Photo by Robert Voets/The CW
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.04 “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend is Crazy”
It’s been years since I’ve seen Swimfan. But now I want to watch it again.
Friday night’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was years in the making. Seriously, creators Rachel Bloom (who, of course, also plays our leading lady Rebecca Bunch) and Aline Brosh McKenna admitted that they had been looking forward to writing this episode for years. I’d heard only complimentary things about it before it aired, so it had pretty high expectations to meet. And it met them.
We start right where we left off, with Paula, Heather, Darryl, and Velncia confronting Rebecca in “a convention” (not an intervention) as she was trying to run off with Nathaniel. While they appear to only want to help Rebecca and suggest getting her help, Rebecca responds exceptionally badly to their efforts. She immediately turns against each of them, drawing on their worst insecurities to insult them. It was an extremely painful scene to watch. We know how much each of these individuals mean to Rebecca — especially Paula — and you could even see how much it hurt her to say them as brief expressions of remorse and pain would pass over her face after each vitriolic comment. But her insults were even more upsetting for everyone in the room — and for viewers.
I was happy to see that her actions didn’t change her friends’ feelings toward her. Sure, Valencia was pissed and ready to “yank her pony,” but she was still out searching for her afterward. Even Nathaniel was staying at her house, waiting for her, and calling the police after discovering the truth. Despite his claims of knowing her best after sleeping with her twice (which shows how few real relationships Nathaniel has had in his life, friends or otherwise), I had thought Nathaniel was the most likely person to ditch Rebecca after finding out the truth, but by the end of the episode, he was still in her room, cuddling her crocodile, waiting.
Unfortunately, Rebecca doesn’t see this love and instead feels she’s pushed all her friends away. So instead of returning home, she’s hiding out at a local youth hostel, where she befriends an Erika Christensen-loving (who doesn’t love Erika Christensen?) Danish tourist named Jarl. And through their shared love of Swimfan, Rebecca knows her next move.
The transition begins with a fantastic True Detective-inspired theme song, yet again showing us how creative the writing and musical staff is behind this show. We then see a series of horror-movie inspired antics: branches banging against a window, swings moving when there’s no breeze, a teddy bear hanging from a noose, a mysterious phone call with breathing on the other end (on Josh’s private line that he got when he was 13 — on a phone that only a 13-year-old boy would have). All of this is smartly interspersed with comedic moments where Bloom is giving the camera a thumbs up or hopping around dressed as a shrub.
And while this is a lot of fun for Rebecca, she comes to a startling realization when describing her antics to Jarl — and no, it’s not that she’s merely blaming Josh for the level of normalcy she was never able to achieve herself. It’s that, at the end of the horror movie, the monster dies.
Nonetheless, she continues on her plan. She gets Josh suspended at work by framing him up as a thief. Then she “kidnaps” his mother and takes him to a carnival. Here, not only do we finally get to see some fantastic camerawork and artistic shots, but Josh and Rebecca finally confront each other. While Josh gets more and more riled up, demanding to know where his mother is, Rebecca finally gets to have her say: She just wanted to get his attention, so they could finally talk about what happened. Because to this day, she has not yet heard from Josh about why he left her at the altar. And sure, Rebecca’s antics are ridiculous and outrageous, but she’s right: Josh is still avoiding having an awkward conversation with Rebecca, even though he’s back in West Covina and no longer in priest school (and yes, to my glee, the preschool/priest school joke lives on).
Josh doesn’t take the bait and, instead, tells her to stay out of his life and threatens to call the police if she does come around again. Spiraling in depression, Rebecca hits rock bottom.
Before I go into all of this, let’s just call the writers out right now: They know how much their viewers loved Greg — and still love Greg. The amount of hope that burst through my body when I saw Greg’s name on the phone was huge. Of course, it was just a butt dial (there are still butt dials with smartphones?), and she’s left alone, yet again.
Now, at this point, we as viewers have seen Rebecca do some terrible things in the last 2+ years. And we still root for her. So what’s the worst thing she could possibly do? Something that would break ties with her last friend, and break our hearts at the same time? Sleep with Greg’s dad. I’m still weirdly shocked the writers would have let that happen. It seems more than a little unrealistic. But that’s what we needed at that moment. Something so over-the-top bad that it’s almost unbelievable, and it shows how broken Rebecca is at the same time.
(By the way, in case you’re curious, if you go back to the Swimchan theme earlier in the episode, they foreshadowed this little event with an oxygen tank. It’s almost as sneaky as the “Butter can’t save you now” billboard at the end of the carnival scene.)
Rebecca’s movie concludes with what ends in what may be one of my top numbers for the series. Josh Groban sings a meta song about how life isn’t like movies: “Life doesn’t make narrative sense.” If it weren’t so funny, it’d be horribly depressing, especially as we see Paula worried and sad at home, Darryl and White Josh realizing that their relationship is in trouble, and Rebecca’s sad walk home.
But the worst is yet to come, as Rebecca’s final scene tells us what’s next. Rebecca’s going home to her mother, which can’t be good.
A few extra thoughts:
- I need to reiterate how great this episode was made. The way it was shot pulled together the best from horror movies while making it uniquely Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Kudos.
- I’m actually digging Heather and Hector. That could be a cute development. I also appreciated that Heather was the only one who took what Rebecca said to heart. Sure, it was painful to hear, but it was the truth.
- Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that Paula put trackers in people’s arms. But how do you replace the battery?
- Darryl and White Josh’s troubles are not in the least surprising but still very sad. The one thing I’m not yet sure about is whether White Josh doesn’t want a baby now (after all, he is still young) or whether he’ll never want one. While this is a plot line that many have done (in fact, Supergirl is in the middle of this same conflict), I feel like this was handled well. Someone’s not trying to deny how they really feel or fit into someone else’s decision. They know it’s a roadblock and have to figure it out from there.
- I’m still angry at Josh. Rebecca may have issues, but he still doesn’t seem to think he’s done anything wrong — and he certainly doesn’t feel he needs to explain or apologize for anything.
- While I understand that Paula thought she was doing the right thing, I can only think that her call to Naomi is bad. I guess we’ll have to see.