So we’re in the woods with this one. Hannah and Jessa have taken the Metro North upstate to visit Jessa’s father and let’s just say that he does not live in Valhalla. He lives in Manitou with his wife Petula and her turtleneck-wearing, center-part having, camel toe-sporting son, Frank. And a lot of bunnies. But before we meet Mr. Johanssen or the rest of the menagerie, we see Hannah and Jessa while they wait at the train station. Hannah doesn’t like to wait. Hannah still seems to think that she’s the star of this story. But not this week. Hannah complains about waiting and about never wanting her parents to be late when she was a child. Jessa thinks Hannah is still a child. Jessa is not wrong. Jessa always had to wait. Jessa does not like Hannah making her feel bad about her parents and says that waiting is only ever really bad if “you get molested by the weird sub.” Hannah asks Jessa if she was ever molested by a weird substitute teacher. Jessa replies, “Yeah. No. I don’t know. Maybe. Probably.” And the truth is, it doesn’t really matter anymore what happened or didn’t happen with that weird sub. Jessa was fucked the moment she was born, and she doesn’t like being reminded of it. In the meantime, Hannah has a UTI and has to pee. Jessa advises her to pee by the train tracks, telling Hannah that what she really ought to do is “stick garlic in her pussy…like a whole clove” but that isn’t an option right now. So Hannah goes to pee and asks Jessa to make sure no one can see her. Jessa tells her the coast is clear, even as we see an elderly, upstate couple walking on the platform, taken aback by the site of Hannah’s indiscreet squat-and-release. Jessa smiles. She smiles because she knows she’s fucked and she might as well amuse herself on the way to wherever she’s going.
Before Jessa’s father comes, we get a little background info on him and the reason for Jessa’s visit. Basically, Jessa’s father has been married several times before, including a recent marriage that resulted in a daughter named Lemon who no one ever sees anymore. Jessa says, “I wonder if her name is still Lemon.” It turns out that Jessa got in touch with her father after he sent her a butt text. There are definitely some communication issues between father and daughter. However, once Jessa’s father comes, it’s like they speak their own language. They have their own jokes, use their own accents, and both have no desire to explain to Hannah why “Camry drivers are cunts.” These are things you either know or you don’t. They’re not like other people. Hannah complains that she “doesn’t like not getting jokes” but Hannah really doesn’t have any idea how much she doesn’t get the joke.
And now we get to meet Petula! Petula, who is played perfectly by Rosanna Arquette and who met Jessa’s father while he was in rehab and she was his masseuse. Petula who holds Jessa’s face and tells her, “You are like the most perfect black pearl.” And, just like that, diminishes Jessa and removes her from the equation. Jessa is just a beautiful, rare, hard and little thing and she is in a home, but it is not her home. And what about Hannah? Petula is delighted to see Hannah because, she tells Hannah, “I manifested this illusion. I wanted a cushion because Jessa hates me. You! You’re the cushion.”
Hannah, who doesn’t see herself as a cushion and only ever sees herself as a perfect black pearl, which is really the glory and the tragedy of Hannah, replies, “I’m the cushion? I’ve never done it before but I’m up for it.” Oh, Hannah. You are the cushion all the time. But that’s not even the point right now. Hannah is also about to get a lesson from Petula about what life might really be all about. And that is—video games. Life is just a simulated video game and Petula is clear on this one point, “If you’re not with me you’re against me and I’m gonna take you down. Bam. Bam. Bam.”
Jessa is meanwhile talking to her father about the end of her marriage, implying that Thomas John was the one who really wanted to end it. She tells her father, “It’s like he didn’t even want to work on it.” Which, all we saw was their fight, not the aftermath. Jessa probably is used to people wanting to be with her no matter how many times she tries to push them away. No matter how much she’s used to walking away from people, I think it still hurts her when they finally walk away from her. Jessa’s father is somewhat sympathetic, but also somewhat obtuse, telling her, “Maybe on some level you wanted it, because, you know, we’re not like other people.”
“No.” Jessa says, “We’re not, are we?”
This is the point where she crosses over the line and allows herself to acknowledge that she’s exceptional. It’s something people are always telling her—that she is special, that she is some perfect pearl. It can be both a comfort and a burden to be told that you’re not like other people. Because this means that the rules don’t apply to you. And this can be liberating, but it can also be terrifying. Because following the rules can lead to good things. Following the rules can lead to a happy relationship and a real job. Following the rules can lead to building a stable life and creating a home. Breaking the rules, being special, usually means being alone. And it’s not really so fun to be the last one standing. But now Jessa just goes with it. Because it’s what makes sense. She is special and that’s why she feels so awful all the time. That’s why she connects to no one. Because they are not like her. No one is.