Andrew Rannells, who plays Elijah, has been one of the undersung saviors on “Girls.” He went from being an occasional guest and source of broad comedy to a more complex regular over the last few seasons. The character started out as a bit of an inside joke: Elijah was not a particularly talented aspiring actor, whereas Rannells was a star of “The Book of Mormon” and has appeared in “Hamilton” in real life. Now, Elijah is on a newfound quest to improve himself, to finally try to achieve his goals, and for once, Rannells is allowed to show off his talents in “The Bounce.” It’s the only Elijah-centric episode the show has done, and an excellent return to more comedic material.
Elijah has come to realize that the only way to become a Broadway star is to audition for shows, so he takes the day off from his sales job to read for a musical version of “White Men Can’t Jump.” As he’s about to walk out of the apartment in his charmingly earnest jersey, his ex-lover Dill (Corey Stoll) arrives at the door. Dill has been embroiled in a tabloid scandal after attempting to adopt a white baby on the black market, so he’s looking for a safe place to hide out until the attention dies down.
Elijah isn’t prepared to see that old face, especially not right before his audition. Dill holds special significance for Elijah—he was his first serious romance, and someone who pushed Elijah to strive for greater things. But when Dill rejected Elijah’s request for a more serious, mature, and exclusive relationship, the rejection sent him spiraling down to his current position. After having his ambitions shot down, Elijah has been afraid to try for anything he might fail at.
He gets off on the wrong foot at the audition when they start with the song, rather than the monologue he’s been most focused on. Elijah switches songs (instead of something from “Newsies,” he chooses “Let Me Be Your Star” from “the hit show ‘Bombshell,’ from the hit TV show ‘Smash’”) and Rannells finally lets loose. It’s a stirring performance, but the casting people barely take a break from their snacks to respond. Still, it’s enough to move on to the next round: dance practice.
Elijah manages to pick up the moves fairly quickly (and improvises well when he messes up). And then the basketballs arrive. “White Men Can’t Jump” is about basketball, but Elijah doesn’t know what to do with one (he hasn’t even touched a basketball since the sixth grade). The dance moves that he nailed fall to pieces once the ball is thrown into the mix. Elijah’s once-promising audition now looks like a dud.
While Elijah is trying to commit to a new profession, Marnie (Allison Williams) is dealing with the dissolution of hers. Desi is unreachable by phone, so Marnie can’t extract any money from him. I’m hoping that he’s simply stoned or perhaps in rehab again and not dead. Last week’s episode, with its overturned motorcycle, seemed to be preparing for the possibility that Desi’s addiction might kill him, which seems like it could throw off the calibrated momentum of the season.
Since the two aren’t performing, Marnie is functionally broke and has gotten an eviction notice. Her mother isn’t interested in donating anything (she’s more interested in spending her own money on getaways with her fake friends), although she does offer to let Marnie sleep on the couch, which is instantly refused. The only solution is for Marnie to pawn a locket given to her by her mother (supposedly a gift to her great-grandmother from Wild Bill Hickox). Except that the locket turns out to be a fake when she tries to pawn it. She tries to sell the diamond earrings her father gave her instead, but the pawn broker grinds them down because they’re actually just glass. Marnie launches into a tirade about her lying, cheapskate parents until the pawnbroker rolls his eyes at her. (I was reminded of Marnie rolling her eyes at Elijah in season two: “You rolled them right in my face.”) “Nobody ever walks in here to sell things off their body who has done nothing wrong.” Cue the partial, and possibly temporary, self-awareness.
The episode ends on dual moments of triumph and sorrow. Elijah has a renewed sense of confidence, even if he doesn’t get called back for the musical. When he gets back to the apartment he castigates Dill for the way he threw him away for expressing genuine emotional attachment. The possibility of a reconciliation is left open. And the next morning, he gets the call he’s been waiting for, to come back in and read for the producers.
Things don’t go as swimmingly for Hannah (Lena Dunham). She’s been weighing whether or not to contact Paul-Louis about the pregnancy, and Dill finally convinces her to do it. The call doesn’t go as she had hoped—Paul-Louis is polite, and not at all dismissive, but he doesn’t have any interest in raising a child. Dunham was one of the least experienced actors on the show when “Girls” first began, and her development since then is palpable. It’s heartbreaking to watch her face slowly fall as Paul-Louis opts out of parenting with her. Hannah had been developing a fantasy in her head that he might be game to raise the child, which would instantly allay many of her fears about giving birth. But it’s not to be, and now she has to depart her fantasy for a harsher reality.
Watch the preview for “The Bounce” below: