This is quite an awkward and yet touching episode to watch as Allison and Paul struggle through a new relationship problem and Maurice blunders his way into trying to help Louise with her cancer treatment.
Joe and Allison are in Manchester at Eddie’s, skyping to Paul who – in an effort to subdue his own fears about being the “lesser parent” – bribes Joe into behaving in Manchester by offering to get him “whatever he wants”. Probably a good time to point out that Paul criticised Allison for doing similar things in series one but now that he’s floundering and not sure how to be the “cool dad” again, he falls into the old patterns that Allison has shrugged off. Anyway – Joe wants a goat.
In their time in Manchester we get to see some sibling harassment as Allison bugs brother Eddie and playfully teases him about the similarities between his new girlfriend and Nicola then follows him to his lectures and draws childish doodles of him lecturing. It’s silly sibling stuff and it’s quite nice to see some friendly banter between Allison and Eddie because their family relationship has never been as well explored as some of the others.
Back at home, Maurice is bumbling through working out what to do to help Louise, not sure whether he should be coming, going, helping or staying away and truth be told he’s not getting much in the way of consistent guidance from anyone else either so he does what Maurice does best and kind of trips aimlessly through helping.
Ralph: She wants you there!
Maurice: She told me not to go.
Ralph: You don’t understand women do you?
While Rebecca seeks out support from Nicola because James has upped, left and dumped her via text. What an ass. While it’s true that at times Joe’s diagnosis takes over this whole family, the way James treated Joe and Rebecca was always a bit off and I wonder if he’s going to come back to continue playing games with her…
Paul is an even bigger mess that Maurice as he struggles to cope without Allison and Joe. He takes Sophie, Mark and Mark’s friends to a gig and his over-protective babying of Mark is horrible to watch. Then when the gig goes well and they go back to Sophie and Mark’s place, it just gets more and more cringeworthy as Paul dances and flirts with Sophie before asking during a moment of silence if this is “where we kiss?”. His guilt and shame over this leads to him treating Allison like an ass when he and her swap over staying with Joe in Manchester.
Maurice’s awkward encounters with Louise continue in hilarious fashion as he gives her quite possibly the worst foot and leg massage she’s ever received followed by this exchange:
Maurice: I wasn’t going to make a move, that’s why I’m down this end with your feet!
Louise: I hope you’re not suggesting my feet aren’t sexually arousing.
Then most of the rest of the episode revolves around heart-to-hearts as Nicola and Vincent reach some kind of understanding; Allison and Maurice discuss Louise; Paul seeks out advice from Eddie (what?!) and there’s more back and forth between Maurice and Louise when she points out that he’s trying to save his late-wife by redeeming himself through helping her. It’s tense, it’s clumsy and it’s human.
When Joe returns for the weekend he does have a goat ready for him but he’s far more interested in the bike Vincent has made for him. So off they all go on a merry jaunt across the hills with goat in tow while Paul ignores all the advice Eddie gave him and decides to confess all to Allison.
Rebecca: I will teach you to ride the bike Joe.
Joe: I can ride the bike.
Rebecca: Well…you can fall off the bike, that isn’t the same as riding it.
Joe: Where’s James?
Rebecca: He’s gone.
Joe: Did he die?
Rebecca: No, he didn’t die. Not yet, I’ll have to find him first.
In a glorious scene of utter self-centredness, Paul not only behaves like he should get some kind of credit or accolade for telling Allison about what nearly happened but then manages to somehow shift the blame across onto Allison by bemoaning the fact that he felt more comfortable with Sophie than with Allison! Then it moves to being because Joe’s school’s so far away and then something else – Paul is incredibly unlikeable in this scene, more so than the rest of this series so far.
I’m almost dreading what’s coming next.