'Girls' Recap: Crossing the Line

Hannah and Jessa unsuccessfully navigate the waters of appropriate public conduct

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Jojo Whilden
Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, Allison Williams on 'Girls.'
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There's a scene at the end of this week's episode of Girls where Hannah finds herself on the business end of a speculum, having figured out the particular level of sexual hygiene practiced by her truly awful fuck buddy Adam (Level: zero). "I was wondering about the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms?" Hannah inquires as she squirms in her hospital gown. The OB/GYN squints at her, befuddled. "You mean... the semen?," the doctor asks. "I mean all of it," Hannah replies solemnly.

The second ep is devoted almost entirely to the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms (and the consequences thereof), but you get the feeling it really should have been more about Jessa. Boy, what is up with that continental drifter? Having announced her pregnancy in the pilot, the gang rallies around their newly repatriated friend as she makes an appointment for an abortion. In response, Jessa grows prickly and quick to a fight. "I'm not the ladies!" she insists when Shoshanna offers advice from her most recent dating book Listen, Ladies. When Hannah tries to gently probe Jessa's flinty exterior for feelings of sadness, Jessa dodges and weaves. "If I wanted to go on dates, I would, but I don't because they're for lesbians," she rages, before eventually declaring, "I want to have children with many different men of different races." Sure, girl, but you gotta give the audience an in somewhere! All of Jessa's quirks could be traced back to her role as the ombre-haired free-spirit, until she... um... well, she blows off her own abortion. "These things never start on time," Jessa reasons as she sits in a random bar. "I'll have a White Russian." So... is Jessa is the Kramer? I don't know why I say that. Forget I said anything!

While on her way to the clinic to provide moral support and get her own STD test, Hannah pops in for a job interview conducted by the excellent Mike Birbiglia. Things are going so well, Hannah even slips in a clever jab about the high rate of date rape at Syracuse University, her interviewer's alma mater. "Which, weirdly, went way down the year that you graduated," she laughs. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the interview is immediately over. The moment that Hannah realizes she went way, way too far in jest is perfect and awful and jarring. Unfortunately, it ultimately can't cut too deep, since Hannah is completely without a sense of panic about her joblessness. Despite all odds, she remains somehow unflappable about her dire financial situation. I'm hoping this means there is delectable bottoming out in Hannah's future, one that will require even more awfulness on her part than stealing the maid's tip. What about the life that gets up around the side of condoms, girl? What about that stuff?

Back at the ranch, Marnie's sweet confused boyfriend Charlie is already a dead man walking, though only Hannah can tell. "He's so busy respecting me that he looks right past me and everything I need from him," Marnie sighs. Hoo boy. Lacking control over the nuts she's allowed lick, Marnie instead takes over Jessa's plans to terminate her fetus. "There is seriously nothing flakier in this world than being late to your own abortion," Marnie rants, pacing the clinic waiting room while Jessa dawdles with a handsome stranger in the bar bathroom. "You're a really good friend and you threw a really great abortion," Hannah reassures her. With abortion temporarily off the table, the topic turns to Hannah's "Forrest Gump-based fear" of HIV (One of her Google searches: "diseases that come from no condom for one second"). "It's not that easy to get," Marnie scoffs, which leads to my favorite exchange of the episode:

Shoshanna: It's really not that hard to contract either, though. Haven't you seen Rent?
Marnie: Please, I've seen it 12 times. It's basically why I moved to New York.

As horrible as this is going to sound, as someone who grew up in the Midwest... this shit is real. I think my understanding of New York was formed entirely by the completely decontexualized Rent soundtrack, Home Alone 2 and Gargoyles. In a bright, shame-filled moment, Shoshanna reveals that she's an almost 22-year-old virgin, which at least explains why she thought Hannah's STD might be "fun." As she whispers hesitantly, "I mean, just that you get to have sex and then have a test about it?"

And then it turns out Jessa isn't pregnant after all! Hooray! Or maybe she had a miscarriage while getting fingered next to a toilet? It's sort of unclear, not to mention a complete deus ex machina, allowing the show to sidestep an actual abortion scene. "Oh god," Jessa's hook-up winces after seeing the blood on his hands. The look of relief on Jessa's face does more for our understanding of her character's inner workings than all of her previous lines combined. Speaking of inner workings (nailed it!), we finally find ourselves with Hannah as she clambers up into the stirrups. Left to fill the silence, Hannah's thought process over her impending test goes a little something like this:

"The thing is that, these days if you are diagnosed with AIDS, it's actually not a death sentence. There are so many good drugs and people live a long time. Also, if you have AIDS, there's a lot of stuff people aren't going to bother you about. Like, for example, no one is going to call you on the phone and say 'Did you get a job?' or 'Did you paid your rent?,' or 'Are you taking an HMTL course yet?' because all they're going to say is 'Congratulations on not being dead.' You know, it's also a really good excuse to be mad at a guy. It's not just something dumb like, 'You didn't text me back,' it's like 'You gave me AIDS. So deal with that. Forever.' Maybe I'm actually not scared of AIDS. Maybe I thought I was scared of AIDS, but really what I am is... wanting AIDS."

Yikes. "That is an incredibly silly thing to say," the doctor chides Hannah calmly. Too calmly. After a monologue of that length and insanity, I think it's natural for the viewer to expect Hannah's flippant attitude to be met with some kind of searing revelation, rather than be batted away by the real world like a piece of fluff or, worse, a reasonable statement. Because it's neither: it's a glimpse at the very true, very self-absorbed monologue we all have running our heads all the time. "What if I was cut in half saving a kid from the train?," we might wonder to ourselves on the platform. "I bet that'd make everyone feel like a real asshole about seeing The Cabin In the Woods without me." As she fidgets on the exam table, Hannah claims that she wants to know about "the material," but really she just wants to confirm her own blissfully dark, pre-existing view of the world. We cringe because Hannah has exposed the humiliatingly narcissistic inner workings of her brain; it undercuts the cringe if no one really reacts to it.

At the end, I was reminded of the Louie episode "Dentist/Tarese," in which he follows an African-American woman home on the subway in an attempt to woo her, thinking he's making a grand gesture about the nature of desire and race and society when in fact he is just being a fucking creep, yammering to himself despite the woman's expressed disinterest. "Suck a dick, son," she finally interrupts, bringing his soliloquy to a grinding halt, even if for a moment. Similarly, it seems like there should start to be some narrative consequence in Girls for the characters unleashing the worst of their worst into the world. Or at least, it would be funny if there was.

Previously: Am I Right, Ladies?

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