The Big C: "Playing the Cancer Car"
B

The Big C: "Playing the Cancer Car"

B

The Big C

"Playing the Cancer Car"

Season 1, Episode 4
B

The Big C

"Playing the Cancer Car"

Season 1, Episode 4

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If tonight’s episode of The Big C was the first or second, I think I would have liked it a lot more than I did. This isn’t to say I disliked it, but other than hinting that Paul is taking steps towards moving on from Cathy, the episode didn’t push the show forward very much. Cathy is still doing the “Whee! I’m dying and I’m crazy!” thing and flirting with her doctor.

Mostly this episode focused on Cathy’s financial wish-fulfillment as she cashes out her 401(k) and decides to buy a flashy red convertible after an old acquaintance at Paul’s rugby team refers to her SUV as a “Mom car.” In that scene Cathy refers to Tina’s “camel toe” which was a little cringeworthy--it was a bit of weak writing, a stale buzzword for a cheap laugh.

Cathy further celebrates her new lease on life by drinking a $450 bottle of champagne with Marlene, who complains about the way her husband wasted his money on tropical fish. Not drunk enough, Cathy has Dr. Miller meet her at a lobster restaurant for their appointment. I understand why she likes hanging out with him, but I’m not sure I get why he’s willing to hang out with her so much outside the office. Cathy waxes philosophical on the tank-lobsters’ sad lives (not sure why she chose to go to that particular restaurant, then) and once again goes crazy with the money, bribing the waitress to keep her wineglass filled and fix her bangs.

Dr. Miller agrees to let Cathy accompany him on a househunting trip (kidnapping a lobster along the way), and there was a beautiful shot of Cathy standing up in the shiny red car as it pulled up to a huge blue house--while the writing might not have been the sharpest tonight the episode was gorgeously shot.

At the house, Cathy gleefully introduces herself to the realtor as Amanda Montgomery, the high school girl who she was trying to emulate when she bought the sports car. It was the kind of scene where it’s evident what an asset Laura Linney is to the show, because I think in most other actresses’ hands this whole “Hee hee, look what I’m doing; I’m really living it up! Ain’t I a stinker?” routine could get super-grating. Dr. Miller starts playing along and doesn’t protest too much when Cathy’s playfulness at one point turns (we’ve seen this coming) a little flirty. Once again, the writing got stiff here, as Cathy gazes out at the (inexplicably) saltwater pool, reflecting upon how time used to seem to stand still when she swam in her own pool. “That would be nice wouldn’t it? For time to stand still.”

In the meantime, Marlene plays the guardian angel for Cathy, intercepting the cops who drop Adam off after catching trying to steal a video game. She pretends to be his grandma and makes a deal with him where he can clean her yard for money (thus soothing Cathy’s worries about Adam being a non-working layabout). Back on the rugby field, Sean taunts Paul into punching him in the face in order to knock out a sore tooth. I’d like to see more between these two, especially after Adam tells Paul, “You turned my vibrant quirky sister into a zombie.”

Oh, I know why the pool was saltwater. So Cathy could stick the lobster in it. But again this was a beautifully shot scene, with an aerial shot of Cathy floating in the pool with the lobster below her. This is how the episode went for me, off-and-on minor disappointments and then little resurgences of intrigue.

Cathy drops Dr. Miller back off at the restaurant and they express some trite maudlin pleasantries (“I shouldn’t have more of a future than you.” I wonder if he feels the opposite way with other patients.) He reveals he has a girlfriend, which Cathy takes in stride.

After the rugby game, Paul and Tina flirt a little bit. Once again, this show’s writers and producers should thank their lucky stars for their actors because Oliver Platt’s expression when he realized that he was--gulp--flirting and having fun was priceless. It was something like happy terrified embarrassment. Then we see Marlene at home feeding her own new tropical fish, grinning like a retarded kid (her words, not mine). 

Finally, down off her wine high, Cathy pulls the sports car into a storage unit and bequeaths it to Adam for his 18th--check that, 30th--birthday. It starts to rain once she locks up the storage unit. 

Apparently the next episode is the one where Idris Elba makes his appearance which I’m looking forward to, partially because I like looking at his face but also I think we’re ready to see Cathy progress past the “I’m dying and I’m going to do spend money and eat and drink crazy!” stage.

--“I would never know that word if it didn’t totally fuck me on the crosswords last week.” That wasn’t a great line in and of itself but Linney sold it. 

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