Last night's episode is unlike any other this season — it's like a beautiful fever dream that you know from the very beginning is going to turn out badly. But you can't help but hope it won't. "The Panic in Central Park" kicks off in Marnie and Desi's apartment. They're hanging out on the bed, surrounded by partially finished walls. Marnie is ignoring Desi, and it's driving him totally nuts. They have been in a fight for hours, and she's icing him out; eventually she just can't take the proximity anymore and storms out. Somehow, she winds up in what looks like the far corners of Bushwick. She's walking down a street when she passes a bunch of rough-looking dudes — one of whom is her ex, Charlie. (Remember Charlie? The tech upstart wunderkind who told Marnie that he'd never really loved her and smashed her heart and self-confidence into a million pieces? Yep. That Charlie.) He's um, different now. There's the physical thing: He's heavier-set these days, and definitely a lot rougher around the edges. But he's also weirdly cagey, and has inexplicably developed what can only be described as a hood Brooklyn accent.
Even though it definitely seems like Charlie is going to be bad news, Marnie lingers to chat with him — and he finally explains to her what happened all those years ago, when he broke things off with her. Turns out, his dad had died — suicide, by hanging — and that threw old Charlie for a loop. Since then, he's abandoned his former life completely and turned over a new, grittier, who-gives-a-fuck leaf. Marnie is still completely magnetized by him, though. He wants to know if Marnie will go to a party with him. She resists for a hot minute before giving in. But first, he tells her, they need to get her a party dress. Charlie and Marnie duck into a resale shop and pick out a pink, sparkly Barbie gown — and away they go. Where to? Uptown, to the Plaza Hotel. Marnie quickly realizes that Charlie is making his way these days by dealing cocaine; while he's making a drug deal, she scams an older guy at the bar who is trying to get her to come back to his room with a hooker. (Yep, we're still talking about Marnie — uptight, control freak Marnie, who is apparently a completely different person when her ex enters the picture.) Marnie and Charlie bail on the Plaza situation, have some delicious-looking Italian food, and ultimately end up walking through Central Park, where she confesses to him that her album is pretty much all about him leaving her. He seems to be taking all this in, sort of as if he were expecting them to somehow end up in Central Park years after their breakup, putting the pieces of their relationship back together. They stumble on a bunch of locked up boats and steal one, paddling out into the moonlight. They kiss; the boat tips over. How's that for a sign from the universe? Then the camera pans to Marnie underwater, her eyes wide open, surrounded by a halo of bubbles. (Girlfriend is going to need some major antibiotics for whatever is in that pond scum.) Charlie drags her up to the surface and reminds her that they can actually just stand up.
From there, they head to the subway — soaked and snuggling — and then arrive at Charlie's apartment, but not before they get robbed in the street and Marnie has to give up her purse, her earrings, and her wedding ring. When they get back to Charlie's place, he presents her with a plan. "What if the last few years were a bad dream, and we just ran away?" he wonders, laying back on the bed. She admits that she doesn't need anything from her life, and could just pick up and run away in the morning. They have sex, and fall asleep in each other's arms. But — as is usually the case — things look a little different by the morning light. Marnie peers at Charlie's room and realizes that he's living in some pretty extreme squalor. Then she goes to take a shower and is confronted by a young woman (played by Julia Garner) who spills about her own bad night while Marnie is trying to towel off; it's a conversation that puts her another step closer to confronting reality. Marnie heads back to Charlie's room and surveys the scene, picking up clothes and throwing them over a chair. When she lifts Charlie's jeans from the floor, a heroin kit — needle with syringe included — fall from his pocket. She asks him what it is, and he's too out of it — either from drugs or exhaustion — to respond. Marnie puts the pink dress back on and walks out of his room, out of his life, and back to her own apartment.
She arrives — barefoot — at home, where Desi is sitting on the steps of their building, clearly waiting for her. Marnie tells Desi she's sorry. He just looks at her. In that moment, they both seem to know that it's over. "I knew I shouldn't have married you," she says. "I just didn't want to give up on yet another dream." Then she steps around him on the stairs, gathers a few things, and heads to Hannah's place, where she climbs into bed with her old friend and Fran, who are both sleeping soundly. The camera lingers on Marnie's face for a moment: She looks shellshocked and a little afraid. But she also seems to be undeniably relieved — and ready to move on.