'Girls' recap: The discomforts of home

Sarah D. Bunting
"Girls" -- "It's a Shame About Ray"
Lena Dunham in the "Girls" Season 2 episode, "It's a Shame About Ray."

WARNING: This week's episode of "Girls" was released early so as not to have to compete with the Super Bowl. If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading.

The episode title "It's A Shame About Ray," for you youngsters out there, comes from a Lemonheads song; it also refers to Ray's housing situation, which as it turns out is living either with Shoshanna or in his Mitsubishi after losing access to his godmother's apartment.

Shoshanna gradually realizes that Ray has just as gradually begun cohabiting with her, at a super-awkward dinner party thrown by Hannah to celebrate the publication of her cocaine mini-memoir and featuring any number of uncomfortable revelations. That Hannah is a self-absorbed crap-stirrer who has deliberately invited both Marnie, to whom she's barely speaking, and Charlie and his girlfriend Audrey just to watch the inevitable fireworks -- that's not a revelation. Nor is it particularly surprising that Hannah makes a big to-do about buying all-organic ingredients; refuses to let anyone leave to relieve the awkwardness even when all three parties offer; or thinks it's awesome that Audrey and her friend Shelby are starting a mustard company. (How Brooklyn. What's wrong with Grey Poupon?) It is kind of interesting that anyone consents to eat Hannah's pad thai (especially after Shoshanna comments that it smells funny), and that they have to explain to Shoshanna what a butt-plug is and why people use it (she's relatively inexperienced, but seems to watch a lot of TV and read a lot of self-help books, and Jessa is her cousin).

Three on a match

The butt-plug discussion segues somehow into a catfight between Audrey and Marnie. Audrey is not impressed that Marnie showed up at Charlie's house and asked to sleep in his bed. Marnie feels betrayed that Charlie told Audrey, and Hannah's "casual" observation that Marnie's too self-centered to kill herself doesn't help; Marnie stomps up to the roof. Charlie follows her, and responds to her whining that Audrey "isn't intimidated by" her by trying to kiss her, which Marnie kiboshes by saying she's "seeing" Booth Jonathan. Oh, is that what that's called. Charlie takes an early lead for our favorite character of the episode by groaning, "That f------ little Ewok in capri pants?" Marnie tries to argue that he's "a brilliant artist…and he's average height." He's neither, but we're going to let Marnie have this one, because she's just had a very real moment where she confesses that she's flailing, and she wishes someone would just tell her what to do and how to be.

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Oh, and her "best friend" Hannah is downstairs pontificating about how she has "three or four really great folk albums in" her while eating a Bundt cake straight from the serving platter with a fork. She does come to Marnie's defense somewhat when Charlie calls Marnie a C-word, but Marnie doesn't witness this, and it doesn't really make up for anything. It might be time for Marnie and Hannah to make like Jessa and Thomas-John and break up.

And Jessa and Thomas-John break up spectacularly. A foreseeably disastrous dinner with TJ's parents is even cringier than you might imagine: Jessa kicks things off with "I hate this restaurant, but I don't even care because I'm so happy to meet you guys!", then proceeds to reveal that she only went to Oberlin for seven months, but left early because she had to go to rehab for heroin; that her mother didn't work ("she tried it once; I don't thinks he likes it"); and that there isn't a God. TJ's dad (Griffin Dunne, brilliant here) is getting very drunk and revealing a few things of his own (in one non sequitur, he burbles that his favorite kind of movie is one in which schoolgirls fall in love). Mom (Deborah Rush, perfectly pinched) tries not to reveal that she thinks Jessa is a gold-digger, but doesn't quite manage it, and makes sure to mention the more "ambitious" women in TJ's past, one of whom apparently ran the OWN Network. (Not that that's necessarily a feather in one's cap.)


At home afterwards, it's on. Jessa bloviates some more about how dull he is, how nobody liked him in high school (or now), how she's embarrassed when they're on the street together "because you're so f------ average." For his part, TJ has had it with her blathering about experiences, and counters that she's not embarrassed when she's spending his money. He knows it's no accident she latched onto "the only finance guy" who did well during the recession, and blows her off as "some dumb hipster who's munching my hay." That doesn't get much rise out of Jessa, but when he says he's never made a mistake that big, then calls her "a whore with no work ethic," that gets to her -- and he gets punched in the face. We almost thought they might start making out at that point, but fortunately, it's all over but the payoff, as he asks, "How much money do you need to f------ leave?" She settles for eleven and a half thousand dollars and smashing a humanitarian award he won at work.

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Jessa turns up, teary, at Hannah's to find her in the bath, singing "Wonderwall" (not badly, either, but it's no folk song). She clambers into the tub with Hannah and weeps, then snot-rockets into the water, which Hannah rightly objects to. Holding hands, they push the booger back and forth in the water, trying to get it onto the other one's side of the tub.

So…we guess Hannah's found a new roommate (Elijah did get the boot, as threatened).

And so has Shoshanna, it looks like; waiting for the L train, Ray admits that he couldn't bring himself to tell her that he's "a 33-year-old homeless guy…whose one valuable possession is a signed photograph of Andy Kaufman." She blurts that she's falling in love with him. "It's way too early" for her to say something like that, Ray sighs, then says he loves her too (but with more cursing). Shoshanna is thrilled and stricken at the same time, which we guess is a pretty good capsule definition of love, now that we think about it.

Klueless Korner

We respect that "Girls" doesn't make its characters likeable for that quality's own sake, but the show is taking it too far with Hannah. The dinner party whose dual purpose is to 1) celebrate Hannah's navel-gazing internet "triumph" and 2) torture Marnie is bad enough, but she also calls Elijah's ex-boyfriend, George, and gets him to agree that she should get to keep all the furniture in the apartment that George bought for Elijah. Yes, it's funny; yes, we all know, or knew, or were, women like Hannah who only think about themselves, and don't realize they have to at least pretend to do otherwise. But we get it, and just because it's realistic doesn't mean it's interesting. Give Hannah either a clue or a comeuppance, but do something else with it.

Jessa loftily informs Thomas-John that when she's 30, she'll "look 50," because she'll have had so many experiences. He bitterly agrees that this is so; to Jessa's credit, she seems to understand after saying it that this maybe isn't quite what she wants. The pretension, the nomadic lifestyle hide a loneliness she isn't admitting to herself, and if "Girls" isn't willing to let us root for Hannah, the show wisely gives us a glimpse of something sad and relatable beneath Jessa's affectations.

Zosia Mamet tells Jimmy Fallon about her upcoming projects:

"Girls" usually airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.