Not many television shows take as risks as frequently as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In its relatively brief time on the air, it’s made a habit of blowing things up just when you get comfortable, and it works nearly every damn time. This is a show that managed to make a Dr. Phil cameo genuinely affecting, for crying out loud. With “Josh is the Man of My Dreams, Right?” they continue to zig just when you think they’ll zag, but this time it doesn’t work quite as well.
If the show was nothing but twists and surprises, it probably wouldn’t work, but of course it isn’t. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend couples all that unpredictability with smarts, great music, the occasional moment of genuine and unforced sentiment, and filthy, filthy jokes. On all those notes, this week’s episode does better, including a simple but affecting song that’s among the show’s best. Still, there’s no denying that it’s an hour with more than a few bumps, including a central gag that really only works in its final moments and a primary storyline that simply doesn’t land.
About that gag: this week, the Santa Ana winds blow through the San Gabes Vals, causing health problems and making everyone act just a little bit odd. It’s fine as a premise for an episode, and the choice to personify those winds in the form of a Frankie Valli-esque narrating singer fits naturally alongside the Dream Ghosts and Dr. Phil and polter-guys the show’s been dealing out. His song, too, is a solid send-up of the genre, complete with slant rhyme and retro choreography. Actor Eric Michael Roy, himself a former Jersey Boy, handles it admirably, but roundabout the third time we get too “whee” and “weird,” it starts to get a bit old. Three-quarters of an episode later, he’s still there, and while his last moments work best (particularly the return of “You Stupid Bitch”), it’s still the rare Crazy Ex-Girlfriend bit that overstays its welcome.
If there’s too much of Mr. Wind, there’s too little to the story which he drives. The last moment of “When Do I Get to Spend Time With Josh?” made it clear that some kind of Rebecca/Nathaniel shenanigans were inevitable, which is perhaps why there’s so little suspense involved. The self-referential winks the show makes come into play here as well, since Paula pretty much makes it clear that Rebecca and Nathaniel will end up stuck in a small, confined space in no time (“It’s happened to Reese Witherspoon like eight times.”) All the business leading up to the elevator is entertaining enough, but it doesn’t feel as cohesive as the show’s primary storylines often do. Once they’re trapped, however, things get really interesting.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend takes its trope and, as it so often does, drives it in a new direction. What happens in the future is anyone’s guess, but here episode writer Elisabeth Kiernan Averick dodges past romance and keeps things firmly in the realm of sex. On a lesser show, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster) would start to fall in love here, but as Nathaniel’s incredibly clever negging sex ballad (and Ed Sheeran parody) makes clear, this is about chemistry on a more basic level. Sure, there’s some bonding, but this is far from a standard Greg replacement. This is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pivoting to the next “obstacle” to Rebecca’s happiness. Now that she has what she wants, she still wants more. Somewhere, Dr. Akopian is still exhausted.
The episode’s B storyline has more momentum, not to mention a song that somehow upstages that ridiculous Sheeran number. All Darryl’s insistence that Paula’s his best friend finally pays dividends with a solid sub-plot that results in both an oil painting and the reunion of Scott and Paula. Pete Gardner gets what might be his best song yet, a simple little ditty that will likely ring true for many (as it did for this writer) and gets Gardner and Donna Lynne Champlin to do a little rolling chair dance that’s almost impossibly adorable. Just when you think something’s simply a running gag, this show manages to turn it into something more significant—in this case, an honest, slightly painful, but mostly beautiful summation of an uneven friendship.
While the most affecting moment of the episode is the aforementioned Darryl/Paula chair dance, Paula’s reunion with Scott also hits home. The show ties Rebecca’s insistence that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her speedy marriage (not true) to Paula’s feeling that to take Scott back after cheating would show weakness. Transitioning from Rebecca’s delusion to Paula’s decision to save her marriage is the kind of tidy, unexpected parallel this show does so well, and Scott’s insistence that he’d stick his hand in an unflushed toilet is perfectly, oddly sweet (and thus completely on-brand for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).
Is this a standout episode of a terrific series? Maybe not. But even when Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t quite in peak form, it‘s still one of the best things on television.
- The choreography (by Kathryn Burns) is always great on this show, but that dance number was something to behold. Pretty, funny, weird.
- Glen Garry-Gene Gus Award: well, George, clearly.
- “I loved Miss Patty and her squishy tummy.”
- “Can pride pick a little piece of croissant out of your moustache?”
- “Need I remind you that I am engahged, and now I am outrahged.”
- “When people say they’re Ravenclaw, they really think they’re Gryffindor but they don’t want to seem to braggy.”
- “Those are beauts!”
- Best tag of the season?