By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 23, 2014 at 10:30PM
After last week's excursion to North Fork in "Beach House," a welcome one-off that focused on the "Girls" and not on pushing the plot around, the show returns with the slightly more conventional "Incidentals." But don't let the title of the episode fool you, or even the packaging it arrives in as a standard entry for "Girls." Riding underneath it all is something about the dreams and aspirations of these characters, both as they are fulfilled and disappointed.
Certainly, for Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), things couldn't be going any better. Comfortably fitting into her job at GQ, Hannah continues her advertorial work, interviewing Patty Lupone for an osteoporosis piece (even though the legendary actress doesn't suffer from it) and even given an assignment to write up copy for the Gramercy Park Hotel, and being given a suite for an evening to help inspire her. (Though, this plot point borders on acting as entertorial itself, with almost every character on the show—who visits the suite in the second half of the episode—pausing to gush about how wonderful it is). But perhaps best of all, Hannah has received her first paycheck. And she's astonished.
"This is how much money I make a week? This is a lot more than my rent. This is insane. I'm just going to walk into a store in the meatpacking district and just be like, 'Make it rain!' " she declares. And soundtracked by Lily Allen's "L8 CMMR" she does indeed strut down the street with the kind of cash in her pocket she's never had before, and dreams in front of a shop window. For a brief moment, it's almost as if "Incidentals" will detour like the best "Girls" episode into a singular focus; perhaps Hannah spending the afternoon enjoying professional success and a taste of personal stability. You want to linger with this scene a bit longer, but soon we're pushed back into the happenings of the show.
Adam, meanwhile, is across town at a callback for "Major Barbara" and two things happen: first, he befriends fellow actor Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and second, he gets the part. It's a beautiful little scene, with Adam called back into the audition room to be informed he got the role, and it makes you realize we don't often see Adam smile. But it's as wide as a country barn and all the deeply feeling and hugely excited Adam can do to keep from exploding is go to the bathroom, stuff toilet paper into his mouth and let out the primal yell of joy he's been building up inside. Running into Desi outside, he learns he got the role he was going for in the production too, and the pair become fast pals with their shared victories.
But if things are going well for Hannah and Adam, elsewhere, their friends are crumbling. Marnie (Allison Williams) in particular has a rough day. She first runs into Booth Jonathan's former assistant Soojin (a perfectly irritating Greta Lee), who informs her that she's opening a gallery. And not just the kind that you see opening up in some corner of Bushwick only to quietly close a few months later—nope, hers will be in NoHo, and she's got her own architect and everything. Watching the scene makes you appreciate how good Williams can be, with her face flickering with loathing, jealousy, irritation and sadness all at once, all while keeping up the pretense of a casual conversation. But you can tell Marnie is crushed and truly eaten up to see someone else going down the path she's always wanted for herself. But things are going to get even worse.
Dropping by Ray's (Alex Karpovsky) apartment, he reveals that he can't continue their secret romance. "I want a girlfriend Marnie, like a legitimate girlfriend. I want to have a relationship that's deep and sincere and challenging and scary. I want it to be real. I want to meet a girl I have a lot in common with and ask her out and learn about her family on a park bench in the middle of the night," he explains. "And maybe if things go really well, maybe invite her back to my place and put on some Roxy Music." It's interesting to see the usually bitterly cynical Ray show a vulnerable, deeply romantic side, and you begin to feel that for all his bluster, there is a sensitive soul somewhere beneath his aloof too-cool-for-anything stance. Marnie responds by saying she doesn't care enough about the relationship to be hurt by Ray breaking up with her, but that statement is about as phony as her smiles for Soojin.
Everything culminates at the Gramercy Park Hotel, with Adam bringing Desi along to the party Hannah's throwing to celebrate Adam getting the part. And Desi is exactly the guy you love to hate, that everyone else really loves. Elijah (Andrew Rannels), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Adam are all taken with Desi, the kind of guy who always looks like he lives in a vintage jeans ad, and of course, has a guitar with him to sing sweet songs, and tells stories that bravely reveal his vulnerability. But Hannah doesn't buy his whole schtick, later telling Adam she finds him "irksome."
Ordinarily, "Incidentals" might fall into the category of thoroughly average "Girls" hijinks. Indeed with Jasper (Richard E. Grant) returning and pulling Jessa (Jemima Kirke) wildly off the wagon, as they go on drug-fueled bender, breaking into her place of work to get more money to buy cocaine, it teeters in that direction, with this thread that feels unearned and exploitative for a character who deserves so much more depth. But there are a pair of scenes that are both quiet and quite beautiful. The first is after Marnie first arrives at the Gramercy and immediately hides herself away, with Hannah thinking that once again, she's done some perceived wrong to her friend. But the girls know each other too well, and Hannah can immediately pick up that Marnie's new hurt has nothing to do with her. Marnie says she can't tell her what it is that's hurting her, but Hannah still holds her as she cries, more testament to a friendship that can withstand a lot.
The second scene is also the last one of the episode, with Hannah and Adam sharing some time alone, lounging in the massive bathtub in their hotel room. And it finds Hannah laying bare her feelings, her fear (fueled by Patty Lupone's comments during her interview) that once Adam gets the taste of the bright lights, fame and adulation, he will no longer be satisfied with his life with Hannah. But Adam wants none of it. Earlier in the evening he told Elijah—who was trying to impart advice on how handle the Broadway world—that he doesn't want to be part of any scene. When Hannah tells Adam she loves him and doesn't want to love anyone else, his simple reply of "ditto" is all she needs to hear to know she'll be safe. It's a lovely little moment and sweet conclusion, with two people who can be so vulnerable on their own out in the world, finding strength in each other at home. [B]
Music in this week's episode of "Girls": Conway "Big Talk"; Lily Allen "L8 CMMR"; Ben Webster "Blues For Mr. Brim"; Air Waves "Lightning"; Wild Belle "Keep You"; The Pass "Colors"; Miguel "simplethings."