L-R: Rachel Bloom as Rebecca and Gabrielle Ruiz as Valencia.
Photo: Eddy Chen/CW
Ohhh, we have a new little intro! This week’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend kicks off with a quick, animated rundown of the show’s premise. “She’s so broken inside,” a cartoon sun sings about the titular crazy ex-girlfriend. “That’s a sexist term,” Rebecca admonishes him. Speaking of exes, as we might have expected, Rebecca doesn’t have to wait long to meet Josh’s mysterious girlfriend, Valencia, this week, the one for whom he moved back to West Covina, Califoooooorniiaaaaaa. After a failed attempt to locate Josh at Spider’s, a local nightclub owned and/or named after a man named Mr. Spiders, Rebecca bids Paula goodnight and retires to her couch to eat chips and take medication alone. Oh yes, as anticipated, Paula and Rebecca are legit friends and still committed to spending time with Josh, despite Rebecca’s insistence that no, seriously, honestly, she swears to God, she did not move to town just to get Josh to fall in love with her, let’s get it straight. “Are we still doing that?,” Paula asks, taken aback. “Let me know when we can stop.” Here, here.
Dressed in her shabbiest sweats and most nonexistent bra, Rebecca makes a late-night deli run (tip of the hat to how many times Rebecca is genuinely disheveled, sweaty, or sporting raccoon-eye makeup this week. It’s nice to see a natural spectrum of looks, including Not Giving a Fuck) and stumbles upon Josh making out with the stunning, glamorous Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), who is the beautiful monster of Rebecca’s dreams. “Why is Greg talking to a homeless?” Valencia sniffs upon spotting Rebecca for the first time. Oh yeah, Greg’s there too. Poor, sweet Greg. “Hey, can we maybe have a post-mortem on the whole make-out crying session?” he asks Rebecca, who of course will have none of it. Get outta there, Greg! There is only ruin for you here! Rebecca might have sobbed into his mouth, but somehow that guy hasn’t given up hope.
Between her superior attitude and tight yoga body, Rebecca is IMMEDIATELY obsessed with Valencia. While at first I thought, “Oh brother, of course Valencia has to be a bitch,” about 30 seconds into their first interaction, I realized that Valencia really did need to be a mean girl, or else there would be virtually no way for us to sympathize with the sweaty, overbearing weirdo Rebecca turns into around her. Rebecca’s chipper resolve immediately shifts into a stuttering hyperenthusiasm about Valencia’s body, her job, her body, her dress, HER BODY. “Grassfully exeunt, pursued by a bear,” Rebecca blathers, kissing Valencia’s hand. It’s wonderfully unnerving. Rebecca thinks Valencia is NICE, for God’s sake, when in reality she is so malevolent, Josh begs Rebecca not to tell anyone about their teen relationship for fear that Valencia will flip out. Despite all the red flags in this situation, Rebecca convinces herself she and Valencia must be friends. Right now.
Much like her reasons for moving to West Covina, Califooooooorniaaaaaa, Rebecca is SOMEHOW also knee-deep in denial about her reasons for befriending Valencia. It’s an interesting choice to have your protagonist not understand her own motivations, but a tricky one to navigate. The nature of the conceit of the show requires that Rebecca not go full crazy and show up on Josh’s lawn sobbing in the rain two episodes in, but it feels like a real challenge to balance Rebecca’s lack of self-awareness against the show’s need for her to go slowly nuts in a variety of entertaining ways.
To wit, Rebecca completely denies her obsession to Paula, but this time Paula isn’t buying into her bull. “Women of equal sexual viability hate each other.” Paula explains. “That is how it has worked since the day vaginas were invented.” Then again, how happy is Paula’s life that she’s giving out crackerjack female-friend advice like that? Oh, what’s that? Not happy at all? “I always wanted a daughter. My kids aren’t daughters. They’re terrible,” Paula sighs. “Mom, I stabbed Tommy, kinda,” Paula’s son informs her on the phone. “Brendan, I told you I had to work late, figure it out,” Paula replies, eating crackers in the dark in her cubicle after hours. Clearly desperate for a friend, Paula even got Rebecca a little Statue of Liberty key chain, which makes it all the more depressing when Rebecca drops Paula like a fresh load of laundry to become Valencia’s bestie. “Who wore it better? It’s like, who wore it equally?” Rebecca proclaims, dismissing Paula’s underhanded sabotage scheme in favor of a raw, desperate bid at actual friendship.
After Facebook-friending her and inviting herself to Valencia’s yoga class, an exercise-maddened Rebecca drifts into a musical-fantasy number, “I’m So Good At Yoga.” I thought this song was the weaker of the night’s two (a liiiiittle on the nose with the Bollywood theme, right?), but the individual lines were gems. “Butt stuff doesn’t hurt at all. Most times I prefer it,” Fantasy Valencia brags. “I’m not afraid of clowns or trains.” Despite Valencia’s seemingly total lack of appealing qualities (she does not get jokes and drinks water from a box), Rebecca starts to model herself after her in all ways. Rebecca finds Valencia a space to start her own yoga studio. The two laugh and eat zero legumes, as recommended by Valencia’s blood therapist or whatever. Valencia reveals that she doesn’t get along with other girls, due to the fact she has amazing boobs and all her old friends were trolls. “We’re friends, right?” Valencia asks hopefully. Oh GIRL, no.
Rebecca is so incensed when Paula doubts the validity of her connection to Valencia that she almost blows a big client meeting. “I have never met anyone who lies to themselves more than you,” Paula scolds. But of course, if Rebecca listened to reason, she wouldn’t be Rebecca, and we would not have this show. Excited and flattered by Valencia’s invitation to join her, Josh, and Greg at Spider’s/Spiders’ (they wear MATCHING METALLIC DRESSES, oh Lordy), Rebecca slips into something a little sexier with the evening’s winner, “Feeling Kinda Naughty Tonight,” a sassy psychosexual pop number that’s basically “I Kissed a Girl” if the full title were “I Kissed a Girl, Then Harvested Her Skin Cells and Cloned a Pair of Her Lips and Had Them Surgically Grafted Onto My Face.” Rebecca’s girl crush is a little sexy, a lot covetous in the Buffalo Bill sense of the world. “I want to cut the silky hair right off your head and slurp it up like spaghetti,” Fantasy Rebecca purrs. And really, who hasn’t obsessively checked their crush’s Instagram for photos of their girlfriend or boyfriend, stewing over all the physical attributes that must make them more gorgeous and lovable than you. The difference between you and Rebecca, of course, is your ability to tell discern the line between reality and fiction. Overcome with envy, friendship, and sexy grinding, Rebecca plants a kiss on Valencia. It’s okay, Rebecca explains. Valencia loves Josh and Josh loves Valencia and Josh and Rebecca used to be a thing. Josh and Valencia are mortified (“Why did you like me?” Valencia asks, genuinely, and reasonably, perturbed) and Greg is … well Greg insists on being a sweet, kind human beyond all reason. He offers to take Rebecca to get flapjacks AFTER this all happens! Greg is too good for this world. I hope he turns out to be a serial killer. Just kidding, I bet he’s genuinely a mensch.
Ending yet another day with public humiliation, Rebecca apologizes to Paula for being a dirt friend. Paula offers her own act of contrition: Team Rebecca T-shirts. “If you ever need it, this T-shirt will always be there for you,” Paula says, before turning back to clarify. “The T-shirt is me.” Aw, we know, Paula. We know.
You’d think at this point Rebecca would realize that she cannot stop embarrassing herself when it comes to Josh, and yet … Josh stops by her work and asks her to dinner the next day, apologizing for making her lie about their dating history. This guy keeps reeling us back in! I know some people were turned off by the show’s title or the general invocation of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” trope in the premise, but I think this episode establishes that the show plans to leverage that conceit to poke fun at the legitimately crazy messages we receive, messages like, “Romantic love is the only road to happiness,” or “If only you were prettier/funner/cooler, the babe of your dreams will love you instead of her.” The tone is uneven, but the template is sound. Rebecca turns her back on her only actual friend and transforms herself into a sexy doppelganger of a woman she envies, only to have it blow up in her face. Her craziness is the means by which her character learns.
As for Josh, we sadly don’t get to see him actually eat dinner with Rebecca, so we don’t know what connection they actually have. But who knows? Maybe Josh has crazy romantic ideas of his own. Maybe Valencia, filterless B that she is, has a reason to be “crazy” jealous of Josh. Maybe Greg has some crazy personality flaw, like his teeth are too white or his love too real and supportive. Maybe soon we’ll find out that everyone else on this show is another Paula, just eating crackers in the dark. A girl can dream, can’t she?
A Few Thoughts:
- Rebecca trying to politely, jokingly point out that Valencia’s high-school teacher should have been jailed for having sex with a student, even if it was “just hand stuff,” was great.
- Paula: “Maybe you’re Katy Perry. No, you’re Taylor Swift. You’re uptight and weird, right?”
- Darryl singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to himself in the break room during a non-Christmas time of year.
- Paula, on Luna bars: “I think they have menstrual blood in them.”
- If, as Paula points out, hats are the new tattoos, what kind of hat is a Sanskrit tattoo that reads, “Butt sex doesn’t hurt at all?” A ladies’ fedora? Like this one maybe?