Last season, one of the most surprising plot twists was Shoshanna’s decision to ship off to Japan. She had previously spent most of her time flailing around in that terrible, overwhelming post-collegiate world of insecurity, defeat, and job rejections, while her (slightly) more experienced friends weren’t offering much helpful advice. Though, to be fair, they also had trouble getting started during that first year out of school — and still haven’t quite figured it out yet.
And so, Shosh ended the fourth season with a boyfriend, a job, and a move to another country. With “Japan,” we get to see how she’s handling the change.
Turns out, she’s doing pretty well! We caught a glimpse of New Shosh in the season premiere, looking noticeably happier and calmer, even as Marnie’s wedding temporarily went to hell. In “Japan,” we see just how much she’s thriving, beginning with that great cold open of Shosh comfortably walking the streets of her new home, speaking the language, and putting in a solid job performance. She seems cooler and more confident, quickly forming friendships (Shosh tells these new friends that she doesn’t really care about people in America anymore) and being just a little more comfortable around men. Most intriguing is the flirtatious relationship with Yoshi (Hiro Mizushima), her handsome boss who has perfect hair. While there is definitely chemistry between the two — and their respective friend groups agree — Shoshanna can’t go for it because a) she’s technically still dating Scott (Jason Ritter), even though she didn’t even bring him to Marnie’s wedding when she was in the States, and b) it’s never a good idea to date your boss. “Sheryl Sandberg would fucking kill me,” she says in a characteristically fast-talking, long-winded explanation. Still, this doesn’t stop them from exchanging knowing glances and lusting from afar.
On Girls, all good things must come to an end — or, more specifically, all good things must send our main characters spiraling into major life and/or existential crises. It’s hard to tell whether Shoshanna is 100 percent truly happy in Japan, or if she’s just happy to be away from her problems in New York City. Her friends often take her for granted and treat her poorly, talking down to her and putting their problems above hers. Her boyfriend, Scott, is fine, just fine, but there is clearly something that prohibits her from wanting to fully commit to him — and it’s not just the frustration of maintaining a long-distance relationship. Shosh keeps Scott on the fringes of her life, never really letting him get closer. But regardless of why Shosh is so happy in Japan, the point is that she’s doing pretty okay.
And that’s when she gets fired.
As Abigail (guest star Aidy Bryant) puts it, the company is “managing [Shoshanna] out” which is the same exact thing as being fired, but in nicer words. It sends Shosh into a tailspin, crying and pleading, “You cannot make me go back.” Not even the upgrade to business class can make her feel better. Plus, it’s not like a return home is a promising choice.
Back in New York, the honeymoon phase of Hannah and Fran’s co-habitation has already hit a bump. What’s great is that Girls doesn’t have them argue over dirty dishes or leaving the toilet seat up, but instead, it takes a more eccentric route: Hannah finding a bunch of photos of naked women on Fran’s phone. When she immediately confronts him about it, Fran is surprisingly honest and explains that those are his ex-girlfriends, and he keeps the photos to masturbate to. (Porn doesn’t do it for him, he says.) In a rare instance, Hannah’s anger is a bit justified. Keeping nudes of your exes — for selfish, pleasurable reasons — is cause for alarm, especially when you are in a committed relationship. It’s also cause for insecurity when Fran admits that he would love to masturbate to Hannah’s nudes, but they’re too “goofy” so he can’t.
Marnie, the person whom Hannah can usually count on to share her anger about a man doing something dumb, doesn’t agree with her this time. She’s the new and questionably improved Marnie, who is chill and doesn’t see the big deal in Fran jerking it to his exes. Marnie 2.0 even agrees with statements like “monogamy is a construct.” The honeymoon looks good on Marnie, though I do miss her usual, quick-to-anger self. I suspect this persona won’t really last. Hannah, who likens Fran’s ex collection to “killing someone and keeping their shrunken head as a trophy,” isn’t happy with Marnie’s reaction, so she moves on to Ray and Elijah. Here, she reveals that a lot of her anger is due to her insecurities. She worked hard to accept her “non-traditional body type” and now she’s going to start mentally comparing herself to the women in Fran’s past. This, naturally, leads to Ray taking sexier/non-goofy nudes of Hannah to send to Fran (and one of the best lines of the night, courtesy of Elijah, when he compares Hannah’s off-putting smile to Katie Holmes). And then, in a true Hannah move, she deletes all of the other photos from Fran’s phone and makes his screen background a photo of herself.
In Adam/Jessa shipping land, the two (along with Ray) watch an episode of a generic procedural that guest stars Adam. The scene is impossibly cute; Jessa sincerely compliments his performance while he shyly cringes and tries to fold in on himself. But later, in the kitchen, when Adam tries to kiss Jessa once again, she quickly pushes him away. “We’re just friends,” she says sternly. “Are we?” Adam questions. It’s a valid question: They’re good friends, yes, but they also definitely want to be together and, you know, masturbated on a couch together in lieu of having sex. But Jessa sticks to her guns, saying she’s “not doing some will-they/won’t-they” thing even though they obviously are.
Back in Japan, Shoshanna has a short conversation with Scott about leaving. He’s overly excited to see her, and reassures her that he’ll take care of her, but she’s still sad about moving. Shosh tries to cheer herself up by going to see a punk show with Yoshi. This segues into hanging out in a BDSM club, where Shosh wears a nurse’s costume and whips a friend (which ties into an earlier scene in which Yoshi’s friends tell him how “loose” and sexual American women are). By the end of the night, Shosh ends up cheating on Scott with Yoshi. The next morning, she barely starts packing before she realizes that she should just stay in Japan. She leaves Scott hanging at the airport, and he dejectedly throws away the flowers he got to welcome her back home.
In the end, it’s nice to see Shoshanna make a decision that is entirely based on her wants and needs, rather than the suggestions of those around her. And if she stays in Japan for the long haul, it introduces a new, interested wrinkle to the show’s group dynamic. Nevertheless, I have to wonder: Will this spontaneous decision come back to bite her? These things usually do.