Friendship is a funny thing, and it's never exactly clear what solidifies or unravels it. Many of us have a "best friend," but if asked to explain why and when they assumed that role, we would falter. All of us have friends who don't think of us that way. It's easy to forget that before she was Rebecca's best friend, Paula was suspicious of West Covina's newest resident. Enabling Rebecca's obsession with Josh was the glue that cemented their friendship. But now that they're both trying to move on, they're discovering two things a lot of recovering addicts know: Patterns always find ways to repeat themselves, and some friendships can't survive the transition.
It's true that Rebecca has long been a mediocre, selfish friend to Paula. She wrote that great recommendation letter, but far too late; she packs Paula lunch for her first day of law school, but steals the extra juice box. She did sense something was up when Paula was hiding her pregnancy, yet the two didn't reconnect, perhaps out of misguided protectiveness on Paula's part. (After all, she considers Rebecca to be her third child.) She may not be falling into bad habits with Rebecca anymore, but this episode suggests that both she and Rebecca seem to be capable of doing bad all by themselves.
For Rebecca, that plays out in a sudden re-obsession with Valencia, whom she believes is the only person who can fully understand her heartbreak. Of course, attempting to befriend Valencia is both a sign of the "good person"–ness Rebecca craves, and a challenge big enough to fill the giant emotional hole that she's haphazardly stuffed makeovers and a love of other people's parents.
Baby Burning Man Electric Mesa, where the pair bond over didgeridoo-filled meditation tents, truly tragic porta-potties, and a time-honored favorite: accidentally ingesting psychedelics. The resulting dream ballet was the only part of this episode that didn't work for me. I admire Gabrielle Ruiz and Vincent Rodriguez's dancing skills, and I appreciate that the show tried something outside of the swirly ’60s psychedelic box, but it came off cheesy, especially compared to the genuine abstract beauty of much of "Love Kernels." (To be fair, that segment likely ate this episode's production budget.)
As for Paula, I'm enjoying her law-school classmate Sunil (Parvesh Cheena), who is certainly a more supportive friend than Rebecca has been of late. But getting back into her caper addiction (even if it's solely for her benefit) seems likely to present problems down the line — maybe even serious ones, depending on whether that malignant bro catches them with his software. The question is, can both women find healthier outlets? Or are they star-crossed besties, doomed to stare at each other across a crowded donut shop?
One person who's not interested in fighting his feelings: Josh. If there's anything he and Rebecca have in common, it's a total disinterest in being alone — and while Rebecca has her girl gang, Josh's bro crew is on the wane. I'm a little surprised the show decided to have him opt for the clichéd personality-less hot blonde (played by Brittany Snow), but I suspect we'll get some surprises in that department.
With all this bad romance, I'm also grateful that the writers have thrown love junkies the bone of WhiJo and Darryl, truly one of the greatest TV couples of our era. Their conflict over WhiJo's preference for older dudes feels real and earned, addressing the insecurities at both ends of an age-gap relationship. And if your heart didn't turn as soft as a cuddly toy snail when Darryl introduced WhiJo to his daughter, you need to close this browser tab, you monster. I hope Greg is getting updates in Atlanta so he can continue to ship them just as hard as the rest of us.
- I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but Rebecca's character can hit eerily close to home at times. I am known among my friends for regularly joking about addressing insecurities with carbs, and for getting Evangelical with other women about the pay gap and trying to pump them up to ask for raises. (Also, Rebecca and I have the same favorite Dairy Queen order, and now I have to deal with a craving for a chicken-strip basket and Oreo Blizzard that my DQ-less current city cannot fulfill.)
- I didn't get to mention the only real song in this ep, Josh's "Bad Thoughts" ditty. Given this season's high batting average, I thought it was only okay, though, I did like the use of Aloha Tech's Hawaiian vibes to parody Jack Johnson and his ilk.
- Tricking someone into getting in a last pee before you kidnap her for a long car ride is truly the ultimate act of female solidarity.
- I really appreciate the little ways in which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is always working to make its tent bigger, like having Sunil quietly but forthrightly admit that his wife killed herself. (I loved his super-dark joke about sending her to a "mom farm.")
- For the love of all that is holy, tell me we will someday get to hear an excerpt from Hector and his mom's dating podcast.
- I'll be curious to see how Roxane Gay feels about the multiple shout-outs to her in this episode. I think the CXG writers mean well, but they're somewhat mischaracterizing her New York Times work.
- Despite having a tough few months, Paula did have time to catch Stranger Things. When it comes to her and Rebecca, "I'm Barb, she's Nancy."