Brow Beat

This Cabaret-style Torch Song Proves That There Are No Small Parts on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Michael Hyatt as Dr. Noelle Akopian stands on a dark stage with a microphone in front of her and a flower in her hair
In “This Session Is Going to Be Different,” a therapist can only dream.
The CW/Still via Youtube

Can you believe it’s been eight whole months since the last episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?! OK, fine, technically it’s only been one week since we last looked in on Rebecca Bunch and friends, but the latest episode of the show did surprise us with a sudden and significant eight-month time jump. During that flash-forward, Valencia got a girlfriend, Paula scored her buddy Sunil a job at the law firm , and Heather progressed eight-ninths of the way through her pregnancy, so it certainly feels like eight months have passed.

Before any of that, though, the episode kicked things off with a pre–time jump song from West Covina’s most put-upon therapist, Dr. Noelle Akopian, played by Michael Hyatt. Dr. Akopian has seen Rebecca through bad breakups, run-ins with the law, and a suicide attempt, but she’s been largely unable to break through to her patient. This time, though, against all odds, the psychiatrist is hopeful that Rebecca is finally going to dig into her issues, and she opens the episode on that note.

The most obvious inspiration for “This Session Is Going to Be Different” is “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret. This isn’t the first time Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has taken a genre about romance—in this case, the torch song about rekindling a doomed love affair—and applied it to an entirely different kind of relationship; while it’s odd to think of a therapist-patient dynamic as unrequited, the word definitely does apply. Despite several false starts, something always pulls Rebecca’s attention away from unpacking her problems or learning to cope with them. Still, ever the optimist, Dr. Akopian is certain that Rebecca, fresh off her Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, is now ready to make a change:

This session

Is gonna be different

It’s gonna be so different

I know

This patient

Won’t be indifferent

This time around

She’ll want to grow

This is, strictly speaking, the first song we’ve heard from Dr. Akopian, though it’s not the first from Michael Hyatt. That honor belongs to Season 1’s “Dream Ghost,” which was more about a particular trope found in movies and television than about the real therapist herself. Both songs are good reminders that even the most minor characters on this show are still phenomenal singers. (Speaking of which, how long do we have to wait before we get to hear Parvesh Cheena’s musical theater geek Sunil belt one out?)

I particularly love how this song doesn’t mince words about Rebecca’s arsonist past (“I’ve been burned/ So many times/ By the girl who’s committed/ So many burn crimes”) or her role as Dr. Akopian’s cash cow (“Yet I never/ Lost hope or endurance/ Thank God I don’t accept/ health insurance”) while still making it clear that Dr. Akopian genuinely wants to help her. It’s nice to hear directly from Rebecca’s therapist for a change, including all the frustration and compassion that that entails—and that we as the audience share. It’s like if Dr. Melfi from The Sopranos were to randomly break out in song.

Dr. Akopian was also the impetus for our second musical number this week, which came at the very end of the episode, bookending eight months of action with another solo that offered a glimpse into a character’s emotional state. This one was a very brief but still devastating reprise of “Face Your Fears” from Season 1, with Rebecca contemplating Dr. Akopian’s suggestion that she deserves to have love in her life, in this case, by accepting Nathaniel’s offer for a relationship.

This was the best kind of reprise, taking a sillier, more lighthearted song from one of the show’s earlier seasons and bringing it back later to give it real emotional resonance. “Face Your Fears” is a particularly interesting choice for this moment because it breaks down Rebecca’s thinking pretty neatly. In the original, gospel-style “Face Your Fears,” Paul urges Rebecca to be brave, ironically by using examples of things that you really should be afraid of, like bears or running with scissors, because being afraid of those things can keep you safe. Now, Rebecca’s reprise of the song shows that her fear of love is a defense mechanism.

Rachel Bloom’s quiver on that last “my” is nothing short of heartbreaking.

Best Song of the Week: “Face Your Fears” was exactly as a long as it needed to be, which is to say, very short, so “This Session Is Going to Be Different” wins the day. However, I do hope that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continues its recent reprise streak through the end of the season. I really wouldn’t mind hearing Valencia on “Gettin’ Bi” or Darryl getting “So Paternal” or Rebecca giving Nathaniel a taste of “It Was a Shit Show.” We’ll have to wait another eight months—I mean, a week—to find out.