Rachel Bloom as Rebecca, Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh, Gabrielle Ruiz as Valencia.
If the internet is to believed — and it should be, as it is our one and true God — we live in an era in which our differences should be celebrated. Whether you’re a sci-fi nerd who loves niche movies like The Force Awakens, or you learn to love your asymmetrical nostrils instead of propping one open with an unbent paper clip every day, the zeitgeist purports to embrace those who dare to be “different.”
What, then, should we do with people who desperately want to be normal and just can’t pull it off? Is there salvation for the world’s overzealous dorks, the try-too-hards, the cheesy wieners who stand defiantly against society’s expectations not out of strength, but out of a lack of options? Should they … rent a party bus? They should probably rent a party bus.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is back, baby, and Rachel Bloom’s Golden Globes win will undoubtedly draw new viewers. How wonderful that a gigantic public win will lure people to a show about one woman’s unsuccessful struggle not to be a loser. Up until now, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has focused on Rebecca’s pursuit of Josh, but “I’m Going to the Beach With Josh and His Friends!” deftly pivots the show’s focus from romantic love to general happiness. What does that look like? Oh, it looks like a party bus. All aboard! Berrr berrr! (Note: That’s the sound a party bus makes.)
After sobbing alone during a matinee of teen-death drama The Cancer Crew, Rebecca watches forlornly as groups of friends chat outside the theater. Cue a teeny reprise of “I Have Friends.” Just when we think all is lost — and, for the record, it definitely is — Rebecca spots Josh and his sweet buds discussing their weekend plans. Josh is psyched to head to the beach, but Greg wants to go to the Getty Museum in L.A. The beautiful meatheads win out — the beach it is! Josh and Valencia spot Rebecca staring at them from behind a gigantic planter, so Josh invites her to join their discussion. Josh brushes Rebecca’s hair to loosen a popcorn kernel, and Valencia instantly realizes Rebecca is deeply in love with Josh.
Fueled by the desire for vengeance — and, I’m assuming, a single almond — Valencia invites Rebecca along for the beach trip. Valencia then snatches a guitar and belts out “Women Gotta Stick Together,” a folksy, venomous song about the importance of sisterhood. Quoth Valencia: “So let’s all spread this message, like Caitlin spreads disease/’Cause a change is coming faster than Ashley drops to her knees.” Valencia is a monster, as always, but she’s not wrong to be suspicious. Though Rebecca still insists she’s not in love with Josh, her inner denial of her true feelings (and her true motivation for moving to West Covina) has become a narrative road block. The longer our protagonist keeps herself in the dark, the more likely this conceit becomes too cumbersome.
Luckily, Paula is sick of it too! “It is a trap!” she screams when Rebecca excitedly tells her about the beach trip. To Rebecca’s shock, Paula has reached the end of her rope. “Lose my phone number,” Paula tells her, before immediately stipulating, “but just about the Josh stuff. We’re still on for mani-pedis at lunch, right?” While eavesdropping on them, Darryl attempts to invite himself along to the beach, but Rebecca ices him out. She might roll her eyes at Darryl’s bald thirst for buddies, but Rebecca also steals his idea: She rents Josh and the gang … a party bus.
Toot toot! The Humiliation Bus is here! The look on Valencia’s face when that bus rolls up should be enough for Rebecca to grab the wheel and scream, “KEEP DRIVING, YOU BASTARD,” but the prospect of real human friends is too great. The gang piles in for a three-to-50-hour drive to the beach. A rare situation in which, yes, Rebecca should have just brought Sudoku.
Meanwhile, Josh and Greg have gradually been getting on each other’s last nerves. Josh, the oblivious jock, doesn’t understand why Greg wants to bring new people or listen to a new playlist. They’ve done the same thing the same way since high school. Why change things now? Greg chafes at the sameness of their West Covina life, which comes off as bitter and judgmental. Also, Greg is kind of the worst? He’s not wrong, but he’s also the worst. Good thing they’re stuck on a party bus together!
The bus, as you might have suspected, gets stuck in gridlock traffic. Valencia uses the opportunity to flaunt Josh and her body in front of Rebecca, who mostly keeps it together. The bus pulls over for a quick unscheduled stop and picks up … Rebecca’s neighbor Heather! Rebecca didn’t know Heather was dating Greg, though of course it’s fine and not a surprise at all and why would it be a problem? With Josh and Greg paired up, the only conversational partner left is White Josh, who rambles on and on about his workout regimen and diet.
When Rebecca spots a stalled vehicle on the road, she finds her unexpected savior: Darryl! He’s very lonely and may or may not have been following them to the beach. “If you people don’t eat this, I will kill myself,” he smiles, offering everyone his beachside bean dip. “So, here’s hoping.” For a split-second, Rebecca has someone to talk to … until Darryl recognizes White Josh as the trainer at his gym and they start gabbing away, bonding like two peas in a party bus.
Now, I don’t mean to rush through the awkward setup, but suffice it to say the accumulation of new bodies is mostly intended to demonstrate how irrelevant Rebecca is to Josh’s crew. Even Darryl made more of a splash than her! Between Valencia, Heather, and her wiener boss, Rebecca is excluded yet again.
This, of course, is the lifelong dynamic we’ve seen in Rebecca’s flashbacks: no friends, no close family and, oh right, one brief romantic fling. No wonder Rebecca doesn’t want to acknowledge her true feelings for Josh. If he rejects her, it would signal the end of what might be the only real connection she’s ever had. There must be a way to get Josh to notice her, to give her the affirmation she needs.
So Rebecca does … oh God, she does an elaborate pole dance on the party bus stripper pole. It’s a lot. Everyone watches, eyes like boiled eggs, as Rebecca writhes in a one-piece bathing suit and unflattering short-shorts. A one-piece, people. Desperation is a pole-dance routine in a one-piece on a party bus, forever. “This could not get any more uncomfortable,” Greg muses. But it does, because the performance is also very long.
In this seemingly endless moment, it’s clear that Rebecca is meant to be an embodiment of who we secretly fear we truly are: clueless, inappropriate, secretly pitied, and barely tolerated. Our intentions obvious, our control nonexistent. While most of us know enough to stifle our aching desire for human contact, Rebecca wears her need for attention like a pair of ill-fitting shorts over a navy-blue one-piece. When she hops down off the pole, she smiles. “You’re all probably wondering how I did that,” she says, catching her breath in the silence. Girl.
Enraged by Rebecca’s cervix-revealing performance, Valencia accuses her of flirting with Josh right in front of everyone: “Why does Rebecca get a pass for every crazy thing she does?” Uh, pity mostly? Rebecca goes on the defensive, claiming she doesn’t have feelings for Josh as evidenced by the fact she hooked up with Greg. It’s like a bomb went off in the party bus, but it’s even worse because they are still on the party bus! Once Josh and Greg’s simmering tension comes to a head, Valencia quickly points out that, as always, Rebecca is the locus of the turmoil in their lives.
Mortified, Rebecca rushes barefoot into the bathroom, where she calls Paula to pick her up from the beach. Barefoot in a party-bus bathroom … can a woman sink any lower? Paula is happy to oblige, as long as Rebecca admits she has feelings for Josh. Pushed further into her lonely, crazy corner, Rebecca refuses and slinks back out to face the music. Valencia cannot ease up, pressing Rebecca to admit she moved to West Covina to pursue Josh. Darryl basically blows up Rebecca’s spot by pointing out that she called him asking for a job. With no excuses left to throw out, Rebecca admits it: She moved to West Covina after running into Josh on the street. But, she explains, she moved to be happy, not to date Josh. “I love it here,” she gushes. “I love what the dry heat does to my hair.” Valencia doesn’t buy it, and frankly neither do I, but Josh understands. He too moved after a cold and lonely time in New York. “Do you know how proud I am to be the one who told you about this place?” he gushes. He doesn’t think Rebecca is crazy; he’s been in her shoes. And if that’s not friendship, then baby, let me off this crazy party bus called life.
Finally, after half a day of insanity, they arrive at the beach. Everyone silently piles out, emotionally drained and excited to leave That Weird Stuff That Happened on the Party Bus behind. Josh and Greg make amends, probably because Josh knows that the essence of friendship is realizing when, to paraphrase Donald Trump, you’re shlonging everything up. As Rebecca slumps off of the bus, Paula shows up like a damn hero to drive her home. “He was so warm and kind and understanding,” Rebecca says with wonder. “I love him so much.”
What an episode! Only this show could jerk tears from a party bus. And imagine what a fully, madly, deeply in-love Rebecca is going to look like. (Spoiler alert: nuts.) Also, if you were wondering why Rebecca doesn’t recognize that Paula is her true friend crew, it’s because Paula is her stand-in mom. Duh. See you guys next week!
Beach Bean Dip for Thought
- How much does a one-way party bus to the beach cost, would you say?
- Greg’s Seinfeld impression.
- The Cancer Crew: “So thank you, cancer, for showing us what friendship is all about.”
- Valencia: “I am so exactly like that caring nurse who donated her bone marrow.”
Greg: ” … You didn’t feel any connection with that vain yoga instructor?”
Valencia: “She was fat.”
- Rebecca, marveling at Valencia’s beach cover-up removal: “Did you buy that in a store that sells rip-offable clothing?”
- White Josh during Rebecca’s pole-dance routine: “I think I saw inside of her.”
- Rebecca, trying to explain herself: “Who pole dances for male attention? You know the name of the class I took in New York? It was Feminist Pole Dancing! And as my teacher, a lovely transwoman named Professor Goddess, said, True Pole is about reappropriating the male gaze.”
- How Josh tries to spite Greg: “I’m going to drink the last craft beer, even though it tastes like thick, soapy shampoo.”