In the penultimate episode of its sophomore season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pushes Rebecca so close to the edge that for a minute there, it’s tough to see how they’d make it to a season finale. The chaos comes courtesy of the DIY wedding Rebecca attempts to plan, largely unassisted, in under two weeks. Along the way, it wanders a bit, showing us Rebecca’s mounting anxiety without ever really putting us in her shoes—but the ending turns things around completely. What’s surprising isn’t the scale of her meltdown, it’s the means by which she escapes it: through the help of three people who know a bit about anxiety, particularly when other people’s opinions are concerned.
All hail Valencia, maker of plans (and Gabrielle Ruiz, whose diminished appearances over the last few episodes were understandable but whose return is most welcome). Her one brief scene in “Will Scarsdale Like Josh’s Shayna Punim?” was an episode highlight, but here she gets what seems like a subplot all her own. Seems is the important word there, as episode writer Katie Schwartz has a particularly clever trick up her sleeve, as Valencia first attempts to “give” Rebecca a ready-made wedding—the wedding of Valencia’s dreams—before refusing to hand it over for fear Rebecca would ruin it (a fair bet). Just like that, Valencia’s planning Rebecca and Josh’s wedding and, one thinks, discovering her true calling.
It’s the kind of smart surprise that works because it makes so much sense. When Rebecca runs into the one friend she hasn’t asked for help, it’s no stretch to predict it’s that friend who’ll save the day, but the fact that Valencia chooses to do this for herself is the real kicker. Who out there didn’t have a bit of an “of course” moment when Valencia described the black suit and headset look she’d surely rock? Yes, she’s helping a friend, but when a person who feels unmoored finds the chance to kick the holy crap out of something, that’s a chance that person takes. There’s a void, one that seems impossible to fill, until you realize it’s exactly Valencia-shaped. Baby food jars are the new mason jars, didn’t you know?
Valencia’s not the only person to step up for Rebecca, however. All hail Nathaniel, pooper of pants. It’s not the freshest of storylines, if you’ll pardon the use of the word “fresh” in conjunction with this particular subplot, but as with Valencia’s story, it pays off in ways one might not expect. Nathaniel’s relationship with his father was established as complex (at best) in his first appearance, and that’s become ever more clear with each passing installment. Here we finally meet the man, who is exactly as promised, catching Nathaniel in the weakest and most ty-ty of all positions: napping. If there’s a parallel between his story and Rebecca’s, it’s in the willingness to wear themselves out and do themselves harm while trying to prove they’re what someone else tells them they should be. For Rebecca, it’s “normal.” For Nathaniel, it’s to exist without human weakness.
So it’s human weakness that drives his story, as well as his final act of generosity to Rebecca—compassion being another human weakness. Is ensuring her deeply neglectful father attends her wedding actually a kindness? We’ll likely find that out next week. For now, however, Nathaniel seems to absorb some of the compassion shown to him by his employees—particularly Maya, more than ready to take the pants-pooping fall for her boss—and send it out in a new direction. Like recognizes like, one supposes, and instead of being just some weird woman he had a sex dream about, Rebecca has become a whole person to him, and one he chooses to help.
Rebecca’s last defender is the one most likely to come to her aid, even if it involves crossing a line or two. All hail Paula, caller of mothers, and praise her line-crossing ways. Paula gets some assistance in this from Patrick (Seth Green at perhaps his most subdued in his entire career), a delivery man subject to a series of increasingly desperate conversations with Ms. Bunch. There’s something oddly touching about the sight of Patrick covering the sleeping Rebecca up with one of her countless wedding dresses, and something even more lovely about the revelation that he called Paula to tell her exactly how low her friend had fallen.
How does he know to call Paula? Who cares? Something about that torch song spurs him to action, and thank the lord, because no monologue into a phone has been quite so satisfying as the one Paula unleashes on Naomi Bunch. Donna Lynne Champlin does the fiercely protective thing about as well as anyone, and between Rachel Bloom in pitch-perfect meltdown mode and Champlin going full Mama Bear, this is an episode where both get to play right into their biggest strengths. It’s funny, of course, but it’s also honest, and a fitting way to show the growth of the show’s most important relationship over the course of the season.
Still, the main event here is Rebecca herself, who finds herself at a complete and utter loss. The delighted look on her face when Heather tells her she looks surprisingly normal in her wedding dress is enough to break the heart. There’s no such thing as normal, of course, but there is such a thing as healthy, and stable, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend makes it clearer each week that, personal growth not withstanding, Rebecca Bunch is neither.
The Burt Bacharach-style ‘70s musical theatre ballad “(Tell Me I’m Okay) Patrick” can nestle in alongside “You Stupid Bitch” and “I Have Friends” as two prime examples of what music can do for storytelling, and for this show. It’s not an afterthought, it’s not a gimmick, it’s not just for show. In its most emotional moments, this series kicks open the door and lets a song spill out, capturing things tough to capture while still managing to make room for a package that plays the piano. Bloom’s at her best when this happens—this episode may be the highlight of her season—and so is the show.
So, yes, the pants-pooping subplot feels a bit out of tune, and yes, the story wanders a bit through Rebecca’s meltdown before the threads start to truly come together. It’s not perfect, but even when it makes a small misstep, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t like anything else on television. Tell it it’s OK, Patrick. It deserves the validation.
- “How to plan a normal wedding please help”
- “Do I why wedding? Because I love Josh!”
- “Oh, I make my own candles so rooms smell like me even when I’m not in them. It’s basically the only reason I teach yoga anymore, so I can use my own candles.”
- “In fact, most cancers, are a half day.”
- “I already went on Craigslist today and posted an ad for a hummer. I’ve gotten a lot of responses.”
- No real Glen-Gary-Gene George Award this week. Seth Green, I guess, but since he’s the big guest star, that’s a tough sell.
- Yes, I loved the Man Naps song. No, it wasn’t necessary. Yes, I will watch it at least 10 more times.