Be warned, the following review has spoilers strewn about like New York fire hydrants. So if you haven't seen the episode, try not to trip over them.
Remember last week when Hannah and Fran appeared to be on the verge of breaking up for the umpteenth time? Well somehow they’re still together, with a ticking time bomb firmly wedged between them. It’s honestly got to the point where watching the pair is proving awkward, Jake Lacy’s Fran clinging on for dear life whilst being drained of all energy by the life-sucker that is Hannah Horvath. Unfortunately we didn’t get to witness a blowout after Hannah’s phone lock photo swap last week, so fingers crossed that a major Fran meltdown is coming. And hopefully one that finally makes Hannah reassess her longing for drama.
This week’s problem is school marking. Coming across a pile of marked papers on the table, Fran takes issue with his girlfriend’s rather lax approach to her students’ grammar. Two people living in the same place, working in the same place… Is it bad that we’re excited for this to implode?
Marnie is back on US soil, floating down the street with a guitar and sparkly silver trousers whilst receiving middle-finger greetings from her neighbours. Farewell, honeymoon. Desi has decided to go all Nick Knowles on his new wife by splitting their already cramped apartment into a one-bed place, which understandably freaks Marnie - and their neighbours - out. This is a girl who is uptight, who likes order, who has to be in control. So Desi’s beardy builder invasion doesn’t deal their tempers any favours.
We join Jessa at another AA meeting this week, a habit we’re mighty glad she’s keeping. Adam blunders into the female-only room (“I needed sisterhood”, Jessa explains) before about-turning and waiting for her outside. “Why are you avoiding me?”, he asks. We know Jessa’s “Still Hannah” answer before she even opens her mouth. But Adam is persistent and isn’t willing to let this girl escape him even if she’s reluctant to meet him halfway (“Hannah would throw herself at whatever she wanted”, he tells her). There’s no questioning the fact that the days of Adam and Hannah are long gone: to paraphrase Friends, we’re so past Hannah and Adam that we can’t even see Hannah and Adam. All we can see is Adam and Jessa, and you have to admire the guy’s tenacity and swerving of creepy and desperate territory.
There is no way Hannah will let Jessa get away scot-free when she discovers the emotions that have been lurking under the surface.
Coffee wars: round two. A forlorn Ray sits in the window staring at his rival shop, reeling off philosophical gold about the state of the world (“Spiritually, how am I supposed to negotiate with a society that rewards those shaggy-haired dickholes?”) as Elijah checks the state of his back hair. The reason he’s doing this, we’re very glad to report is due to the return of a certain guest star. That’s right, Corey Stoll is back as Dill Harcourt, the devilishly handsome celeb who caught Elijah by surprise last week. But more on that later: we’ve got Frannah to deal with first.
Hannah brings Fran to task when a young student wonders, “What happened to my poem?”. Hannah is a fan of creativity, you see (“Proper English is a joke. In 10 years we’re all going to be robots who speak Chinese”), whereas Fran is, you know, a proper teacher. Pulling him out of class (“Hannah, this is wildly inappropriate”), Hannah and her surely-soon-to-be-gone beau have an awkward corridor encounter as she firmly tells him, in front of her student, “I’m not being too much, I’m being just enough”. Remember when we gave Fran three more episodes? Two to go...
Avoiding their partners, Hannah and Marnie find retreat at Jessa’s. But Jessa doesn’t want them there. And it’s not just because of the Adam situation - she’s genuinely trying to study. As the two runaways distract Jessa by looking at trashy websites and remembering forgotten A-list relationships (Val Kilmer and Cher, anyone?), Marnie takes the time to offer Hannah advice whilst realising she was probably a tad harsh on poor old Desi. He only wants to impress his new wife, after all. Though, err, banging a hole through the wall probably isn’t the best way to do it. Marnie’s sage advice may actually be the most sensible thing she’s ever said: “I don’t even know what’s going on with you and Fran, but I’m assuming he’s right”. Well done, M.
Marnie continues (“People who work on things stay together. Otherwise you’re going to end up alone like Cher”), giving Jessa an opportunity to pipe up (“You’re already like Cher”). Jessa is clearly battling with her conscience when it comes to Hannah. She may not necessarily like her, as she utters to Adam earlier, but she’s one fierce friend and is currently in a place where sabotaging her friendship for the sake of it isn’t something she’s willing to take lightly. And for that, we applaud her, as it’s definitely not been an easy road. Hannah clearly isn’t designed for Adam anymore, and she knows this, but there is no way she will let Jessa get away scot-free when she discovers the emotions that have been lurking under the surface.
But let’s move on to something more positive. Last week we were spoilt with the introduction to Corey Stoll’s Dill Harcourt. This week, there’s even more to feast on, proving what an inspired move it was to bump Andrew Rannells up to series regular. From the moment Dill and Elijah’s date pops onto our screens, two things are clear: Dill is very, very interested in Elijah, and Elijah can’t believe his luck. Dill is incredibly attentive to Elijah, stroking his hair and constantly touching his arm: if we were betting people, we’d call that flirting. (It’s definitely flirting.)
This looked set to be more of a one-night stand, only-for-fun scenario, but don’t be too sure. Elijah: "I thought we were meeting people… If this is the type of thing where I don’t meet your friends, I could be okay with that”. Dill: “You shouldn’t be”. We later join them in Times Square, Elijah feeling the effect of Dill’s fame, posing for photos and writing autographs before being kissed by the man of his dreams in the middle of all the dizzying lights. Who knew a guy would have our favourite romantic Girls arc just behind Jessa and Adam? Not us.
Chaos then rears its head, Desi having a bit of a meltdown as Marnie walks back through the door to apologise (“All my ideas are so fucking stupid!”), reaffirming the notion that he really is a bit lost without her endless approval. Marnie realising she’s in the wrong about Desi’s hard work in the apartment is a big thing for her, but they’re both as bad as each other, wrapped up in their little blinkered bubble (Desi: “You’re like this shooting star and I’m a rat in the gutter”).
Does anyone else think Jessa’s hair gets longer each week? Either way, Hannah apparently threatened to cut it if “I didn’t let you take me out for ice pudding”. Jessa doesn’t want to be there, and her frustrations towards Hannah swap their usual underlying niceties for something a little more pointed: “You used to have interesting ideas and now all you do is browse the internet. Maybe that’s why you stopped writing”. The final straw comes when Hannah can’t pay with her AMEX card and Jessa struggles to keep her emotions down: “Everyone has to drop everything for Hannah when Hannah needs support… I’m just trying to be open”. She pretty much falls short of blatantly telling Hannah she doesn’t require her friendship any longer. So Hannah walks out the door (“If I’m going to hang out with someone who hates me, it might as well be my boyfriend”) before returning briefly to drop a c-bomb on Jessa. At this stage, it sadly makes more sense for the pair to continually grow apart. They never really quite ‘fit’, did they.
Visibly shaken, Jessa arrives on Adam’s doorstep (or corridor, to be more precise). “I just came from seeing Hannah”, she says. “What’s wrong is this. Us. I wanted this for a really long time.” So it seems like Hannah’s c-bomb was the straw that finally, thankfully broke the camel’s back, Jessa now realising Hannah’s happiness isn’t as important as her own. In true Adam style, the sex that immediately follows isn’t the most conventional or romantic, but then neither is the sex that a giggly Dill and Elijah are having across town. As we leave these two pairs content (but almost definitely uncertain about what the future will bring), Fran and his girlfriend sit silently in their kitchen, marking their respective papers. Maybe Hannah will end up alone like Cher after all.
Old Loves really does seem to show Season 5 carving out paths for people, relationship-wise. One lot of bad sex isn’t going to deter Jessa from Adam and we hope this is the start of a stable pairing for Elijah - Rannells and Stoll are this week’s undoubted highlight, even if they don’t say much. Again, ‘not much happening’ seems to sum Episode 4 up, although that’s a tad harsh when everything is obviously working towards a grander purpose here. We’re happy to exist in this world, with these people, but you’re always left wanting that little bit extra when something momentous doesn’t happen. Big moments are few and far between these days, but kudos to the show for not piling on more and more unnecessary drama week in, week out.