Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 2, Episode 2
“When Will Josh See How Cool I Am?”
Posted by Sage
Okay, so season 2 did not come to play. I wasn’t expecting that Grebecca heart-to-heart so soon, nor did I dare hope Rebecca would muster up some self-respect in her pseudo-relationship with Josh. But the second episode of this season left West Covina’s finest in a very different place than the premiere, zipping up some conflicts and leaving room for plenty of new ones.
Greg is still working towards his mandatory AA quota, though his words don’t indicate that he’ll be walking away after his sentence is through. He’s moving through his recovery quite gracefully, accepting the blame for his actions and impressing his sponsor Guardrail with the personal revelations he’s willing to share. (“Alcohol became my shield. And it worked. At last I thought it worked, until 27 days ago.”) But Guardrail has been around the block with this program; he warns Greg that the exhilaration he feels on account of all this honesty will be tested when his sobriety is no longer new. Wise Guardrail doesn’t know just how right he is. Once Greg returns to work and comes out to all of his friends, many foreign objects will be breaching his sober bubble. And humans tend to complicate things.
Josh has given up the couch at Rebecca’s house. But nothing much has changed besides the two of them sharing a bed. Bless her manic heart, Rebecca is TRYING. She’s trying to be the half-mum, half-chill-sex-queen she thinks Josh wants. He returns home from karate class (“Today I kicked yesterday Josh’s ASS.”) with a stomach full of sushi burrito to Bubbie’s fresh noodle kugel and Rebecca telling him it’s totally chill that he’s been out without her every night that week. Josh hides behind the curtain of “guy stuff,” a curtain Rebecca tries to yank down by insisting that she’s a TOTAL guy’s girl, even though she’s of the opinion that football is an oppressive, dangerous activity that should be outlawed. Josh isn’t breaking any rules or promises, but only immaturity confuses consideration for giving up independence. Like, if you’re getting a sushi burrito, maybe call the person you’re living with (FOR FREE, I bet) and ask her if she wants in?
Valencia hasn’t surfaced yet this season, but I felt her hanging over this episode. Girls like Valencia don’t feel the need to pander to guys by pretending to be into all the stuff they’re into. Secure in their hotness, they wait for dudes to come to THEM. Girls like Rebecca (and me) feel like they have to overcompensate for being closer to average by being as accessible as possible to guys – to be easy to understand and easy to be with. So when Josh mentions an upcoming boy’s night out to a “ping pong cocktaileria,” Rebecca whips up a lie about being a decorated teenage ping pong champion in order to score an invite. Delighted, Josh asks how he didn’t already know this about her. “I don’t know, maybe we should hang out more,” she offers. Baby.
Meanwhile, Paula is in a similar euphoric state to Greg. She strolls into the office with the confidence of a future lawyer (“Hello, MEN.”) and informs Rebecca that she’s in the process of applying to law school. The celebration is unorganized (“Law school! Esquire! Paula!”) but sincere. The friendship contract bred no resentment; Rebecca doesn’t even ask Paula’s help in her accelerated training to become the ping pong phenom she apparently already is. Rebecca BELIEVES in Paula and celebrates her choice, as she should. She enthusiastically accepts when Paula asks her to write a recommendation letter. With her future set in motion, Paula lets the song in her heart flow free, and we get our first Donna Lynne Champlin Takes You To Church scene of the season.
Usually the “I want” song of a Disney princess occurs when she’s young – before she’s left her castle/village/enchanted tower/what have you and seen any of the world. She’s never failed because she’s never had an opportunity. Life is out there, and she’s going to reach out and grab it. This is the genius of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: putting the song of a 16-year-old animated ingenue into the mouth of a married mother-of-two with some childbirth-related incontinence issues. Dressed in the manner of Princess Aurora, Paula sings graphic lyrics (both metaphorical and not) about dreams that lapsed, collapsed, or never got off the ground. I love this character and the show does too, because we’re never supposed to feel pity for Paula. Or at least no more than we do for anyone else on the show. In fact, we sense from episode one that Paula was by far the smartest person in that office before Rebecca arrived. And after interacting with someone on her level who has already taken a very scary leap, Paula gets the courage to take a leap of her own. “Maybe this dream will finally make me feel like I deserve a dream!” I want this for her SO BAD.
This is all very exciting for Paula, but Rebecca’s scheming game takes a hit without her best friend as its mastermind. Rebecca’s solution to becoming an effortlessly sexy ping pong player is to hire an 11-year old champion to tutor her in the game (fair) and how to look hot while she plays it (ehhh….). Xiao Wong is played by tiny comedy wizard Albert Tsai, and he’s just as cute as we left him on Trophy Wife. (RIP, you wonderful show.) Unfortunately, she ignores some pretty sound relationship advice from the little guy and plows on through, even though her idea is clearly doomed.
Greg is back to work at Home Base and his boss Kevin is being aggressively proactive about setting him up for success. (“And I’ve taken beer battered shrimp off the menu!”) Greg wants his life to return to normal as quickly as possible, and normal does not involve everyone around him being overprotective and weird about his alcoholism. Or Kevin announcing to the whole bar that there’s a teetotaler in their midst. He does want to be honest though, so Greg calls a guys meeting at the restaurant.
Josh is wracked with guilt about sleeping with Rebecca and his Tell Tale Heart won’t allow him to grasp that, if Greg somehow knew, he’d hardly invite their friends to watch him chew Josh out. (“You’re not putting any one individual on blast, right?”) Greg lays out his news in the aloof, matter-of-fact manner we’ve come to expect from him. (“Bingo bango done.”) And because alcoholism can be pretty noisy and destructive, none of his friends but Josh is very surprised. (Oh, honey.) Suddenly the cold beers in front of them don’t seem so appealing, but Greg tells the guys not to be shy. Alcohol is his issue, not theirs. And because the sun has shone on me this day, he does it in a newsboy cap and in the style of an Irish drinking song. They’re all so cute in their vests. Look at White Josh’s ARMS. I have to watch it again.
Greg’s announcement sends Josh to seek the spiritual advice of Father Brah over some blessed boba tea. He can’t tell Greg about him and Rebecca NOW. Greg is dealing with too much already. Josh isn’t great with the emotional nuance, though. He worries that by withholding information he’ll lose his standing with Jesus (“blah, blah, blah”), but Brah agrees with his assessment. Clearing his conscience would be a selfish act. Knowing that he shouldn’t spill the beans to Greg puts Josh in an even worse position, as a truly atrocious liar. He casually interrupts Greg’s apology missing the mark with Heather – she still accepts it in the spirit that it’s given, because she’s the best – to say a very casual hello. It’s a disaster.
Look at Greg’s FACE. This is that sucker punch from reality that Guardrail warned him about. This is the return of a pattern of shittiness that he thought he’d escaped. A visit to Rebecca had to have been the next stop on his apology tour. But this news breaks him a little bit, though he’s barely showing it on the outside. He gives Josh what Josh needs: a bro-hug and absolute forgiveness. Heather may not have finished that psych class, but she knows people and she knows that Greg’s is not a proportional response. “Dude, you’re getting sober, you’re not turning into a robot,” she prods. But he’s fine. He’s amazing. Because if he’s not amazing, he’s teetering on the edge of a steep and slippery slope. The “I Could If I Wanted To” alt-rock chords intensify (YAY), and Greg leaves Heather to go take out his frustrations on a wall. And I was worried Greg wouldn’t be angry this season.
If you clocked that foreshadowing when Rebecca promised Paula she’d get her recommendation letter done that very night, then hey, you’ve watched a situation comedy before. Her cool girl lessons are distracting her, and Paula tries very hard not to let Rebecca’s carelessness make her second guess herself. Paula’s self-declared “best friend” Darryl sees his chance to prove what a solid pal she’s got in him, but his unsolicited recommendation letter isn’t as welcome as he hoped it would be. In retaliation for Rebecca stealing Paula away, he gives away some ancient Game of Thrones spoilers. This is like, peak nastiness for Darryl. It’s the Darryl equivalent of stealing your car. It’s probably the worst thing he’s ever done or ever will do, because he is a cupcake.
But ping pong goddessry calls. And if Rebecca can’t be a table tennis pin-up in real life, she’ll fantasize about what it would feel like to dazzle Josh with her skills and man-friendly sexuality. And, look, I saw some people on Tumblr and Twitter comparing “Ping Pong Girl” to 5 Seconds of Summer, but Rachel Bloom (like me) was born in the ’80s. This song is late ’90s/early ’00s TRL pop-punk ALL THE WAY. It’s your Sum 41s, your Blink 182s, your Good Charlottes. It’s SO DAMN CATCHY and Josh’s best song on the series to date. If he’s looking for a second career, maybe Vincent Rodriguez III should see if there’s an opening in Simple Plan.
The parody is flawless, from Video Rebecca’s alluring slow-motion strut to the random exclamations (“SPORTS!”). And “Ping Pong Girl” reveals that on some level, Rebecca knows that’s she’s working too damn hard. “She’s playing ping pong on her own terms, so I’m the pursuer!” punk-Josh wails. She wants to be chased, dammit. If she can perfect a non-threatening skill and the perfect messy bun (and the “no makeup” makeup look and the ability to eat pizza every night but still have a bangin’ body and so on and so on…), maybe she can gain some of her power back.
Once the gang is at The Paddle, there isn’t much time to chat about Rebecca’s obvious overstatement of her ping pong proficiency. Josh tells Hector and White Josh that he blurted out the truth about him and Rebecca to Greg earlier that day and suddenly Greg’s absence from the group hang seems ominous. (He’s also missing from his meeting, which is why you “never put the new guy on donuts.”) White Josh is #exposed as the group’s judgey friend. He can’t believe that Josh and Rebecca would betray Greg that way and ban them from the ensuing search party. Hector and White Josh fan out to different bars; Josh stays at the Paddle to see if Greg shows up, because minimal effort is kind of his thing; but Rebecca has technology on her side. She uses Paula’s cell phone tracking technique for good instead of evil, and finds Greg deep in thought on a park bench. “I wasn’t looking for you. I just like ducks.”
It’s a knock-out scene, really. And a quiet one for Crazy Ex. First thing’s first: “Mr. Leaving Las Vegas but with an inspirational ending” did NOT go on a bender. He just punched the shit out of that wall. Still, Rebecca is sorry that Greg found out about them from Josh. She wanted to be the one to let him know what was happening. She also admits that it wasn’t right for her to fall into bed with Josh, regardless of what Greg said or didn’t say to her that night. And since Rebecca has excused so many of her actions by maintaining her belief that she and Josh are fated, taking responsibility is a big step forward. She’s shaken off the L-word every time Paula tries to apply it to what she had with Greg, but tonight Rebecca tells him that he “broke her heart” by emotionally running away from her at the wedding. Greg won’t blame her for the entire mess, not when he pursued something that he could sense was headed for a crash. “Rebecca, when I first met you, I said, ‘You’re ignoring me, so you’re obviously my type.’ I picked you because you weren’t interested in me.” But that assessment hasn’t been accurate since “Oh My God, I Think I Like You” and even before. It’s like, Rebecca was once Greg’s Josh. But Rebecca and Josh are profoundly different people at very different places in their lives. By the finale, Rebecca was ready to move on with Greg and to start putting away the Josh dream for good. But Greg didn’t have the confidence that she wouldn’t change her mind again. (I mean, fair.) Rather, he didn’t have the confidence that he could deal with it if that happened. He couldn’t trust any of the good stuff – the good stuff that is so glaringly missing from Rebecca and Josh’s whatever – and he knows that’s on him.
Rebecca doesn’t know any of this yet. All she knows is that he laughed when she told him that she cared about him and then passed out at a bar and didn’t talk to her for a month. “That’s funny, because by the end of the wedding, you weren’t interested in me,” she says. “The funny thing is, and not ‘ha-ha’ funny, sad funny, the reason I got a DUI…was because I was driving over the next morning to tell you that I loved you,” Greg clarifies. This is surprising but not unwelcome information, according to Rebecca’s expression. I’ve been watching a lot of Bones lately, and in one episode Booth and Brennan argue over the rationality of love. Booth asks her to give him concrete reasons why she loves him, confident that she won’t be able to explain it all with logic. “I love you, because you love me,” Brennan offers as her first reason. And there IS logic to that. If anyone on this show is driven by a need for validation and affection, it’s Rebecca. Greg doesn’t tell her that he loved(s) her because he’s trying to steal her back from Josh. It’s just the truth, and he’d meant to tell her along time ago. “You and Josh…you should be happy together,” he says. “You’re happy, right? And he treats you well?” Rebecca nods, but it’s dawning on her that no matter how many coats of paint she slathers on this not-relationship, this thing with Josh is not what she’d pictured. And here’s a person who loves her telling her that she shouldn’t have to run around in circles and stand on her head just to get her own boyfriend’s attention. It’s a lot to think about.
Even so, Rebecca’s next act isn’t Josh OR Greg related. She finally writes Paula’s recommendation letter. And though it’s too late to submit, it’s so sweet that it makes Paula cry. All Paula wanted really was for Rebecca to be in support of her dream anyway. When she gets home to the apartment, she looks at Josh in a new light. Cool, aloof, male-gaze girl isn’t in this relationship. Rebecca is. And Rebecca hates video games. Josh won’t even pause his to be happy that his best friend wasn’t out drinking himself to death. “Oh, whew, I am so relieved,” he says. Rebecca can sense that he’s not talking about Greg’s well-being, more his own guilt. “You know what, Josh?” she starts. “You live here. You do, and you can tell yourself whatever, but… I deserve to be with someone who treats me well.” She climbs her stairs to a slow instrumental refrain of “I Have Friends” (I SEE YOU, SHOW) and pulls Greg’s Emory sweatshirt out of its drawer. She was hoping that seeing Greg would give her closure of a different kind. Instead, they had the conversation they were supposed to have a month ago and she’s finally feeling her feelings about that break-up. And I’m no relationship expert, but smelling and sleeping with articles of clothing are strong indicators that she’s not entirely over it.
The Situation’s A Lot More Nuanced Than That
- Someday the episode titles are going to swap Josh for Greg and that is the day of my death.
- “Wow, you are really making excuses for her. More than you would for our kids.” “That’s ’cause she’s better than our kids, Scott, okay?”
- Scott Proctor is really earning his keep this year, though. He’s partnering the shit out of Paula.
- *two thumbs up* “What a mess.”
- There’s one rule, Hector.
- *pounds fist on table* GIVE HEATHER A SONG.
- “Chiphunk?” “She thinks you look like a giant, buff chipmunk.” “I’ll take it.”
- The way Greg leans into her when he says, “Then everything worked out fine.” Can I live.
- “And you got one dinosaur-shaped donut? What are we supposed to do with that, fight over it?”
- I am Paula’s face when she hears that Greg and Rebecca are back in touch.
- “Best friends for life!”
What was the stand-out song of this ep for you? Leave your fave track and any other thoughts you had about the episode in the comments!