"I always have terrible birthdays, it's kind of my thing," Hannah (Lena Dunham) tells Adam (Adam Driver) in "She Said OK," the third episode of "Girls" season 3. And with her 25th birthday celebration taking center stage for the bulk of the episode's running time, there is certainly an argument to be made that things could've gone better. But as things kick off, it's not Hannah's life that is thrown into turmoil and/or unexpected change, but those of Adam, Marnie (Allison Williams) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky).
Arriving like a bolt of lightning into their home, we meet Adam's sister Caroline, who is as equally damaged and all feeling as her brother. Played with a beautiful recklessness by Gaby Hoffman, Caroline is left adrift after a sudden breakup with her boyfriend, who she claims literally left her at the side of road by a guardrail, telling her to run off and leave him. "How could a man who loves animals with such a haunting totality, just turn around and brutally rebuff me?" she mourns aloud, in what is easily the episode's best line of dialogue. However, while Hannah is more than happy to take her in, Adam has grave reservations, and warns, "She's a selfish, fucking disaster" who will bring everyone within the vicinity, into her ferocious implosion.
And speaking of imploding, Marnie is dealt yet another blow in the wake of Charlie's abrupt exit from her life. On YouTube is an astonishingly so-bad-its-hilarious, Rebecca Black "Friday"-esque video she shot with her ex-boyfriend, singing a gloriously hideous cover of Edie Brickell's "What I Am." Not even attaining the level of a student video, it's a dorky slice of cheese, with Marnie opting a variety of personas ranging from sexy schoolgirl to '90s alterna-chick in a warehouse, as she delivers verse after verse, in a video whose only consistent style is the seemingly ever changing use of iMovie filters. It's humiliating, and her attempts to get it off YouTube aren't working, so it's another bruise in a recent string of them, and she just has to bear with it and endure.
As for Ray, things are changing for the man who once gladly embraced his outsider status, and his inability to play the game with The Man. As the manager of the new Grumpy's, he's taking on the kind of leadership role he likely never quite envisioned, and he admits, he's uncertain about how it'll all play out. "I'm scared of being a boss, like a real legitimate boss. Of making decisions for the entire team, of having boundaries and respecting those boundaries, of being the type of man that can handle all this shit." However, the owner of the coffee franchise and Ray's boss, Hermie (Colin Quinn) — who is battling cancer — has a very straightforward view of things. "It's simple Ray: don't hit anyone, don't shtup anyone, clean so the rats don't get tempted, and you've got yourself business."
Everything culminates at Hannah's birthday party, with the festivities thrown at your average Brooklyn bar. Everyone is here, including Hannah's parents (Becky Ann Baker, Peter Scolari), Laird (Jon Glaser) and the recently rescued from rehab Jessa (Jemima Kirke). But what starts as an innocent night of drinking and good times, eventually turns a little bit ugly. While Hannah has made it explicitly clear to Marnie she has no desire to recreate what happened on her 21st birthday, when they sang a karaoke duet of "Take Me Or Leave Me" from "Rent," Marnie's selfishness once again rears it's head. Eager to recapture that moment when they were all a bit happier, Marnie drags a clearly unenthusiastic Hannah up on stage to sing anyway. But things don't last too long as a fight breaks out in the adjoining room...
...it's Ray and Hannah's uninvited (and tripping pretty hard, looking for gay sex) editor David (John Cameron Mitchell) who are getting into a fight. Ray is confronting David who told the DJ to switch the song from Ray's request (Smashing Pumpkins' "Today") to his own more party happy song (LMFAO's "I'm Sexy And I Know It"), and things are getting physical. But it's not really the song that has gotten under Ray's skin, so much as Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). Not only has seeing her tonight roiled complicated feelings within him, but so too has randomly bumping into her current boytoy Coby. And his earlier attempt to be civil and casual with Shoshanna, ends abruptly when he honestly admits, "I don't think I want to be friends with you. I don't want to be polite with you, I don't want to have small talk with you....enjoy your evening, enjoy your life." But getting thrown into a table full of beer bottles by David, is perhaps a fitting end to a day and night of very grown up circumstances, that Ray is perhaps not quite equipped or ready to deal with. (Oh, and we nearly forgot, Ray also got bit in the arm by Caroline during the course of the evening as well).
So, Hannah's birthday at the bar ends with a her being roped into doing something she had no desire to do, quickly followed by a fistfight, but things aren't all bad as she's still got Adam. And in keeping with his typically odd way of showing his affection, his gift to her is a homemade necklace with his tooth on it (or maybe his sister's, he's not sure, his mother kept both). But regardless, Hannah adores it and soon they're back home, ready to go bed, and have sex. But, Adam's fears of his sister disastrously intruding their lives, are realized. Standing bottomless in the bathtub (with Hoffman's full bush sure to provoke chatter amongst people who care too much about such details), Caroline breaks a glass with her bare hand, breaking down in blood and tears. Adam has his "I told you so" moment, but still angry, he refuses to have sex with Hannah. Happy birthday, kid.
Overall, "She Said OK" doesn't provide the narrative richness of the show's better episodes, but is content to be a series of (mis)adventures that nudges forward the arcs of everyone involved. And that's fine when the writing is as good as this, and certainly the introduction of Caroline adds a welcome element of the unpredictable. Not likely an episode that will be talked about at the end of the season, but a pleasing one nonetheless. [B]
Pick up line of the year might go to Shoshanna, with Coby recounting to Ray that he met her on the street after she called out, "Hey hottie, you know where I can find some dank weed?"
Even with the YouTube video a source of pain and hurt, Marnie's obsession with Charlie is bordering on mania, as she hopes he'll see her Instagram pics of the party.
Caroline's stance on domestic abuse are....interesting....: "I don't know what to call a provoked physical attack by someone you love...I have a much more complex view of these things."
Songs in this episode: Edie Brickell "What I Am"; The Babies "Mess Me Around"; French Horn Rebellion Vs. Database "Beaches And Friends"; Cat Power "Free (Gigamesh Remix)"; Lizzo "Paris"; Elektrisk Gonner "U Know What I Want"; Emily Brodsky "Someone Belongs Here"; Jacuzzi Boys "E=MC2"; Kings Of Convenience "I'd Rather Dance With You"; New Order "Age Of Consent"; The Velvet Underground "Rock And Roll"; Chat Logs "Irregular Joe"; Smashing Pumpkins "Today"; LMFAO "Sexy And I Know It"