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On ‘Girls,’ a Birthday is Celebrated With Fist Fights, a ‘Rent’ Duet and a Heroic Display of Pubic Hair

On 'Girls,' a Birthday is Celebrated With Fist Fights, a 'Rent' Duet and a Heroic Display of Pubic Hair

The article below contains spoilers for “She Said OK,” the January 19th, 2014 episode of “Girls.”

Enter Gaby Hoffmann, and what an entrance. As Adam’s (Adam Driver) older sister Caroline in “She Said OK,” Hoffmann whirls onto the scene like a passive-aggressive Tasmanian devil, and manages to secure a place to crash despite her brother’s initial and adamant refusal, to bite Ray (Alex Karpovsky) and to serve up her second memorable on-screen display of unfettered pubic hair in the past year (the other was in Sebastián Silva’s “Crystal Fairy,” if you’re curious). Hoffmann’s emerged as a funny and vanity-free performer in her recent roles, and Caroline is an epic disaster of a human being, arriving at the apartment Adam and Hannah share after having been (literally) kicked to the curb by a boyfriend. “How could a man who loved animals with such a haunting totality just turn around a brutally rebuff me?” she wails.

At this point, one might argue, the last thing that “Girls” needs is to introduce an even more abrasive character, and Caroline’s not exactly easy to take (though Hoffmann gets some hilarious lines, the best being “Why did I even join the teacher’s union?”). She does, however, serve as a window into Adam, a character who’s not prone to opening up about himself in anything other than eccentric bursts. That’s certainly part of why Hannah overrules his attempts to throw his sister out, despite some clear indications that Caroline is not the most reliable narrator of the causes of her own woe (she got fired because “nobody trusts a young, beautiful teacher, they only want old, stinky ones!”). Hannah’s chosen to let Adam share at his own pace rather than pry, which seems to be serving both of them well (in a typically weird/sweet gesture, he even gifts her with a necklace made from his tooth), but then here comes a sibling who not only knows everything about Adam’s childhood but who gets him to yell about an attempt at euthanizing his grandmother a few minutes into her arrival.

“There is no being nice to this girl, she destroys everything in her wake!” Adam pleads, but Caroline manages to finagle first an invite to Hannah’s 25th birthday party and later a spot in the spare room by doing the social equivalent of hurling herself on the tracks and daring them not to come to her rescue — she shows off bruises from her ex and later breaks a glass in her fist, and Hannah accedes in a move Adam describes as Caroline winning. If “Girls” is about how prolonged the process of getting one’s shit together can be, Caroline serves as a reminder that for plenty of people the floundering can extend well into adulthood. She’s not alone in that — take downstairs neighbor Laird (Jon Glaser), who shows up for another entertainingly sad sack appearance at the party, or David (John Cameron Mitchell), Hannah’s editor, who shows up uninvited and high, having been stood up on an apparent date, demanding an “internet-enabled cell phone of some kind” on which he immediately installs Grindr.

The party, which also gives us another moment with Hannah’s adorably game parents (Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari), was planned by Marnie (Allison Williams) in what was at least half a self-serving gesture — now she’ll have party pictures to post to Instagram, which she’s sure Charlie checks. Marnie also arranges for her and Hannah to take the stage for a reprisal of the duet from “Rent” they sang at Hannah’s 21st birthday — “Take Me or Leave Me” — which has nothing to do with what Hannah wants and everything to do with giving Marnie another platform to sing to a captive audience (who nevertheless flees in favor of watching the fight that breaks out between David and Ray). It’s not quite as excruciating as the time Marnie serenaded the unwilling crowd at Charlie’s party with “Stronger,” but it’s still painful — no one (except Laird) has the slightest interest in watching her perform, and the only headway she’s made in her newly chosen career is a laughably bad, Rebecca Black-worthy music video for an auto-tuned cover of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ 1988 “What I Am” that she can’t get taken down from YouTube.

Ray’s life, on the other hand, is actually coming together after years of it being a shambles. He’s managing the new Grumpy’s and continues to have a wonderfully deadpan rapport with his boss Hermie (Colin Quinn), who insists he’s dying, and who tells his protege “I love you like a bastard son.” And despite the fight with David, which is initiated over DJ request etiquette and Ray getting his drinking along to the sounds of the Smashing Pumpkins cut off early, Ray actually seems to have done a healthy thing in telling Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) he doesn’t want to be friends and pretend that he’s okay. He got his heart broken, and isn’t ready to hear what she’s up to or how she’s been, a honest, rough response that shocks her — he’s still upset, and she seems to have moved on, as overcompensatory as her recent party phase seems to be. “I always have terrible birthdays,” Hannah says, but measured against the humiliations she’s experienced over the course of the show so far, her coked-out editor throwing her drunk boss onto a coffee table really isn’t so bad — and gave us the image of a bloodied Alex Karpovsky cowering away from a twitchy John Cameron Mitchell insisting they hug things out. Crazy sisters aside, life is looking up.

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