Woo! I somehow missed the memo that CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND was coming back from hiatus with two episodes back-to-back rather than one. But, you know what? Double the fun! Each episode centered on its own conundrum while moving the overall story forward and that’s when this show is at its best. I pretty much always enjoy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but occasionally there are episodes that just feel like weird detours or thumb-twiddling. Both “Who Is Josh’s Soup Fairy?” and “When Do I Get to Spend Time With Josh?” forced Rebecca into humorous situations that made her learn in the process.
I remember last season when the series came back from winter hiatus it felt aimless for a few episodes, but here we’ve had two at once and it’s gotten straight to the point in both. In the first, Rebecca (sort of) realizes how awful she’s being and how poorly she’s treating all of her friends while Josh seemingly realizes he’s been in love with Rebecca all along. In the second, the cozy status of the whole structure of the show gets upended when a big city lawyer buys a majority share of Whitefeather and Associates and the whole office has to deal with possibly losing their jobs. Both provide enough conflict that Rebecca is stymied in her fantasy life and also has goals to achieve in her real life which leaves ample opportunity for her to grow. Or, well, for her to grow as much as she’s willing.
“Who Is Josh’s Soup Fairy?” centers on the premise of Rebecca babysitting Paula’s youngest kid, Tommy. The idea itself conjures images of hilarious disaster. Rebecca responsible for anyone? She’s not even responsible for herself. That’s the point, of course, but as a situational comedic scenario it was the perfect set up. In the end, Tommy is more mature and self-reliant than Rebecca which is precisely the outcome that you’d want from this plot. Even when Rebecca is good at something she’s still so emotionally immature that she screws up whatever she’s doing. It’s a fantastic way to give structure and humor to the episode and gives Rebecca both a goal and a trial through which she can learn
So many of the small details in this episode were so perfect I either squealed in glee or laughed so hard I was practically barking. I loved Mrs. Hernandez finally making an appearance again—especially because she finally spoke! It’s perfect that the reason she was silent was simply because Rebecca never paid attention to her when she was talking. As a personality quirk, her never saying anything was (in retrospect) too weird to be part of this show’s “objective” reality. Also, seriously, someone needed to call Rebecca out on her terrible behavior and I’m glad it was Mrs. Hernandez. Another fantastic detail peppered throughout was Rebecca giving Tommy pedantic lectures about culture and society. Like a sixth grader cares about douches and patriarchy? The best part was that, in the end, he had actually listened! We also got to see Heather for the first time in her role as Miss Douche and it’s as ridiculous as you could want. The simple fact that she’s a minor celebrity because she’s in advertisements for douches is a brilliant comment on the nature of celebrity. I also enjoyed how hilariously shallow LA Anna was finally shown to be. They never made her out to be a terrible person. But they did show she was a “poo person,” and that came through loud and clear.
I had so many favorite bits in this one that it’s hard to pick but I also laughed so hard when Paula threatened the entire office over the empty ice cube trays. Donna Lynne Champlin has the most wonderfully emotive face that she can pull off so much with so little. I know that the score rarely gets a mention from me because I’m always too focused on the musical numbers, but the dramatic music over the refrigerator scene helped play that up as well. Additionally, I absolutely adore how Donna’s sudden and extreme reaction to her husband cheating on her isn’t just an event without context explicitly for drama. Almost immediately, Paula explains that her father said awful things about her when she was younger and Scott’s admission brought that all boiling to the surface. That’s good character and good character is good writing. It’s the details that make this show so rich.
As for the songs here, they were great. Fun times. Rebecca’s ’80s pop anthem about being the best mother ever had just the right amount of absurdist fantasy without being offensive, while Josh’s Bieber-esque anthem about his love epiphany (complete with some autotune!) was very Josh. They were serviceable and I have little else to say about them, especially in light of the songs in the second episode.
“When Do I Get to Spend Time With Josh?” takes what could be a stagnate premise and applies the same rules of narrative conflict to keep things interesting. Josh finally believes he’s in love with Rebecca and Rebecca finally believes that she’s got what she wants. Yet rather than get to enjoy it or sit around kissing on each other, she has to face the external existential threat of Nathaniel Plimpton. Plimpton is a “freakishly handsome” jerk of a lawyer from LA who buys a majority of the company from Daryl and starts threatening to fire all of Rebecca’s friends. For them to keep their jobs, she has to drum up a certain amount of new business within a set time frame. There are so many opportunities for awkward humor and the episode snatches every single one. Rebecca offers to show her boobs to “multiple creepy old men,” kowtows to the proprietors of an awful bigoted country club, and nails all their prejudices so hard that she might as well be pushing buttons. The irony is heightened by the fact that they all eat it right up.
Plimpton himself is interesting because he shakes up Rebecca’s cozy pipe dream. He brings out her adversarial competitiveness which she obviously likes. I’m all for it. Please take down yet another toxic romance trope, weird little show! I’d love for her to get into some kind of ridiculous situation where she is attracted to the guy she hates almost entirely because she hates him. She already had a nicer version of that relationship with Greg, but if you start asking your boyfriend if you can chase him around with a murderous ink pen to reenact your fight with your boss that’s getting a little kinky. They’ve already given Plimpton himself more depth than a villain of the week simply by giving him a hint of daddy issues with this show’s characteristic humor. Also, there are not adequate words to express how delighted I am that Rebecca finally recognized how dumb Josh is, even if just for a moment. Josh is sweet but he is not even close to the same intellectual level as Rebecca and eventually she’ll stop painting him as a fairy tale prince and realize that they have absolutely no points of commonality except their history together at summer camp. Or, you know—one can hope that’s what happens.
Definitely one of my favorite things watching this episode was waiting for Patton Oswalt to show up. He was listed in the credits at the beginning and the longer he wasn’t there, the better the payoff had to be. The second they mentioned the graveyard security guard I was just like “please let that be him” and they didn’t disappoint. So now, please can he come back? Even if he’s a one-off creepy date of Paula’s it was worth it.
My favorite song of the evening (predictably) was the ensemble anxiety number that was painfully meta. I mean, this show is meta in general but this one, man. It directly speaks to raising low ratings, characters showing up “so late in the season,” and wondering how many episodes they’ll stick around. The way to get me is to have songs so referential that they’re elevated to the level of satire. This particular episode uses every stylistic and structural trope of the show in the most ideal way, including a song so meta I honestly don’t know how they got away with it. But they did.
I was discussing this show with my friend the other day and realized that I love Rebecca precisely because she is an awful person with a complete lack of self-awareness. She’s not actively trying to hurt people, but she’s so lost in her own mental narratives that she can’t see reality and hence can’t see the fallout from her behavior. She is just the brand of messed up that would buy into the mythic version of romantic love precisely because that kind of love will fulfill all those unmet needs. It’s just that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is so good about presenting all of her psychological issues in such a way that she isn’t aware of them but the narrative itself is. Dealing with mental illness as such a huge component of a story is hard, but doing it with the level of humor and respect that this show does is heartening. I’ve been messed up in the head pretty much my whole life but I’ve started to get my bearings over the past year or two and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a wonderful friend to have along for the ride. My coping fantasies also tend to be through obsessing over television shows, so it’s also like my ideal form of cheap therapy. Hurray!
All told, I’m so glad that this show is finding ways to stay engaging and to keep moving forward rather than spinning its wheels or bogging down. It would be easy to just let the romance plots drag out, dangle, or collapse under their own weight but because they have a purpose beyond titillation they always have a function in the story overall. I love that. I love this whole endeavor.
Season 2, Episodes 8-9 (S02E08-09)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Fridays at 9PM on The CW
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
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Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor