Brow Beat

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Goes Out on a High Note With a Romantic Duet About Never Taking Responsibility for Anything

Scott Michael Foster as Nathaniel and Rachel Bloom as Rebecca hold hands in an interrogation room
How many other shows could pull off a love song with the line “It wasn’t technically Hitler’s fault”?
Patrick Wymore/The CW

No matter what you thought of the many zany plot developments in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s third season—and at times the show did go, well, off the rails, to borrow a phrase from the Season 3 theme song—musically it was a rich, flawed, thoroughly entertaining ride. Just as our protagonist, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), regressed to old behaviors despite longing to break out of her patterns, Season 3 was packed with callbacks and in-jokes, perhaps out of a fear that the show won’t be renewed for Season 4. That self-mythologizing extended to its musical numbers, which included a number of reprises, like “He’s the New Guy,” but also echoes from seasons past, like “Horny Angry Tango,” a spiritual successor to “Let’s Have Intercourse.”

The Season 3 finale was no exception, with several songs from prior seasons finding their way into the episode, either in orchestral cues or by characters quoting song titles to each other.

“It is not a group hang, I’m just having a few people over.”
“I’m one scary, scary, sexy man.”
“After everything she did for you that you didn’t ask for? That stupid bitch!”

We also hear strains of “Settle for Me” as Nathaniel looks over at Mona, his most obvious opportunity for a loving, healthy relationship, and the episode’s end credits, which follow a devastatingly self-aware (if ill-timed) monologue from Rebecca, hit us with an instrumental version of “I’m a Good Person.” And all that’s not even counting the actual musical numbers in this episode, which were not only among the strongest of the season but also relied on our histories with these characters to land as well as they do.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s surrogacy plot has probably been its most controversial and cliché of the season, but at least we got two good songs out of it: The exuberant “My Sperm Is Healthy” marked the beginning of the process, and “The Miracle of Birth” is the storyline’s natural conclusion. It’s a folk song peppered with clichés about childbirth (“It’s what your body’s made for!”) in between blunt, graphic descriptions of the birth itself, all delivered by a gleeful Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), surrounded by dancing cherubs.

“The Miracle of Birth” feels like the culmination of every Paula song to date, in the same spirit as “Maybe This Dream” and “First Penis I Saw,” with the loveliness of Champlin’s voice contrasting nicely with her subject matter’s ickiness. Want to reduce teen pregnancy? Play “The Miracle of Birth” in sex ed. classes.

Well, your cervix has been closed and plugged with mucus

But soon, that viscous plug will be discharged (It’s called the bloody show!)

And explosive diarrhea

Means that labor’s drawing nearer

And those sharp, painful contractions

’Cause your cervix to enlarge

I actually prefer “The Miracle of Birth” to either of those other Paula songs, however, and not just because Champlin looks a like a fertility goddess/Beyoncé sitting up there on her flower throne. Motherhood has been a major theme throughout Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and this season in particular has been preoccupied with characters’ relationships with their mothers. Paula has been, at best, an indifferent mother to her own kids throughout the show, instead playing that role for Rebecca—remember her slip up in Season 1? “I created you, you lived in my womb, I mean, figuratively.”

So when Paula asks “Was it really worth all that for the miracle of birth?” it feels like she’s talking about much more than just the act of biological childbirth. Sure enough, this episode is when Paula finally withdraws her unconditional support of Rebecca and her bad behavior, turning a musical gag about the horrors of having children into an emotionally resonant nugget of foreshadowing.

You know who really will be there for Rebecca, regardless of what she she’s done? Nathaniel (Scott Michael Foster), who ends the episode by declaring his love for Rebecca while also explaining away the terrible things she’s done to him and with him. It’s a romantic duet that can best be summed up by Rebecca herself: “The first part was kind of amoral, but that last part was really sweet.”

Bloom and showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna told Vulture that “Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault” was inspired by “All the Wasted Time” from Parade, but the other musical theater duet that comes to mind is Wicked’s “For Good,” in which Elphaba and Glinda sing about how their lives have changed because they’ve known each other. Nathaniel, like most of the residents of West Covina, is a different person for having met Rebecca—but he’s taken the lessons he has learned and the self-awareness he has gained from knowing her and drawn all the wrong conclusions:

Because nothing is ever anyone’s fault

We’re all just products of childhood trauma

Nothing is ever anyone’s fault

Pain causes anger and fear causes drama

We can’t control

The things we do

Just like I can’t control

That I’m in love with you

There are so many blisteringly funny lines in here—how many shows could pull of a love song that includes the lyric “It wasn’t technically Hitler’s fault”?—but it’s also kind of weirdly touching watching these two very damaged people shirk responsibility for the terrible things they’ve done by passing the buck all the way up to the Big Bang. Nathaniel and Rebecca could just as easily be stand-ins for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s own audience, who have grown to sympathize with these characters even as they continue to self-destruct and hurt the people around them: “It’s hard to paint people with evil or glory/ When you know that everyone’s/ Got a tragic backstory.” While Rebecca has a change of heart by the end of the episode, it’s the perfect song to wrap up a season in which psychology frequently was an excuse, if not always a great one.

In lieu of choosing the best song of the week—they’re both solid, anyway—here are my favorite songs from the season as a whole, along with some others that didn’t quite make the Top 5 but are still worth another listen. Some of these were obvious standouts when they first aired, while others have grown on me upon revisiting them after the finale. Hit me up on Twitter and let me know which songs from Season 3 I left out that you think deserved a spot on the list.

1. “The End of the Movie
2. “A Diagnosis
3. “Let’s Generalize About Men
4. “Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault”
5. “Strip Away My Conscience

Honorable mentions:I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds,” “The Moment Is Me,” “Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too,” “Buttload/Fuckton of Cats,” “The Miracle of Birth”