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GIRLS, “Females Only/Truth or Dare” Episodes Recap

Girls has always been such a divisive show, which is the main reason it’s been so great. Even after nearly two dozen episodes, you never really know what kind of show its going to be on any given week, and the unpredictability of it has elicited nearly every imaginable response. Sometimes the experimentation falls a little flat — the show was never as confident in the dark times of Season 2 as it was in Season 1 — but to follow a show that’s willing to take such bold chances is always fun.

If the start of Season 3 is any indication, we’re in for a nice mix of the goofy, insecure hijinks of the first 10 episode and the deeply troubled emotional issues of last season, and the scene is set perfectly in the first five minutes of “Females Only,” where we first have a seemingly healthy Hannah (taking her pills) happy and back with Adam right before the two run into Adam’s ex-girlfriend Natalia, who proceeds to not only rip Adam a new one but lets Hannah hear it too. The verbal evisceration is a quick and not-at-all subtle reminder that these are still terribly broken people not so easily fixed within a television offseason.

While Hannah and Adam have their share of issues that need to be addressed, the majority of these two episodes deals with Jessa, filling in the blanks on what happened to her after she abandoned Hannah at her father’s house last season. She’s at a rehab facility against her wishes (her grandmother is paying for it and bribed her with rent money and other things), and because of it she uses her selfishness to bring down the group morale by mocking people’s stories and denouncing her own issues as merely a fact of life. She doesn’t have the capacity to feel for anyone but herself, so when she apologizes to Laura (played by Orange is the New Black favorite Tasha Jefferson) for provoking her during group therapy, it’s really difficult to believe her level of sincerity, especially later when she admits that going down on her was “basically charity.”

It’s fairly clear to me at this point that Jessa is, for intents and purposes, a high-functioning sociopath, which is an angle that I hope the show continues to explore as the season goes along. Back in Season 1, I was firmly in Jessa’s corner in thinking she was the show’s most honest and refreshing character, and having those free-wheeling, oftentimes narcissistic views on life come back to bite her and the ones closest to her is a great recipe for drama, especially considering how stubborn she is in her efforts to change. That’s not to say that Jessa is completely unredeemable at this point. She may have tricked Hannah to come and pick her up at the clinic, but it was at least out of a need to reconnect with her best friend, no matter how demented a plan it was.

Jessa’s reintegration back in the show has a direct effect on Adam and Hannah, who take a road trip upstate (along with the newly-liberated yet still criminally-underused Shoshonna) to pick her up. The couple spend the first part of the premiere talking about and acting on compromise (Adam: “I’m not going to change into a different person just because you want me to.” Hannah: “You have to. It’s called being in a relationship.”), they’re put even more to the test considering their general disagreement on the severity of Jessa’s sickness. Once again, we have Adam, however bizarre, as the show’s de facto voice of reason as the recovering addict who’s stayed clean by being honest to himself over the years. Hannah, meanwhile, doesn’t consider Jessa’s issues to be too big a deal, all the while finding ways to complain about how bored she is and how the adventure isn’t even interesting enough to write about. I don’t necessarily think these too are doomed to fail once again — they’re so perfectly fucked up that their respective baggage congeals together into one surprisingly productive sum of its parts — but, as expressed rather poignantly by Hannah during the impromptu hike, the two will need to learn to “live each other’s truths” if they are going to grow together.

Other Thoughts

– Marnie is in a dark place (again) after Charlie dumped her, leaving her especially vulnerable and confused because there was seemingly no reason for it (although I’m sure we can all think back to at least a dozen good ones). I thought seeing Marnie, a girl who always had an answer for everything, struggle to pick up the pieces in Season 2 was one of the most compelling storylines, and I hope this arc doesn’t retread familiar material. She made positive strides last season is showing that she was not simply identified by the man on her arm, but she lost a lot of credibility in crawling back to Charlie late last season, so maybe we have yet to truly see her bottom out.

– Shoshonna has adopted a new philosophy in her life post-break up with Ray that involves an even balance of studying hard to graduate and sexual revelation (Adam approves), but even in her small amount of screen time it’s clear she still hasn’t grown up. Shosh also doesn’t think Jessa has a problem, rationalizing that the drinking and the drugs are okay because it’s a rite of passage and that she made out fine after the disastrous divorce because she got the guy’s money out of it. You know it’s bad when Hannah is trying to talk sense into you.

– Hannah’s editor wants to know why she didn’t just tell him about her mental illness because it could have been dealt with, i.e. many of my problems with Season 2. Was it an apology?

– Although Jessa’s actions are often deplorable, sometimes she has insightful thoughts that she simply can’t communicate without sounding like a dick, like when she tells Laura that she can’t go around blaming other people for her problems.

– “I don’t hate your friends. I’m just not interested in anything they have to say.” Sometimes I relate to Adam way more than I should.

– Adam, who once fell in love with a Columbian girl who attended Columbia, gives a damn fine emotional soliloquy to Marnie about love: “Really knowing someone is something different. You will know. You won’t hurt and you won’t be afraid.”

– Hannah’s “not that hungry” meal: Pancakes, turkey bacon (regular bacon if they don’t have it), and a milkshake.

– “Boredom is bullshit. Boredom is for lazy people with no imagination.”

Girls in a nutshell: Hannah describes Truth or Dare as a game that teaches children how to be adults.

– Credits soundtrack: “It’s On” by Broncho, “Completely Not Me” by Jenny Lewis

– If you’ve made it all the way down here, thanks for reading. I’ve covered every episode of Girls for Screen Invasion and it’s always a blast, even if sometimes I don’t feel like I’m bringing anything insightful to the table.

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Nicholas DeLorenzo

Nicholas DeLorenzo

television writer/social assassin