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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big C: "Musical Chairs"

Illustration for article titled The Big C: "Musical Chairs"
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Last week’s episode of The Big C set us up for a season of Cathy fighting her cancer (whereas last season she was in denial.) Tonight, we got a look at how her disease affects her day-to-day life at work and home and the frustrations and ethical dilemmas of what fighting for your life can entail.

Cathy returns to teaching, and to her chagrin, the entire school is rallying behind her, offering sympathetic glances, banal soothing phrases and, of course, a bake sale. After the way Cathy was essentially ignored by her students all last season, I would have thought she’d be mildly touched by their attention, but this is season two Cathy, a grumpier Cathy.  We also saw the return of Andrea. (Gabourey Sidibe, whom the writers seem to have figured out to write for a little bit more realistically than last season, where she was basically just a hyper-mature little bitch.) “You don’t look good,” Andrea tells Cathy, who responds “Thank you!” She’s grateful for Andrea’s honesty, and then we got one of those little Cathy/Andrea exchanges that’s pretty great. “Want a hug?” Cathy offers, and Andrea responds “Ugh. No thanks.”

Sometimes, the show stretches Cathy and Andrea’s relationship a little bit beyond the realms of believability. When Rebecca asks Cathy to throw her a super-early baby shower (so they’ll look good in the pictures, before Rebecca gets all fat and Cathy all “cancery”), Andrea inexplicably shows up as Cathy’s friend. Hardly anyone ever wants to attend a baby shower, and I’d say that attending my teacher’s brother’s pregnant girlfriend’s shower would be especially low on my list. Slightly more irksome to me were Rebecca’s occasional bouts with idiocy during this episode, as she worried about whether melanoma is hereditary and if she can somehow catch Sean’s bipolar disorder through the baby’s umbilical cord. She also decides to name the baby Cathy in honor of her eventually-dead friend, who points out that she’s not dead yet. (Also, who names a baby “Cathy” these days anyway?)

At least Adam has a good time at the shower. Annoyed by the sympathy he’s receiving at school and out of sorts thanks to his mom trying to give away his baby toys, he receives a free blow job from Ruby, a gal at the baby shower who we know is trouble because she’s a.) going to rehab and b.) gives out blowjobs for no reason in people’s laundry rooms. Also she smokes pot. Danger, Adam! Don’t you know you can catch badness through sexual contact?

But back to cancer. Cathy finally gets in to see Atticus Sherman (Alan Alda), a very popular and busy doctor who barely has time to see Cathy. He informs her that there’s no room in a clinical trial Cathy heard about from Nadine, an enthusiastic new friend she made in the waiting room. Cathy eventually finds out she got into the trial but realizes it was because Nadine died. Cathy, wracked with guilt over the idea that she might live only because Nadine died, confronts Dr. Sherman, accusing him of being untrustworthy because he led her to believe, during her appointment, that Nadine was fine. Sherman essentially tells her to settle down, and that shit happens. Basically, he’s exactly the kind of doctor Cathy may really need.

Stray observations:

  • There were a strange number of parallels between The Big C and The United States of Tara tonight: pregnant selfish unmarried sister-in-law-type moves next door and demands a baby shower from ill person.
  • I like Paul’s underlying emotional eating issues. “Let’s go get a burger! I want a burger! You want a burger!?”
  • This episode needed more Thomas.
  • Did anybody notice that Adam mentioned "the albino kid" being the biggest weirdo in school, and then there was an albino kid watching Dr. Sherman's magic act? Poor albino kid.