‘Girls’ Season 2, Episode 8 Recap: Role Reversals

Up is down, left is right, and Adam is “cuter than a dimple on a bug’s ass” in the latest episode of Girls, which effectively threw the three main couples and former couples in the series (Hannah and Adam, Marnie and Charlie, Ray and Shoshanna) for a loop in ways previously unthinkable.

After last week’s episode focused on Jessa’s relationship with her father before effectively shooing Jemima Kirke offstage to have her baby in real life, Girls returned to its main ensemble by toying with previously established power dynamics. Who would have thought, for instance, that Charlie would be the one dismissing Marnie while the irreplaceable Cali Swag District blares in the background? Or that Shoshanna could slither into a contemptible romantic scenario while Ray sits idly at home and morally supports her gal pal? And, hold up — is that Adam getting in touch with his feelings while the troubled Hannah blocks out the world? This Girls was all about flipping the script, and after last week’s humdrum field trip to upstate New York, the action in “It’s Back” whizzed by splendidly.

The episode title, “It’s Back,” of course, refers to Hannah’s OCD, which has returned in stunning fashion. After the intro demonstrates the extent of her nervous tics, our heroine really begins to break down while out to dinner with her family; her mother accuses her of “getting count-y” (by now very familiar with her daughter’s symptoms), and although Hannah adamantly refuses that her high school disorder has made a return visit, she can’t hide what’s in plain sight. Soon, she’s storming off in the middle of a Judy Collins performance — in a restaurant, for some reason? — to tell herself that she is fine and good, eight times. Cut to: Hannah and her parents in a doctor’s waiting room, with Hannah looking particularly miserable.

What’s striking about these scenes is how her mother (Becky Ann Baker) reacts to Hannah’s OCD: while her father bumbles his way through unintended bathing suit insults, Hannah’s mom is terrified, disgusted and deeply concerned about what is happening to her daughter, hinting that her OCD in high school was nightmarish before Hannah spells out as much in her therapist’s office. We’re led to believe that the “it” in “It’s Back” is once again haunting Hannah Horvath because of the e-book she has to write in a month, but her mother doesn’t really care about the cause of her anxiety — she just needs her daughter to not fall to pieces while living on her own.

Sullenly clutching a prescription (that will undoubtedly make her “really tired”) on the subway, Hannah snaps to her parents, “I hate it when you look so concerned about me.” As her mother pointed out, it’s not exactly the way they wanted to spend their New York visit — but thank goodness they did, or else Hannah and her looming deadline would be in serious trouble. Suddenly, the final two episodes of the season contain some stakes: will Hannah triumphantly finish her e-book, or will her OCD cause her to revert to her helpless former self? Stay tuned.

While his ex is flailing in a pool of angst, Adam is actually having a pretty great week. First, he actually offers something (besides cookies) at an AA meeting: in a rare glimpse of his raw yet coherent emotions, Adam describes how Hannah’s persistence eventually led to affection, and how her lack of knowledge — about sex, sure, but also about the cross-streets of Central Park — surprisingly inspired him. “I wanted that chance to show someone everything,” he declares. Breaking Bad is another series that has used AA meetings as a resource for unchecked confessionals, but Girls actually uses the measured outburst to advance its plot: a tiny mother has overheard Adam’s rant and is impressed enough with the young man to offer up her daughter on a date. In the episode’s funniest scene, Adam proceeds to call the mysterious girl while sticking his head inside an easel like a guillotine. “You’ll know me, I’m very tall,” he says about their impending blind date. “Your mother said you had great teeth, so… I’ll be looking at you!”

But: surprise! Natalia is gorgeous, and even more amazingly, connects with the oafish Adam over the awkwardness of the dating world. The whole subplot felt like a canned romantic comedy, but who doesn’t want the screwed-up Adam to find a shred of happiness in the big city? Plus, the presence of Natalia has us intrigued that the inevitable Hannah-Adam reunion won’t be scripted so tidily by the end of the season. (And worth noting: Natalia does indeed have great teeth.)

Marnie is not having such good luck. During a stroll with Ray and Shoshanna, the conversation morphs from lamenting Jessa’s abrupt disappearance to celebrating Charlie’s newfound app-selling success, which causes Marnie to hilariously bolt away from the happy couple. Instead of, you know, being rational, our girl Marnie decides to stalk Charlie at his new office in Chelsea, and offer half-hearted support to her formerly dismissed flame. Not only does Charlie’s new gig sting for Marnie because she’s fresh off of a non-relationship with Booth Jonathan, but her entire coda suggests that, in her mind, whoever is enjoying post-college job success is “winning” at the Game of Life — and right now, she is losing. Charlie’s startup job is heavily cartoonish — no, kids, there are not random “Teach Me How To Dougie” breaks for the purpose of viral videos at most jobs — but the venom he now feels toward Marnie is real. After all, his app, “Forbid,” was inspired by his impulse to call his ex! Charlie is still forbidding himself from being even a little warm to his former girlfriend, and with good reason.

Defeated, Marnie trudges home and moans to Ray about how she expected “six years of brokenness” from Charlie. Ray decides to inspire his girlfriend’s friend, and pushes her to confess her desire to sing. After serenading him with a few bars of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” Ray — seemingly flabbergasted that the girl can carry a tune — tells her to “stop thinking and start doing,” advice that he, ironically, could use himself. It’s a sweet, simple scene that showcases the beating heart of Girls underneath its layers of bleak comedy.

So where is Shoshanna during all of this? Oh, that’s right, she’s Frenching a doorman! Upset with an acquaintance’s perception that she’s been hanging out with a boy all summer, Shosh goes stag to a college party with a spunky side-braid, and starts sharing her feelings while White Castle burgers are placed in the foreground. On her way out, Shoshanna is stopped by a cat-calling doorman, and after a few salacious exchanges, they’re twisting tongues in the coat room. Trouble in paradise was always inevitable for Shoshanna and Ray — this isn’t Friends, and this aimless couple is certainly not Monica and Chandler. But having learned to love Ray made Shosh’s hasty infidelity all the more cringeworthy (which was sort of the point, but still). The lone beacon of happiness in a season of misbegotten relationships has been succinctly extinguished, and when the show’s most promising coupling involves Adam and a girl he just met, you better believe that everything has gone topsy-turvy.