“Episode 5” is a tough follow-up to “Episode 4,” an entry in Catastrophe that I unequivocally loved. It was an emotionally intense episode that didn’t just drive the plot forward so much as give the Sharon and Rob depth as a couple, and Sharon depth as a character. Any way you looked at, it was going to be a tough follow-up. It’s the penultimate episode of the series (sob!), certainly there are bigger and better things to come next episode. It’s a place holder, break between the emotional heft of “Episode 4” and the intensity of the finale. It wasn’t a bad episode but it was certainly dwarfed by the one before it.

This is an episode about baggage. “If we ever sound like that, please get a gun from America and shoot us,” Sharon says as she and Rob see a young couple bickering the park. They do sound like that, Rob replies, it’s just that they have real problems, such as say, having a baby with a near-stranger or Rob being forced to take a job he doesn’t want with a group of possible old man murderers in order to support his family. Those are real problems.

But it’s also about past lives, especially when it comes to people who couple up as older people. When we get together, we like to pretend our partners are blank slates who we can mold into the ideal. But unless you’re dating a former monk, chances are that’s not the case. You are dating a fully formed human who has had a past life, past experiences, and past partners. Rob had impregnated another woman, and while it turned out that her miscarriage led to a happier life for both parties, it still obsesses Sharon because it’s an immediate reminder that Rob was a person that she was not a part of before they happened to meet in a London bar. There’s baggage associated with that.

Sharon’s struggle throughout Catastrophe has been making room in her life for Rob, and she once again shows resistance by refusing to move back to Boston with him after he loses his job. This is her life and she does not plan on changing it. But the revelation that Betsy exists comes such a shock because while she finds it a struggle to make room in her life for Rob, she doesn’t ever think that he has to make room for her as well, that she might have to muscle out past Betsys. The Facebook stalk was of particular note. Who among us has not peaked in the lives of our partner’s past, or at least been curious about it? It does not make us crazy or stalkers (well, most of the time, you know who are weirdos), but when the intention is pure it’s because we want to know all of our partner, rather than just the part we have had the benefit of experiencing.

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Mia’s opposition to Sharon and Rob’s union is perplexing in that it has only been explored for this particular plot device. While Sharon’s parents have met Rob, Mia has not met Sharon. Sure, she’s taken her baby and had him move across the country for her, but that’s never explicitly said either. Sharon and Mia have had such little contact that their antagonism feels much more like a way to introduce a theme than it is rooted in truth. That’s the problem with this episode. Sharon and Rob feel so real, but Mia did not.

Stray observations

  • “Come get butt-fucked with me. Help me heal.”
  • “Would it help if I told you were weren’t just getting married because I’m pregnant? We really like each other … and he needs a Visa.”
  • “I hope your dogs get leukemia.”
  • “I may have insulted your mother.” “Tell me how because I want to do a different more hurtful insult when I call her.”
  • “I have a petite circle of friends, you have one friend who is probably going to OD before we get married. And if you had any idea what something costs when you put the word wedding in front of it, if you knew how much a wedding ham costs, as opposed to a ham-ham, you wouldn’t want to be part of that. I just want a transaction in a gray building. Then you can finger me in a cab on the way to TGIFriday’s.” “I’d like that.”

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