Girls Recap: Daddy Issues


Jessa has always been the enigmatic one of the friend group on Girls. Or she’s supposed to be, anyway. But little details that have emerged over the two seasons—like learning that she did a stint in rehab for heroin addiction—suggest that she might be less of a free spirit and more of a tortured one. On last night’s episode, she went to visit her father for the weekend and the pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked, as we got to see a fuller picture of why she is the way she is.

Everything about Jessa suggests that she came from a wealthy, or at least very comfortable, family. Traveling the world isn’t cheap. Neither are two semesters at Oberlin or a stay in rehab. She’s mentioned before that her mother “tried” working once, but discovered “it wasn’t really for her.” So it seemed like old money afforded her new age-y existence. The giant Louis Vuitton duffle bag that she was gripping as she waited for her father to pick her and Hannah up at the train station only added to that evidence list.

Jessa’s father is extremely late picking them up. As Hannah inadvertently points out, being the last kid picked up by their parents was always indicative of “a sad home life.” Later — at least an hour, probably — when Hannah points out the ridiculousness of someone being so late, Jessa responds with, “It’s really lame that that bothers you.”

It’s in this instance that we first see Jessa recreating her relationship with her father. How many times did he probably say the same thing to her, putting the blame on his child for being uncool enough to complain about punctuality instead of taking responsibility? And when he finally did show up, not only did he have a poor excuse, but he also didn’t even bother to empty out his trunk to make room for their bags. It was obvious, immediately, that he was a selfish, inconsiderate asshole, who no longer has a relationship anymore with his other daughter, a five-year-old that might still be named Lemon. (Also, he doesn’t seem wealthy at all. And he’s apparently a bizarre combination of a hoarder and wanderer who doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long. Does he take all his beige, old desktops and 1970s issues of Penthouse with him every time he up and leaves?)

Despite the rocky start to the visit, Jessa and her dad seem to pick up right where they left off, laughing and engaging in inside jokes. But he totally forgets to ask her how she’s doing, since breaking up with her husband. When she tries to tell him what went wrong in her marriage — appearing genuinely upset that Thomas-John didn’t want to work on their problems and regretful about what went down — he doesn’t seem that comforting, or even interested. All he can say is, “You know, we’re not like other people.” Jessa does know that. And the look on her face suggests she wishes the opposite were true.

And they aren’t like other people. They seem all free and hippie-ish at first glance, but really, they are people who eat their pet bunnies for dinner. They are beyond “outside-the-box.” They’re basically sociopaths.

The name of the episode, “Video Games,” comes from Hannah’s conversation with Jessa’s sort of step-mother (played by Rosanna Arquette), who has a theory that life is nothing but a video game. She does not mean this as a metaphor, but literally. She believes that everything about their existence is a simulation. So of course people who think that life isn’t real aren’t that concerned that the way they live could have consequences — particularly for others.

But all of this is Jessa’s reality. It’s sad and she knows it. She’s contemplating the situation while sitting on a rusty old swingset, which is fitting since, in her father’s presence, she’s reverted back to being a child. Unfortunately for her, he was never really a parent, so instead of walking over to give her a big push, he sits down next to her and starts swinging, like the big kid that he is. In one of the more heartbreaking scenes ever on the series, she lays it all out for him, crying about how he failed her, how he always leaves, and how she has never been able to rely on him. He tries to smooth things over by promising to make her dinner, but then abandons her at the grocery store — leaving her again. She and Hannah are forced to walk back home; it seems that they don’t see him again.

As Hannah was has a burning UTI pee, she thinks she’s talking to Jessa, but emerges from the bathroom to find a note, indicating that she’s gone. She left. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Perhaps recreating the circumstances of her childhood — always leaving, hopping from city to city, always being on the go — is a way for Jessa to connect with her father in his absence. (Something she would have to do, since he is usually absent.) By taking on the role of the leaver, abandoning loved ones, maybe on some subconscious level she’s trying to understand her father, so she can understand why he treated her like he did.

One time I heard a therapist (fine, it was my therapist) say that “we marry our unfinished business.” Maybe Jessa married someone so straight-laced as Thomas-John because she knew that her idiosyncrasies or her harshness would eventually push him away. Perhaps she was trying to recreate the abandonment she grew up with.

In retrospect, Jessa’s Louis Vuitton duffle bag was way too big for a two-day trip to the country. Hannah only brought a backpack. Perhaps Jessa knew all along that she would have to leave for good. Or maybe she always packs like that, so that she’s able to get away from everything with whatever she has in that bag. Maybe she thinks it’s an escape, but where ever she’s going, she’s bringing her baggage with her.

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