If last night’s Hoarders ends up being the show’s final episode, it ended on an extraordinary high note—one that easily illustrated why the show should be renewed and continue to help people, even if their mental illness sometimes prevents people from receiving the help.
Besides being a two-hour, one-hoard episode—a first for the A&E series—the episode was the realization of the threat that looms over most of the previous episodes: the loss of everything that the hoarder has kept because it’s so important to them.
The series often deals with people in crisis, but this was even more acute than usual: Sandra no longer the owner of her massive hoard or her home, which had been foreclosed upon and sold. The home—known as “The Julian Price House”—is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 31 rooms, all of which were packed with 50 years of Sandra’s stuff.
In an act of incredible compassion, the couple who purchased the home—Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo—called the show to help Sandra instead of just trashing everything and having her removed by the police, as they legally could have done. And their compassion and genuine concern for Sandra was evident throughout the episode, as they came face to face with her mental illness and unwillingness to let others help her.
That Sandra would lose most everything was clear from the start, but it was incredibly sad watching her respond to that looming deadline by backing into a corner. She’d had years and years to leave, to take care of her stuff, but she never did, and now it just had to go—though they still allowed her to salvage as much as possible.
“She lost it all today,” Matt Paxton said at the end of the episode. Dr. Robin Zasio said, “Her disorder ultimately brought this incredibly tragic situation to an even more catastrophic end.” Dr. Zasio continually reminded the people on location (and us) that this isn’t someone who’s thinking rationally, but someone who is suffering from mental illness:
“We have to remember she’s very ill, she’s not accepting our help, she has no concept of what we’re trying to do to help her, and all she does is see us as the enemy.”
A sad but hopeful end to Hoarders’ season finale
The best news came at the end, informing us that Sandra had accepted therapy paid for by the show’s aftercare fund. And the stuff that was sold brought in $14,000.
With the house empty, Michael and Eric now plan to restore the home before moving in with their twin daughters; the Greensboro News and Record has a detailed report about their plans and the show’s help. (As some commenters on that article have suggested, the renovation would be a great subject for its own reality show.)
Ultimately, then, this episode of Hoarders was a success—both in helping someone in crisis, and as an episode of television. The entire episode was elevated, from new musical cuse to drone shots of the property.
The climax, I think, was not a moment with Sandra, but instead a moment between two of the show’s long-time permanent cast members, therapist Dr. Robin Zasio and extreme cleaning specialist Matt Paxton. The night before, Matt lost it and yelled at Sandra, and now Dr. Zasio was breaking down, more frustrated than she’d ever been.
Standing next to a dumpster, Robin told Matt, through tears:
“It’s painful, because she’s a human being, and her brain is not allowing her to make any kind of reasonable, decent decision. I’m a human being, and I would never want this to happen to my grandmother. She’s ill; she’s doing exactly what her illness is telling her to do. And we have to keep cool, we have to keep calm, and work as a team to keep our cool so that we can walk away knowing we did everything we could help somebody who is pretty much helpless.”