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The Big C: "New Beginnings"


The Big C

"New Beginnings"

Season 1 , Episode 11

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As I was watching the intro to this episode of The Big C, I wondered where all of Cathy’s urgency to live went. In the show’s pilot, she was adamant that she needed her swimming pool dug immediately because she might not have time left to enjoy it, but it felt like she started taking things at a more leisurely pace after that. Now there’s Paul to pick up the slack. 

In tonight’s episode, Paul meets Cathy at school and starts trying to shave his head in solidarity with her losing her hair in chemo. Thankfully, Paul has an enormous surplus of hair, because even after he takes a chunk out, he still has plenty left over, after Cathy tells him she doesn’t plan on doing chemo. He’s pissed at her for not investigating her options more: “We could have figured something out, but now, you’re just three months sicker.” Coincidentally, I think this was the first episode we’ve seen in a long time where Paul didn’t get wasted. Did he just need a hobby this whole time, and was that hobby Cathy’s cancer? 

Cathy takes Paul to the salon where he tells the stylist that “cancer did it to me.” The stylist assumes Paul’s the one with cancer, and Paul discusses various options with the stylist, who talks about a loved one who was only supposed to live six months but made it over three years thanks to coffee enemas and apricots. 

Paul is “crazy with cancer,” and seems electrified by Cathy’s diagnosis, half flirting with her, half yelling at her. He wants Cathy to keep trying new treatments for his sake and Adam’s. “When does this get to be about me?” she asks, saying that dealing with cancer on top of Paul’s feelings is a lot. Paul points out that at some point they’ll have to tell Adam as well.

Speaking of which, soon after followed one the most groan-worthy “I have can-....never mind” moments of the show, brought to you by Paul. Adam suggests that they go on a guys’-only fishing trip, when Paul firmly says that from now on they do everything as a a family. “Your mother has ca....mping recipes she really wants us to try”! Ooh, that was a close one, Paul. 

See, Paul really wants to talk about cancer, but he has to go to work. Fortunately he learns about a colleague whose husband died of cancer, and he tries to make her his cancer buddy, but she runs away from him and eventually tells him that talking about watching her husband die slowly isn’t her a idea of a good time. Paul ponders.

Meanwhile, Cathy, Rebecca, and Marlene are at a male strip club. Rebecca is moving to Minneapolis, but Sean freaked out over this news, and she freaked out on him in a very Sex and the City type scene. Miranda Hobbes would never moon over stupid homeless slut-shamer Sean, but Rebecca will. Cathy tries to cheer up her friend but inadvertently crushes Rebecca’s hope. Then, everything is smoothed over when Marlene takes them out to a buffet that happens to be situated at a Chippendale’s type place. Cathy wins a lap dance, and she and Rebecca bond.

Back home, Cathy spots Marlene rooting around in her front yard, lost in a fog of Alzheimer’s. Cathy takes her home, and the next morning, the two talk as Marlene admits she’s struggling with the disease, saying she didn’t tell anyone basically for the same reason Cathy didn’t tell anyone about her cancer.

Cathy heads back, and Paul makes amends with her, saying he understands why she didn’t tell him about the cancer and why she had to kick him out. Maybe he’ll even learn to figure out what was up with Lenny. Adam heads out and gets the impression that his parents are actually staying together and care about him, despite what a little chippy he met at the bus stop may have told him.

Cathy heads back to Dr. Miller’s. She had stopped by earlier to let him know she was investigating alternative treatments, and he told he he doesn’t think that much of them. She cries and tells him she wants to do something now, and that she wants to be an optimist. Dr. Miller says he hopes she wins (after she asks him to do so).

It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes, now that the cancer cat’s out of the bag and Cathy and Paul are getting along. I didn’t find that this last episode left me dying to find out what happens next, but I’m relieved that Cathy and Paul have moved past the stage of frustrating miscommunication.  It may be no surprise that I'm not feeling completely riveted by the series at this point, even with the major development of Paul knowing Cathy's secret.  I think for the show to finish strongly, I'd like to see, amongst other things, the characters break out of their usual routines--Cathy, Sean, Adam, even Dr. Miller seem like they each deliver the same scenes every episode, but at least tonight we saw a new side to Paul.  

Stray observations: