‘Girls’ Season 3 Episode 3 Recap: “She Said OK”

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Just when Girls has you convinced it’s gone full sitcom, it gives you the nightmare image of a pantsless Gabby Hoffmann shattering a glass with her bare hand. Hoffmann’s great at playing unhinged, but where her character in Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus was ultimately benign, Adam’s sister Caroline is a whole new order of instability. She’s the kind of whirlwind that shows up out of nowhere just to suck all the oxygen out of the room, leaving broken dishware and possibly damaged romantic relationships in her wake. And even though the show wrings some comedic value out of her craziness, no one’s laughing by the end of “She Said OK.” Least of all Adam.

“Liney” turns up in Adam and Hannah’s shared apartment fresh out of a relationship and a job. Adam hates the idea of her staying with them, but as Caroline points out, she’s got nowhere else to go. And because Adam is Adam, he’s unable to articulate why his sister is bad news beyond some loud, expletive-laden expressions of rage. Eventually, that anger gives way to sadness, pronouncing that Caroline’s “won” by successfully inserting herself and her needs into Adam and Hannah’s honeymoon phase dynamic.

Given Adam’s eccentricities and psychosexual hangups, I doubt it surprises any regular Girls viewers that he comes from a far less stable family background than Hannah, whose parents are the kind of good Midwestern folk who do adorable dances at a Brooklyn dive bar. But I can’t quite put my finger on what Caroline tells us about Adam and where he comes from, other than he’d like to put as much distance as possible between it and his current life. If anything, it might explain part of why he’s so drawn to Hannah, who’s a source of stability in an otherwise lonely lifestyle haunted by addiction and other personal demons.

Caroline’s self-absorption is amplified by the fact that she disrupts a day that’s supposed to be all about Hannah: her birthday. Setting the sitcom vibe that lasts through 90% of “She Said OK,” the premise of the episode is a good ol’ bar party. There’s even a couple of suitably grungy bands, which our central foursome watches while unironically standing in a line, SATC-style. But Hannah’s problems take a backseat not just to Caroline’s, but to Marnie’s, Ray’s, and even her editor’s, who shows up fucked up on multiple somethings and looking to score on Grindr (but on someone else’s phone, of course).

Ray’s in a good place professionally, presiding over the new Brooklyn Heights location of Cafe Grumpy with the blessing of its owner, who’s amusingly going out of his way to play the role of aging father figure. But he’s still hung up on Shoshanna, who deftly Wins the Breakup by showing up with a hot date who doesn’t even do Ray the courtesy of being unlikeable. Ray tries and fails to make conversation outside the bar, making small talk that sounds painfully like a resume. So he chooses to take out his frustration in a fashion much more in keeping with the men of Girls: picking irrational fights over the non-issue of what song’s playing at the bar, first with the DJ and then with Hannah’s “silver elf” editor. Amusingly, the editor wins, giving him the confirmation he can still hold his own with the kids he was presumably looking for at his protege’s twenty-fifth birthday party.

Ray’s throwdown mercifully interrupts the night’s other spectacle, a surprise RENT performance Marnie forces on her best friend despite Hannah’s explicit desire not to do so. Marnie’s character is probably a realistic depiction of self-absorption’s nasty habit of sticking around long past its welcome, but that doesn’t make it any less grating. Her going-nowhere singing career and her recent breakup dominate Marnie’s life to the point where she sees Hannah’s party as less a nice thing to do and more an opportunity for ex-enraging party Instagrams. Girls is full of terrible people, but Marnie makes the fatal mistake of being terrible and boring, with the exception of a music video that’s godawful but just a hair shy of being bad enough to cross through to the other side and reach “Friday” levels of transcendence.

We can assume Caroline’s probably sticking around, since she’s got nowhere else to go and Hannah and Adam have a whole second bedroom lying around. (Side note: seriously?! This is New York, no way they wouldn’t have a Craigslist-er in there to make rent within a week.) And since Caroline seems to be the only character not dealing with lingering emotional hangups from past seasons, I’m actually excited to see where she takes us, particularly as a source of insight into a character who’s so inscrutable he borders on the absurd. It’s also an opportunity for Girls to once again tackle mental illness, a topic many accused Dunham of tacking on as a plot point when her character suddenly had OCD during Season 2. As she tells Hannah at the end of the episode, Caroline doesn’t mean to be to be the way she is, but now her brother and his girlfriend are stuck with it.