Sunday night was quite the spectacle! Lena Dunham peeing on the side of a country road! What, was there something else on? Well, whatever.
This episode was another standalone about Hannah accompanying Jessa to visit Jessa’s father at his home in the countryside of upstate New York. Last season we saw an episode where Hannah went back home to Michigan to visit her parents and I kind of love this as a recurring concept for Girls. It’s a show about these twentysomethings living in the Big Apple and yet of course they’d go and visit their parents occasionally. So we get these authentic little one-offs that nail the mood pretty well of how life slows down whenever one ventures out into suburbia or, in this case, Bumblefuck nowhere.
I’ve got relatives who live in Bumblefuck and I’ve stayed in a friend’s backwater town cabin and much of this episode rang very true to me with the long, empty roads surrounded by dense foliage and the giant backyards and tiny corner stores. The show also really astutely observes the way people tend to regress whenever they’re back in the presence of a parent (or parents) and stuck in an area with very little to do. This is evidenced by Jessa (with Hannah tagging along, though far less enthused about it) getting in a car with two teenaged boys, the one in the driver’s seat gunning the engine as everyone (except Hannah) does whippits.
This episode isn’t all authentic, smart observations, however. In fact, it’s arguably the dumbest episode Girls has done, at least for this season. Sometimes I forget that Judd Apatow is one of the show’s producers and it does feel like his influence or guidance or whatever occasionally filters in, resulting in some of the somewhat broader humor that wouldn’t be out of place in one of his films. This isn’t really a bad thing in this case. I actually laughed at this episode more than I did any other this season, but the bit characters who showed up were definitely drawn a bit more extremely than the regulars.
For example, there’s Rosanna Arquette guesting as Jessa’s dad’s current girlfriend, Petula; a spacey hippie-type who explains to Hannah that she believes life is actually a big video game (“because scientists lie”) and also, because Jessa hates her, that she prayed for a solution to the awkwardness that was sure to arise from her visit and that Hannah is the manifestation of that prayer. But again, ridiculous as this all is, it’s extremely funny and leads to one of the best lines of the episode when she tells Hannah that she is the social “cushion” in this situation. Hannah, attempting to be amicable, replies, “Are you sure that I’m the cushion? Well, I’ve never done it before, but I definitely am up for it.”
And, though Jessa’s dad (Ben Mendelsohn) is a bit over the top too, Jessa has always been the show’s loose cannon and it follows that she’d have the genes of a guy like this. You can see how they both get along with a shared odd, slightly angry sense of humor, but also why Jessa is so screwed up and has trouble staying in one place for too long. In fact, standalone though this episode effectively is, it also manages to complete an arc for Jessa.
Having just come out of a failed marriage and still going through a depression, visiting her dad here completes a journey for her. And, though the episode does have a lot of ridiculousness going on in it, it also gets really sad and sincere for a bit (and Jemima Kirke gets to show off her formidable, dramatic, acting chops) when Jessa tries to have a talk with her dad where she tries to get him to explain why he always left and was never around to stick up for her. Her father feels badly and claims to want to repair some of the damage with a special dinner that night but, instead, after dropping off Hannah and Jessa at the market to pick up supplies, he drives off and doesn’t come back. Then Jessa, while Hannah’s in the bathroom, follows suit, leaving a note that simply reads: “See you around, my love. X”
Oh, there’s also a part where Hannah has sex with a socially awkward country loser named Frank who comes in her “thigh crease” after about eight seconds and when she asks him if it was his first time, he claims that, no, it was his second. “So who was your first time with?” asks Hannah. “A girl…” he says, “…named Rihanna.”
This was a really funny episode.