In its fourth episode of the season, Girls continues to let us know that our early twenties years contain some of the best experiences: publishing a piece of writing on a hipster blog, dating an artist of midlevel fame, going to the "best warehouse party ever!", losing your virginity, getting a surprise marriage (of course, "best experiences" is clearly subjective). But amid these exciting times, Girls characters are exploring those big, troubling questions that maybe they'll never shake. In this episode, "It's a Shame About Ray", even gruff Ray gets a little vulnerable. "What makes me worth dating?" he says to Shosanna. "What makes me worth anything?"
After "divorcing" Elijah, Hannah stakes her claim to their formerly shared apartment, inheriting all the furnishing with a blessing from George. Since blog jazzhate is publishing a piece of her writing (hopefully we'll find out if it's the coke-fueled rampage from last week!), she decides to host a dinner party for her friends.
Shoshanna, always the optimist, praises Hannah's re-done apartment, gushing that it looks amazing and adding, "But seriously though, I think, like, the best years of your life are like totally going to happen here."
And maybe they will. But as Hannah plays hostess, the episode focuses on her friends, who are all dealing with some Big Serious Life Questions.
Marnie, despite still smarting from her fight with Hannah, accepts the invitation to Hannah's dinner party unaware she's walking into a minefield filled with constant barbed comments from Hannah as well as her ex-boyfriend Charlie. Hannah invited Marnie as a gesture, but as she tells Charlie, believes that Marnie is "psychotic" for actually showing up. Even though the tension between Marnie and Hannah is palpable, Charlie's new girlfriend Audrey decides that it's her time to confront Marnie about some things she'd like to say (in front of everyone, of course). Audrey tells Marnie know that she knows about the tear-filled sleepover she had with Charlie and that she's tired of Marnie being a "Stepford psycho." Marnie bolts. And Charlie goes after her.
Charlie proves in this instance that Marnie is much better off without him. Marnie is clearly lost and upset and when Charlie finds her on the roof—she tells him that Audrey has no reason to be intimidated by her because her life is a mess.
"She's not intimidated by me. Why would she be? I'm a hostess," sobs Marnie. "I don't even know what the next year of my life is going to be like at all. I don't know what the next week is going to be life. I don't even know what I want."
Ouch. Too true. Who hasn't felt like that at some point?
After Marnie continues by wishing she had someone to just tell her what to do with her life, in an obviously helpful and not confusing action, Charlie decides that he should kiss her. After she stops him and tells him she's seeing Booth (eek!). Charlie calls Booth as "an Ewok in capri pants" (ha!) and storms off back to Hannah's. Audrey has clearly left and Charlie places all his blame and guilt on Marnie, calling her a cunt. Even though Hannah and Marnie aren't doing well, Hannah recognizes how stupid Charlie is being and stands up for her friend—letting Charlie know that Marnie's had a hard year and that she doesn't need to have to worry about his annoying feelings.
I like that Hannah stood up for Marnie here. It really illuminates the complicated nature of friendships—sometimes no matter how mad you are at a friend, if someone else does something terrible to them, you are the first to jump to their defense. The last couple episodes have felt like a Marnie-bashing fest, so I'm hoping that this signals a turn-around.
Meanwhile, Ray and Shoshanna are clearly still going strong from the last time we saw them snuggled in bed together. Judging from Shosh's terrible lying about how pre-dinner sex made them late to the party, sex is going well for them. But when Hannah brings up Ray's living situation, things get weird. We learn that Ray's "in between" places right now. At first, that sounds like he's just couch jumping between friends. Then, it comes out that when he's not staying at Shoshanna's (which is the majority of the time), he's living in his car.
Shoshanna's incredulous reaction is perfect: "Ohmygod, do you live with me?!"
Waiting for the train on their way home, Shoshanna and Ray air their feelings about Ray's situation. More than anything, Shoshanna is worried about him—she says he's older than her and should presumably have his own place. But beyond that, she wants him to have more passions and interests. Ray's pretty defeatist, and honestly, completely realistic reaction is that he was waiting for Shoshanna to realize he's the loser he sees himself as: "Maybe I wasn't that excited to tell my beautiful, cute, smart, 21-year-old girlfriend that I'm a 33-year-old homeless guy whose one valuable possession in this world is a signed picture of Andy Kaufman."
But Shoshanna doesn't care that Ray's living in his car because she's falling in love with him. To which, of course, Ray—in the tradition of neurotic Woody Allen characters—tells her that she's crazy and that it's too early in their relationship. But then he bursts out, "I love you so fucking much." The whole thing is tender and realistic. Despite the nature of the relationship or the timeframe, sometimes you just can't help how you feel about another person.
While things with Shoshanna and Ray progress, the union between Jessa and Thomas John disintegrates with another dinner party that night—one with his parents.
My problem with Jessa is that she's always felt underdeveloped to me in contrast to the other characters. Most of the time I feel like I have no idea of who she is—and maybe that's because she doesn't really know either. The interaction between Jessa and Thomas John at first seems like it may be a relationship that actually works out. But at dinner, it becomes blatantly apparent that Jessa is Thomas John's manic pixie dream girl—he wants her for the experience but can't deal with that truth after he's introduced her to his parents. Thomas John's mom (Jerri's stepmother from Strangers with Candy!) and dad pick a steakhouse. Upon arriving, Jessa welcomes them by saying, "I hate this restaurant but I'm so excited to meet you guys."
Things obviously don't go great from there. Jessa talks about her time spent traveling everywhere except for "Spain because I'm avoiding someone." We learn that Jessa only went to Oberlin for seven months because she had to go to rehab for heroin—which Thomas John didn't know. As the dinner progresses, his dad keeps weirdly hitting on Jessa and his mom brings up the inevitable implication that Jessa is using Thomas John for a "successful situation." In a final nail in the coffin, Jessa brings up her lack of religious belief to the slack-jawed stare of Thomas John's mother.
After dinner, Thomas John asks Jessa why she couldn't have just lied. While I feel like I don't understand Jessa, the one thing I feel confident in knowing is that she believes in an authenticity that many of the other characters on this show don't. Jessa acknowledges the fact that she knows what Thomas John is using her for—her experiences. He counters that she's using him for his money. She tells him that she feels embarrassed walking down the street with him because he's so "fucking average." He counters with that he likes hookers better because they at least "respect you" and then calls Jessa a "whore with no work ethic."
She punches him. Somehow, things get even worse from here.
Thomas John pays Jessa to leave. She agrees, taking his money because, says she, they did things that she never wanted to do. He makes sure to tell her that she has another fucked up story to add to her collection and that she likes to destroy lives because she's bored.
In the one of the best uses of Oasis's 'Wonderwall,' that I've seen, Jessa joins a singing Hannah in her bathtub and just begins sobbing.
It's a moment that quietly echoes. In it, you feel the open questions that Marnie, Jessa, and Ray have about who they are, what their lives have become, and the dissatisfaction in their current realities. For me, it finally made Jessa feel real. She's not just a fabulous, blanket-dress wearing friend who talks about her drug experiences in Europe.
Some will write off this Big Life Questions as narcisstic or self-indulgent, but they are ones that we all feel or have felt at one point or another.
Despite the bad decisions the characters make, this show takes them and their meandering paths to self-discovery seriously, rooting its emotional core in uncertainty—and is one of the only shows that can make a 90s pop song and a snot-rocket in a bathtub devastatingly moving.
Quick List: Other Favorite Moments from "It's a Shame About Ray."
• Elijah officially moves out of Hannah's apartment. Although I'm holding out hope that he returns later in the season.
• When they were dating, Elijah and Hannah purchased a butt plug. This leads to a dinner party explanation of the use of a butt plug to Shoshanna, who asks, "Why would you want to plug it?"
• "Butthole" is Marnie's trigger word.
• Jessa has a "good" and a "bad" boob. This feels very true to me.
• Jessa on punctuality: "I hate when people are early, it's so vile."
• Audrey is starting a mustard company with her best friend.
• "So, you are hosting a slam poetry night or an open mike night type thing," says Audrey to Marnie, clearly not understanding what being a hostess means.
• Jessa and Thomas John returned the episode two puppies to the pet store. :(
• Hannah feels like she has 3-4 really good folk albums in her.