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Catastrophe delivers a gut-punch of an episode when it’s least expected

Illustration for article titled Catastrophe delivers a gut-punch of an episode when it’s least expected
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Man, Catastrophe, I thought we were getting a light, airy episode that featured the foibles of Sharon and Rob’s friends. Perhaps Sharon and Rob would get a night off from fighting for their anniversary, while their friends — namely Chris, Fran, and Dave — go through own relationship issues for the night. And while Rob and Sharon didn’t fight, a dust up during dinner gave Catastrophe one of the most emotionally heavy-hitting moments of the second season. But let’s get through the rest, shall we?

Chris and Fran and deeply incompatible people at this point in their lives. Fran says it best while sitting next to her new lover in a perfect gag: While Chris may miss her now, while she and Chris were together, he couldn’t muster up the strength to miss her at all. What should be this emotional moment for the usually surly Chris is too little too late for Fran. The gulf between them widened to the point where they didn’t even want to be the couple that has the same haircut and stare at each other silently across the dinner table, like the one Rob and Sharon see while on their anniversary date.

Both Chris and Fran are exploring new paths in their love lives, and figuring out perhaps that separating is considerably harder than they thought. Fran still does his laundry and cooks him vegan lasagna. Chris, for as much as he complains about her, misses Fran saying “Ta da!” when the popcorn comes out of the microwave. They’re so intrinsically attached to each other that it’s difficult for them to let go. In a way, it’s the dark side of the conversation that Sharon and Rob have in bed at the beginning of the episode. Taking a lover would for them is not worth the effort. For Chris and Fran, perhaps it’s the only option for them, even if their new relationships are not as satisfying as they originally thought they would be. Fran wanted Chris to want her, and she has that in her new ginger boyfriend, but he wants her too much, proposing even before divorce papers have been signed. Chris was missing a sexual component, among other things, in his relationship, but after visiting a prostitute, he figures out that the kind of sex he wants without someone to say “Ta da!” when the popcorn comes out of the microwave is not as satisfying as he thought it would be.

I can’t remember where I heard this, whether it’s a quote from some TV show I internalized or whether it’s a folksy saying I picked up from a friend but it’s always hit home: The secret to a lasting marriage is not getting divorced. There will be ups and downs in the relationship but sticking with it even when everything sucks and working through is what keeps a marriage going. That saying could apply to nearly every episode of Catastrophe, but I thought about it quite a bit while watching this episode. Sharon and Rob won’t have affairs because in the end, it’s too much work. That doesn’t ostensibly seem romantic, when in fact, it is. Sharon comes to a conclusion that says it all while they hang out in bed: I might as well just be with you.

Then there’s Dave, a giant mess of a human being who think he understands the complexities and difficulties of the sobriety ahead of him and very clearly does not. If Fran and Chris are bizarro Sharon and Rob, Dave is bizarro Rob, the guy who didn’t follow the program and couldn’t stay sober. He’s only five months in, and clearly hasn’t hit his rock bottom yet. His liver won’t function, and he’s lost teeth, but he’s still not at Ash levels drug addiction so he can’t be that bad, right? He handles himself with a complete misunderstanding of how the program works, even though Rob tries to warn him. Here’s the problem with Dave, though: I don’t really care about him. He’s been posited at this massive asshole who brings nothing good Rob and Sharon’s life. I’m not entirely sure why they still hang out with him other than obligation. So when he does a line of coke after his girlfriend dumps him, it’s hard for me to feel anything for him other than a desire to get onto the next plotpoint.

Dave’s plight is completely contrasted with the emotional wallop that comes in the middle of Sharon and Rob’s anniversary date. The cheese making class and the babysitter are humorous distractions in service of the emotional payoff that happens when Rob points out that they’re actually having fun on their date. When he first points this out, I assumed it was because they weren’t fighting, but then he drops the bomb: Frankie almost died at birth. On the day that Sharon and Rob are supposed to be celebrating their love, they’re devastated. Sharon gets drunk, Rob eats two desserts, and the night ends in tears. As I’ve said before, Rob Delaney rarely gets to act out the emotional centerpiece of a given episode but here, he does, and it’s jarring. Here’s is this guy who usually walks around with a smile on his face, totally losing it just thinking about how he could not hold his son for the first three weeks of his life. This episode really finds its power in part because of Delaney’s handling of his abject sadness at this memory, but because it has never been brought up before. We didn’t know that Frankie was sick, we just knew him as the toddler who walked in on my mom and dad doing it. But there’s so many other things going on in Sharon and Rob’s lives that it never comes up. In this slice of their life, Frankie’s premature birth is not a factor because there’s job stress and Muireann and parents and their relationship to worry about.


This twist, as it were, speaks to the show as a whole. In our lives, we encounter terrible things, massive disaster, and complete and total joy. But there’s so much going and so much to conquer, that sometimes we need to let those things go and move onto the next.

Stray observations

  • Aw Lauren Socha — aka Kelly from the The Misfits — was the babysitter!
  • Episode Four” of the first season also left me similarly floored.