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'Girls' Recap: It's All Material

Jessa's employer tries to woo her back while Hannah and Marnie have the fight to end all fights

Jemima Kirke and Lena Dunham in 'Girls.'
Jojo Whilden
June 10, 2012 11:05 PM ET

Marnie and Hannah get into a knock-down, drag-out fight at the end of this week's episode, the crux of which seemed to be which of them is the most psychically damaged. "I am not the Wound," Hannah yells. "You are the Wound." Oh, ladies, can't we all be the Wound? The pair hurls insults and toothbrushes at each other until Marnie delivers the coup de grâce of neurotic impairment: the fact that an adolescent Hannah had to "masturbate eight times a night to stave off diseases of the mind and body." Jesus. That's the thing about fighting with the people who truly know and love you – they know exactly how to destroy you.

On a semirelated note, I just have to say that the way this show establishes important plot points (that whole cervix scraping thing, Jessa's bathroom miscarriage) and then never addresses them again makes me lose my ever-loving mind, as you have undoubtedly gleaned from every one of my recaps so far. Fortunately, the show's excellent individual scenes temper my blind rage over the wonky narrative. This week's episode was brimming with bright, bitingly witty scenes that made me hoot out loud in excitement; I just wish I knew how to tell who or what is going to be important enough to inspire a storyline that lasts longer than an episode. Until that time, it's those individual scenes that make this series worth watching.

For example, there was the to-die-for passive-aggressive carnage between Hannah and her college rival Tally (a fantastic Jenny Slate) at Tally's book release party. Hannah fumes just thinking about all the excellent material Tally has lucked into for her literary debut, what with her boyfriend committing suicide and all. "Your boyfriend should kill himself. You deserve it," Marnie reassures her. Shades of Lara Flynn Boyle in Happiness aside, both Tally and Hannah are so awful in this scene, you have to give into the dark glee at their glib venom. "Do you have an agent?" Tally asks condescendingly. "I don't have an agent," Hannah retorts. "I have a boyfriend. He's alive." Laughs Tally, "Let's hope he's hetero! " Their icy banter culminates with Hannah spitting an hors d'oeuvre into her palm. "It's cold and doesn't taste good," she shrugs. Everything about this scene is dreamy.

Luckily, Hannah's college writing professor Paul Goldman (Michael Imperioli) happens to be there to verbally confirm her green-eyed loathing. "Tally is a shitty writer, and you're a good writer," he reassures her, before inviting her to give a reading. Did anyone else feel confused as why they were treating this reading like it was some profoundly important event? "I know it's a good thing to do, but it's not a very me thing to do," Hannah demurs, though she eventually accepting his invitation. Back at home, Adam flat-out refuses to attend. "Readings are bullshit. They have those little crackers that look like cookies but they're crackers. There's no meat," he grumbles, cranking out shirtless sit-ups on Hannah's rug, which, by the way, should be immediately thrown away, given all the bodily fluids soaked into it.

After she decides to read an essay about a hoarder ex-boyfriend, Ray convinces Hannah that her writing would be meaningful if only she tackled the subject of death, which begs the question: who's taking advice from Ray? That clod read your journal and turned your best friend against you like two weeks ago! But take his advice Hannah does, and pens an essay about a fictional dead Internet boyfriend named Igor. The snippet we hear from another writer's story at the reading might be my favorite lines of the series: "Maybe everyone in this town is just looking for a bathroom, Eli thought. Maybe everyone in this whole damn world is." God, that's on point. After her "serious" piece bombs, Professor Goldman dresses Hannah down for churning out some piece of crap just to seem deep. Oh jeez, please don't make this male character into yet another horrible sex goblin. "He's the kind of guy I've always pictured you with," Marnie tells Hannah. What? A 50-year-old professor from the Midwest? I mean, age ain't nothing but a number, and I guess technically geography is also just a matter of numbers, but not every man on this show has to be a potential sexual partner! Or be insane! Or both!

Oh, speaking of insanity, it turns out Shoshanna is alive and well and still trying to get laid. "The paragraph I read in Tally's book really made me think," she says, before revealing her plan to try online dating. She's already got her eye on a visibly Jewish hottie named Bryce who, based on his profile, seems like a perfect match for her. Since there's only one episode left in the season, I'm pretty sure we're going to see Shosh become a woman. Or at least try with humiliating consequences.

At their apartment Jessa gets a surprise visit from Katherine, who not only knows about Jeff's attempted infidelity at that warehouse party, but has worked through her issues and wants Jessa to return as her kids' nanny. If only it weren't for those explicit cannibalistic dreams she's been having about Jessa! "I'm eating you," Katherine explains. "Then I shit you out, but not all of you, so I think I'm still holding onto some anger." Jessa declines the job offer, which Katherine understands. Before she goes, however, she offers Jessa some unsolicited advice about her tendency to find herself between gross husbands and their unreasonably reasonable wives. "You do it to distract yourself from becoming the person you're meant to be," Katherine opines. "She might really be serious about something or someone, and she might be a lot happier than you are right now." Okay, fair . . . but also your husband was actively trying to bone her. If I haven't said it before, Kathryn Hahn was perfect casting for this role; she's one of few actors who could deliver those lines and have it come off as neither condescending nor cruel. Well, just a little bit of both.

In the end, the decision whether or not to do a reading isn't Hannah's only problem (or . . . a problem at all? Right?). While she was snuggled up in her matching thermal jam-jams with Adam, it turns out Marnie has been paying her rent. "Hannah, I support you. Literally," she grouses. First of all, zing. Second of all, thank you! That's all I needed! "I pay all the bills in this apartment. Does this not give me one night off from talking about your problems?," Marnie snaps in the face of Hannah's latest crisis.

Thus begins Hannah and Marnie's fight, a blistering argument born of passive aggression, obtuseness and rage that only real friends can have. This fight was just gem after hard, hilarious gem. "I have a lot of friends from preschool. I'm just not talking to them right now," Hannah protests. The character's blind spots are vividly drawn: Marnie can't bring herself to demand Hannah grow up and pull her own weight; Hannah doesn't understand why having a friend pay your bills might be a source of debilitating shame. I don't know why she doesn't know that, but their feud manages to prod every vulnerable spot in their relationship except for the one that matters. "I don't really give a shit about being a good friend right now. I have bigger concerns," Hannah concludes. Oh really, like HOW YOU WILL LIVE WITHOUT MONEY after Marnie kicks you out on the street? Your likely-minimum-wage new gig serving coffee won't pay the bills, I'm afraid. What should be important to Hannah, anyway? Being able to pay her bills so Marnie isn't driven to stuff her dead body down the trash chute, or unearthing her true artist voice? The answer is so obviously both that it's painful to watch Hannah misunderstand around the question. At one point she tells Adam that she wants to get someplace new with her writing. "Someplace new? Where do you want to be?," he responds. Hannah definitely has the creative restlessness; she just hasn't learned that you can't indulge it over every other responsibility. Okay, you can, but not if you want to maintain human relationships. And avoid sleeping in the park.

Previously: True Romance

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