‘The Big C’ Recap: Musical Chairs

SE02E02: It appears that last week’s speculation that this season would focus on the Anger stage of grieving was mostly wishful thinking. In yesterday’s episode, Cathy’s primary storyline involves her new doctor, Dr. Sherman (Alan Alda, who’s basically doing Hawkeye Pierce after the consistent trauma of working as a Vietnam surgeon has begun to take its toll on him). Cathy’s B-story regards the hate-triangle between Sean, Rebecca and herself.

“This is why Stage 4 people go so fast: they can’t afford to stick around.” -Cathy

The real story here is Dr. Todd v. Dr. Sherman. Although Todd doesn’t appear in this episode, he is mentioned several times, with malice, by Dr. Sherman and Paul. Todd was young, inexperienced, and incredibly emotionally invested—Sherman is his polar opposite on all counts. At first, the former two characteristics are attractive to Cathy and Paul, but his lack of sensitivity and his viewpoint of Cathy as a “patient,” not a “person,” eventually begins to turn the Jamisons off. This is called to their attention when Sherman offers Cathy a coveted spot in an experimental but promising trial, only as a result of the death of one of his other patients, Nadine, a cheerful Stage 4 woman whom Cathy and Paul met in Sherman’s waiting room.

Finally, we come to the debacle between Cathy and the nut jobs. After Rebecca revealed to Sean in last week’s episode that Cathy has cancer, none of them are on very good terms. Nevertheless, Cathy (compulsively playing the hero) insists on accompanying Rebecca to her sonogram; Sean is doing something in a tent at the time. Rebecca, in her voyage to make this cancer all about her, has already declared Cathy dead and decides to name the baby after her. Cathy takes extreme offense to this, but never really seems to lose her patience entirely with Rebecca—which is odd, as she has blown up at Paul, Adam, Sean, Todd and Andrea (who, thank God, is back—and might replace Marlene as Cathy’s primary “friend” character).

After the baby shower where Rebecca revealed her “tribute,” Cathy retreats to the company of her brother, winning him over by showing him the photograph of his unborn daughter, and bonding over their shared dark sense of humor, specifically regarding Rebecca’s choice in name. After last week’s clumsy double-mention (for the first time in the series) that Sean was bipolar, a story seems to be budding that Cathy (and everyone) thinks that he should begin taking medicine—and it seems to be getting through to him.

So, Sean and Cathy: resolved. Sean himself: exploring new possibilities. Sherman: not so hot. Adam: who knows?