Rob and Sharon need to bang, and they need to bang well or they might as well be done for. If that means leaving the country to do it than so be it. This third episode is meant to explore whether it’s the children that’s keeping Rob and Sharon apart or whether it’s Rob and Sharon that are keeping them apart. “Are we sexually incompatible now?” Sharon ask Rob after a couple of aborted trysts (one involving a sexual rain check). Rob and Sharon literally and metaphorically answers the episode’s central question because things might not be easy now, but they still fancy each other. They very fancy each other.
Sharon’s desire for good sex, not just sex, is kicked off by something new for Catastrophe: an storyline that doesn’t involve either Sharon or Rob directly. While Fergal and Mallandre and Chis and Fran had their own marital issues, they were never fleshed out, just told. Fran has taken a lover, and Chris has decided to explore a sexual relationship with a woman with a penis (he plays with hers, she plays with his). While Rob and Sharon are in Paris, Chris gets his own (decidedly short) storyline where he goes to a gay bar, vapes in the bathroom, and runs into Dave and his midnight yoga-doing/street meat-loving new girlfriend. It makes sense that at a certain point Catastrophe would have to shift its focus solely from Rob and Sharon onto the supporting cast, fleshing out their lives with stories that have nothing (directly) to do with the central couple. It seems odd that this expansion is only happening now in the second season, but that’s because I’m used to the relatively longer run of an American sitcom. It’s a natural time to explore other facets of the series. Chris and Fran have always been posited against Sharon and Rob as relationship with no passion versus a relationship entirely built on passion, something that Fran makes explicit when she tells Sharon that she used to be upset that Chris didn’t want to sleep with her but then something died inside of her and now she’s fine with it, just waiting for her kid to head to college. Like a pent up version of the A Christmas Carol’s Marley brothers, Fran counsels Sharon to have sex with Rob, even if she doesn’t really want to.
Fran is also a woman so wholly obsessed with her child as an extension of being wholly obsessed with herself that in a way her advice to focus on coupledom speaks to the question that pervades the whole season: Sometimes parents need to leave the kids at home in order to be them again. When Rob tells Sharon the kids aren’t invited to Paris and she smiles, they are inadvertently taking Sharon’s mom’s advice from the first episode to be a couple first and parents second. But do they like being a couple together in the first place? The answer is, of course they do, it’s just harder than it used to be because of environmental factors — they both pass out on the train headed to Paris — and because of issues that separated them in the first place, namely that Sharon drinks and Rob cannot.
One of the things that I’ve always really liked about Catastrophe is how real it could feel in capturing these moments in relationships that weren’t rom-com ready. While Rob’s alcoholism was a small plot point in the first season, something he could reveal to Sharon so they could get to know each other better, it has never really been an issue that ever came between them. While their argument was very much superficial — Rob thinks about drinking but won’t act on it, Sharon wants to share a glass of wine with her husband — the episode still brought up something that isn’t normally a sitcom topic. The other not-so-pretty factor of married life is that Sharon is still physically wrecked from her pregnancy. Catastrophe has touched on that before — namely with Sharon’s constant “ows” during sex — but also in that forgetting the breast pump isn’t like forgetting socks. It means pain for Sharon who is still breastfeeding. Sharon Horgan doesn’t look like she just gave birth a few months ago, but at least her character is going through what post-natal women deal with that no one sells young girls in the get married/have kids fantasy. (Jane the Virgin, by the way, also does an excellent job of illustrating the post-natal woman.)
So the Paris weekend kind of sucks. Dinner is a disaster, Sharon possibly breaks a rib and is then sexually assaulted by a masseuse who makes her cum. And they both know that the weekend sucks. Neither of them are having a nice time, even though they are supposed to be living this fantasy life for a 48 hours. But Sharon brings up a good point. They shouldn’t be their best selves during the fantasy. They should be their best selves on a Tuesday when it’s raining. “My favorite time in the last year was when we pretended my arms didn’t work, remember? And you washed my hair and put that weird outfit on me,” Sharon says, describing a scene I would have loved to watch. And then they banter back and forth like they could have been doing all along if the expectation of an amazing weekend away hadn’t been crushed by a forgotten breast pump and Parisian street weed. But if there was any doubt of their love, it had to have been assuaged by Rob’s loving look as Sharon tries to force his semen out of her cervix.
Aw, true love.