderous compulsions.

When Dr. Stacey Nye saw the show’s synopsis, she knew she had her next podcast.

“This is the show for me because I’m a psychologist. It’s a show about a serial killer. What more could I want in a show?” she laughed.

Nye is a clinical professor of psychology at UWM and runs the university’s Psychology Clinic. She’s also an experienced podcaster and a self-professed true crime junkie. Most recently, she’s the co-host of “Psychoanalyzing the Patient,” a companion podcast to the show that delves into the series’ psychological groundings.

Patiently podcasting

Nye is an old hand at podcasting. Her first podcast, “The Sh*t That Happens to Me,” has over 75 episodes in its back catalogue in which she hosts guests like SNL alum Lauren Holt or local radio personalities Vince Vitrano and Andy “Riggs” Riggle to talk about the – ahem, stuff – that makes life funny.

When she pitched her new podcast idea to her producers at Straw Hut Media, they gave the green light and “Psychoanalyzing the Patient” was born.

In each episode, Nye and her cohost, Lindsay Jones, dissect one corresponding episode of the show – the things that struck them, their reactions, their predictions. Each episode also features a guest with expertise related to the show.

That’s where Jones’ connections really shine. Jones is a music and sound designer for film, television, and theater. He and Nye met when he appeared as a guest on “The Sh*t That Happens to Me.”

“I knew what he did for a living, but I didn’t realize when I asked him (to co-host ‘Psychoanalyzing the Patient’) that he actually knew three of the cast members of the show already,” Nye laughed.

Guests have included “The Patient” cast members Laura Niemi and Linda Emond, as well as the show’s Emmy Award-winning score composer, Nathan Barr. But if you’re going to psychoanalyze the show, you need some psychoanalysts, so Nye also brought on psychologist James Kaufman and forensics expert Laura Pettler.

Perhaps the most meaningful guest appeared on the podcast’s pilot episode: Dr. Frank Summers, a clinical psychologist who was also Nye’s mentor in graduate school.

“I wanted to hear some of his thoughts about Sam (the prospective serial killer character) and I wanted his perspective as a therapist. I had to do a little walking him through how to sign up for Hulu and how to watch the show,” she said, laughing, “but it was really fun and his episode is very popular.”

Summers gave his take on the first episode of “The Patient,” examining how Alan conducts therapy appointments with his patients. He also pointed out a potential misstep on the character’s part which may have led to his abduction, a detail that Nye missed and one which still gives her a bit of consternation.

“I’ve told a bunch of my students that if you want to see your supervisor get corrected by her supervisor, listen to my first episode,” Nye joked.

The podcast has received glowing reviews from its listeners, and Nye says she’s had a blast recording the show. Sadly, she said, it does not look like there will be a second season of “The Patient,” and the podcast will end with the show. Even so, “it’s rather addicting doing these podcasts. I’ve had so much fun.”

And, she noted, the title “Psychoanalyzing the…” lends itself to a variety shows. If Nye finds another good series, she’s hopeful that there will be even more new podcasts to record in the future.

A criminal fascination

Nye’s been enjoying watching the fictional serial killer, but she’s got an appetite for true crime as well. She’s not alone; millions of people, the majority of them women, binge-watch true crime shows, listen to true crime podcasts, and devour true crime novels and other media.

So, why are so many people drawn to murders and unsolved mysteries?

“There are a lot of reasons why it’s so popular,” Nye said. “I think we’re really fascinated by evil. I think we really like to solve puzzles.

“But I think for women in particular, in many ways, they have the sense that it helps them feel more prepared,” she added. “Almost always, but not exclusively, these crimes are against women. Women are listening and feeling like they are learning things about how to be careful.”

In fact, Nye said, the fans of one of her personal favorite podcasts, “My Favorite Murder,” refer to themselves as “Murderinos” who often use the acronym SSDGM: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.

If this is one of the reasons why so many women are true crime devotees, Nye thinks it’s because this demographic has realized they have a profound vulnerability.

“(Screw) politeness,” Nye said firmly. “Women are socialized to be polite in almost every situation they’re in. … We should feel like we have the right as much as anybody else to protect our space and our boundaries. We’re afraid we’re going to look silly or be wrong. You know what? It’s better to look silly and be wrong than be dead.”

By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science