2×04 The Cat

….. by SisterDebMac

Joan and Adam walk down the sidewalk and Joan tells him that her mom’s aunt made her family chant some Indian nature prayer she learned in New Mexico. Adam says it sounds cool. Joan says, yeah, until she makes you pose like a deer while she circles around you waving snake teeth. She says her dad was really happy about that. I can see how he would be.

Adam shares that his aunt “has this big thing on her neck. Used to freak me out, like she was growing another head.” “What does that have to do with anything?” Joan asks impatiently. “We were talking about aunts, weren’t we?” he offers. “No we were we talking about me,” she clarifies. Of course. What else is there? Adam’s obviously used to this by now, he just smiles, “Oh.”

They run into CatLadyGod and her cages of feral felines. “Whoa, intense,” Adam says and he kind of disappears somewhere off camera, looking at the cats from… where? Why couldn’t he have been present for the conversation? Still, he was the one who noticed CatLadyGood first (See Adam & God Watch thread on the JoA board). All Joan can say is, “Gross”. CatLadyGod tells Joan that the cats will be put to sleep if they’re not adopted. “Looks like they could use the sleep,” Joan says, turning away. God tells her, “You could adopt one, Joan.” She hates cats. God doesn’t care about excuses.

Back at the Girardis’, Aunt Olive is cooking up some crickets, with Helen and Kevin and Luke looking on. She tells them that they’re good for male virility. Luke and Kevin dive right in.

Joan and Adam arrive with a caged cat in hand that Joan introduces as “the newest Girardi, Larry the cat.” Aunt Olive says it’s wild and Joan should get rid of it because they can’t be tamed. Joan protests that the pamphlet they gave her says they can be domesticated. Luke is still eating crickets. He says to Adam and Joan, “Have a cricket. Good for sex.” Not something I would ever say said in front of my mom to my sister and her boyfriend, but OK. Adam immediately says, “I’m goin’ in,” and eats one. Joan is repulsed, “Eeew, this is like Arcadia Fear Factor.” Heh.

Aunt Olive has a stroke, right there in the kitchen. Later, seeing Olive in the hospital, we learn that she’s not just flaky, she’s a sour old bat to boot.

Back home, Joan tries to handle the still caged Larry the cat with oven mitts. She reads to him from Cat In The Hat because the pamphlet says he needs to get used to the sound of a friendly human voice.

Cop plot. Chewy eats. He and Will meet Lucy Preston for the first time, at Internal Affairs Division. This does not bode well. And yes, Lucyfer is creepy right from the start.

AHS hallway. The Sub D’s congregate. Judith invites everyone out — everyone except Friedman, she points out — but Joan says she has to “tame the beast with literature.” “Sounds dirty,” Adam interjects, “I can help.” Can you now? Wow, a blue remark from Adam. Those crickets must’ve had some effect. Or is this just bolder S2 Adam? Whatever. I love him.

Joan must think it’s cute too, because she looks back at him and smiles as she says, “Thanks, but I don’t want my boyfriend getting scratched to death.” Aw, how very thoughtful. For most of the rest of the scene, Adam just walks in the background smiling and chewing gum. I wish he’d say more, but his openness and jokey manner here are refreshing.

Helen decides that the Girardis need to take Aunt Olive in and care for her till she recovers enough from her stroke to get back to her life. Will very reluctantly agrees.

Joan reads Cyrano to Larry and he starts to purr. She thinks that means they’re friends now. She gets too close to his cage and he lashes out, scratching her on the nose. I don’t know who suggested the purple bandage, but it’s funny.

Helen springs the Aunt Olive thing on the kids and Joan almost does a spit-take. Helen also says Joan will have to get rid of Larry. Joan throws a tiny tantrum as she leaves the house.

She runs into God on the way to school, in the guise of a basketball-playing young man. She expresses her anger at having to find Larry another home so he won’t be euthanized. God tells her that it’s what she has to do. Larry is her responsibility.

At school, she tries to talk Judith into taking him. When she declines — bolting because Friedman is heading her way — Joan turns to Grace. But that’s a lost cause. As Grace reminds her, “I barely tolerate people.”

Adam exits the art room behind Joan, with Helen following him. “But I don’t do pop art,” he says. She encourages him to give it a try. I can’t believe he’s being such a snob about pop art with the kind of stuff he makes. “Why should I sacrifice my artistic integrity?” he goes on. Oh my God! You’re barely 17! You haven’t got any artistic integrity yet. Boy, you’ve got a lot to learn. Helen tells him to just do the assignment. He is really adorably put out by the idea. “Your mom is driving me nuts with this pop art assignment,” he tells Joan all dramatically when Helen is gone. It’s just too damn cute.

Putting aside his frustration for a second, he offers to take Larry. He says he’ll keep him in the shed since his dad’s allergic. Joan says he needs to sleep with someone in the same room. Adam says he falls asleep out there all the time. Joan’s really grateful. She takes his arm and kisses his cheek as they walk along, saying Larry is sooooo sweet, but correcting herself instantly, “That’s a lie.” Adam laughs. Nice moment.

Helen brings Olive home from the hospital and does everything she can think of to try and make her comfortable. Let the bitter battles begin.

In Adam’s shed, Joan tells him the particulars of dealing with Larry, while he sits at his table playing with a ball and paddle toy. She tells him, “The scratching has become less violent.” “Cool,” he replies. He’s still wound up about the pop art thing. “I think I’m just gonna take an F,” he says as he goes to open Larry’s cage to pet him. Joan quickly tells him, “He’ll scratch.” Instead, Larry just flops on his side and starts purring under Adam’s touch. Larry, I know how you feel. Joan can’t believe it. “Why isn’t he scratching?” “He likes me,” Adam shrugs. “Why?” Joan demands. Adam smiles, “I don’t know.”

Because, sweetheart, you are the nicest, gentlest boy who ever walked the face of the earth and animals can sense that sort of thing.

Things finally come to a head between Helen and Olive over dinner. Helen tells her off, and though it’s harsh, it is richly deserved. It’s tense and embarrassing and played just right, with Joan’s uncomfortable attempt at a joke overheard by Olive. Will tells Helen in private that he almost cheered. I think I did the first time I saw the ep.

Later, Joan helps the still brusque Olive into bed and then listens outside the door, feeling completely powerless to help as she tries to stifle her sobs. It’s heartbreaking. And you finally see how scared she is at the thought of losing her health and feeling utterly dependent on others.

Joan and Adam stand at his locker. She’s sort of hanging over his shoulder from behind. Grace and Luke approach. “Checking your boyfriend for injuries, Girardi?” “No, Larry’s been good,” Adam says, “really.” Joan says that’s because she did such a good job getting ready to be good. Yep, it’s still all about her.

Judith shows up with Friedman in tow, spouting Shakespeare at her. “Skipper!” Joan shouts to Luke, “your little buddy…”

I must interject that Adam looks so cute as he stands there, slack-jawed, watching the frenetic Friedman drone on.

Finally, Judith tells him, “Memorize Hamlet and it’s a date.” The whole play. Friedman looks like he just scored a major victory. Adam’s still agape.

Later, Adam’s shed. Joan enters, cooing, “Hey, boys.” Adam leans back and smiles, “Hey.” There’s something kinda sexy about it all. Must be those crickets after all. When she tries to greet Larry in his cage, he reaches out to try to scratch her. Will she never learn?

Adam has finally caved and done the pop art assignment, using Larry as a subject. “You’re sick, but I like it,” Joan tells him when she sees his Cats Gone Wild illustration. He laughs and tells her that he’s been looking at Andy Warhol’s stuff and he thinks it’s amazing. See? You don’t know everything yet, do ya kid? “I was being such a thud about it, giving your mom a hard time.” Yeah, next time stop for two seconds and remember that she’s the teacher and she may know a few things you have yet to learn.

He takes Larry out of the cage so Joan can see him better and she’s shocked that Adam can hold him now. And that when he puts him down, Larry only wants to rub up against his leg. Smart cat.

Back home, Kevin and Olive have a serious talk about infirmity and allowing people to help when you need it. You get the sense that things are finally starting to click in her stubborn, old noggin. The next morning, Olive beats everyone getting up and starts cooking her famous special paella. Helen offers to help and Olive lets her. She takes Helen’s hand and holds it to her face. Brings tears to my eyes every time. They go on cooking together.

Luke gets an IM from Grace that simply says: My Mother drinks. Then she logs off. Finally, Luke knows why Grace avoids most people and won’t let anyone come to her house.

The Girardis happily sit down together for the breakfast that Olive and Helen have prepared. Except for Luke, who bolts.

At school, Luke confronts Grace about what she has revealed. But no words pass between them. He just holds her as she cries. It’s very powerful. Becky and Michael are great in this scene.

Art class. Helen explains Warhol in rather simplistic, but still fairly elegant terms. The bell rings. Everyone leaves, but Helen stops Adam and tells him his work is terrific on the pop art project. She says she’s never seen him do anything so technically proficient, that it shows real mastery of craft. He seems pretty surprised, but he admits, “It was kind of fun in the end.” That’s good, she tells him, because he could have a real future in commercial design. She rattles off names of famous artists who made a living at it and still did their own thing, including, of course, Warhol. Somehow, this seems to be the first time the notion ever occurred to either of them. They’re both pretty happy about the possibility.

Joan goes to the shed with a new toy for Larry. She finds Adam sitting at his table looking sad. He tells her Larry’s gone, he broke through the screen. He says the pamphlet said to let him out for longer periods of time, so he did. Larry seemed really happy, so he put on some music and did some work and then he noticed the screen. He feels terrible. God, that voice when he says, “I’m so sorry, Jane.” Huge sigh.

He makes pop-art inspired Larry posters and he and Joan plaster them all over town.

Joan runs into her mom at the park and Helen tells her that Aunt Olive has flown the coup, too. (Joan’s weird hair bun is very distracting here, but I press on.) I love that they used Peter Gabriel’s “Shakin’ the Tree” in this scene. Great song. CatLadyGod shows up and Joan confesses losing Larry.

Next, Adam chases Larry through the park, right past Joan. He flees up a tree and birds scatter. We get another of those JoA patented crane shots of Adam and Joan watching the birds. Man, they love the God’s eye perspective, don’t they?

Nice ep. Decent A/J content. The only really important development for them is the idea that Adam could do graphic art for a living. A seed is planted.

This isn’t really trivial. It’s great. Cloris Leachman was nominated for a Guest Actress In A Drama Series Emmy Award for playing Aunt Olive.

Thank You Mary Steenburgen Monent:
“You ungrateful bitch!” Yeah! Wonderful moment. Will wanted to cheer. I did.