Girls Recap: A Puzzle With No Possible Solution


Season 4 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 2 stars


Season 4 Episode 5
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Don’t ever Google your boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Photo: HBO

It’s hard to stick with this show. The relatability or likability of these characters have little to do with it; plenty of shows star horrible characters that hold our attention week in and week out, mainly because they’re either so terrible it comes back around to awe (see: Breaking Bad) or, better, that they give us enough hope for their eventual absolution (see: Dexter). But as the possibility of redemption for these Girls ebbs and flows, I’m reminded of an exchange in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games YA series, in which the antagonist, dictator President Snow, explains to his head game-maker how to successfully maintain power.

SNOW: Why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four of them at random and execute them all at once? It would be a lot faster.


SNOW: Hope.

CRANE: Hope?

SNOW: Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.



This week’s episode, “Sit-In,” is the Girls equivalent of that mass execution: It leaves me bereft of hope and therefore with nothing to live for when it comes to watching this show. These women’s never-ending, endlessly back-stepping saga has me doubting if I even care whether any of them or their kin will get it together. Save a redeemingly honest conclusion, there’s practically nothing to hold on to, and thus little, except for a recapper’s masochism, to keep me onboard.

We return where we left off last week, with the entire universe screeching to a halt when Hannah comes “home” to find Adam — with whom she has not communicated in a month now — has not only not built a shrine to his absent girlfriend, but he’s actually moved on. The myriad belongings Hannah left behind in their apartment are now in a Fort Greene storage unit, and Adam has shacked up with “a woman’s name and a man’s name with a flower stuck in the middle” (known to the rest of the world as an actress named Mimi-Rose Howard).

Like ignoring a parking ticket for months on end, then being jerked back into reality when you receive a court summons, or putting off backing up your hard drive and then spilling water all over your keyboard, Hannah and Adam avoided any semblance of honest communication before she spirited away to fulfill her creative destiny. Out of fear of rejection or pride — neither wanted to admit how hard it had been, nor how much harder they would actually have to work to stay together long-distance — they made no plans, shared none of their feelings about separating. For Hannah, this translated to a peaceful assumption that the two were soul mates and therefore could sustain their relationship with utterly zero effort. For Adam, of course, this meant abandonment — Hannah had chosen to seek happiness outside of their relationship. This being the only information he had to go on, he naturally built his life back up to the best of his abilities. We know he’s always been terrible at relationships, but given his nature, Hannah should’ve seen this coming as clearly as we did.

“Hannah, I want you to understand, this isn’t about you,” he tells her as she spirals into her vortex of self-righteousness and rage. (It’s easy and satisfying to be angry at the MTA for demanding your presence in court if you’ve been acting as though the ticket never existed in the first place.) She stares at him for a moment like he’s just slapped her in the face. The thought of Adam doing anything that’s not about her, especially after the past few months of “personal attacks” she’s experienced from her classmates, is incomprehensible; by her reaction, he might as well have ripped into her full-throttle, à la Shosh’s disaster interview last week.

Over the course of the next few hours, a Mitch Albom parable unfolds — let’s call it The Six People You Meet in Your Delusional Emotional Breakdown — as Hannah’s friends each do their best to extricate her, from Adam’s life and her flannel cocoon of indignant self-pity alike. Shoshanna arrives first, to help her Google this Mimi-Rose person, only to immediately regret the decision when they find her sickeningly sweet Moth Radio Hour video about true love; next, Jessa carelessly delivers her signature sociopathic #realtalk — remember, she was the one who set up Adam and “MRH,” without thinking to mention it to Hannah during their Skype chats — to stunningly positive effect (just kidding, they whale on each other, call each other bitches, and then Jessa gives up). Hannah wraps that disgusting blanket tighter around her head.

The problem, of course, isn’t just that Adam has started schtupping a sculpture BFA and tore down the wall between the bedrooms, like they’d always planned to do together. It’s that for once, in choosing to move to Iowa, Hannah believed that by doing the right thing — following her own, independent path — she could have it all. She’s panicking now — once she’s decided the right thing is too hard — that she can neither reverse that choice nor reverse everyone else’s lives back to the time when, as far as she probably remembers it, she was the center of their collective universe. Jessa may be a disturbingly insensitive, adult-size enfant terrible, but she’s not wrong to throw up her hands and say, “You said you were leaving for two years — what were we supposed to do, sit around flicking our clits until you got back?” The world revolves without Hannah — and now both Iowa and Brooklyn are functioning without her.

Marnie, meanwhile, isn’t even picking up her phone — she’s too busy boning her new trophy, the Slimiest, Dirtbaggiest Coldplay Motherfucker Alive. Hannah leaves her a voice mail that night, outraged that she would not be immediately available to rescue her from herself.

“Probably no one else in America has had to piss worse than me,” she hisses into her speakerphone, as though this is Marnie’s fault.

Having established her individualistic superiority in this one thing — no one else in America — she gets out of bed to pee in the trash can.

A moment later, she hears voices in the living room and emerges to find Caroline and Laird and all their votive candles have made themselves comfortable for the night. Caroline, muumuu’d and pregnant, does her backhanded-compliment thing, telling Hannah that Adam is “really at his best when he’s nurturing the poor, or the lost, or the profoundly damaged, which is why you were so perfect for him.” She and Laird crush her and let her know that, should she need it, they’re willing to offer a threesome. Right now, these seem to be the most sympathetic, if profoundly uncomfortable, relationships Hannah has — and even they end up shutting her out, making out aggressively mid-group hug.

The next morning, Hannah awakens to find that Ray has inexplicably become the fifth volunteer in the Get Hannah Out of Adam’s Apartment Brigade and is cooking bacon. Ray seems just as miserable as she is and ready to validate her wild overreaction, so she unloads:

HANNAH: This whole thing feels like a puzzle with no possible solution, like a Rubik’s cube.

RAY: Those actually do have solutions.

HANNAH: Well, yeah, if you take all the stickers off and re-stick them.

This, of course, is yet one more metaphor for Hannah’s miserable life — as is the foul-odor expression that comes over her face the second Ray brings his own problems into the mix. (His neurotic obsession with a traffic jam evokes more sympathy than Hannah’s major existential meltdown. This must be apparent to Hannah, because she suddenly screams and announces that she’s burned herself. As Ray searches the apartment for a first aid kit, Hannah stands there helplessly, looking like her self-pity might actually induce vomiting.

After Ray wraps Hannah’s wound (badly, as Adam notes later), he does something that only the oldest character on this show seems able to do: He stops talking about his problem and tells her he’s sincerely sorry about what she’s going through and to remember that she “doesn’t deserve this.” Maybe not the healthiest advice to give a histrionic narcissist in crisis, but it’s the kindest.

Hannah goes back to hate-watching Mimi-Rose’s emo TED talk, hilariously duct-taped and gloved hand held at shoulder height, and you can almost see her teeth grinding. It turns out MRH is everything Hannah isn’t: emotionally articulate, comfortably charming in a group, absurdly wholesome — and worst of all, she’s better at writing.

Finally, Marnie shows up, laden with Chinese food and excuses about “woodshedding” (she says it means turning off technology, but if that’s not a gross euphemism for undignified sex, there never was one) with her new boyfriend James Blunt. Hannah furiously insists she has to take a shower and charges into the bathroom, slamming the door and turning on the water —  and then sitting on the toilet to finish Mimi-Rose’s video. Marnie, however, knows the fake-shower routine well and walks in on her to tell her to let Adam go. It’s rich that Marnie finds herself qualified to counsel Hannah on relationships, but then again, this is Marnie we’re talking about; besides, her advice is actually decent, however unqualified she may be to give it, and what’s more, she has the magical ability to stop Hannah’s tantrum in its tracks (or at least back her into a corner) long enough that she’s actually forced to come to terms with reality.

A few hours later, Hannah has packed her things and is heading out when Adam returns. He insists on re-bandaging her wound (Ray, he says, “doesn’t know shit about fuck” — gods bless you and keep you safe always, Adam Driver), and as he disinfects it, they have perhaps the most honest conversation the show has ever seen from these characters, a conversation they should have had a month ago: At once they both saw themselves staying together forever, but things change, and Hannah knows deep down that she’s as much, if not more, to blame as he is for the death of their relationship.

As they say good-bye, Adam calls her kid, and she asks him to not do that anymore: It’s truly over. She takes the train to “Fort Greene” (which is really Clinton Hill, just steps from my old apartment, thank you very much), where she sleeps, despondent, in her storage unit. Whether she’ll learn anything from this pitiful rock bottom remains to be seen, but she’s going to get her apartment back, and given how similarly situations like these have unfolded in the past, that’s not really giving us much to hope for.

Girls Recap: A Puzzle With No Possible Solution