CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND delivers quality laughs and deconstructs narrative tropes as ever this week in “Why is Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Eating Carbs?” Did anyone else gasp out loud when they first read that title? That’s like the ultimate fall for Valencia! This is one of those episodes that’s spare on musical numbers but uses them so perfectly you don’t really notice. In addition, it continues to deal with all the cultural mythologies of interpersonal relationships that don’t work very well in actual relationships.
I really love the story between Valencia and Rebecca. Valencia was always the female misogynist who defined herself by her relationships with men. Valencia, even more than Rebecca, had her identity completely wrapped up in Josh. Rebecca is just as nuts as ever, literally kidnapping Valencia and taking her out to the desert, but their “bonding” experience is the two of them detoxing from their mutual Josh Chan obsession. It’s nice to see two characters dealing with a failed romance plot by gaining some mental clarity on the situation. I’ve always kind of hoped they would take Valencia’s character somewhere because she, again even more than Rebecca, was self-limited by the cultural constraints of what’s acceptably “feminine” and what’s not. Rebecca reads enough jargon-filled feminist criticism to recognize her bad behavior even though she rarely changes it. The drug-trip ballet is one of the best referential jokes that I think they’ve ever done. That could just be my personal preference speaking, but the bizarre drug-trip ballet in Oklahoma! is like 15-minutes long and I’ve been fast-forwarding through that crazy thing since I was a kid. The juxtaposition of elegant Ruiz and Rodriguez (who can actually dance) with Rachel Bloom stomping around in a triceratops costume heightened that parody to the perfect level. It works much better here than in the thing they’re parodying because this dream sequence actually achieved something in the narrative (unlike in Oklahoma!) and was also hilarious in the process.
The only actual song this time was Josh with another ’90s alternative anthem about how he definitely doesn’t need a girlfriend which immediately backfires into him being incapable of sitting alone with his thoughts. The whole song is such an astute observation. I’m the kind of person who prefers being alone because I find other people exhausting, but I’m often kind of mean about judging people who need someone around all the time because they can’t deal with themselves. Putting that sentiment into a cute song took Josh from being a needy, self-absorbed jerk and gave him so pathos. He still does dumb things and craves adulation, but knowing how poorly he deals with “dark thoughts” makes his stupid decisions more sympathetic. It’s the same sort of trick the show constantly does with Rebecca so that we don’t just dismiss her as a complete destructive psycho. It works just as well for Josh.
The other half of this episode deals with White Josh and Darryl’s relationship. White Josh is probably the most grounded character on this show, and Darryl is always precious and loving to everyone. This is the first time their actual relationship has gotten some space in the show and (of course) the two of them are having a fight. The best part is that their grievances are completely understandable and related to their personal insecurities and they are resolved at the end by open, honest communication. Wait, what? You mean the thing that people are supposed to have in relationships when they have misunderstandings? You mean the thing that no TV show will ever, ever show you because it erases all that potential for lazy soap opera drama? Even as Rebecca goes full-on crazy-face over her relationships, White Josh and Darryl are there not only demonstrating how healthy relationships work. Simultaneously, they’re a happy gay couple without being demarcated as strange or other or being used by the show as a marker for how “progressive” it is. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so thoroughly understands both the progressive culture of our modern reality and the toxic messages we often get about “reality” from traditional media that it doesn’t need to fly any flags. I love it.
Finally, there was a nice side plot to round things out of Paula at law school making a new friend and running around committing crimes with him. I really like that Paula gets a reciprocal friendship and I also like the hurt and conflict that it’s causing between her and Rebecca. Sunil is immediately up for stealing a note-taking program off of a jerk’s computer, suggesting Paula get out her “caper clothes” and then the two bond over studying for their law school classes. I particularly like that the show acknowledges how one-sided her friendship with Rebecca is right now and that Paula doesn’t feel like she can share important things in her life with her friend. It’s nice that Paula’s story and development is just as important are Rebecca’s and it calls out Rebecca’s behavior for how selfish it is even as her problems are supposedly the central narrative. It’s kind of ironic given her function in the first season, but Paula offers a nice balance to the show right now.
Also I recall saying a few weeks ago that I missed the old theme song. I still miss it but I think I like this one just as much now. I’m also excited about Heather being in this more. Comedies now always seem to have that April Ludgate disaffected character, but Heather is actually well-rounded instead of just being a constant punchline. I mean, all of the characters on this show are well-rounded, but even when Heather didn’t actually like Rebecca she was a voice of reason. Getting to see more of her will be fun.
Seriously, this show is my weekly treat. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly mentally calming, but it’s smart, it’s non-judgmental, it’s very funny, and it understands that most people have a headspace that’s a giant mess. When it’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend time I know I can turn off the part of me that’s waiting to pounce on every violation I see because there just won’t be any. Y’all should all come indulge in this treat with me. It’s basically brain candy.
Season 2, Episode 5 (S02E05)
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