Brow Beat

Spinsterhood Is So Much Better With a Chorus of Cat Puppets in This Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Bop

Rachel Bloom stands in front of a wall of kennels full of cartoonish cat puppets
Cat puppets seem like a sensible alternative for Lonely Hearts with allergies. Greg Gayne/The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, meet Crazy Ex-Boyfriend. This week’s episode “Trent?!” brings back Paul Welsh as Rebecca’s very own crazy ex, who was last seen trying to ruin her wedding at the end of Season 2. His return to Rebecca’s life may be unwanted, but Trent’s presence on the show is always very welcome, and not just because Welsh is just so delightfully creepy in the role. Bringing Trent back to West Covina is exactly the jolt this season needs and it ties up a lose plot thread in the process—where did he go after his scheme to sabotage Rebecca and Josh’s nuptials went more or less according to plan?

Let’s start at the beginning, though. Before Trent’s arrival, we find Rebecca hanging out with her girl group and doing what she always does: taking every decision to its extreme. In this case, Rebecca decides that after breaking up with Nathaniel, she’s going to fully commit to spinsterhood. This leads us to our first song of the episode, “Buttload of Cats,” which will surely become an ironic anthem for “crazy” cat ladies everywhere.

What’s not to like about this song? It is thoroughly ridiculous in the best way, from Kathryn Burns’ jaunty choreography to the cat puppets to the cute little romantic subplot between the cat ladies in the Lonely Lady Cat Store. Rachel Bloom has cited Fiona Apple and Randy Newman as inspirations for “Buttload of Cats,” which both plays with and challenges stereotypes about cats and loneliness, in this case by letting them speak for themselves:

Why have cats, over time, become

Synonymous with loneliness?

We gotta work on our collective image

We need a new publicist.

The ironic part is we’re not that friendly

If you’re lonely, we might make it worse.

Also, we sleep like sixteen hours a day

Have you considered getting a dog?

Nope! Rebecca wants a buttload of cats, even if their poop can make you crazy. “Yes, we saw that article in the Atlantic,” the chorus of cats confirms, adding, “And then we peed on the Atlantic.” (That article really exists, in case you were wondering.) Bloom also released an explicit version of the song on her YouTube channel with the more profane title “Fuckton of Cats,” but that’s really the only substantial difference between the two versions, at least until the ending, in which Rebecca strangles one of the cats. Personally, I prefer lonely lesbian cat ladies walking off hand in hand, but hey, if “Rachel Bloom strangles a puppet” sounds like your jam, go for it.

Just as Rebecca has settled on being single forever, with or without a buttload of cats , Trent arrives on the scene, and he stars in his own, gender-flipped version of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Season 2 opening sequence, “I’m Just a Girl in Love.”

First of all, this song made me incredibly nostalgic for Rachel Bloom’s original version, which was hands down the best opening sequence Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has had in its three seasons. Paul Welsh’s iteration is unexpected and entertaining, too, but I guess Trent’s imagination has a lower budget than Rebecca’s, since he only has two backup singers/dancers. Otherwise, the song is more or less the same as the original number, with a few minor tweaks to the lyrics—“He’s a male ingénue!”—and an ending that sees Trent bursting through a picture of Rebecca, much like Rebecca used to burst through one of Josh.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s writers have long used Trent as a kind of mirror for Rebecca: They both harbor obsessive, unrequited crushes; they’re both manipulative about getting what they want; and they even sing some of the same songs. (Never forget “The Trent Is Getting Ready Song.”) Of course, there’s one fundamental difference: Trent is not the show’s protagonist. We’re not rooting for him—at least, not the way we’ve rooted for Rebecca, even during her most cringe-inducing and morally bankrupt moments—and the way he keeps coming back is an uncomfortable reminder that these characters are very similar even as we interpret their behavior differently, as “He’s Just a Boy in Love” emphasizes.

Right away we see the similarities between Trent and Rebecca in action. Trent announces that he will blackmail Rebecca into being his girlfriend again, using information so sensitive that Rebecca decides that the only way Trent will leave her alone is if she blackmails him right back. There’s just one problem: Rebecca can’t dig up dirt on Trent without the help of her partner in crime Paula, who is studying to become a lawyer and has sworn off doing anything illegal.

Rebecca gets desperate, and a desperate Rebecca is a manipulative Rebecca, so she lies to Paula, telling her that Trent is actually blackmailing them both, jeopardizing Paula’s career. This leads us to what is quite possibly the most pathetic buddy cop sequence of all time, “Back in Action.”

“We’re both super into this/ That much is clear,” sings Rebecca, in denial about Paula’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. “We’re on the same page/ We’ve got nothing to fear.” Well, almost nothing, since “Back in Action” doubles as a PSA against running in heels. It’s a high-energy goof on police procedurals of the 80s and 90s, even though, as Rebecca makes clear, they’re definitely not cops.

Best Song of the Week: “Buttload of Cats.” It has that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend knack for making fun of something and showing a genuine appreciation for it at the same time, and Rachel Bloom playing a cat scratching board like an instrument was LOL-worthy. It’ll be hard to top it for the season finale.