When it appeared on the screen, I was convinced the name "Tally Schifrin" was a secret code -- an anagram for something important Girls was trying to tell me: Elvis lives? I buried Paul? Eye cream really is a scam?? Turns out Tally is just a former writing colleague of Hannah's (played by Jenny Slate), who published a self-indulgent memoir about her boyfriend's suicide called Leave Me Alone. (If you're curious, the best anagrams I came up with were "starchy fill-in" "thrill is fancy" and "Lynch is a flirt.")
All four girls attend Tally's book launch but Hannah is having a hard time enjoying herself through all the jealousy. She and Tally's exchange starts out fake-nice and only gets faker: Tally offers a backhanded compliment about how hard Hannah works at writing: "something that doesn't come completely naturally to you."
Through the crowd, Hannah sees her former writing teacher, Powell Goldman (Michael Imperioli) who according to Marnie, Hannah was "obsessed with." Powell echoes Hannah's assertion that Tally is "a shitty writer," and invites her to read at the Salmagundi Club.
That night in bed, with Adam curled around her like a fiddlehead fern, Hannah asks herself why she's so threatened by Tally, and concludes it's because she's never done anything significant with her life. She decides to take a risk and do the reading, with a story about "Phil the Hoarder," an old boyfriend.
It seems the book party triggered some Deep Thoughts for Shoshanna and Jessa as well. Tally's writing -- or perhaps just her success -- motivates them to make some big changes. For Shoshanna that means creating an online dating profile (J-Date!) Jessa just rearranges the furniture. She's almost finished when Katherine, her former boss, shows up to reconcile. It seems that, after some consideration Katherine feels bad for firing Jessa over flirting with her husband Jeff.
Hannah arrives for the first day of her new job at Café Grumpy. In a white dress. Ray, who it turns out is her new boss, sends her home to change: "This isn't a consumptive women's hospital."
Back with Jessa, Katherine goes on a rant about Jeff, but then segues into a rambling description of a dream she had with Jessa in it. There's shitting! And blood! Plus boobs! Katherine's interpretation? "This means I'm still holding on to some anger." (Hmm ya think?) But despite Katherine's blind spots about her own feelings, she really seems to 'get' Jessa, recognizing her heedless behavior and compulsive flirting as a defense: "You're doing it to distract yourself from becoming the person you want to be." This hits home and Jessa, for once, is silenced.
At Grumpy, Ray is getting an earful about Hannah's essay and he isn't impressed: "What in the world could be more trivial than intimacy?" He rattles off a dozen less trivial topics she could be writing about, including death. (Maybe Tally had the right idea?)
That evening Hannah arrives late for the reading. She decides to forgo Phil the Hoarder and instead read a new essay -- very new, in fact: she wrote it on the train! Unfortunately it falls flat, and even her biggest fan, Powell confirms that the piece "didn't really come together." He doesn't understand why she didn't read the hoarder piece. So much for taking risks! Hannah goes home mortified. She arrives to find a copy of Leave Me Alone sitting out on the kitchen table, and it sets a match to all of her frustrations. After some prodding by Hannah it seems Marnie has some frustrations of her own. Hannah accuses Marnie of being materialistic and obsessed with finding a boyfriend. Marnie thinks Hannah's just crazy and has been since middle school. It's a little like they're yelling at a mirror:
"You are a wound!"
"YOU are a wound!"
"You're a bad friend"
"I am a good friend and you are a bad friend!"
Finally Hannah ends the volley: "I don't really give a shit about being a good friend. I have bigger concerns." This outburst seems to vindicate Marnie, and she admits she wants to move out. The feeling's entirely mutual, and their disagreement ends with a double SLAM of their bedroom doors.
Despite the dramatic denouement, to me this episode felt strangely tepid. The action revisited themes we've seen explored more deeply in other episodes, without adding much insight. Hannah's self-absorption and poor judgment, Jessa's recklessness, and Marnie's know-it-all indignation were all represented here, but in a way that seemed like a placeholder, almost as if it was saving the good stuff for, oh I don't know ... the season finale? I don't think we're headed for a cliffhanger in the conventional sense, but I'm wildly curious to see how Lena Dunham draws Season One to a close...
Alexandra Gray is a NYC-based writer/ performer; one-third of the all-girl sketch trio Booby Hatch, on Twitter @AceofSix.