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Girls, Girls, Girls: Recap of Episode 9 “On All Fours”

This idea of cleansing oneself has permeated this season—and the theme continues in this episode. Our characters here aren't particularly good at cleaning up and starting afresh, but what they are good at is self-sabotage. In this episode, "On All Four," several characters successfully take themselves out at the knees. 

Last week, a woman at Adam's Alcohollics Anonymous crowd set him up with her daughter, Natalia. Surprise, surprise, the two actually hit it off. Suddenly, they're going to see romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock, taking lunch breaks together and even attending friend's engagement parties. Natalia seems good for Adam, mostly because she's completely up-front about what she wants. When the two first have sex, it at first seems awkwardly negotiated. But Natalia tells Adam what she won't do, what doesn't work for her, and is clear about her boundaries. Adam isn't really used to. He says, "I like how clear you are with me." To which Natalia responds, "What other way is there?" 

They attend Natalia's friend's engagement party, where Natalia is courteous of Adam's sobriety and asks him if it's okay if she drinks. You can tell Adam is uncomfortable—not because of the drinking but because of the party. He doesn't fit in, as you can tell when Natalia's friend describes him as looking like an "old-timey criminal" alongside a sea of game-loving bros. This feeling is multiplied after a chance sidewalk encounter with Hannah where Adam informs her about Natalia but clearly makes sure to keep his ex at arms length. 

Upon his return to the party, Adam does the worst possible thing he could do. He decides to drink because he wants to show Natalia a good time. In one of my new favorite scenes, we see Adam and Natalia drunkenly dancing set to the strains of Fiona Apple's "Valentine"—the contrast of the liveliness of the dancing and the melancholy nature of the song leave with the feelings that this isn't going to end well. 

They go to Adam's house, which Natalia deems depressing. Adam commands her to "get on all fours and crawl to the bedroom." Natalia obliges and gingerly crawls to the room. And then things echo back to early Hannah/Adam sex: Adam getting wrapped up in his head and a weird, forceful fucking. This ends in one of the most explicit things seen on the show: Adam's come on Natalia's chest. He apologizes for losing himself, but unlike much of the other sex in the show Natalia airs her displeasure, saying, "I really didn't like that." I think there's a lot of power in the moment where she is able to vocalize that. Many people do things to please a partner or to push our own boundaries and discover in the process that it isn't something that we want. And that's a hard thing to vocalize. However, I also think that unconsciously the whole situation was Adam sabotaging his relationship with Natalia, especially after his encounter with Hannah. 

Meanwhile, Hannah is doing even worse mentally. It's unclear whether or not she's taking the meds prescribed to her for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I'm guessing it's unlikely given how she twitches to the eight times she picks her wedgie. 

She has a humiliating meeting with her editor (another delightful John Cameron Mitchell cameo!). He didn't read her pages because they were too friendship/Jane Austen-y and less Anais Nin/sexual failure than he wanted. Even though Hannah offers up her sex story about the teenager in the cemetery, her editor tells her just to make it all up. 

This rejection of her writing coupled with her increasingly worrying anxieties and OCD culminates in a disturbingly Cronenberg-esque scene. After shuffling around in her underwear on a hardwood floor, Hannah gets a splinter in her ass. Upon removal, she focuses on her ears, digging deeper and deeper with a Q-Tip until she hits her eardrum. 

Hannah calls her parents who tell her to go to the doctor right away. The doctor says that she hurt her eardrum but there's a lot of blood in there. Since Hannah wanted to "clean herself out," she then asks him if he'd look at the other ear. He refuses but does give Hannah back the q-tip when she asks for it. It's a sort of deranged souvernir of the physical harm she did to herself. 

On her way back from the hospital, she runs into Adam and learns about Natalia. We don't get Hannah's reaction to seeing Adam but see her calmly pull the bloody q-tip from it's plastic bag and stick it into the opposite ear. I'm really worried about Hannah. I'm also worried that none of her friends seem to care about how her mental state is declining. 

We leave Hannah and pick up with Shoshanna, who's feeling pretty guilty about cheating on her boyfriend Ray with a hot doorman. She's massively overcompensating for it, serving Ray tea and being very nice, to the point that Ray notices something is going on. 

The couple head to Charlie's office party, where Ray's neuroses come out in full force. Shosh plays the "avoid the boyfriend game," striking up conversation with strangers and talking to Charlie about how he could sleep with any girl in the room including her. Ray confronts Shosh about what is going on and she confesses that she held hands with the doorman. Ray hugs her telling her he loves her and Shosh's face tells it all. 

While all this is going on, Marnie is attempting to kickstart her singing career. At Charlie's office party, Marnie breaks out into an incredibly uncomfortable and out-of-nowhere performance of Kanye West's "Stronger" to "celebrate the premature success" of Charlie and his co-workers. Charlie takes Marnie to his office, telling her she's manic and flailing. Marnie says she's just on a journey. In unsurprising news, the two end up having sex on his desk. Charlie's finally taken charge in the way Marnie used to want. 

Now that everyone has done some sort of physical or eventual emotional harm to themselves, we have perfect fodder for next week's season finale. 

Quick List: Other Favorite Factoids from "On All Fours"

  • "Sandra Bullock is very charming. I only wish the best for her." -Adam on Sandra Bullock.
  • "I've been known to dabble in the Macintosh arts." - Ray on helping Marnie lay a track.
  • Shosh's donut hair is ridiculous. 
  • Ray refers to beer/pizza as the "people's food," while being condescending to Charlie.
  • "I guess we aren't really huggers." Hannah to Adam. 

Read all other Girls' episode recaps from the season!

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Comments

17 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Great episode

Damn, there was a lot going on in this episode!

I was disappointed that Shoshanna didn't tell Ray everything that happened with the doorman. I absolutely love both of those characters but they're clearly not a great match romantically.

Marnie's performance was both hysterical and excruciating. I was really impressed by the way she didn't seem embarrassed by it, though. I think I like Marnie when she's not trying to be cool.

Hannah: Jesus, girl, you can't be bothered to put on pants to go to the emergency room? Also, I think her friends probably aren't worried about her mental state because she's been isolating herself to work on her book. Not to mention, Jessa is MIA, Shosh is worried about her own relationship (and clearly can't handle anymore stress, the poor thing) and Hannah kind of flipped out on Marnie for hooking up with Elijah (which I totally didn't understand--Hannah's reaction, I mean).

I'm not sure what I think about Adam's girlfriend.

Rape

Are you kidding me? You call yourself the 'feminist response to pop culture' and you think what happens in the scene between Natalia and Adam is "sex" and a "forceful fucking"?! Natalia said "no" twice and was clearly very uncomfortable, which she showed and verbalised. She did NOT give explicit consent. It looked to me like she didn't want any of it to happen. Why aren't you discussing the fact that there are very good reasons to argue that this was rape?

This is not a feminist review; it's uncritical, ignorant and frankly shocking. I expected better.

Thank you for bringing this

Thank you for bringing this up! In the scene where Natalia and Adam have sex for the first time, I was so happy to see her verbalizing consent that I actually cheered. Of course, several minutes later Adam date-rapes her and I seriously felt so icky *I* needed a hug. Natalia's discomfort with the whole situation was palpable and clearly highlighted in the show; I was hoping for a much more thoughtful discussion from Bitch.

Agreed. That scene made me

Agreed. That scene made me very uncomfortable, to say the least. Although I really liked Adam as a character, this scen really shows how sick he can be.
I was glad she vocalised, although I would have liked her to react a bit more.
My problem with the whole scene is also that, I kinda have the feeling we are supposed to feel sorry for Adam. Damn. No. I, for one, don't feel sorry for. Nothing excuses the deliberate ignoring of a clear "No".

Thanks so much for bringing

Thanks so much for bringing this up.

First, I apologize for not bringing up in the recap that this scene could very much interpreted as rape that was a terrible oversight on my part. There have been other reviewers of the show who have also interpreted the scene as rape as well. Check out Amanda Hess's great take on it over at Slate: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/03/11/girls_adam_and_natalia_s...

However, I did not see it as rape because it reminded me of other uncomfortable sex on the show and also specifically many of the early Hannah/Adam sex scenes from the first season involving forceful and not entirely pleasurable sex (The second episode's opening scene specifically). Earlier in the episode, when Natalia states her preferences, she lists specifics that she'd prefer for Adam to do or not do and this sexual experience is line with that.

Viewers bring their own perspective based on their experiences and histories when interpreting a show. Based on my own experiences and histories, I didn't view this as rape but very much understand how others could.

I was also uncomfortable

I was also uncomfortable watching the scene, and while I understand that from an outside perspective it is easy to identify the sex between Adam and Natalia as rape, I think think that this scene establishes the murky gray area. Adam and Natalia had declared themselves boyfriend and girlfriend, and while it is never okay for a boyfriend to keep going when a girlfriend says no, it does happen. I think this scene underscores the discomfort and confusion that occurs in relationships especially in regards to sex.

Uhhh...if someone says "no"

Uhhh...if someone says "no" but sex keeps going, it's rape, regardless if you're in a relationship or not!!

Uhhh...if someone says "no"

Uhhh...if someone says "no" but sex keeps going, it's rape, regardless if you're in a relationship or not!!

Not just rape

I am also a bit disappointed about the write-up of this show (as well as some comments here), which I thought gave a shallow feminist analysis.

First of all, this scene with Natalia is not just another "awkward" sex scene similar to the type of sex Hannah and Adam had. Although Hanna did have what seemed to be uncomfortable sex with Adam, her character was interested on exploring those boundaries and Hannah consented to being in a subjugated role (as uncomfortable as this might have made us, the viewers). On the other hand, it is clear form the beginning, that Natalia is NOT looking for this type or relation and does NOT want Adam to do this to her

Second, although some people have debated (Bitch Mag has simply glossed over it) whether this was explicitly rape, or not and the issue of enthusiastic consent, we must acknowledge what was briefly pointed out here, which is the "gray area" in couple's relationships when it comes to sex and consent. However, not as a way of glossing over or minimizing what happened, but as a way at examining power relations. In other words, we must acknowledge and talk about the deep power imbalances between men and women that are at play. Even if Natalia did not clearly stop Adam, and it was a "gray area" in terms of her preferences and agreement, we must focus on her displeasure, his not giving-a-shit, and the fact that many women end up doing things they feel they have to- not necessarily because there is the immediate threat of violence (just like there wasn't in this episode either) but because the power imbalance between men and women always already situates women in a lesser, more subjugated position. That is what is extremely problematic, and there are thousands of incidents, anecdotes and experiences that relate to this.

This I think is a good write up that more clearly touches on that subject: http://www.rolereboot.org/sex-and-relationships/details/2013-03-why-i-cr...

Gotta say, I agree with the

Gotta say, I agree with the comments about the Adam and Natalia scene. I will admit I haven't watched this episode, but that's specifically because others have warned me about this scene and how triggering it was. As a sexual assault victim, I didn't want to put myself through that. But having read a few other reviews of this episode, and talked with a couple folks from the same perspective...yeah, that was a fucking rape scene. And I'm really surprised that Bitch would gloss over it and just mention that it was good that Natalia vocalized her nonconsent. Ummm...how about the fact that since there wasn't consent, it was assault? She told him not to do stuff that he went ahead and did. She was, from the reviews I've read, lacking in anything approaching enthusiasm, yet he didn't give a shit about her feelings or safety. I really thought there would be a deeper and more feminist analysis of this here, and I hope maybe someone else on staff writes a rebuttal, because I have to think there are other writers here who feel as we do about this take.

How is this rape? The only

How is this rape? The only times I heard "No" was in response to him going down on her because "she didnt take a shower", and again when he was about to come on her and she didnt want to get it on her dress so she pulled in down. Not exactly a clear "STOP IT, I dont like it." Was he insensitive and thoughtless about her feelings or pleasure? Of course! I would have absolutely hated that sex too. Should she keep seeing him? Hell no. But she went with everything he asked for, albeit with a grimace. I also never got the sense that her safety would have been compromised had she chosen to just get up and end it at any point, so I dont feel that a consent out of fear argument would apply here.

So...

So unless you say "STOP IT, I don't like it", it's not rape?

No, of course not. It was

No, of course not. It was terrible and insensitive on his part and turned him from endearing wierdo to total jerk in 2 minutes, but I still believe this particular situation called for a little more clarity on her part if anyone is going to call it "rape" .

Def. not "enthusiastic consent"

I'm not sure if I'd call the scene a clear example of non-consent, but I would definitely say Natalia was not enthusiastically consenting. I think the sex continued once she expressed hesitation (when Adam was going down on her) because of the two characters' clashing personalities: Adam is used to having this dominant, "mean" sex with Hannah, who has either been into it or indifferent, and he's not the most empathetic guy so he's obviously failing at reading the signs and/or giving a shit. Natalia, despite the earlier, consensual sex scene, doesn't strike me as having the type of personality where she would be like "What the fuck are you doing? STOP." I think she was so shocked at what was going on that she wasn't sure how to react until it was over.

I also like Adam as a character, and I've always been intrigued by the semi-BDSM he and Hannah engage in, but this scene really showed his uncaring, insensitive, and totally clueless side.

Consent

Not giving a shit about consent when you're having sex is rape.

It's not rape if you can walk away (???)

I think this description of the scene (from an article linked to in another comment) is more accurate “ 'No, no, no, no, not on my dress!” she says. She pulls off her top, grimaces, and looks away. "

She clearly pulls down her top because Adam doesn't respond to her objections and she realizes he IS going to come on her and doesn't want his cum on her clothes. I also think everything about her body language and comments (and in the end, clearly saying "no") tells him she doesn't want to do this. Yet he continues. And saying it's not sexual assault because she could have "chosen to just get up and end it at any point" without fear of being physically hurt sounds to me like you've got a pretty narrow (and frankly, creepy - like, I wouldn't want to be alone in a room with someone with your ideas about sex and consent) definition of rape.

Another Take on the Episode

Hi all,

We just posted another take on this episode discussing how the uncomfortable sex throughout the show makes it hard for viewers to understand when sex is intended to be portrayed as consentual: http://bit.ly/YbxO9P


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