When choreographing the age-old dance of seduction, it’s important to always keep some old greasy chicken lying around. You never know when you’re gonna need to clog a drain! ;) Back in West Covina, Califoooorniaaaaaaaa, Rebecca is still working all angles on Josh, and one of those angles is up from inside a bone-filled trash disposal. Josh and White Josh (David Hull) stop by to lend a hand, despite that Thing That Happened With Valencia. “She’s still angry about that?” Rebecca laughs. “It was six days ago,” Josh reminds her. Though still unrecognized by modern medicine, Chan-itis continues to ravage Rebecca’s hippocampus.
Lucky for us, Dr. Paula’s got the … remedy? The vaccine? Paula has the leeches you put on a patient to drain their blood, without actually treating the underlying illness. In this analogy, the sick person is Rebecca, and the leeches are a rocking housewarming party! Boy, maybe my brain is being ravaged by Chan-itis! Either way, Paula thinks a super-fun soiree is the perfect way to get Rebecca some aboveboard Josh time. Sadly, much like her relationship with musicals, love, friendship, and space-time, Rebecca has some very deep-seated issues with throwing a party.
In a devastating flashback scene, a tweenage Rebecca invites her entire class to rock out at her house to her favorite boy band, Room Temperature, on pay-per-view, only to have her parents’ marriage dissolve right there in front of her three oddball attendees. “They’re just rehearsing a play called The Worst Parents Ever,” Lil’ Rebecca tearfully improvises. So, as you can see, Rebecca has a completely reasonable paralyzing fear of throwing a party and subsequently being disappointed by an important male figure in her life. “It’s the root of my party fears,” she sighs. “Actually, it’s the root of all my fears, period.”
SPEAKING OF PERIODS, Paula doesn’t care about Rebecca’s fun-crushing party damage. She’s had humiliations Rebecca hasn’t even seen. “I perioded on an ultra-suede settee in 1987,” Paula explains in lavish detail, concluding, “and started the whole sweater-around-the-waist trend while I was at it. So you’re welcome.” Paula suggests Rebecca hurl herself into the nearest emotional danger zone and organize a get-together in the inspiring choral number “Face Your Fears.” “Stare at the sun!” Paula and a choir of scissor-wielding children urge. “Wipe front to back!”
God bless you, Paula. While Josh remains this episode’s muscular linchpin, this week is truly Paula’s time to … well, not shine, per se. The details we learn about her home life flesh out what we already suspected: While Rebecca escapes into her romantic fantasies, Paula escapes into Rebecca. Why, you might ask? Why, that’s like asking why Paula’s eldest son, Brendan (Zayne Emory), is constantly polishing a katana at the kitchen table! Because it makes MAKES HIM FEEL ALIVE.
In addition to Brendan, we meet Paula’s troubled younger son, Tommy, and her oblivious, incessantly whistling husband Scott (Steve Monroe), devoted member of local barbershop quartet the West Brovinas. High off her ode to terrible decision-making, Paula encourages Tommy to “run with scissors” and chase his dreams of passing his test, advice that doesn’t translate as well when the recipient is under the age of 14. Five minutes in Paula’s kitchen and it’s crystal-clear why she would throw herself into the fulfillment of another woman’s romantic destiny. Her own destiny has so few romantic quests and so many more katanas to get out of Brendan’s hands. Maybe when he’s sleeping? That kid probably sleeps with his serial-killer eyes open!
Meanwhile, Rebecca needs warm bodies for her mixer. Other than Darryl, Paula, and Ms. Hernandez (REBECCA WISHES!), her guest list is slim pickings. Excited in a subconscious-eye-twitch kind of way, Rebecca sings the extremely defensive Schoolhouse Rock!–style list song “I Definitely Have Friends” with her childhood self. Just look at all the friends Rebecca has had throughout her life: Girl With Mustache, Lady Who Hit Your Car, Grocery Clerk With Half an Eyelid! Rebecca eventually starts handing out flyers to total strangers, including her disinterested hipster neighbor Heather (Vella Lovell). “I’ve lived next to that guy for 11 years, and I say ‘guy,’ because it could honestly be a stack of cats in a jumpsuit,” she vocal-fries. Intrigued by Rebecca’s zeal, Heather agrees to attend as a sociological experiment. “I’m taking abnormal psych at the JC and I think you would make, like, a really good paper,” she inform Rebecca with a smirk.
BUT WHO CARES BECAUSE JOSH AGREED TO COME TO THE PARTY!!! “Valencia will be cool with it, since we won’t technically be alone,” Rebecca lies to herself. Back in reality, Paula learns that Tommy is in deep trouble at school. Inspired by Paula’s words, Tommy stole his upcoming test, and his principal is determined to send him away to some special nightmare institute in Riverside. “We moved to this crap town because of the schools!” Paula gasps. Tommy’s education might be in peril, but Paula knows what’s REALLY important: a house party thrown by a woman she met very recently, who ditched her for another best friend less than a week ago.
Good thing, because Rebecca is really quite bad at parties. Turns out only Darryl, Heather, and Grocery Clerk With Half an Eyelid (the REAL star of this episode!) showed up. “This is exactly how it felt when my father left,” Rebecca wails. Then, right on time, Josh rides in on his Crest White strips and saves the dad … I mean day! He saves Rebecca’s day! Josh is Rebecca’s dad! Josh gathers her guests for an awesome-appearing party selfie, and seconds later, the door bursts open with dozens of party people. Josh’s sparkling smile, gentle strength, boyish laugh, and, let’s say, comforting masculine scent then quadfurcate into a white-clad all-Josh boy band. “Baby, you can kiss all your childhood trauma good-bye,” they croon in Rebecca’s psychosexual daydream. His general niceness aside, Josh’s party save is the first real glimpse at his personality. Sure, Josh is a babe, but we needed more to hang our snow-white bucket hats on. By the end of the party, Josh decides he and Rebecca should be able to hang out like normal friends, without worrying about Valencia. This, of course, will eventually end in ruin.
And while Josh might have engineered some excellent selfies, it was Paula who actually got those freakazoids to Rebecca’s party. Paula and Tommy SCOURED THE EARTH for stoners and loners to come hang out, even corralling the attendees of a Gamblers Anonymous meeting into her minivan. I thought for sure we were going “full dark, no stars” drawing parallels between Rebecca’s and Tommy’s childhood. Paula becomes so deeply dedicated to healing Rebecca’s childhood wounds, she ends up giving her actual son terrible advice and dragging him to a party full of methheads and weirdos, after all. Paula’s desire for a daughter (or at least a child whose problems are exciting rather than just depressing) creates a feedback loop with Rebecca’s desperate need for love. Meanwhile, Tommy is failing out of school and Brendan is fondling a blade at the dinner table. Rebecca does end up throwing a successful party, but Tommy had to attend it with his drunk mom on a school night. “Being good at school means nothing. I’m cool and that’s all that matters,” Heather reassures Tommy at the party. What a desperately dark turn to take! How fun!
But they eventually pull that punch back. Come Monday Rebecca helps Paula cut the principal off at the knees, using Rebecca’s legal wherewithal to force him to reconsider Tommy’s transfer. One would think 15 years as a paralegal would have given Paula the legal expertise necessary to research the Fair Access Rule on her own, but that’s none of my business. At the end of the day, Paula saves her boy and Rebecca. Paula is the Ur-mom, despite the fact that her advice is categorically terrible. Adult Rebecca and Tween Rebecca even get to spend some quality couch time at the end of the episode, giggling over Harvard and the boobs that await her. One day maybe Tommy will have his own childhood face-to-face and finally get over that night his mom got wasted and he thought he was going to get kicked out of school.
*I wanted to include a separate paragraph about Greg, because I just don’t know. Greg comes to the party and hangs out until the very end (so far, very on-brand), only to confront Rebecca about her feelings about Josh. “I get it now,” he sighs, “how you feel about Josh.” OH REALLY? NOW? Don’t sign up for detective school just yet, GREG! Something deeply weird or unexpected has to happen with this guy soon, or else we are just wasting his handsome time.
POINTS OF ORDER
- The ins and outs of Weekend Tuesday: sombreros required, attendance mandatory, work … potentially avoidable.
- “Is there a step counter on here? Whoa, it is VERY low.” —White Josh, playing with Rebecca’s phone.
- “Um, my ovaries are eking out into my fallopian tubes and they’re wrapped around … ” —Rebecca, calling in sick to work.
- “My children’s only hope is that they get into a really good gang.” —Paula, getting honest about her sons’ futures.
- Did Mrs. Hernandez lose her voice in a traumatic parkour-related accident? Why or why not? Show your sources.