There’s a question I’m fond of asking my friends who have kids: Do you ever worry they’ll grow up to be assholes? I don’t have kids, but if I did, I would worry about this all the time. Most people laugh the question off or dismiss it, which makes sense. We’re all just here doing our best, and we all like to imagine our best will be enough, even if it’s not perfect by any means. Sometimes it isn’t enough, though. Sometimes you find out that your kid bites other people for no damn reason.
In this episode of Catastrophe, Rob is a man unraveling, even as he continues to conduct himself with his usual profane bravado. A string of job interviews don’t go well, but not for reasons that seem entirely self-sabotaging. Rob doesn’t exercise discretion in these conversations, letting pride get in the way, refusing to try and make things work with his former employer. Most troubling, in his final scene of the episode, he barely makes it a minute into the interview before his prospective employer outright shows him the door because he reeks of alcohol.
This is a particularly stunning development because we don’t see Rob drinking much in this episode. The only other overt reference to it is when Sharon tells him he reeks of the cheese-onion crisps he slathers everywhere to mask the smell of alcohol. He hasn’t just fallen off the wagon, it seems; he has angrily jumped off it, and now he’s giving it the finger. Rob’s drinking is playing a major role in his life, and he’s already beginning to accommodate it. He mentions the idea of selling the house and moving somewhere smaller to Sharon, a sign that he’s wondering if unemployment is something he’ll have to just settle into for a long while.
Because Sharon is returning to work, Rob is also spending more time with Frankie and Muireann, which leads him to the discovery that sweet little Frankie has bitten a kid named Wolfe. Or, at least, so Wolfe’s mother claims. (“I’d like my son to attend school without fear of being disfigured.”)
Meanwhile, Sharon is immediately uncomfortable back at school. Mr. Humphries, the teacher across the hall, hung himself (at home — the show isn’t that dark), which leads to a quick promotion for Sharon. It also means she’ll have to wrangle together a memorial assembly, which goes as badly as you’d imagine.
As for Rob and Sharon’s relationship, the daily trials and tribulations of work and children and social engagements more or less demand they get along, if only out of mere necessity. When Fergal and his girlfriend come over for dinner, they learn that Sharon’s parents have moved back to Ireland — which is a bummer, since Catastrophe seems to quietly abandon a plot thread about Sharon coping with her father’s symptoms of dementia — and Fergal announces that he is moving to Spain. It’s a tidy contrast: While all these other people have the freedom to pick up and change their lives, Rob and Sharon are stuck.
“Your response when I told you I flirted with someone at work was to kick me out of my home. You had the female response, which was to go nuclear and try and destroy our family,” Rob says later in the episode, after Sharon asks if he’s ever going to like her again. “I’m having the masculine response, which is to bury the pain and jerk off in the basement rather than touch you.”
But Rob seems to walk that response back by the end of episode. Who can say why? Maybe it’s because he genuinely forgives her. Or maybe it’s something darker, like the realization that Sharon might be the only thing he has left to cling to. After all, it’s not like he doesn’t know the state he’s in. When the woman who accused Frankie of biting her son breaks down and apologizes to Rob, he straight-up spills his guts to her, manically talking about loose bowels and his lack of a job and his general state of sustained panic — and that’s when Frankie bites him, right in front of her. On top of everything else, his son isn’t the kind of kid he thought he was, and now Rob has yet another thing slipping out of his control.