She might have gone back to her old ways a week ago, but it would seem that Rebecca Bunch is actually learning a thing or two. Thanks to the magic of television, “Josh and I Go To Los Angeles!” gives us a chance to see exactly how far she’s come (and how far she might go). Exhibit A: New York Rebecca, in the person of “Westchester Alpha Bitch” Audra Levine. Exhibit B: Trent, the crazy never-boyfriend. If you think one Rebecca’s a bit much, buckle up for three of her at once.
As directed (and excellently so) by Michael Patrick Jann (Drop Dead Gorgeous), the thirteenth episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gives Rebecca her very own ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Yet-to-Come. Each continues a thread from the previous week—the episode opens exactly where the last left off, with Trent (Paul Welsh) sucking Rebecca’s face off—and while the plot developments matter, it’s what goes on with Rebecca that’s really significant. It’s not clear that her bubble of self-awareness is yet roomy enough to accommodate Trent (even with him carrying around his very own “Dear Joshua Felix Chan” letter), but it certainly has enough space for Audra Levine (Rachel Grate). The result: Rebecca makes a choice that’s right for her, for her employer, and for whatever feebly shouting Jiminy Cricket she has left. Then she gets a great big smooch out of it.
We’ll get back to Audra and Ted, but that’s the other big development of “Josh and I Go To Los Angeles!” With that kiss and Greg’s ill-timed race to the courthouse, we’re in full-blown love triangle mode again. Well, it’s really more of a quadrangle. It could also be considered a pentagon, based on how final you think Heather’s send-off of Greg might be (and cheers to Vella Lovell, who sang the hell out of that reprise). Regardless, Rebecca’s courtroom moment of honesty spurred both her potential suitors to action, and their choices, as well as hers, seem likely to drive the rest of the show’s inaugural season.
But back to Trent and Audra, who arrive just in time to show Rebecca how far she’s come and how far she might go. Trent’s mostly there as comic relief (a good call—that was some funny shit), but also highlights exactly how inappropriate and occasionally terrifying Rebecca’s actions have been. Trent sneaks into her house: creepy as hell. But wait, Rebecca did that too. Trent goes to humiliating and unsettling lengths to stay in Rebecca’s good graces. Hell, it’s no party bus. Trent breaks the law to help Rebecca win her case. Has that happened already? I can’t remember, but Rebecca certainly went to great lengths to help Josh get his job. Trent blackmails Rebecca… and that’s where the comparisons stop. Whether Rebecca herself recognizes the parallels between herself and Trent is unclear, but they were plain as day for the audience, and serve a neat double purpose: a reminder that a lot of what Rebecca’s done is really, really messed up, and a demonstration that, as messed up as her actions might be, at least she’s never blackmailed the man she claims to love.
Then there’s Audra, and what’s so satisfying about the emergence of Rebecca’s rival is that their storyline has precisely nothing to do with Josh. We see where Rebecca’s competitive streak was born (thanks to the welcome return of Ava Acres), and witness how tied it is to her own insecurities. But more importantly, Audra serves as a reminder of where Rebecca was at the beginning of the season: a desperately unhappy woman who might, were it not for that damn butter ad and her chance run-in with Josh, still be in New York and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It’s startling to see how much Rebecca’s changed, right down to her hair (and cheers to the costume, hair, and makeup teams, who turned Grate into a dead ringer for the Rebecca of the pilot), but the biggest change of all is that she’s able to care about someone (in this case, a whole community) other than herself. It may not pack the punch of “You Stupid Bitch,” but Rebecca’s willingness to reach out to Audra and tell her to take care of herself stands as one of the most emotionally rich moments of a very rich season.
That would be quite enough all on its own, but “Josh and I Go To Los Angeles!” also includes no less than four songs. Sure, two of them are reprises, but reprises are the best, so who cares. There’s that epic rap battle (written by Zach Sherwin, who also turned in the top-notch “I Give Good Parent”), a rousing and very funny Les Misérables-style number and its slow-clap reprise, and Lovell’s pitch-perfect “Settle for Me.” Better still, each of them does exactly what the best songs on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend do, and open up a window into what’s going on with the characters—particularly “Flooded with Justice.” Yes, the case came about because Rebecca wanted an excuse to spend time with Josh (and as discussed last week, her decisions somehow manage to be incredibly reckless and selfish while also being best for her clients), but that song isn’t for Josh’s benefit. It’s for Rebecca’s. Last week’s Music Man tune was about Rebecca huckstering people into her case for purely selfish reasons, but “Flooded with Justice” is both silly and sincere.
There are five more episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and even as the series digs a little deeper into its rom-com tendencies, it’s very difficult to guess what’s going to happen next. Sure, it’s tough to predict when we’ll get a rap battle, but more importantly, the series has proved, time and again, that it refuses to do what’s expected, or to pigeonhole its antiheroine. She’s awful and kind, selfish and generous, delusional and clear-headed, steady and a hot mess. Those around her aren’t all that cut-and-dry either. How nice to be surprised, both by where the story goes and by how far its come.
- Explicit version of the rap battle.
- “I didn’t come out until I was 12. Those were some tough years.”
- This week’s Hector Award (for the best person with a small part who steals the show): Kevin (Johnny Ray Meeks) and his amazing reactions to Heather and to the trial. Child Audra was also great.
- “Me! I do! Got it from a phrasebook.”
- “It wasn’t weird. I wore a bathing suit.”
- “He’ll see my eat a piece of ham off the ground and he’ll move on.”
- “A sports bar with kids running around, where the moms look like hookers and the hookers look like moms.”
- “Kevin can be aggressively nice. You’re not gonna like it.”
- White Joshfeather continues, full steam ahead. David Hull and Pete Gardner are great together, and that last moment of theirs, where WhiJo shouted down their heckler and they awkwardly figured out how to link arms, was priceless.