In Ariel Levy’s recent memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, she recounts how she failed to realize that her wife was still drinking even after she swore she stopped. “It seems so preposterous—so funny, really—to think that I was forever worried that Lucy had a brain tumor, Lyme disease, a thyroid problem, a vitamin deficiency,” she writes. “Exactly how deluded would you have to be to live with someone, to sleep with someone every night, and convince yourself that she was sober when she was drinking every single day?” I thought of that passage of the book, which I had just finished, when considering this episode of Catastrophe. It’s both sort of incredible that it’s not immediately obvious that Rob is intoxicated, and, in the context of this show, strangely, upsettingly funny. His lies are as obvious as the smell of cheese and onion crisps he rubs on himself to conceal the liquor.
We don’t see Rob consume any alcohol in this half an hour. There’s nothing akin to his bender last season or even his guzzling of a Tom Collins in this year’s premiere. Instead we see him earnestly—albeit bitterly—attempting to find a new job and taking care of the kids while Sharon’s back at work. She’s the one who we find pouring a big glass of wine. Everything seems normal. Rob appears to be holding it together. But then he goes in for a midday interview with a discerning Welshman who notices that he smells of booze.
Denial courses through this episode. The realization that Rob is far from sober is paralleled with the revelation that, yeah, Frankie is maybe a tiny lying sociopath who has been biting his classmates. He’s been accused of chomping down on a tiny terror named, of all things, Wolf. And just when Wolf’s mother finally relents and admits that her child is a nightmare as Rob is having a full-fledged break down in front of her, Frankie sinks his teeth into Rob’s hand. It ostensibly should be a moment that shocks him into acknowledging what both he and his offspring have been hiding. It probably isn’t. Dave too should be something of a wake up call for Rob. His formerly boisterous, obnoxious friend is reduced to a shell of himself, unable to stay focused or come up with the word for “bus.”
And what to make of Sharon’s role in all of this? She’s an astute person, but here we hone in on her obliviousness. It’s not just in relation to Rob. Just look at the entire way she handles the suicide of another teacher at her school. She mangles his memorial, and gives a tone deaf speech to the students. At home, she’s both preoccupied with her own guilt and trying to cheerily power through her marriage, attempting to initiate sex, which Rob refuses. When, later, Rob suggests trying to move into a smaller place to conserve funds, she wants to focus on the positives in their lives. That leads to a bit of a reconciliation, with Rob admitting that his begrudging affection for her. But that bubble is burst when she remarks on the crisps pervading from his body. It’s like Frankie’s bite. It should be a sign, but it’s not. Erik, in his initial review, wrote about the magic of Rob and Sharon’s faces. The way Rob reacts to Sharon’s repulsion at the odor is perhaps the first hint of recognition we get from anyone.
The moment is so small but Rob’s face is filled with dread, admission, and a little bit of terror.
- Holy shit, that’s Star Wars’ own Domhnall Gleeson as Rob’s headhunter. Catastrophe never fails to delight with these appearances.
- I absolutely adore the way that Sharon laughs after Rob’s joke about how her having fewer hands would make his life more difficult. It recalls a moment in the premiere where she giggles at his “White Walker” crack. Sharon is still, throughout all of this, still, in her own way, enamored of Rob.
- I have never really taken to the character of Dave, but Rob’s scene with him in the rehab facility is devastating. It’s brutal to see him so decimated.
- “Oh that’s cross-eyed Christian fitness mum.”
- “He said he didn’t do it, but he’s a liar.”
- “What would [Pinochet’s] autobiography say? I’m amazing. Nothing’s wrong. I’m planting flowers.”
- “You can’t have a stress-free job, because who the fuck are you?”
- Sharon’s large glasses of white wine are especially noticeable in this episode.
- Catastrophe is not really a political show, but I really appreciate how Sharon and Rob offhandedly mention Brexit. It’s just another detail that grounds them in real life.