You can never go home, as the saying goes, but the rough truth of it is that sometimes, you just have to try. This week, in an episode co-written by Judd Apatow, Hannah returns to her childhood home in Michigan to join her parents in celebration of their 30th Anniversary, and, while there, comes to terms with the tough fact that she is not who she once was, even if she isn’t exactly who she wishes she could be.
Hannah has lived primarily in New York for at least five years now, and five years for a 24-year-old is a lot of time. It’s enough time to shed your small town beliefs and grow new, big city ones. It’s enough time to forget the people you went to school with, and definitely enough time to think you’re just a little bit better than the kids who never left home.
We first see Hannah’s condescension in her actions with her old friend, Heather, who – like so many people in New York – works as a barista and dreams of having a career as a dancer—so much so that she’s moving to LA without a support system, confident that she’ll make it big. Hannah offers only support, but we can see it in her face: she concludes, in an instant, that Heather is going to fail. Judging from Heather’s dance routine we see later in the episode, she’s probably right, but it doesn’t make Hannah’s assumption any less cruel.
This disconnect between Hannah and her hometown is probably best illustrated in her scenes with the preternaturally kind pharmacist, Eric (played by Lou Taylor Pucci), who went to the same high school as Hannah and quickly asks her out on a date. Eager to experience what it’s like to be treated as anything other than “monkey meat,” Hannah cancels dinner with her parents, (“But we had plans,” her mother protests, unaware of how little that means in the city), and gets gussied up to attend a charity event for a local girl who went missing overseas. She tells herself, “You are from New York, therefore you are just naturally interesting,” which wraps up her condescension in perhaps a too neat, too self-aware bow.
On their date Eric calls Hannah out on her self-seriousness after she criticizes Heather’s dance show, and Hannah lightens up, just a little bit, and agrees to go home with him. There, we see that Hannah doesn’t really know how to deal with a small town guy’s vanilla sexual preferences—a fact she doesn’t really comprehend until a shocked Eric begs, “Please, don’t put your finger in my asshole.”
It’s perhaps the blandest sex scene of the series, and the show does something wonderful by cutting it with scenes of Hannah’s parents having raucous shower sex, leading to her dad, (who, regretfully, is most certainly not gay—sorry, Elijah), lying passed out on the floor. Hannah and her mother struggle to drag him to bed, and, later, her mother asks Hannah if she needs money. Hannah turns it down, insists that she is handling shit. Her mother is proud, and Hannah is, too, even if she lied her way into feeling prideful. But, that’s sometimes how it works: We say things to make others think about us in a certain way, and if the lies are convincing enough, sometimes we start to believe them, too. Or, we at least begin to aspire to reaching such great heights.
The episode closes with Hannah’s first vacuous, non-sex related conversation with Adam, and it’s a nice way for Hannah to end her time in Michigan, feeling like she’s in an adult relationship that she has some control over, even if that control only extends as far as making Adam get up to look out the window.
There’s a bunch of other good stuff here: Hannah bringing home garbage bags full of laundry; Hannah raiding her parents’ fridge; Heather’s queer boyfriend; Hannah’s father’s Woody Allen impression. One of the best scenes comes at Hannah’s parents’ anniversary dinner, where Hannah’s father muses about her future, wondering what kind of person she’ll grow into. “What does she even know how to do?” he asks, to which her mother says, “She knows how to have fun. And then she learns from that fun.” And that’s true, at least of this episode: Hannah seems to have done some growing up, seems to have learned a little bit, at least, about the type of person she doesn’t want to be. Sometimes you’ve got to go back to where you started to figure out where you need to go next—or, at any rate, to see where you don’t want to end up.
QUOTABLES & MORE:
- Hannah to Eric: “I’m a writer,” “And that’s how you make money?” “No I don’t have any money.”
- Hannah to everyone: “I’m working on a book in New York.”
- Hannah to herself in the mirror: “The worst stuff that you say sounds better than the best stuff that some other people say.”
- Hannah to Eric: “What’s your favorite part?” “Of what?” “Of fucking me.”
- “Maybe not enough fire burning under his ass for your taste, but he’ll do for the day?”
- Adam uses a sleeping mask.
- Something I’ve always wondered since moving back to my hometown: “Why doesn’t everyone struggling in New York move here and start a revolution?”
- Adam about the crazy woman outside of his apartment: “One time we had a conversation about cashews.”
- It’s obvious that Hannah underestimates the excitement in her parents’ lives. Those two have a beautiful relationship, and it’s good to see that by the end of the episode Hannah kind of starts to realize it.