R29 Binge Club: Catastrophe Season 2 Recaps

If you didn’t watch the first season of Catastrophe, here’s a quick refresher: American Rob Norris (Rob Delaney) and Irish Sharon Morris (Sharon Horgan) meet at a bar in London and hook up. This is supposed to be just a quick fling — Rob’s going back to the U.S. after all. But, turns out, Sharon gets pregnant. So Rob moves to England, and the two start a life together. They are sort of perfect for each other in all their dirty, acerbic weirdness, but have to intensely speed up the process of courtship. As the first season ended they were in a drag out fight when the baby started to arrive.

At the outset of season two, the show has jumped ahead in time. Their boy, Frankie, is nearly three, and Sharon's pregnant again.

Episode 1

Apparently, these two are really good at procreating and, you know, fighting. When we drop in on them they are watching a dumb reality show because Mad Men’s over and Game of Thrones hasn’t started again — which is the realest thing we've ever heard — when they get into an argument because Sharon won’t move her feet off Rob’s leg. He shoves them aggressively, and tries to leave. That fails. They makeup and have sex, when, uh oh, their kid Frankie appears at the door. He runs in and so does the dog.

So they are living a totally domestic existence with another baby imminent. Well, not that imminent. Sharon keeps calling Rob at work telling him the baby’s coming to make him come home and hang with her. He does and they coo over their son, and express their hopes and dreams for his life. Hopes and dreams like that he has a normal-size penis. Of course, Sharon is sort of crying wolf with the whole “baby’s coming” thing. So much so that when the baby is actually coming, Rob ignores the text initially. He gets there as she's screaming out for a C-section, which she can't have because it's too late. She gives birth to a baby girl. They name her Muireann, an Irish name that no one except for Sharon’s family can pronounce. Even Rob can’t get it right.

Dysfunction really starts to raise its head during a post-birth party. Rob’s mom, Mia (Carrie Fisher), is there, bidding on eBay and telling Sharon that Muireann looks like Gene Wilder. (I love Gene Wilder — but that's not a particularly flattering comparison.) Another source of anguish for Sharon? Her father, who is suffering from dementia. During his toast he calls Sharon "Bridget." He also is prone to leaving the front door open, meaning that both Frankie and Sharon and Rob's dog ends up missing. Frankie's fine. Rob's mom has him, and uses it as an opportunity to insult Sharon. Sharon, in turn, calls her a “hemorrhoid.” Not so lucky? Rob and Sharon's dog gets hit by a car. Among the other strange things that occur? Rob's friend Dave brings a cake with a close-photo of Muireann breast-feeding. Yes, the entire party has to eat a cake with Sharon's boob on it.

And there’s another, unspoken, problem that Sharon brings up after everyone leaves. She hasn’t bonded with Muireann. She thinks her baby seems “manipulative, like she’s plotting something.” She's suffering from postnatal depression.

That's an upsetting revelation, but it's also what makes this show wonderful. Sure, there are wacky friends and sitcom-esque situations, but there are also real problems. But even when it gets super dark it's still blisteringly funny.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.

Episode 2

Rob’s horny and Sharon’s depressed. So, yeah, these two aren’t really on the same page at all. In fact, their storylines rarely diverge in this episode, so let’s tackle them separately.

Sharon: Sharon sees a therapist in hope of work through her issues. Or rather she’s hoping she gets some pills to make those issues go away. Sharon feels moored in her motherhood. Rob’s away at work, and she hasn’t exactly made mom friends. She calls the mothers at her mommy and me drum class “mombies” — like, zombies — but to them she's the monster. She’s far too sardonic. These women like Paloma Faith and Taylor Swift. Rob's got a thing for Paloma Faith, which Sharon is happy to admit to the other mothers. Taylor Swift makes Sharon “barf.” (The Paloma Faith reference is a reminder that this is a British show.)

Sharon invests her energy in a woman named Samantha, who left the group to go back to work. Sharon’s a borderline stalker, and just happens to run into Sam while out shopping one afternoon. (By “just happens” I mean “meticulously plans.") Sam, while nice enough, is freaked out by how intensely Sharon pursues the friendship, and by how willing Sharon is to share every little gritty detail of her life — like how she let Rob thrust between her thighs. So Sam ditches Sharon, standing her up for a lunch date. “I don’t have time for people in my life who need things,” Sam tells her.

But the experience actually ended up helping Rob and Sharon’s relationship — sort of. At home that night, Sharon goads Rob into getting pissed off at Sam for her. As he describes how he would kill her, Sharon gets turned on. They have sex. Actual, penetrative sex. It’s not great. Sharon's in pain, and Rob finishes even though the baby is crying. It happens, though.

Finally, they run into Sam at the movies, and Rob leaps into action. He calls Sam a “cold sore,” and ruins the movie for Sam and her husband. That's an excellent way to take revenge on someone.

: Rob is having no trouble making a new friend at work. But it’s, uh, causing some problems. There’s a new employee and she’s a sexy French lady named Olivia. Olivia has absolutely no problem flirting with Rob, and Rob enjoys the attention. He even wears a fancier shirt into the office. Of course, things start going awry. Given the lack of sex he’s getting at home, he gets so aroused that he goes and masturbates over a toilet in the office bathroom, which has to be some sort of low.

And it turns out that Olivia wants to do more than just toy with Rob’s emotions. She comes into his office and propositions him, in a very forward matter, we might add. She says: “I thought to myself, I’d like to suck his cock until he passes out. If that’s okay with you?” This is just too much for Rob. He promptly goes to his boss, Harita, and quits. Harita thinks he's having a "sexual meltdown" — which he is — and gives him a raise.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Episode 3

So, hands down, the best recurring sight gag of this season so far is that Rob is reading Goebbels Diaries. What a perfectly bizarre touch.

Another bizarre thing? Rob ranting to Sharon about Gollum with an erection. He’s mad that she wants to postpone sex until the morning, and claims she treats Muireann, who is sleeping nearby, like her “precious.” That’s how the episode opens. So yeah, they are still figuring out how to have a sex life and two young children.

I must say, it’s bothering me a little how this season has been falling into the old sitcom trope of the husband who wants to have sex and the wife who doesn’t. Sure, it makes sense that Sharon wouldn’t have much of a sex drive, but the wife who puts off sex is a tired cliché.

After a depressing meet up with their separating friends Fran and Chris — Fran has started an affair; Chris wants to explore having “sexual intercourse with women who have penis” — they decide to spend the weekend in Paris by themselves sans kids. (As the French might say.)

Naturally, the Paris trip is a series of comical misadventures. As soon as they arrive Sharon realizes she forgot to pack her pump, leaving her with engorged breasts. Rob’s French isn’t quite good enough to convey to the Parisian pharmacists that they are looking for a contraption to pump breast milk. They eventually acquire one, but when Sharon takes it to the restaurant bathroom, she discovers it requires batteries. During their fancy dinner, Sharon gets spectacularly drunk, and then gets mad at Rob for suggesting he might want to start drinking again one day. “We’re fighting because he’s an alcoholic,” she tells the room. She ends up on his lap, and declares that she wants to get weed before they go back to the hotel. Inside she smokes it, and then tries to pump her breasts, falling over and landing on her back.

To alleviate her pain, Rob books a joint massage the next day. During the treatment, he instantly falls asleep, so he’s unconscious while Sharon’s masseuse gropes her boobs. When the massages are over, Sharon tells Rob about this incident, but reveals that even though she felt violated, she tipped the guy. Later on, she explains to Rob that she also came a little while being felt up. Obviously, her feelings about the whole situation were mixed.

Over a cheese plate at the Pompidou Center, Sharon suggest to Rob that maybe they just aren’t “holiday people.” They are better when they are doing weird stuff at home, like when they once pretended Sharon’s arms didn’t work. But their jaunt did give them a chance to talk. Sharon brings up Fran’s lover. They agree not to do that. Unless of course Rob gets in touch with Alicia Keys. In that case, Sharon’s going after Jon Hamm.

They go back up to the hotel room and finally have sex — clothing on. “Is it bad that I came inside you?” Rob asks. At first Sharon’s blasé about it, but then she freaks out. Neither of them want another child. So she stands up and tries to dance the semen out of her. You know, that old foolproof method of birth control.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon.
Episode 4

This episode spends a bunch of time checking in on Rob and Sharon’s fucked up friends, but it also, more crucially, reveals some of what we missed in the time jump in between seasons.

You see, it’s Rob and Sharon’s third anniversary, which isn’t exactly a happy time for them. Remember, after Rob and Sharon got married they had a huge fight and she went into labor, giving birth to Frankie prematurely.

So this year, Rob tries to do something different to celebrate, surprising Sharon by taking her to a cheese-making class. Yeah, that’s not really Sharon’s cup of tea, and the two end up at a restaurant. There, they discuss 69ing and growing old. The usual dinner table conversation.

But things still manage to get intense. Rob remarks on how they don’t typically have fun on their anniversary. Sharon has a solution to this yearly malaise: They should change the date. “It’s not that our wedding wasn’t wonderful, it’s just too hard to celebrate when it’s also the date you watched your baby be born and then nearly die,” she says. She explains how her experience with Frankie really messed her up, and contributed to the fear she experienced after having Muireann. But Rob hits back: It was also a terrible time for him.

“You didn’t even let me hold Frankie until he was three weeks old,” he says. “I went from being a single asshole in Boston to a married-to-a-stranger asshole in London with a premature baby in a little see through coffin thing hooked up to what? 80 tubes.” They both break down, only to start laughing when they realize an old couple they had been talking about earlier are now staring at them.

Finally, we get some insight into the tension between Rob and Sharon. The circumstances surrounding Frankie’s birth were traumatizing for both of them. The rush to have another child may have been a coping mechanism.

So they decide to make their anniversary the day they first met. Back home, they are having sex when the baby starts to cry. Sharon wants to go check on her. Rob says that ignoring her is part of her sleep training. He even puts his hands over her ears while he comes. She admonishes him, but then does the same when he starts to go down on her. They are attempting to not let their children define their relationship.

Now, let’s check in with their friends:

Dave: Newly sober, Dave goes to a gathering with his also sober girlfriend and her sober friends, who regale him with stories of their seriously fucked up times. Dave thinks their self serious tales of debauchery are bullshit, but he’s the one getting dumped tonight. His girlfriend catches him in a lie about how long he’s been sober. She breaks things off, and he goes home and snorts coke while attempting to call Rob for help.

Fran: Fran goes on a date with her new boyfriend, who tries to propose marriage, which she promptly shuts down.

Chris: And then there’s Chris, who acts on his sexual curiosity by booking a transgender prostitute for sex. This storyline is a disappointing one for the show. In an age when we’re finally getting complex representations of trans people on TV, this is a step backward. This plotline relies on the outdated stereotype of the trans prostitute, and then reduces that character to a punchline. Chris’ main character trait is “being weird,” and his interest in trans women is frustratingly used as another example of his "weirdness," rather than a sensitive exploration of his own sexuality. After he has sex with the prostitute, he goes back home and calls Fran, attempting to reconnect. I thought you were better than that, Catastrophe.
Episode 5

Sharon wants to go back to work. Rob wants to quit his job. By the end of this episode, everything goes up in flames.

The episode opens with Rob and Sharon debating whether she’s going to get an IUD or he’s going to get a vasectomy. This begs the question: What is up with these two and birth control? Why are they so reluctant to use it in any form? Obviously, they aren’t into condoms, but come on, guys!

Sharon’s fellow teachers are skeptical of her coming back just four months after giving birth to Muireann, but she’s determined. Or, she is until she sits down with her former boss and starts talking about her children, describing how it took her a while to bond with Muireann and how Frankie still faces health problem. She reveals that she and Rob nearly broke up because of the “strain” of Frankie’s difficulties. She starts crying. And lactating. It’s a mess.

But even when she is eager to go back to work, she’s also not super excited about Rob quitting his job. “It’s hard for a mother to say, 'You can stop earning money now,'” she says. Turns out, circumstances have it that he won’t be there for much longer, anyway. Remember Olivia? The French woman who hit on Rob? Well, she’s back. She comes to his office one day to apologize and Rob dissolves into word soup. “If my marriage were in slightly worse shape I would totally — what I mean is, you’re very beautiful, too beautiful to work in the same building as me, anyway,” he says. She laughs and calls him a nickname on the way out.

But it’s not all in good fun. Rob is called into a meeting with Olivia, Harita, and HR. Olivia alleges that Rob sexually harassed her, though the harassment definitely went both ways. No part of their interaction was appropriate in a work context. Rob at first demands an apology, but then returns to up and quit.

Rob’s got another problem on his hands, though. He gave Sharon’s brother, Fergal, a huge amount of money, which he then invested in a resort in Montenegro. Rob did not tell Sharon about this loan and she finds out after coming across a piece of mail. She’s outraged, but not as outraged as she’s going to be after he reveals the reason he cannot return to his job.
Episode 6

Rob didn’t cheat, but he opened the door for cheating. And he lied. Is that just as bad? It is to Sharon, who kicks him out of the house.

Rob goes to live with Dave. That’s not exactly a great environment for kids, considering that Dave has started using a plethora of hard drugs again. Though Rob’s mother is happy about this turn of events, Chris has harsher words, calling Rob out for putting a “downpayment on an affair” by telling Olivia about his marriage problems. Fran also warns Sharon about losing Rob. (Are those two really the people you should be listening to? Not necessarily, but they have split up and are miserable as a result.)

Realizing that Dave is an utter disaster, Rob checks into a hotel, where he opens up the minibar and chugs a tiny bottle of vodka. That’s the beginning. Soon, the room is trashed and he’s trying to order an escort. (Fruitlessly, I might add.) Sharon also decides to get wasted that night, going out with her friend, Kate. She ends up going to a rooftop with a hot young thing. The next thing she knows, she’s passed out on the floor.

Rob’s night didn’t end with his binge. He gets a text from Dave, who asks for help. He first ignores the message, but then, his conscience gets the better of him — even in his drunken state. He finds Dave passed out, bleeding from his nose. Rob attempts to administer mouth to mouth. Dave throws up and in response, Rob throws up, as well. Rob then calls 911.

At the hospital, Dave’s girlfriend has shows up feeling guilty. Rob, meanwhile, is still very drunk. In the morning, he calls Sharon. They both feel awful and decide to reconcile. Here are there reasons for staying together: Sharon hears a new “nighttime noise” and it’s bothering her. She can’t move the bed to the place she wants it by herself. He realizes flats are really expensive. Oh yeah, and the “tiny one” Rob mentions: “As I look at you, all the reasons I fell in love with you come flooding back so much that I think I might throw up — and, again, flats are very expensive.” They both say they haven’t slept with anyone else and then go have not-so-concealed sex in the park against a brick wall.

When they are home, settling back into their life, Sharon gets a disturbing text. It’s from “Nico.” He enjoyed their time together. So much so that he adds a winky-face emoticon. Sharon calls Kate to get the details of her night. She explains that Sharon left with the man. Sharon panics and takes Plan B, just in case.

Later that night, she and Rob order pizza. He grabs some money out of her purse to pay the delivery guy, who hands him back a receipt that was nestled in with the cash. Oh yes, the receipt for the Plan B. The season ends with Rob staring at Sharon in disbelief. This show certainly knows how to end on a cliffhanger.

So, what happens after the credits roll? Will Rob confront Sharon? Will he be forgiving once he learns the circumstances? Remember, he, too, has a secret: He fell off the wagon, alcohol-wise, and did not divulge that to Sharon. So, yes, they are a mess, but they always have been. And despite their deceptions, the show once again proves that they are perfect for one another. As cynical as Catastrophe is, it really does seem to believe in soulmates.

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