The 'Girls' Gut Check: Was That Brownstone Sex Weekend All a Dream?

Four Atlantic staffers sound off on whether the portrayals of their generation's quirks in the fifth episode of Season Two of Lena Dunham's HBO show ring true.


Well, we didn't see this one coming.

This week, Hannah met Joshua, a rich, married-but-separated 42-year-old doctor (played by Patrick Wilson) when he came into Grumpy's to complain about the coffee-shop trash continually showing up in his garbage can--and then she spent the next three days eating steak and playing naked ping-pong with him in his brownstone townhouse. It was all weirdly copacetic, even romantic, until Hannah got a little too comfortable and shared some Very Big Feelings, and this Hannah-only episode ended with her morning-after march back into the real world of Girls.

Below, a panel of millennials from the Atlantic staff--Eleanor Barkhorn (editor of The Sexes channel), James Hamblin (editor of the Health channel), Chris Heller (social media editor), and Ashley Fetters (editorial fellow for the Entertainment and Sexes channels)--respond to questions raised by the show's depiction of random hookups, New York City, and UrbanDictionary.

Shacking up: Hannah pseudo-moves in with handsome, wealthy Joshua in his beautiful house for a three-day fling. Total fantasy scenario, or the kind of thing that actually happens?

ELEANOR: Sure, there's a lot that seems implausible about this episode: that the house where Hannah has been dumping Grumpy's trash would just happen to be inhabited by a sizzling, available doctor; that she would kiss him before even learning his name; that he would kiss her back; that said sizzling doctor would have a ping-pong room in his otherwise tastefully decorated townhouse, etc.

Questionable details aside, the episode rang true for the way it highlighted the extreme loneliness of both the characters. Yeah, it seems weird that hot Patrick Wilson would go for a girl who's two decades younger and runs around Brooklyn in a romper... but his wife left him, and there's hardly anyone his age in his neighborhood, and it sounds like he may be a workaholic. The opening scene where he tells off Ray does a good job of establishing that he's not quite stable at the moment, that he could very well be craving an escape.

Similarly, Hannah's alone. Over the course of the weekend, we never see her text anyone to let them know where she is, which at first seems unrealistic--aren't her friends worried about her sudden disappearance? But then you realize Hannah doesn't really have friends right now. She called the cops on Adam, broke up with Marnie, and kicked Elijah out of her apartment. I suppose she and Jessa are still close, as displayed by last week's bathing-together scene...but Jessa's not the kind of friend who's going to worry you've been kidnapped. There isn't really anyone looking out for her.

JAMES: Two lonely people alone in a very nice house.

ASHLEY: On one level, I think it's totally possible for two strangers to have sex and discover in the process that they enjoy each other's company. And it isn't so implausible that those two people wouldn't mind just continuing to hang out together. But it is sort of hard to believe the sex between Hannah and Joshua would happen in the first place, with so little by way of prelude. They're two sober strangers awkwardly chatting in the middle of the afternoon; there's little to no sexual tension brewing when Hannah abruptly kisses Joshua. It's a random act, not something that's been building ever since they, I don't know, locked eyes furtively from across the bar at Grumpy's.

But, you know, hey. Maybe that's how it happens for some people.

CHRIS: I bet there was a deleted scene where Hannah messaged him on Blendr.

It's not TV. It's ... : This episode felt pretty different from the rest of Girls: None of the other main characters were involved, and at one point Hannah says she feels like she's in a Nancy Meyers movie. Did the episode remind you of anything else in pop culture? And did it work as quality TV?

CHRIS: Did any of you see this bottle episode coming? It was such a surprise to me--in tone, in concept, and in execution. The Nancy Meyers line was especially revealing about intent, I think, because it initially felt like a winking parody of a typical romantic comedy. I didn't like the early parts of the episode, though. The wheels were spinning, but we weren't going anywhere. What really caught my attention was Hannah's breakdown and how she acted the next morning. I can't remember another time that Girls lingered on a character in this way, and I'm so glad it finally happened.

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