I wasn’t sure what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would do after the holiday break, given how intensely this season has careened from revenge fantasy to full-blown mental-health crisis to tentative recovery. But for now, the focus definitely remains on recovery, as this episode avoids the usual trappings to zoom in on the stumbles of the four characters who are suffering the most: Rebecca, Paula, Darryl, and Josh.
Let’s start with Josh, who’s still immersed in the dark night of the soul that began when he ditched Rebecca at the altar. Stripped of his job at Home Base after the humiliating zit incident and still on probation at Aloha Tech, he’s also about to lose his home, as Lourdes needs his childhood bedroom to support the at-home day care she’s starting up. Reluctantly packing up his stuff, Josh has one last dalliance with his old karaoke machine when Lourdes drops in on a session, which leads to a hysterical failure-to-launch number, “Get Your Ass Out of My House.” Amy Hill has been one of my favorite CXG supporting cast members from the beginning, and as with “I Give Good Parent,” it’s clear she’s having the time of her life, playing hard both to the audience and to an “audience” of other frustrated moms waving their hands in the air.
I’ve been iffy on Josh’s journey of self-discovery over the course of this season, in part because his woes paled in comparison to the more serious issues that Rebecca and Paula were going through. But this episode finally made Josh’s ambivalence click for me. Like everyone else in the Bunch orbit, he’s been hit with Rebecca Fever — the side effects of which may include believing in oneself, desiring a better life, and getting frustrated along the way to achieving both of those things. Josh arriving to thank Rebecca for expanding his ambitions is a particularly lovely grace note after the blowup that sent her into a downward spiral, and signals a real moment of transformation for the character. Keeping him in the world of the show now that he and Rebecca aren’t an item is still going to be tough, but this opens a new potential avenue for their relationship to continue as friends.
Compared to Josh’s down-to-earth struggles, Darryl and Paula’s story line feels a bit fantastical. Fresh off his split with WhiJo, Darryl remains full-steam-ahead with having another baby, especially once he knows he has the swimmers to do the job (as illustrated in the hilarious, boisterous “My Sperm Is Healthy,” another sublime bit of Pete Gardner silliness). However, he needs to choose a donor egg, which presents an opportunity for Paula to use her judginess for good. After getting turned down by the only promising donor in Darryl’s extensive bible of potential moms, Paula goes about her usual course of stalking and bribery — only to have the tables flipped when the donor proves herself to be Paula’s equal when it comes to blackmail.
It’s a broad and goofy plotline, and I’m not sure it entirely worked, partly because the actual stakes of the blackmail arrive pretty late in the episode, and partly because the actress playing the mystery donor isn’t quite at Donna Lynne Champlin’s level. (Then again, who is?) But it does nail its conclusion: Paula’s relief at the egg not taking, and her callousness to the amount of money and hope that it costs Darryl, get shown in sharp relief. It’s another bold and necessary corrective to Paula’s meddling: “I [meddle] when I’m happy, I do it when I’m sad, and either way, it never works out,” she finally realizes.
Meanwhile, a comparatively enlightened Rebecca is still struggling to turn over a new leaf, despite regular individual and group therapy sessions to prevent her from going overboard in her new romance with Nathaniel. Yes, she can now recognize that her shirt-sniffing, glitter-exploding, let’s-cut-work-and-go-to–Raging Waters approach isn’t healthy, but she’s still Rebecca, and that means a tendency toward contriving fake meetings and manipulating people and forgetting people’s names. As she confesses to Dr. Shin, “It’s not great.”
The show deserves credit for acknowledging that Rebecca isn’t going to heal overnight, and that self-awareness of her bad tendencies isn’t enough to keep her from doing something stupid. In this case, she tries to disguise her bad behavior as a “grand gesture” of altruism, bringing Nathaniel closer to his closed-off dad. Adding the twist of Nathaniel actually having a secret sister is what a lesser show would do — which is why it was so satisfying that this one turned out to have a perfectly good reason for Mr. Plympton’s sneaking around. (He’s funding a college scholarship for his longtime secretary’s kid.)
What Rebecca does is unforgivable, and it’s amazing that Nathaniel forgives her anyway. But clearly, that isn’t enough, and Rebecca knows it. We end on a cliff-hanger of her doing something she’s never done, and while it isn’t revealed, it’s pretty clear that she’s going to dump Nathaniel. Rebecca needs more time to see what her world looks like without a man in it, and I think it’s the place where the show wants her to go as well. What that means for the rest of this year’s story line is still up in the air, but I think we’re in for another big transition in a season that’s been all about them.
• The little “coffee time for George, it’s time for George’s coffee” song is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Danny Jolles is always having the most fun with his role.
• Best song line this week is from “My Sperm Is Healthy”: “They get bottle service at every cervix / Blowing eggs up like a pager.”
• We got a surprise return appearance from Burt, the guy we last saw blowing up the West Covina water scandal. It turns out his paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis was actually also BPD. Thoughtful of the writers to show their understanding of the condition by highlighting different types of people with different kinds of symptoms in Rebecca’s group therapy.
• Darryl is every white person naming a baby. “What about Tasmalyn? Or Shetonka? It means ‘lady truck.’”
• The Paula shade in this episode is truly outstanding, from her mocking Darryl’s faux-authentic décor (“Oh please, I know off-price retail when I see it.”) to her writing off half the egg donor catalogue (“Crooked nose, snaggletooth, from Nevada, weird mole.”). But Mrs. Hernandez remains the all-time bitch queen: “Give ’em your cell, would ya? I don’t like to vomit at work.”