Girls: A ‘Beach House’ Trip to Remember (And to Forget)

By  · Published on February 17th, 2014

As our Girls girls continue to grow (marginally, at best) up, they are also quite markedly growing apart. This season has scarcely seen all four ladies in one room at the same time, and has instead been forced to rely on commonplace television tricks and tropes and prods to get every major character in one place, including staging a birthday party for Hannah earlier in the season and, in the seventh episode, shipping Hannah, Marnie, Shosh, and Jessa off to a somewhat secluded beach house. The point of the trip, at least according to Marnie (who organized the outing) is “to heal.”

The other girls might not agree. Despite going out of her way to make a nice weekend for the ladies, Marnie (Allison Williams) gets kicked in the teeth at nearly every turn – her bedroom assignments initially ignored, her rigid schedule mocked, her dinner party dismissed – thanks to Hannah (Lena Dunham) and her obvious disdain for structure, the inorganic but still exciting injection of a newly-returned Elijah (Andrew Rannells), Elijah’s pack of wild friends (including new boyfriend “Pal,” played by Danny Strong, who wrote the film The Butler for chrissakes), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and an apparent nudity clause, and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and her deeply simmering resentments. Let’s go to the beach house! And eat and dance and sing and reveal how very, very much we hate each other. It’s Girls. It’s “Beach House.” It’s a glorious mess. And it’s Rob Hunter and myself, pulling every bit apart for mastication, just like Marnie’s literally cooked goose (duck).

Kate: While there’s a lot to unpack from this week’s episode – revelations, revisited characters, really mean interactions, so much nudity, a hilariously metaphorical house, and a bacchanal of boozing – my primary takeaway is that this is the first episode in which I was totally on board with Marnie from the very first second. Sure, she’s being bossy and overbearing here, but she’s also genuinely trying to “heal” her friend group and getting kicked in the teeth at every turn. Hannah’s behavior is both totally Hannah and totally inexcusable – she just lacks basic manners at this point – and Marnie’s confession that she cannot lower her expectations any further hit like a ton of bricks. And, of course, the long-teased story of what happened with Charlie. Marnie may be fucked up, but she was genuinely trying here, and she was not rewarded for her efforts.

Rob: I’ve waited a long time to say this, Kate, but welcome to Team Marnie. Agreed on all of this, and while it doesn’t excuse some of her behavior – she’s still a bit of a control freak – it was great seeing Marnie step up and make the effort. Yes, of course she would have loudly taken credit for the weekend had it all gone according to plan, but it’s the thought that counts.

I was worried at the opening scene as it was clear neither Adam nor Old Man Ray would be present in this episode, but the writing and interactions kept things engaging and frequently hilarious. From Marnie’s comment about “bus people” to Jessa’s “I can’t go in open water unless I’m menstruating,” there were a lot of fantastically funny barbs and comments.

Kate: Marnie maniacally yelling about “HEALING!” was both very funny and very understandable – maybe they don’t need to heal, but they need to do something, because it’s long been clear these people aren’t really very good friends, and I am glad that someone tried to take matters into their own hands, even if it involved pre-planned dinners and assigned beds and that nightmare house. Marnie tried. She failed, but she tried.

But there were laughs to be had! Jessa was particularly funny here, and her “drinking this unless you do, Hannah!” gag was wonderful stuff. Has Jessa finally learned to laugh at herself in a sort of healthy way? And how convinced were you that she was going to attempt to work her feminine wiles on Elijah’s friend who didn’t know who Robert Mapplethorpe was?

Rob: Oh, I think she definitely tried what the naked pool writhing and such. I’m glad nothing came of it though because between Elijah and Hannah’s dead editor the show seems to lean towards the idea that gay people are actually just bisexuals in disguise. It’s also a good thing in general that the episode avoided sexual relationships as a real topic and instead focused on friendships. Sure the friendships in question are fragile, crumbling, and in near ruin, but as you said, someone’s trying to fix that.

And then there’s Shosh. We’ve been hard on her recently, for good reason, but her “mean drunk” routine of calling everyone out for their bullshit was both highly entertaining and proof that she’s not as air-headed as she usually seems. I’d like to see more of this Shosh, drunk or not, and less of the one who’s only kept around for the funny things she says.

Girls Beach House

Kate: You and I have both been entertained by Adam and Ray’s sooth-saying this season, but Shosh took it to an entirely new level. Yes, it had to be done and no, I was not expecting it to come from Shosh. And you know what? Good for her! The girls have never quite treated her as an equal, and it’s fully understandable that she’d been filling her seemingly empty head with some observations and cunning barbs to toss out when she had enough Norfolk Fizzes to fell a horse. The question is, of course, how much of what Shosh said will actually change things? And weren’t we expecting her to call Marnie out about Ray? (Her not calling her out implies one thing, though – that she doesn’t know, and that’s very intriguing.)

Rob: I get the impression that no one knows about Marnie and Ray yet, although I fully expected it to come out during this weekend of “honesty.” It was a nice touch though seeing Marnie’s face when she was telling Elijah about Ray…he immediately made the “Old Man Ray” crack, and Marnie’s face showed a mix of both hurt and embarrassment. Could she be developing real feelings for Ray? And if so, would she throw it all away because of public opinion?

As for Shosh’s wonderfully vicious verbal assault, I expect very little to change. The final shot of the quartet silently re-enacting the dance choreography hints at the surface of their ongoing friendship, but on a deeper level it suggests that they’re not free to change their behaviors no matter how badly they may want to. They’re stuck, and this is who they are. Hannah is a narcissist. Jessa is a tee-totaling phony. Marnie is terrified of the world. It’s not so easy to change or core beings, and it’s possible these girls have nothing else to give.

Kate: I did like that Elijah’s friend instantly knew what was going on with Marnie and Ray – “she fucked Ray” – and that he had that kind of clarity because he didn’t know these people or feel beholden to them. I do think that Marnie might be developing real feelings for Ray, even if they are not of the romantic variety – at the very least, she is starting to genuinely value his opinion on things.

But can we please take a minute to talk a little bit more about just how Charlie and Marnie’s relationship ended? That waswrenching. (And, also, while I know we would never see the actual break up, with Christopher Abbott leaving the show so suddenly, I am happy we only got to hear Marnie telling the story instead of seeing it – somehow, picturing how frantic she must have been while Charlie was packing up and leaving her was so much worse than actually watching it on screen.)

Rob: Fine, we’ll talk about Charlie. Ugh. I never got fully onboard with the character, and while I can’t quite identify why exactly I feel part of it was the writing (for Charlie specifically). Christopher Abbott reportedly said he left the show because the character wasn’t relatable to him as an actor, and while that’s dumb for someone whose job it is to, you know, act, it’s exactly how I felt as a viewer. He just never felt real to me aside from the intimate relationship moments with Marnie. His immense success as an app designer (?) was the last straw, reminiscent of when the Conners clan won the lottery on Roseanne and suddenly these normal people were loaded out the wazoo. Put simply, none of it gibed.

Apologies for the tangent back to nineties television shows, but yes, the event she described is a wrenching one. Williams does a fine job keeping it matter of fact with only a hint of the pain showing through, but it’s clear she’s still hurting from it all. Knowing the details helps us understand and know her better too I think, and that can only be a good thing.

Kate: Oh, I was never a Charlie fan. He felt underwritten and weirdly snively (is that a word? go with it). The app designer thing felt shoehorned in just to be topical, though I do feel some satisfaction that it didn’t ultimately pan out for him. Clearly, he’s got some demons – why else would he put Marnie’s amazing music video online after dumping her so horribly? – and I am glad he’s gone. But what a douche.

Speaking of bad boyfriends – what about “Pal”? “Pal” will always have to be in quotes, because whose name is really “Pal”? “Pal” seems like a tool, too, but I am happy Elijah is back in our lives.

Rob: Most definitely a douche. The show’s come a long way in the writing of its male characters, thankfully. That said, “Pal” is a bit of a douche too in addition to being a caricature. I won’t pretend to understand that relationship, but I agree that it’s worth it to get Elijah back.

Can we talk briefly about Hannah’s omnipresent bikini this episode? I realize Lena Dunham chose this wardrobe for that very reason – so the media and online communities would converse about it – but I can’t be the only one who’s absolutely bored by it right? Their past argument, that Hannah’s frequently naked because real people are frequently naked, is dumb for several reasons, but it also can’t possibly apply here can it? Nobody walks around all day and night in a bikini, ill-fitting or not, while everyone else around her is actually dressed. If nothing else, that damp bikini crotch isn’t doing anyone any favors.

At this point Dunham’s doing it purely for the attention… and here I am giving it to her.

Girls Beach House

Kate: I thought it was telling when Hannah was all gung-ho about going into town in her wet bikini because she was convinced that it was just the norm in this beach town, only to be brutally rebuffed by totally normal social conventions. I’m loath to talk about Dunham’s body simply as her body or her poor clothing choice simply as poor clothing choices, I am much more interested in the (perhaps totally dug-for) metaphor of it. Hannah lives in her own world where, I think, she’s convinced if she thinks or says something, it’s true. If I say this is a normal beach town outfit, it will be. I can wear my bikini everywhere. It just doesn’t click for her – and she’s so stubborn that she won’t admit that she’s the one who is wrong.

It was wrong for her to not bring at least shoes to go into a store, it was wrong for her to invite the boys back without asking Marnie first, it was wrong for her to tell Marnie how much she was dreading this weekend – but, in her mind, in Hannah Land, it’s fine, because that’s what Hannah thinks. That’s her main problem and, yes, the bikini is just one piece (two piece? of it. She needs to grow up – and that means investing in both physical beach cover-ups and metaphorical life cover-ups.

Rob: Hmm, I think you’re giving too much credit to a thought process that isn’t actually that deep. To be clear, I’m not commenting on Dunham’s body, and my question/conclusion would theoretically have been the same even if she was more “Hollywood” attractive. Even accepting your dodge, ahem, I mean premise, that doesn’t explain her wearing it for the 90% of the episode set back at the house. I know I’m just being practical here, but there’s no way someone is comfortable in a bikini for that long while others are fully dressed. Between the butt flossing and damp crotch (yes, I said it again) she would have changed. This is a Dunham thing, not a Hannah thing.

But whatever. This is what she wants, conversation that can be accused of being sexist or body image obsessed, so I’ll let it go.

Anyway. Was that lighthouse CGI?

Kate: Please also consider how naked everyone else was. I think they were all so lit back at the house that they had no idea what the hell they were wearing. WILD TIMES, ROB! WILD.

I hope so. I also love that Marnie stuck Jessa in there because it was “bohemian.” Perfection.

What do we think Ray and Adam were doing back in the city?

Rob: Your efforts to avoid/dissuade the topic are noted, and I’ll save my future scoffing for the next time I’m at a party with friends and strangers wearing nothing but a Speedo.

And hopefully Adam and Ray are simply relaxing, having fun, and enjoying their drama/sex free weekend. I look forward to finding out when we return to them next week.

Kate: And I look forward to (hopefully) never being subjected to “Pal” mocking Marnie for sport again.

Rob: Marnie can take it. She’s been exercising her body and is trying to exercise her mind, so I expect her to toughen up soon. At which point she just may send “Pal” packing thereby freeing Elijah to find someone who actually cares about him.

Kate: More Elijah can only be a good thing.

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