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'Brothers & Sisters': Tissues not included

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I knew Sally Field would make me sob, and she did. This episode of Brothers & Sisters had other story lines — Scotty finally told Kevin that he’s afraid Kevin’s career would take priority over a baby, Ryan (looking slightly less creepy this season) is giving troubled Ojai’s financial information to a mystery man who knew William, and Justin can’t study when Rebecca does dishes. But really, the hour was about Kitty finding out that she has diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and wondering how Robert would respond to the news — and Nora reacting exactly as you’d expect her to.

I see Kitty’s cancer battle serving three purposes: (1) It’s big enough to knock some sense into Robert, who was still so consumed by his gubernatorial run that he couldn’t fathom the possibility that something in Kitty’s life could keep her from hearing the breaking news: “McCallister hides a heart attack.” (2) Now that Robert knows what that something is, if he continues to respond appropriately (i.e. showing up to hold her hand through her bone marrow biopsy), he might just win back some viewers who voted for Kitty to kick him to the curb last season. Of course, if he decides to use Kitty’s cancer for pity votes, we’ll hate him even more. (Though we’d have to appreciate the writers’ cojones to go in that direction…) (3) It could earn Calista Flockhart and Sally Field Emmy nominations.

For me, Flockhart’s best scene was when she got the diagnosis and just sat there, dazed. Does the world stop at that moment or does it spin out of control? Either way, you’re overwhelmed and nothing your doctor is saying will sink in. I’ve never been in Kitty’s position, but I have (and continue to be) in a similar one to Nora’s. Maybe that’s why her scenes stayed with me: That urgency in her voice when she told Kitty she’d be ready to go in one minute after Kitty said she wasn’t supposed to come for the results alone (also a beautifully-acted moment by Flockhart, who has excellent tear control). That sadness in her face the second after she finished her heart-to-heart with Scotty the Baby Whisperer about why he wasn’t ready to be a dad. (You can talk about other things when you’re dealing with this type of situation, but the weight of it is always there waiting for you). And that breakdown on the park bench when she told Saul about Kitty’s illness. It wasn’t as powerful as Steel Magnolias, but Field made you feel her frustration at having to be strong because she’s the parent, when all she wants to do is cry and shout “It should be me” because she’s the parent.

In last week’s recap, I said this show has never dealt with a serious illness. What I meant was there’s never been a Walker whose life was on the line for what I suspect will be an entire season. Just like in the real world, life will continue during Kitty’s treatment. But how much will the other drama matter now? Who cares if Rebecca and Ryan have to present competing proposals for the 20,000 gallons of wine Ojai can’t afford to age (Rebecca’s idea for launching an inexpensive label won)? Are we really supposed to get excited about Justin and Rebecca’s wedding when we’ve got Jim and Pam’s to look forward to on The Office? I can’t wait for Sarah to return from Paris, but not because of her dating dilemmas. I want her to be there for Kitty.

So, is the Kitty story line going to keep you tuning in? (How wrong is it that one of my major concerns is that she won’t be able to drink at the Walker family dinner fights?) Do you think Robert will find a way to use her cancer in his campaign? While we’re on that subject, do you believe political flunkies like Travis and Kevin who leak info. on each other’s candidates (nice that the governor’s affair came back into play) really offer each other enjoyably awkward apologies then sleep fine at night? And on a totally unrelated note, how hot and sweet is Scotty this season? I can’t believe I ever rooted for Rev. Boyfriend. Wouldn’t have happened if they’d put him in that light blue henley sooner.