Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show built on a contradiction. On one hand, it’s a familiar romantic comedy—a musical romantic comedy, no less—about a woman who gives up everything to be with the man she loves. On the other, the show is constantly undermining that premise, questioning rom-com tropes we take for granted and really honing in on the “crazy” in its title, especially this season as we delve deeper into Rebecca’s mental illness. That cognitive dissonance has never been more on display than in Friday night’s episode, “I Never Want to See Josh Again,” which cuts back and forth between Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), who is in an incredibly dark place, and the co-workers she left behind in West Covina, who cope with her absence with their usual sitcom-y antics.
Let’s start with Rebecca, who, fresh off a series of the most self-destructive decisions she’s ever made, has given up on California and fled to be with her overbearing, hypercritical mother Naomi (Tovah Feldshuh) in New York. Despite her depression, Rebecca is pleasantly surprised to find that her mom has suddenly become uncharacteristically nurturing, whipping up bottomless strawberry milkshakes and offering to play Twister. Rebecca processes this apparent personality change in “Maybe She’s Not Such a Heinous Bitch After All,” a Ronettes-inspired song that perfectly encapsulates Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a whole: On the surface, it may seem cheerful and zany, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s actually quite dark.
From the verses (“I don’t want to bash her head in with this cup/ It may sound harsh/ But that’s a huge step up!”) to the triumphant refrain, which Bloom sings with a manic smile, Rebecca celebrates achieving her dream of having, if not a good relationship with her mother, then at least a slightly less dysfunctional one. It’s the chipper backup dancers that really sell it, though, chirping rhymes like “Sit beside her/ So weird you lived inside her” and “Since you were born/ She’s never made you popcorn!” Even the Freudian bridge of the song, in which Rebecca lays out the connection between her mother and her romantic relationships, manages to be both funny and just a little bit disturbing.
Of course, the song is based on a lie, though Rebecca doesn’t know that. Naomi hasn’t actually had a change of heart, she’s just desperately worried that Rebecca, who has a history of suicidal thoughts, is going to try to kill herself again. In a misguided attempt at helping, she’s been lacing the milkshakes with medication—a betrayal that sends Rebecca over the edge when she finds out.
There’s a significant tonal disconnect between what’s going on in Rebecca’s life and the episode’s more lighthearted B story, in which Rebecca’s Whitefeather colleagues meet her replacement, Cornelia Wigfield (Bayne Gibby). Poor Cornelia just wants to do her job and eat her lunch burrito in peace, but her new co-workers keep clamoring for her to fill all the voids Rebecca left behind: confidant, mentor, love interest, etc. All except Nathaniel, that is, who is in deep denial about the fact that he misses Rebecca.
Even a character this grounded in reality has to step away from the drama to sing through her feelings. In “I Feel Like This Isn’t about Me,” Cornelia acknowledges that while the others are technically fighting over her, it has nothing to do with her as a person, and lets herself get distracted instead by thoughts of churrasco. (Don’t we all, fellow carnivores?)
While the show didn’t really need the elaborate setup of the faux-Brazilian swim-up bar just to justify having a bossa nova song, “I Feel Like This Isn’t About Me” is still cute, especially when the bartender joins in. It’s also a good reminder that while Rebecca is the center of our world, not everybody is caught up in “Bunchsanity.”
Best Song of the Week: “Maybe She’s Not Such a Heinous Bitch After All.” Just don’t sing it around your mom.
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