THE BIG C “The Agony and the Ecstasy” Advance Review

Laura Linney THE BIG C

THE BIG C “The Agony and the Ecstasy” Season 1 Episode 9 – Cathy’s bubble of denial begins to deflate as bad news piles up in the “The Agony and the Ecstasy” episode of THE BIG C. I had a chance to preview the episode and it’s an interesting one with more agony for the characters than ecstasy.

Paul is dealing-badly if understandably so–with Cathy’s birthday announcement that she hasn’t been happy in twenty years and her subsequent escape to the Bahamas. He has some good professional news to celebrate, but more personal difficulties interfere with his enjoyment of that, giving us a pretty darn bitterly funny dinner scene. I know Paul isn’t exactly well-liked, and while I certainly wouldn’t want to be married to him, he deserves better than he’s gotten. That continues to be true here, but he also has his own major screw-up and I find him a tad offensive more than once on top of it.

We get a taste of what Cathy deems important for Adam to learn before she dies, and I have to applaud her choices in that regard. He gets a couple of different, harder, lessons stemming from a party he attends. Adam is quickly becoming both my favorite character and the one I’m most worried for. Andrea is also at the party, making me laugh and breaking my heart as she always does.

Sean and Marlene provide the requisite comic relief when Sean sets her up on a date and chaperones the potential lovebirds. They’re mostly throwaway scenes, but they’re reasonably funny nonetheless.

I go back and forth on how much denial Cathy is in regarding her cancer, and this episode swings me firmly and, I think, irrevocably into the no denial camp with two statements she makes to Dr. Todd. Instead, I think she’s simply been hiding, and what I find fascinating is that I don’t think all that hiding has actually been a result of the cancer. I think she has been hiding her feelings from herself and others for years, that she has completely detached herself from her own life and that the cancer could actually be the catalyst to her rejoining life if she would only get over her knee-jerk flight response (and, no, I am in no way calling cancer a good thing–not ever). Think about how much time she has spent trying and mostly failing to forge some sort of connection with people–Adam, Paul, Sean, Lenny–all while hiding her cancer. Her most real interactions have been with Marlene and Dr. Todd, the people with whom she has the least intimate relationships because they know her secret. Her lies, actions, and non-actions have piled up, hurting pretty much everyone, including herself, and we get the inevitable result of that in “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” Hopefully, this is rock bottom for everyone, emotionally speaking.

As much as I like The Big C, I don’t always like the characters, including Cathy, but I don’t think we are always supposed to like Cathy or her choices, and this transitional episode highlights that quite well.

When you’ve seen the episode, I hope you come back and post your thoughts.

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