Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh, Rachel Bloom as Rebecca.
Photo: Greg Gagne/CW
Rebecca’s commitment to Joshua Felix Chan reminds me of Newton’s first law of motion: An object in a uniform state of motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless acted upon by an external force. Short of Josh explicitly saying, “It ain’t gonna happen,” Rebecca is content to keep rolling along, silently infatuated. Of course, she won’t actually do anything to directly provoke that outside force, a.k.a. break up Josh and Valencia. That would be … morally wrong?
Also, this inertia is a necessity for the show. If Rebecca had blurted out “I love you, Josh!” when she moved to West Covina, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would be two episodes long, and the second episode would take place at her funeral.
That being said, “I’m Back at Camp With Josh!” brings us close as Rebecca gets to an outright declaration of love. Still swooning over her newly recognized feelings, she leaps at the chance to join Josh at the summer camp where he counsels disadvantaged teens. Valencia predictably loathes Josh’s love of children and fresh air and helping. She nags him to dump those losers and put in more hours at work, which of course always works and never backfires.
Rebecca finagles her way onto the trip by promising to deliver a speech on female empowerment, and also with bribery. (“Our lawyers wouldn’t let us put ‘Just give us some damn money’ on the posters,’” sighs the camp’s extremely straightforward director.) She has Mama Paula pack her bag with bug spray, toilet paper, and a well-worn love letter she wrote for Josh when they first met — she plans to read the letter to him at the exact right time. Between her fawning words and the nostalgic woodland setting, Josh is sure to remember how much he loved Rebecca as a teen! Even better, Rebecca doesn’t have to specifically tell Josh she is currently in love with him as an adult. It’s the ideal plan! “Don’t do this,” Paula pleads, seemingly forgetting that every time Rebecca concocts a terrible scheme, it ends up leading her one step further down the road to emotional maturity. It’s going to be fine, Paula! It’s just going to be horrible for a long, long, long while before then.
Meanwhile, Darryl is lonely as hell. While Rebecca tends to replace human companionship with delusions of grandeur, sad-sack Darryl recognizes his need for friends and proactively finds a way to make them. (Did you guys realize Darryl is a more functional Rebecca? I’m just piecing it together now.) With his daughter out of town and her snail menagerie failing to fill the void — welcome back, Snailiana Grande! — Darryl wanders down to Greg’s bar and invites all the guys to watch a boxing match at his place. Greg, White Josh, and Hector agree to come hang with the King of the Spread, which is a reference to Darryl’s excellent taste in party food, not the most disgusting sexual nickname imaginable. Speaking of Greg, it should go without saying that he has already biffed his burgeoning romance with Heather. Perhaps due to her flat affect and emotionless face, Heather has learned to be clear and honest with her feelings. As far as she’s concerned, it’s on. Greg freaks out at the mere suggestion of commitment and bails on her, a tendency that Hector and White Josh attribute to Greg’s abandonment issues surrounding his mother. More Hector and White Josh, please!
Fully packed and ready to hit the trail, Rebecca meets up with Josh and the teens. Turns out teen girls aren’t the polite, kind, conscientious young people you might expect them to be. The girls turn on Rebecca, sensing her weakness and need for approval. “You look like a Cabbage Patch Kid,” they snicker. Worse still, Rebecca is determined to actually teach them something about female empowerment. I’d say “Sounds like Rebecca’s first time at camp all over again!” but we never get the flashbacks I’d hoped for. No Li’l Rebecca perioding her pants during volleyball. No Teen Becks getting her braces caught on a guitar string at a fireside sing-along. This episode also seems like the perfect opportunity to revisit her actual teen relationship with Josh: Was it everything Rebecca thought it was? How did they hook up in the first place? Like many of the best things in life, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
Back at Party Central, Darryl frenetically makes crudité to the EDM banger “Having a Few People Over.” Too bad Greg, Hector, and White Josh collectively realize that boxing is boring, then gather up their stuff to go home. Desperate to keep hanging out, Darryl concocts a plan: hire attractive local women from a totally reputable website called Sophisticated Party Casting to fill out his fête’s body count. (“Well, it’s local. That’s good for the economy,” he muses.) Inexplicably, against all odds, this pans out.
Despite her constant attempts to get him alone, Rebecca eventually realizes Josh is legit sticking to the whole “camp counselor” thing, leaving her to grapple with the girls. Yoked to a tall, bloodthirsty teen during elbow tag, Rebecca gets brutally clotheslined. None of the teens want Rebecca to sit with them at lunch or give them advice about guys, perhaps because they can sense how deeply clueless she is about the ways of man. She doesn’t get the significance of the romantic camp locale Blowie Point. (“Oh, because it’s windy?” she wonders. “Yep. So windy it knocks you to your knees,” one of the girls reassures her.) The girls’ rejection of Rebecca just makes her more and more determined to get Josh alone so she can share this goddamn sentimental letter. Utilizing his quest to take the perfect selfie, Rebecca lures Josh up to Blowie Point. While she’s waiting, she gets stung and bitten by so many insects, she goes into anaphylactic shock and has to be dragged, unconscious, to the nurse’s office.
But if you thought Rebecca would allow a near-death experience to ruin her sunset rendezvous with Josh, you clearly haven’t watched a minute of this show. I demand you go and watch it from the beginning.
Back at Darryl’s house, did anyone else think the party girls were going to be escorts or strippers? They aren’t, which seems like a much weirder narrative choice. They are just models and out-of-work actresses. Huh. Okay. This call-girl assumption had me hanging on Greg’s every word when he spotted his grade-school crush, Ashley Pratt. I kept waiting for her to reveal what a “party-girl website” actually is. How is it not a conduit for sex work? It’s the middle of the day, and there are actually attractive local women waiting to be hired to party? Instead of revealing her sex-work career like I prayed, Ashley just chats up Greg for a while. She’s a struggling actress. Greg is funny. It’s fine. Taken by his wit and conversation, Ashley gushes that, unlike the douche bags in L.A., Greg is the kind of guy a woman might want to settle down with. His horrified reaction makes Greg realize, oh yes, he’s dumb and scared and ruined things with Heather. He goes to her; she takes him back. Well played, Greg!
Rebecca, meanwhile, wakes up at the nurse’s office with a black eye and dozens of massive bug bites. “Am I in the Matrix? Am I Neo?” she gasps. Despite her “Skeeter syndrome,” Rebecca slips into her windbreaker and hauls ass to Blowie Point just as Josh poses for a most wondrous selfie. Rebecca sings him her precious letter, carefully protected in a sandwich bag, in “Dear Joshua Felix Chan.” In the letter she swoons over teen Josh’s shirtlessness, his constellation of moles, and his shirtlessness. Josh giggles out loud at the letter because, well, he has been told time and time again that Rebecca doesn’t have feelings for him. He assumes she’s sharing her letter like you’d share a photo of your haircut in seventh grade — for nostalgia, for eye-rolls, for jokes about how young and dumb we once were. Rebecca, meanwhile, is devastated by his laughter. What was the point of this trip if not for love? Ashamed, Rebecca slips away to …
Give a female-empowerment lecture! Hoo, boy. Already on the verge of tears, Rebecca almost immediately breaks down at the girls’ jeers and boos. “Why are you so mean to me?” she sobs. Horrified by the sudden display of emotions, the girls freeze. The former mean girls are moved, if not by Rebecca’s words, then by her raw despair. “Why doesn’t he love me?” Rebecca bawls, hunched on the edge of the camp stage. “I’m the one who needs empowerment,” she sniffs. No argument here, girl! Because teens are secretly softies and sweetie pies, they rally around her. (Remember last week when we learned that you have to have friends, Rebecca? This is what that could be like!) They bitch about guys, give Rebecca a makeover, and sing a fun Fifth Harmony–style female-empowerment jam “Put Yourself First,” about the importance of taking care of yourself so a man will want you. “Don’t think about too hard, too too hard,” they sing. “It’s a wormhole.”
While I love, love, loved “Put Yourself First,” the Emergency Girl Intervention was ultimately beside the point. Josh shows up and, after briefly acknowledging how cute Rebecca looks in that hat, informs her that he read the rest of her embarrassing, dramatic, weird letter. Specifically, he read the part where Rebecca tells him how amazing she thinks he is and how much faith she has in him to do great things. Josh is deeply moved by Rebecca’s belief in him, probably because the only other woman he has dated is Valencia. Josh kisses Rebecca on the cheek. She is thrilled, content, and quenched.
All of which leads me to the truly exciting development of this week’s episode: White Josh and Darryl. Ho ho ho! These guys! After a shockingly successful party with absolutely no fallout whatsoever, Darryl and White Josh clean up the aftermath. Saying good-bye, White Josh kisses Darryl on the cheek and then gives him a wink. A wink! Back at the office the next day, both Rebecca and Darryl wait expectantly, chin on hands, for Paula’s assessment of cheek kisses. “Sometimes it means nothing,” Paula sighs. “Sometimes it means it’s your Aunt Lucy and she hasn’t seen you since you were 11. But sometimes? Sometimes … it means everything.” Darryl is surprised, but, more important, he’s intrigued.
The truth is, Rebecca told those teens that Josh will never love her, but she has never actually told Josh the truth: She loves him now, as an adult, in this very moment. If she did, perhaps Josh’s obliviousness would shield his brain from the Truth, but we can’t know because she simply hasn’t bitten the bullet. The idea that Darryl and White Josh might have a semi-platonic bromance/full-on romance is exciting, too, and not just because it provides an unexpected gay subplot. (That’s not to say it isn’t very welcome. This show has plenty of hetero love stories!) Their potential flirtation is exciting because it gives us the other, more awesome aspects of romantic connection Rebecca and Josh just can’t provide: the loaded glance, the surprise butterflies, the excitement of an unexpected kiss, the crush you never would have considered until he stays late at your party to help clean up. (It’s the truest sign someone likes you.) Can this please turn into a romance? Please? If not for us, then for Rebecca. It would do her good to see that a romantic journey doesn’t have to be Sisyphus rolling the boulder up Blowie Point for all of eternity. Sometimes it starts with a kiss on the cheek, then just keeps rolling on and on.
TRANSMISSIONS FROM BLOWIE POINT
- Rebecca’s assessment of the imaginary half-Filipino babies she’s going to have with Josh: “They’re so cute. They’re so much cuter than the plain ones!”
- Paula, reminiscing about camp and her life choices: “I had a rash one time. It almost made me infertile. Unfortunately, it did not.”
- Darryl Googling “How to get girls to your party right now” while hiding behind the kitchen island was a delight.
- Ashley’s assessment of Greg: “You have a homeschooled look.”
- The Camp Teens Guide to Dating: “It’s a Möbius strip / It’s snake eats tail / It’s the infinity sign / Get a tattoo of the infinity sign / On your lower back, just for yourself.”