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o-GIRLS-HBO-ELIJAH-HANNAH-570.jpgHannah Horvath has a problem: She desperately wants to be a writer but has nothing to say. A cocky blog editor named Jame suggests she try a threesome or do a bunch of cocaine because, well, at least then she'd have a story to tell. The logic is lowbrow ("the magic happens outside of your comfort zone," Jame explains) but the message resonates with Hannah who feels chickenhearted compared to her peers. With little hesitation, she scores cocaine from local junkie Laird and enlists Elijah as her drug buddy. Let the bender begin.

From a viewer's standpoint, this is where the magic happens. In the series' sharpest scenes yet, Lena Dunham and Andrew Rannells, who plays Elijah, give a lesson in how to act like you're on drugs. It's artful, hilarious and impressively believable, which is no easy task. In the middle of a weird confession session ("I just wanna raise show dogs," Elijah moans) the duo realize they should be writing these thoughts down. Obviously. But a pen and paper is so Gen X. "Leave your mark, Hannah," Elijah beckons to her, gesturing toward the blank walls. "Leave your fucking mark!"

This, however poignant, is only the beginning. The pair venture to a party at Greenhouse to see AndrewAndrew DJ and Hannah trades shirts with a pony-tailed rave spirit on the dance floor. They circle back to the bathroom to cut lines on a toilet seat and engage in standard newbie rave conversation ("You look so beautiful," "We have so many fuckin' memories," and so on) until Elijah confesses that he had sex with Marnie. This does not go over well. Hannah spins into hot flashes and screams at Elijah that she hates him.

Later, at the drugstore, blame ensues: Hannah interrogates Elijah about Marnie and he blames her for taking the situation personally. But is it really wrong for Hannah to feel hurt? After all, isn't that why Elijah and Marnie didn't tell her in the first place? For Hannah, finding out her ex-boyfriend was gay left her feeling vulnerable enough; she didn't need Marnie to make her feel worse. The fact is, Elijah isn't the real issue here. You get the sense that Hannah and Marnie have always been competitive, and I sympathize with Hannah in this scenario. There were plenty of men for Marnie to rebound from Charlie with that wouldn't have hurt her best friend.

Plus, let's get real for a second. Marnie's a little off her rocker these days. In this episode, she falls into the arms of douche-y artist Booth Jonathan whose single redeeming moment is when he tells Marnie her generation tends to give up on their passions the minute they have to struggle (zing!). But it's all downhill from there. After a tour of his creepy apartment and a claustrophobic art installation that blares Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" in a tiny box full of TVs, Marnie emerges and tells him he's "so fucking talented." They proceed to have hideous sex under the gaze of a strange doll while Booth asks Marnie to describe what it's thinking. Afterward, they have a completely stupid conversation about the '90s that probably made the Buzzfeed staff cringe. Frankly, the only thing that could make Booth's character more intolerable is if he hit it off with Thomas John. Oh god, please, no.

Then the doorbell rings. It's Hannah, Elijah and junkie Laird, whom they picked up at the drugstore after discovering he'd been guiltily following them around since he sold them drugs. Hannah's on a mission to shame Marnie for the Elijah fiasco, but also to relieve herself of some of the guilt she's carried around since Marnie moved out. In a single breath, Hannah unloads all of her vulnerability, insecurity and guilt onto Marnie, labeling her the "bad friend" and booting Elijah out of her apartment (alright, a little extreme). After she and Laird leave, they wind up kissing in front of his door. But knowing Hannah, it won't last. She's not ready for love, not even with the junkie.

Let's step back for a moment and applaud Dunham for this satire-soaked episode. It's one eye-roll after another: First, the corny underground blog, then the corny rave with the corny iPad DJs, and finally, the corny art by the corny artist. It's vanity on parade, and it's funny because it's true. Brimming with affectation and pretentiousness, Dunham brilliantly parodies this generation's odd exhibitionism. And if it's her way of telling us to take ourselves a little less seriously, well, she's got a point.

Dunham admits that much of the show is autobiographical, so I can't help but wonder if this episode was written from personal experience. In fact, I can picture it: In search of interesting stories and writerly validation, Dunham hits the downtown club scene with one of her quirky gay ex-boyfriends. In the middle of exchanging spurious coke-fueled emotional banter, he lays it all out. "Leave your mark, Lena. Leave your fucking mark." And Girls was born.
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