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Girls Recap: Home Sweet Home

This episode made me have a lot of Feelings. Feelings about what the word home means, Feelings about parents, Feelings about New York City. I would like to blame Judd Apatow, who co-wrote this episode. We’re a half-dozen episodes into the show and it seems an appropriate time to take a step back, a breather, and get the hell out of dodge. Time for Hannah to visit the family homestead in Michigan!

She arrives with all of her clothes in a giant black garbage bag, because obviously Hannah doesn’t own a suitcase. Hannah’s dad picks her up from the airport with a picture of bananas, for Hannah Banana. Such a (probably gay — Elijah, you are in my head) dad! They have “fun Netflix, and curried vegetables.” Girl, you’re in for a rough weekend.

I love that we get to see what Hannah left behind (in addition to her Goo Goo Dolls poster, which I don’t believe for one hot second), both physically and emotionally when she left for the city. The most telling object in Hannah’s all-pink childhood bedroom is a poster for Parker Posey’s Party Girl, which hangs on the ceiling over her bed. It all makes sense — teenage Hannah watches Parker eat falafel and take drugs and make out with handsome guys. New York City has never looked better. I’m only surprised that Hannah didn’t become a librarian.

Mom sends Hannah to pick up her hot flash medication at the pharmacy, but before she gets there, she visits Former Best Friend Hot Blonde Heather, who works at a coffee place and is wearing a beret and a scarf and a tank top. (It’s, like, French coffee.) Heather tells Hannah about a benefit that night for a missing girl from their high school who seems to have been abducted and murdered on a spring-break-style vacation, à la Natalee Holloway. Apatow and Dunham, you guys are a dream team. This episode is three clicks away from being a sequel to Drop Dead Gorgeous, so thick and wonderful are some of these bits of satire. Hannah looks like she wandered onto the set of Dawson’s Creek, with all these giant human cheekbones walking around. Is this what life is like in Michigan? Blondie wants to move to Hollywood to become a dancer and says, “I know enough to know that you don’t really have to know anybody,” and a sad wall goes up between Heather and Hannah, because even I can see the soft-core porn in this girl’s future.

I was waiting for the cute local boy, and here he is — Eric the pharmacist. He has dimples, cheekbones (obviously), and a hairdo like the poor man’s Waspy Tim Riggins. They flirt, and Hannah buys her mom’s pills, and then heads back to the car to sing along to some Jewel, which I really hope is on cassette tape. Eric then runs back to the car and offers her mom some personal lubricant, on the house, because the hot flesh medication can dry you up. Hannah doesn’t make nearly the weird face I would make in this situation. In any case, they set up a hot date for the missing girl’s benefit and Hannah bails on her parents’ anniversary dinner.

In the pregame pep talk Hannah gives herself, she says that “the worst stuff that you say sounds better than the best stuff that other people say,” because she’s from New York, and they are not. This both makes sense to me and doesn’t — after all, Hannah isn’t from New York, she’s from Michigan. How quickly does New York City enter the bloodstream? I’m not sure. It left me wanting to see her interact with more people from home who make her remember things she actually likes about Michigan, as opposed to just highlighting the differences between them. But, then again, that doesn’t sound funny, that sounds like the plot of Hope Floats (which I loved, because Harry Connick Jr. should star in everything). I suppose that for Hannah, the choice to move to New York is enough of a marker of her specialness, of how different she is than the people she grew up around.

As a native New Yorker, this argument doesn’t hold much water for me, because the people who move to Brooklyn from Points Unknown always seem to, you know, end up making sculptures inspired by the landscapes of their native South Dakota, or whatever. From the beginning, I thought this was one of the potential flaws of the show — getting the audience to believe that Hannah and her friends weren’t actual New Yorkers, but I guess that speaks to relatability, and notions of privilege, and if Hannah and company were all from New York then we wouldn’t have this amazing episode, so let’s just listen to some John Mayer and move along. What’s important here is that Hannah has drunk the Kool-aid and no longer associates with these people. My husband is from Florida and literally has a mental breakdown every time we visit. I’m familiar with this problem.

They arrive at Heather’s dance, which is basically “I’m a Slave 4 U”–era Britney Spears moves, set to Keri Hilson. Because it’s a benefit for a girl named Carrie. Tasteful! Hannah’s face watching this is amazing. Then Hannah and Eric have a stilted conversation in the car, and then go home and have a herky-jerky conversation in bed, and then some awkward sex. This is not the man of Hannah’s dreams. She is way overdoing it (she tries to stick her finger up his butt as soon as their clothes are off) and he is grossed out, and I’m willing to bet that they both want it to be over as quickly as possible.

At their anniversary dinner, Hannah’s dad makes Hannah’s mom crack up doing an impression of Woody Allen. Hannah’s mom, who we haven’t seen since the pilot, comes off as less of a cow and more of an actual human, something I’m really glad for. They have a weird conversation about not being able to be the way you really want to be and all I can think about is Elijah telling Hannah that her father is gay.

But wait, whoa! Cut to Hannah’s parents having shower sex. In a move that seems in keeping with dear Elijah’s statement, Hannah’s dad flips her mom toward the wall and starts having sex with her from behind. I am really into this equal-opportunity nudity, I must say. Boys, girls, young, old. We all have bodies! This episode is basically an advertisement for Our Bodies, Ourselves. Then Hannah’s dad falls out of the tub. For a moment, I wonder if he’s dead.

He’s not. Hannah comes home and helps her naked dad (“that is fully your wet butt”) back into bed. Hannah handles this better than I would. Then she and her mom have a sweet conversation in the hall, where mom offers her the opening to ask for rent and to admit that she lost her job, but Hannah clearly wants to feel grown-up, and capable, and so she doesn’t take it. Pride.

That night, Adam finally calls, after Hannah has been calling him and hanging up. (Hello, this is not something we can do with iPhones. One of the sad things about being a teenager nowadays has got to be not being able to call boys you like and hang up.) Hannah admits that she’s had sex with the pharmacist, but the most salient detail seems to be that his apartment was cheap and enormous. Poor sweet Eric himself has barely left a dent in Hannah’s subconscious.

I’d like to close with one final question. How is it possible, that after an episode with so many cringe-inducing story lines (missing girl, dad’s penis), that my biggest cringe came from Hannah’s softening toward Adam, the great shirtless bohunk? He says “I wish you were here right now” and it actually sounded like birds started chirping in a heart-shaped formation over her head. I recently saw a photo of the actor on this very site, and it took me several moments to recognize him because he was wearing clothing on the upper half of his body. Hannah wanders outside to talk to him on the phone, drawing her foot in the grass like a John Hughes heroine. I could watch a whole season of Hannah at home. She does slip up, while talking to Adam, and call it that — home. It’s okay to be from where you’re from, Hannah. We all know you’re going places. But everyone needs somewhere to start from.

Photo: Jojo Whilden/HBO