S02E13: Last week, we dealt with a hefty sum of heartache. In fact, none of our characters had a very good week. It turns out Myk was just using Andrea for a green card, which wasn't such a happy ordeal for either of them. It also didn't bode so well for Paul, who lost a friend in Myk and had to deal with some Andrea rage. On top of that, his new coke problem teamed with his company's latest random drug test...not such a good situation. Adam had a big fight with Poppy, who might be out of the series for good now (which is a shame -- Parker Posey was a great addition to The Big C). Paul and Cathy have their own fight over her insistance to cancel the family's trip to Italy so that she could stay by the side of her dying friend Lee. And, of course, as for Lee himself, he finally died.
But it wasn't all bad news: Sean is back. And he's not the only one. Tonight's episode reintroduced an old favorite: Dr. Todd.
Cathy took a lesson from Lee's passing: live more, and fear nothing. Naturally, this translates to running a marathon despite being grossly unprepared for one.
"Is it possible you're the one person on the planet who hasn't been affected by cancer? Does my plea evoke no sympathy from you?" - Cathy
"Rules are rules." - Marathon organizer
"You should put that on your tombstone. You'll impress a lot of people." - Cathy
Cathy hits a few roadblocks in her new goal. First, she is unable to sign up for the marathon due to a passed registration date. As you can see in the video, the woman in charge of signing up runners shows no willingness to bend the rules for Cathy. But then Cathy remembers that Lee signed up for this very marathon (which is what inspired her to do it), so she heads to his apartment, dodges a maintenance worker and steals the late Lee's number and registration information so that she can participate.
Her second roadblock is also mended relatively quickly: Paul is angry with Cathy over the Italy trip and her dedication to the race. She assures him that she needs to do this, but that she is as devoted as ever to him and their marriage. Cathy and Paul also become open about Paul's drug problem in this episode. She is displeased, but not as outraged as you'd imagine. She mainly accosts him for jeopardizing his health. It's surprising that she does not seem all that angry.
Finally, the reintroduction of Dr. Todd offers the third roadblock. The doc is against the race as it is too much of a strain for Cathy's body. Although she appreciates Todd and his attachment to her and his patients, she denies his insistences that she call it quits.
When Cathy enters the race, she must check in with the same woman with whom she had the verbal confrontation earlier. She appears to have gotten through to the woman, as she lets Cathy go into the race with no problem, despite the fact that she knows that Cathy is not Lee, as says her information.
"I thought, 'If Cathy can stay put with all the shit she's got going on, well, then I can, too.'" - Sean
"Wow. I inspired you?" - Cathy
"Don't get a big head. I was also freezing my testicles off." - Sean
Sean returning is a steady high theme in the episode. He teaches Adam a little bit about respecting women (Adam's spurned ex-girlfriend has decided to forgive him; he seems much more mature this time around, likely thanks to Poppy, and plans to treat her right). Sean also decides to run the entire race with Cathy. He doesn't exactly make it, but he provides much needed encouragement.
Spectating the race are Adam (despite his mother's insistences that he go be with his girlfriend for her New Years party, another sign that he is maturing and growing character), and Dr. Todd, who, although opposed, is always in Cathy's corner. It's good to have him back, and the way the show reintroduced him after a whole season is artful: a nice contrast to the detached Dr. Sherman.
Absent from spectating is Paul, who has gone to his insurance company's New Years policy to belittle and scream at (he's on coke, remember?) the woman who denied him coverage. Now that Paul has lost his job again, the family is in some big trouble. So, he decides yelling at this insurance company is a healthy way to solve this. He doesn't account for the fact that cocaine, rage and mild obesity aren't too good for the heart.
Cathy finally finishes the race, coming in to the sight of Adam, Sean and Dr. Todd. In a pretty meaningful (if not a tiny bit overdone, but that's just nitpicking) moment, Cathy sees the spirits of her deceased friends Lee and Marlene, which warms her heart. But in their corner, she also sees Paul. Now, this is a pretty supernatural moment in the series, as Lee and Marlene are suggested to be Cathy's subconscious, not actually "ghosts," and Cathy does not know that Paul is (as we find out simultaneously) in the process of having a heart attack. She realizes when Adam comments on Paul's absence that something is wrong, and Cathy collapses.
The season ends there. We do not know what will become of Paul. Has Cathy, a Stage 4 cancer patient, survived her own husband, who this season became her nearly unwavering rock?
This season had its weaker points in the earlier half, but the last several weeks really showed an escalation in the show's potential. The introduction of new characters and the show's willingness to insert death organically indicates that it appreciates the subject matter. The Big C may not always be perfect, but it certainly does have its notably strengths.