The gap between expectations and reality is often a chasm. This is a lesson most of the characters in tonight’s episode learn, as they adjust to surprises from people from whom they (and we, frankly) least expect them. Even Hannah’s parents get in on the delusional action this week, which I think was both a smart and incredibly nonsensical choice on Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s part. Smart, because it contextualizes Hannah beyond the surface-deep role of coddled twentysomething; through them, we see where Hannah gets her knack for willful ignorance and denial, as well as her singular talent for throwing tantrums upon hearing unexpected (and admittedly upsetting) news. Nonsense, too, though, because … well, let’s get into it.
The episode opens with an announcement from Hannah’s father Tad: He’s gay. He says this to Loreen as they’re on their way out of their therapist’s office, and her immediate response is to accuse him of trying to steal her spotlight now that she’s just gotten tenure (“It all comes back to misogyny!”), or perhaps to get out of admitting the real reason he doesn’t want to sleep with her anymore. “It’s not not about me, Tad. It’s not not,” she says when he tells her it’s not about her — all of which sounds awfully familiar. Later, the pair go to a dinner party their friends Avi and Shanaz throw in honor of Loreen’s tenure, but Loreen remains sour and drunk throughout and yells at Tad when he tries to give her a nice toast at the dinner table. She absconds to the bedroom; Avi follows and tries to make out with her, at which point we discover the two once had some sort of tryst. Loreen laughs and laughs at the irony of the situation, sure, but mostly to keep from sobbing. (A-plus job by Becky Ann Baker in general, but especially on the tearful delivery of “Riesling is too sweet. No one likes it.”)
Now, I hope I’m not being a bad ally when I say this, but this does all seem like a rather sudden development. Sure, Tad has seemed patently unhappy at times over the past four seasons, but even when he breaks it to his wife he barely seems convinced of it himself (his words: “I don’t think I’m making this up”). Of course, in real life a coming-out like this would call for unwavering acceptance at Tad’s word, but then again, it’s far more likely this is just a sloppy, hurried, haphazard decision intended to spice things up and demonstrate something about Hannah’s upbringing, which I don’t think is a good enough reason to, you know, upend a character’s identity. But whatever, maybe there’s some bigger purpose for this change in the future. For all intents and purposes, Hannah’s father is now out, and it’s only right to treat him as such.
Hannah is back at school, where she’s once again in her element — too in her element, we’re beginning to realize, as she gossips with Maude Apatow about Maude’s (fine, Cleo’s) crush, who apparently has been acting so weird. “I don’t like anyone here for you. I’ve checked out like every guy in this school and none of them are cute,” Hannah says, entirely seriously, in a way that confirms that this has become a way to relive high school as a cooler version of herself. It only gets worse when a run-in with Fran (::heart-eyed emoji::) who is wearing a literary T-shirt his mom bought him (::six heart-eyed emoji in a row::) plays out in the hallway as though the two were Cleo’s 15-year-old classmates. Look, it’s not the craziest of urges to want a high-school do-over, but it’s another thing entirely to ditch school with Cleo, who is a child, to go “get something pierced.” Every part of this scene — in which Hannah convinces Cleo to get matching frenulum piercings (yes, the thing under your tongue. ::shudder::) and then confidently backing out after watching Cleo, who is a child, SCREAM AND SOB IN AGONY as the piercer shoves a huge needle through her mouth tissue — is skin-crawlingly brilliant. I’m also like 99 percent positive this is exactly how Lena Dunham and Maude Apatow interact IRL, especially the street dancing to Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and that deadpanned conversation about “helping” their celebrity crush Shia LaBeouf away from his “light criminal activity.” (Without body piercing, though, since Judd and Leslie would certainly have had Dunham killed for that.)
Anyway, cut to Marnie and Good Ol’ Neckbeard, the latter of whom has brought home a tattered box of German guitar pedals that, as he mansplains, “single-handedly created the distortion that became the My Bloody Valentine sound.” First of all, no one pedal created My Bloody Valentine’s signature distortion; there were a lot of them, and if anything, the ones that did the trick were Japanese. Second of all … MBV? Isn’t this band like a Swell Season situation right now? Marnie does a 180 and goes understandably ballistic when he brags he paid just $2,000 for them — a.k.a. their entire label advance. Our self-styled male feminist throws a whiny baby-man tantrum, calls Marnie a bitch, and storms out.
For gawd knows what reason, Jessa and Shoshanna still live together, and they discuss Shosh’s upcoming date with Jason Ritter as Shosh plucks her bikini line, which is an unnecessary but still sort of fantastic detail. Jessa, naturally, continues to be THE WORST as she recounts all the ways she’s attempting to manipulate Zachary Quinto back into her life/bed. This charade is followed by possibly the most horrible thing Jessa has ever said: “Shoshanna, I have four fucking suicide attempts under my belt, men who just couldn’t live without me.” She says it as though each attempt was a Pulitzer, which honestly makes me wonder whether anybody in this world will end up actually murdering someone. Considering the number of casually disturbed people on the show, it would make more sense to me at this point than Tad Horvath suddenly being gay … but I digress.
Before her date, Shosh helps Ray canvas the neighborhood in his city council campaign. Turns out she’s pretty good at it, especially when the prospective voters are cute surfer-lookin’ boys, much to Ray’s dismay. This leads to an inquiry into her love life, which she reluctantly obliges, and a subsequent confession that although his own is “crickets and tumbleweeds,” he’s “waiting for [his] heart to catch up to [his brain]” with a girl he already knows, not Shosh (much to her dismay), but …
Her reaction is priceless, just one more reason Zosia Mamet is the best.
Hannah finds Fran in the hallway again and makes a surprisingly appropriate and mature apology, but Fran is an even more mature adult and turns down her request for a second chance, explaining that he is trying to avoid drama and “lead a calmer life, as Mary J. Blige tells us.” He’s so gentle with her as he explains that she is exactly the person she thinks she’s left behind. Can Fran just stay on the show forever, please? Hannah wants this, too, or at least that’s what I think she means when she counters with this little campaign speech: “You’re attracted to me. You’re intrigued by me. You think I’m a wild horse that needs to be tamed. I understand all of that; it’s the new frontier of misogyny. Take a woman that’s in control of her life, and then silence her. And I’m up for it!” Like mother, like daughter, I guess!
Shosh’s date with Jason Ritter goes as well as it can (it involves her big mouth, after all). When she’s bummed about her inability to get a job and calls herself a failure and a loser, Jason Ritter puts on this weird dadlike vibe and tells her “we don’t use those words.” It’s patronizing for sure, but judging by the look on her face, it was exactly what she needed to hear. They talk about past relationships, and then Shosh takes Jessa’s fairly tame advice (“surprise him”) to the extreme by informing him that she’s interested in the future of his, errr, junk. He takes the blurt in stride, seamlessly transitioning by announcing that OMG, half the cast of The Good Wife is sitting at the bar. This can only mean good things for them, right? Like, not only that he’s chill with how utterly bizarre and inappropriate she is, but also that he knows who comprises the cast of The Good Wife?
Coldplay, who could use a new nickname or two since I’m running out of dismissive references here (go-go gadget, comments section!), meets Marnie at a café with a real boilerplate scumbag apology, and then tells her to shut up when she tries to explain that her issues with money come from her parents’ divorce. And then, as though the previous ten seconds hadn’t happened at all, he pulls out an engagement ring and proposes, and she giddily accepts. What was it she was saying tore her parents’ marriage apart, again?
Speaking of marriage, the episode ends as Hannah calls her parents to chatter with impressive incessance about what Fran said about her, and the Horvaths break the big news over the phone — or rather, Loreen does, because it’s not not about her.
There are so many things going wrong here, and I have a feeling they’re about to get so much worse. Luckily, most of these are train wrecks I actually am looking forward to watching!