Hannah spends a day with an older man; a 'sexit' occurs

By Lindsey Bahr
March 10, 2015 at 12:07 AM EDT
Jessica Miglio/HBO/Everett Collection
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Hannah gets it on with Patrick Wilson! It’s pretty hot, no?

On this week’s episode of Girls, Hannah gets a look at the good life when she takes a retreat from her own life in a fancy brownstone in Brooklyn with a handsome older guy. This is Girls‘ meat locker episode; only one of the characters is a stranger to Hannah and the audience.

Directed by Richard Shepard (also responsible for “Leave Me Alone” and “Hannah’s Diary”) this was the most beautiful episode of Girls that I’ve ever seen and also the most infuriating. It was elegant, quiet, and strange. But believable? No, not at all. This was something else. This wanted to be a combination of The Future and Shopgirl — with a more talkative heroine.

“One Man’s Trash” felt like a three-act play. Everything was sparse, scaled back, and there were more silences and constructed moments than usual. And there were only three characters who spoke: Ray, Hannah, and Joshua (Patrick Wilson).

In the first act, Ray and Hannah meet Joshua when he comes to Grumpy’s to complain that someone from the shop has been throwing their trash away in his cans. What starts as a civil dispute — Ray says that’s crazy, they have dumpsters, he says I know, but it’s true — escalates quickly. Ray pretty much freaks out. He yells at Joshua, then beats his hands against his chest, and scares Hannah enough that she quits.

Act two brings Hannah to Joshua’s doorstep. She admits that she’s the one who has been throwing the Grumpy’s garbage in his trash cans and then she kisses him. This leads to at least 24 hours of captivity and joy for the both of them. They skip work, they have sex, they eat steak, they drink wine, they play shirtless ping pong, they read the paper, and they lounge about his beautiful brownstone.

In act three, Hannah passes out in the shower and wakes up emotional and childlike. She cries on Joshua’s lap and tells him how she just wants to be happy. When she wakes up in the morning, he’s gone, and it’s clear their brief romance is over. She stays for a while, gets the paper, makes herself some toast and jam, and then walks home.

The facts of the episode are fairly simple. But WHAT those facts mean? Let’s try to figure it out together.

NEXT: Hannah’s reality or fantasy?

This might be straight narrative. Ray and Joshua fight. Hannah shows up at Joshua’s doorstep. They have fun for a little while and then things go sour. This makes sense: Hannah would totally be interested in having another weird experience (especially if she’s now getting paid to write about them by JazzHate) and perhaps is just orchestrating her life to get more stories (also worth noting that Dunham freely admits her real life informs the show). I also believe that she’d be charmed and seduced by Joshua — the 42-year-old, just-separated doctor with an enormous brownstone with a patio, high ceilings, and far too many pots and pans. But Hannah can never save herself from her own tendencies. She gets sad and overly confessional — while exhibiting reckless and obnoxious disregard for the very few facts that Joshua had shared with her — and Joshua loses interest. Is she looking to him to be a father figure? A boyfriend? Just someone who has it together who’s supposed to show her the way? Does he realize she’s still a very confused kid? That he doesn’t have the patience for the idle musings of a sad, overly introspective 24-year-old? Maybe.

Now, bear with me…this is a little crazy, but another reading of the episode could be that this was a dream. Well, not entirely. The scene in Grumpy’s was real. Everyone was acting as you might expect. Joshua, even though we’ve just met him, had a legitimate complaint. Ray had a legitimate defense. And Hannah, who probably was actually throwing trash away in his cans, stayed in the background. But after Hannah storms out of Grumpy’s, that’s where I think the fantasy begins. Little about Hannah and Joshua’s interaction rings true. They’re awkward with each other, but still manage to find themselves in relaxed, distinct situations: Hannah just lounging on his porch with a glass of wine while he grills some steak and corn; Joshua reading the newspaper while Hannah sits; THAT WHOLE TOPLESS PING PONG GAME. Even the part where Hannah asks him to beg her to stay. That’s not Joshua. She’s clearly trying to recreate a scene with Adam, and Joshua is the proxy. After she passes out and starts confessing things to him about her fears and anxieties, he loses interest because that’s Hannah’s biggest fear — that her innermost thoughts and emotions will be the thing that drives people away. And when she wakes up, she’s alone in his apartment, and it calls back to Hannah waking up alone in her parents’ hotel room in the series premiere. And Hannah’s on her own again.

Of course nothing in the series thus far would support the “fantasy” reading of the episode — everything we’ve seen has always been rooted in reality. But didn’t something seem off? Was it just off because it was supposed to convey the otherness of this experience? People like to compare Girls to Louie a lot. Louie is a show that occupies this fantasy/reality space much more comfortably. I’ve never been particularly keen on that comparison, but tonight’s episode seemed to be very informed by the structure and logic of a Louie episode.

So, do you think Hannah and Joshua’s tryst was real? Why is Hannah so thoughtless with others? And which part of that apartment would you sell your right arm for? The kitchen? The patio? That staircase?

Quote of the Night:

“I feel like I’m in like a Nancy Meyers movie.” –Hannah referring to Joshua’s crazy, beautiful brownstone and the lifestyle porn that people associate with recent Nancy Meyers movies (It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give)

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