There’s such a strong working-class vibe to this show; it’s not explicit, but it’s a fundamental part of understanding some of the decisions Abbi and Ilana make. If the characters on Girls had to leave their apartments to set off a bug bomb, there would be a two-day bacchanal instead of failed jokes about the Holocaust and a series of Lemony Snicket–style unfortunate events.
Wouldn’t this building-wide bug bomb have been the perfect time for Abbi and Jeremy to spend a couple of days together? I know Abbi isn’t that smooth, but if she were just a skosh more confident she probably could have worked the situation into a shared hotel room at the very least. She’s going to spend the weekend at Ilana’s instead who, after a brief trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond (excellent callback), realizes she’s forgotten her keys and has inadvertently locked them out on the same night of Abbi’s first gallery show.
I liked that Abbi’s interest in art or ability as an artist isn’t explained. There’s no tiring academic discussion about her desires or comparing her struggles to her bohemian predecessors — homegirl just likes to paint burgers, you know? The girls try everything to get into the building; they avoid electrocution by using the wooden stick to poke the buzzer and see if anyone else will let them into the building and essentially throw themselves into a pile of garbage while attempting to use the fire escape, but eventually relent and call a super-porny and terrifying locksmith. He’s creepy enough that Ilana gives him a fake name and they break into the neighbors’ house instead of letting him know where they live, a joke that reaches its natural conclusion at the end of the show when he comes back at night calling the fake name and gets powerfully maced by the neighbors who also maced Abbi and Ilana.
Ilana, deep in reverie about a post-2042 world where everyone will be “caramel and queer,” had to jump through a series of hoops to prove that she really does live in the building (chopped-up bodies and farts heard through the wall), the premise being that New Yorkers don’t know their neighbors. I grew up in New York State and lived in the city for a while in my early 20s but have lived in several places since (seriously, my résumé looks like I’ve been on the run from the law), and I can tell you with authority that not knowing your neighbors isn’t specific to New York — no one knows their neighbors anywhere, because we all sort of silently agree that people are mostly garbage. The constant thrum of humanity is our inability to deal with other human beings, and somewhere along the way the social code caught up.
My favorite joke of the episode was when Abbi and Ilana became subway pariahs. It’s sort of inside-baseball, but if you ever see an empty subway car one of two things has happened: It is either legitimately haunted by a Slimer-style phantasm, or someone has shit their pants and stunk up the whole works. With their puffy, red mace faces, huge plastic bags full of Bed, Bath and Beyond goodies, and an increasingly disheveled appearance, Abbi and Ilana look homeless and smell awful; everyone bunches into the other half of the car and shoots them dirty looks, like their misfortune was specifically developed to ruin the day. It’s a very New York moment that floats by without so much as a comment, and was masterfully executed.
They take a detour to the Soulstice gym where Abbi works in an attempt to at least take a shower and change before the gallery opening, but when Abbi explains to Trey that her face looks like the burning-red inside of a lava rock because she’s been doing parkour, he makes her go outside and practice it, resulting in my favorite sequence of TV this year. Trey shouts out a series of parkour moves (“Show me a tic tac on the hydrant! Do a cat pass over the hood! Come down and do a spit roast!”) and no matter how many times I’ve seen this, when Abbi contorts and stretches her body in response I lose it completely. Ilana is too busy ingesting the splendor of the upscale bathroom to see any of it; it’s a sanctuary of incense sticks, free tampons, and Kiehl’s products, which she pumps into a plastic bag designed for wet swimsuits that explodes all over Abbi’s outfit for the night when Ilana jams it in her bag.
When Ilana finds out that the “gallery” is actually a vegan sandwich shop that becomes an art gallery after 8 p.m. when they ask everyone to put their computers away, she loses it. When Lincoln walks up and finds her talking to herself and eating bagels out of a garbage bag an employee just threw away, she cries and explains her day. At first I thought, Why didn’t they just call Lincoln first?, but then I remembered that Ilana only uses him for sex and probably doesn’t want to muddy the waters with favors and expectations, even though he clearly adores her and encourages her to do her “brain Kegels.”
Abby is dealing with her disappointment after an employee tells her none of the art ever sells, and Lincoln gives her a nice pep talk just in time for someone to buy one of her paintings! It turns out her art patron was Ilana, who bought the painting because it reminds her of her two favorite things (hamburgers and Abbi), and their friendship carries on unscathed.
- “Who would you rather go down on you — Michael Bublé or Janet Jackson?”
- “I’m one of the artists.”
“The sandwich artists?”
- “I’m not a perfect dentist — I eat candy all the time and have six cavities!”