“Beach House” confirms that Marnie (Allison Williams) is no longer a sporadically irritating supporting player, but the center of Girls’s empathetic imagination. This week’s episode concerns another of her perfectionist schemes, which is intended, as always, to stuff her friendships into the more easily identifiable boxes of pop-cultural stereotypes. Marnie wants to reestablish bonds with Hannah (Lena Dunham) and, to a much lesser extent, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), in a manner that resembles a comfortable coming-of-age girl-power narrative complete with the closing arc that finds everyone understanding each other. Marnie sort of achieves her aim, but in the decidedly less comfortable key of real friendships, which often find personal revelation arriving at the cost of someone else’s delicate, probably even necessary, egocentric illusions.
Marnie invites the girls for a weekend away in the outskirts of the Hamptons. The plan is to put aside last season’s awkwardness over Marnie’s one-n’-done with Hannah’s ex-boyfriend, Elijah (Andrew Rannells), and the weekend, initially, appears to be going as well as can be reasonably expected. The girls attempt to swim near a portion of the beach that Hannah facetiously deems a wind tunnel, and they all seem to be on a similarly qualified positive wavelength. Even Jessa manages to voice an encouraging sentiment or two. The kink arrives with Elijah’s unexpected appearance, as he’s in the neighborhood with his new boyfriend and obligatorily snobbish entourage. The trouble begins with Elijah mocking Hannah’s admittedly hideous bikini from behind before he sees her face (and seriously, Dunham’s reliably, weirdly vain self-flagellation might reach a new plateau with this two-piece) and continues with Hannah thoughtlessly inviting Elijah’s crew back to the beach house.
There’s a difference between Marnie’s plan this week and the absurd American Idol-infused scenarios she normally cooks up: This one makes sense, and so you feel for her when it all goes to hell. There’s vanity inherent in Marnie’s wishes to reunite the girls, of course, just as there’s varying degrees of vanity inherent in almost everything most people do. But there’s also a sense of a legitimate yearning for connection. Marnie’s last few weeks of flailing have not been without courage and personal experimentation, the most of obvious of which is the blossoming relationship with Ray (Alex Karpovsky), and so her desire to fold her friends back into this newly re-contextualized life scans as an understandable and even advisable bid for social health. Marnie has a number of quietly lovely moments this week, but the most telling is the opening, which shows her placing name cards in each of the beach house’s rooms under the guidance of a fantasy of order and self-actualization that almost immediately goes flying out the front door.
But Elijah is ultimately the highlight of “Beach House.” Rannells has always allowed you to see the self-consciousness and the tenderness under Elijah’s confident façade, and that tenderness is afforded its own little sonata of pain this week. Elijah tries to tell his boyfriend that he loves him, only to be rebuffed, which Elijah tries to shrug off with the (studied) gleeful indifference of the weekend warrior. He passes off heartbreak as just another quick passing fancy, just another bit of bullshit that’s soon to be forgotten in the haze of the booze and the poignantly embarrassing meal and the dance routine, set to Harry Nilsson’s “You’re Breaking My Heart,” that seems to speak for the whole weekend. That routine inadvertently comes to epitomize the things everyone isn’t talking about when they try to talk about love, and the aggressive frustration that arises from that seemingly unbridgeable disconnect between what’s meant and what’s actually done and said. Nilsson said it all just right: “You’re breaking my heart, so fuck you.”
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