In case you’re just tuning in, the 10th episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s second season wants to make sure you know that the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.
In “Will Scarsdale Like Josh’s Shayna Punim?,” Rebecca Nora Bunch has what feels like her seventh giant awakening of the series thus far. This time, however, it’s not hitting bottom (again) that spurs this awakening. Instead, Rebecca’s forced to confront her problems with her shiny new source of happiness firmly in tow, and somehow, they haven’t vanished. It’s a realization that’s brand new to her but very old news to others (including viewers), and that makes this episode a complicated, frustrating watch. Hard truths, soul searching, fall back into old patterns, rinse and repeat as desired.
That frustration, however, is precisely the point. As written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, “Punim” doesn’t skimp on the jokes, but still manages to put Rebecca’s unhappiness front and center the whole way through. At nearly every step, someone’s there to tell her that she’s denying the obvious—first Heather, then Valencia, then Rabbi Shari (Patti LuPone). Even Josh gets in on the action in his own way, letting her know that in spite of his efforts to pave away the pain, she’s still unhappy. It gets through, somehow, leading to one of the best scenes in the series thus far, and just as Rebecca’s about to batten down the hatches and confront some ugly realities about her life, in busts Josh (and by extension, her mother) with a small ring box full of very bad choices.
It’s a fitting ending to an episode that kicks off with Josh and Rebecca updating every social media platform they can think of (up to and including Waze and OpenTable) and singing the best song of the season thus far. “We’ll Never Have Problems Again” hits the perfect Crazy Ex-Girlfriend trifecta: it’s funny, catchy as hell, and has something significant to say about both the characters and the show’s broader thematic goals. It’s also basically the final moment of the episode in a nutshell, capturing the pair’s absolute, borderline desperate denial of reality in service of a happiness high. The Partridge Family vibe only serves to hammer the point home, with Heather popping in to speak for the folks watching at home: “You guys are, like, super delusional.” Then she Soul Trains out of there, because what else can you do?
As with last season, the best test of Rebecca’s stability is her mother, and while that’s not great news for Rebecca, it’s terrific for the show. Tovah Feldshuh tears through any Crazy Ex-Girlfriend appearance like a force of nature, and while she’s not given as much to do here as in “My Mom, Greg‘s Mom and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves,” it’s still a solid piece of casting that seems to give the show’s writer’s a chance to really push the show (and Rebecca, and thus Rachel Bloom) to emotional extremes. This time, she’s not the one to give Rebecca her big talking-to. That honor goes to guest star Patti LuPone, who gets one of the episode’s two simple, stripped-down scenes—something of a rarity in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
While the big proposal and “We’ll Never Have Problems Again” are the episode’s big thesis statements, it’s in these scenes that things really become clear. Gabrielle Ruiz does what’s perhaps her best work of the series thus far in a surprisingly civil sit-down between Valencia and Rebecca, in which the latter points out that Josh is pretty messed up himself, and even if he weren’t, that won’t magically solve anything. He’s no blankie, suit of armor, or bulletproof vest. “Just because Josh Chan owns all those things doesn’t mean he is all those things,” Valencia reminds the friend that got her to pee on Josh Chan’s stuff. “He’s not magic.”
Rabbi Shari’s up next, this time drawing a connection between Rebecca’s hatred of her old life and her own issues. It’s a pleasant surprise to see that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend chose to showcase LuPone’s acting skills, rather than her musical chops (yes, she sings, but that’s far from the highlight here). This is the scene that hits the hardest, and it’s almost as though the musical-loving Rebecca Bunch needed to hear it from the mouth of someone who, in a parallel world, won a Tony or two. Both LuPone and Bloom are great here, and it’s nice to be reminded that while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is great a barreling from story to story, it can be just as affecting and gripping when it eases up on the gas.
Of course, the gas is still in the tank. This all leads up to her final scene with Dr. Akopian (Michael Hyatt, terrific as always), in which she inches ever closer to what you might call a breakthrough. It’s fitting that this scene feels a bit Jaws, with some sort of unknown disaster swimming ever closer. There’s a window, and Hyatt’s face as it slams shut is another perfect summation of the charms and deliberate frustrations of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: just when you think she’s broken a pattern, it gets more deeply entrenched than ever, and it’s awful, but not a little funny, too.
- Back in West Covina, Darryl gets his own subplot, and that feels mostly like business as usual, except that it seems mostly designed to humanize Nathaniel. Pete Gardner is great, but it all feels a little out of place.
- George is back! Long live George!
- Speaking of, this weeks Glen Garry-Gene Gus Award, a.k.a. the George Award goes to Doug Mand as Audra Levine’s husband. He gets it based on that look after Josh mentions penis size alone (and he co-wrote the episode, so, bonus).
- “So you’re not craving a number two. There’s not rumblings for a deuce. Well, I’m not gonna push it, I’m just gonna go back one out.”
- The fact that VRIII can really dance is not a surprise… but those heels!
- Mya and Darryl drink Shirley Temples and do karaoke and I want to go to there.
- Period sex!
- We are all Heather.