"Girls" recap: The contact high

A dubious writing assignment pushes Hannah out of her comfort zone so she can discover "where the magic happens"

By Lizzie Skurnick
Published January 28, 2013 4:00AM (EST)

It's hard to get old. By the time you reach 30, not only do the joyful events of life — parties, medication, sex — become inexpressibly tedious, you've begun to realize that any major life change — divorce, skin elasticity, death — is likely to be very unpleasant.

In precisely the reverse position are Hannah and her crew, who desire the perceived privileges of adulthood without being able to handle its most mundane tasks. This episode, Hannah finally puts her finger on it. Manic on cocaine (we'll get to that in a second), she tells the equally high Elijah, "I want to learn to write a check properly! I'm saying I want to be independent, but all these little things block me from it — block me!"

When you can't write a check, sometimes the only way to feel old in your twenties is to be with an adult who, presumably, can. (You don't realize what's wrong with them wanting to be with someone who can't write a check.) Last episode, George was the brave elder who has made the plunge with Elijah and withdrew. This episode, the children — and they are children — are easy prey for adults who don't want to get old.

We often think that adults hang out with kids to recapture their youth. That is not untrue. But this episode is about a more pernicious form of the phenomenon: adults who, already clinging to their own childhoods, try to drag the youth into them, too.

And thus we begin with Hannah trying to get a job from certified old person, Jamie ("Jame") who, at a decade or so older than Hannah, is so old that she doesn't realize that her online publication being "just the Internet" is no longer a downside.

Jamie-Jame is uninterested in the type of thing twentysomethings write on the Internet, because she is not interested twentysomethings. Instead, she wants Hannah to get of the "box," a box she has helpfully inscribed on the actual wall. Outside it, she tells Hannah, is "where the magic happens."

What Jamie-Jame thinks twentysomethings do: Cocaine and threesomes. Okay. I am close to 40, and even I know that those are the hoary mainstays of an earlier era. (Though I did just click "Bob Mackie" on my channel guide.) It's such an oldery era that Hannah must get the cocaine from another certifiable old person, Laird, the meth head who lives on the first floor of her building.

She's not the only one being subsumed by the elderly. Shoshanna's relationship with the Ray has devolved into a crash course in black-and-white comedies (which are borrowed nostalgia even for him). And Booth (You remember him. He's the artist who told Marnie that when they had sex, it might scare her, because "he's a man") picks her up, takes her to his apartment, and literally locks her in a giant box. It's his masterpiece, four walls of TV overlaid with a "Barely Breathing" soundtrack.

If you haven't gotten it yet, that's followed by Marnie literally held down by Booth as he has sex with her from behind, inseminates her, and then starts talking about the purity of the 1980s and "3-2-1 Contact." (Sex from behind with no condom is the "man thing"? Sounds like some bullshit "3-2-1 Contact.") In the meantime, Hannah and Elijah are doing their best to replicate what they think a debauched night of cocaine actually is. "Is there any rule that we can't start getting high circa, like, 4 p.m.?" Hannah asks. "No rule but human decency," Elijah responds thoughtfully.

And, like we all did, the girls love their trip in adult-world. They LOVE it. "What the fuck. WHAT THE FUCK," Marnie says as she exits Booth's box. "You are so fucking talented." Elijah and Hannah are so thrilled by their cocaine high that when the guilty Laird starts following them around, suffused with regret, they think he is angry they're so ungrateful. "We already thanked you!" Hannah says.

The first time I watched "Girls," I snapped it off halfway through the first episode, not wishing to revisit my own Adams. When my assistant said it was a great show, I didn't believe her. It was only when I was forced to get to that episode's first certifiably good line — "That's a high person" — that I realized not only was it great, but it had nothing to do with me at all.

It's not a coincidence that every item boxing in the girls this show is a TV. (Or a box on the wall — close enough.) When "Girls" launched, not only did we blame Lena Dunham entirely for our endemic "Mad Men"-era-white TV line-up, we made fun of her for writing a show that was perverse enough to suggest there was any era beyond our own. We'd invented comedy, irony, the phones upon which Hannah texts. This Golden Globes, she thanked hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey for being such an important influence on her when she was in high school. All we heard was "high school."

So I think, for the most part, we deserve it. If the guardians of Gawker and two women hosting the Golden Globes are not confident enough to be interested in "Girls" on its own terms, then we are just as bad as the (albeit regretful) Laird, peddling our crappy 1980s childhoods like an ounce of blow.

And good-bye to all that. After Elijah tells her that he slept with Marnie, Hannah informs Marnie that she is not the good friend of their childhood, and Elijah that he will have to move out. (Waaa — I love Elijah the roommate!) Unfortunately, Jamie-Jame's! cocaine has worked its magic. But it's the wrong kind of threesome.

Lizzie Skurnick

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.

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