Girls Recap: Play With Me

Photo: Mark Schafer/HBO
Episode Title
Role Play
Editor’s Rating

I’ve often been worried about how much the last several seasons of Girls seem to be responding to the show’s critics, an impulse that’s given us a series of underdeveloped and short-lived characters of color and the sharp turn into romantic comedy that ended the previous season. But the climax of last night’s episode seemed like a riff on Elaine Blair’s analysis of the first season’s sex scenes between Adam and Hannah, which were full of filthy fantasies. “The writer,” Blair noted, “is the one busily jotting in her notebook while other people are having orgasms.”

Concerned that her sex life with Adam was waning — she complained to Elijah that Adam was “treating me like an ottoman with a vagina” — Hannah decided to pull together an elaborate fantasy scenario, complete with a wig, a fake vodka cocktail, and some very complex underthings. Adam tried to be game, but things kept going dramatically wrong. On the street, Hannah couldn’t get out of her character as a financier’s bored wife who’d gone out to pick up something strange, and got Adam punched for it. Once they were in bed in Marnie’s apartment, Hannah changed the scenario, throwing Adam out of sync. It probably didn’t help that the fantasy Hannah switched was a little closer to reality than might have been optimal: “I usually fuck football players, but now I’m fucking the school weirdo,” she told Adam, mid-sex.

The explosion that resulted got at the core of the differences that made it hard for them to get together and stay together in the first place (as well as the dark scenario spun out for Hannah by Patti LuPone).

“Jesus, Hannah, the second I come I have no idea what the fuck I just said. But you are outside yourself. You are outside your body just watching everything,” Adam told Hannah, frustrated. “You have an old idea of who I am. Sex was the thing that kept me from drinking ... Then, we fell in love, and then I just wanted to have sex with just you, as us, just fuck and be sweet or whatever … You think I’m some angry fucking sociopath who wants to meet older women in bars and intimidate them into fucking me. Because I can do that, but I have a job to do now, and I’m trying to focus, and I’m not here to fucking fill your life up with stories for your fucking Twitter.”

Adam’s being cruel out of anger and confusion — it’s a lot for your girlfriend to suddenly say she’s dissatisfied with your sex life — but that doesn’t mean his assessment of Hannah is entirely unfair. Hannah is a confessional writer. It’s in her nature to have pursued this particular path — as Shoshanna put it during their ill-fated beach trip, “I have never met anyone else who thinks their own life is so fucking fascinating.” But Hannah also writes about her life because that’s what the people who will pay her have wanted from her. Her humiliation and her sex life and her willingness to do anything have been what the New York literary and publishing worlds have told Hannah they find valuable about her.

Adam, by contrast, has had a much easier path to work that demands far less of him, and I don’t mean that in terms of his time or energy. He’s been supported by his grandmother, who gave him actual money, and then by Hannah, who effectively subsidized his rent. And on his first real try, Adam landed what is, effectively, a dream job, doing uncompromising art for an enormous and prestigious audience.

Hannah may be a more difficult person than Adam is, less able to detach her body from the whirling clockwork of her brain. But that’s not exactly, or at least not entirely, the reason her road to the same sort of artistic independence that Adam’s achieved so easily is proving harder than his is. What people want from Adam, for him to be handsome, and dark, and a little weird and a lot intense, costs him very little. But what the professional world wants from Hannah, for her to repurpose her entire life into a monetizable story, and to do it before she gets old enough for her antics to be pathetic and unmarketable, costs quite a lot.

It’s easier for some people to figure out what they want, to be untroubled by the places their brains go, to walk out the door and go stay at Ray’s apartment for a while. But that it’s not easy for Hannah to sort through what everyone else wants from her and what she actually desires doesn’t make her bad, or dumb, or a narcissist. It just makes her young.

Dealbreaker Index

Shoshanna’s Intervention Style: Turning an addict over from one extremely intense personality to another is an action more suited to Shosh’s desire to fix someone and to be an active participant in the drama around her than any actual therapeutic regimen. And telling your obviously jonesing cousin “you look like a junkie” sounds more like being deliberately mean, even if it does prompt Jessa to finally admit what she was incapable of even considering at the beginning of the season: “I am a junkie.”

Jessa’s Plans for the Future of News: Although I have to say, I want to see who would jump all over themselves to fund a publication “that told the truth once in a while, just what happened around the newspaper, who died, who started a garden. And there would be no photographs, just drawings. And it would be called The Daily Truth.” If Tim Armstrong hadn’t already had his adventure with the local news business in Patch, I’d say he would be a leading contender.

Marnie’s Beanie: If Soo Jin’s for it, taste-wise, I’m against it.

Hannah’s Alcohol Tolerance: Everyone needs to have at least one awful night out in their mid-20s when they realize that their body isn’t processing alcohol the same way it used to. Let’s hope throwing up and collapsing on the street, getting hosed down by Joe, and then finding out Adam wasn’t actually worried about her does it for Hannah. Knowing her, it’ll take a few more misadventures, but I hold out hope.