Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 3, Episode 2
“To Josh, With Love”
Posted by Sage
In The Office, Pam has a method for cutting down on the number of times per day that Michael embarrasses himself. She gives him a trial run at a phone greeting before she really patches through his call. Once Michael gets his attempt at folksy comedy out of his system, he’s less mortifying. “He usually does better on the second attempt,” Pam explains to the camera.
The analogy isn’t perfect, but that’s Rebecca Bunch and her schemes. The first attempt usually involves Rebecca trying to be anybody but herself. And she doesn’t realize until it’s too late that role-playing her way through life is probably only satisfying when she’s in bed with Nathaniel. (Ayyyye.) The rest of the time, it has way less than a 39% success rate. If only the world could set up trial runs for Rebecca. The second try is the first time we see the real her.
When last we left them, Paula was invigorated by the idea of suing Josh Chan, and Rebecca was listlessly going through the motions. Neither of their positions have changed. Paula loves the part of her job that doesn’t involve her other coworkers, and she’s super psyched to be using her powers for rational business for once. But especially after she hears the unimpressive dollar amount of the fee Paula thinks they can get a judge to hand down to Josh (“That’s a pair of shoes.” “Maybe to you, bitch!”), Rebecca is determined to do something more. Something “savage.”
Paula is still indulgent to the point of lunacy, but she really has stuck to her pledge to stop enabling Rebecca’s self-destruction. But when Paula shuts down her request to plan something way more sinister than a 20-minute visit to municipal court, who’s Rebecca to turn to? Fortunately for the side of her who wants so much to be bad, Nathaniel is making a promise to himself too. He’s disappointed the water polo gladiator inside by getting all moony over Rebecca, and the only way he thinks he can get a grip on himself is to recommit to being the unscrupulous WASP his father raised him to be. This is bad news for the local Korean market, whose destruction will be Nathaniel’s avenue to getting his groove back, but catnip to Rebecca, who needs a scheme partner who will let her indulge her worst reveeenge fantasies. Suddenly Nathaniel is interesting to her again, just as he’s decided to quash his attraction to her completely, or at least ignore it until it dies. But then Rebecca shows up at his door in her best Velma Kelly lewk, and he goes from irritated to intrigued REAL quick. And that’s why God invented Bob Fosse.
I continue to be amazed at what Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can get away with on the CW. We all know the show was first developed at Showtime, but I have to admit that I get a kick out of watching it duck and dodge the network censors. Last season, during “We Tapped That Ass,” Rebecca answers Ghost Josh and Greg’s question about where they “should finish” by pleading, “Please, not on my chest.” (A strategically placed dresser was all it took to get that one through.) “Strip Away My Conscience,” is all innuendo, but I had to clutch my pearls when Rebecca asks to “choke on [Nathaniel’s] cocksuredness.” (I have no idea how they swung that.)
As is the usual with CXG, the lyrics in this song are more than just funny. They reveal that Rebecca thinks of her goodness as weakness, and that she feels like she has to borrow Nathaniel’s personality to be strong enough to get what she wants. He calls her out on it. “You have a heart like a weak, dying kitten,” Nathaniel tells her, because he’s known her for long enough to know that she doesn’t try to hurt people on purpose. (In song, she blames her “Jew guilt” for this.) But she makes him an indecent proposal, and LBR, he’s not about to turn that down. She’s been doing tricep dips. And she’ll even do that thing that just crossed his mind. Yes, that.
Once their sexy alliance is forged, the show embarks on a send-up of generic paperback romance, particularly the Fifty Shades trilogy. Rebecca squeals with delight when she opens the package Nathaniel has messengered to her (even though they work in the same office?), but has to donate the dress to a middle school drama apartment because his sensual gifts are nowhere near her size. She meets him on the noof, as instructed, and he’s waiting with a chilled bottle of champagne. (And the tux and the stance are A LOT. This fantasy is not all bad.) Rebecca keeps slipping out of character; she can’t wait to tell her date that the panties he gave her “sliced [her] muffin top into hamburger bun.” And the helicopter landing isn’t quite as pristine and classy as it is in that terrible movie that I couldn’t even get through with an entire bottle of wine. None of this would be working on either of them if there weren’t real feelings underneath it. Nathaniel can barely sell his perormance when he tells Rebecca that he’s orchestrated all of this for the “simple transaction” of the sex she promised him. By helping her “destroy Josh Chan,” he gets to be with Rebecca but also be the heartless power player he still imagines himself to be. (GOOEY CENTER, NATHANIEL. YOU HAVE ONE.)
At the masquerade at the spin-lates gym with only the most powerful people from South Pasadena (and Craig) in attendance, Nathaniel is in his element. Meanwhile, Rebecca can’t stay in character, either regarding her aloof sexiness (“I get to be the tiiiger.”) or her support of public education. Still, Nathaniel tells her she performed “flawlessly” and asks her to dance. It’s not a part of the plan, he just felt like it.
When the deeds are done, it’s time for the deed to be done. Even though he told her that the only reason he’d assembled these local luminaries is because he wanted the sex, Nathaniel tells Rebecca before they go through with it that she doesn’t have to do anything. (EXPOSED.) But she’s not doing anything she doesn’t want to. And I must point out that they’re making out in the same position that they were in Nathaniel’s sex dream from Season 2. This show’s continuity is unparalleled.
It’s so confusing in the morning, because Nathaniel is all cuddly and pushing Rebecca’s hair out of her face. But when she asks, he’s also shockingly nonchalant when he lists off the punishments he and his friends are doling out to Josh. The color drains from Rebecca’s face as soon as he says “family.” And one has to wonder exactly what she meant by “destroying Josh’s life” if she’s so (understandably) squeamish about Nathaniel’s contact murdering Josh’s Lolo in cold blood because Rebecca wanted it.
Josh is supposed to pay Rebecca’s price, not his Lolo, his sister, or his dad. And the other half of the episode tells me that he still has it coming. The show circles back to the moment that Josh lands on Father Rodrigo’s doorstep and clues us into what’s been going on with him over the last three weeks. As we all probably guessed, Josh’s rebirth comes with a rude awakening. But first, while Door Father fetches Father Rodrigo, Josh has a few moments to celebrate his chill, simpler life. It is some Gene Kelly realness.
Anyway, you can’t just sign up for the priesthood and start immediately handing out the wafers and looking cool. Josh has an academic course of study ahead of him, plus a mission and some silent prayer. He’s bored by the curriculum and so far out of his depth that his reasons for not quitting become obvious to everyone around him. “Are you really going to become a priest just because you don’t want to have an awkward conversation?” Hector asks when he and White Josh visit, and yeah, that’s pretty much the deal. To their credit, the boys are horrified to learn that Josh hasn’t spoken to Rebecca at all, aside from that email that’s still sitting in his drafts. “You father, son, and holy ghosted your entire life,” White Josh accuses. (And a moment to remember that Josh pictures the holy ghost like a guy wearing a sheet.)
Josh needs to man up and reach out to the woman he jilted, as much as neither of the other boys believed that their marriage was a good idea in the first place. But one of Josh’s defining characteristics is how much he hates responsibility, negativity, and any less-than-carefree moment that gets his thought bubbles popping. So he defiantly announces his plans to stick it out. But since he’s contributing nothing but a few unauthorized “my sons,” he’s really just wasting everyone’s time. (“This friggin’ guy.” – Father Rodrigo.)
The two exes finally come face-to-face when Nathaniel’s machinations force Rebecca to voice what she actually wants from Josh. She knows him, for as little as she’s let him know her. (Or as ignorant he forced himself to be about her.) And she knows that he couldn’t ghost his life without feeling guilt, nor would he be able to stand in front of her without feeling the shame and embarrassment of what he did. Punishing Josh from afar isn’t going to give her the closure she seeks, so she ditches tactile, sleepy Nathaniel (*cries*) to get her head right. Staring down her wedding dress at her kitchen table, Rebecca gets an idea. She puts it on to go get her righteous justice. She throws open the doors of the church and finally gets to see Josh’s face when his choices catch up to him. It’s been bothering Rebecca since camp that Josh has never tried as hard or done as much for her as she’s done for him, whether he was aware of those indignities or not. So she decides to spell them out for him in song, in front of the congregation, with a little number she borrows from Season 1 Paula. You know what? Let’s just watch it again.
It’s a lot to take in (especially all the traumatic toilet sex moments), but Josh’s prevailing reaction is the same one he had when Greg told his friends about his drinking problem: “I didn’t do anything wrong! Yes!” For as sweet as he can be, Josh is a complete coward with a perfect life. There’s nothing wrong with being an optimist, and not everyone had to start coping with the unfairness of reality as a child, when their callous father let them alone with their self-centered, overbearing mother. But Josh shows zero compassion in these moments. All he cares about is whether or not he’ll have to deal with something unpleasant or if his concept of himself will have to change. Hating Rebecca after her tirade would be a better reaction than this. Or, as Kim chatted to me during the episode: “Josh is such a piece of shit, honestly.”
He could take a little cue from Tim, actually. In one of the show’s best-ever C-stories, Rebecca’s coworker gets schooled on the orgasm gap from the women of Plimpton Plimpton & Plimpton. Despite his initial confusion about both percentages and where female orgasms actually COME from, Tim eventually faces up to his humiliation. Because you’ve got to assume, though he’s completely oblivious to how she’s making out in the “marital relations” department, that he loves his wife. But before he can change his technique from “in, in in in, up up up, and then back back back,” Tim has to work that falsetto via an “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”-style song about his inability to satisfy, even in “their” favorite position. (“Me on top, goin’ a mile a minute.”)
It’s super-real that his first inclination is to mansplain female anatomy to actual women (I mean), but Tim eventually comes around, and the reaction he gets is so positive that he has to go and thank Paula for savagely opening his eyes to reality to begin with. (“Tim, you have never given your wife an orgasm. Ever. Not even once.”) Paula doesn’t have the time to remember every time she’s changes someone’s life with a mean comment, but she does let Tim know something else, for better or for worse: the orgasm thing wasn’t all his fault. His wife should have taken some responsibility for her own experience and told him. And now Tim has to contend with why his wife thought it was easier to just hit that vibe in the bathroom every night than to tell her husband the truth. Marriage!
For Rebecca, the truth is that thing she THINKS she wants, until she finally lets it fly. Her euphoria over spilling ever gross, invasive, embarrassing thing she’s done in pursuit of a happy life with Josh to the man’s face is shortlived. What she wants even more than Josh’s discomfort is to never be called “crazy” ever again. But she’s left her ex-fiancee with a whole lot of ammo, and it’s too late to put the genie back into the bottle.
The Situation’s A Lot More Nuanced Than That
- NEW THEME SONG, FINALLY.
- It’s always guac-a-clock, Tim.
- “Oh come on, this guy grows a hobo a salad and you think he’s exempt from capitalism.”
- The Professor Snape reference in “Strip Away My Conscience” is a direct callback to their elevator bonding and Nathaniel being an unapologetic Slytherin, it’s fiiiiiine.
- “I watched Cruel Intentions on the way over here.”
*turned on* “That is SUCH a good movie.”
- Rebecca’s dress is hotter, honestly.
- David Hull’s delivery of “Wooooowwwww, you HATE this.” He’s such a gem.
- “Four people in this room have the ability to ruin Josh Chan’s life forever. And one can just make it super annoying, so we’ll skip him.”
- “So picky, sounds like you don’t like anyone’s porridge, Goldilocks.”
- Maya with the SEX ED, go girl.
- Love kernels don’t make people crazy, but they certainly don’t help the situation.
Featured image source: The CW