For the second episode in a row, Rebecca Bunch has to think about someone other than herself, and this time it’s for a classic reason: she’s got to save the orphanage.
It’s fitting that an outing of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with two (well, 1.5) straight musical theatre send-ups would so earnestly tackle (though obviously translate) a classic plot from old standbys like Babes in Arms and White Christmas. It’s Rebecca’s version of “let’s put on a show,” but instead of putting on her tap shoes—you know she owns tap shoes—she vows to get the firm $250,000 worth of new business by week’s end, up to and including going grave-robbing. Well, grave-exhuming anyway. Its subversion of something so cozily familiar is what makes the last moments so surprising, and maybe just a little bit enticing.
What does every good save the orphanage story need? Well, an orphanage for starters, and that’s a hell of a way to think of Whitefeather and Associates, particularly as Rebecca describes it in this episode. They’re a group of weirdo misfits who, while they don’t always love each other, usually find a way to something like compassion when it counts. Think of Paula not getting Tim the Canadian fired, Darryl bonding with Mia, the whole team rallying around the waters of justice, and Rebecca (totally selfishly) donating to help Karen’s sick snake beat terminal fang cancer. Yes, she’ll also miss the ability to never come to work and still have a job, but it makes sense that Rebecca would fight for a place like that, messed up though it may be.
That’s not the main ingredient, however. The biggest thing every good “let’s put on a show” needs is a Dastardly Whiplash, a morally bankrupt rich guy who comes in to put the fear of god in everyone. That’s where “When Do I Get to Spent Time With Josh?” really succeeds, because they found the perfect villain, and he’s the male Audra Levine. In his first of at least two outings, Scott Michael Foster (Once Upon a Time, Halt and Catch Fire) fits seamlessly into the cast, shaking up existing dynamics while expertly delivering the show’s lightning-fast dialogue—no small feat, given that this episode was written by co-creators Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom. He may be the villain, but five will get you ten he won’t stay that way for long, and there’s a simple reason. If he’s the male Audra Levine, that means he’s also the male Rebecca Bunch.
That’s not to say watching Foster play the bad guy, something somewhat unique to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, isn’t a hoot. He has a hell of a playground, thanks to McKenna and Bloom’s sharp-as-tacks script and assured, clever direction from the show’s Emmy-winning editor Kabir Akhtar. From the moment Nathaniel assumes Darryl got into law school because he’s one-eighth Chippewa, he places himself forever beyond redemption (or would, on a show less fond of reversals). From there, it’s stone-cold firings and that terrifying water polo photo and calling Josh names and eating the olives out of his martini in borderline obscene fashion. Put plainly, like the best villains, he’s tremendous fun, and the energy Foster brings to the show makes this one of the season’s best.
His entry also prompts one of the two (1.5) songs in this outing, “Who’s the New Guy?” It’s the closest thing to a true chorus number in the show’s history. That isn’t to say there aren’t other group tunes, but those, including “Put Yourself First,” “California Christmastime,” and “Flooded with Justice,” are all either lead by one of the show’s primary characters, feature all the main characters to some degree, or focus exclusively on guest stars. By contrast, “New Guy” checks in with the characters who only peek in from time to time (Paula excepted). What they’ve got to say amounts this: they’re scared of losing their jobs, and you can take that whatever way you like. It’s the most meta Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has ever been, and while it’s very funny, it also struck a note of cold, hard fear into my heart. As it should yours.
But back to the show’s new villain-who-won’t-stay-a-villain. Does the appearance of a new hot dude feel a bit like a ratings-grab? Sure. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. No other show on television is better at dramatically shaking up its formula, and the arrival of Nathaniel certainly does that. It sets up Rebecca’s love interests, plural—and yes, the fact that Rebecca is fantasizing about Nathaniel through roleplaying with Josh makes it pretty clear that that’s where this is headed, in one way or another—as being halves of herself. In one corner of the ring, the woman who just wants to live in a blissful “West Covina” montage with the boy from camp. In the other, the olive-eating shark with parental issues and a killer instinct. Just look at the look on Nathaniel’s face after Rebecca admits her cemetery plan is just a little bit blackmail-y. She unearths bodies to get a client, for crying out loud. They’re not so dissimilar.
Even if that weren’t in the cards, Nathaniel wouldn’t stay a villain for long. This is the show that made sure we realized Valencia was the wronged woman, even if she was sort of awful sometimes. Like Rebecca, like Audra, like Valencia, this person is damaged, and if Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has sympathy for anything, it’s for broken people. There’s no way this guy just keeps twisting his mustache and wearing his Easter bonnet. This show is too smart for cookie-cutters, and ain’t that grand.
Before we wrap up, a bit of a note about that other (.5) song. Those who’ve been regular readers of these reviews will know that, partway through season one, I instituted the Hector Award. The reasons were simple: this show is so good at giving its best jokes to people who only pop up once in awhile, if ever. These are your Grocery Clerk with Half an Eyelids, your Window Washers, your Young Rebecca Bunches, and of course, your Hectors, for whom the award was named. It’s a chance to recognize someone who came in, did the work, and stole the show, however briefly. There’s always a winner, because there’s always someone deserving of it. In this moment, I’d like to salute Erick Lopez, whose monologue about parking/anal sex led to the creation of this award. Mr. Lopez, thank you for this gift. It’s been a pleasure to give in award in your character’s name for the past year-plus. This week marks the last time I’ll give out the Hector Award.
That’s because I’m changing the name. The last-ever Hector Award goes to... this guy, whatever his name is.
George’s big send-off is perhaps the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a joke on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The writing, superb direction, and unbelievably committed performance from Danny Jolles make it a standout moment in a series full of them. It’s a perfect example of what makes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend so great: they use their format, the talents of those around them, and a willingness to be totally weird to make things you’d never expect. No other show could have a Hector award, because no other show so regularly does things like this. Now, it’ll have the George/Gene/Gary/Glen award. I’ll give out the inaugural one below.
The Hector Award is dead. Long live the George award.
- Very very important news: Whitefeather & Associates and Miss Douche are now on Twitter. And yes, they’re run by the show.
- The inaugural George/Gene/Gary/Glen award goes to... Hector. Just kidding, he’s not in this episode. No, clearly, it’s Patton Oswalt. That touch tank was pornographic. Runner-up: Josh’s dad.
- Vote on what the award’s name should be here.
- I could watch Paula trying to climb out of that grave forever and still be happy.
- If “Who’s the New Guy?” has an ancestor, it’s Save Our Bluths. If it’s got a cousin, it’s “MILF Island.” What I’m saying is find out which of your friends has a Nielsen box and make them watch, won’t you?
- “You’re dating another guy? Not the human flip-flop who was in here earlier today?”
- “Maybe you could change to a better provider?”
- “That’s OK, babe. You’ve got a lot of feathers left.”
- “I heard someone yell penis! What’s wrong, Karen?!”
- “Blah blah pooka shells blah blah karate blah blah blah sleeping in my old twin bed intensive purposes.”