‘Girls’ Season 4 Episode 3 Recap: “Female Author”

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It’s about damn time Girls gave us a reason to root for Marnie. “Female Author” is enough to make us remember the show’s early days, when Marnie didn’t just have her life together—she had her life orders of magnitude more together than any of her friends. After months upon months of mortifying office parties and kitchen sink rim jobs, the put-together gallerist we once knew was all but forgotten. And then we got this episode, which sees Marnie make real, concrete, hopefully possibly lasting progress, personally and professionally. Who knew she had it in her—or more importantly, that the writers’ room would let her have it?

To be fair, it does take a pep talk from Ray, who’s now settled into his role as the cranky yet responsible elder statesman of the show, to prompt her into action. But it’s Marnie who, in a rare display of self-awareness and genuine remorse, brings up the possibility that she’s trapped in other woman limbo because she did Shoshanna wrong. Ray’s sweet, totally correct advice—Desi’s a selfish asshole who’s having his cake and eating it too, plus “We’ve already established that he has a major character flaw: he hasn’t chosen you”—is just icing on the cake. It also happens to get him laid.

Then Marnie and Desi meet with a grown-up, midtown-office record label, and unlike a certain jazz brunch, it actually goes well! Or at least it does until the label employees—pitch-perfect variations on the stylish, peppy twentysomethings who populate Manhattan’s corporate-but-still-creative offices—understandably assume that Desi’s creepy back massage means he and Marnie are together. She balks, and outside stands up for herself with a few downright truth bombs. To wit:

  • “We’re building a musical future together. So why the fuck do you have a girlfriend who isn’t me?”
  • “Nobody thinks of you as a mistress.” “Because nobody thinks of me! At all!”
  • “The problem with your plan is that I already know what I want. And you’re not giving it to me.”

Granted, it’s not the best possible outcome for Marnie, i.e. realizing that Desi’s patchouli stench doesn’t make him any less of a neckbeard and ditching him for Ray. But it’s certainly better than the rut Marnie’s been stuck in far longer than even Jessa, who’s skidded from failed marriage to rehab and still managed to retain more dignity than her friend.

Speaking of: Jessa may have committed to sobriety, hitting her four-month “birthday” this week, but going cold turkey reveals that booze and drugs are only a small part of Jessa’s problem. It’s one thing to casually tell Hannah she sees Adam every day and no, Adam doesn’t talk about her—Jessa and Hannah’s failings have always complemented one another, so what would be appallingly callous in any other friendship comes off here as necessary tough love. It’s another to play with the emotions of another recovering addict, someone with whom Jessa presumably wouldn’t have to work very hard to empathize. The problem is that she just doesn’t want to, because thinking about the kind of damage she does by telling someone she couldn’t care less about to think of her as God could lead to some very ugly epiphanies.

Luckily, Adam’s never had a problem with pulling rhetorical punches. Unlike everyone else in Jessa’s life, Adam is a strong enough personality to stand up to her bullshit instead of getting stunned into going along for the ride. He’s not Laura from rehab, he’s not a scrub from AA, and he’s not even Hannah (who, coincidentally, he seems to have moved on from; possibly the only good thing Jessa does this episode is leave that detail out of a certain Skype session). Adam will stand up to the police because he’s a decent enough guy that seeing a friend in pain disturbs him, but he still won’t forget that Jessa brought the arrest on herself because she pissed in the street. Adam, in other words, is probably the only character on this show who has a shot at forming a healthy, somewhat equal friendship with Jessa.

Completing this week’s Real Talk Trifecta—Marnie and Adam get the first two slots, while Ray doesn’t count because Real Talk is the only kind of talk he knows—is Elijah, who drops some surprising nuggets of wisdom between his usual rivers of bullshit. He’s adjusting much better to Iowa social life than Hannah, which may have something to do with having zero creative skin in the game, but also leads to a surprisingly accurate dressing down of Hannah’s self-pity: “You’re uncomfortable in your own skin and you think it’s everyone else’s problem,” he says. Then the Elijah we know and love comes back with a vengeance: “But you know what? Wherever you are, there you go!”

That advice doesn’t prevent Hannah from self-destructing in spectacular fashion, tearing her peers apart with a blithe cattiness that would be hard to watch if it didn’t seem so deserved. Yes, D’August might be getting a pass from his more privileged peers; yes, a dude in a Beyoncé font shirt would totally write a story that’s “a winky eye emoji followed by a poop emoji”; yes, the awful white dude probably has only one ball. It’s the show’s best instance of drunken insult comedy since Shoshanna let loose in “Beach House.” And yes, it’s possible that Hannah’s workshop difficulties may have something to do with the fact that she’s a woman writing about her personal life, though she certainly isn’t helping her case much by going full Lindsay Lohan.

Just as Hannah’s hissy fit echoes Shoshanna’s, Shoshanna’s “practice interview” is a cringe-inducing callback to Hannah’s chat with Mike Birbiglia back in season one. For all Girls’ cringe comedy, this is the scene I actually found hard to watch, mostly because a post-recession twentysomething throwing away gainful employment in front of an audience of her peers should come with a trigger warning. But I’m confident Shosh will find the job of her dreams in time—or come to terms with a corporate gig at Ann Taylor Loft when her parents stop paying for that Nolita apartment. Whichever comes first!