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'Girls' recap, episode 8, 'It's Back'

Judy CollinsGirls (tv program)Lena DunhamMonk (tv program)Mary AliceBob BalabanCarol Kane

The "it" in question is Hannah's OCD, which apparently was a serious problem when she was in high school.

With the first real deadline for her e-book on the horizon, she's regressing into obsessive behaviors, namely counting to eight. A lot. She counts her steps, she counts her potato chips, she counts how many times she chews her potato chips. She's teetering on completely falling apart and she looks exhausted.

Luckily for her, her parents are in town for the weekend for a conference and to catch Judy Collins in concert. Over dinner before the show, Hannah's parents immediately notice she's not right and her Mom calls her on it. They implore her to let them help her and she denies she has a problem (in her usual bratty, martyrish way). The whole time she's tapping her fingers eight times as they argue.

Judy Collins come out on stage in all her silver tressed glory and Hannah, overcome by anxiety, jumps up and runs out, to her parents' and (Judy's) surprise.

Meanwhile, Adam is feeling really low and goes to an AA meeting for the first time in a while. When he stands up to share he mentions nothing about alcohol but launches into a long confession about the ups and downs of his relationship with Hannah.

Carol Kane, in a guffaw-inducing cameo, approaches him after the meeting and sets him up with her daughter Natalia, because "God damn if you're not cuter than a dimple on a bug's ass!"

Adam's huge smile and nervous laughter is swoon-worthy, we have never seen such a genuine grin from him on this show and it's such a reward.

Shoshonna, Ray and Marnie are recapping Jessa's departure when Shosh drops the news that Charlie has sold an app and is now hugely successful. Marnie of course balks at this intel and skitters off to stalk him in his corner office.

The app he sold, called "Forbid," prevents the user from calling people they shouldn't -- like an unrequited love or former employer. If you want to call them, you have to pay the app $10.

"The app is free, but breaking your word to yourself isn't," Charlie explains. He also lets her know their break-up inspired the concept. He barely has time for smalltalk with Marnie before he's whisked away by his insanely young and good looking staff, for a flash mob or something. She's left dumbfounded and seething with jealousy.

Shoshonna and Ray get in an argument because he refuses to go to a party with her friends. Shoshonna doesn't understand why it's creepy for a 33-year-old to go to a college party and is in her usual exasperated, gesticulating state. Ray fires back: "First of all, you know I don't like it when you use air quotes. Pantomime to express emotions is a crutch -- we've talked about that." She leaves him in a huff. 

After an adorably nervous Lloyd Dobbler-esque phone conversation, Adam's blind date with Natalia is on. She shows up and is gorgeous. "Holy s---," Adam says as he stands up to greet her. She gives him the once over and nervously blurts out, "Oh my god I love my Mom."

The date could not possibly go better, as they are each nervous but charming and connecting and genuine. "I thought this was going to suck ass, but you're very easy to talk to," Adam tells her. 

Still peeved at Ray, Shoshonna heads off to her friend's party alone. The cute doorman in the posh building chats her up as she's leaving and the two flirt heavily. Moments later they're pawing at each other in the mail room. Oh, Shosh! Don't break Ray’s heart. I don't think I can take it. 

Ray is waiting for Shosh to return from the party when Marnie comes home from work and unloads all her frustration and jealousy of Charlie's overnight success.

"You know who ends up living their dreams? Sad messes like Charlie. And the people who end up flailing behind are people like me, who have their s--- together!," she says.

Ray won't let her wallow. He asks her what her dream is, she confesses it's to sing. He demands a song and she quietly, sweetly coos out several lines of Nora Jones. She has a has a lovely, decent voice. Ray, somewhat surprised at her pipes, demands she "stop thinking and start doing."

Hannah's parents have secured her an appointment with a psychiatrist, played with effortless precision by an uncredited Bob Balaban. As Hannah rattles off the history of her OCD, it's clear this is not just a little quirk -- she has some serious issues.

The doctor listens to her describe her violent and sexual obsessive thoughts and dryly comments that she's "really a classical presentation." Hannah doesn't take well to be being pigeonholed, or to having her suffering so clinically dismissed, and with biting sarcasm rails into the doctor about how staying up all night in an endless loop of obsessive behaviors and thoughts is "classical." 

As Hannah and her parents take the subway home, she clutches a pharmacy bag and glares at her father. "I hate it when you look so concerned about me," she snarls, and then stares at the ceiling, exhausted. 

This episode was my favorite so far this season. First and foremost, dialogue between the main characters and across different relationships is this show's strong suit and this episode had plenty of it. Ray and Marnie's conversation about following dreams was just priceless. 

Hannah's brutal depiction of her OCD was some of the strongest acting Lena Dunham has given us, and it's no wonder: She recently opened up to Rolling Stone about her own battle with OCD, the symptoms of which perfectly match Hannah's.

I'm really glad Lena Dunham went for the jugular with this plot line -- because so often in entertainment, OCD is portrayed as kooky or amusing (see: "The Odd Couple," "Monk," "As Good as it Gets").

Not to get all Hannah and overshare here, as someone who lives with the disorder myself, I am deeply grateful it wasn't sugar coated here, because it's not cute. And it's not fun. 

But it was Adam Driver's performance that stole this episode for me -- to see Adam so disarmed and happy was delicious. I know there's no way he and Natalia will live happily ever after (this is "Girls," after all) but those big, toothy smiles made my night. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Judy CollinsGirls (tv program)Lena DunhamMonk (tv program)Mary AliceBob BalabanCarol Kane
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