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‘Girls’ Review: “Incidentals”

Girls Incidentals
HBO

On tonight’s new episode of ‘Girls,’ Hannah’s interview with the legendary Patti LuPone (!!!) plants some doubts in her mind about Adam’s newfound success on Broadway. Meanwhile, Jessa backslides when a familiar face resurfaces, and Marnie’s relationship with Ray faces its first major hurdle. Looks like that fight at the beach house last week didn’t keep the ladies apart for long.

Sometimes all it takes is one little seed, one little moment for that root to take hold and then there’s no going back. That goes for both Hannah and Jessa tonight, but Hannah at least seems to be able to uproot the problematic weed before it grows out of control, while Jessa lets it take root and spread, as the impulsive lady is wont to do.

In “Incidentals,” Hannah interviews the amazing Patti LuPone for a sponsored page in GQ about some bone density product, and for her part, LuPone is game — both for the show’s writing (courtesy of Lena Dunham and Sarah Heyward this week) and for Hannah’s writing, which involves concocting a fake story about her imaginary osteoporosis. LuPone’s talent is undeniably immense, and she eases into the dialogue beautifully, finding a wonderful compromise between her personality and Dunham’s idea of her, which involves a quirky frankness and dire warnings about Adam’s new life on Broadway. Now that he’s landed a role in a big play, LuPone plants ideas in Hannah’s head that he’ll be sleeping with his castmates and acting like a total a-hole. Probably not the best “advice” to give to the neurotic Hannah, but like anyone would, she defends him — but who is she defending him to, really? I think she’s trying to convince herself more than she’s trying to convince LuPone.

As for Jessa, Jasper makes an unwelcome return to her life (after locating her home and terrorizing Shoshanna — the “teensy tiny moppet” who thought he was there to rape her because of course). Jasper is the addict voice personified — that side of Jessa that tells her to ditch stability, to wander off, to follow her impulses, and to do all the very deliciously bad things she should not do. She knows better, but she’s so bored by her monotonous job selling overpriced baby clothes that she gives in to the temptation and runs off with Jasper to do coke, eventually stealing money from work to get more drugs when they run out. At one point she even tells him she’s not attracted to him, but that’s the thing: it doesn’t matter. The drugs will make her like him; he knows it and she knows it, and as long as they have drugs between them, they can pretend. Addiction craves co-dependency, thrives on impulse, and makes people stop caring about things they should and start caring about things (and people) they shouldn’t. It’s easy to dismiss Jessa from the outside, but addiction is complex — it’s a band-aid so casually tossed on to cover up deep cuts, but one that’s almost impossible to remove once it’s adhered to your life. It creates more problems than it solves, and unfortunately, Jessa doesn’t seem like she’s interested in examining any of her issues, sober or not.

By the end of the episode, Hannah is directly addressing the seed that was planted earlier by talking to Adam directly, and we see a healthy form of co-dependency at work, juxtaposed against the final image of Jessa with Jasper as they worry over a tray of cocaine — Jessa has let Jasper plant that seed of doubt within her about her ability to live a normal life, and we see her engaged in a very troubling form of co-dependency.

I have to give credit to Dunham and Co. for doing such excellent work with Marnie’s character, taking what could have been a redundant plot and making Marnie more sympathetic than ever. Even knowing something as small as her issues with her father has made her easier to understand, but seeing the way she interacts with Ray versus the way she clearly puts on a superficial front with someone like Sue Jen (and haven’t we all had these superficial “I’m so happy for you, that’s amazing!” conversations with random acquaintances?) has given her character complexity. It’s that much more heartbreaking when Ray dumps her tonight, just as she’s brought over a big box of pizza — a callback to the night Charlie dumped her when she was making them homemade pizzas. An unfortunate coincidence, but the kind that’s painfully familiar, and though Marnie tries to play it off like their relationship meant nothing to her, Ray knows better, and we know better. And it’s even worse when she makes it over to the Gramercy hotel — where Hannah et al. are celebrating Adam’s success — and she can’t tell her best friend, of all people, why she’s so heartbroken.

Ray could use someone more his speed, sure, and judging by the way Marnie clicks with Adam’s new friend and co-star Desi, she understands that she could too (someone who actually supports her singing?!). But relationships aren’t all about surface compatibility and similar interests — sometimes it’s just that intangible thing that clicks, or that ability to fulfill what the other lacks, and it was great to see Marnie and Ray balancing back and forth on that relationship see-saw. It’s too bad that Desi seems to be taken because Marnie is quite smitten with him right away, and he does appear to be just about perfect for her — but her stumbling right into another guy’s arms would be too perfect, and there’s something great and real and genuine about watching Marnie struggle and lose and get her heart kicked into pieces over and over again. That’s life, man.

More Thoughts:

  • Adam isn’t at his callback to make friends. I like to imagine he secretly watches a lot of reality TV competition shows.
  • Like Hannah, I also sometimes use my chest as a tray.
  • Booth Jonathan is a wiener in a half-shell. This is the smartest thing Sue Jen has ever said.
  • Fun fact, courtesy of Patti LuPone: The Elephant Man got laid a lot.
  • I really love watching unguarded Marnie eat food and talk with her mouth full. I really just enjoy watching pretty people in movies and TV shows eat food in sloppy ways.
  • Of course Marnie still has an AOL e-mail address. Of course.

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