Photo: GREG GAYNE/GREG GAYNE/THE CW
As Paula mentioned earlier this season, Rebecca’s list of unfinished business is long, and her mom is near the top. We last saw Naomi a full season’s worth of episodes ago, when she out-and-out drugged a heartbroken Rebecca, culminating in Rebecca’s trying to kill herself on her plane home. Despite all the mishegoss that’s happened since (in Rebecca’s words: “I got a diagnosis, pushed a guy off a roof, and went to jail”), her helicopter parent had hovered offscreen, until now.
Tovah Feldshuh is once again a complete delight as Naomi, lending her charm and deft comic timing to a challenging character who could easily be unbearable to watch. In grand Jewish mom tradition, Naomi has already sniffed out all of Rebecca’s misdeeds on her own. But in even grander Jewish mom tradition, she doesn’t really care, as long as Rebecca continues to be a partner at a law firm.
That creates a moral dilemma for Rebecca, who’s loath to compromise her free pass by confessing that she now actually owns “a small, unprofitable pretzel stand.” Overcorrecting for her past indiscretions, she’s become so scrupulously honest that she headlines her Tinder profile with her mugshot and history of stalking her exes. (Somehow, this doesn’t preclude her from re-matching with Jason, the “Sex With a Stranger” rando last seen in season one. Maybe he actually is a murderer!)
But after playing the “perfect Jewish daughter” role through a series of catty interactions with Audra Levine and her mom, Rebecca decides to ’fess up that she’s left the law. A furious Naomi claps back with a hysterical response song, “Forget It,” an icy counterpart to her season-one anxiety tune, “Where’s the Bathroom?”
Some song topics are hard for this show to get a grip on, but as this and last year’s “Get Your Ass Out of My House” prove, mom guilt isn’t one of them. From the rap interlude with the guy from the frame store to the backup chorus of chiding moms (especially the WASP mom saying “everything’s fine”), it’s one of the songs of the season so far, crystallizing all of Feldshuh’s previous appearances into two perfect minutes of video vamping.
But we also get to learn something new about Naomi this go-round: Rebecca picked up all her tricks from her. She’s not above brazenly seducing someone for sport (turns out Rebecca’s not the only one who’s hooked up with a Levine’s husband), and she’s an inveterate liar, not only about Rebecca’s job but about a supposed best-friendship with pioneering comedienne Elayne Boosler.
In a real bone to the hardcore Jewish viewership, Boosler actually does show up to Naomi’s charity award ceremony, dueting with Feldshuh on a funny, lyrically deft Jewish-summer-camp song that obviously wasn’t written 50 years prior. (One of Rachel Bloom’s great strengths as a parodist is knowing when to hew closely to the original, and when to just lean into complete absurdity.) That gives Rebecca the strength to finally set some boundaries with her mom, who’s already been scheming to get her back on the marquee at MountainTop. It’s not a happy ending, per se, but it is a pretty accurate reflection of the closest thing to it when you have an abusive parent.
Meanwhile, back in West Covina, Nathaniel is trying to clean up his own failures as an abusive boss. That’s a tough sell for his co-workers, who can’t believe that the guy who closed the elevator doors on them so they’d take the stairs to lose a few pounds is now supplying the office with free crullers. (To think Darryl will no longer have to be confused by pepitas!)
I often get weary of CXG’s desperation to keep every last minor character and storyline in the fold, but I think bringing back Rebecca’s jailhouse pals to be helped out by Paula and Nathaniel actually worked well, here. Nicki’s parole plight gives the plot genuine stakes, and tying in Nathaniel’s privilege as a source of his bad attitude gave his nice-guy makeover some needed depth. “It turns out there is a shocking amount of unfairness in the legal system!” he tells Paula. “Did you know that?”
Josh’s storyline, in which he tries to take care of Rebecca’s house while she’s gone, was also the first of his that I’ve liked in a long while, tying into some topical themes about men’s unwillingness to shoulder domestic burdens without overstaying its welcome. The craziest revelation of the episode, though, is that Josh is overstaying his: since he’s homeless and crashing at the YMCA (“Don’t listen to the song, it’s not fun to stay there”), Rebecca lets him move in.
Predictably, Josh has been Rebecca’s roomie for all of two hours before he spurs some, uh, raging waters inside her. Then there’s Paula’s enthusiasm about the new Nathaniel, which has Rebecca reconsidering the good times in that relationship, too. Looks like Rebetzels aren’t the only thing getting twisted into knots.
• I was dead wrong about Valencia and Heather being mostly written off the show — apparently a character’s moving to the opposite side of the city or country is no deterrent to their being a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend regular. It seems odd that they even bothered, and I’m assuming Valencia will tire of spending $8,000 a month on New York rent and move back shortly.
• Pete Gardner’s build-up to a clean-up song with no payoff might have been the joke of the episode for me. “If you see something / That’s not where it belongs / Just pick it up / And put it where it belongs!”
• Also, I love that the show is now outright acknowledging that Rebecca hasn’t interacted with, and generally couldn’t give a crap about, Hebby.
• Tim tells Nathaniel that he didn’t lose his virginity until he was 26, which might explain a few things about his wife’s affection for her vibrator.
• I saw Rebecca’s having already killed Estrella coming from a mile away, but I’m impressed she managed to do it three separate times before Josh offed the current starfish. Those two are going to make for a very messy domestic arrangement.