Gaby Hoffmann plays a certain kind of crazy so well that it's sometimes hard to distinguish the frizzy-haired, emotive fairy creature she finds herself playing from the frizzy-haired, emotive fairy creature she is in real life. (Disclosure: We went to college together. Of course, she was older than me and didn't know I existed, but she was this magical, weird presence that everyone enjoyed having around.)
Anyway, from Crystal Fairy to Louie to even Uncle Buck, Hoffmann shoots from the hip — and plays relatively unhinged with a type of finesse Silver Linings Playbook only dreams of. (That's not true: Silver Linings Playbook did unhinged wonderfully, but let's be honest, who would you rather avoid in a dark alley at night with no one around? A depressed-but-dancing Jennifer Lawrence, or Gaby as Caroline Sackler? Exactly.)
Photo: Jessica Miglio.
"Calm down, breathe from your stomach."
So, on to the show. We start off with Adam receiving a distressed phone call from his until-now absent sister in which he tells her to breathe from the stomach, which is a very Adam thing to do, because it is both disciplined and ridiculous. Try breathing from your stomach. As the part of the body that isn't responsible for air circulation, the practice feels both stilted and possibly dangerous. (Edit: I suppose he means "diaphragm," but by stomach this particular writer thinks of the belly, not the ribcage.)
Anyway, up until this episode, Adam has been doing double-duty: proving that he is a good caretaker for Hannah and providing straight-laced comic relief. Jerky, unstable season one Adam is gone and so is the degrading sexual deviant of season two. Until this episode, he's been behaving like quite a gentleman. But, even we, the audience, think his dismissal of Caroline's "brutal rebuffing" is a little cruel. (Also, LOL at Caroline calling him "Addy.")
Wonder what happened with the euthanizing of Grandma Helen? We could see that....
What we do see, however, is the example of how far Hannah and Adam have come, which is really the point of this episode. He asks for her trust, and she gives it to him — though she does withhold the requisite feel he tries to cop. Which feels particularly honest, because, what other way is there to break up a fight?
Photo: Jessica Miglio.
"Do you need proof it's me? Do you need me to text you my driver's license?"
There is no real way to communicate one's slamming hands on a keyboard. It is hard to effectively express simultaneous delight and mania, and there is a frustration with the written word when experiencing something so overwhelming. So, here we go: WTF Marnie Michaels AVRIL LAVIGNE WHAT IS YOUR HAIR AND THOSE SHORTS? ZOMG vocoders. Gah. Marnie's cover of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians "What I Am" is supposed to be both hilarious and cringe-worthy, and boy, oh boy, does it deliver. There she is, singing all angsty in a stairwell. There she is, writing music with a sepia filter. There she is, with pigtails and a printed skirt. Yeah, we would be on the phone with YouTube, too. (Did you know Edie Brickell is married to Paul Simon? As I did not.)
It's really wonderful that Lena Dunham chose to have Hannah's birthday at Matchless, which, by the by, has really amazing macaroni and cheese (do try — though it might not be the place I would recommend to bring the parents?). After Caroline shows her first sign of being tricky and possibly manipulative ("I don't know what to call a provoked physical attack by someone you love. I really don't," she drops into the conversation as she is being kicked out), Hannah invites her to her party, where Caroline proceeds to creep out Mama and Papa Horvath with a big ol' smooch.
Photo: Jessica Miglio.
A little eyeliner and some glittery earrings has Hannah looking a bit more polished than usual, which Marnie deftly points out. (Was that condescending? I can't tell.) Drinking Champagne at Matchless is a recipe for one helluva a next-day headache, but the Girls are all doing it — even Jessa, who apparently left rehab, but no one is blinking an eyelash at her consumption? Side note: I don't know whether this is Dunham's oversight or if she pointing out that Jessa's rehab stint was purely performative. Either way, it was a knee-jerk reaction that may or may not have been intended.
Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson wrote effectively on the spiral of Shoshanna's tone-deaf remark about how little the three grads have accomplished since college. "And, while it’s meant to be a barbed little joke about the frustrating listlessness of the postcollege years, it plays instead as if Shosh has completely lost her social faculties," he says. "In the past two seasons, Girls tended to use Shoshanna as a rigid, chipper foil for the other characters’ overdeveloped senses of cool. It was a clever device, one that mocked both Shoshanna’s bug-eyed innocence and her friends’ liberal-artsy pretentions." Um, Hannah is writing a book. Marnie lives by herself in New York City. These aren't groundbreaking or trailblazing, but for Shosh to be so deftly dismissive shows a darker twist for the character — which is then highlighted by her smoking a cigarette. Smoker Shosh!
"I leave my body during sex. It's called disassociation. It's an anxiety disorder."
Poor Ray. After he gets intimidated by Caroline, he sidles up to the bar and has a nice little conversation with a well-seeming young man who is also desperate for a drink. This is an interesting moment because a) good on the show for addressing how hard it can be for young men to meet new friends in this city without sounding like creepers and b) you saw that this was Shoshanna's date from a mile away. Of course, after befriending Shoshanna's current boy toy, Ray skulks outside and sees his ex, smoking and wearing a very small skirt. Pro tip: When you see an ex for the first time since the breakup, limit your words to 20. Any more than 20 words, and you begin to sound like Ray.
Photo: Jessica Miglio.
Hannah and Adam dance to New Order, Marnie tries to get Hannah to sing but a fight breaks out, John Cameron Mitchell continues his tour de force as Hannah's agent who gets into said fight, and Jessa kind of swirls around silently in the background, sad that she doesn't get her own storyline this episode.
Adam gives Hannah her present: A tooth that belonged to him (or Caroline, the teeth were kept in the same box because boxes are, apparently, at a premium in the Sackler household) as a necklace. Hannah, with all of her quirks, absolutely adores the gift, and as viewers, we believe her. The touching gesture shows that Adam is indeed giving himself (literally) to Hannah, and the two share a romantic walk home and begin to smooch on the kitchen table. For once, life seems to be working out for Hannah. Her book is coming along, her boyfriend is making his canines into jewelry all for her, and her friends got it together for one night to celebrate her. Not bad for a girl who was going all jackhammer with a Q-tip on her eardrum just months prior. Everything is swell.
That is, of course, until Hannah encounters a fully nude Caroline in her bathroom, a Caroline who breaks a glass in her hand, scolding Adam for not caring whether she lives or dies as she bleeds. Don't forget, Dunham seems to say, we are all thisclose to flipping our lids. Nothing ever goes off without a hitch. One day, your boyfriend might leave you unexpectedly when you are about to grill pizzas, or you may find yourself a divorcée in rehab, or you may be "brutally rebuffed" and left at the side of the road only to stumble back to your brother's house. One day, when living precariously, you can easily teeter off the edge. Which is exactly what every character on Girls — or what any 20-something — feels like they are doing: teetering.
Come back next week for more real live merkin action or Marnie to cover other great '90s songs. ("Mother Mother," anyone? Let's hope.)