“Girls” Season 2, Episode 4 Recap: Money Talks

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After the drugged-out whirlwind of last week’s episode, “Girls” wisely pulled back a bit in “It’s A Shame About Ray” to focus on some girls not named Hannah, while letting Lena Dunham’s character seep into her friends’ lives (and romantic troubles). However, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are overshadowed themselves in the episode by the almighty dollar, which more or less strengthens Shosh’s relationship with Ray while leaving Jessa’s marriage in shambles. In “Girls” world, intimacy is valued over extravagance, and a quiet exchange in front of the L train is more rewarding for its players than a shouting match in an opulent apartment with a view of the skyline.

Speaking of money, it’s the reason that Hannah and Marnie are once again awkwardly brought together, as the publication of one of Hannah’s pieces (maybe the coke tell-all?) on the fantastically titled jazzhate.com is cause for a dinner party. Hannah has effectively purged herself of Elijah after last week’s zonked-out confession that he had sex with Marnie, and after telling him that he should have remained in her past, Big E moves out and makes way for some uncomfortable party guests. Charlie and Audrey (better known as Headband Girl) show up, as does Charlie’s ex, Marnie — and Hannah makes them all stay. After all, she has Dos Equis and pound cake! The dubious guest list probably should have been checked twice, but Hannah is too busy fanning herself with jazzhate.com dollars (while also figuring out how to pay for a two-bedroom apartment with some infrequent freelance cash?).

And so, a catfight. After some lighthearted sex toy talk, Audrey calls Marnie a “Stepford psycho,” which is probably fair, especially after their impromptu sleepover at the end of episode two. Audrey accuses Marnie of showing up at Charlie’s place in the middle of the night and making him worry that she might off herself — to which Hannah slyly chimes in with the line of the night, “She’s too self-involved to commit suicide.” And then Marnie dashes off to the roof, and Charlie follows her. He tells her that Audrey could never mean as much to him as Marnie still does, and he kisses her… but Marnie doesn’t want any of her ex, because she’s still with… Booth Jonathan! That’s right, the dude who told her to “look at the doll” while they were having hilariously artful sex last week! For those hoping for a Marnie-Charlie reunion, the “little Ewok in fucking capri pants” and his salacious ways have put up a permanent roadblock, and Charlie walks off to retrieve his headbanded gal at the dinner party, turning his back on Marnie forever.

Audrey’s gone, of course, and Charlie blames Marnie for the dissolution of his happiness. That’s when Hannah (who’s still furious with Marnie) calls Charlie a jerk for not cutting his ex a little slack after a very difficult year — shockingly, it looks like Hannah and Marnie will be friends again soon enough! The “girls stick together” moment put a nice bow on the Marnie-Charlie situation in the episode, and gave Hannah something to do at her fancy party other than say the word “buttplug.”

Speaking of which, Shoshanna is as clueless as ever — about kinky sex products, of course, but also that her 33-year-old boyfriend is living with her. After piecing together the evidence aloud, Shosh is stunned that Ray no longer has his own place (other than, of course, his Mitsubishi). But for Shoshanna, the problem is not that Ray is leeching money from her by not having to pay rent; instead, she is (understandably) angry that Ray progressed their relationship to an extreme point without her knowledge. On the subway platform, the ever-cool Ray breaks down and admits that he’s a “loser,” primarily because he’s strapped for cash. “What makes me worth dating? What makes me worth fucking anything?” he asks.

And as the L train crawls by, Shoshanna tells him that she’s falling in love with him, and “Girls” receives one of its most heart-swelling scenes to date. The best part of the exchange (which is given an exclamation point after Ray tells Shosh that he’s also in love with her) is that it feels true: both characters have baggage and personal quirks, but Shosh’s naivety also makes her kind, and allows her to overlook the fact that Ray’s savings account is bare. Ray already professed his inexplicable fascination with Shoshanna three episodes ago, and now, the curmudgeon’s curiosity has morphed into full-blown affection. This couple isn’t going anywhere.

The same can’t be said for Jessa and Thomas-John, who do let money get in their heads and become enemies because of it. After three episodes of either inactivity or shambling post-wedding bliss, the odd couple goes to meet T-J’s stuffy parents at an upscale restaurant (“I hate this restaurant but I’m so excited to meet you guys!” Jessa exclaims). Thomas-John’s mother (played by the wonderful “Strangers with Candy” alum Deborah Rush) is none too excited that her son has gotten hastily hitched to a Bohemian heroin enthusiast who can’t travel to Spain because she’s “avoiding someone.” And when Jessa senses that she is being judged, she responds by letting her freak flag fly and casually mentioning that God doesn’t exist. Unlike the dinner party scene at Hannah’s, the meet-the-parents dinner felt a little too sitcom-y; “Friends” diehards will even recall that the exact same plot was used in an episode where Phoebe meets Mike’s WASPy parents and scares the crap out of them. Because that was “Friends,” the pair reconciled. On “Girls,” the characters aren’t so lucky.

It was easy to predict that Jessa and Thomas-John were doomed from the start — they had to be, or else Jessa would have nothing interesting to do in her romantic life for the rest of the series. But after the dinner from hell, the pair realizes that their marriage is over: Jessa tells her hubby that “I’m embarrassed when we walk down the street because you’re so fucking average,” and Thomas-John retorts that his wife is “a whore with no work ethic.” Tellingly, T-J calls himself a “unicorn” because of the success he’s had in his job, showing that he agrees with his parents that Jessa is just a freeloader trying to grab some of his money. A punch is thrown, Thomas-John asks how much it’ll take to get his wife out of his life, and Jessa is off to Hannah’s bathtub to blow snot-rockets and weep about her impending divorce.

The end of Jessa’s marriage was startlingly abrupt — too abrupt, even, as her entire life pulled a 180 in record time. Yet money was always an issue between the husband and wife, and unlike Ray and Shoshanna, there were no stars in their eyes to prevent a downfall. And so, to paraphrase Jay-Z, it’s on to the next one for Jessa. –Jason Samuels