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

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend keeps on digging that hole

Rachel Bloom (The CW/Eddie Chen)
Rachel Bloom (The CW/Eddie Chen)

In “Josh and I Work On A Case!,” two very similar people encounter obstacles that seem likely to keep them from happiness. One of them does a little denying, a lot of soul-searching, looks at some butts, and gets a smooch out of it. The other one ends up in the sewers—literally. Darryl and Rebecca may be really similar, but only one of them is actually learning things and then retaining those lessons.

In other words, welcome out, Darryl! Congratulations, you’re a bothsexual. Bring on WhiteJoshFeather. The world is waiting.

It may be only a subplot, but the story of Darryl making some discoveries about his sexuality feels significant for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly: it was great. Cheers to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writing team and to Pete Gardner and David Hull, because theirs was a storyline that feels surprising but not out of nowhere, honest but not cloying, and just a little bit touching without any tears or soft underscoring or self-congratulation. It’s just a guy figuring some stuff out and doing a pretty good job of it. Second, its importance on the show arises out of its importance to the characters, not because of any Very Special Episode antics or major life lessons for all the kids watching at home to learn. And third, how cool is it that a middle-aged man came out as bisexual in an episode that included no tears, rage, no suicidal thoughts, no stereotypically effete moments, and no jokes where Darryl himself was the punchline?

But beyond all that very important stuff, Darryl stands as the anti-Rebecca: a person who, when confronted with something that makes him flip out a little, takes time to process it (with a little help from a water conspiracy theorist), and then communicates clearly and honestly with the person to whom he’s attracted. In contract, Rebecca chooses to respond to very possibly poisoning her relationship with the person she’s only recently admitted to loving by doubling-down on all the shit that got her in this situation in the first place.

There’s almost no way to cover all the great things about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in a single review, even one of just one episode. It’s a great comedy and a great musical, a sharp look at mental illness that’s also openly and defiantly feminist, it’s smart and weird and gutsy and sometimes beautifully simple, and it’s often all of those things in one episode. You try writing about all those things in one little review. “Josh and I Work On A Case!” did lots of those things, but the thing that most struck me was this: it’s increasingly clear that Rebecca’s in the wrong (with help from Paula) and those that are wary of her are in the right. What’s interesting isn’t that Rebecca’s endearing—sometimes she is, and sometimes she isn’t—but that the people who have got her figured out are so tremendously off-putting.

Some of that’s the direction, as well as the writing. Valencia and Greg’s meet-up in a parking lot is shot like it’s a part of a much shadier show. Some of it is that the person who sees what Rebecca’s doing most clearly, Valencia, is so awful, something acknowledged by the non-Josh characters (and sometimes by Josh as well). But I think beyond that, it’s that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has so successfully aligned the audience with Rebecca, and done such a tremendous job of helping us to see things from her perspective—music’ll do that—that we‘re now seeing even the reasonable things through her eyes. She’s still “bubbly Walter White,” as Bloom herself described Rachel, and Paula, an otherwise reasonable person, goes out of her way to enable her. Paula’s living vicariously through Rebecca, and is deeply invested in what she’s going through. So are we. That makes the rational unwelcome, and means that we’re likely to follow where she goes.


And if that’s true, then I guess we’re all a few steps away from believing that cold showers will get our kids addicted to crack. That’s the other thing that makes Rebecca’s anti-hero thing so complicated this week: she seems to have one foot in bullshit, and the other in brilliance. There seem to be actual grounds for this lawsuit… even if it’s just to force more interactions with Josh. Involving the rest of his building could actually make these people some money… even if it is mainly just a way to twisting Josh’s arm. There are real reasons for Rebecca to turn down the settlement when the landlord comes calling… even if it is mostly because she wants to spend more time with Josh. And yes, if there’s a big conspiracy depriving people, especially lower income people, of water, Whitefeather and Associates should expose that and help those people. But really, it just means more lunches and dinners, doesn’t it?

Darryl may be quite a bit like Rebecca, but she’s not much of a Darryl.

Stray observations

  • This week’s Hector Award (for the best person with a small part who steals the show): Chris (Jacob Guenther), who nailed one of my favorite jokes the show has ever written: the pretext bit. It’s right up there with parking the car. Bert’s a close second, though.
  • Speaking of Bert: that’s Michael Hitchcock, a guy you’ve seen in a million things who is also a co-executive producer on the show.
  • It’s been awhile since we’ve had a place-setting episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. We were probably due. But while that term’s sometimes used as a negative, here it’s not. Would all episodes that set up future storylines were so character-driven.
  • ICYMI, part one: our own Joshua Alston on the show.
  • ICYMI, part two: the New York Times visited the set when this episode was being filmed.
  • “That’s what Satan said to Faust. You guys didn’t hear? My school went charter.”
  • “Now you and Josh can get back on track, get back to where you were a couple weeks ago when you were practically about to bone!”
  • “I had a friend named Jeff once. He took bad mushrooms and jumped off the roof of our dorm.”
  • “We just had to spa.”
  • I like that the wall of big spenders at Jalapeno Jack’s has only two other people on it.
  • All of the musical numbers were great tonight, but that Harold Hill schtick was really something else.
  • I totally want in on window washer gossip Fridays.