The Big C Review: "The Ecstasy and the Agony"

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This could have served as the season finale of The Big C.

Following a handful of episodes in which viewers watched Cathy Jamison act in her own best interests, everything came crashing down on her in "The Ecstasy and the Agony."

Cathy J.

And while I do sympathize for the show's main character, I couldn't have been the only one who let out a small fist pump when Paul asked for a divorce at the conclusion of the half hour. This man has been portrayed as a drunken lout more often than not... but has there been any doubt that he loves his wife?

There's only so much a guy can take, and seeing your wife have sex with someone else on your porch, only to then be confronted by some random doctor of hers, would set even the most patient man off.

So, will Cathy finally tell Paul about her diagnosis in order to keep him around? Or is she truly happy with Lenny, who does also seem to be a good person with true feelings for Cathy? Most shows eventually depict the Other Man or Other Woman as nothing more than an obstacle between a husband and wife.

But let's give The Big C kudos for painting Lenny with a more layered brush (pun... intended!).

While Cathy's failing (failed?) marriage was the focus of the episode, we were also treated to a couple strong side storylines. While less than appealing to ponder, Marlene's date with the horniest old guy on the planet was good for a few laughs; and it's easy to relate to, and feel badly for, both sides in the fight between Adam and Andrea, isn't it?

Overall, a great episode that has me excited to see what the actual season finale, along with the installments leading up to it, will bring.


Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.7 / 5.0 (16 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


This SHould have served as the season finale. @M.L. House; I like King of Queens, it's not supposed to be about anything other than a comedic Beauty and the Beast- mindless. This has different pretenses. Me no likely so much...


This show doesn't make any sense. Cathy is reacting to her mortality by making everyone around her miserable? She treats her doctor and the handyman better than her family. Honestly I totally expect she'll bed the doctor next and ruin his pending engagement. Paul gets upset at the public proclaimation that she hasn't been happy in 20 years and she responds by running off to Jamaica with the painter? There has been no foundation laid to justify her "right" to be this selfish. Paul's passing comment to Lenny about her annual cards to their son doesn't cut it, that's not selfless. Who does that? Every mom! Someone this wonderful would have friends, where are they? Cancer in itself is not license to abuse those around you. None of the charecters are likeable except for Paul. The scenes and storylines don't seem at all connected. What is all this randomness, the charecters aren't developed enough to pull it off. I see the show got picked up for another season. I don't see how anyone is still watching without a dramatic makeover.


Paul and Cathy were not officially separated, as Cathy told her Dad in a previous episode. Cathy had an affair with Lenny, plain and simple, and got caught. She knew what she was doing was wrong, and so did Lenny (he actually felt more bad about what they were doing to Paul than she did!) That's why she kept the affair a secret from everyone. And her brother's reaction when he found out made it clear he thought Cathy was cheating on Paul too. With all his problems with Paul, he didn't even think he desrved that. So Paul having been been kicked out of the house, at least for the summer, Cathy having terminal cancer, her feeling repressed for years...none of it excuses the affair. And she knows it. So yes, when Paul finally had his face rubbed in it one more time by Cathy that she had no use for him anymore, he finally told her he wanted a divorce For me, it was a very satisfying moment. I really hope that Paul does not change his mind when he finds out about Cathy's illness. Let Linny take care of her. She has made it clear she places no value on Paul as a part of her life. Let her keep the house for her son's sake. Besides, iafter what he saw he probably doesn't want it anymore. Cathy pretty much destoyed any happy memories he may have still had about the place. In spite of his faults. I don't think Paul deserved to have his heart broken. And I do think he loves Cathy, not just the idea of loving her. You could see the pain in his fact when he saw Cathy having sex with Lenny ()on their porch no less!). She had already announced to at her birthday party that she hadn't been happy for 20 years (since she had known Paul). So Paul finally grows a pair and says, enough. If his wife is so damn miserable with him around, he'll set her free and himself too in the process. So now Cathy will no longer have to sneak around. She can pursue her "if it feels good do it" adventure without Paul to hold her back, although he hasn't seemed to have held her back much so far.


This time I completely agree with your review. I love this show and fully emphasize with Cathy but she took her newfound freedom way too far and now has to deal with the consequenes. Also, she says she doesn't want the cancer to control her life and make people feel pity for her but it IS controlling her life due to her spending every waking moment trying to hide it.

Matt richenthal

@Joey: I agree with the lost time aspect, but the relationship feels like every other cliched relationship on TV: oafish, drunken guy and straight-buttoned wife. It's the same formula we've seen on King of Queens and numerous other bad sitcoms. The Big C needs to gives us more background on this marriage for viewers to choose a side. We learned two weeks ago that Cathy was a free spirit in college, so why did that change when she married another free spirit? It's fine to wanna make up for time lost, but did Paul somehow force her to lose that time?


I wasn't calling Cathy perfect or claiming all of her actions to be admirable. I think a moment to consider is actually the moment when Sean, a few episodes ago, persuaded Paul to knock his tooth out by criticizing him for destroying Cathy's personality and individuality. I think Sean summarized the subconscious conflict within it all pretty well, even if he did just want his aching tooth knocked out. I think a lot of the show has to do with Cathy making up for lost time, which is why as an audience we can be forgiving of her sometimes selfish decisions. You're right, I was somewhat on Paul's side when Cathy got so upset over the hand job. I just don't think he loves Cathy. I think he loves the idea of Cathy.

Matt richenthal

@Joey: The freedom of really living?!? What does that mean? Everyone should just do what they want and act in their own self interests? Just tacking on the word "freedom" doesn't make something admirable. P.S. They were also separated when Paul got that hand job. How did Cathy react to his "freedom" in that instance?


Actually, I find your description of Paul to be unfitting and somewhat trivial. I think Paul needs someone to complete him and Cathy, or any wife for that matter, is necessary for his life to feel significant. Many people in reality feel the need to be in a relationship in order to feel complete. The show tackles this issue well. The beauty of the show is that Paul, and many other supporting characters, represent the constraints of society while Cathy, in her last days and freed from the pressures of judgment, represents the freedom of really living. PS: They were separated when he caught her having sex.


Who was that delightful actor playing Marlene's date? He seemed so familiar, maybe from Mel Brooks? No name in the credits and nothing on IMDB.

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