“Series Two, Episode Three” S2 / E3
- B Community Grade
There’s more than one way to kill a cat. On Pulling, you can bet that it’ll be the least expensive and most awkward, excruciating way, too. After Karen’s last two episodes of Bacchanalian excess, it’s a little bit of a relief to see her get to do things other than stagger around. This week, Karen adopts a mangy stray tabby that crawls in through her open window and deposits a mouse crops on the adjacent pillow. Donna and Louise are less than pleased. Louise is concerned that a cat is too much responsibility for Karen, while Donna objects on the entirely reasonable terms that “It smells of death and it’s going to piss everywhere.”
Is the bleeding, filthy animal actually Karen’s spirit animal? She seems to think so, and when Donna and Louise offer to pay for a trip to the vet, Karen brings it in, only to realize that (1) the cat has no name other than “Catty” and (2) cat surgery is pretty seriously expensive. “Isn’t there a cream or something,” Karen asks. “Yes, yes, creams are good,” the vet pauses, “but there isn’t really one for cancer.” Euthanasia also happens to be pricey, so Donna and Louise do it the D.I.Y. way: They take the cat out back, wrap it in a blanket, and hit it with a brick.
This is, of course, not something you should try at home, but it perfectly summarizes the whole drive of Pulling: Trying to be adults, failing miserably, and then making the worst possible choice. Donna, back at her lackluster office job, happens to be in the room when her boss learns that his mother died. “Is she all right?” she asks, shocked. By the time she’s regained her bearings in front of her weeping superior and dispensed some Hallmark card wisdom, she’s decided that comforting people in emotional pain is her secret calling. She is, of course, terrible at it. Though Ian increasingly leans on her to be supportive, Donna soon finds that the enchantment of playing the therapist wearying and that her boss’ grief “bores the tits” off her. “Don’t cry,” she tells him outside their building. “Well, do cry. But maybe not here. These people are your subordinates.”
The very first sticky situation that Donna gives a whirl at fixing is between Tanya and Karl, for whom relations have remained deeply awkward after the whole sex in the kitchen thing. They run into each other at the corner store, and Tanya, in her trademark way, manages to sound both very mature and completely unhinged. She reassures Karl that things aren’t weird, asks him to pop by for a drink, and then half-jokes that he has a “beautiful cock,” to which Karl flusteredly responds that she has a “tasty minge,” and her face drops into a scowl. When he does stop by Tanya’s he gets drafted, somehow, into the role of her caring boyfriend. He reads a goodnight story to Tanya’s unappreciative little boy Leon and gets roped into becoming the father figure he never wanted to be.
When Karl asks Donna to intervene on his behalf, she takes Tanya to coffee to use her counseling voodoo to her. But Donna’s speeches are completely ineffective on Tanya, who retaliates with Karl’s comment on Donna as an “emotionally stunted self-absorbed fantasist” who is “genetically incapable of love.” Way harsh. But it does have the desired effect of putting Tanya off Karl.
Louise, meanwhile, has a plotline that doesn’t involve her flailing attempts at dating, for once. Instead, this episode is about her failed attempt at managing the café while Richard’s away. To prove her newly given authority, and spite the grumpy Oleg, whose response to a request to clear tables is to “fuck the ass of the table,” Louise brings in an artist’s paintings to the café. The one she glimpsed was an abstract shape, a bizarre topaz wrinkled landscape. Which means that, unfortunately, the artist’s obsession happens to be with, as Louise puts it, “fecal matter based pieces.” Louise takes a stand against censorship; the painter threatens to kill himself if she removes the pieces. (“I know how to do it, I looked it up,” he informs her.) I’m glad that Oleg is still around, and offering to stir soup with his penis. His dynamic with Louise is much more interesting when the antipathy switches sides.
- The ending of the episode is so heart wrenching. Donna’s almost to talking to Karl about her feelings in a reasonable way, but not quite.
- What Louise offers to avoid suicide: “A free soft drink here—free!—once a month.”
- Louise’s list of famous works of literature was amazing: “War and Peace! Hamlet! Captain Corelli’s Mandolin!” Ditto Louise’s “Cup-o-tea-now” creation.