Brow Beat

With the End in Sight, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Brings Back Two Old Favorites

Rachel Bloom and Rachel Grate face off in a casino wearing colorful pantsuits.
Rachel Bloom and Rachel Grate in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Greg Gayne/The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend loves a good reprise, even if it can’t settle on a pronunciation of the word. Re-prize? Re-preez? However you say it, here’s a quick taxonomy of the show’s musical callbacks: There’s the reprise that becomes a running joke, like various characters being interrupted while singing “Period Sex.” Then there’s the reprise that creates a kind of shorthand for a particular concept, like how all the versions of “Settle for Me” have made that melody synonymous with “second choice” even when we only hear the instrumental version.

And then there are those reprises that pack an emotional punch. All of the duets of “West Covina” after the original—Paula and Rebecca, Rebecca and Josh, Rebecca and Josh again— have reflected the state of the relationship between the pair singing rather than commenting on the city itself. Rebecca’s reprise of “Face Your Fears” took a silly song and made it about the character’s deepest insecurities, while just last week, Greg made peace with his hometown by singing an updated “What’ll It Be.” There’s perhaps no better example, though, than “Rebecca’s Reprise,” the medley that capped Season 2 by tying together all of the show’s major themes up to that point: love, romance, hope, delusions, and daddy issues.

As we near the end of the fourth and final season, it makes sense that the show is again feeling reflective and stepping up its reprise game. In Friday’s episode “I Need to Find My Frenemy,” there are not one but two spoken references to the lyrics of “Women Gotta Stick Together,” and a character even quotes the Season 2 theme song, right down to the “Blam!” But the episode’s most exciting callbacks are full-blown musical numbers that reimagine two of the show’s most memorable songs to show just how much has changed for Rebecca.

It was not so long ago that Rebecca was enjoying being the “sexy little baby” at the apex of a love triangle in the pun-derful “The Math of Love Triangles.” But with the re-introduction of Greg this season, Rebecca is now juggling not two but three romantic prospects, and, as her whiteboard demonstrates, they’re all equally viable options. Just long enough to recall the original without overindulging, “The Math of Love Quadrangles” is pretty much the platonic ideal of a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reprise, a fun bit of nostalgia that says what it needs to say and moves on.

What it needs to say is simply this: Rebecca has grown. Even though Crazy Ex-Girlfriend keeps repeating the same plotlines (“Joke’s on you bitch, you’ll never be free”) its protagonist is more self-aware and mindful than she was two seasons ago. This time around, Rebecca’s hair is uncoiffed, her bra strap is showing, and she can’t even bother to put on her fake Marilyn Monroe voice in her own fantasy musical number. Instead of a dozen anonymous extras, she’s surrounded by the actual men who love her, who she finally sees as real people with feelings rather than blank slates onto which she can project her romantic desires. Having more than one love interest isn’t intriguing, it’s exhausting, and she just wants it to be over. Soon, it will be!

Rebecca’s longtime rival, Audra Levine (Rachel Grate), is also showing growth by finally admitting she has always secretly admired Rebecca for moving to West Covina—so much so that she’s ready abandon her family to move across the country and shack up with some random guy, too. Rebecca and friends go to Las Vegas to save Audra from herself, which leads to a reprise of “JAP Battle,” the Season 1 showdown between the “two hard-as-nails shebrews from Scarsdale.”

Sadly, neither the flow nor the wordplay of this kinder version quite lives up to the original (“trippin’ like birthright” “egged on like Seder plates”) though Grate did pull this off:

Well, you’ve got a free spirit

Which I see and commend, so

Like 2 Chainz without the NZ at the end

I wish you double chai

For following the tug

Of the heart behind your 36 triple-D jugs

It makes sense that Audra and Rebecca’s closure still involved competition. On Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, people grow, but they don’t really change.

There are two very brief reprises of the episode’s other song, “Slow Motion,” that aren’t included here, one as Paula wins the poker game and another when the women walk out in their new fancy suits. “Slow Motion” may not be as emotionally resonant as the other two songs in the episode, but it certain belongs in the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pantheon of meta musical numbers, right next to “Who’s the New Guy?,” “Gratuitous Karaoke Moment,” and “Real Life Fighting Is Awkward.”

Best song of the week: “The Math of Love Quadrangles.”