One Man’s Thoughts About Girls: ‘Boys’

jason kundrath is just one of the boys…

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There should be little debate about this week’s episode. It was superb. And as opposed to last week – where Hannah was essentially the only character of focus – “Boys” spends quality time with several major characters: Ray, Adam, Marnie, Booth, and Hannah. And each and every one of them is somewhere between sad and miserable. Even Shosh and Jessa, despite their minor appearances, are expressly unhappy. And these are not the shallow, self-absorbed problems you might expect from this crew. With the exception of a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, the episode was a carousel of quietly devastating glimpses into the lives of folks dealing with shattered expectations.

Let’s get into the details.

HANNAH’S E-BOOK CHALLENGE

The episode begins with Hannah at a Brooklyn restaurant with a publisher. He is apparently an idol of hers, and he has become a fan of Hannah’s essays. After many compliments on her unique voice as a writer, he drops the good news: He wants her to write an e-book. This, of course, is the validation she has been looking for, and she doesn’t hesitate to proclaim their meeting as the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Then, he calmly drops the bomb: he needs it in a month. And no, he’s not kidding. As the fear begins boring a hole in Hannah’s stomach, Mr. Publisher guy orders them some celebratory drinks. He’s going to make her famous! In the next scene, she bids him farewell, and as she walks away, she takes a few steps to the nearest tree and calmly pukes in broad daylight in front of all the patrons dining outside. I do not see this ending well for Ms. Horvath.

RAY AND ADAM GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER

Meanwhile, at Grumpy’s, Ray has realized that he needs back the copy of Little Women he lent Hannah. She, however, left it at Adam’s apartment, and due to Adam’s unstable emotional state, she refuses to go there. Hannah offers to simply buy him a new copy, but Ray explains that this particular copy is special, as his Godmother personalized it with a message to him written inside the cover. Given Ray’s recent admission of his loser status to Shoshana, perhaps he’s looking for some wisdom. Or perhaps he’s just being a curmudgeon. Either way, Shosh tells him it’s his responsibility – as a man – to retrieve the book himself.

Cautiously approaching Adam’s apartment door, he soon finds his trepidation justified. As soon as Adam answers the door, he’s looking and sounding like a man unhinged, pointing a hammer in Ray’s face, and demanding to know if Hannah sent him there. Once inside things get weirder.

Personally, I love Adam, but regardless of how honest and insightful he can be, the guy is at least half insane. He directs Ray to the bathroom to find the book, and Ray opens the door to find a snarling dog. A dog that Adam warns is aggressive. A dog that has bitten Adam rather seriously on the arm. A dog that Adam admits he stole.

 

Ray is aghast. He mercilessly scolds Adam for his insensitive behavior and demands he returns the dog to its owner. Adam doesn’t argue, but he asks for Ray’s help in the matter. Initially repelled by the thought, Ray eventually comes around to the idea. He’s likely spent lots of time with Shosh over the last month and is attracted to the notion of an adventure – just for the boys.

The banter between them on this adventure – which takes them from Brooklyn to Staten Island – makes for the funniest bits of the episode. On the ferry Ray has a revelation, explaining to Adam, despite their differences, they actually have a lot in common. “Maybe it’s because we’re both honest men,” he says. Or maybe, as Adam dryly counters, “it’s because we’re both kinda weird looking.” LOL moment of the night right there.

From the moment they were on screen together, I was hoping they would form an unlikely friendship. Oh, the possibilities! But, alas, their bond is broken before the end of the episode. When Ray asks Adam if he’s finally over Hannah, Adam explains that Hannah is like a carnival game. It seems simple but it’s rigged. “You try and try and try until you make yourself nuts, and by the time you walk away, you realize you didn’t want the crappy prize to begin with.” Ouch. Sounds like he’s over her, right? But not so fast.

When Ray starts talking about Hannah in a negative light, Adam loses his cool fast. Although Ray tries to bring him back down to earth, the damage is done. In something like a jealous rage, Adam accuses Ray of sleeping with Hannah. Then he angrily (and perhaps accurately) calls out Ray and Shosh’s relationship as shallow and ultimately doomed. Then he walks away, leaving Ray with the dog. On Staten Island. And that’s only the beginning of his humiliation.

BOOTH IS SCUMBAG AND MARNIE IS A FOOL

This episode also lets us in on Marnie and Booth’s relationship, and these two are the worst. We see them lounging in bed together naked. Booth’s assistant – a young, nubile Asian girl named Su-Chin – enters the room. Marnie covers herself; Booth remains unashamedly naked, above the covers. Su-Chin gives Booth a list of updates of various completed tasks. Booth, however, doesn’t let her leave before grilling her about a small scoop of ice cream that was missing from his pint. She openly admits to having a taste out of curiosity. (She’d never had rosewater ice cream before.) But Booth wants to make it clear how improper it was of her. She is incredulous and angry and quits on the spot, hurling his Blackberry at him. Good for her. Booth sucks.

With Su-Chin gone (or “dead” as he says it), Booth asks Marine to host the gathering he’s to have that evening. She is flattered and excited. This is the first event they’re putting on together! It’s significant! But after agonizing over a dress, and ultimately buying a hideously pretentious one that perfectly suits the hideously pretentious vibe of the party, Marnie gets a devastating reality check.

Alone with Marnie for a moment, Booth discusses Marnie’s payment for the job of hosting the event. This, of course, seems out of the question for Marnie, as they’re BF/GF, silly! They are, right? “I didn’t realize I had a girlfriend,” Booth casually responds, casually tearing her heart out. Quickly realizing her terrible foolishness, she is weeping and blathering on to Booth about why she thought they were an item. You can barely feel sorry for her, really. Then, after a weak attempt to comfort her, he basically leads her to admit that she was in love with the “idea of him.” She goes on to say she’s a huge fan of his art. This puts him into a rage with him dramatically breaking bottles and proclaiming that no one knows him, and, moreover, how he hates all of his friends. Now, here’s an unsympathetic maniac for you. His entire life is artifice, and when he successfully and purposefully hypnotizes someone like Marnie into eating up every last bit of it, he despises her for it. And, oh yeah, somewhere in there he mentioned how he slept with Su-Chin, too. He’s even more fucked up than i originally thought. What a sad, little scumbag.

THE LIAR’S CLUB

In the saddest scene of the episode, Hannah – who is already stalled out on her e-book – calls Marnie to hear the voice of a friend. Marnie – who has left the party and already removed the most offending parts of her ridiculous dress – is on her way home, dizzy, defeated, and deflated. The real heartbreak here, however, is while each is clearly yearning to be honest with the other, they simply cannot. Their friendship is so damaged they can only lie about how swell they’re doing. Meanwhile, both are basically on the verge of tears. It’s difficult to watch.

Booth should serve as a cautionary tale here. On the surface, he’s very successful. He has achieved a level of wealth and fame. Yet, he remains deeply unhappy, his entire life a grand artifice. And here we have Hannah and Marnie – both relative failures – whose stubborn commitment to a false presentation of success has effectively cut them off from the honesty of the friendship they once shared. Will they ever reconcile? Can they ever get back to a good place? I’m stumped.

NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED

Back on Staten Island, Ray – alone with the stolen dog – finds the address of its owner. And in an unexpected turn of events, the daughter of the dog’s owner – a real, raw piece of Staten Island / Jersey Shore trash – refuses to take the dog back, and basically tells Ray to fuck off. Shocked and appalled, Ray tries to argue with the teenager, but this only leads to more ruthless berating of his character. It’s rough. Among other things, she calls him a kike. “I’m Greek Orthodox,” he corrects her. This is Ray’s lowest point to date.

Alone with the unwanted mutt, the two of them sit on a bench looking out at Manhattan as the last dregs off daylight fade. “You think I’m I kike?” he asks the dog. “Well I’m not even that,” he says. “I’m nothing.” He begins to weep, his head in his hands. Damn. Maybe this is his lowest point.

Damn it. I want to run to Ray and tell him it’s gonna be okay. But that brings up the whole point: maybe shit isn’t going to be okay. That’s life. That’s the “realness” of this show. We can’t all be winners. Maybe we’re all losers in our own way.

This is the new face of comedy. Less laughing. More weeping.

What do you think?

1 COMMENT

  1. On a whole, I thought this ep was step down from the two previous. Aside from the Ray-Adam pairing, which was thoroughly entertaining, I found it lacking, in terms of both meaningful character beats and humor. Totally agree with you that Marnie and Booth are the worst. Let’s hope she, and, by extension, we Girls boys, are done with him.

    • First of all – thanks for reading. I appreciate the comment! Secondly, I disagree with your assessment of this episode as a step down. I loved it because it offered real insight and development on several characters. Natural, believable development, unlike Jessa’s blowout with Thomas John and all the canned dinner party drama from a couple episodes back.

      It all felt honest, believable and – in the case of Booth’s meltdown – somewhat revelatory. The performances were top notch, too.

      One of my favorites this season.

      • I found nothing unnatural about Jessa and Thomas John’s split in “It’s a Shame about Ray.” I bought Jemima Kirke’s performance all the way–from passive-aggressive dinner banter, to heartless heckling/extortion of her husband, to tearful bathtub regrets. That to me was far more revelatory, and compelling, than any of Hannah and Marnie’s travails in this most recent episode. But that’s just me.