'Chasing Life' Recap: Cancer Frenemies
'Chasing Life' Recap: Cancer Frenemies
Emily E. Steck
Emily E. Steck
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
For a show called Chasing Life, April spends most of her time chasing the life she has earned, but running away from cancer. It's a frustrating story to watch, almost, if only because April is chasing borrowed time. Not that her cancer has been determined as terminal, but because eventually she has to get treatment. She can't keeping Chasing Life even if she is a fighter. She hasn't really been chasing anything, more like running away in heels on the verge of breaking.

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Cancer Friends

We pick up from last week's episode where April runs into Leo Hendrie, the son of a political candidate that April is covering for the Boston Post. We are introduced to Leo, who has a brain tumor named Leo Jr. Leo talks about his life being under a microscope before recognizing April in the group. Rut roh. 

Leo's already such a strong force on this show that when he rips April/journalists apart, I want the show to keep him forever. I already pledged to love him because he is Cappie, but it's great to see that Leo is a sharp, cynical guy warped by cancer and politics. He's no Prince Charming or a snore. April walks away, hurt and unable to explain anything.

April returns home and her cancer symptoms are getting worse. She oversleeps for her biopsy, her gums bleed, and mysterious bruises are popping up on her skin. She talks to her Uncle George, who really encourages her to get serious about this cancer. But the only c-words on April's mind are caffeine and concealer. 

April takes the train home and passes out, arriving super far away at 1am. My first concern: no one robbed her? My second concern: someone probably would have robbed her. The next day, April confesses to her Uncle George that she is constantly exhausted, and her gums started bleeding. April is ordered to take antibiotics and have a blood transfusion. 

At work, April's senior writer Raquel continues to be an abhorrent woman/journalist. There's a really big campaign fundraiser for Bruce Hendrie tomorrow night that Raquel brags about going to. Look, I know that journalism is competitive (uh, hello? It's kind of what I do), but I really wish we didn't have to see these women competing with one another over petty crap. Maybe if Raquel finds out about this one day, she will be unexpectedly kind? That's the only hope I have for these two.

Brenna's Story is Pointless

Brenna and Kieran is cute-ish, but Brenna remains the worst teenager on television. "Speaking of pop culture" is not a segue into ragging on a pretty blonde girl. Brenna. Being rude to Greer, a lesbian girl from school wanting to work on a project with you, actually makes you the mean, stuck-up girl. Are they intentionally making Brenna this bad? Like this awful? I hope they are and that she will grow from it or something. Like super soon.

April returns to the cancer support group, not to deal with her own cancer problems, but to make nice with Leo for her own career. Let's be real. April comes clean to the group and Leo about her leukemia, and Leo seems to like her a bit for that. They even compete with whose cancer is worse! Cancer friends! It's only when April pushes her luck as a reporter (to use Leo to get an invite to the Hendrie party) should we become suspicious. Even more suspicious when the usually acerbic Leo allows her an invite to the party and maybe even an exclusive cancer scoop. 

After a useless fashion montage with Beth (who is warm and likable, but given nothing to do in this episode), April attends the big getup where she runs into Dominic, who's also there for work. April's logic about Leo and Dominic meeting makes no sense unless she is subconsciously attracted to Leo (which, of course, I'm down for). Because why would they swap stories about a girl they barely know and why would Leo betray someone's confidence in an anonymous support group? Chasing Life needs someone rational on their staff (I volunteer as tribute!) to think this stuff through.

At the campaign party, Leo announces that he has cancer and that his father bravely offered to drop out of the campaign, but Leo insisted that his father must run for office. April is devastated that she no longer has an exclusive, but Leo doesn't really screw over April, as he is under no obligation to help her out. Leo rightly points out that April needs to sort out her priorities, and that it is narcissistic to think it's all about her. Again, I love Leo for dropping some truth and pointing out that April has a ton of flaws. Leo reveals, obviously so, that Bruce Hendrie paid for his motorcycle in order for this endorsement/human interest piece. Leo drives away and right into my heart.

Not to be outdone, Dominic slightly mocks April's fortuitous abilities to get exactly what she needs when she wants it. "I'm April Carver. I'm adorable. And people just throw exclusive interviews at me. I don't even have to try." Dominic's impersonation is spot-on, adorable and and it gives Dominic a personality, which is a plus. A sort of negative for Dominic? He doesn't think he could deal with someone sick like Leo (which is really a writer's surrogate to talk about April). 

Brenna Learns in the Worst Way Possible

In other boring developments, Brenna and Sarah continue to be on their own little unimportant show, with Sarah wanting to take Tango lessons. April volunteers, but backs out due to work. And yet her mother still doesn't know the central premise to this show -- I mean, April's cancer. Brenna sweetly volunteers to go to Tango lessons but gets sidetracked "working" on the project with Greer.

In reality, Brenna continues being the world's biggest brat, ignoring the project and being on her phone before deciding to hustle Greer over a game of tennis. (This is some terrible tennis playing and movie magic put together. As a tennis fan/player, I am honestly offended). Let me make it clear that this is not compelling at all. LIKE WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THAT? Could there be no other way to get to the next scene? It's just sloppy writing.

What isn't sloppy, at least, is the April-Brenna fight. It's downright satisfying to see Brenna squirm as April scolds her for being an irresponsible brat. And it's so good when Italia Ricci sobs that she has cancer and is afraid, and then as we watch her pick up the pieces so quickly, as if pushing down that emotion. April is so good at pulling it together, even for short periods of a time, that she must think she has to have everyone else together. When she arrives to meet Sarah at her Tango lessons, Sarah's dancing with the instructor.

But April? She's still got a biopsy to deal with. April is super independent, determined to do everything on her own, but this is scary. Bone marrow extraction is painful. Brenna shows up for support, or at least for some hand-holding. 

At last, Chasing Life is moving forward, still stumbling with its B and C plots (I feel like I'm always looking at Brenna and Sarah; perhaps give a plot to Danny or Dominic?), but it finally is making me feel something. A lot of that probably has to do with such a strong actor/secondary character in Leo Hendrie and a lot of that has to do with what I see Italia Ricci is doing with April. For the first time, I'm excited to see how next week unfolds. 

Thoughts

  • ABC Family put this available as a screener online, took it offline, put it online, then denied access. Moral of the story: always be prepared to watch it live and mute the commercials. 
  • "Moral of the story, kids. Don't get a brain tumor, kids, they suck." Amen.
  • I don't really think this show understands how to balance its guest stars/recurring stars/love interests. Why did Kieran need to be in that one scene ... in which he was never seen again? Same with Danny. Yes, it's a contractual obligation, but that should be a cue to the writers to write other scenes and break different stories. The Brenna stories? Don't. Work.
  • Next week looks good, like stakes-raising good because it looks like April is coming clean to everyone, whether she likes it or not. 

So what did you think of this week's episode of Chasing Life? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in-between? Are you digging the sharper dialogue? That April may be finally accepting her cancer? Sound off below!

Chasing Life airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC Family.

(Image courtesy of ABC Family)



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