Brow Beat

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Embraces Hate, Rejects the Darkness, and Is Definitely Not Sad

Greg, played by Skylar Astin, singing on top of a table to Rebecca, played by Rachel Bloom, in a scene from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Skylar Astin and Rachel Bloom in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Erica Parise/The CW

The more things change … well, you know. Rebecca’s recovery has been going swimmingly on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend over the past few weeks, as she’s made amends with the people she’s hurt, finally set boundaries with her mother, gotten to know her genetic offspring, and chosen a different career that she actually enjoys. She’s even accepted that she deserves real love instead of romantic fantasies and rekindled her relationship with newly sober Greg. That’s all to say, it was well past time for Rebecca to do some backsliding—literally, with a visit to the water park of her dreams, Raging Waters. (“It’s her Paris!”) This episode, “I Need a Break,” is all about how people can change, how they sometimes don’t, and how resisting change could kill them, which takes the characters to some grim places, musically speaking.

Let’s start with Greg, who is still being played by Skylar Astin, replacing Santino Fontana from the first two seasons. Look, I understand the concept behind casting Astin as a commentary on how our perceptions of people alter over time etc., etc., which is such a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend way to explain recasting a major character this late in the game. But the show keeps trying to have it both ways. Our perceptions of Rebecca’s other love interests have also drastically changed recently: Nathaniel is nice now, and Josh is more perceptive and emotionally mature than ever (and kind of barely a character on this show anymore). By Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s own logic, they should be totally different people to Rebecca, so why is Greg the only one who gets a new face?

Though he made his debut with a duet about getting reacquainted, this episode marks New Greg’s first big solo, “I Hate Everything but You.” The writers are trying to convince us that while Greg may seem like a completely different person—I mean, he is literally a completely different person—he is still cranky ol’ Greg under that baby face.

Here is the list of all the things Greg hates, according to the song:

• the smell of the water
• kids screaming with joy
• laughing and having so much fun
• everything (but you)
• the feeling of the sun when it hits his skin
• bands that have a guy on mandolin
• when people post pictures with the hashtag #mood
• when people call blueberries a superfood
• when someone says, “Ooh, it’s a magic hour”
• when people actually stop and smell a flower
• white women who call their engagement rings “bling”
• guys who read magazines devoted to golf
• Frisbee golf
• when people call Frisbee golf “frolf”
• when people ask him if he’d ever get a tattoo
• combination conditioner and shampoo
• doing the wave at a baseball game
• couples with a cutesy couple name
• when someone says a joke and someone else says “zing”
• when people say, “Gotta jet”
• when people say they’re going “off the grid”
• when someone calls their baseball cap their “lid”
• models who just happen to date quarterbacks
• grown men who always quote Caddyshack
the phrase “love conquers all”
• that the phrase “love conquers all” is true
• guys who name their cars

Here is the list of things I hate about “I Hate Everything but You”:

• That the writers set Greg’s list of grievances to Bruce Springsteen. Why on earth would you choose The Boss over Billy Joel, the king of songs that are actually just lists of things set to music? Billy Joel would also give New Greg a stronger musical link back to Original Greg, who did his own take on “Piano Man” back in Season 1, though I appreciate the oh-hey-I’ve-never-played-this-instrument-before callback.
• That Skylar Astin, though he does a mean Springsteen impression, lacks the undercurrent of anger and jaded self-loathing that Santino Fontana brought to the role. That’s all well and good for the character’s mental health, but unfortunately it’s exactly that combination that’s needed to sell this song. If Greg is a different person, let him be a different person! It wasn’t so long ago that we watched New Greg willingly go to the gym and make a new friend. Don’t try to tell me this guy is the same one who sang “I Could if I Wanted To.”
• That Rebecca zips past the subtext of the song, which is that Greg is saying “Oh, my God, I think I like you.” It doesn’t help that he ends on guys who name their cars instead.
• That I laughed at “even more examples.”

Let’s leave hate behind and turn to sadness—or not-sadness, as the case may be. Rebecca, who has not been managing her borderline personality disorder lately, lashes out at Greg for not liking the water park, at Dr. Akopian for recommending medication, and at the world for suggesting she’s anything less than perfectly happy.

“I’m Not Sad, You’re Sad” marks the return of Rebecca’s terrible British accent in an homage to English MCs like M.I.A., Lady Sovereign, maybe even a touch of Honey G. A little breezier and “I’m Not Sad” would make a solid Lily Allen song too, but Rebecca is full-on shouting her way through a manic episode, starting a literal dumpster fire, shoplifting, and trying to snort ibuprofen.

BIG NIGHT OUT, NEVER FELT MORE ALIVE-ER

WE GET CUT OFF BY A STUDENT DRIVER

I TELL THE UBER GUY “RACE THAT BITCH”

AS I RANT ABOUT LILO AND STITCH

“THAT MOVIE IS CINEMATIC ART”

OOH, PULL OVER, IT’S A TACO CART!

“I’m Not Sad” takes the formula of “Friendtopia,” a girl-power anthem from the U.K. colored by a seemingly random Disney reference, and makes it much, uh, less happy. With Heather married, Valencia living in New York, and Paula having a medical crisis, Rebecca is squadless—ohanaless, you might say—and since she won’t take advantage of her existing support systems, she spirals, revisiting not one but two of her exes.

Make that three of her exes. Congratulations to The Darkness for making it out of the friend zone in this nonplatonic “Sound of Silence.”

The song begins as fake-out love ballad about the most toxic man Rebecca always returns to and winds up a torch song for her most self-destructive tendencies. “The Darkness/ His love for me is pure/ The Darkness/ He’s handsome for a metaphor/ And his name is … Tyler/ Yeah, that feels right.” Tyler, as the embodiment of Rebecca’s self-hatred and mental illness, has many of the hallmarks of a bad ex-boyfriend, including giving her the pet name “slut.” Sounds familiar.

Best song of the week: “The Darkness” is the most overtly Crazy Ex of the bunch, but “I Hate Everything but You” was actually the most complex song in the episode. We’ll call it a tie.