Hawaii, here we don’t come! Rebecca has skipped town but, despite what we have been DECEIVED into believing, she’s actually flying back to New York to abandon her new life. She’s done! West Covina (i.e. Josh) has not delivered the love she so deeply craved, so Rebecca’s cashing in her chips and taking a job at her old law firm. Sure, she hated that job, had zero friends in New York, and was so crushingly miserable that she packed up her life and moved across a continent to escape the stultifying loneliness, but … ah … um … well, at least Josh doesn’t live there?
As you might recall, Rebecca just so happens to be seated next to her therapist, Dr. Akopian, on the plane. Finally, they have been forced together to resolve Rebecca’s psychic wounds. Have a nice flight, ladies!
Except Dr. Akopian isn’t real. Well, she’s real, but she just quietly, awkwardly sits there after Rebecca falls into a medicated slumber. The Dr. Akopian we see, the one who guides Rebecca through the episode, is a dream ghost. (I could spend 1,500 words discussing the logistics of dream ghosts. Dr. Akopian is still alive, so that’s not her actual ghost. Is the dream ghost a spirit that assumed the form of Dr. Akopian? Do dream ghosts actually look like Slimer? They do, don’t they?) Dr. Dream Ghost Akopian has been conjured by Rebecca’s overactive unconscious mind to untangle her love issues, as explained in the fabulous Dreamgirls-esque number, “Dream Ghost,” which features guest stars Ricki Lake and Amber Riley of Glee.
“It’s not clear if I’m hallucinated or truly magic / Let’s leave it vague. It’s more interesting that way!” the good doctor sings. Like a Spirit of Christmas Past with better hair and no dental insurance, Dr. Akopian escorts Rebecca through a journey of introspection. Why does Rebecca think her life is so “loveless?” And is that assertion true? (Short answer: Nah.)
Starting with the most hideously painful, Dr. Akopian brings Rebecca back to the moment she was first disappointed by a man she loves: her dumb dad, Silas. After her parents’ divorce, tweenage Rebecca shows up at her father’s new home in Santa Fe for an impromptu visit. As she remembers it, her dad was caring and welcoming while her mother was a hard, flinty stone wedged between them. In reality, Rebecca’s mom begged Silas not to send his daughter back to New York so soon. “I just can’t have anyone holding me back right now,” he tells Rebecca’s mom like an absolute dirtbag. Naomi Bunch might be a hard, critical woman, but as a mother she did care, and she did show up. God, imagine how much better therapy would be if modern science could only harness dream-ghost technology!
“A mother’s love? That’s just the baseline,” Rebecca snorts. Which, come on, girl! We all know that people DO love Rebecca. See: her mom, Darryl, Greg (in his way), Josh, Paula (times a million). She simply cannot recognize and accept their love. Rebecca cannot love anyone before she loves herself, but, you know, easier sad than done. Said! Easier said than done!
Speaking of all the people Rebecca loves, Paula had just snuggled in for a staycation at Rebecca’s place when Josh busts in. Realizing no one actually knows where she’s headed, they start frantically hunting for her. Darryl shows up to help — even grumpy ol’ Greg, too — and they eventually discover that Rebecca is off the grid. “We get flashlights and sweep the forest!” Darryl suggests. “Darryl, there is no forest,” Paula replies.
Meanwhile in Rebecca’s sleeping brainscape, Dr. Akopian takes her back to sophomore year at Harvard, where she played the role of Fish No. 1 (formerly Fish No. 3) in a truly godawful musical version of Moby Dick. Crushed on by a kind swabber named Peter and seduced by Warren, the douchebag musical’s auteur, Rebecca initially assumes that the problem was dude-related. Wrong again. Instead, Dr. Akopian informs Rebecca that the love she failed to see was … her love for musical theater. Oh, did they just blow your mind? “Love doesn’t have to be a person,” Dr. Akopian explains. Admits Rebecca, “I imagine my life as a series of musical numbers.” The moment is a funny, tender exploration of the nature of love, but is anyone else concerned that pointing out Rebecca has been too blind to see human love AND failed to pursue her passion might trigger a pull-the-airplane-door-open-on-the-runway-and-jump-down-the-slide meltdown? Just me?
For my money, the best episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are the ones that explore Rebecca’s damaged inner life. When the show commits to that, it’s much more novel and interesting. (Which is why we all signed up, right? Oh right, the musical numbers too.) Much like Rebecca’s party-bus humiliation, her dream journey forces her to admit an inconvenient reality: Plenty of people do actually love her. Because of her dumb dad, self-loathing, and general lack of self-awareness, Rebecca cannot recognize love unless she is actively trying to prove she deserves it. Like her father, Rebecca’s go-to plan is to move across America and abandon everyone she knows. What good is love if it’s not part of a quest — a deeply romantic, almost magical struggle that ends only when Rebecca proves herself worthy? What if love is just standing around your living room in your bathrobe, or sheepishly inviting itself onto your party bus, or calling all the area morgues and hospitals to locate your corpse? How can Rebecca learn to accept love when it’s given freely, with no hurdles to leap or triumphant final numbers to nail?
Returning to West Covina in the dream realm, Rebecca finally realizes she has a pack of doofuses who truly do love her, even if it’s not the love she has imagined for herself. “He’s the dream,” Rebecca sadly admits while staring at Josh. Dr. Akopian corrects her: “He’s an illusion.” Waking with a start and freaking the hell out of the actual Dr. Akopian, Rebecca excitedly flies back to California to embrace her weirdos. Spoiler alert: They’re all happy she’s not lying dead in the birch trees or in the trunk of her repossessed Hyundai. Between Paula’s not-so-subtle hints and the GIGANTIC STACK OF PHYSICAL PHOTOS OF HIM — Rebecca must have gone online to specifically order those, right? Do people print out photos like this anymore, other than for baby albums? — Josh now has a question: Does Rebecca love him? Rebecca’s jaw drops in shock. She’s speechless.
Which is to say, next week Rebecca will finally decide to make an absurd declaration of love … only to have Josh propose to Valencia the split-second before Rebecca can get the words out of her mouth. If I get a visit from a dream ghost who must walk me back through my personal history to teach me not to be so cocky with my CXG predictions, I’ll let you know, but nah. Calling it now.
Spectral Broadcasts From the Realm of Underpaid Dream Ghosts:
- Why was there was only one song in this episode?!
- Rebecca, on making holiday plans with her dad: “I’m half-Christmas anyway!”
- Rebecca’s dad: “What happened to your hair?”
- Tween Rebecca: “Certainly hormonal changes have occurred.”
- Darryl, off of Josh’s nervousness about Rebecca: “Oh my God! The cheerful man is worried?”
- Darryl, just putting it out there: “Has she been Catfished by a drug smuggler? I saw this new show Catfished by a Drug Smuggler on the new Catfishing channel. Oh my God, it is so good.”
- “I wish he was a search term on porn sites.” Dr. Akopian’s description of Greg, who, as Darryl puts it, is super-hot if you like “angry.”
- Dr. Akopian, doing her absolute best: “God, do you know how hard it is to pass the Bechdel Test when you’re a dream ghost?”