Remember those Cosmo-ish “Which Sex & the City character are you?” quizzes that every single editorial outlet featured during that show’s run? Of course you couldn’t take the results seriously; you can’t “be” one of those people, because those people weren’t people. They were slices of people, meant to illustrate (and easier to write than) the composite, contradictory whole.
It was reductive to say that I “was a Miranda” (a workaholic who ate cake from the trash) ( . . . What? It was still in the box!), and it’s just as reductive to say that I’m in large part a Marnie (controlling, responsible, paralyzed, gorgeous) (just kidding; I’m not that responsible). But I do relate to Marnie’s rigidity, self-righteousness, the frustration and fear of change that manifest as meanness, and maybe that’s why I completely hated Marnie’s story in “All Adventurous Women Do.”
I hated Marnie during it at times, for sure. Charlie surprises her with a stubbly new haircut, and it’s actually an improvement over the previous floppy style, but Marnie’s face falls straight off her head (nice work by Allison Williams, here and throughout). She hates it, sneering that he looks like “Mickey Mouse without the ears.” She’s basically mad that he didn’t clear it with her first, and she’s even madder when he reveals that he shaved his head to support a woman at work who has ovarian cancer, because now Marnie looks like a total bitch. That’s because she is a total bitch here.
We didn’t need another illustration of the idea that Marnie and Charlie should split up already, but the show moves the ball at least a few feet later . At an opening at the gallery where Marnie works, Marnie’s inappropriate boss (she reads as tipsy, but you get the feeling she’s always like that; kitted out in a low-cut blouse, she sends another assistant to get her “tit tape,” and nobody in the scene even flinches) introduces Marnie to a snotty artist, Booth Jonathan. The “introduction” takes the form of the boss yelling at Booth for sleeping with some other lady of a certain age, and noting that Marnie says she has a boyfriend, “but I’ve never seen him.” Marnie, flustered, shares that she’s a big fan of Booth’s; Booth sizes her up and advises her to “try and give less of a shit.” My immediately saying, out loud, “The correct usage is ‘try to,” means I’m not in the demo for Booth’s cocky whatever, but Marnie is intrigued. Flirting. She feels obligated to inform him that she’s not going to kiss him. More flirting.
And here’s where I get annoyed. Booth gets right up close to her and murmurs, “But I want you to know: the first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little, because I’m a man, and I know how to do things.” He walks off to enjoy being That Guy and wearing his blazer collar turned up. Marnie rushes inside, locks herself in a bathroom, and masturbates. . . . Girls, please. It’s not that a line like that has never worked, but the entire sequence felt, to me, like a man’s take on what Marnie needs, i.e., “That filly wants breaking to harness!” Yes, people should stand up to Marnie, but 1) I don’t care for the idea that that’s a result of her gender, or that the opposite gender is what’s required to “take her down a peg”; and 2) snideness and pat line delivery do not a man make in the first place. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but the cure for uptight-bitch-itis is not necessarily cock.
We’re seeing more than enough peen-alization on the show as it is. Hannah puts on war paint (high five on the tights-and-Chuck-Taylors wardrobe choice, though) and goes over to Adam’s house, where he’s lifting weights (natch). The next morning, in bed, he’s making her tummy fat “talk,” which she’s both charmed and terrified by; he asks whether she’s “tried a lot to lose weight.” Mildly irritated, she tells him she decided to make other things more important in her life, but I liked the way the scene highlighted that the average straight man’s cluelessness about matters lady-weight is exactly that: cluelessness. He doesn’t mean to be hurtful, because he absolutely has not noticed whichever five-pound pocket his lady friend thinks is flagrantly hideous, unless it is a third breast, which he thinks is rad.
The tickly, teasing development of their bond is rudely interrupted by a call from the clinic, informing Hannah that she has HPV. Lena Dunham kills it here: Hannah is near tears as she relays this to Adam, and he continues to earn points by hugging her and saying he’s sorry. Think it’s all about to go pear-shaped? Correct! Hannah grumps, “Are you sorry because you gave it to me?” Adam is promptly and completely offended, claiming that he got tested recently “and I don’t have that.” Even if there were a screen for HPV for men, which there isn’t, his claim to have gotten tested would smell like bullshit just because he’s the one making it. Hannah promptly backs down, though: she’s sorry, she’s only slept with two people (down from “two and a half” in a previous ep) and she doubts it’s her college boyfriend, surely he can see how she might assume Adam is the source, is he mad at her? “Will you still have sex with me?” Adam, coldly: “When it’s appropriate, sure.” What a prince. When Hannah asks for a hug goodbye, he’s too “busy” doing a shoulder-stand and cycling his legs.
Water having found its insensitive level once more, Hannah goes outside to call Marnie, who starts crying about how it’s so unfair because Hannah is so careful with condoms. They discuss whether Hannah could have gotten HPV from the college ex, Elijah, and do a dead-on riff on the stupid details you inevitably have handy about your exes’ exes—viz. Elijah’s previous girlfriend, a cellist with a “loose-joint disorder,” who annoys Hannah by “liking” her Facebook statuses. Hannah assures Marnie that she’s fine, so Marnie reminds her that rent is due in a week, and asks about Hannah’s job hunt. Hannah’s not that fine. “I have pre-cancer!” she snaps, and hangs up on Marnie. Looks like Hannah is putting her theory from last week—that an STD is a great excuse not to bear down on looking for a job—into practice.
Hannah heads over to Shoshanna’s to change clothes. Shoshanna is still kind of a cartoon at this point in the series, but Zosia Mamet is doing a great job with the broad strokes she’s given. This scene doesn’t do much for Shoshanna’s depth, but it’s still kind of fun: she’s cuddled up on her couch, eating cereal, stroking a furry décor pillow in a Blofeldian manner, and watching Baggage. Baggage is apparently a real show, hosted by one Jerry Springer, in which contestants put their emotional baggage in various suitcases, and then their partners have to pick one, or something . . . . I mean, what it really is script-wise is an excuse to shorthand some background info about Shoshanna (she has IBS, unsurprisingly), and also to address the etiquette of STDs.
Shoshanna’s practical inexperience doesn’t hinder her here, as she shrugs that Jessa has “a couple of strains” of HPV (the Parisian and Balinese strains, I presume), and Jessa’s typically self-mythologizing take on it is that “all adventurous women do.” Hannah doesn’t want to have to tell/ask Elijah what’s going on, because she doesn’t want to see him, because she thinks he’s still in love with her (. . . oh, dear), but Shoshanna thinks she has to: “In the STD world, I think it’s like kind of courteous.” She also thinks it’s totally fine if Hannah and Elijah end up having sex (. . . ohhhhhh, dear) because they both already have HPV. I know Shoshanna only has two dimensions, but I love both of them, and the insane clown logic that prevails therein.
The adventurous woman, meanwhile, is on a babysitting job, clad in a transparent floor-length white dress with neon-pink underthings. The mom, rushing off to a shoot, suggests the kids do their “mosaic work,” or maybe the older one could let Jessa proofread her (ten-page) novel. Jessa is a natural with the girls, listening attentively to Trixie’s grammar-school masterwork while eating string cheese in a makeshift tent in the living room. Dad (James LeGros, a casting decision I found all-caps delightful in my notes—love that actor) comes home to find Jessa snoozing on the couch; something about Jessa’s artless report that she accidentally kicked one of his kids in the head appeals to him (or perhaps it’s the visible hot-pink brassiere), and they smoke pot together and talk around their shared aimlessness. One of the kids wakes up and wanders into the kitchen before it Goes There, but LeGros isn’t generally a throwaway-cameo guy, and the dialogue set his character up as a man who’s not working and resents his hard-charging wife’s blah blah justified in his own mind to fuck the babysitter blah, so! Expect these two to get it on.
Elsewhere, the Elijah talks break down in a matter of minutes. He thinks Hannah’s confronting him because she heard about his emergence from the closet, but she’s stunned by the news. What follows is a Horvath’s Inferno-esque tour of all the insecurities women have, or could have, about ex-boyfriends who “turn out to be” gay—that they were always attracted to men, that they thought about Doing It with men during the relationship, that they could feign an attraction to a woman because she had mannish traits. Elijah confirms all these things, commenting that “there’s a handsomeness to” Hannah, and Hannah snaps that maybe he could have figured his attracted-to-dudes shit out before passing her a disease. Elijah goes to DefCon 1 at that point. It’s not clear where all his hostility is coming from; she’s just accused him of giving her an STD, then claimed that he’s affecting a “fruity little voice,” but now it seems like he’s been lying in the high weeds for other reasons. In any case, he hotly denies he’s the carrier, informs her that Adam is full of shit about testing negative, and snots, “You were always like this.” Hannah notes that he was not always like this, or she would have known he was gay. Elijah: “We’re only as blind as we want to be.” Then he throws a low blow he’s obviously been saving: her dad is gay. Elijah cites the stud in Dad’s ear, and I totally noticed that on Peter Scolari in the pilot, so it’s nice that it gets a callback here. After failing to convince Elijah that her dad is straight, she passive-aggressives that she’s going to ask people if they’re gay before she sleeps with them from now on. Elijah wishes her a sarcastic good luck with that—”and don’t be surprised if people ask you if you keep dressing like that.” I agree that Hannah doesn’t always dress to flatter her shape, but again, the bile seems unrelated to what’s actually going on here. Hannah has had it and announces that she’s going to get the last word in. Not so fast! Elijah snaps, “It was nice to see you, your dad is gay,” and leaves.
Back at the Hannah/Marniehaus, Hannah is over-thinking a tweet that ends up reading, “All adventurous women do.” She gets up to have a solo dance party to a song with on-the-nose lyrics (“I keep dancing on my own”). When Marnie gets home, Hannah does not stop frugging to announce to her that Elijah is gay, which she probably should have known since he “only ejaculated 30 percent of the time. And . . . he seemed gay.” Marnie laughs, because you kind of have to. They dance together, but Hannah’s determination to hide her hurt feelings in dance soon flags, and we fade to credits on Hannah giving Marnie a huge, almost desperate hug—making the connection she’s sought all episode.
Sarah D. Bunting co-founded TelevisionWithoutPity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She’s the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com.