Sometimes a person spends weeks, months, years making a big decision. Such moments can come with effort—pro-con lists and many, many conversations—or gradually, one tiny decision of realization at a time. And then sometimes, those decisions just arrive without you realizing they were ever in process, and your only task is to accept it for what it is.
“You know you don’t have to be a lawyer. There are other fields.”
“I will keep that in mind as I go back to the only thing anyone has ever paid me or valued me for.”
That conversation between Rebecca and Dr. Akopian (the always excellent Michael Hyatt) establishes the theme of what’s one of the most cohesive Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episodes since the series started regularly giving characters that aren’t Rebecca their own, mostly Rebecca-free storylines*. There’s nothing that says the A, B, and sometimes C plots have to resonate with each other all the time. But “I’m On My Own Path,” written by Alden Derck and directed by Jude Weng, manages to link three very different storylines (and one asshole client, played by Nia Vardalos) by one important need, strength, and occasional danger: that of knowing what you want.
That’s how the series started, after all, something that makes this season’s continuing callbacks to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s earliest episodes all the more potent. Rebecca Bunch wasn’t happy, and before Josh Chan strolled down the street, her body was telling her exactly one thing: You don’t want this life, Rebecca. Would she have turned down that partnership and quit her job if Josh hadn’t made her feel like glitter was exploding inside her? Maybe not. But he did, and she quit, and what “I’m On My Own Path” makes clear is that the decision to walk out the door was not a bad one. When Rebecca Bunch, a bona fide master of lying to herself, can’t manage to get out the words “practicing the law is great,” you know things are bad. It takes that conversation with Dr. Akopian and some time behind a pretzel counter to make that clear. Well, that, and a few minutes of New Jim Swing.
“Don’t Be A Lawyer” is a giant goddamned earworm, performed with a perfect level of cynical weariness and some sick dance moves by Burl Moseley (courtesy of choreographer Kathryn M. Burns), who’s been waiting for his solo turn for a couple of years now. Both Moseley and the song’s writers (the usual trio of Rachel Bloom, Jack Dolgen, and Adam Schlesinger) undercut the “holy shit play that on the jukebox right now” feel of the song with a sense underlying darkness, a choice that seems even more fitting by episode’s end. Jim isn’t the model of what Rebecca should be doing. He is, in one small way, Rebecca in that pilot—he doesn’t know what he wants to be doing, or what would make him happy. He just knows it isn’t law.
So, of course, Jim grabs at the first thing that seems like it could be a good fix. That thing is pretzels. It doesn’t work, and then he’s back to law. Rebecca doesn’t want law either, but she does want pretzels. She kind of always has.
Rebecca’s is rightly the primary storyline here, and her final scene with Paula the best and most essential scene in the episode, but the Josh and Hector-Heather storylines also connect to that theme of knowing what you want, and in unexpected ways. Josh’s story seems like a a bit of a bummer—no one wants a lovable, self-absorbed, good-hearted dope, they just want the prom king or the hot karate guy—but it doesn’t ultimately matter that those dates don’t work out. Josh knows what he wants, and knowing that leads him to realize that he should just try being himself for a change, a realization that arrives right when he and Rebecca most need to hear it.
This isn’t Vincent Rodriguez’s funniest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, nor his most dramatic or technically impressive. But there’s something about his relaxed performance that makes it among my favorite hours in which Josh plays a major role. It’s a tone echoed by Bloom in the episode’s back half. Rebecca and Josh are both tired, a little sad, a little more grounded, a little more sure of what comes next, and the performers draw out all those layers and make their three brief scenes together endearing and believable—not a small feat, considering where Josh and Rebecca have been. Great work from both that pulls ever so slightly on the heartstrings.
But the big yanks on the ol’ cardiac system come courtesy of Hector and Heather, who OH MY GOD GET MARRIED!
Of the three stories, this one is the most familiar. We’ve seen one person give another person the wedding of their dreams before; we’ve seen impromptu last-minute weddings as celebrations of love many times. Who cares? It’s insanely well-executed, including a clever reversal of common gender tropes when it comes to marriage, a top-notch Father Brah appearance, some gorgeous and narratively important lighting, a really gnarly toe, and Valencia doing what she does best: Saying uncomfortable, harsh things out loud to the friends who need to hear them.
Knowing what you want is really important, but so is knowing when what you want is a lot less important than what someone else wants. Heather and Hector’s first wedding is adorable, but the second is really something else, because it’s an act of love on both sides. Hector wanted to celebrate his love for his new spouse with the people he loves most. Heather wanted to give Hector what he wants. Sacrificing your needs and desires for someone else can be toxic and scary, but it can, and often is, beautiful and essential, and Vella Lovell and Erick Lopez sell the holy shit out of all of that ardor and complexity and tenderness. That it manages to be both a matter of practicality and swooningly romantic is a testament to the writing, the direction, and to Lovell and Lopez, who make all the transitions and jokes rooted in character and utterly believable. It’s without a doubt Lopez’s best turn, with the possible exception of that amazing parking monologue, and Lovell is as good as she’s ever been.
That storyline has almost nothing to do with Rebecca, until she pops up at the end, to point the story and Nathaniel toward the next episode, and more importantly, to underline the theme and explain her reasons for revising the bible, all at once:
“I made some changes, because there’s always room for improvement.”
* The series has been doing this in earnest since season one’s “My First Thanksgiving With Josh!,” which included the first song that Rebecca was in no way present to sing or imagine. It’s happened more and more frequently as the supporting characters got more developed, with a big uptick when Darryl and White Josh started dating and another when Heather was forced to graduate.
- The underlying darkness of “Don’t Be A Lawyer” makes it almost work, but it feels really off to have a musical number on this show end with someone diving out a window to what one assumes is their death. It would have felt off before last season, but especially so now. That bothered me less the more I thought about the song and the arcs of Jim and Rebecca in the episode, but still. Jokes about suicide were present last season, but Rebecca was always sort of actively involved, so it felt like it was character-driven. Not so much here.
- “Don’t Be A Lawyer” sounds like a lot of New Jack Swing, but it sounded most like this one to me.
- Both the Uber-calling exits are fun, but the second one is extra delicious. She doesn’t even turn her phone over a little.
- Which is your favorite narc pun? I’m partial to “Narc by Narc Jacobs.”
- “I have more than one friend named Jim, you racist!”
- “What did you wear?” “Some white girl crap.” “That tracks.”
- “He got blinds just for that moment.” “He did great.”
- I’ll be honest, I feel weird giving the GGG Award to anyone for this episode. The GGG Award was originally the Hector Award, and Erick Lopez is so good here that to give it to anyone else feels wrong. But it’s been a long time since Hector was a sideline player, so let’s give it to the episode’s Narc Rylance: A.J., as played by Clark Moore.
- “Here’s what it looks like when an actor NAILS a take.”
- Melina Root’s costumes are always great, but two things of note here. First, Rebecca’s wedding/Rebetzel’s dress has a similarly breezy, sunny feel to the “A Diagnosis” dress, but it doesn’t feel remotely like a Rebecca “costume.” Second, did Josh’s giant sweatshirt remind anyone else of this?