‘Girls’ Season 4 Episode 8 Recap: “Tad & Loreen & Avi & Shanaz”

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Something’s up with Tad Horvath, and for most of this season, recappers’ money was on illness. Why was he so upset about Hannah being reluctant to leave Iowa? Why was he so insisting on his daughter doing whatever made her happiest? Why did he kinda-sweetly, kinda-creepily propose to run away with her? It was obvious Tad was projecting—there was something he wanted to run away from, too, some reason why he was so preoccupied with Hannah taking care of herself, no matter what her peers might think. This week, we found out why. Spoiler: it’s not cancer.

Tad, it turns out, is gay, and picks a hell of a time to come out of the closet. True, waiting until after couples’ therapy is a bit of a waste of money, but he also drops the bomb on a day that’s supposed to be all about Loreen, who just got tenure. “It’s not not about me,” she insists, and suddenly we see exactly how Loreen and Hannah are related. “It’s not not.” This is, in all likelihood, what Hannah’s extreme narcissism will look like when tempered, but not eliminated, by marriage and parenting. Parallels between the two women pop up all over this episode, in fact: both use misogyny as an easy explanation for a hard truth; both cry about food as a proxy for dissolving relationships (Loreen’s too-sweet Riesling is Hannah’s depleted cereal.)

And so on they go to a dinner party that is very much a twentysomething’s vision of how their parents act when they’re not around. It’s also an abrupt change of genre, more David Lodge than Mary McCarthy. For a brief, glorious moment, Girls becomes a campus farce from the perspective of the professors, not the students, complete with putdowns of a classicist’s “tiny little fuckface” and confessions of love from a man in a literal tweed jacket. Loreen can’t help but laugh, sometimes when it’s hysterically appropriate—”Just take a shower or something!”—and sometimes when it’s inordinately cruel, like during Tad’s toast to his wife and her accomplishments.

Because Tad is dead serious about his sexuality, and it’s to Girls’ credit that it’s Loreen’s reaction, and not Tad himself, that’s played for laughs. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I’m doing it,” is a genuinely affecting line, and a significant break from the show’s relentless lack of sympathy for its own characters. (Also, he watches gay porn.) It remains to be seen whether this will puncture Hannah’s narcissism bubble—and boy, does she bring the narcissism this week. Which self-delusion is more over the top: billing her refusal to get matching tongue piercings with Maude Apatow, inappropriate student-teacher relationship style, as a lesson in changing one’s mind, or claiming that her stunt with Fran was, in an indirect way, “responding to the financial crisis”?

While the centerpiece of the episode is the adults and their Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice moments, Hannah’s friends still squeeze their way into the action. It is just like Desi to co-opt a moment without even realizing he’s doing it, and so we get his totally unsolicited thoughts on gay marriage the very same week we learn Tad’s coming out of the closet. Obviously, Desi didn’t want to get married until his cousin Dustin could, because Desi is the very worst kind of straight person (or person period, actually) and that is the only kind of allyship terrible straight people know. But now he’s met Marnie, to whom he proposes in lieu of apologizing for spending their entire record advance on guitar pedals. Can’t wait for this group’s second failed marriage before anyone hits thirty!

Shoshanna, on the other hand, is genuinely doing better. She has the wherewithal to reject Jessa “I have four suicide attempts under my belt” Johansson’s love advice out of hand and to call out Ray for being hung up on, in her words, “FUCKING MARNIE?!?!” She even has a date with the soup company Business Bro, who genuinely admires Shoshanna’s drive and whose earnest insistence that “failure” is a dirty word comes off as sweet rather than douchey. Extra points for deflecting the awkwardness of Shoshanna’s godawful dirty talk by pointing out Josh Charles at the bar.