For anyone out there who thought Rebecca was going to handle this whole “Josh is moving in with Valencia” thing in a healthy way: nope.
Now, there’s probably not anyone—fictional characters included–who thought that was likely, but in giving Rebecca another in a string of really, really bad days, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may have actually set her up for some personal growth. Then again, maybe not. But even though she races out of her psychiatrist’s office as soon as Josh texts, the fact remains that Rebecca was forced to look outside herself and consider the thoughts and feelings of someone else for once, and both for her and for the show, that can only be a good thing.
It helps when the writing makes such a thing not only possible, but so welcome. Is it rational for Rebecca to go charging into a hotel room to stop her friend/co-worker from beginning an affair a potential client? No. Was it ultimately satisfying? Yes. This isn’t the first time that Rebecca has gone marching in, albeit in a kind of nutso way, to help a friend. What makes this particular occurence so wonderful (and weird) is the way they’ve built up to this point throughout the season.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has spent seven episodes showing us who Paula is, from the way she escapes her failing marriage by focusing on Rebecca’s love life, to the obvious need she has to be treated by someone—anyone, really—with respect, if not with kindness and affection. To this point, her relationship with Rebecca has been mostly one-sided. While not all of Paula’s help or advice could be considered healthy (the nanny-cam pin, for example, isn’t the most ethical thing), she does truly seem to care for her intense new friend—and the reverse hasn’t always been true. Their friendship has been weighted so far in the direction of Rebecca’s wants and needs that to see her look outside herself and act in what she believed was Paula’s best interests was surprisingly moving.
Paula’s story as a whole struck a chord, thanks in no small part to Donna Lynne Champlin’s very funny, but never less than honest, performance. It’s been clear that she’s a terribly unhappy and dissatisfied woman from the first episode, but in “I’m So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!,” that became a real and nuanced thing. Paula lit up, didn’t she? Perhaps it’s easier to see exactly how miserable a person was once the other end of the spectrum pops into view. She also became the second character to have a song of her own, completely separate from Rebecca’s imagination. Whether it’s a quality that links she and Greg to Rebecca, or simply a broadening of the show’s focus, it’s a very welcome development, and it adds another name to the list of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast members doing top-notch work.
Each of Champlin’s scenes with Calvin Young (Cedric Yarbrough!) was funnier than the one that preceded it, but it was that big hotel room scene with Rebecca that really brought it home. Moments of clarity, where one can be truly and often painfully honest with themselves, can come from the most unexpected sources. In Paula’s case, it was a shouting Rebecca, a weeping Calvin, the memory of Calvin’s dead white wife, and Heather creeping in the back, just watching it all. It was equal parts absurd and sad, never sacrificing humor for emotion or the reverse, and easily Champlin’s best moment of the season.
For Rebecca to help Paula have that big moment, though, she had to have a few of her own—most of which she adamantly refused to acknowledge. Dr. Phil’s cameo was an unexpected delight—not because it was a surprise, since it was so heavily teased, but in how funny, effective, startlingly gripping in places, and above all substantial it was. Has there been a more honest and unsettling moment on the show thus far than watching a fantasized incarnation of a TV guru yell “Rejected!” in Rebecca’s face? Perhaps the memory of her parent’s divorce, but that’s about it. Casting of that sort is usually just a stunt (I love you, Grandfathered, but I’m looking at you), but here it was much more than that. He was her own butter commercial, live and in the imagined flesh, and the fact that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend managed to pull such a thing off speaks very well for its future.
The biggest reason for that success, of course, is that “I’m So Happy Josh Is So Happy!” dealt more directly with Rebecca’s mental health issues than any issue previously. From openly worrying that she has schizophrenia (she doesn’t) to desperately searching remnants the pills she merrily tossed down the garbage disposal in the pilot, the issue of mental illness looms large. The episode, written by Sono Patel and directed by Lawrence Trilling, neatly ties Rebecca’s descent into depression and struggle to cope to an Alice in Wonderland theme. The pill says eat me, the vodka says don’t drink me (“Then why do I have you in the office? Gotcha there, bottle”), and the white rabbits are far from soothing.
While an uplifting episode in some ways, “I’m So Happy Josh Is So Happy” also can’t help but be a bit unsettling. If Rebecca’s fallen down the rabbit hole, it doesn’t look like she’s poised to get out anytime soon. She’s going to strap on those slippery socks, head to Josh’s place, and start that long, slow tumble all over again. Perhaps it’s not a rabbit hole so much as a loop, and if narrowly avoiding a career meltdown, breaking into a psychiatrist’s home, and Dr. Phil can’t help her stop cycling, it’s hard to imagine what can.
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
- First things first, ICYMI: some great news. Boba for everyone!
- Hey-it’s-that-guy watch: you mean, other than the mighty Yarbrough? Well, let’s not forget Michael Hyatt (Dr. Akopian), who’s played a cop, doctor, or other badass in just about everything (The Wire, The West Wing, True Detective, etc.)
- Tag watch: “The Sexy Gonna Do It Song.” Perfection.
- “Oui, je suis garbage.”
- Hector’s never-ending tandem, back-to-front parking story was a thing of such beauty that to transcribe it is to diminish its brilliance. Let it live forever in memory.
- “I needed that sage to cleanse the house of evil spirits. Ghosts are obsessed with me.”
- “A squeedle leedle loops squah squeeze squah squahs!”
- True story: I once watched a person on a bus pick up a random envelope off the floor, dump out the contents (which were pills), peer at them, and then take two. Toilet pill trumps bus pill, but not by much.
- Last week was all songs, so this week let’s just say that both were solid, and the fact that they’re still turning in good, funny music is quite an accomplishment.
- According to Rachel Bloom (via Twitter), the “rejected” speech was improvised: