It’s rare that a show can fire on all cylinders, all the time. The bad news is that with “Josh and I Are Good People!,” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend didn’t. The good news is that, even when it’s not perfect, it’s still one of the funniest and most original things on TV. I don’t want to settle for a good episode of a show that has the potential to be great, but good is still good. And it was, as was star Rachel Bloom. Rebecca, however, is really, really not good.
As with a one or two other episodes this season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend spends much of ”Josh and I Are Good People!” skimming surface, finding the dark—sometimes very dark—humor without really getting into what makes it that way. That’s OK. There hasn’t been a single hour I haven’t really enjoyed. But what last week’s episode did was take it a step further, giving all of that wonderful ugly stuff an extra dose of honestly that made the jokes funnier, the hurts more real, and the stakes much, much higher. And that happens here, too—just not throughout.
Interestingly, until the closing scenes, most of the honest stuff comes from the supporting cast. Santino Fontana turns in his second terrific performance in a row with his few scenes this week, dealing out dose after dose of loathing that’s thick enough to peel paint—and it’s not all aimed at Rebecca. It’s nice to see the show hold Josh accountable for the weird things in their relationship as well, and better still to see him dealing with it, as opposed to pretending that everything’s cool. But most of Greg’s rage is pointed right at Rebecca, and rightfully so. Fontana has solid timing (and great eyebrow-waggling capabilities), so the scenes are all funny, but they’re all packed with a genuine, righteous anger, and it’s that intensity that helps Bloom maintain the manic pace this episode requires.
On the other side of the emotional spectrum sits Pete Gardner’s Darryl Whitefeather, who gets his first song—and it’s a doozy. “I Love My Daughter” isn’t the funniest song Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has released. It isn’t even the funniest song in this episode (we’ll get to that one). What it does have is an unabashed earnestness that really does make it all kind of touching. He really does love his daughter, and it’s not in a creepy way. Gardner sells every second of it (although the footage of galloping horses also helps a lot) and the whole sequence expertly walks the very fine line between total honesty and shameless gag.
The highlight, however, is Rebecca’s frenetic performance of “I’m a Good Person.” (The only sound that gets uttered more than the word ‘good’ in this episode is the obnoxious ‘bup-bup-bup-bup’ sound that terrible people make when they want you to stop talking.) As always, Bloom is solid throughout the episode, but it’s with this number that she really lets loose. It’s clear at this point that the musical numbers live in Rebeca’s head somewhere, and both the performance and the writing of this one in particular reveal that at least a part of her knows how terrible she’s being, even as she protests otherwise. Yes, it’s very funny—the sight of her forcing a whole bar to dance with her by thrusting a knife in the air is pretty priceless—but it also dives headfirst into the pool of self-loathing and fear that powers her actions throughout. It’s tough to write a song that reveals that sort of deeper thought and feeling, much less one that’s funny. “I’m a Good Person” is both.
While those three stood out, this is a solid entry, and the whole cast does good work—Paula gets to bring every office worker’s fantasy to life as she tears into her coworkers, but she also gets a chance to (sort of) do the right thing by an obnoxious guy. Josh works some stuff out with Father Brah (Rene Gube), and while Vincent Rodriguez isn’t the strongest cast member, he holds his own. Even Mrs. Hernandez (Gina Gallego) gets a big moment, thanks to a subtitled, silent reprise. Still, it’s all good, but not great, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can do better.
If there’s one area where “Josh and I Are Good People!” could use some marked improvement, it’s in the writing. Michael Hitchcock’s script hits some unexpected jokes (the aforementioned constant bup-bup-bupping; that reaction shot of Iggy Isnailya) as well as some more predictable ones (Canada! Hockey! Aboot!), and for the most part, it all works. It’s just when people start explaining the things we already know that it gets rough. We know that Rebecca wants to hear Greg say she’s a good person because she can’t believe it of herself, but she still tells us, more than once. We know Paula isn’t turning Terrible Tim over to the Federales because he’s got in a family, because she tells us twice. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is too smart to need that kind of stuff. More trust in the performers—and the audience—could go a long way.
Who knows. Maybe it’s just the tiny instrumental reprise of “Settle for Me” that played in Greg and Rebecca’s last scene together. It’s not fun to be hard on something you love (and don’t mistake me, I do love it). But after the high, high highs of last week’s episode, I don’t want to settle for a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that’s any less than what it could be.
- Best joke in the episode: the boba tea sounds.
- “Interfaith league. Playing the Chosen Ones today. Cantor Goldstein’s got this killer move he calls the Torah, ‘cause, like, you can’t touch it.”
- “And then you saw a sexy girl at the mall, and you wanted her to watch you have sex with two sexy mannequins.” Seriously, Rene Gube was great as Father Brah.
- Hey-it’s-that-guy watch: Oddly enough, the biggest hey-it’s-that-guy in this episode is the writer, Michael Hitchcock. He’s been in all kinds of things, but my favorite is Best in Show (and the rest of his appearances in Christopher Guest-land). Also Michael McMillian (True Blood) and Stephanie Weir (MADtv). Whitefeather & Associates was packed with comedy pros this week.
- I would totally subscribe to Madison’s channel. So many snail puns!
- “Are you still crowdfunding for Long John Slither’s fang cancer?”
- It’s a little thing, but I loved Bloom’s pronunciation of “on fleek.” It sounded more like “en fleek,” as in “en pointe” or en something-else-French.
- Father-daughter dances are legitimately creepy. (So is Motherboy.)
- “Let’s do it! Let’s do it! It’s safe! I’m on the ring!”
- As always, I would include every great joke if I could, but there’s just no room. Hit me with your favorite snail puns and Doctors Without Borders references below.