Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend falls off the wagon and returns to its crazy roots

Illustration for article titled Crazy Ex-Girlfriend falls off the wagon and returns to its crazy roots

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has made it perfectly clear that Rebecca’s track record when it comes to healthy decision-making is, at best, questionable. She’s not alone in that—Paula, Josh, Greg, Valencia, and even poor old Hector have all shown that they don’t always make the best judgment calls. In “Who’s That Cool Girl Josh is Dating?,” a solid mid-season finale, episode writer Michael Hitchcock reminds audiences of two things about all those Rebecca decisions. First, while Rebecca’s choices may be more intrusive and/or catastrophic than those of your average person, the initial impulses aren’t that far off from many people out there. Second, she has an uncanny knack for drawing other people into those bad decisions, creating a feedback loop that drives everyone involved just a little bit nuts.

It’s not totally fair to pin this all on Rebecca. Hitchcock’s episode, directed by Jude Weng, makes it clear that Valencia’s complicit in the sneaky creepy hijinks that drive the episode. Their initial impulse to research Anna Hicks (Brittany Snow in a solid guest turn) is mutual, as is the trolling of Josh’s Instagram feed that prompts the discovery of Anna in the first place. When they head out to “get to the bottom of this,” no one’s dragging anyone behind them, and no one’s hesitant, but by episode’s end, Valencia and Rebecca are firmly in “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” territory, and the question of how they get there—and what, if anything, about Rebecca brings out these impulses in her friends—gets more and more interesting the longer it’s considered.

Here’s the thing: after I first saw this episode, I took a few days to think it over, and was mostly interested in how exactly Rebecca’s energy rubs off on people. It seemed in season one that perhaps the musical fantasies were, in a way, contagious, and while it sometimes seemed that Paula was a classic enabler, Donna Lynne Champlin’s standout first season song “After Everything I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For” offered an alternate perspective: Rebecca may not have blessed these choices outright, but she certainly welcomed and encouraged those she did know about. As I continued to think about this particular episode, I thought it was about how Valencia, who seems basically run-of-the-mill neurotic, suddenly starts agreeing to really unhealthy things, with or without peer pressure.

But it’s not, is it? Valencia may not have the sneaky skills down pat, but she’s the one who comes up with the fake names. She’s the one who steals Anna’s keys, and figures out her security code (“I knew that bitch weighed herself”), and by the time they’ve broken into the salon, she’s the one with the stone-cold demeanor. Like Paula in the first season, Valencia isn’t being pushed into these choices, and unlike Paula, there’s not even any pretense that her actions are designed to help Rebecca achieve anything. Valencia’s there because of, and for, herself. Josh may have told Anna that they were both nuts, but Rebecca especially so, but this particular set of bad decisions is entirely mutual.

If the first half of season two has a theme, it’s that relationships, and in particular friendships, take (and need) work. With Heather, Rebecca cemented a friendship that’s rich in honesty; she ultimately (unintentionally) helped convince her to take steps to change her life for the better. With Valencia, Rebecca somehow pushed past a lot of bad blood to get at the honest, opposites attract connection they’d briefly shared; instead of being at odds because of their previous conflict, they bonded over broken hearts. In both cases, there’s a common need, obvious or otherwise, that’s drawn them together, and with the appearance of Anna on the scene, the Rebecca-Valencia friendship gets turned up to 11 in a thoroughly unhealthy way.

Then there’s her friendship with Paula. Again, they came together out of a common need—to not be so damn unhappy, basically—and when their needs changed, so did their friendship. This shifting and eventually fracturing dynamic has been the driving force of the season, with each character’s individual story feeding into their shared arc. Here, they’re still at an impasse—the brief confrontation at the top of the episode stings nearly as badly as the fight at the end of the last—and with so much up in the air, it’s only fitting that we go out with the first true Paula-Rebecca duet since the pilot.


“You Go First” hits that perfect Crazy Ex-Girlfriend balance: it’s a spot-on parody that’s also familiar, uncomfortable, and affecting. Who hasn’t risked a relationship and contributed to their own unhappiness out of pride? We don’t need to continued references to The Wire to know that Rebecca and Paula miss each other (though they’re hilarious). Paula’s storyline with Scott tells us that we’ll probably be talking more about neglect in the future, but its biggest contribution to the story is a single line of dialogue:

“I don’t care whose fault it is. I just feel bad right now.”

That’s the place Rebecca and Paula can’t reach. That’s where they’ll need to get if their friendship’s going to survive. And that’s where we’re likely to start in January.


Stray observations

  • “I’ve never loved a cat before, seriously. I always thought they were haunted.”
  • “I knew you guys didn’t miss Coolio.”
  • “God only knows what he’s sticking in his rectum.” “Oh my god, have we talked about that?”
  • The last time Crazy Ex-Girlfriend went hair-band was “That Text Was Not Meant for Josh!” Coincidence? Maybe, but I sort of doubt it. This episode feels a lot like that one, from the moments of self-discovery to the breaking and entering.
  • Hector Award: the member of the Brovinas who doesn’t wear underwear when he’s nervous, clearly.
  • For reference.
  • “Research Me Obsessively”: ignore the words and that thing could be on a Spotify hot hits play;ist right this second.
  • Good on Valencia for getting herself laid. Girl, you deserve it.
  • See you next month!