Ken OlinAir Date
3/20/90, 8/7/90Guest Star
Jane Alden as Gloria; Robert Levine as Arthur; Katherine Cortez as Beatrice Holt; Laura Owens as group leaderSynopsis
Nancy attends cancer support group and makes friends with a woman there who has a disturbing outlook on life and recovery.Summary
Nancy can't sleep the night before her second round of chemotherapy and Elliot gets up to see if she's all right. He suggests that she and Ethan start working on a new book, but she feels uncertain about taking money on an advance when she doesn't know if she can finish. Minnesota Brands has sent Michael and Elliot a pool table and they start to play, but Elliot is too worried about Nancy. Hope is helping Nancy at home because she's very nauseous and sick, unable to respond to Ethan's suggestion for the new book plot. Hope and Ellyn take Nancy shoe shopping.Notes
Nancy goes to her first meeting of Victory Partners, a support group for cancer victims. While there, another woman, Bea, recognizes her from her book photo, and they have coffee and talk. The next night, Bea invites Nancy over to her house to meet some other friends and she goes, leaving Elliot at something of a loss since he can't come along. The group sits around and tells funny stories with loads of gallows humor, and after everyone leaves Bea and Nancy talk some more. Nancy gets home late that night and starts working on a new idea, which she shows to Bea the next day--the prince is rescuing the galaxy from a spreading plague.
At dinner with Melissa and Elliot at Hope and Michael's, Nancy starts in on a long lecture/tirade about the causes of cancer in nature, all of which makes Elliot and the others very uncomfortable. Bea, Arthur, and Gloria show up unexpectedly to take Nancy out for the evening and Elliot tries to make a stand, pointing out that she's working on the book without Ethan. They take Nancy to a night club where some hilarious women sing a big rendition of "Proud Mary." Ethan discovers that Nancy has finished work on the new book without him and Elliot tries to console him.
In the club, Nancy sees Bea slip away to the bar and not looking well, struggling to put on lipstick. The others wimp out, but Bea and Nancy go to the airport and scream at the incoming planes until Nancy hits some deep wellspring of inner fury, screaming out that the cancer and the experience are hers and no one else's. When she returns home, Elliot is waiting up and he confronts her with having finished the book without Ethan. He points out how much Ethan needs to help her, even if he can't really, at least he needs to try. Elliot takes the kids in to D.A.A. on a Saturday and leaves a note with Nancy. Elliot muses to Michael about the astronauts who went to the moon and experienced something no one else ever could.
Nancy goes to visit Bea, trying to back off from their wild, selfish escapades as of late. Bea finally shows her true colors and starts pushing Nancy's buttons, telling her that cancer is power and it changes everything. Nancy claims that she wants life back and for the cancer to be over, asking Bea to come back with her to Victory Partners but she won't. At home, Nancy asks Ethan to help her throw away the sketches for the second book, suggesting they can work on an idea later.
Elliot takes Nancy out for her birthday that night, renting the bright red sports car she had mentioned earlier and taking her to a pond where he has strung up some fireworks that explode and spell out "Happy Birthday Nancy".
Paige the assistant is mentioned Clip from Fantastic Voyage is used Nancy is 36 going on 37
"Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" (written by Julie Styne) also appeared in the drag club scene
"My mother was right. You are a bad influence." --Hope to EllynAnalysis
"I think we'll have a ceremony. Maybe throw an oncologist into a volcano." --Bea
It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful, poignant episodes and, in my humble opinion, executed in an almost frighteningly realistic manner.
As a character, Bea was fascinating: her hunger--lust, almost--to devour her last days, her perception of her cancer as power. But I tend to believe that in her "transformation" throughout the episode represents both sides of the coin of the cancer experience. At first, she is hopeful, believing that positivity can conquer the beast growing inside her, that life is to be "lived." Yet as the cancer grows, it eclipses Bea's faith...and she, metaphorically, becomes the beast: her eyes dart about and flash like a wolf's; in a jealous rage, she insults virtually everything about Nancy's life. She is a fleshed-out symbol of what the moderator of the "Victory Partners" meeting said about being a cancer "fighter" rather than "survivor"--but she is losing the battle. Katherine Cortez portrays Bea magnificently, and there's a very sad truth in the storyline: in reality, many ovarian cancer patients are single and "alone." The two greatest risk factors for oc is constant ovulation (if your cycles aren't suppressed by pregnancy--or oral contraceptives) and family history (Bea mentions her mother died of cancer.) So, unfortunately, the depiction is eerily accurate. (Remember, too, that there's also a professional dichotomy between Bea and Nancy: Bea simply works in a bookstore while Nancy has published a book. Therefore, in addition to having children, if Nancy dies she will leave behind a professional legacy too. Bea, however, likely believes she will be forgotten--and perhaps that's why she comes across so strong while "here.")
And while I have to agree that the plane-screaming moment was awe-inspiring and seemed incredibly cathartic, there are several smaller moments within "the other shoe" that depict the cancer experience with equal accuracy and emotion. I feel chills when they're at the club (by the way, is that a La Cage Aux Folles-type of drag thing?) and Nancy's partying along, then all of a sudden a cloud seems to cross her face and her whole expression changes. That's EXACTLY what I feel like so much of the time, so emotionally isolated. I try to push myself to be "normal," to go to the mall and the movies and even the occasional club with friends like any young woman would. Then, instantly, a horrific thought will invade my mind: You know, I'll think, you're not like these other girls, who only have to worry about who'll buy them their next drink or if their jeans flatter their butt. And, I tell myself in my darkest moments, all this could be over, all too soon! (Elliot's astronaut analogy is brilliant.)
I also feel like I have a mirror into Nancy's mind--and Joseph Dougherty had one into mine!--when Nancy stumbles in late and tells Elliot, "I'll come to bed soon...I just have to finish this..." When you're afraid time will run out, there's just never enough of it. Nancy is obviously searching for an element of control when her life is so out of control by working on the story illustrations without little Ethan's help (oh, Ethan! That little boy is an angel, and the scene where he finds the pix tossed and half-grins shoots an arrow through my heart each time.) It's natural to push the ones you love away when you're afraid you'll lose them. And the gallows humor (shoe salesman: "You'll have--and I mean this honestly--these boots for the rest of your life." Nancy: "Well, that doesn't say much for your shoes!") Been there, done that. I've had many a loved one shifting uncomfortably in his/her seat!
On a personal note, I haven't found much comfort from support groups because I was diagnosed at 19 and many of the issues I face are diametrically different than what most cancer patients do. However, I am a member of a fabulous on- line cancer support group, where I catch up on everyone's status and all the latest treatments and research (it's also easier to cry without folks in your face; of course, the hugs aren't as satisfying!) And my family and fiance have benefitted from "caregiver" groups much like "Victory Partners"--as Elliot notes re: Ethan, "You may not need his help, but he needs to give it to you."
Also, lest it be forgotten...the red-convertible-and-fireworks scene. Even as the tears slipped down my cheeks and soaked my hair, boy did I feel the fireworks there! And it's also a painfully beautiful illustration of how Nancy must hold fast to the love and beauty in her life. Quite often, cancer "survivors" reveal that cancer was a wakeup call for them, that it opened the doors to courage and strength and everyday miracles that life has to offer--and, just as importantly, leaves you with the message that you need others more than you're perhaps willing to admit. In my own experience, this is true...I've always been an overachieving, paranoid sort, the one everybody turns to in a crisis. But then again, I'm also an old soul, and I already understood how fragile and ephemeral life was, and of course would have preferred not to get cancer rather than to have than point driven home!
Return to the Season Three index
Return to the Bedford Falls index