Girls, I love you. But this week's episode just didn't work.
This could be because it's hard to keep momentum after a string of excellent episodes, but this week's uneven episode "It's Back" was built on out-of-nowhere plot points.
The episode opens with Hannah receiving a phone call from ex-boyfriend Adam which she seems nervous about. After stopping at a store to buy chips to cope with the call, she carefully counts out a specific number of chips before counting the number of times she chews them.
Hannah's parents are visiting—her mother is attending a conference where she's excited to meet so many other women who "feel like I do about Ann Patchett." While waiting on Hannah to meet them at their hotel for a Judy Collins performance, they give her a "Hannah cushion of 15-40 minutes." Hannah shows up but looks pretty disheveled.
Over drinks, Hannah's parents can tell what's going on. Her father asks if her head is filling up with too much and she's getting count-y again. Her mother expresses the worry she felt that Hannah's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) would hinder her from having a real life. This was my "what?" moment. Not that it's unrealistic that Hannah could have OCD, but that in the scope of the show, it's never even come up before at all.
Hannah obviously has anxieties and worries, but I felt as if the OCD came out of nowhere. We really didn't have much background, no hints or any idea at all that this is a part of her history. After Hannah's date with her parents, she gets up in the middle of the performance to go count in the bathroom; they decide to take her to a specialist the next day. Then we learn the severity of Hannah's OCD in high school—she couldn't sleep, was counting everything, making herself watch "sex and murdery" things on a loop in her head, having to masturbate 8-16 times a night until her legs were shaking and she was crying (on Twitter I discovered Marnie mentions this during their huge fight in season one). The specialist she's speaking to seems to indicate the stress of her break up with Adam (only a month ago) and her book deal are tremendously stressful and could be the trigger for her OCD. Hannah ends up getting prescribed something to take care of her anxiety.
As a viewer, I'm not surprised that Hannah has some sort of anxiety-related illness, but from the severity she described, I can't believe that it was never mentioned before, even just in passing. The whole storyline just poofed into existence—and I think that's why it suffered. Dealing with any sort of illness can be a huge part of someone's life, even if they have managed it, so for Hannah's OCD to be completely invisible until now feels like a huge oversight.
As for the other characters this week, we get check-ins with what they are up to. Adam is still not doing well after his breakup with Hannah. He's not "feeling solid" after being in Alcoholics Anonymous since he was 17, so he decides to attend his first meeting in a long time. He goes on a pretty impassioned speech about his devastation over his break up with Hannah—a girlfriend who at first he didn't like very much but whom he grew to care about and wanted her to be "warm and staying the night." He liked having someone to show everything to. My heart was dying after this speech.
It wasn't just my heart either, a woman at his AA meeting comes up to him afterwards and wants to set Adam up with her daughter, Natalia. Adam decides to call Natalia and they set up a date. He describes himself as "very tall and semi-dashing" (true) and calls himself creepy which he immediately regrets after they hang up.
Natalia (Shiri Appleby) is gorgeous. She and Adam have really good reactions to each other on their date. His open mouthed stare and her "Ohmygod I love my mother" indicate that. She's an assistant to a private investigator and sometimes gets to work as the "decoy." Adam's weird charms are in overdrive as the two talk about how dating is awful and nerve wracking—and he mentions that he's "fucking sweating balls and have had to pee for 30 minutes." Despite the origins of Adam, I felt really glad to see him happy. He's one of the most interesting male characters on television and I think that's largely due to Adam Driver's awesome performance.
As for Ray and Shoshanna, it appears the honeymoon phase has passed. The pair run into Shosh's friend Radhika at the park, who invites the couple to her "impromptu" that evening. Ray immediately says no: "I'm a 33-year-old man and I think it's creepy to go to a college party." Ray's not entirely incorrect, but as we know from previous episodes Shoshanna's agitation about Ray's sedentary nature has been growing. She decides to go to the party by herself and the cute doorman flirts with her. Shosh complains to Radhika about how her apartment is basically an "orphanage" and you can tell by Radhika's bored expression and Shosh's earnest one that she just really needed someone outside Ray and Marnie to talk to. Also, apparently Shoshanna is the only one with a diverse friend group?
Shosh ends up leaving early but stops to talk with the doorman, who is majorly hitting on her. When she says, "I'm sorry if this is really insulting but you are really good looking for a doorman," and he responds with telling her she's beautiful. I felt sad because you know what was going to happen next: they are suddenly making out in a mailroom. That felt like a strained plot point; I don't feel like Shosh would do that to Ray even though she's frustrated with him.
Marnie officially established herself as the worst this week. She finds out from Shosh and Ray that her ex Charlie has recently sold an app and now runs a small company. Ray describes Charlie as a "bougie nightmare." Marnie has to see this for herself and shows up unannounced to his new office—looking much like Hannah does when she meets her parents: a complete mess. Charlie's app, Forbid, prevents the user from making phone calls to unrequited loves or former bosses unless you pay $10 to do so. It's actually a pretty good idea, one that was inspired by Marnie. At first I was unsure about the realism of Charlie selling an app. But it makes sense, we never see Charlie outside how Marnie sees him, so we have absolutely no idea regarding his talents.
Charlie is rightfully skeptical about Marnie showing up—asking her if she needs money and questioning her general support of him. But Marnie realizes Charlie has everything she wishes she had. After her hostess shift, she comes home to complain to Ray about it. In the history of terrible things Marnie has ever said, this could be one of the worst: She apparently didn't think Charlie could be successful because she "thought he was going to be broken for at least six years."
Wow. Her latest "life lesson" as Ray calls it is that "sad messes" like Charlie get everything they want instead of people who did everything they were supposed to. Clearly Marnie is talking about herself.
Ray then points out the biggest flaw in Marnie's new lesson—what does she want? What is her dream? She can't answer right away, but then it comes out: Marnie wants to sing. And she actually can! Even Ray admits it. He tells her she has to go for it especially because she can't "continue to dress like a magician's assistant for much longer."
Since we are in the home stretch of the season, with only two episodes left, I'm hoping that this episode's out-of-the-blue quality was a fluke.
Quick List: Other Favorite Factoids from "It's Back"
- Ray has forbid Shosh to use air quotes.
- "Aren't these funny and vintage!?" — Radhika on her rollerblades.
- Shosh's biggest nightmare is for people to think she's dead when she isn't.
- "This is a fucking landline." — Adam when he calls Natalia.
- There are a ton of awesome guest stars in this episode including Carol Kane, Judy Collins and Bob Balaban.
- "I can't decide if he's the greatest person in the world or the worst." — Hannah on Adam.