In “Josh is Going to Hawaii!” all of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s chickens come home to roost. There’s the ‘trying to break up a relationship’ thing, the ‘spending money like it comes with free refills‘ thing, and the ‘maternal best friend whose advice is questionable at best’ thing. Heck, even the Garfinkel ring makes an appearance. In an episode that, more than perhaps any other, speaks to the way such stories are supposed to go—something also done to great effect in Sleepless in Seattle, another story about an overzealous stalker seeking love—it’s reality that plays the biggest role. But hey, at least she’s got the key to the city, even if there wasn’t a cash prize.
It’s great storytelling, but on the off-chance that anyone watching wasn’t convinced that the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team knows exactly what they’re doing, this episode would be the one to hammer that home. No, Paula is not full of great ideas (remember how when we first met her she was weirdly fixated on sussing out Rebecca’s lies?) No, Heather is not completely devoid of emotions. No, Rebecca’s behavior isn’t healthy, and it isn’t without consequences. No, this is not a romantic comedy. The situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.
While Rebecca’s dose of reality is the biggest—winding up on a plane with her psychiatrist is maybe the best thing that’s happened to her on the series thus far—it’s not the only one (and we’ll get back to her). Episode writer Sono Patel (who also wrote “I’m So Happy Josh is So Happy!”) gives Greg, Josh, and Darryl their own reality checks as well, and it turns out not so bad for one of them. Greg and Heather’s first shift together post-breakup doesn’t go all that well, something that seems to be a surprise to only Greg. Vella Lovell finds the perfect pitch for a dejected Heather, not sacrificing her bad-ass, stoic air while still managing to be an obviously emotional wreck. Josh’s wake-up call comes courtesy of Valencia’s quick return to the status quo after the new, mature version of her forgives him for that kiss (a scene that both Gabrielle Ruiz and Vincent Rodriguez III absolutely ace). People don’t change overnight, feelings don’t simply disappear, and working with your ex the day after you break up is never going to be cool, ever.
Darryl also gets a reality check or two—no one in the office cares that he’s bi, and relationships don’t always go from 0 to 60 in an instant—but he also gets a hell of a song and a happy ending. Good things come to those who take the time to figure themselves out, and some of those good things are very cute and love flip-flops. “Gettin’ Bi” is a terrific tune, a heady, white-jacketed blend of Huey Lewis and “Footloose” that skewers more than a few stereotypes about bisexuality (and male bisexuality in particular). It’s jubilant, triumphant, and deserves to be played at every Pride parade until the end of time. When it comes to the relationship, White Josh pumps the brakes at first, but he seems to be employing an age-inverted version of the campsite rule, and Darryl takes his advice to heart. And when all is said and done, they end up in that boba line together, starting fresh. It’s lovely and innocent and grown-up and other wonderful things.
But back to Rebecca, who doesn’t get any wonderful things, unless you count a trip to Hawaii she can’t afford. It’s obvious from moment one that the episode’s headed nowhere good, as director Erin Ehrlich cuts between a giddy Rebecca and a troubled Josh. The pull of the story she imagines she’s in is so strong that Josh’s distress doesn’t seem to register, that being in serious financial trouble is just another bump on the road to her happy ending, and that the family heirloom that sent her into a meltdown just a few episodes ago becomes just something she can pawn to get those tickets to Hawaii. The thing that finally gets through, unexpectedly, is Valencia, and a few brief moments where Rebecca gets to hear a part of the story in which someone else is the protagonist.
And what does that make Rebecca? The bad guy, of course. “The Villain in My Own Story” is equal parts Into the Woods and “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, capturing Rebecca’s slowly dawning realization by having her own story collapse in on her. At times, she even seems to be aware that she’s on a television show, with the camera standing in for the mirror from time to time, as well as one glorious take to the camera on “I’m the bad guy in my TV show.” It’s this realization that pushes her over the edge, something more upsetting than being completely out of money or even hearing Josh adamantly declare that he does not love her. Her actions have consequences, and while she might not like Valencia, the knowledge that she’s someone else’s bad guy throws the rest of her life into a very stark light.
“The Villain in My Own Story” doesn’t demand an immediate iTunes purchase the way that “Gettin’ Bi” or “Feeling Kinda Naughty” does. It’s a little precious, a little too in on the joke to be a pleasure removed from context. But within the episode, it feels like a moment as big as “You Stupid Bitch” or that very first “West Covina” reprise. It’s a palpable shift in the status quo, a marker that shows us where Rebecca veered off in another direction. As always, Rachel Bloom excels throughout, but in an episode in which Rebecca spends a great deal of time walking around, shell-shocked, it’s this number that allows Bloom to open the doors on what’s going on inside her thoroughly troubled head. It’s another flash of self-awareness, and the more of those Rebecca has, the better—both for the audience and for herself.
Next week: no Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The week after that? Fantasy airplane therapy. Time can’t pass fast enough.
- “Oh my gosh, it transported me to a different world. Like where they shoot the fun parts of Game of Thrones.” (Sidenote: what fun parts of Game of Thrones?)
- “I blamed my baby brother for that baby bunny body.” “Dude, are you stoned right now?”
- “I had to ask for forgiveness. And that was hard, because that cult was on an island.”
- “I give such great advice! Now let’s drink this old expired apple juice.”
- “I’m your Judy Greer, your Rosie O’Donnell, your…ooh! Your Joan Cusack!” That’s the right call. Donna Lynn Champlin was especially funny this episode.
- “Rebecca! They mayor doesn’t have all day! Well, maybe he does. He probably does. But he’s out here.”
- Tag watch: The raccoon tag is right up there with “I left my wife for a prostitute” and window-washers gossiping.