Even in the depths of its third season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend still finds new ways to surprise. Every time it seems that the show is going to rest too much on the charms of its ensemble, it doubles back and goes deep with Rebecca’s character, often making some bold choices in the process. This episode might be Rebecca’s most unlikeable of the entire series — even the adorable manifestation of her childhood self is a straight-up bitch — but it makes for undeniably compelling television, upping the stakes significantly from the season’s first two outings.
The episode opens with Rebecca in full panic mode, having confessed all her crimes to Josh … only to realize that her confession just destroyed that whole lawsuit that she and Paula were planning. Anxious enough that she’s talking out loud to a manifestation her younger self, she still somehow manages to shut down the suit, but only by completely ruining Paula’s confidence in her own fledgling legal skills.
But when Josh announces that he’s coming home from preschool priest school, Rebecca has to revive the suit as quickly as possible. (How she thinks she can pull it off when she also confessed her crime to a whole church full of congregants is beyond me, but I’ll assume that the real-life manifestation of her big “Rose’s Turn” number was actually a one-on-one convo.) With Paula’s help, she tries to drag his name through the mud in her favorite feminist-news/nail-art blog, attempting to convince Josh’s friends that he’s a racist, thieving, lying sack of shit before he can tell everyone all the horrible things she’s done.
Let’s be clear, Rebecca has done some horrible things. Seeing the world from her perspective makes it easy to forget the rap sheet she’s accumulated since arriving in West Covina, but it’s pretty shocking when laid out in black and white: stalking Josh, breaking into his house, tracking his car, watching him sleep with other women (twice!), attempting to kill Gravy the cat. Rebecca may have drawn the line at murder, but she’s been blithely ignorant of all the other risks she’s taken with her reputation, especially given her existing criminal record. We in the audience have the benefit of witnessing each act and its justifications, but anyone in Josh’s shoes, hearing about all of it for the first time, would understandably lose their shit.
A lesser show might attempt to tone down Rebecca’s character, but this one is unflinching. Instead, it doubles down: She is outright terrible to absolutely everyone in this episode. In addition to manipulating Paula, she ignores Heather’s crisis over graduating college, blows off Nathaniel (whose sexual interest is quickly morphing into genuine affection), comes close to torpedoing all of Josh’s friendships, and even admits to ruining the life of a fellow seventh-grader back in middle school. This character has had a lot of rock bottoms, but this is the rock bottom of rock bottoms and it’s not easy viewing.
To keep things on the comedic side, the subplots aim for outright silliness. Nathaniel attempts to take relationship advice from George, who thinks his talent for failure can be a feature instead of a bug. (It isn’t.) After he’s rejected by Rebecca once again, we find out that Nathaniel’s happy place is, bizarrely enough, the zoo. It’s a non sequitur of a song, but an entertaining one, and Scott Michael Foster is talented and confident enough to sell it. He’s definitely filling the male singing gap left by Santino Fontana and giving the show better access to modern pop repertoire in the process (see also: “Let’s Have Intercourse”), and the results have been consistently funny.
Heather’s number, “The Moment Is Me,” is a little less appealing, as it’s pretty much a one-note joke about how a character this sardonic would rather die than sing an inspirational song. Sure, Heather’s whole deal is that she is sarcastic and flippant, but the whole point of every character on this show is that they’re, you know, “a lot more nuanced than that.” (It doesn’t help that Vella Lovell has the show’s weakest musical-theater chops; even though her deadpan non-singing is fully intentional, it’s also pretty grating.)
But this episode is ultimately about Rebecca having to face up to her crimes, and it finishes big, as she makes yet another attempt to pack her bags and run. This time, she’s got some help from Nathaniel, who’s so besotted that he’s ready to fire up his private jet and head to Rome. Rebecca has always believed deep down that she’s too awful to have friends, but now her fears are more than justified: Josh just dropped the bomb about Robert to everyone in her life. Considering that she even lied to Paula, it’s hard to believe that anyone will be willing to trust her going forward — quite a corner to paint an already unlikable character into, and an act of true fearlessness on the part of the show’s creative team.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets a really key part of therapy wisdom right, which is that we ultimately manifest the results we think we deserve. Rebecca thought she deserved Josh, but failing that, she thinks she deserves nothing. And we all know what happens when Rebecca has a goal.
• I continue to love all the callback musical cues in the score. Did you catch the little bit of “Oh My God I Think I Like You” when Nathaniel finally admitted his feelings?
• Second week in a row of characters almost murdering people and/or animals to solve a problem! Luckily, Josh’s Lolo and Estrella the starfish can both rest easy.
• Non sequiturs to open scenes are the toughest bits of comedy to write, so I’m impressed by this one from Josh that made me pause the DVR to laugh: “Ah, the smell of a man’s boyhood. And I am that man. And that boy. And I have a hood! God, I love it when sentences work out.”
• I’m not crazy about Joyce Carol Oates either, but damn, they really put her on blast in this episode. (Especially since she’s slowed down on overpublishing books lately, giving her more time for an increasingly mortifying Twitter addiction.)
• Paula has all the killer lines in this episode. I can’t choose between “You are like a Madonna-Malala-Moana salad” and “Public radio? Josh? Is there a different public radio, one with pictures?”