At first, the premise of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could be summed up in one sentence: “It happens to be where Josh lives, but that’s not why I’m here.” By halfway through that first season, they’d blown away that idea by having Rebecca come to grips with the lies she was telling herself. Now, early in season two, they’ve got a new shake-up to make, and to accomplish it, they send Rebecca and friends to Burning Man.
Well, most of the friends. Of the three central shakeups in “Why is Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Eating Carbs?” the one that’s most likely to have a lasting impact is the introduction of Sunil (Parvesh Cheena), a fellow student at Paula’s law school with whom she bonds almost immediately. On the heels of Greg’s departure and the breakup with Josh, writer Sono Patel continues to grow the rift between Paula and Rebecca, a breakup—if indeed that’s where we’re headed—likely to hurt more than either of Rebecca’s romantic catastrophes.
Our one desert-free story of the night, the burgeoning friendship between Sunil and Paula highlights the issues in Paula and Rebecca’s troubled relationship. First, he assumes Rebecca is Paula’s daughter, an observation that seems to open the floodgates for Paula, frustration-wise (up to and including yelling about her abortion in class). Second, he opens up in return, and while it’s weird, it’s also free of capital-D drama, something that can’t be said of most of Paula’s conversations with her best friend. And third, and most importantly, he gets Paula back to skulking—but this time, she choose to do it for herself, not someone else. Cheena’s a sold addition to the cast, and the note-taking app espionage an enjoyable subplot, but this story works for reasons that go beyond the occasional punchline.
Like the episode where Rebecca suddenly discovers she’s blown all her savings and paid none of her bills, this episode feels both unexpected and as though it’s been in the works the whole time. There’s always been an imbalance in Paula and Rebecca’s friendship. Sometimes, this was the fault of Rebecca’s self-centered nature; others, it was a sense of ownership Paula felt over Rebecca’s relationship with Josh. While this was addressed (and seemingly resolved) head-on in last season’s finale, things have never quite been the same, and Paula’s distance from Rebecca seems to have taken a more serious turn. Neither friend seems pleased with this distance—the last scene feels so wistful I’m surprised they didn’t add a little ballad somewhere—but there it sits, big and growing bigger.
Sunil and Paula’s friendship isn’t the only force widening the gap, however. The reappearance of Valencia means the welcome return of Gabrielle Ruiz, and while that can only be viewed as a positive development, not everything in her storyline quite works. Yes, the dream ballet is terrific, both as a showcase for Ruiz and Vincent Rodriguez III’s lovely dancing and for that amazing triceratops costume. Yes, the climactic R-and-V takedown of Josh and love-fest of each other feels incredibly satisfying, and their new friendship will likely prove a fertile ground for both punchlines and plot development. That doesn’t quite erase the fact that Valencia’s continued tolerance of Rebecca in her life feels several steps beyond implausible.
Perhaps that’s an unfair assertion. Valencia’s clearly a lonely person, and this isn’t the first time she and Rebecca have connected. Granted, one of those times was mostly a work of fiction, but last season’s “Josh’s Sister is Getting Married!” hinted at what such a friendship might look like. Turns out, it looks a lot like this: Valencia brushing past some of Rebecca’s stranger quirks (i.e. the keys in the underpants) and embracing a woman who’s vocal about things like empowerment and embracing your body for what it is (even if Rebecca doesn’t always walk the walk). Like the introduction of Sunil, it’s a welcome dynamic, and will likely play a role in the growing Paula-Rebecca rift. Still, after all this, after the weird make-out session and the party bus and the wedding dress photo and the rest of it, she’s really going to volunteer to spend time at pseudo-Burning Man with this woman?
Much more plausible, but a lot less interesting, is the third big shakeup of the night. As a storyline, the introduction of Josh’s new love interest (Brittany Snow) begins well enough. “Thought Bubbles” is easily the best individual song they’ve written for Josh (though the boy band is sublime in its weirdness), and makes something hinted at through the first season that much more obvious: Josh can’t really be alone. Before you can say “convenient plot device,” the speakers at Fauxning Man, Josh is in the desert too, and he’s meeting a beautiful blonde who seems a lot less complicated than the two girls who just peed on Aloha’s sound equipment. It’s all fine, but feels much more like an item to be checked off the list than the other two stories.
Sadly, it’s the most engaging storyline of the night that gets the shortest shrift in this review. Darryl and White Josh continue to be the best, and the revelation that WhiJo’s got a type, and his type is “could be played by a broom in expensive music videos,” is both funny and dramatically satisfying. Still, it’s their final two scenes—their post-fight I-love-yous and White Josh’s meeting with Darryl’s daughter—that really hit home. Perhaps because it’s so self-contained, this story feels less consequential, but there’s nothing wrong with telling a love story and doing it well, and that’s something Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has got down pat.
Listen, every season of television has an episode or two where the pieces get moved around the board. With the exception of White Josh and Darryl, that’s exactly what’s happening here: new friends, new dates, new dynamics, and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s also not always the most exciting thing to watch. In spite of the drugs, the dinos, the peeing and the cavewomen with live, this particular episode falls a little flat.
- “Start with her Twitter. It’s very provocative.”
- This week’s musical references: Jason Mraz, scatting and all, and the dream ballets from musicals like Oklahoma! and Singin’ in the Rain.
- “I get it, I’m Barb, she’s Nancy.”
- Let’s get Suzy Reynolds her own spinoff. I want her stealing half-eaten lunch bowls out of her state capitol’s cafeteria, stat. I would also subscribe to Hector and his mom’s dating podcast.
- “She just grabbed her now donut and her later donut and stomped out.”
- I am so on board for Valencia’s feminist awakening.