There have been quite a few detours on this season of Girls: Hannah and Joshua's two-day brownstone romp, Adam and Ray's trip to Staten Island last week, Hannah and Elijah's cocaine-fueled trip around Brooklyn. This episode takes Hannah and Jessa on a train out to Manitou, to see Jessa's estranged father, Salvatore (Ben Mendelsohn).
The lush green landscape of upstate New York takes us out of Brooklyn's claustrophobic setting, but immediately Hannah is upset that Jessa's father is late picking them up from the station, which Jessa addresses as a "lame" complaint. We find out a bit later why Hannah is on this trip: She's the "cushion," according to Petula (Rosanna Arquette), Salvatore's wife and Jessa's stepmother. As she is tending to the rabbits in their backyard, she also uses a video game analogy to explain why people need to "grow a pair and get to the next level," which temporarily paralyzes Hannah with fear.
Petula's mop-topped teenage son, Frank, enters the picture, and all of them sit down to eat a dinner of rabbit, which also paralyzes Hannah with fear. Jessa laments the end of her marriage, which doesn't get the desired sympathy from her father, a man who doesn't seem to do well with commitments and promises. Jessa's mother is mentioned briefly, but their relationship seems even more strained. Are we afraid of becoming our mothers, and do we end up attracted to men just like our fathers? Yes, still.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Her father's brush-off causes Jessa to go into escape mode; she and Hannah then go joyriding down country roads with Frank and his friend Tyler, who both look like extras in a John Hughes movie. They do Whip-Its, which paralyzes Hannah with fear. She runs into a graveyard and, of course, Frank follows her and they have awkward eight-second sex. She lightens the mood by talking about death and nothingness. When Jessa acts appalled at what she did with her 19-year-old stepbrother, Hannah says she did it to have "continuity" with Jessa.
This is where the episode starts to bow under the weight of Hannah's actions. If this narrative had just been about Jessa and her relationship with her father, and the pain and frustration it elicits, it would have been golden, as her suffering is palpable. The scene where Jessa, sitting on a swing, tells her father she can't rely on him is one of the best scenes this season. He tells her he can't rely on her either. She starts to whimper: "I'm the child. I'm the child." The second time she said it, I got goosebumps. We've seen Jessa as a free, impulsive spirit, but last night we saw the wound she's been trying to cover up, and the other free, impulsive spirit she's been circling her whole life. And it struck at a universal truth: As we get older, our parents, the people who should know us best, often feel like strangers.
Hannah ends the show peeing next to a train station, ravaged by a UTI that appeared out of nowhere. On the phone with her parents, she thanks them for supporting her, even though they "don't have much in common." After a few minutes of theater-kid monologue, her mother says, "OK, now I'm pissed."
That's sort of how I felt about this episode too.