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The Big C: “Two for the Road”

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Well, I kind of got what I wanted tonight: did you? By which I mean, some revelation and satisfaction, not a meditation on the various ways dads can be crappy and creepy (which we also got.)


The episode opens with Marlene taking care of Cathy’s stitches as Cathy worries over not getting everything done before she dies. Marlene reveals that she has two daughters, one who “married a Jew” and the other a “bull dyke.” Boy, nothing pleases this lady, huh? She says they only check in every now and then to make sure she’s managing, and Cathy feels inspired to check in on her own father. She asks Sean to go with on her visit and he acquiesces but only to dig up his old time capsule, since he hates their dad (big surprise!)

Cathy leaves Adam at home and asks Paul to head over and stay with them. Paul’s funny when he adopts therapist speak: “Angela says the handjob only happened because my self is splitting.” Trying too-hard to be the cool dad, Paul asks Adam’s friends to call him “Paulie” and lets his son drink until he passes out and gets sick, not before making Adam watch his wedding video and saying “Doesn’t your mom have amazing tits?” Are there dads out there who actually say things like that? Ick. Then Paul cries over fucking up his marriage and passes out. Marlene later comes by to give them both a bit of tough love.

Sean reveals to Cathy that their father molested him, but of course he’s screwing with her, and it’s weird how we all know this by now after having known Sean for a few hours yet Cathy’s still unbelievably gullible. Eager to prove that she’s cool, Cathy goes dumpster diving with Sean and helps him steal a sign that says “Dingleberry Creek.” The talk a bit about their parents: Sean thinks their dad was messing around on their mom while she was sick and faults him for getting married so soon after she died. “Who cheats when you already have someone who loves you?” Sean asks, which seemed like rather traditional thinking for Sean. Cathy, who is cheating when someone already ostensibly loves her, defends their father.

While Cathy’s taking a pee on the side of the road, Sean picks up her phone and sees a sext from Lenny. She confesses to having an affair and Sean calls her a “fucking liar and coward.” “Now do you think I’m still a goody two-shoes?” she asks and he says “Fuck you, Cathy,” and drives off (but then backs up.) I liked the short scenes that followed of their awkward, angry silent drive up.


Was anybody else questioning why Sean of all people judged Cathy having an affair? He hates Paul, she’s separated from her husband anyway, and he’s all about letting his freak flag fly. I’m not saying that people can’t be conservative about some things and liberal about others (and his disgust with her wasn’t so much over her infidelity but her untruthfulness) but still, it seemed a little out of step with his character.

Cathy and Sean’s dad (played by Brian Cox) is the withholding old shit-head we see a lot in movies and TV. He won’t turn off the baseball game, tells Cathy not to divorce Paul because she can’t do better than him, and tells her to lower her expectations. When she says that this could be the last time they see each other, he protests, saying he’s not that old but she says “It’s not always about you, Dad” (I wanted her to tell him about her illness here, but alas.) After he’s a sarcastic dick to her some more, she accuses him of not knowing how great his family is, including Sean. “I came here to tell you something,” Cathy says. “I love you and you’re an asshole.” That’s a good line that I think we will all mentally refer to once the holidays come around.


Cathy storms out with her mom’s ashes and Sean and his father have a funny little insulting exchange about the baseball scores, insulting each other along the way. Cathy and Sean head to the beach where she dumps her mom’s ashes in the Mississippi River for her often-wished-for trip to New Orleans (“Covered in British oil,” notes Sean. TIMELY!) Cathy muses over the various ways to take care of one’s remains, and then finally tells Sean she has cancer, but tells him she was just kidding after he freaks out.

By pretending to fake-out Sean, Cathy got what I had been wanting for her all season: to see how someone would react if she did tell them she was sick, just so we/she could have the gratification of knowing that someone would be sad if she were gone. I’ve been annoyed with Sean’s character for a while now (I really want more from him, dimension-wise) so maybe that’s why his way of taking Cathy’s news seemed rather self-centered to me. He barely asked her about how she’s doing, her options, how long she has, before he curled up into a ball and cried that he was losing the only thing that he has (emotionally or in a proprietary way?) He didn’t even hug her. So I wonder why she really decided to tell him she was just kidding: for his benefit or hers?


After Cathy tells Sean she was faking him out, he high-fives her and the smoke a doobie. Cathy smiles as she hold back tears (as only Laura Linney really can), not letting us know exactly what’s making her smile and what’s making her cry.

I hope this episode gets the ball rolling more of Cathy really thinking how her death will affect her family, and not just the list of things on her to-do list to cross off before she dies.


—I liked the way Sean yelled “Slow down!” at the car that drove by while they were enjoying their Dumpster picnic.

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