S02E08: It’s beginning to look like The Big C is introducing more and more side characters, and assimilating them into the foreground, in order to divert focus from the fact that its central characters really have nothing going on. Sure, there’s the cancer this show is supposed to be about—but when it comes down to it, the show is really about a dysfunctional family who happens to have cancer at its center, rather than a cancer-ridden family who, as a result, lament in dysfunction. And although the formula they chose is not inherently worse (though it does inherently devalue the theme of the disease), the show’s illustration of the dysfunction is rarely anything all that interesting or creative.
With all family shows, a holiday episode is warranted—more often than not, it’s Thanksgiving. The Jamison/Tolke/Andrea/Lee/Mick Thanksgiving kicks off right away with two conflicts out front. Interestingly enough, each conflict is centered around a non-central character (furthering the theory above).
"I'm fat and you're gay, so we're supposed to get along." -Andrea
The loner Lee is invited over and promised a cake reminiscent of his mother’s French baking. However, Cathy does not want Lee to find out that she has begun to endure side-effects to the clinical trial when he has not (this would likely indicate that the treatment is effecting her, and is not effecting him).
Mick actually gets two storylines. Seriously, they’re really banking on these guys. First, Paul catches Mick stealing merchandise from the electronics store at which they work and confronts him about it. Mick uses his debonair accentia to convince Paul that stealing from the big corporation is not a crime, and Paul, after barraging him with all of the morality and plausible consequences he can think up, does a complete 180 and asks to be cut in. This isn’t totally out of the blue, as money problems have been an overlying issue for the Jamisons. But a slightly more gradual acceptance that stealing is okay would have been a little less silly.
"I am just going to teach young Adam here what I'm going to be teaching my own kid soon enough: whenever possible, you should plant or kill your own food." - Sean
Let’s break up The Chronicles of Mick for a second to introduce the Sean/Rebecca storyline that is peppered throughout the episode, and then explodes at the conclusion. Early in the episode, Rebecca discusses her dissatisfaction with being an unwed expectant mother. Cathy says that when she is dead, she will leave her engagement ring to Rebecca—then, Sean enters. Sean, really playing up the Sean, brings home a live turkey that he insists would be nobler to kill themselves. Unfortunately, he cannot bring himself to actually do it, and the turkey flees the property. There is a subtle piece of foreshadowing wherein Rebecca remarks about the baby’s first kick—throughout the party, she begins to feel ill. If you’re crafty, you might know where this is going.
Mick Problem # 2: He tells Andrea he loves her. She slaps him. Andrea eventually reveals that her hesitance to believe that any guy can be genuine comes from being around Adam all the time, but that could just be sass. In any event, the two make up and profess love to one another by the end of the episode.
This profession of love inspires Rebecca, filled with actual love for Sean rather than shame of being an unwed mother, to tell him she wants to be married. He jumps to the opportunity and proposes. At this moment, Rebecca requests Cathy’s wedding ring, reviving the whole “I’m not dead yet, Rebecca!” theme that they should probably do something significant with sometime soon (and not just forget about it a week later like that huge fight Cathy had with Adam a couple episodes ago).
In removing her ring, Cathy reveals her broken nail that she has been disguising, which angers Lee. He draws the sort of broad conclusions only TV characters can accurately draw. He lashes out at Cathy and tells her that she is clearly not ready to die, despite what she thinks. This is a significant and powerful theme that has the potential to really drive the rest of the season. But we’ll see what happens.
The conclusion of the episode has Cathy killing the turkey, mostly out of rage (but also out of a veiled attempt to prove herself death-savvy), and an ambulance taking Rebecca away. There’s something wrong with the baby.
As I said, Cathy’s revelation in this episode has great potential, but it’s more likely that they’ll turn it into a friendship spat between she and Lee until the latter dies at the end of the season (these are just my predictions). Andrea and Mick have a love story going on, Paul’s getting involved in theft, and Sean’s and Rebecca’s baby is in danger. The stakes? Varying. The pull? Dwindling.