“Oh Nathaniel, It’s On!” has a Rebecca Bunch problem. To be honest, I’m surprised it hasn’t cropped up before — and it’s of course possible that it has, and that this humble writer just missed it. Rebecca’s actions, outsize and irrational as they are, aren’t the issue with the plotting of a consistently entertaining episode that’s still likely the season’s weakest. It’s that her impulsive behavior seems to be narratively catching, and the story is running to keep up.
When Rebecca does Rebecca things, it’s expected. The actions often themselves are often unpredictable, to be sure. She’s impulsive and spent years following the narratives she (and the world) spun out for herself, and sometimes that means you’re trapped in a bathroom after a poop attack on Thanksgiving. Heather can act impulsively, too — remember Miss Douche, or the time she invited herself to dinner at Greg’s mother’s house? — just as anyone can. But something about the combination seems to have thrown this hour into overdrive, and not in a way that feels particularly organic.
It’s still funny, often wickedly so, and as smart as ever. The developments themselves aren’t unwelcome, either: who among us is not tickled by what will happen when Valencia finds out Hector moved in, or delightedly dreading the mess that will ensue from Rebecca and Nathaniel sharing an office? It’s worth saying that at this point, a messy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is still going to be better than a huge percentage of what’s on television, and there are jokes and performances here that many a series would kill for. But Josh became best friends with Hector’s mom in a trice, and Hector made huge life changes with a bit of a shrug. Presumably Heather went through a whole management training course and then spurred the creation of a new training program that resulted in her going from bartender to regional manager in what feels like a flash… and then she decided to carry a baby as casually as she accepted that she was the new Miss Douche.
That is a lot, and that’s just the B-story. And that description doesn’t include the creation of dessert tapas, or the discovery of an identity that’s still tied to an occupation, or the gentle undressing (not literal, though Kevin sort of makes it so) she gives her terrified and culturally insensitive boss. It’s so much. Because it’s all topped off by that baby decision, it throws everything else Heather does into a similarly impulsive light, but I don’t think those decisions are meant to be viewed as impulsive. They just feel impulsive, because the episode is matching Rebecca’s pace, not Heather’s. She experiences all of this, coming to several important personal revelations and making time for a few salon appointments, and it feels like we’re getting the bones and nothing more.
This week’s theme song insertion (inspired and laugh-out-loud funny) underlines the “off the rails” corner of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s dissection of what we consider crazy. This is a series which has frequently put its audience in Rebecca’s shoes, but which has just as often placed us on the outside, watching a slow-moving wreck we can’t stop. (Two words: Greg’s dad.) Here, though, we’re on the outside, and it’s the show that seems to be in Rebecca’s shoes, rushing through life, bypassing the important moments in which one should call upon S.A.S.S.Y. and take a quick moment. I can buy Heather barging into a board meeting, frustrated with corporate culture and ready to get what she actually wants. But when it’s out of the blue, when we leap from pantyhose to dessert tapas to another one-sided conversation with Heather to the board room, it doesn’t really track.
Rebecca’s story tracks perfectly (well, give or take a dark Internet moment.) Still a bit rushed, perhaps, but circumstances are heightened, and there’s some of that disaster-in-slow-motion feel referenced above. That’s all helped by Rachel Bloom’s grounded but very funny performance, which pulses in much the way a giant freaking zit on one’s chin might. It’s a story that feels as jarring and sudden and too-much as the public injections she keeps casually throwing into her body — and performance-wise, those injections are among the funniest things Bloom’s done on the show to date. It’s so messed up and wonderful and weird and perfectly in keeping with a woman who really, really should not be taking those hormonal injections.
That heightened emotional state makes it appropriate that both of the episode’s big songs land in Rebecca’s court, one in duet form (and one with a perfectly-timed ‘What?’ from Michael McMillan’s Tim.) In short, they’re both great, and the reprise of “Who’s The New Guy?” is even funnier than the first one. But the big story here is that righteous tango number, complete with ‘thorny’ rose and horizontal tango on a wall painted to look like the street. It’s surreal, sexy, technically impressive, and most importantly, funny. It’s a delight, and sets the tone for a storyline that ends in exactly the way anyone who’s ever seen one of these stories would expect.
So, that’s great. Everything that actually happens in Heather’s story is great. But what I wouldn’t give for maybe one less Dr. Phil cameo or dark Internet montage, for a shorter podcast or hell, another ten minutes. Vella Lovell is great. Heather is great. But racing past what makes Heather tick undermines the story. Rebecca may have taken those hormone shots, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend didn’t, and yet it still went a little bit off the rails, albeit without a baseball bat.
- Once again for the people in the back row: A B- for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is like an A for other shows, and in the tradition of the great Emily L. Stephens, I’d like to say that my official grade for this delightful but frustrating hour is glitter exploding inside me, and my grade for the musical numbers is Paula singing ‘Richard Gere’ outside a party and Beans’s house.
- Now we know. Heactor.
- If you haven’t already seen it, Mashable’s behind-the-scenes look with Kathryn Burns is a delight.
- In addition to that delightful “Who’s the New Guy” reprise, we also get two underscore moments of “We Should Definitely Not Have Sex Right Now,” including a lighting callback that made me laugh out loud, and one of “Research Me Obsessively.” The people who make this show do it with tremendous care.
- G-G-G Award: Apologies to Matt Walsh and B.J. Novak, but former winner Johnny Ray Meeks takes it here. Every time Kevin got worked up I was low-key terrified he was going to start sobbing about his mother, and his delivery of the line about the undershirt rule was dead-on.
- Bloom’s take to the camera during the reprise is the new “Let’s keep it vague, it’s more interesting that way!”
- “Yesterday he patted me on the head, although he may have been trying to stand up.”
- “That’s her Paris!”
- “Where’s my ball?”
- “And by show I mean his favorite show, which by the way is Wings.” “What?!”