Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Casting News Is Crazy—But Is It Crazy Enough to Work?

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Photo by the CW

If you haven’t been watching Twitter today, you may have missed the big Crazy Ex-Girlfriend news. It turns out Greg will be making an appearance in the final season of the show—but not the same Greg we knew and loved. Skylar Austin (of Pitch Perfect fame) will be replacing Santino Fontana in the role.

In the few hours it’s been since I heard the news, I’ve had mixed emotions. I trust the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writing team, sure, but Greg was a fan favorite. He was certainly a favorite of mine. And Fontana made that role come alive. Austin is talented, and no matter what role they put him in, I’m sure that he’ll do a great job. But Greg? That’s a tall order.

According to Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, it was a creative decision. Bloom notes, “It’s not only a big leap and feels experimental and playful like our show, but as we’ll see when the show airs, it’s a great statement on how our perception of people changes, and Greg is sort of a barometer for how Rebecca changes.”

Keeping in mind that I don’t know much about what’s going to happen this season (and everything that I’m about to say is purely guesswork), my perception of Bloom’s quote is that Greg will turned up a changed man—literally. Or perhaps Rebecca just remembered him in a vastly different way than before. [Cue the many jokes about how “Gee, Greg, you look so different!” and “Wow, Greg, you’ve changed!”] Now, if this is the case, I could see how the writing team can make it work.

But should it?

I rarely criticize Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because it constantly exceeds my expectations and always surprises me. But in this case, I’m not sure the appeal of bringing Greg back. If you’re not bringing back the same actor, how will the fans feel—especially going into the final season of the series? It would change how we look at the character, for sure (perhaps that, too, is the point), but frankly, Astin will just have some large tap shoes to fill. He could be up to the task, but will fans see it that way? And even if the creative team wanted to make the point about changed perceptions, why does that require an entirely new actor?

Now, if you have had conversations with me about the show in the last two years since Fontana left, you’ll know I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed on a Greg return in the final season. But this isn’t what I was expecting. I can’t help but feel disappointed, which isn’t how I want to start the season. I’m trying not to bring myself too down already—again, the writing team always surprises and impresses, so I want to put my trust in them again—but I’m just not sure how I feel about this news. I would’ve preferred a surprise appearance from the original actor, rather than a surprise, head-scratching announcement. And, of course, I mean no offense toward Astin. He’s a talented actor and a fun one to watch (heck, I even watched him in Ground Floor), but it’s just not what I expected from one of my favorite series.

Keep in mind, I’m getting ahead of myself. When we last left Rebecca, she was headed to jail. So who knows what’s next for her. I certainly don’t. So I can’t say this is a bad call or a good one. It’s a creative decision.

But I, for one, miss old Greg. And for now, I stand to be convinced.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “Nathaniel is Irrelevant.”

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.13 “Nathaniel is Irrelevant.”

Wow. What a way to end a season. When the episode started, I had no idea where it was going. And even as I was watching, I was mildly skeptical about where it was headed. But for a show that always has a pretty epic cliffhanger for Rebecca, this episode didn’t disappoint.

But before we get to some of the big moments of the finale, let’s talk about some of the clever subleties. A lot has happened in the third season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, so it should be no surprise that we’d draw on that. But the way the show was shot also reminded us of some key moments from past episodes, right from the start.

If Rebecca’s content look in the mirror while she brushed her turning to horror as Trent appeared behind her looked familiar, it’s because we saw an eerily similar scene in the last season finale. At the end of season two, Rebecca tries her veil on in a mirror, right before one of her dissociative episodes, only to realize that Josh is looking at her through the mirror, asking who Robert was. But that wasn’t the only scene that drew on scenes of old. In Rebecca’s attempt to make sure Trent wasn’t actually stalking her, she runs to the window and looks through sheer curtains. Just like Josh did when he looked out his own window when Rebecca was stalking him. She desperately looks under her bed—much the same way Josh did when he looked for that ringing phone. Both were callbacks to the epic episode earlier this season.

But the real subtlety came in two long shots of Rebecca, both from this episode. One, as we headed into commercial while Rebecca looked uncertain and nervous, about to confess all of her bad deeds to Paula, Nathaniel, and Josh. And the other, the final look after her monologue. To see the real differences here, let’s look back at the plot.

After last week’s episode, Rebecca is filled with guilt—not just guilt about what she’s done to her friends recently, but everything she’s done since she moved to West Covina. Turning to her group therapy members, they suggest she confess to get this guilt off her chest. So she does. She invites Paula, Nathaniel, and Josh into a room to hand them a list of every bad thing she’s ever done. It was her way of confessing. To just get it out in the open. Of course, based on the lingering shot of her very nervous, this-will-be-bad expression as we head into commercial, you can tell that Rebecca isn’t looking forward to it. And by their reactions once they read through the lists, you can tell that this didn’t give her the release of her guilt that she was looking for.

And there’s a good reason for that. Even though she technically told them everything she did, she took the easy way out. She typed it all out, point by point, and then expected to feel better. Needless to say, she didn’t. Especially after seeing Paula’s reaction.

In her zeal to fix things with Paula, she runs into Trent and discovers that he’s actually stalking her and planning on killing Nathaniel. Long story short, Trent attempts to kill Nathaniel at his own party, and Rebecca pushes him off the roof (shattering every bone in his body—a callback to Trent’s story last week). Now, she’s facing criminal charges for attempted second-degree murder.

Nathaniel suggests pleading not guilty, claiming insanity. After all, it’s not her fault. It’s how she was raised. It’s her BPD. It’s how the entire world operates. (How the writers interweaves this idea into a romantic duet is fantastic. Video at the top.)

But here we get that other subtle brilliance. In the courtroom, Rebecca sees Paula, who she has lied to failed time and time again. And she realizes the easy way out isn’t for her. She may have BPD, but she chose her actions. It’s all her fault. And it’s time to take responsibility.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “Trent?!”

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.12 “Trent?!”

I’m more than a little late with this recap and review, but with only one episode left in the season, I felt like I had to get some quick thoughts on Friday’s episode. After all, when the show opens with a musical number involving singing puppet cats, how could you not at least offer a few words?

We start with Rebecca’s total acceptance that she will be single forever. So accepting, in fact, that she’s moving on to getting a buttload of cats. Enter song, which left me laughing the entire three minutes (See the video above, and yes, there is an explicit version). Of course, all plans for said cats are ruined by a coyote. Well, someone who spent a lot of time with them: Trent.

The more Trent is in this show, the more I love him. Since we last saw him—when he was destroying Rebecca’s wedding—he’s been distracted by a train (you know how he feels about trains and clowns), hit by a bus, accosted by an inspiring comedian/doctor, broken out of a cast, eaten a lizard, hung out with coyotes, made his way to an outlet store, and returned to hide out in Rebecca’s room. Why? To blackmail her to being his girlfriend again, of course!

Trent has another one of his devious envelopes (this one’s just of printed email), threatening to tell the police about Rebecca’s attempts to hire someone on the dark web to take out Mona. Naturally, Rebecca goes along with it—long enough to get Paula involved.

Here’s where the story goes a little south. Paula has given up her stealth ways. She’s done sneaking around, tracking people, and doing anything that could hurt her chances of being a lawyer. But when Rebecca hears this, she sees only her own selfish needs. And she lies to Paula, telling her that Trent has dirt on her, too.

This is yet another reminder that no matter how hard Rebecca works against it, sometimes she falls into her own patterns. Rebecca is aware that what she’s doing is wrong. In fact, you can even see guilt cross over her face. But she just can’t pull away from it. She needs Paula’s help, and she’ll do whatever she can to get it.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfiend: “Nathaniel and I Are Just Friends!”

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.11 “Nathaniel and I Are Just Friends!”

I’m going to start this post the same way that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend started last Friday’s episode: by acknowledging the phenomenal voice of Michael Hyatt. I mean, wow. I’ve always been a fan of Hyatt’s “Dream Ghosts,” but in “This Session Is Going to Be Different” (video above), we really hear how talented she really is. Bravo.

Now on to the rest of the episode. When you think of show that might use a time jump, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t one that you’d naturally think of. But by adding such a gap in the series, they brilliantly showed how each character is (or isn’t) growing—emotionally or, in the case of Heather, physically.

The leap ahead is only eight months, much shorter than other jumps that other shows have taken. Usually we’re looking at years, anywhere from one to five. But in just over half a year time, we see a lot of change. Heather is still carrying Darryl’s baby and frustrated at having a “hobby” she can’t quit. She’s also still a manager at Home Base and has completed an entire makeover of the space. White Josh has gone off to do Habitat for Humanity and returned with a dog. Paula’s bestie Sunil has joined the firm—and the ranks of her slacker coworkers. And Valencia has gotten her business up and running while also starting a new relationship with former client Beth.

But for Rebecca, nothing much has changed. She’s still sleeping with Nathaniel, while he has a serious girlfriend. The point here is not to shake a finger at Rebecca, but to realize how long it can take to grow and change when you’re dealing with mental illness. It’s not a quick fix, and the show didn’t want to depict it falsely in that way. By jumping ahead, you can show how others have moved forward and adapted to change in their lives. Rebecca, not so much.

That’s not to say that Rebecca isn’t taking great strides forward. She’s much more self-aware. She’s recognized her habits and is actively trying to avoid them. But in all these ways that she has changed, one thing remains: She is still scared. She’s scared of what she can do to herself. And this comes out in a heartbreaking session with Dr. Akopian, where Rebecca admits that she doesn’t want to take her relationship to the next level with Nathaniel because she doesn’t want to die. She knows what she’s capable of if she feels abandoned, and the smallest thing can set her off. She’s afraid of taking the risk.

It’s absolutely heart wrenching, especially as you see the doubt in Rebecca’s eyes when Dr. Akopian tells her that she’s a loving person who deserves love. But finally, at least, Rebecca seems to have opened up honestly to Akops and heard what she had to say.

So we’re left with Rebecca standing outside of Nathaniel’s apartment, singing a reprise of “Face Your Fears,” trying to convince herself to take on love. Her rendition is so full of emotion, and you have to applaud Rachel Bloom for her performance. Every word seemed to carry such significance, and between this number and her scene in therapy, Bloom really didn’t hold back. It made for an especially powerful episode.

And as we know, in the end, fear takes over. She’s not ready. Of course, I was rooting for that happy ending, and it was especially sad, knowing all that Rebecca has gone through and hearing Nathaniel’s very honest words in their office just moments before.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “Nathaniel Gets the Message!”

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.09 “Nathaniel Gets the Message!”

Before we discuss the plot of the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, congratulations are in order. This episode included the series’ 100th song—one hundred original songs. (You can find it above.) Incredible. I’m not sure how you can have that much creativity to write that many in such a short amount of time (after all, we’re only in the third season), but kudos to Rachel Bloom, Adam Schlesinger, and Jack Dolgen, who wrote all of these songs. It’s a big accomplishment. Congratulations!

Now on to the actual episode, which picks up right where we left off with Rebecca at Nathaniel’s door about to break up with him. We all knew where this scene was headed, but that didn’t take any of the oomph out of it. It was something that needed to happen, but it wasn’t something either of them wanted to happen. Nathaniel kept being supportive, and you could see how sad Rebecca was about it. It was a well-done scene, and you have to applaud Rebecca for taking this step for her own health.

Of course, that left her with nothing to do. She still has no job. And now with no relationship, she has a lot of time to kill (and smoking the marjoram just doesn’t do it). Dr. Shin recommends volunteering or giving back to others. Dismayed with how gross or hard actually giving back to the community would be (from “You know how I feel about soup” to “…and if I see one crusty stain, I won’t be able to eat for weeks”), she volunteers for Valencia in order to get her event planning business up and running.

From here, the episode gives us the cast of characters we met back in season one at the grocery store. Newly engaged produce manager Marty and bread manager Ally have a small budget to throw an engagement party—after all, they’re not bringing home much dough—and Valencia has been hired for the event. She decides to throw it at Home Base and give it a German theme. (I’m starting to wonder whether Valencia was behind the random baby shower that was at Home Base a few weeks ago, since that’s such an odd/cheap locale for any of these parties.)

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “Nathaniel Needs My Help!”

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Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.08 “Nathaniel Needs My Help!”

So much happened on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend last fall that upon its return on Friday, I had no idea what would happen with Rebecca and crew. She finally has a diagnosis. She realizes that Josh is irrelevant. She knows that she has to be messy but also take steps to move forward with her BPD. What’s next for Rebecca?

It’s tempting to assume that we’d return this January with a brand-new version of Rebecca, and in some ways, a different show. After all, even the episode titles have changed: Josh is no longer in the title. Last episode it was Jeff, now Nathaniel. Everything is different, right?

Wrong. In this episode, we got Rebecca antics. Her actions around Nathaniel seem incredibly reminiscent of her time with Josh. Sneaking around and scheming to connect Nathaniel and his father is something that feels less like it’s for Nathaniel and more for her. It all just seems so…Rebecca.

And it’s tempting to roll your eyes and get frustrated. We’ve seen this all before! And when I was first watching, that was my first reaction. Why is she doing this all over again? But as you look more deeply, that’s what it’s really about. Just because Rebecca got a diagnosis and help through therapy and group therapy doesn’t mean she’s suddenly healed. It’s not that easy. She has patterns she needs to break. That’s what Rebecca is discovering—and we’re realizing as we watched the show.

As a viewer, I knew immediately that Rebecca’s plan would go sour. Anything that involves blackmailing your partner-in-crime with a potential future suicide attempt can never go well. And it was the same old Rebecca, reminiscent of actions from season one, season two. In this particular case, she has a more understanding man in her life, one who says he’ll forgive her after a mature discussion (a stark contrast with any discussion Rebecca has with Josh—we’ll get to that in a bit). Between that and Dr. Shin, Rebecca realizes she needs to change, even if that means having to do something she’s never done before: breaking up with Nathaniel. (Technically, we haven’t seen this yet, but it’s assumed by the end of the episode.)

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Josh Is Irrelevant

CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND: 3.06 “Josh Is Irrelevant”

There’s a lot to say about this episode. Bear with me. It’ll be a long post.

After last week’s intense episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I wasn’t sure where we’d begin this episode — or where we’d go. Would we see the light, enthusiastic Rebecca we’ve known and loved? Or would that girl be gone, showing us only the sad, pained version we saw in the trailer, the one who couldn’t muster a laugh in the trailer? Or something else entirely?

If anything, this episode showed us that we’ve seen a changed Rebecca, starting with the girl in the hospital bed who is showing remorse for her suicide attempt. She heartbreakingly tells Dr. Akopian that she failed her and confides to Paula that she didn’t even want to die, she just wanted the pain to stop. And she keeps apologizing for all that she’s putting everyone through, inconveniencing the people in the plane, taking time that Paula should be spending with her family, and keeping her friends from work.

And then there was the scared side, the version of Rebecca that was afraid that going back home, as positive as Paula spins it, will just end up with her in the same spot again. What would change?

And that’s when something shifts. Dr. Shin (affectionally known to Paula as Dr. Damn) tells Rebecca that he thinks she’s been misdiagnosed all these years, that he has a new treatment and diagnosis for her. Suddenly, she’s filled with something new: hope.

This series has done a lot of things well, one of which is trying to bring attention to mental illness and remove the stigma around it. And the song that Rebecca sings after hearing that she finally has a real diagnosis is one of these moments that is so eye-opening to the struggles that individuals deal with and how much having someone understand, identify, and help can mean to someone. It helps them belong, helps them to better understand themselves, and finally gives them hope. I don’t normally include the videos from the show in my reviews, but this one impressed me so much, I have to share it.

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