After ending the second season on a pregnant pause, Catastrophe picks up right where it left off: Rob’s (Rob Delaney) face is contorted into a farting grimace as he tries to make sense of his accidental Plan-B discovery. The Season Two finale led us to believe that Rob may have opted for the “ignorance is bliss” approach, as opposed to confronting Sharon (Sharon Horgan) with his suspicions. But, as it turns out, as soon as the kids are safely tucked into bed, he’s done playing Mr. Nice Guy. He shoves the incriminating receipt in Sharon’s face and demands answers—answers Sharon clumsily provides. She knows she’s been caught in a lie, but she’s determined to make him believe the purchase of the morning-after pill was a result of their Victoria Park quickie. On the inside, she’s riddled with anxiety and shame, but on the outside she maintains her innocent act, appalled by what her husband is implying.
It’s a classic situation—more often than not, the instinctive response to accusations of infidelity is denial. While much of it is down to the sudden and very real possibility of losing the person we love the most, it also stems from a profound feeling of shame over having done something so bad we dare not admit it, even to ourselves. Though Sharon is still not entirely sure whether she did actually cheat on her husband, a wee sniff of the panties she was wearing the previous night gives her reason to believe she has. When she receives a flirty text from her club conquest inviting her to see his band, she uses the opportunity to ask him to fill in the blanks of her alcohol-induced blackout and is relieved to hear she merely “handled” the guy’s penis, and apparently it made her gag. Repeatedly.
When Sharon finally confesses to Rob the details relayed to her by her fling, he already expects as much (well, actually a bit more). Already having a hard time—what, with being accused of sexual harassment at work and losing his job—he turns back to alcohol, and allows Sharon to manipulate him into thinking that he’s the asshole in all scenarios, while she attempts to keep her halo in place and burning brightly with martyrdom. When the truth is finally revealed, he finds himself feeling incredibly cheated—not just by Sharon’s actual infidelity, but by her inability to face up to the consequences of her own behavior when she has no problem making him feel disgusting for jerking off to the mental image of his co-worker. Neither of their indiscretions were emotional, but as Rob rightly notes, Sharon’s “female reaction” forced her to kick him out of the house and make him suffer, while his “male reaction” forces him to suck it up—even at the cost of his own sobriety—and endure being lacerated by Sharon’s “white-walker toe-nails.”
Sharon and Rob have always been transparent when it comes to their terrible personality traits and dark senses of humor, but if Season Two dusted their surfaces, Season Three seems to be headed towards an excavation of past and present shit, and I believe it’s about to get very personal. Their relationship skirts the grey area between endearing and disastrous, but until now there’s been more focus on Sharon’s emotional landscape, while Rob’s arc has concentrated more on the circumstantial. Only two episodes into the new season, we’re starting to get to know a whole other side to Rob, one driven by a not-so-silent, festering rage and a feeling of downright inadequacy as he navigates his way through demeaning job interviews and competitive schoolyard politics, only finding comfort in (presumably) masking his alcohol-breath by bingeing on junk food.
Rob’s body language and facial expressions accentuate the complexity and loneliness of his situation, which continues to examine the effect the wrongful sexual harassment charges have on him. His world is rapidly crumbling around him, and he’s desperate to find his footing, but there’s nowhere to turn. No area of his life can offer respite from another—he no longer has a job to distract him from his problems with Sharon, and only ever feels like a loser when he’s home, as though he’s stuck in some kind of no man’s land without an obvious exit. This feeling of emasculation is at its most obvious when Sharon retracts from their first real “make-up” hug with the tactful words:
“I really want to keep hugging you but, Jesus, you really stink of cheese and onion crisps. Do you make them now, with your body? Fuck, that’s overbearing.”
As if feeling useless and cheated weren’t enough, he’s now made to feel unattractive and gross, too. But the adolescent notion of “breaking up” with Sharon is not an option for Rob, who only wants the best for his family. It’s also not an option to return to the company where he’s now known as a chauvinist. He feels the need to simplify their lifestyle—get rid of the monster of a mortgage and look into a less pressured way of living— but Sharon isn’t quite ready to give up her luxuries. Perhaps she’d be more excited about moving to Spain, like her brother Fergal? If so, dear Sharon and Rob, I’ll have you know that the Costa del Sol isn’t quite the “real Spain” you imagine it to be; it’s probably a lot closer to your image of what Sharon refers to as “shitty British people Spain.” Trust me, I know—I’m one of the not-so-shitty half-Brits living on the Costa del Sol. Just a friendly heads-up.
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.