"Ready for dinner"
Can anything bad happen when Bob Balaban and Carol Kane show up? Is it humanly possible? It’s certainly not dramatically possible — which is why, even though it seems at first that these titans have been cast into the rather luckless and confining roles of wacky mother and distant therapist, this episode may be one of the wisest, and — in terms of Lena Dunham’s goal to actually replicate this slice of generational functionality now — the most effective.
Adam! Adam Adam Adam! There’s Adam! Thank God! I am always terrified we will lose Adam! There he is, lying on his customary bed. And even though it’s the same apartment where he and Hannah first had their unbearable and bizarre couplings, it now look like an entirely different, even warm, apartment — what Freud (there is a therapist!) might term heimlich. It’s a common but surprising shift: the one that occurs between when you first see a place and you know it.
Speaking of the changing spaces, Hannah, now one month out from Adam (we learn) and still not finished with the book, appears to be counting everything she does — literally. She eats a certain number of chips, counts a certain number of taps at her own door. Is she practicing being OCD for a piece? Is this actually the episode’s first dream sequence? Or has Hannah crumpled before she’s even begun?
This is the episode of questions. Where is Jessa? Shosh asks, as she and Marnie and Ray stroll through Washington Square. (“Is she in a tropical climate or somewhere up high?”) Where was Shoshanna? asks a fellow classmate, filling her with enough terror to reduce her to air quotes. (“Now I see where you’ve been!”) What is Charlie doing? asks Marnie. He has an app? What is it called? (“Charlie has a company and an app?”) Will Ray go to the party with Shoshanna? (“I’m 33 years old. It’s creepy for me to go to a college party. It’s actually creepy for a senior to go to a college party.”)
But however you answer those questions — large and small — has a climactic effect on your 20s. Marnie visits Ray in his new, sparkling office, where she finds out he apparently dealt with their breakup by writing a new app called Forbid (actually a great name), one that forces you to pay $10 to call anyone on a block list. (Like, say, an ex-girlfriend.) Adam goes to an AA meeting where he declares he loved answering all of Hannah’s questions (“She didn’t know what street Central Park started on or how to use soap.”) These confessions prompt a bespectacled Carol Kane to insist Adam call her daughter. He does. It’s on a land line. She is very hot and great, and greets Adam by saying, “I love my mom.”
It’s no coincidence that both of these involve calls to a new person. Charlie has literally forbidden himself to call Marnie, and Adam has moved on to calling the wonderful Anastasia. Meanwhile, Marnie is still dressed in her childlike hostess outfit, Hannah’s being “count-y” has led her to be taken, literally, to a pediatrician by her parents — Bob — and Ray is still lying on Shosh’s bed while she goes to the party and then makes out with the doorman. It’s Ray and Marnie who are the losers left behind, and Ray asks her what she’d like to do — what she’d really like to do. She sings (poorly), but it’s her dream. Hannah reveals herself to still be terrified of someone like a psychiatrist, whose questions appear to be telling her she’s not enough of an adult. She’s one step away from masturbating eight times a night, like she did in high school, then counting her father’s toothbrush 64 times. We learned this anxiety was caused by Adam calling her, and her not picking up. It matters whom you call, and how you answer.
Lizzie Skurnick is the author of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stop Reading. She writes on books and culture for the New York Times Magazine, the Daily Beast, Bookforum, the LAT, and many other publications.More Lizzie Skurnick.