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Girls Recap: Going Up the Country

Girls proffered up another “bottle episode” last night. This time — instead of a Greenpoint brownstone—  Hannah ends up in a bucolic farmhouse upstate.

In the meantime, we learn all about Jessa’s sad home life, her irresponsible parents, and why “friend cushion” is not to be listed under Relevant Work Experience on Hannah’s résumé.

Housekeeping for Hippies
“We’re not in New York City, there is no third rail,” Jessa tells Hannah. If only she were right. Our resident bohemian forgets, of course, the third rail running through every adult woman’s life — daddy! She’s not wrong, however, about slacker laws regarding public urination in a land better known for grassy knolls than curbside medians. (As to her vampire-y take on vaginal care, I can’t say — I will, however, take the liberty of pointing out the portrait Jemima painted of Lena when the subject’s vagina was being ravaged by a UTI.)

Not unlike the English aristocracy, heroin addicts tend to be burdened with the eccentricities wrought by a lifetime pursuing pleasure. Jessa’s father fits the bill and is what we might call artistically inclined — selfish, irresponsible, slightly odd, prone to interesting fashion choices (zip-off hiking pants), paranoid (Camry drivers), lacking in technological savviness (one could, you know, delete the information off those Apple hardrives), selective memory (the steak-chewing incident), errant paternal figure (to hell with Suri, one thinks only of Lemon now, sperm casualty par excellence!), and, well, magnetic.

It’s hippy-dippy, well-meaning Petula, rather than Jessa’s father, who skips the jokes and asks about Jessa’s failed marriage. Petula’s the first to acknowledge that an impromptu Johansson family weekend might call for Hannah to act as a social buffer. (As in Pulp Fiction, Rosanna Arquette plays the druggie’s lover with a voice of reason.) But Jessa’s a tough audience. Petula’s insistence that her “father’s changed a lot” does not suffice to change the past for his daughter. He doesn’t make it any easier, since his track record in the present fails to deviate from the norm. Not only is he late to pick them up at the train station, he refuses to cancel their late-night lecture plans.

He’s an easy target for our dislike, but Jessa isn’t. She might be dismissive of Petula, but it comes from a place of distrust. We understand it was Thomas John, not Jessa — as I assumed all along — who pulled the plug on their marriage. “It was like he didn’t even remember we took vows,” she tells her father.

By the end of the episode, she might as well angle the same critique at him: it’s like he doesn’t even remember he’s her father.

Riding in Cars With Boys; or, the Divine Devirgination Project No. 2
Life “is all one big simulation,” Petula tells Hannah. Before we know it, Hannah’s zeroed in on the only living, single male for five miles as if he were a triple mushroom on Mario Kart. (My boyfriend figure stepped out, and this is what happened when I googled video-game metaphors. Sorry.) Actually, Hannah spends her entire life wildly collecting mushrooms, the speed boost from which fails to do more than propel her into speed-bumps.

It’s not like Hannah’s unaware of her judgment issues, having told Jessa that morning, “I can never tell if guys are attractive in a loserly way or just losers.” Frank’s a weird nineties throwback dope, and his friend might well be mentally deficient, but they’re funny losers and I totally loved them. It’s possible Hannah — when she allows him to deflower himself on top of her — was remembering Jessa’s own black pearl of wisdom (that Penthouse really got the girls thinking): “It’s the most noble thing a girl could do, help a boy become a man,” Jessa announces majestically. There’s nothing noble about fucking a scared 19-year-old, nor getting spermed in your thigh crease. But — as I promise to never, ever say it again — Hannah is Hannah.

While the writer was working out a new definition for woodsy, Jessa seemed to have an, if not intimate, then honest moment with her not-paramour:

“So you say you were in total free fall?”
“Everything was stripped away from me, and I was one big festering sore.”

The 19-year-old poet kills the buzz, as they are wont to do: “Ew, that’s sort of gross.” To which Jessa, always game, responds, “Do the guys on your team suck each other off?” Ah, romance, so short lived. Better not lived, if you’re Hannah, who is — hilariously — under the impression that she was merely playing her part in the group sexscapade. Which is funny, too, because she’s been so uptight the whole trip, from its chauffeur to the dinner menu (and probably about the huffing, too — and since I’ve already done one hyperlink tonight, if you plan on using whip-its at home).

+5 “I feel like I’m in freaking Hocus Pocus and Thora Birch is going to show up in a little hat.”

Confrontation Nation; or, “I wasn’t waiting here for you, this is where I sit and drink lemonade.”
“Virgins get attached or they bleed,” a wise camp counselor once told Shoshanna. Frank, no exception to the rule, seeks some closure with Hannah the morning after. “I just feel you used me. For s-ex,” he stutters. Hannah unwittingly finds herself having misplayed her hand as a sex spirit guide. She might have, in this moment, been able to help him become a man — except he admits, sort of, he’s gay for Tyler (after he “admits” to having lost his virginity to Rihanna). Hannah doesn’t even flinch. I felt a sharp mourning pang for the first gay guy she slept with.

Jessa is disgusted to hear her father malign his rural retreat: “I thought I would enjoy moving to the country, it’s bo-ring.” It’s not quite as exasperated as Hannah’s, “I thought this was fully a sexscapade,” but doubly painful and not at all funny. Divorced, unemployed, and emotionally adrift, Jessa wants to play the child (for once):

“Think I can rely on you?”
“You shouldn’t have to. I’m the child! I’m the child.”

Like a child — and worse, like her father — Jessa runs away at the end of the episode, without warning.

It’s a Mad World Full of Bad Dads, and Rad Dads Too
“Don’t talk about our parents like they’re the same kind of parents,” Jessa admonishes Hannah in bed. Waiting for her train, alone, it’s clear Hannah’s taken the advice to heart. She calls her parents to thank them for not being like Jessa’s dad, or tries to anyway. As parent-child relationships go, even the simplest exchange can go awry. So Hannah barks at her dad for speaking too loudly, and her mother thinks she wants something:

“We’re not people; we’re just need fulfillers.”

She’s right! Hannah should “feel like there’s a hammock under the Earth that’s protecting” her, even if the branches supporting said hammock might wish, on occasion, that the pruner might swing by.

Photo: Jessica Miglio /HBO