Season 4, Episode 9: Truth Be Told

Charlie blows up
at Bailey

Charlie finally talks
to his family

Transcribed by Sandy

The episode opens with Claudia coming out of school and Charlie meeting her at the door. She says she'd rather hitch a ride with Reed, but Charlie tells her to get in the car. He tells her that the reason he's been feeling so worn out lately is he had this thing, "this disease thing." He says he going to start going to the doctor's office for treatments, "so they can make sure I'm getting the right dosage." He tells her that's "like 100% curable." Claudia picks up on the evasion. "*Like* 100% curable, or it *is* 100% curable?" He avoids answering this directly. He tells her his doctor said that "if you have to get a disease, Hodgkin's is definitely the best one to get." He then offers to take her to get ice cream.

Bailey comes home to borrow a tool from Charlie. Charlie wanted to talk to him anyway. Charlie tells him he might want to sit down. Sitting, Bai asks him what's the matter. We see the rest of the scene from Claudia's point of view, as she looks out her window onto the garden. She can see Bailey get to his feet when Charlie tells him. Bai puts his hands to his head, and then sits down next to Charlie as his brother continues. It's clear to Claudia (and to us) that something big has just happened.

Julia and Griffin are at the apartment as the rental furniture is being taken away. The moving man turns to Griffin and says that's the great thing about renting: "You can live like a king, for a while, anyway." After the movers have gone, Griffin and Julia are sitting on the floor the empty apartment, and Griffin tells Julia that things will get better as soon as he gets things turned around at the shop. "Griffin," says Julia, "stop. You don't have to promise me anything." Griffin looks away. "I'm sorry," he whispers.

Charlie and Kirsten are walking in the park, and Charlie is telling Kirsten that his breakup with Nina is not Nina's fault, only bad timing. He tells her that his first appointment is tomorrow -- to have the scan that tells how advanced the disease is. He says he's told Bailey and Claudia already. He hasn't told Julia yet, but the others are being great about it. "Of course they are," says Kirsten. "What'd you expect?" Charlie's not sure. He thought maybe they'd panic, or freak out, something; Claudia's only fourteen, after all. "She's old enough," Kirsten says.

Claudia is looking for information on Hodgkin's at the local clinic. She tells the clerk that the pamphlets she has found must be out of date since the statistics and survival rates are all wrong. She insists on the latest, most up-to-date information. When she is told that what she has is the most recent information, Claudia leaves quickly.

Julia goes to see Charlie that evening and tells him that Griffin lost most of his money, and they have had to return all of their rented stuff. She needs to borrow some kitchen stuff. Charlie says to take whatever she needs. He suggests they could move into the house, but Julia doesn't want that; she says they'll get through it like any married couple. She only told him "because you've been so great, and because you have a right to know." But she says they're not going to move in. Charlie says he understands, and tells her she has enough on her mind when she asks what he wanted to tell her.

Bailey and Sarah are in the bathroom at their apartment; Bailey is drying his face with a towel and Sarah is expressing her shock at the news of Charlie's cancer. She asks Bailey what she can do for Charlie. "Nothing," he tells her. He says it's not as if she and Charlie are close. If Charlie needs anything, then Bailey or Julia can get it for him. Sarah says she wants to help, but Bailey says it's a family thing, and that they are good at this kind of thing. He leaves her alone in the bathroom, closing the door as he goes out.

Back at the house, Claudia confronts Charlie with what she has learned about Hodgkin's. She is furious that he didn't tell it was cancer, and that he didn't mention radiation, chemotherapy or even accurate survival rates. Worst of all, he bought her ice cream after telling her about his illness. Claud just wants to know one thing: "Are you going to die?" she ask, close to tears. "No! Claudia, I'm not going to die," Charlie says. "How can I believe you?" Claudia asks him.

That night Bailey can't sleep. He asks Annie if it's too late to call. He's not even sure what he can say to Charlie. "How about 'I love you, and you're going to get through this'?" Annie suggests. Bailey says that's not enough, that he doesn't see how that helps Charlie. Bailey says he doesn't know what Charlie's going through. Annie wonders if he's never felt totally alone, and scared, and uncertain if he could get through the next hour, let alone the whole night. Annie tells him that he does know how to help Charlie, since he got through the last seven months.

The morning of Charlie's test, Claudia asks him if he has the whole family history, because the doctors are sure to ask. She tells him some of the details of the tests he's likely to face. She says she thinks the more you know, the better it is. Charlie is unnerved by Claud's information, but he puts a hand on Claudia's shoulder as he walks by her. "Thank you," he says.

Charlie gets the mail from the mailbox and notices Bailey in the driveway, washing Charlie's truck. Bailey wants to know when the test is; Charlie says it's at four o'clock, but that Bailey doesn't have to be there. There will be other tests, and there will be things Bailey can do for Charlie. "I'm there, man," Bailey insists. Bailey says Charlie can't think about tomorrow or next week. "There's just today," Bailey tells him. The future is too huge and scary. It's better to take it one day at a time. If you're lucky, you're asleep for 8 out of 24 hours, and a good football game takes up three of them, and if Charlie helps wash the car, that's another hour gone, so there's only 10 left, says Bailey. "Twelve," Charlie says gently. "Whatever." Bai says it helps to keep busy. Charlie helps wash the truck.

Claudia goes to see Julia and tells her that she thinks she should move home. Julia can't believe Charlie told her. Of course her told her as soon as he found out, says Claudia. Does Julia think that Claudia doesn't have a right to know? It's not that, Julia says; it's just that she and Griffin don't want to move back. Claudia says it would be a good idea because Charlie's going to need help after his radiation, and maybe chemo. "Chemotherapy?" Julia says, in horror. "What are you talking about?" It's only then that Claudia notices the apartment. "What happened to your furniture?"

That afternoon Claudia, Bailey and Kirsten are at the radiologist's office with Charlie. The radiologist gives Charlie a pitcher of contrast fluid to drink before they do the scan. It's very sweet and may turn his stomach, especially if he's already feeling nauseous, which Charlie is. Bailey encourages Charlie not to look at the pitcher of stuff, but to focus on one glass at a time. Charlie tells Bai to ease up on the AA stuff, but manages to down most of a glassful with one long pull, grimacing at the taste. "Oh my god," he says, choking a little. Watching him, Claudia shivers a little; a tear crawls down her cheek as Charlie finishes the first glass. Bailey remonstrates with her. Claudia says she allowed to be upset for Charlie. Kirsten says "This isn't helping, Claud," and Charlie asks if she wants someone to take her home, but Claud insists on staying. Bai wonders where Julia is, and Charlie says he hasn't told her yet. Claudia says that she told Julia, not thinking it was a secret. Charlie's reaction is "Man! Nice of her to show up!" The radiologist comes back and Charlie has to tell him that he still has one glass of the stuff to go.

The next day Sarah comes by the house and meets Charlie on the stairs. He says if she's looking for Bai or Julia they're out. It's Charlie Sarah came to see. She gives him a banana bread that she baked. "It's stupid," she says of the bread, but I want you to know that I care about you, and if there's anything I can do, just tell me." Charlie smiles at her. "So can I get more banana bread?" he asks. Sarah smiles in relief and they laugh a little together.

Griffin is packing stuff in their bedroom, while Julia sits on the bed, reading about Hodgkin's and brooding. Charlie's just the right age to get it, she observes. She has also read that if you have to get cancer, it's probably the best one to get, since the survival rates are pretty good. Griffin asks why Julia doesn't call Charlie. Julia says that if he had wanted her to know, he would have called her. The ironic thing is, she says, that she's angry at him for not telling her. But she thinks they ought to move into the Salinger house. "That's so not what we planned," Griffin says, but makes no other objection.

Charlie is filling out insurance forms in his room when Claudia interrupts him. She asks what he's doing and he tells her. She wants to talk about his tests, but he grows angry and cuts her off. He tells her that her picking and her questions, and her "million little stupid medical facts" are making him feel worse. Claudia argues that it makes her feel better to talk about it. "Well, it makes me feel worse! Just *stop*," Charlie shouts, and stalks out, leaving Claudia sitting on his bed.

Charlie is on his way to mail the forms when he changes his mind and goes to see Julia. When she opens the door, he starts in without preamble: how long is she going to wait before calling. "How much effort does it take to pick up the freakin' phone?" he asks her. Julia says that he never told her. "Charlie," she says, "you want to me to care, but you didn't want me to know." Charlie counters that she *does* know, now. It hurt Julia that she had to find out from Claudia. "What else can I do but take my cue from you?" she asks. "You let me go on about my stupid money problems, as if your health -- your cancer -- isn't something that I could care about!" Charlie is disbelieving: "I'm sick, and you complain about my *process*? he shouts. "Man, I thought Owen was the baby of this family!" He walks out.

When Charlie gets home, Bailey's in the front hall. Charlie complains to his brother that Julia has managed to turn his cancer into an excuse for self-pity, caring only that she's the last to know. Bai can't believe she's that selfish. Bailey says he has something for Charlie to read; it's a book about AA. Most of it doesn't apply, he says, but the part about surrendering yourself to a higher power is really helpful. Charlie doesn't want the book. "I don't want any more of your AA crap. You don't have a disease, Bailey, you have a problem! You can stop drinking. I can't *stop* having cancer! You think you know what it's like? You don't have a clue!" Putting his coat back on, Charlie turns around and leaves the house again.

Kirsten finds Charlie at Salingers'. He complains to her about how inappropriately his siblings are reacting. She reaches out to touch him, and he covers her hand with his. "You're the only one who understands, Kirsten." She takes her hand away. "Don't say that, Charlie. I don't want to be the only one." She tells him that she hears what he says about the others, and it's only a matter of time before she doesn't call him enough, or calls him too much, or makes an analogy to some experience of hers that he thinks is wrong, and then he'll be just as angry at her. "I'm sick, Kirsten! That's all I can deal with. I can't worry about you, worrying about me." Kirsten won't back down. "I think you have to," she tells him, "otherwise, before long you'll be going through this all alone."

Bailey and Sarah are at the apartment. Bailey tells Sarah off for taking Charlie the banana bread, saying that Charlie doesn't need her working out her agenda. "My agenda to deliver baked goods?" asks Sarah. Bailey continues angrily that if it was her intention to show him up, then she succeeded. Sarah faces him squarely. "What else?" she asks. Bai stops in surprise. "What else do you want to yell at me about? Because it this helps, if this is how you deal with how unfair this all is, with how helpless you feel, how helpless you are, then that's what you should do. I can take it." Bailey is silent, looking at her.

Charlie is at the oncologist's office to get his results. She tells him that the news is not as bad as they feared, but not as good as they'd hoped. When she asks if he'd like a family member present, Charlie refuses. The oncologist says it's Hodgkin's Stage 2A, which means the disease has spread to a number of lymph nodes, but not to other organs. She prescribes a 6 week course of radiation, and asks if he'd like to know the statistics. Sometimes people find the numbers comforting, she says. "I know the statistics," Charlie tells her. She asks again if there's anyone with him. "No," Charlie says. "I'm alone."

Julia and Griffin are in the backyard shed at the Salinger house, discussing whether to move into the shed or her old bedroom. Julia doesn't want to move into her old bedroom with her new husband, but Griffin says the attic would be warmer and drier. There is a major leak in the roof of the little shed. Julia says that if they use the shed, it could be like moving in with her family, but still having their own place. Griffin lifts one eyebrow at her, giving her an eloquent 'who do you think you're kidding?' look. There are going to be times when she has to stay over there, Julia says, for Owen and Claud, or for Charlie. "I'll bring my pillow," says Griffin simply. They head into the house.

Claudia and Bai are already in the kitchen. Julia embraces Bai as she comes in. Bai says she's doing a good thing by moving back in. He offers to help if she needs anything. "No," she says, "I'm okay." She glances at Griffin. "We're okay." Claudia says that Charlie's getting the results of his test, and Bai says Charlie went alone, having blown off Kirsten, too. Julia makes an exasperated noise, and Claud guesses that everybody's mad at him. The others agree. "What's his problem," says Griffin in distraction. "He sick," says Bai seriously. "And he's scared, and he's angry, and he doesn't know what to do about any of it." Claud asks if this means they have to put up with his crap. "He put up with ours, didn't he?" Bailey observes. "So we take it," says Julia. They agree to complain to each other if it gets bad, but not to complain to Charlie, no matter what. Charlie comes in then, and Bai offers to leave if Charlie wants to be alone. "Don't. I want -- " he begins, and then stops. "I have a lot of new things to deal with, all at once," he tells them. "Too much to get right all at once. So I'm saying I'm sorry, and I want to start over, with all of you. Everything I know, what's going to happen, and what I need." Standing there under the kitchen light, Charlie faces his family and begins again: "I have cancer..."

Fade to credits.

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