Girls Recap: The Ballad of Bald Charlie

Girls - Season 1, Episode 4.
Photo: HBO

Alert the media! Some people of color have arrived! Finally Girls has begun to reflect the diversity of our glorious New York City … or, at least the diversity of its secretaries and nannies.

I guess it makes sense that the most likely venues in which these particular young women would encounter non-Caucasians would be in their work lives — after all, where else does anyone meet anyone new after college? I don’t see Hannah and Marnie as terribly interested in extracurricular activities. Jessa’s fellow nannies — who read like a Benneton ad, with one person of every stripe, including a redheaded dude — stare at her blankly as she naively talks about forming a union. They all roll their eyes when Jessa claims to be just like them, which is the correct response. Then they try to help her find her lost charges, because, no, she’s not just like them, she’s wildly unprofessional and irresponsible.

The women at Hannah’s new job, a literally touchy-feely law office, made me want to hide under my sofa. (Move over, dust bunnies.) These ladies, like our ladies, use their feminine wiles in order to get certain things taken care of. Unlike Jessa, who uses her “Brigitte Bardot face and Rhianna ass” simply to make herself feel better, the women in the office admit to letting Richard Masur fondle them for things large (health insurance) and small (iPod Nanos). I think their cinematic foremother might be Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Does the depiction of race complicate this? Yes, it does. Did I laugh at the eyebrows that Hannah’s co-worker gave her for the rest of the episode? Yes, I did. They made Hannah look like Lucille Ball on downers.

This episode was all about speaking the truth and not speaking the truth, and the vast, rocky space in between. Let’s review the top six moments of truth and see where they got our girls this week.

1. Adam sends Hannah a picture of his “semi-hard” penis cloaked in some kind of fur, quickly followed by another text: “SRY that wasn’t for you.” Despite the obvious insult, Hannah gives him so much credit that she actually thinks it can’t be meant for another girl, because that would be “too obvious.” (Though Marnie knows better — “You’re smarter than this, Hannah.”) The lies we tell ourselves can be so convincing. He doesn’t deserve a picture of your boobs, Hannah, not even a little bit.

2. Richard Masur, who looks more and more like Santa Claus with every passing year, fondles Hannah at her desk. She sits there awkwardly and says nothing. The great part of this scene is that it’s already super creepy when he touches her shoulders, so by the time he lays his wide, chubby palm right between Hannah’s breasts (“Open up the solar plexus, and now, just breathe”), we’re ready to go through the roof. I don’t think she’s long for this office. (On the other hand, congratulations, Richard Masur, you have just joined the all-star cast of our boss spinoff show with Chris Eigeman and Mike Birbiglia!)

3. When Shoshanna ran into Matt, a cute guy from her summer camp — the kind of enthusiastic guy who says things like, “You led the most intense kitchen raid I ever saw in my time as a counselor” — I got really excited for virginal Shoshanna. They both have such nice skin! Thick, shiny hair, and strong bone structure! It all seemed so promising. Alas. While I was off planning their enormous Jewish wedding, Matt refused to take Shoshanna’s virginity, which she admits at the very last minute, though he “loves to eat pussy, isn’t that weird?” (Because he’s the kind of guy who says that to get points.) Shoshanna claims that she’s “not an attached bleeder,” but Canoe Face isn’t into it. So close! Still, Shoshanna knows this guy isn’t worth it, but after a certain point, that doesn’t really matter. She needs this monkey off her back. This raises the question: Do you really have to tell the person you’re about to have sex with that you’re a late-stage virgin? The answer is no. If you want it gone, Shosh, just roll with it, and tell him later, if it lasts. If you are reading this and you’re a virgin, don’t listen to me. (But do.)

4. After admitting that she briefly lost her babysitting charges, Jessa says the saddest line of the whole episode. Speaking to James Le Gros, she recounts lies she told as a child, including, “My mom is this awesome mom, and we’re best friends.” Suddenly we more clearly understand her anger from the (non) abortion episode. Jessa wants to be a great mother, in contrast to her own shitty one. (Sidebar: Does it make me too much of a thirtysomething to want more closure with her pregnancy story line?) Also, now both James Le Gros and his recently rehabbed brother Horatio Sanz want to have sex with Jessa. This is clearly a problem she’s going to have for the rest of her life.

5. Hannah shows up at Adam’s door to confront him about the penis texts. Adam’s take on Hannah’s eyebrows: “You look like a Mexican teenager. It rules.” Hannah then launches into a lengthy and honest speech, in which she admits that she lets him treat her terribly. All she wants is “someone who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks she’s the best person in the world, and who wants to have sex with only me.” This is a serious moment for Hannah (she does the quivery lip thing again), but as the speech goes on, the camera gets closer and closer to Hannah’s face, which has the side effect of giving us a much better look at those eyebrows, which really are something — liner around the outside, powdery in the middle, four inches long. It’s like watching a sad lady clown’s most sincere moment. Her resolve wanes, Adam is moved by her honesty, and they do it, obviously. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think this is progress.

6. Obnoxious Ray wants to paw through the girls’ things while he and Poor Bald Charlie build a coffee table out of some garbage “in the style of [something Marnie] liked at Restoration Hardware.” He winds up on Hannah’s bed, reading her diary. Poor Bald Charlie valiantly wants to stop him, but Ray is suddenly engrossed, and then the boys are wrestling to get control of the diary, and uh-oh, this is not going anywhere good.

Later, Poor Bald Charlie and Ray’s band, Flushable Questionable Goods, are playing to a mostly empty room at a place called the Bushwick Inn. The band is even worse than it sounds, which is almost impossible, but not quite. Then Charlie breaks out the big gun: a new song, dedicated to Marnie and Hannah, the lyrics taken entirely from Hannah’s pilfered diary. As expected, the song is full of Hannah’s unfiltered thoughts on her friend’s relationship. (The words “What is Marnie thinking / she needs to know what’s out there” are the most generous in the whole song.) Even though some of these things — “How does it feel to date a man with a vagina?” — are very close to jokes Hannah has made to Marnie’s face, there is a difference in writing it down. Marnie throws her drink on Hannah. Maybe it’ll help wash off some of that eyebrow makeup.

What this show completely understands is how hard it is to stick up for yourself, and how we all grow into these slightly gnarled creatures to compensate for our weaknesses. Yes, Jessa is gorgeous and strong and confident, but it sounds like she had to become that way in order to take care of herself emotionally. Yes, Hannah likes to pretend that she’s easygoing and low-key, but really she wants to be treated well by the boy she likes. Yes, Marnie can be teased about Charlie’s smothering love, but when it’s out in the open, she’s hurt and angry. Honesty is very hard, both to give and receive. Every night out can’t end with a dancing scene, you know?

As for Bald Charlie (who has earned the right to lose the “poor” from his name), I can only cheer. Of course it was wrong of him to read Hannah’s diary, but goddamn it, the boy found a way to turn a moment of pain into song. A bad song, but a song nonetheless. That is called revenge, and the guy deserves it. Charlie, things are going to turn around for you! I can see it now: Marnie working overtime to win him back, the tables delightfully turned. There is some hot sex in your future.

Girls Recap: The Ballad of Bald Charlie