This episode of Girls is called "Video Games" but don't get too excited, geekboys, because it's actually about Jessa's relationship with her estranged father. Jessa, fetishized by most as the wisest of all the Girls, takes an impromptu road trip to Manitou to visit her father after receiving a mysterious text from him that, after Hannah's deduction, was probably a butt-text. "That's really mean," Jessa says to Hannah. They're cooped at the train station for hours, because Jessa's father is always late. Hannah has to piss, but the Manitou train station has no toilet. We also learn that Hannah has a UTI. Hannah is skittish about pissing in public but oh the burn.
"I heard the best way to treat it is to stick garlic up your pussy."
This may be true for women, but the best way to get rid of a UTI for a man is to stick your penis into three or four pieces of soft white bread soaked in cranberry juice.
When Jessa's father finally arrives, we find him scraggly haired and aloof, the station wagon is stuffed with old computers. He refuses to throw them away because he's afraid people will steal his ideas. So he's that guy. Or is he?
The purpose of this episode is to give the audience some background on why Jessa is so w/e about life. The answer: Daddy Issues, which most girls of a certain age find themselves spending a good portion of their lives trying to overcome. His new wife, Petula, is played by Rosanna Arquette, who is all hempy and spiritual, the type of role it feels like she's played in every movie since Desperately Seeking Susan. Jessa's not a fan of Petula. Not really an issue, though.
Throughout this episode, for all his odd vagabond foreign-ness Frank, is actually blameless. Jessa, it turns out, for all her bottle-dropping hot-pussy chaos and flowy sundresses, does not have her shit together at all. This is hinted at throughout but here's the pivotal interaction on a rickety swingset in the backyard between Jessa and her father that seals it:
"Everything. You disappearing for months on end and. Why you couldn't do one single thing you say your gonna do? You act like you want me here. You don't even know how to have a conversation with me."
Frank defends himself. Says something squirmy and accusatory about Jessa's own flakiness. But Jessa counters, whines, almost sobs, even:
"I'm the child. I'm the child."
I haven't spoken to my father in a productive way in months, since my mother got sick, and I don't know why. Throughout most of my childhood, he was the enemy, just a towering presence whose sole function was to intimidate and dictate on his non-work hours. He was gone most Friday nights all of my life and it didn't dawn on me to ask where he was, ever, because it seemed off-limits. Still haven't asked. He was probably just out, doing his thing, taking the allotted time away from jobs and parenting and the suckiness of life. He was the enemy, my mother, the hero. Somewhere about halfway through college the dynamic shifted, and the man I'd feared for most of my life somehow became my best friend. We were no longer father and son, but humans, accepting of differences but always cautious of toeing the line between father and buddy. We've been at odds with one another since about October. I took time off from Gawker to go home and help him out with my mom, to do the dutiful thing and circle the wagons like a family does during a family crisis. Most of the time was spent hanging out with him. We played a lot of golf while my mom sat in a chair staring at the television, waiting for us to come home to tell her what to do next. Halfway through my stay I realized how shitty everything really was. Not just with her illness but the full significance of the insignificance of my time spent there. One day my father and I went out to lunch together at a tacky suburban Italian restaurant trying very hard not to be one. "I've never loved your mother more in my life," he said to me. Then something inside me snapped. Because he was lying.
Because he was just trying to pat himself on the back for doing laundry for her. Because he heard that line probably in a Nicholas Sparks novel. At least that was my interpretation. Whether he meant it or not it felt so hollow and self-serving but the soup came before I could stab him with the butter knife. Instead, I cut my sabbatical early. I was supposed to see them again for Thanksgiving. I bailed and went to Cairo. They found out when I landed, just like practically everyone else in my life, including most of the staff at Gawker. I called him when I got back, safe and sound. He told the rest of my family I was in Los Angeles. We spoke, cordially at first, but then the tone in his voice flatlined and there I was, 12 years old again, getting scolded. So I unloaded on him then ended the conversation with this line: "And if you ever say that you've never loved her more in your life ever again I'm gonna knock you the fuck out." Then I hung up, like a child. We've had sporadic awkward truces between us but it came to a head last week after this farewell piece put the stuff out there that was meant to stay under wraps. My father left a voicemail message. I only heard a portion of it before I deleted it, because, again, I'd heard that voicemail message so many times before so fuck that melodrama. And fuck you guys, too. I'm about to take a hammer against a tree to sweat out this boozy anger. XO, AJ.
But that's the thing about Jessa, what we realize and she realizes, is that the daddy issues can only last for so long before they can only become Jessa issues. Her father's estrangement is no longer the cause of all this drama. It's just an excuse. As Hannah sits on the toilet, writhing about as the dagger-pee leaks out of her, she's calling out to Jessa that her UTI, is most assuredly, back. Hannah is all packed and ready to go and calls out to Jessa that it's time to go but there is only a note left on the bed:
"See You Around My Love, X"
Jessa, just like her father, decided to bail early because that's who she is and, you know, YOLO. At the train station, Hannah calls her parents. After a weekend of watching the kooky, sad relationship between Jessa and her father, Hannah feels compelled to call her parents to thank them for being, well, parents. But Hannah's mother doesn't buy this sincerity and interprets the call as manipulative — because she's a parent and knows better. On the other end of the phone, Hannah squats in pain on the railroad tracks, still pissing daggers with no one else around.
[Image by Jim Cooke]