Conrad returns to his grandparents’ house and phones Karen. A man tells him that she has killed herself. Horrified and upset, he flashes back to his brother’s boating accident and tears out of the house. He runs to a pay phone and calls Berger, who immediately meets him at the office. In an emotional scene, Conrad tells Berger that he blames himself for the accident, but also blames Buck for not holding on to the boat or turning back at the first sign of bad weather. Berger asks him, ‘‘How long are you going to punish yourself?’’ and demands to know, ‘‘What was the one wrong thing you did?’’ Conrad admits that he blames himself for living.
Conrad loiters outside Jeannine’s house. She comes out and apologizes for her behavior at the restaurant and invites him for breakfast. Meanwhile, Calvin and Beth are golfing in Houston. Calvin mentions Conrad and thereby upsets Beth. She accuses Calvin of being controlled by Conrad. On the return trip, Calvin thinks about the early, simple days of his relationship with Beth.
Calvin and Beth arrive home. Conrad hugs his mother and tries to reach out, but she resists. That night Beth wakes and finds Calvin gone. She goes downstairs and finds him crying at the dining table. He accuses her of being weak and cold, with the inability to love anyone. He also confesses that he does not know if he loves her anymore. She goes upstairs and packs a suitcase. She only allows herself one sob, but true to her character, prevents herself from crumbling.
In the novel, Guest offers more character development than does the film in this section. Beth and Calvin discuss the trip to Houston. Calvin remembers the early years of his marriage and other trips they took. In the novel, by getting inside Conrad’s head, the reader is able to experience the gradual change in Conrad and sees firsthand when he finally considers how the loss of Buck affected his friends and family.
Also in the novel, Guest gives Jeannine Pratt a more developed narrative. Conrad plans for a date with Jeannine, but she has to stay at home and take care of her brother. Jeannine reveals to Conrad that her parents have a messy relationship but she wants them to reconcile. When she becomes upset, Conrad comforts her. Conrad gains more confidence through his relationship with Jeannine.
The scene in which Conrad discovers Karen has committed suicide plays out differently in film and novel. In the novel, when Conrad reads the newspaper, he finds an article reporting the suicide of his friend Karen. Reeling from the news, he retreats to his bed where he drifts in and out of dreams and memories. He remembers his relationship with Karen and his own treatment in the hospital. He thinks of the day he tried to commit suicide. He wakes in the middle of the night and goes for a walk, but a policeman encourages him to go home. He tries to sleep, but has nightmares about the boating accident. Conrad believes Buck would have survived if he had held on to the boat.
Conrad awakens and calls Dr. Berger in the middle of the night. They meet at the office, where Berger encourages Conrad to release his pent-up emotions. Conrad admits to Berger that he needs to be let off the hook for not saving Buck. Berger suggests that Conrad might be subconsciously striving to be Buck and encourages Conrad to be himself. Berger mentions the death of Karen, which prompts Conrad to weep. Berger reassures Conrad that feeling horrible about certain things can be a good thing. He advises Conrad to stop punishing himself for things that were out of his control. Conrad returns to his house in Lake Forest where he flashes back to a horrible childhood incident when he and Buck were playing a game of torture, and to the time he spent with Karen.