S02E05: Unlike the past few, this episode of The Big C doesn't have a central theme that underlies each character's plotline. A different, more Seinfeldian formula is employed, which melds the stories of Cathy & Paul and Adam & Sean respectively.
Cathy and Paul begin the episode together with a conversation that roots both of their plotlines to come: Cathy is heading to her clinical trial (and, as we find out once Paul leaves the room, to hock some of her jewelry to pay for medical expenses since Paul lost his job) and Paul is meeting with a friend to discuss a job opportunity about which he is so optimistic that it is laughably foreshadowing of the failure to come.
"I've learned how to detach from people, and things, and expectations. Letting all of that go makes me feel..." -Lee
"Full of shit?" -Cathy
An interesting pairing of characters is pioneered this episode: Sean and Adam. Sean spent all of last week trying to prove himself a good father for his unborn daughter, and that theme pervades into this week’s episode. He starts out the episode pleasant and upbeat, as he has been for a couple of weeks, and approaches a few young mothers in the park to discuss parenting with them. Sean fashions a few old rags into a baby harness and wants to try it out on a real-live baby before using it on his own. Finally, we see the old Sean again. The ladies insult his “invention” and call him crazy, so Sean goes into knee-jerk antagonism and turns into the hostile, anti-establishment kook we knew and loved from the get-go.
At the same time, Adam is exploring his sex addiction that the show has given him in lieu of character development. After his girlfriend turns down sex again, he phones a dominatrix prostitute (advertised in the local paper) and has her pay a visit to his empty house. Once it turns out he cannot pay her, she becomes violent, and he doesn’t know what to do. Thus, he drags her across the street to seek aid from his Uncle Sean.
This is where Sean’s second season arc (thus far) culminates, and enjoyably so. Sean successfully deals with the hooker by citing obscure legalities and employing his proud skill of bartering. It seems that what this episode is trying to instill is that Sean will be the best parent when he is being Sean: the drugged-out, happy-go-lucky Sean is worth nothing, but the Sean who knows how to deal with hookers and antagonize people will be the father he aspires to be. The episode also does a good job of not beating you over the head with that message; its subtlety, especially in connection to the theme of last week, remains impressively intact and therefore effective.
The final moments of the episode have Cathy meeting Paul at an electronics store, where he has swallowed his pride and accepted a job working on the floor. He says it’s just a starting point, but it shows that his wife’s well-being is more important than his ego. It's pretty sappy, but what were they going to do? It’s a “good people” show.
Things to consider: will Paul advance to a level of prosperity? Will Adam ever deal with his grief non-sexually? Will we ever see Alan Alda again?