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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sharon and Rob fight off mom-bies and a hot French woman in Catastrophe’s second episode

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The first episode of the second season of Catastrophe was about Sharon and Rob as an insular couple dealing with having a second child so quickly after their first (not to mention so quickly after becoming a couple in the first place). The second episode is what it’s like when being a part of that insular couple is not enough. Both Rob and Sharon both have needs that the other one can’t fill, and it’s a testament to their strength as a couple that they understand why those needs can’t be fulfilled. That lovely hand-grasp at the end after an episode where both Rob and Sharon seem to be pulling away from each other for various reason is totally earned.

A lot of “Episode Two” deals with broad strokes that have been explored in sitcoms before. Rob needs sex, he isn’t getting any from Sharon, and that’s weird for them. This is a couple whose entire relationship was built on lust, doing things that Sharon hadn’t even seen on the internet. But Sharon is emotionally incapable of having sex, not to mention still physically healing. After a therapy session, Rob immediately asks about Sharon’s sex drive.”She did prescribe me some pills that make me more receptive to sex but less able to enjoy it,” Sharon says about her therapist. “Is that a riddle?” Rob asks. And as good of a guy as Rob is being about understanding why his wife will only let him fuck her thighs, he hasn’t been ripped apart by childbirth so he still has a sex drive. Enter Olivia (Emmanuelle Bouaziz), the sexy French woman who is attracted to Rob for his ability to pick the water cooler as if it is a pillow. Instead of indulging, he jerks off in the bathroom and threatens to quit when Olivia’s advances become too much, a notion that is immediately shot down by his boss Harita (Seeta Indrani, who was so deadpan and great in this episode).

Sharon needs emotional support, she isn’t getting from Rob. It’s no fault of Rob Delaney’s (considering he co-writes the show) but when Sharon and Rob split for an episode, it tends to be Sharon who gets the more interesting, emotionally cutting storyline. Look, it may be because I’m a woman and I feel more deeply for Sharon’s abject loneliness than I do for Rob’s desire to get laid. But Rob has never come close to having a storyline that’s anywhere like “Episode Four” from last season. “Episode Two” wasn’t nearly as powerful as “Episode Four” was, but it still touched on this issue of needing adult contact post-baby that cuts deeper than Rob’s physical needs.

Sharon understands why Rob can’t give her the emotional support she’s looking for. She comes after the kids and his job. She’s somewhere close to his desire to read a book about Hitler on the toilet. That’s cool, she gets it, it’s a lot, but it also touches on the theme set up in the first episode (and what seems like this season): Can they put coupledom second to parenthood and still survive as a unit? Both of them are too tired to serve each other’s needs so they seek those needs out in other people, either actively in Sharon’s case, or passively in Rob’s. Sharon clings to another mom, Samantha (Susannah Fielding), who doesn’t have time to take care of her either. They’re mommy group friends only, and without the mom-bies to unite against they don’t have much a relationship. But Sharon needs someone, anyone, who has experienced what she’s currently going through, even if it’s Fran. That’s how desperate she is. But when all hope seems lost, and a vacation the Cotswalds is off the table, Sharon bonds with Muireann. She may not be entirely emotionally fulfilled but that smile is a huge victory that allows her to do something for Rob — have sex with him even if she doesn’t enjoy it at all — and that leads Rob to do something for her: focus all of his anger on the dreaded Samantha.

Samantha didn’t do anything particularly terrible. She, like Sharon and Rob, are stretched too thin and overworked. She has a baby who needs everything and she just can’t handle something else needy. But her role as the villain is important to Rob and Sharon. They can bond together in their hatred of her, just like Samantha and Sharon could bond against the other woman for being airheads who like Paloma Faith and Taylor Swift. They are a team again, a couple, brought together after an episode where they are largely apart. Sharon may not want to have sex but she’ll deal for Rob. Rob may rather read a Hitler book a toilet than listen to Sharon, but when it comes down to it, Rob will spoil a Jake Gyllenhaal movie in the service of protecting this woman he loves.

Stray observations

  • “I don’t want to carry a gun. They’re heavy, and I travel light.”
  • “That’s so sweet, you speak French like a little German boy.”
  • “Don’t you know how to feud? You’re supposed to wipe out the bloodline.”
  • “Do you know smart she is? She’s going to have to explain this movie to me after it’s over.”