On the surface, this episode seemed like it would be silly fun. We finally get to go to Raging Waters! It’s Rebecca’s Paris! But the waterslides are just window-dressing, because the real thrust of the episode is as pitch-black as Dr. Dark’s Tunnel of Terror. Both Rebecca and Paula get pushed to their absolute edges, and the results aren’t pretty. Aside from Rebecca’s suicide attempt last season, it might be the saddest, most purely mournful storyline the show’s done in its entire run.
Appropriately, the theme of the episode is women overextending themselves and doing too much, a topic that’s likely close to home for a lead actress also co-writing dozens of original songs per season. Rebecca and Paula are both burning the candle at both ends: Rebecca with the pretzel shop and her renewed infatuation with Greg, Paula with work, volunteering at the prison, and studying for the bar exam. And they’re both determinedly ignoring all of the glaring warning signs that they should chill the fuck out.
For Rebecca, who’s been “taking it slow” by spending every waking second (and sleeping second) with Greg, that leads to the disappointing realization that he hasn’t changed as much as she thought. He may be off the bottle and in a healthier place career-wise, but deep down, he’s still the same cynical “This song sucks!” guy he’s always been. As he states in the Springsteen-aping “I Hate Everything But You,” he loves that Rebecca loves things, but he’s never going to love them himself, whether it’s referring to blueberries as a superfood or engagement rings as “bling.”
But Rebecca, who’s been skipping BPD group and therapy appointments, isn’t really equipped to take the smallest blow. She flips out at Greg, basically calling him a dick, and then decides to go out on the town and get white-girl wasted (though it only takes three drinks, since she’s Jewish). From there, it’s a downward spiral, as she sobs on the shoulder of a rando at a taco stand, then tries to proposition both Nathaniel and Josh, who mercifully turn her down.
The BPD episode culminates in Rebecca succumbing to something she’s resisted for a while: taking psychiatric medication. Given her history with pills, from her zombified existence in New York to being drugged by Naomi, it’s understandable that Rebecca is resistant to taking drugs for her disorder. But as it does with all taboos, the show attacks it with zeal, particularly in a big realization number when Rebecca decides to break up with her real bad boyfriend “The Darkness,” a.k.a. Tyler. It’ll be interesting to see how much the show gets into the nitty-gritty of the often horrible process of trying on different mental-health drugs for size, or if it’ll just stop at pills as a happy, friction-free solution.
Sadly, there are no friction-free solutions for Paula, who hits her own rock bottom as she tries to keep up with her various responsibilities. Always the glue that’s held MountainTop together, she’s struggling to keep that up while also trying to raise her remaining kid, pass the bar, and get a parole hearing for Rebecca’s old prison pal Hanifa. Feeling (and being told by everyone she’s looking) worse and worse as she slugs coffee by the gallon, Paula is stretched thin, stressed out and unable to stop. It’s a bummer, but a pretty relatable one. She’s an Everywoman for the burnout era.
Suddenly, all of Paula’s suffering leads to a shocking medical twist. The uncontrollable sweating and exhaustion that she thinks is perimenopause is actually a heart attack, one that she endures for close to 18 hours before Scott forces her to see a doctor. As with Paula’s abortion, it’s a clear attempt at women’s health advocacy on the part of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team: heart attacks are the number-one killer of American women, because the symptoms are very different. Paula is lucky; most women who ignore the symptoms to deal with everything else on their plates don’t make it (and a lot of the ones who don’t ignore them get dismissed by doctors).
Both of these storylines are important, but they’re arguably a symptom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend itself taking on too much. In addition to being funny and having lots of great tunes, the show has committed itself at all times to being the foremost advocate for every worthy cause it can think of. It’s noble, but when it’s the thrust of every story in an episode, it can start to feel a bit preachy and wearying. Must Paula suffer every medical malady under the sun so that they can all be represented on television?
The message of the episode is that self-care is important, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Do your BPD workbooks! Get some sleep! Eat salads that don’t have the word “potato” in front of them! But if you’re looking for an examination of how Rebecca and Paula managed to get so strung out in the first place, you won’t find it here. The only cure for this epidemic of personal responsibility is more personal responsibility, and it’s hard to feel like that’s a happy ending.
• In case you didn’t hear the news, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend series finale on April 5 will conclude with a concert special! Pretty cool stuff.
• Josh is so pure. “Have you seen this show? These Brits really know how to bake. Hence the title, I guess.”
• I guess Rebecca would also be disappointed in me for never having seen Lilo & Stitch. To be fair, it came out when Rachel Bloom and I were both in high school!
• May we all have a tough-love Mrs. Hernandez to give us menopause advice when the day comes. “[Working topless] is probably inappropriate, but I’d love to see what you’re rockin’.”