Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 2, Episode 4
“When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?”
Posted by Sage
It’s morning in West Covina, on the first day since she’s arrived that Rebecca Bunch hasn’t been chasing after Josh and/or Greg. Not that she’s over it. No, no, no – she’s so predictably fixated on the absence of them that Heather has made a business out of it. It’s a wonder that Rebecca’s new roommate isn’t a successful entrepreneur; it costs her no shame to monetize Rebecca’s weakness, instead, she calmly notes the debt Rebecca is racking up in $5 Josh increments. Heather is a secret genius: confirmed.
Heather is no commiserating partner. But Rebecca has her eye on another. When she spotted a bare-faced, carb-loading Valencia last week, Rebecca finally saw the weakness in her she’d been searching for all last season. But now she doesn’t want to exploit it. Well, not for boyfriend-stealing purposes, anyway. She wants to tap into Valencia’s misery vein, where they can feed off of each other’s pain in a primal, cavewoman kinda way. Rebecca even needs validation to be sad. Heather cautions that Valencia doesn’t want to hear anything about Stone Age female empowerment from Rebecca. She just wants to get her “now donut and her later donut” and get the hell outta there. “She hates you,” Heather reminds Rebecca. But Rebecca grins at her like a woman possessed. “She just thinks she does.”
Valencia gets the full force of Rebecca’s mania turned on her because she’s Rebecca’s last link to Josh. She figures it out pretty quickly when Rebecca shows up to her apartment uninvited and suggests they “ingest each others pain and sorrow.” But they’re not in the same situation, Valencia argues. Rebecca was the dumpee; Valencia was the dumper. But emotionally stable yoga teachers don’t fall into muffin binges for no reason. Rebecca is right on one count: Valencia is sad. She just doesn’t know it yet – or doesn’t know why she should be.
Rebecca can’t put her primitive bonding plan to work in the middle of a strip mall haven like West Covina. Fortunately, a solution presents itself in the form of Darryl and White Josh, who are preparing to head out to the dessert for Electric Mesa, a Burning Man-esque festival of self-indulgence and hipster cultural appropriation. Emboldened by the event’s promise to “connect, refresh, heal,” Rebecca knocks unannounced on Valencia’s door again. She coaxes the moper out of her apartment with the promise of Dairy Queen chicken baskets and blizzards (rude). Instead, she kidnaps her to Electric Mesa, still in her pajamas. After an hour of Rebecca’s begging, Valencia relents and gets out of the car. She’ll mesa, but only under protest.
You guuuuuuuyyyyssss. Rebecca doesn’t whisk Valencia away with pure intentions, but still: Rebecca and Valencia bonding. For real this time.
The festival does get off to a rocky start. Rebecca pesters Valencia with Josh talk during her “sensory bath,” going against the one condition under which Valencia promised to hang out. (“So what IS Josh looking for? ‘Cause you and I are amazing.”) V sics Sherpa Allen on her kidnapper, and when the sound system dies out, she ditches the bath to look for an Uber. Frantic and looking for a reason for Valencia to stay (“I saw a woman with a bikini top made of the Bill of Rights!”), Rebecca drags her over to a tea stand. The thirsty girls down two cups of “earthy water” under the wide-eyed stare of the vendor. “You guys must have a really high tolerance.” They don’t get it. “A Triceratops tolerance? The hallucinogen Triceratops? A.K.A. 3-Tops? Meketyltrichlorocaine? Mixy, Toxy, Cloxy?” Excellent festival rule of thumb: do not ingest ANY unidentified substance, as you might end up in your own dream ballet. And that’s the best case scenario, tbh.
But before we dive into that inspired dinosaur-themed dance piece, let’s check in on our other characters. Josh, as is his way, has NO idea that these two women are pounding laced beverages because of his inability to be in a grown-up relationship. To be fair, he has his own problems. And he doesn’t seem to understand those very well either. Alex finds Josh in the Aloha break room, six hours early for his shift and organizing every thing he can get his hands on. Josh runs down the list of life events that are stressing him out, and Alex grabs onto the relationship side of things. “You’re a girlfriend guy, I can tell,” he says, coyly suggesting that he’ll be coupled up again soon. Josh protests that he’s actually fine being alone. But when Alex leaves, Josh turns his attention to untangling a mass of cords and batting away the negative notions that cross his mind. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about mental illness as much as it is about independence. And this song tells me that Josh Chan has mild anxiety disorder, plus a touch of OCD. Even better, it’s an incredibly sharp parody of Jack Johnson and other ’00s surfer folk pop. Remember “Bubble Toes?” It’s that. And it’s SO GOOD.
Vincent Rodriguez III has been on another level this season. It feels like Rachel and the writers are writing FOR him a lot more, especially when it comes to the songs. “Ping Pong Girl” is in my regular rotation, and “Thought Bubbles” will be too. I can’t get over how well the hand-drawn animation represents Josh’s man-child nature. The “Obamas’ dog” line is 100% gold. From visuals to lyrics to performance, the season 2 musical numbers are nailing it.
Paula doesn’t have a song this week, but she does have her first day at law school. Rebecca drops her off at class, reclaiming the extra juice box she so thoughtfully packed for her. One of Paula’s classmates mistakes Rebecca for Paula’s daughter because of her “me me me” vibe. And in defending Rebecca’s honor, Paula blurts out that she just had an abortion and hasn’t been able to tell her friend about it because she doesn’t feel like she’s entitled to that space. (“I get it, I’m Barb, she’s Nancy.”) Her classmate, Sunil, has a good heart. I know this because he sees how uncomfortable her outburst made Paula and he evens the conversation out by telling her about his own recent life-changing event. His wife committed suicide, and he hasn’t been brave enough to tell his children what really happened. (“I told them she went to a mom farm upstate where moms run around all day.”)
Sunil and Paula bond over being the older students in the class and – as many of the greatest friendships I have were formed – through hating the same people. They struggle to keep up with the lecture and are entranced by a fellow student’s high-tech, low-effort note taking app. When Paula politely asks for the name of the program, the WASPy jerk responds that it’s Nunya. “Nunya business, biiiiitch.” Sunil and Paula are already feeling out of touch and silly, and this aggression will not stand, man. They have to get that app, even if they have to break into that kid’s American Psycho Junior dorm room to do it.
It’s the first time that Paula has donned her “caper clothes” to get something that she wants; usually she’s enabling her daughter/friend Rebecca. She and Sunil actually share a goal, and, in this relationship, Paula doesn’t even have to hold the whole operation on her shoulders. Sunil is a master hacker (of cocky rich assholes, at least); and if he’d hadn’t walked into that magical performance of Pippin, he might be even more dangerous behind a keyboard. They succeed in swiping the Young Republican’s note-taking app and celebrate with matching charm bracelets. This is what Paula needs out of law school: not just the classes and the degree, but an experience that’s all about her.
Everyone needs to feel special. And that requirement is the root of Darryl and White Josh’s first real fight. (I KNOW. It’s going to be okay.) Right before Darryl unintentionally puts the Electric Mesa idea into Rebecca’s head, Rebecca and WhiJo had some break room banter over Josh’s dress shirt (“Wow, a shirt with sleeves, are you meeting the President?”) and Rebecca’s late-mid-morning muffin (“I feel like every time I’m in here, you’re piling another one down the hatch.”) Why is Rebecca so antagonistic towards sweet, perfect White Josh? Because he’s sweet and perfect, and because he fell into a committed relationship while she’s been twisting herself into knots to get there. She discovers a pulsing knot of self-doubt inside that toned body when Josh tells her that he and Darryl haven’t said that they love each other, nor has Darryl introduced White Josh to his daughter, Madison. (“An insecurity? Me likey. You know what’s good for when you feel insecure?” *presents half-eaten muffin*)
The couple’s Electric Mesa bonding experience is interrupted when Darryl gets background information on White Josh’s former dating life, and it throws their legitimacy into question. White Josh seems to know all the hippies of a certain age at camp. Because he’s dated most of them. He greets them like casual friends; there’s no flirtation, but he also doesn’t volunteer the nature of his relationship with those men to Darryl – probably because he can anticipate what’s coming. Darryl spirals out. His relationship with White Josh is just the next in White Josh’s parade of AARP card-carrying boyfriends. “You have a fetish,” he accuses. “I don’t have a fetish,” White Josh clarifies. “I maybe have a little bit of a type. But so what?”
White Josh and Darryl’s relationship was unexpected, and that’s part of why it feels real to Darryl. If White Josh was drawn to other guys like him in the past, how is Darryl supposed to feel secure in his standing? For once, Rebecca comes through with some good advice: take White Josh’s actions at face value instead of trying to assign them secret intentions. “Darryl, of course you’re special,” she says. “I mean, he’s in the office every day just to see you. Yeah… I mean, sometimes all it takes for two people to connect is for one person to reach out and try really hard. Like, like, harder than they should. Like, to the point of kidnapping.” White Josh is attracted to Darryl in part because of the traits he shares with those other men, but he’s still with him because of what’s different about him.
Darryl and White Josh have reached the tipping point, and Darryl’s distress forces a much needed state of the union. Because of their age difference and the way Josh looks, Darryl assumes his boyfriend will always be the confident partner. But White Josh was worried too – that Darryl saw him as a “boy toy” and was perhaps preparing to move on and sow some other wild oats. And if he isn’t, then why hasn’t he introduced White Josh to his kid? “I am so sorry, I just didn’t want to freak you out,” Darryl says. “I mean, a kid’s a big deal. I didn’t want you to feel pressured into something serious.”
I weathered the Greg exit alright, but if these two ever break each others hearts, I am done.
While White Josh and Darryl have a breakthrough conversation, Valencia and Rebecca have a breakthrough drug trip. Three-tops takes them away to an extended dream ballet sequence. In Valencia’s, she’s a prima ballerina who murders the Josh-triceratops who’s come to dance with her. “The Villain in My Own Story” theme returns there. And in Rebecca’s dream, she’s the dinosaur. She rips out a pirouetting Josh’s heart and eats it, to the tune of “I’m a Good Person.” They wake up to their revelations. “I am so sad,” Valencia declares. “I am so sad about Josh.” Rebecca, not so much. “I wanna kill ‘im.”
Soon after, Josh arrives: the Aloha tech sent to save the music and therefore the festival. Valencia and Rebecca watch from behind a tent as he accepts the applause (“Always the hero.”), and Rebecca crafts a primal revenge plan. They sneak into the AV tent after Josh leaves to “mark” their territory just like he marked them. It’s stupid, obviously, but peeing on his cables does the trick. Rebecca and Valencia are united against Josh, who – though he’s still not taking responsibility for his actions, at least realizes that he’s pissed these women off. (“You guys are so mean.“) Rebecca and Valencia standing up for each other gave me life, and really, I think Roxanne Gay would be very proud. “I mean, she gave you the best years of her life, and look how you repaid her, by-by hooking up with another woman,” Rebecca throws at Josh. Valencia jumps in too: “She got you that Aloha job, and then you repaid her by sleeping with her, sleeping on her couch for free, and then breaking her heart.” He’s walked away from them both, completely free of guilt. Because in Josh’s mind, things happen to him, not because of him. His solution is to stay away from women for a while, which isn’t a terrible idea.
It was a seminal weekend for everybody. Valencia and Rebecca are now each other’s bitches, and Heather is a bitch too by default. Sunil and Paula are going to get each other through law school, and that first heist will not be their only heist. Darryl and Josh are moving into the next phase of their relationship and starting to consider one another family. Connect, heal, refresh, indeed.
There’s one dark spot in the morning-after. Paula and Rebecca are drifting apart. They’re as polite and awkward as exes when they see each other with their new friends. If they want to save themselves, Rebecca needs to match the effort she exerted into forcing Valencia to like her to showing Paula how important she is. And Paula needs to stop coddling Rebecca, for real this time. Even Barb let Nancy have it every once in a while. Though…look how that turned out.
The Situation’s A Lot More Nuanced Than That:
- “Yeah, but if Valencia and I hate each other, then that means Josh wins.” “Wins WHAT?”
- V. inspired by how Susie Reynolds turned her life around.
- I would subscribe to Hector and his mother’s dating podcast.
- “And I thought MY son was rude.”
- A trans actress whose role wasn’t about being trans! Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, you have my entire heart.
- Josh Chan never skips leg day.
- “It’s time we stand up to his cisgender patriarchal hegemonic hold on our imagination and our hearts.”
- “Could you stop angry crunching for a second?”
- Brittany Snow makes her debut as Anna Hicks, the pretty girl Josh can’t ignore because he’s too afraid to be alone with his thoughts.
Crazy Ex is off for the holiday week, but will be back next Friday with another lady friendship episode! How’d you like the Electric Mesa field trip? Let us know in the comments.