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The Big C: "Happy Birthday, Cancer!"

Illustration for article titled The Big C: "Happy Birthday, Cancer!"
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I’m thinking about starting a drinking game for this show. A shot for every time a new famous person joins the cast. Two shots for each time Paul says something that’s supposed to be nice but is really a neg on his wife and two for each time Sean says something dickish and antagonistic for absolutely no reason. And drink yourself into oblivion each time Cathy says something along the lines of “I’m going to tell you something” and then that something is not that she has cancer.

Aside from the predictable stuff, I enjoyed tonight’s episode more than usual, perhaps because we actually met one of Cathy’s friends and learned who those other people were who showed up to their bathtub party last week.


It’s Cathy’s birthday, and as she eats wedding cake with Marlene, she predicts that no one will remember. Adam comes by Marlene’s to paint her door, Cathy micromanages and he snipes at her. Cathy worries to Marlene that she’s not raising a good kid, and Marlene comforts her “He’s fine: you’re the pain in the ass.”

Perhaps to celebrate her birthday, Cathy wears a fancy formfitting dress to school, where Lenny gives her a colorful scarf (that happens to go with her dress) as a present. She loves it, saying how she’s found colors more vibrant lately (is it the cancer or boning the superhot artist?) He needs to fly off to the Bahamas for the weekend and she decides to join him.

But she can’t! Because Paul’s thrown a surprise party for her at home. Cathy’s genuinely surprised and dismayed, while Paul delivers one of his passive-aggressive speeches on her, about how she’s crabby because she’s a Cancer (what’s the zodiac sign for obviousness?) Her crazy college friend Rebecca (played by Cynthia Nixon, who for my money is currently the most attractive former member of Sex and the City) is in attendance. They had a falling out when Rebecca ditched Cathy’s wedding for a guy, but they’re ready to rekindle. “Tell me the biggest thing that’s going on in your life right now!” Rebecca says and Cathy says “Nothing!”

Cathy tries to warn Lenny not to come but she’s too late. He’s incorporated into the party as a guest and reassures her that they can probably still make it to the Bahamas afterwards. He gives her a little caress, which Sean sees. “Has that black cock been inside your white vagina?” he sneers. Jesus Christ, Sean, shut up. I guess he’s not so much the antagonistic extreme left-wing aggressor as just a general asshole.


While Adam goes around telling the guests that the Asian appetizers are called “bukkake,” Rebecca marvels at the number of Cathy’s friends, and Cathy points out that they’re mostly Paul’s work friends and Adam’s friends’ parents.

Paul, of course, ends up chatting with Lenny (and drinking with him). Paul admiringly complains about Cathy the way he usually does, saying about the notes Cathy writes for Adam, “Who takes that amount of time to make someone feel special?” Which is like saying “What kind of dick donates time and money to charity?”


But once again, the performers on this show rescue some clunky writing. I enjoyed the chemistry between Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon: I could imagine them being chatty off-camera as well as on. They reminisce about the good old days and get wasted.

While she does dishes, Sean hectors Rebecca for her leather shoes and she remembers him from way back when and gives us a bit of background on him, letting us know that he used to be a money-grubbing yuppie and also had substance abuse issues. They fight and flirt and it was absolutely no surprise later on when Cathy stumbled upon them having sex.


Cathy blows out the candles on her cake and tells everyone she has something to say: that she’s happy. And that she hasn’t been happy for a long time. Paul looks abashed and once again things go to shit. While Adam takes a doddering Marlene home, a drunken Paul confronts Cathy, saying that she should have been the one to move out, not him. He pops balloons and tears down the party decorations while Cathy calls Lenny, opting to head to the Bahamas with him after all.

—If you’re pleasantly distracted by the show’s guest stars (Elba, Cox, Nixon), apparently Liam Neeson will be making an appearance soon. Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Kinsey reunite!


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