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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Big C: "The Little c"

Illustration for article titled The Big C: "The Little c"
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This show! If every episode of this series could be as good as tonight’s episode was, I wouldn’t feel nearly as ambivalent about it as I often do. It felt like for the first time in a while the storylines were firing on all cylinders: tonight’s new plot was interesting, the ongoing sagas of Adam and Sean worked and now we have something new to look forward to, in terms of Andrea’s love life.

I liked this episode from its opening shot of Cathy swimming laps in the high school pool, which was a nice continuation of the show’s credit sequence. Plus, the pool scenes were pretty, with the blue water and Cathy’s red suit and her pink goggles. I'm liking this season's palette in general. Last season took place over the summertime, which I think made the show feel a little bit lost, geographically (I know we have nice weather in the Midwest but a sunny day looks so generic on TV. I think The United States of Tara, which was set in Kansas, suffered from the same issue.) But the outdoor scenes now are appropriately gray and wintry, which is a look that works for the show even if Cathy’s more focused and determined than she was last season.

In the pool, Cathy finds herself racing a girl in the lane next to her and learns that the swim team needs a coach. Cathy offers her services to the school, citing her high school and college racing experience (which is a nice callback to why she wanted a pool so badly in season one.) Cathy’s hardcore when it comes to coaching the swim team: her competitive side comes out, and the team is obviously a way for her to channel her own fight for her life. At her first practice, she kicks out all the meddling helicoptering parents.

Paul doesn’t have the same level of command over at MaxBestBuy, where he’s still figuring out how to make sales and trying not to embarrass his son with his bright yellow shirt. Paul does bond with a Ukrainian employee named Myk whose ambition he admires. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the character of Owen, the weaselly manager who hates foreigners with funny accents (and as great as it was to see Paul stand up to him, I’m a little over the cliche of wimpy guys revealing their wimpiness via the pee stains on their pants). However, this is a minor quibble. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Myk, who resembles Ryan Gosling and Tom Felton’s lovechild, and Andrea. I liked the leopard growling on the TV screen after he guides her towards the smartphones.

Adam’s awfulness has seemingly come to a head (no pun intended.) Cathy starts feeling itchy in her vaginal area, which she thinks may be a sign her treatment is working. Shortly thereafter, however, Paul starts itching too, and then Adam gets going. Sean, with the hilarious visual effect of using a baby toy magnifying glass to diagnose the ailment, informs Adam he has crabs. Sean, getting more mature and rational episode by episode (and I’m so glad; his character is so much more likable), tells Adam to inform his parents or else he’ll do it for him. Adam sits his parents down (Paul not-so-secretly scratching his crotch beneath a bright red decorative pillow) and tells them that he got crabs by having sex in their bed. Cathy had earlier smugly told Rebecca  that she was sure Adam and his girlfriend Mia weren’t having sex, so her reaction is a mix of horror and mortification.

Convinced that Mia is crabby ground zero, Cathy marches over and gives her a box of medicated shampoo, inadvertently revealing, of course, that Adam’s been sleeping around behind Mia’s back. For some reason, Cathy begs Mia not to break up with Adam, but if I really loved my son’s girlfriend and my son was giving everyone VD, I wouldn’t punish her by asking to say with my lousy (literally) son.


Mia gives Adam one chance to fess up to cheating on her, but he fails miserably. The believability and entertainment level of Adam’s shittiness have wavered throughout the series, so in a perverse way I loved it when Adam said “I can’t believe you would dump me when my mom’s so sick,” to Mia, which is just so lame and pathetic it’s strangely funny.

Adam storms home and accuses his mom of fucking everything up, and in one of those rare cases, both Cathy and Paul stand united against Adam. He confesses to having sex with a hooker and tells Cathy to stop interfering with his life. “You brought a disease into our home that we’re all forced to deal with,” she says, and he retorts, “Now you know how it feels.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that line at first: It seemed so neatly tit-for-tat, and really, could Adam really blame Cathy for her cancer? Then again, disease does funny things to family and community so who knows, maybe it’s not so unrealistic that he said that. I couldn't believe he wasn't even sorry for making his mom think her treatment was working when in fact he just gave her an STD.


The drama didn’t stop there though. At the pool, the parents and principal (clearly not a pal) stand off against Cathy, using the crabs as an excuse to get her to step down as coach, but she figures out that her cancer freaks them out as well. I really wanted Cathy to push the pushy father into the pool, but she did him one better. “If you try and fire the lady with cancer, you better hire a damn good lawyer,” Cathy says, and the look on her face as she said that was so satisfying. She heads out for a run, inviting the rest of the team, if they stand by her, to follow her. It wasn’t a big surprise that after a few moments of seeing Cathy jog solo, we saw her joined by her team, but it was a good ending nonetheless.

It was just such a satisfying, fast-moving episode with a little something to love in each character and scene tonight. I wasn’t as in love with with Cathy and Rebecca’s talks on parenting, but the fact that Rebecca got into the baby birthing pool in her skanky work clothes with Sean made her all right in my book too. I hope that when Sean proposes to her it’ll be a happy affair, free of raccoons.


—Did anybody else think that the “little c” in the episode’s title stood for something other than cancer or crabs?

—“This is the most black people I’ve ever seen at one time in Minnesota.”

—“Are you rubbing your vagina on the coffee table?”

—“You peed in your pants, man. That’s awesome.”

—I loved how sweet and melodic Gabourey Sidibe’s voice was when she said “Go ahead!” when Myk came by to ask Paul if he could ask her out.


—“I don’t see myself as skinny, but I do see myself as a lady so you best come correct.”