I hoped the title of this week’s episode wouldn’t imply what I had a feeling it implied. I hoped we’d just see Hannah writing in her diary, or hear snippets in a voice-over—something, anything besides another character reading Hannah’s diary and getting information s/he didn’t want, while I watched, cringing, from behind a pillow.
No such luck. The information we don’t want, the things we can’t un-know, the facts we already have but can’t face: these form the contents of “Hannah’s Diary.”
Shoshanna’s virginity is the most obvious example; it looks like she’s found a likely prospect for dumping it when she runs into an old summer-camp acquaintance, Matt Kornstein, on the street. The flame rekindles with a quickness . . . er, “dork-ness”: Matt speaks admiringly of “the most intense kitchen raid” that Shoshanna led as a junior counselor back in the day; she fondly remembers how he saved a camper stuck between two kayaks. Summer-camp nerdery is an easy target, but it hits its mark here; no dummy, Matt avails himself of their mutual raptness by suggesting a hang that very night.
It’s still going well as they watch a movie—Matt isn’t put off by the trademark Shoshanna hail of verbiage, and smooves his leg onto her lap with an excuse about how it gets achy if he can’t stretch it. Next thing you know, he’s peeling off her clothes (to reveal the fancy and fairly risqué lingerie she wore for a garden-variety movie date; atta girl) and diving between her legs. The overhead shot that comes next is a deft run of faces by Shoshanna: he’s doing his thing, and she’s simultaneously ticklish, intrigued, and unable to enjoy it because she’s fixated on whether it means she can oust her hymen.
When he surfaces to rave that “this is so chill, the way this is happening, I love it,” that’s Shoshanna’s cue to ruin it with the information that she’s a virgin. Matt didn’t want to know that: “This is . . . really not my thing. Virgins!” She didn’t want to know that, and tries to correct her mistake by protesting that “except for the fact that I haven’t had sex I’m like totally not a virgin.” Shoshanna’s description of herself as “the least virgin-y virgin ever” is the line everyone’s going to seize on, but the “except for the fact” line is more striking—not because it’s nonsensical, but because it’s such a tidy nutshelling of the idea that, until you’re not a virgin anymore, you have only a theoretical grasp of these distinctions.
Matt’s not going to put too fine a point on it, though: “Virgins get attached. And they bleed. You get attached when you bleed.” Thanks for . . . not sugar-coating it? I think this is a widely held belief among both genders (minus the blood part), but the bluntness is bracing. And non-negotiable: Shoshanna’s assertion that she’s “totally not an attached bleeder” doesn’t change Matt’s mind. Later, Shoshanna plaintively asks Jessa if she’d fuck a virgin, and when she’s told Shoshanna means herself, Jessa sweetly says, “Oh, Shosh. If I had a cock, it’s all I’d do.”
By that time, Jessa’s spent most of a day confronting what she doesn’t know yet. She has a power over men, which she exercises effortlessly when she runs into her charges’ dad, Jeff Lavoyt (James LeGros; took me a while to track down the character name), and his just-out-of-rehab brother Terry (Horatio Sanz, and you have to wonder where that casting is going) on the street. Terry is gobsmacked that Jeff scored a caregiver who looks like she’s from “the back page of the Village Voice,” but what they don’t know—and Jessa hasn’t admitted to herself yet—is that she has no idea what the eff she’s doing, or talking about.
Chilling with the other nannies on the playground—mostly women of color who “thought she was an actress with some baby,” not a babysitter—she bonds with them by complaining that Lola is acting like a “C U next Tuesday,” then assures the others grandly that “I’m just like all of you.” The “girl, please” faces pulled in response don’t stop her from sitting on the picnic table and delivering a well-meaning but obnoxiously ignorant sermon to them about unionizing, and she’s only pulled up short when the Caribbean nanny wonders where Lola and Trixie have gotten to. They’re located (by the other nanny) under a gazebo, but Jessa can’t make them come out, and she can’t stop Lola from immediately tattling to her parents when they get home that Jessa lost them.
The parents just assume Lola is lying, and it strikes a chord in Jessa. Not only does she know the truth about what happened in the park, she knows another truth—about Lola, and then about her own overlooked childhood.
Jessa confesses to their father that she did lose the girls. Lavoyt sighs that “we’ve all done it,” that he lost Lola at a green market years ago, and Jessa admits that she “would run away and tell lies all the time” at Lola’s age—like that her mom was awesome and they were best friends. This conversation puts the first chink in Jessa’s armor of pretension; Jessa may not know how to take care of Lola, exactly, but she knows Lola.
Hannah has known for a while that Adam is a pig; it’s just not something she can admit to herself without it meaning something negative about her—not when he sexts her a picture of his dick, then follows it up immediately with a bone-chilling “sorry, meant to send that to someone else” text; not when Marnie calls Adam “a noted psychopath”; not when Hannah sends him a picture of her breasts in an attempt to play along, and he doesn’t respond.
It takes a conversation with her co-workers at her temp job to get the light bulb to go on. It’s great that Hannah landed a gig, except that she’s in over her head with building charts in Windows, and her boss, Rich (the reliably excellent Richard Masur), is a creeper. After he “demonstrates his Reiki technique” on her as an excuse to handle her boobs, Hannah is concerned and grossed out, but during a bathroom powwow lit to resemble a prison documentary, Hannah’s colleagues explain that she’ll get used to it, and besides, in exchange, Rich buys them iPods and looks the other way on tardiness and “sick” days. This leverage-based view of sexual harassment is interesting (and/or depressing) on its own, in light of the current economy and Hannah’s specific predicament within it; it’s even more interesting (and/or depressing) that the co-workers have no problem letting Rich’s fingers do the walking, but all-caps demand that Hannah “have a little self-respect” when it comes to Adam. Hannah does ask why the Rich fondling is different, but they don’t really answer. (Another instance in which the show presents a complex argument or hypocrisy, then doesn’t draw an explicit conclusion about right or wrong. Possibly Girls feels overmatched by untangling complicated motivations; more likely, it’s that real-life situations — the emotions surrounding an abortion; the compromises women may make to keep jobs—don’t resolve in a narratively neat way, and Dunham doesn’t want to force them to.)
After their intervention on her patchy eyebrows left her looking like Frida Kahlo as drawn by a kindergartener, Hannah probably shouldn’t ask those two for the time, much less for advice about her personal life. But something in the conversation forces her to see that the only thing she “gets out of” her relationship with Adam is self-loathing and dashed hopes. And she tells Adam exactly that, standing in his doorway and cutting him loose: the dick pic made her feel “stupid and pathetic,” which is how she’s trained him to treat her, and she really likes him, but she can’t anymore, because it hurts too much. “I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, who thinks I’m the best person in the world, and who wants to have sex with only me.” I stop taking notes to stitch that on a pillow, but Hannah’s not done—Adam doesn’t hear her, and he’s not going to change, so sayonara. Adam doesn’t say much of anything, but when her lip starts to tremble towards the end, he hooks a finger into the front of her sweater. Ohhhh no no no no no, don’t do it! Walk off before he can suck you back i—dammit. Passionate making-out. She stops to say that she can’t take “serious” naked pictures of herself, “it’s not who I am.” “Just be who you are,” he says, oh so sweetly, and it’s a moment Hannah is going to take out and look at with brimming eyes for months after he goes back to his regular shitheel self. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and “forgot” it at his place so I’d have an excuse to come over again.
Hannah meets up with the others at Charlie and Ray’s open-mic performance. She’s all aglow (maybe Adam finally found her clit), but that won’t last long, because the scales have fallen from Charlie’s eyes. Earlier, doing some daytime song-writing with Ray at the Hannah/Marniehaus, Charlie notes that Marnie’s “been completely on edge lately,” but doesn’t connect this with their relationship. He wants to make her something nice to cheer her up. Ray: “Like a coffee table made out of street garbage?” Actually, Ray, in Brooklyn we prefer the term “found materials,” but he’s right that Charlie is in denial—although Ray’s assertion that Marnie needs to be fucked hard, chained to a post, and whipped “until she fuckin’—whatever” is perhaps more about Ray’s hostility issues.
The snooping that follows is definitely about Ray’s boundary issues, as he examines Hannah’s holey undies, then holds Marnie’s vibrator aloft. “That’s a shared tool,” Charlie sniffs. “You’re a shared tool,” Ray and I say in unison. But the mother lode is sitting right out on the bed: Hannah’s diary, which Ray begins reading and snarking on. Then he falls silent and is suddenly super-eager to get back to helping Charlie build the table. Charlie doesn’t understand that ignorance is bliss, and insists on knowing what Ray read.
And he can’t un-know it, so he puts it into a song, Kathy-Griffin-on-Seinfeld-style. After dedicating the piece to “my G-friend Marnie” and Hannah, he angrily strums and sings lines from the diary: “What is Marnie thinking / she needs to know what’s out there / how does it feel to date a man with a vagina.” All things we know, all things we’ve seen, several things Hannah and Marnie have already discussed in the bathtub and elsewhere. Shoshanna, confused, asks if it’s a love song as Ray whips out the diary itself and Charlie begins to read directly from it. Hannah is turning a shade of mortified spearmint; from her right comes the bubbling sound of Marnie’s blood reaching a boil. Charlie finishes and storms off-stage, and Marnie, unwilling to accept that this is everyone’s fault but Hannah’s, dashes her cocktail down Hannah’s front and calls her “such a fucking bitch.” Or perhaps calls herself that. Not the most realistic burst of plot I’ve ever seen—but that relationship had to end, so why mess around. It also reminded me of that great line from the Toni Pavone character on Felicity, when she tells Felicity that honesty isn’t as important as kindness; every writer has to decide, usually more than once, whether it’s more important to nail the description or protect the feelings of those described. Granted, Hannah didn’t intend for anyone to read her diary—but it can’t be un-read. After Marnie storms off, Jessa chuckles, “That was awesome,” and Hannah says glumly that she’s going to puke, and both comments are probably accurate assessments of how it’s going to feel for Hannah to have to think about someone besides herself going forward.
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.