From the very beginning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has played around with the tropes of romantic comedy, and with the idea of love triangles in particular. At times, it would seem like a pretty familiar story—there’s the dream guy, the guy right under her nose, and the scattered, nutsy heroine at the center of it all. At others, the show seemed to hint that it was Rebecca that believed in that kind of story, rather than the show itself. Most of the time this was pretty subtle, but as with the “Dream Ghost” storyline, occasionally it went out of its way to make the point that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t a romantic comedy. It’s a comedy about a woman with untreated mental health issues and the way her actions (and those of others with issues of their own) affect the people in their lives.
Well, with “All Signs Point To Josh…Or Is It Josh’s Friend?,” there’s no more ambiguity about it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is not a romantic comedy—at least, not in the typical sense. Sure, there will still be some #TeamJosh and #TeamGreg stuff happening, because they’re principles on the show. But by tackling one of the most pervasive tropes in romantic stories—the idea that sometimes the universe reaches out and taps you on the forehead, showing you what destiny has in store—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend draws a line in the sand and marches across it. ’Ship if you must, but Rebecca’s truly happy ending would be that she winds up alone and OK.
To get there, they pull on a bunch of familiar levers. Signs, check (loads of ‘em). Moment when the heroine gives up on love, then promptly gets the biggest sign of all, check. An Affair to Remember-style time and place to meet up for love, check. Dash to the airport, check. It‘s all there. And it’s all totally nuts.
These things don’t typically happen in real life, and when they do, they seem just a little bit deluded. That’s due in no small part to the return of Dr. Akopian (welcome back, Michael Hyatt!) and to the episode’s B storyline, Paula’s surprise pregnancy. With the good Doctor, we get an objective eye, someone to listen to Rebecca’s convoluted logic and tell her that it’s bullshit, not destiny. And with Paula’s story, we get to see someone struggling with something that’s real, a contrast that makes the delusional foundation of Rebecca’s love triangle all the more apparent.
Now, that’s not to say that Rebecca isn’t dealing with honest emotion. It would be a disservice to the character, Rachel Bloom, and to the reality of living with any sort of mental health issue to dismiss the potency of the things one feels and believes. Bloom’s great in this episode, playing exactly what the meta commentary requires while still grounding Rebecca’s emotional journey in reality. When she shows up on that bridge, you really believe that, for just a second, she recognizes it as a coincidence. When Josh walks out the door, he’s leaving someone who’s genuinely brokenhearted behind.
But episode writers Audrey Wauchope and Rachel Specter have a loftier goal in mind, and by showing exactly how damaging Rebecca’s insistence on creating her own narrative in her head can be, they underline how unhealthy a relationship founded on those principles could be. It’s appropriate that the only “sign” that the show doesn’t cast aspersions on—the actual danger sign Greg sees when he’s walking up to meet Rebecca on the bridge of destiny—is one that resonates because of Greg’s conversation with his father about Rebecca. She has her chance to get a bit of a wake-up call, but ignores Dr. Akopian. Greg seems to ignore his dad, but given space and a visual reminder, he realizes that his old man may not have been wrong after all.
Though it leaps from Rebecca’s insane pregnancy-as-destiny freakout, Paula’s storyline could not be more different. While Rebecca’s buying pre-natal vitamins and waiting to fall in love at the Olive Garden, Paula and her husband Scott (Steve Monroe, straight killin’ it this season) deal with a very real complication in their lives. Leaping back and forth from Rebecca’s imagined drama to Paula’s actual drama heightens both, in opposite ways: Rebecca’s seems ever more contrived, while Paula’s hurts in a way her best friend’s couldn’t. Donna Lynne Champlin has been great all along, but I’m not sure she’s even been better than in the scene where Darryl surprises her with the news that she’s in law school early. Tears can be tough to pull off as a punchline, but she nails it, and just like that, one of the episode’s funniest scenes is also the most affecting.
It’s the ending of both stories, back to back, that really hits home. In the movies, Rebecca’s race to the airport would be stirring and romantic. Here, it just seems kind of unstable, a cliffhanger that’s most thrilling not because we want to know what happens next, but because that’s a hell of a public scene to make in an airport. Contrast that with Paula’s: two people, sitting at a table, silently confronting their new reality. One’s imagined drama, the other is real drama, and it’s not hard to guess which is which.
Obviously there’s a lot to unpack here thematically—how many Friday night comedies choose to use the tropes of storytelling to highlight the kind of story they’re not telling while contrasting that story with one that relies on no tropes at all? It’s perhaps not surprising that we only get one song this week (well, let’s say 1.25 songs, if we’re counting the two bars of “Period Sex”), since they needed to fit in so much story and meta-story. Luckily, it’s a doozy, one of the funniest (and punniest) songs yet, not to mention a pitch-perfect parody of a famous movie musical number. Better still, it sets up the arc of Rebecca’s whole plotline, making it clear that she’s not interested in the real, only in the story she’s telling herself.
It’s long been clear that most of the musical numbers in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend exist because Rebecca imagines them into existence. I’ve written before that her fantasy life seems to be contagious, and that’s how we account for the other characters getting solos when Rebecca’s nowhere in sight. But with this episode, it’s clear that most of the other characters are emerging, at least somewhat, from the Rebecca fantasy fog. That goes double for the show itself.
“Think about how the story’s played out so far,” she says. Rebecca’s in a romantic comedy. Now, she’s in there alone.
- Rebecca’s totally insulting/deceptive conversation with the polyamorous folks was perfect.
- “One two three six eight three go!”
- Welcome to 2016, when a comedy on The CW made an extended joke about period sex.
- “Is it even ethical to keep taking her money? I do want that kayak.”
- “It’s like we’re our own little blood coven.”
- I 100% thought Rebecca was going to get in her car to run to the airport after drinking that wine, get pulled over, and wind up with a D.U.I. to match Greg’s.
- “I gotta go. My mom’s also in the red zone.
- Hector Award: “Kayak, kayak, kayak.” Michael Hyatt, for sure. Let’s hope Dr. Akopian keeps cashing those checks and we get more of her.
- Music theatre nerd note: Bloom’s Monroe impression is on point, but what makes it even better is that there’s a little trace of Carol Channing, who played Monroe’s role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on Broadway before the movie, in there. It’s something in the diction. Totally inspired.