Did anyone else go into this episode nervous? I was really worried about how a lot of things that occurred last week would be addressed. Thankfully, this week’s episode is entitled “New Beginnings”, so we can pretend that a lot of stuff that occurred last week NEVER EVEN HAPPENED. That’s how I like my life, with a nice side helping of denial and forgiveness.
The episode begins in Cathy’s classroom. Paul drops by for a surprise visit. Admittedly, I was happy to see him instead of Lenny, for the first time since watching this episode. Last week must have done a number on me! Paul enters with an electric razor and begins to buzz his hair off so that he and Cathy can be “bald twins”. Because, you know, she will be losing all of her hair during chemo. Oh, except that she’s not actually going to be taking chemo because she’s Stage 4 – Melanoma and has decided against it. Woopsies. So you mean Paul actually acted without listening completely, first? Color me surprised.
We arrive at a barber shop scene which tickles me. By the way, thanks, Paul, for fulfilling my prophecy from last week, and successfully making Cathy’s cancer all about you. The barber (Jackie) notes the jacked-up haircut Paul is rocking, to which Paul blames “Cancer”. Wow, Paul, that’s bold, even for you. So Jackie begins rattling off lots of helpful remedies that keep a person afflicted with Cancer “hanging on”. Paul keeps digging and digging to make Cathy feel guilty about not opening up to him sooner. Cathy explains that she doesn’t want to tell people, because on top of dealing with actually having cancer herself, she will then have to deal with THEIR feelings, as well. I loved when she added “like YOURS right now!”. And this is true in real life…people tend to make your issues and obstacles about them, usually unintentionally. Excellent writing!
Dr. Todd’s office – So Cathy apparently given in and tried the coffee enema. Dr. Todd was visibly shocked and somewhat disappointed. He explained that, yes, there have been exceptions where some cancer patients have lived long lives after trying alternative treatments but he explained that they have been mostly used by his patients to “make themselves feel better”, not as an actual cure.
Pretty discouraging moment for Cathy, as it would be for anyone who’s allowed themselves to live outside of the boundaries of reality for a little while, only to get yanked back inside of said lines. But Dr. Todd just keeps it real, anyway, which is one of the reasons I am gradually inching towards loving him.
We are now at Adam’s school, where Adam runs over to Paul’s car for a ride home. And you just know that this is Paul’s moment to do the right thing, and keep quiet about Cathy’s cancer around Adam, as Cathy requested. Paul has done the right thing SO few times. How likely is it that this time will be any different?
Well, Adam starts being whiny about Paul’s idea to invite Cathy camping with the two guys. Adam is used to Paul being on his side, and the two usually maintain a united front against Cathy, in my opinion. When Adam inquires about why Paul is acting so weirdly positive toward his mom, it almost appears that Paul is about o tell Adam that his mom has cancer. At the last minute, Paul humorously changes it to “Cathy has Ca….mping recipes she really is eager for us to try.” LOL!!! Even better, was Paul kicking Adam out of the car to walk or take the bus, for a change. It’s like, “go have some REAL problems, kid!”
Cut to a funny Sean and Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon, Sex And The City) moment. Rebecca has been offered a job that will place her in Minneapolis for good! Sean (Cathy’s brother) should be excited, right? Not so fast. Sean implores Rebecca NOT to take the job! WHAT?
He tells her to do whatever she wants regarding her job, but NOT to do it for him! She goes from confused to enraged in 2.7 seconds and screams at Sean, “I want you the hell out!!!” He’s already headed for the door, but Rebecca adds, for effect, “Just get the hell out!!!” and releases an out of control, Room 232 of the Asylum scream! Best lines from this scene:
Rebecca: You got me a mug that says, “Welcome to Minnesota.” What was I supposed to infer from that?
Sean: I found that mug in the dumpster. You’re supposed to infer from that, that the person who threw that mug away DIDN’T love it here…so why the hell should you move?
Can’t we always count on those two for Laugh-Out-Loud moments? Later at Paul’s job, we find that Paul has successfully found a way to make even someone else’s cancer about him. He should really write a book entitled, “Your life’s trials, your life’s defeats, and how I am personally affected by them”.
He finds out that a co-worker in HR named Cheryl also has a spouse with cancer, and he tries to lure her into joining him in his quest to make other’s afflictions about himself. Seriously, he just wants someone around that can relate to what he’s going through, and I can totally feel that.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the girls (Cathy, Rebecca, and Marlene) visiting a place called “Shakes and Buns”. In addition to an occasional milkshake and/or burger on the menu, there’s also a bunch of shaking of buns, if you know what I mean. A great discussion ensued about the fact that a straight woman will probably not find her future husband in a male strip club. This includes both the clientele AND the dancers. I actually learned that lesson my freshman year of college. Somehow, I can sense judgment from some of you right now.
When we return to the Paul/co-worker scene, it gets wrapped up in a somber way. Cheryl discloses the really devastating side of cancer that the show hasn’t addressed until now. It was tough to hear her account of her husband’s final years, and the fact that “she doesn’t want to relive that time, because she barely made it through the first time”. Paul’s face as his imminent reality sinks in is awful to watch. Very painful scene. Very real scene.
Back at “Shakes and Buns”, Cathy has clearly grown sick of listening to Rebecca whine about her guy problems. Seriously, can you imagine? Cathy’s got her fair share of guy problems to the 5th exponent, on top of the big looming problem that follows her everywhere, everyday. So, she essentially tells Rebecca to shove it, and face the fact that she’ll probably never be in a committed relationship. Didn’t you love Rebecca’s “God, Cathy, you were the optimistic one!” We are interrupted by Marlene discovering that Cathy has “the key” under her seat. “The key” unlocks some big box sitting up on stage,and when Cathy unlocks said box, a blonde, male stripper dressed like Tom Cruise from Top Gun pops out. He begins slow-dancing with her, then instantly dives head first into a high speed, gyrating routine that includes a very well executed handstand, if I may say so.
Cathy (during handstand): You must be very proud of yourself. You’re very talented, bring a lot of joy to people. That’s very nice.
And then, seconds later after the guy rips his clothes off in one motion, “Okay, I’m done!”
When we arrive at another Marlene Alzheimer’s scene, it’s another blunt reminder that EVERYONE has their issues to overcome and accept. Cathy’s may be the most obvious, especially since she is so young, but the show is doing a great job of reminding us to try and have a heart for everyone, not only those with the most obvious pain. Cathy helps Marlene into her house, and the next morning, as Marlene awakes, Cathy reveals that she knows of Marlene’s affliction. Cathy is empathetic, and is on the brink of turning this into a sappy moment, when Marlene delivers the following wise sentiment: “So I lose a few memories here and there; I’m living in the moment, that’s what counts.” Wow. Marlene is clearly the sage of this show, as I’m sure we all figured she would be.
Later that morning, Paul shows up at Cathy’s house. Oliver Platt absolutely KILLS here by really showing Paul’s humbled, enlightened side:
Paul: I get why you didn’t tell me, telling people SUCKS. I also get why maybe you needed to kick me out, so maybe you could be alone for a little while. You and Lenny….I’m not quite clear on that one yet. Maybe soon.
LOL!!! Again, Oliver Platt is great. Cathy glances around Paul and sees that his open suitcase is lying on the floor. She asks him if he’s home? He replies, “Yes, I am home.” Cathy’s huge smile warmed my heart. All is well.
Well, we don’t get sucker punched by an unexpected turn of events in the final scene this week. Cathy pays a visit to Dr. Todd. It would appear that winning “the key” at the strip club was an indication to Cathy that even when the odds are stacked against you, you can STILL win. She shares this optimism with Dr. Todd while informing him that she intends to try basting therapy. Doesn’t sound any worse than a coffee enema, right? Cathy tells Dr. Todd, “I used to be an optimist…I want to be one again.” That really hit home for me; I’m at a place in my life right now where those words have meaning. The show ends with Dr. Todd telling Cathy “I hope you win”.
And in the end, that’s really all we want to hear from our loved ones, isn’t it? We don’t always need people to fix stuff, or give us advice. Sometimes, we just want to hear them say that they want us TO WIN. Kudos, writers and cast. You’ve outdone yourselves!
Next week, Liam Neeson, one of my favorite actors will appear as The Bee Man that Cathy referred to in this episode! Here’s a couple of clips from next weeks episode to enjoy!
Photo Credit: Ken Regan/SHOWTIME