Rebecca has made plenty of mistakes on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but she’s managed to avoid a big one: having a kid. This may not seem like high praise, but ever since Josh dumped her over a pregnancy scare (that actually turned out to be Paula’s), it’s worth noting that Rebecca hasn’t consciously tried to hold on to Josh by getting “unexpectedly” knocked up. Perhaps the writers considered and rejected this idea because it would cross even the most extended line of likability — after all, there are some things that are just too crazy. As Rebecca wades into the mommy wars after offering to babysit Paula’s younger son, Tommy, it’s nevertheless fascinating to see just how unlikable she can become.
Naturally, Rebecca completely bungles the job — she can barely feed Tommy correctly, she accidentally lets him buy porn, she gets him a fake ID, and takes him to a nightclub — but surprisingly, there’s no unique perspective on parenting tropes to add some levity to her fast and furious screwups. Although I liked the use of the fake “mom” podcast as a framing device, Rebecca’s “So Maternal” song doesn’t really register any new insights, beyond the old saw that moms are really judgy of other moms.
Instead, Rebecca’s stint as Mr. Mom (a.k.a. Dad) brings into focus the tough line that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is walking with her character right now. Shifting focus from Rebecca’s love life to her friendships has been interesting and rewarding, but it’s also required a lot of repeated jokes about exactly how self-absorbed she is, with results that are often less daffy than excruciating. Watching her once again screw up helping Paula in the wake of something as major as Scott having an affair is hard to sit through — especially combined with the revelation that Mrs. Hernandez does talk (and can give one hell of a tongue-lashing to boot), but Rebecca was “too busy staring at the Narcissus pond of [her] bewitching self to even notice.”
The other characters in the show (such as Paula and Josh) are willing to give Rebecca buckets of credit for learning to apologize, which is certainly an important thing for her to do. But they still mostly let her off the hook when she continues to not learn from her mistakes — and it’s starting to make me wonder if Greg was the smart one for seeing Rebecca was a lost cause and bailing, which is not what you want to feel about a show’s protagonist.
One of the season’s smarter moves was the decision to expand Heather’s role, filling the void left by Greg to call Rebecca on her shit. Unfortunately, she’s barely in this episode, leaving Rebecca to mostly make dumb decisions all by herself. (At least she gets a great dig when Rebecca castigates herself for her stupidity: “Oh, if you’re waiting for me to disagree with you, that’s not going to happen.”)
Rebecca’s inability to be a grown-up — even when she’s caring for a kid — also makes it harder to swallow Josh’s sudden realization she’s been the one for him all along. While Vincent Rodriguez III has always been great at playing dumb, Josh’s solo songs are among the show’s weakest for precisely that reason; they’re more goofy than insightful because the character doesn’t seem capable of much insight. Since it’s supposed to be his big moment, “Duh” is an especially wasted opportunity to learn how Josh ticks, a concept that only “Thought Bubbles” has probed (and even then, only very gently). Josh is not the brightest, but he’s not dumb as a rock (ROCK!), and he deserves better in comparison to the big emotional song moments that regularly happen for the likes of Rebecca, Greg, and Paula.
Rebecca’s self-absorption also makes it hard to really take her sacrifice at episode’s end seriously. Sure, she’s learned enough to know that she needs to be a better friend to Paula, but she only achieves that by delaying gratification, not by making any real sacrifice of Josh. It feels less like a moment of personal growth and more like a moment of Rebecca cynically evaluating what she needs to do to not piss Paula off again. (The fact that she also immediately frets about that when she loses Tommy in the nightclub — something Heather justifiably calls her on — doesn’t help.)
Rebecca is never going to be a good person who makes great decisions. That’s not only fine; it’s this show’s comic fuel. But in the first season, she did spread some unexpected good deeds in the wake of her demented romantic quest. Lately, aside from gifting Josh that soup, she’s tilting pretty hard into being an outright jerk — and it’s starting to make it difficult to see why Josh and Paula are so willing to forgive her.
- Two of the episode’s funniest moments were one-word punch lines. Rebecca’s “Yes” when the podcast host says other mothers are losers, and Tommy’s response to her telling him to “enjoy” her gift of a toy rabbit: “How?”
- Lots of great callbacks to earlier episodes, from Rebecca telling a boob-obsessed Tommy that they’re really “just sacks of yellow fat” to the return of Spiders’, West Covina’s hot spot for confusing punctuation. Also, the butter ad campaign keeps getting eerier and eerier.
- After stealing quiches from the teachers’ lounge, Brendan has once again run away. Rebecca: “We both know that Brendan is kind of a lost cause.” Paula: “Not in front of Tommy.”
- If you enjoyed watching the videos of Rachel Bloom singing live in New York in November, it’s worth noting that she’s doing some performance dates in California later this month as well.
- There’s some great prop work in this episode: Tommy’s textbook is just called “Sixth-Grade Science,” and when he and Rebecca are talking about his Instagram account, they’re eating a very Mr. Mom meal of Cup of Noodles and chocolate ice cream.
- I wish I could say I have not pulled a Paula when dudes fail to refill ice-cube trays. “WHO DID THIS? WHAT MAN DID THIS?”