By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey
8:59 AM EST, February 25, 2013
Hannah accompanies Jessa to visit her father in upstate New York.
The opening scene shows them waiting at a sparse train station to be picked up, Jessa looking like Anne of Green Gables clutching her carpet bag. Their dialogue as they wait for Jessa's dad is deliciously funny.
Hannah has to pee but the station consists of only a platform. Jessa directs her towards some shrubbery to relieve herself. Hannah is aghast: "You want me to cross the tracks, and step on the third rail potentially."
"We're not in New York City. There is no third rail, Hannah," Jessa replies.
Hannah crouches down to do her business and asks Jessa if anyone's coming. "Nope," Jessa replies as a wicked smile cracks across her face and two elderly travelers sidle up to Hannah's exposed backside.
The girls wait at length for Jessa's dad, and Hannah asks her why she wants to visit him at all -- she thought they weren't speaking.
"He wants me to see his house and see his new girlfriend which is odd because I've met her three times which should be more than enough," Jessa says.
"Well don't they have like a 5-year-old daughter?," asks Hannah.
"No that was the last one, this is Petula."
"What happened to the 5-year-old daughter?," Hannah asks.
"No one speaks to her. I wonder if her name is still Lemon," Jessa says, and with that, we get a pretty good snapshot of what she has dealt with, family structure-wise.
Arriving eventually, Jessa's Dad (played terrifically by Ben Mendelsohn) is disheveled, stammering, and slightly paranoid: His station wagon is filled with old computers he won't get rid of, lest anyone read his old ideas.
They arrive at his equally disheveled house. Things between Jessa and her Dad start out really sweetly, with them cackling in exactly the same pitch as he bemoans having to upkeep his lawn.
Jessa gives him the post-mortem on her and Thomas-John's break up, and her Dad's thoughtful -- albeit harsh -- reaction is, "Well maybe on some level you wanted it. Because you know, we're not like other people."
"No, we're not, are we?," Jessa says.
Hannah spends time getting to know Petula (Rosanna Arquette), Jessa's dad's equally kooky, strung out hippie girlfriend. The two who met because she was the masseuse at his last stint in rehab. Hannah assists Petula feeding the family rabbits (who will later become dinner, to Hannah's disgust).
The girls settle into the filthy guest room and Jessa flips through her Dad's 1979 Penthouse. Jessa admires their natural beauty and pronounces that the models should be proud: "In a way it's the most noble thing you can do -- to help a boy find his sexuality, to help a boy become a man."
Hannah snarkily agrees. "Probably the most noble, you know, besides a doctor or a firefighter," she says.
Jessa holds up the centerfold, cocks her head at Hannah and retorts, "Who says she's not a doctor?"
As the family settles down for dinner, things start to unravel quickly. Jessa's dad announces he's leaving for a lecture with Petula, and she's very pissed off and insulted he couldn't change her plans since she was coming to visit. She barks at him and he tiredly replies, "You've cancelled on me for the last six occasions, how was I to know you were even going to show up?"
The surprise and hurt in Jessa's eyes register that he has a point -- and in that beautifully acted moment is why I love this show -- no character is perfect. Yes, Jessa's Dad has been a dreadful father, but he's quick to point out she is not exactly reliable, either.
In some sort of weird revenge-at-her-Dad plot, or perhaps because there was simply nothing else to do, Jessa and Hannah go joyriding with Petula's awkward teenage son Frank and his chiseled schoolmate, Tyler.
The boys and Jessa pass a can of whipped cream around, which Hannah nervously declines: "Whippets are what killed Demi Moore, okay?"
Jessa covers Tyler's eyes as he speeds down the road which sends Hannah into a terrified tantrum. She gets out of the car (once it's stopped) and Frank runs after her. Moments later, (no surprise) they're engaging in very awkward, brief sex in the dirt. Hannah tells Jessa, who berates her ("That is disgusting, He is a child.") and she admits she only did it because the thought they were all coupling off.
"I thought you brought me on a sexcapade," Hannah says. "That was just me trying to have continuity with you. I am disgusted with myself." Jessa seems amused as Hannah stomps off.
The next morning Jessa and her father have a brutal heart-to-heart on the backyard swingset. Jessa minces no words and gives him a laundry list of Things You Did Wrong.
"You think I can rely on you?" he counters.
"You shouldn't have to!" she cries. "I'm the child! I'm the child." He is contrite, and asks her to stay late so they can have another evening together.
Jessa's dad drops the girls off at the grocery store to pick up food for dinner and as they sit, waiting for him to return, Jessa mutters, "He's not coming back. This is what he does."
The girls silently walk home. When Hannah finishes packing, she finds Jessa gone, having left only a note. Hannah waits for the train back to the city by herself. She calls her parents, to thank them for being so supportive and stable Her mother, though at first touched, then decides she's "not falling for this crap." Hannah is left alone, urinating in the bushes at the trainstop.
This episode was a bit heavy-handed. The father-daughter scene with each of them swinging in opposite directions on a rusty, creaking swingset; the one-two punch of Jessa announcing it the most noble thing for a woman to help a boy discover his sexuality and then Hannah deflowering Frank -- all of it felt rather hit-you-over-the-head-with-the-metaphor for this show.
But I will say that Jessa's character was beautifully rounded out by the end -- her selfishness and petulance has an origin now, and I so enjoy her wicked naughtiness with teasing Hannah. I hope Lena Dunham gives equal development opportunities for the rest of her cast in coming episodes. It's the noblest thing she can do.
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