"The Big C" Playing the Cancer Card (TV Episode 2010) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Since she knows she won't reach retirement age, Cathy decides to withdraw all the funds from her retirement plan and do whatever she wants to with the money without a care. Among other things, she indulges on material goods such as an expensive bottle of champagne, which she shares with her new confidante, Marlene. But her biggest purchase is a red convertible sports car, which she can't drive since she doesn't know how to drive a stick shift. Regardless, she decides to spend the day with her new toy and Dr. Todd house hunting while pretending to be his older girlfriend. In the process, she liberates a lobster. That time with Dr. Todd shows her where her true future lies. Meanwhile, Paul, looking for something meaningful to do in his life while he's not at home, decides to head back to his school days and play rugby again. Sean, who has a toothache, refuses Cathy's offer of paying for a dental visit. Sean goes to extreme measures to deal with the tooth. And Marlene takes on the role of pretend grandmother to Adam, whether he likes it or not.

  • Cathy, eager to try on a carefree, impulsive persona, drains her 401K, buys a convertible and imagines what life would be like if she were Dr. Todd's girlfriend. At his therapist's urging, Paul reignites his passion for rugby. Sean goes to great lengths to knock out a tooth without the help of a dentist. Meanwhile, Adam gets caught stealing and is surprised when Marlene comes to his rescue, until he finds out there are strings attached.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Open with Cathy talking to a guy about withdrawing her 401K. He seems concerned that she would do such a thing, given the early cash-out will result in forfeiting about half of her account. She laughs and says she can't wait that long and wants the money now. He leaves his desk for a second and she takes a huge bit out of his breakfast danish. "There's something wrong with you," he tells.

    Sitting at a park Adam tells Cathy he has no interest in a summer job. He is playing a video game Paul bought for him. Paul is on the field playing rugby, which seems to shock Cathy. Paul tells her he's having fun. She tells him Adam is not allowed to have the video game. Cathy notices a woman named Tina (nicknamed "Rugby Slut" in college) sitting in the stands. The passive aggressive Tina refers to Paul as "Paulie" and this seems to annoy Cathy. Tina then makes a crack about Cathy's car being a "mom car."

    Cathy and Marlene sit around drinking an expensive bottle of champagne. She tells Marlene that she's never really lived it up, while Marlene thinks it's silly spending money on things that don't last. Her husband used to spend money on exotic fish and Marlene never understood why. At this point a red convertible sports car arrives on a truck in front of Cathy's house.

    Sean happens to be over recycling Cathy's trash. She shows off the new car which she tells him she bought to be impulsive. Sean reveals that he is having an issue with on of his teeth and he has broken up with Daphne. Despite the obvious infection Sean is not willing to see a dentist. Sean points out the car has a manual transmission and we cut to Cathy in her car lurching up a street.

    Cathy has lunch with Todd, because she needed to get some test results and the parking lot at the restaruant is easier to get to. She starts drinking heavily and makes her usual morbid jokes about her disease. Cathy feels sorry for a lobster she sees struggling to move in the tank.

    Cut to Marlene at home alone. She spills a drawer and finds a jar of tropical fish food.

    Cathy tells Todd about her new car. He says impulsive behavior is common for people with a terminal illness and wants to make sure she doesn't go crazy. Holly bought the red convertible because of a girl in high school she was jealous of. Todd needs to meet his realtor and Cathy convinces him to take her along. He drives her car and shed ends up stealing the lobster from the restaurant's tank. Sean has Adam try to pull out his infected tooth. It only makes the situation worse.

    Cathy and Todd meet his realtor at a large home the doctor is considering. The realtor thinks Cathy and Todd are a couple and she starts pretending it is true. Inside Cathy keeps up the ruse, talking about her charity foundation and love of cooking. In the kitchen Cathy borders on flirting with Todd. In back there is a saltwater pool which takes Cathy back to childhood. Floating in the pool feels to her like "time standing still."

    A cop brings Adam from a store. He attempted to steal a video game but since it is his first offense the store isn't pressing charges. Marlene comes out and pretends to be his grandmother so the officer will leave. Marlene tells Adam she won't tell Cathy what he did as long as he does work for her at her house. She will pay him in the hopes he will be able to buy the video game legally.

    Cathy releases the lobster into the pool. A few moment later the realtor notices she is floating in the pool with all of her clothes still on. She calls over Todd, who says his girlfriend is "going through a bit of a tough time right now."

    Sean shows up at Paul's next rugby game and begins mercilessly insulting him about his marriage and parenting. Eventually Paul punches Sean in the face, dislodging the infected tooth. This was Sean's plan the entire time and he is ecstatic.

    Cathy and Todd sit in her new car. He apologizes, saying he feels bad that her future isn't a bright as his. She responds that she has plenty of future with Adam, that she is hoping his current attitude is just a phase. He then reveals that he has a girlfriend. Cathy seems a tiny bit disappointed at the news.

    Adam starts working for Marlene.

    Tina is all over Paul after the rugby game. She seems to have been turned on by his punching Sean and invites him to come to the after-game gathering. He says yes.

    Marlene has put a a large tank in her house and it looks to be filled with exoctic fish.

    We see Cathy pull the convertible into a storage garage. A card reading "Happy 18th birthday Adam" is on the windshield. She crosses out "18th" and writes "30th" before locking the garage. She locks the door and walks off into the rain.

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