This week’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a mixed bag, continuing the trend we’ve seen all season. Paula takes center stage with the A storyline and, for the first time ever, the title, which refers to Paula’s lost high school love, Jeff Channington, rather than Josh Chan.
Donna Lynne Champlin and Paula are deserving leading ladies, and the show reminds us that they are both the types that Hollywood normally forgets can be more than best friends. By giving Paula her own hot ex-boyfriend, and letting her live that fantasy out, they acknowledge once again that romance isn’t limited to certain ages or body types. That message never gets old.
None of the other storylines can live up to the glory of Paula singing about Jeff’s penis in the grocery store aisles complete with back up singers and suggestive vegetables. Josh is still trying to grow up, Rebecca is still trying to please her doctor, and Darryl and White Josh are still at a crossroads that they can’t navigate through. Stuff happens during the episode, but, other than Paula, I didn’t feel like any of them had made any tangible progress by the end.
Paula begins the episode back home, making pancakes, ready to focus on the family again after taking care of Rebecca post-suicide attempt. While Paula was busy with Rebecca, Scott and the boys developed new Paula-less routines. Scott explains that Paula’s always getting lost in one escapist obsession or another. The guys have decided it’s best if they learn to function without depending on her
Paula is called back to her hometown of Buffalo to stay with her dad while her mom goes out of town. She and her dad have never gotten along, so this is a chore that she dreads. Once you’ve escaped an emotionally abusive alcoholic, it’s tough to let yourself be their target again.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has been filling out therapy workbooks obsessively, because obsessive is the only way Rebecca does things. Her doctor tells her that she needs to relax and try being a C+ student, instead of an A+ student. Average and normal are the goals here, rather than swinging between obsessive perfectionism and depression. Rebecca would rather work hard and get stickers, but she vows to become a C+ student
since that will make her doctor happy who makes mistakes and is okay with it.
Rebecca begs Paula to let her tag along to Buffalo for an adventure. Paula agrees. As soon they get to Paula’s house, her father starts making backhanded jokes about Paula, which Rebecca finds a way to rationalize as hilarious, making Paula look too serious.
Paula escapes to the market, where she finds her ex-boyfriend Jeff Channington, the one that got away. Our first view of him mirrors the shot in season 1 of Josh in front of the grocery store freezer with mist surrounding him. Paula is overcome with awe, and has to sing about it. He was her first
The song is an ABBA/Mamma Mia confection that gives Donna Lynne Champlin a chance to show off her pop voice and dance moves. Both are in great shape, with enviable flexibility.
Jeff notices Paula after the song. He gives her his card, and invites her over to check out the camero he’s restoring. She stops by his garage later and visits for a few hours.
Rebecca is cozying up to Bob, laughing at his bad jokes and doing shots. Nathaniel texts her late at night, reminding her that she’d referred to him as a Sequoia she wanted to climb, and they have phone sex.
The next morning, Rebecca asks Paula where she was. Paula says that she ran into an old friend. Rebecca is happy that Paula took some time for herself, because Paula always does so much for everyone else. Paula is getting mixed life messages this episode.
She leaves to go see Jeff again, after telling Bex that she’s seeing an old female friend. Her father pops out as soon as she’s gone, having just used her dresser drawer as a toilet. So did Rebecca. They share a good laugh. Suddenly we’re watching a Seth Rogen show.
Rebecca and Bob continue on for the rest of the day, having the best time trashing the house, getting drunk, and talking dirty. Since Rebecca is forced to set aside the last 90 years of progress made by women and minorities in order to enjoy her conversations with Bob, she sings a song in character as 1930s child star Shirley Temple:
At least she didn’t have sex with him, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck a grope in that she wrote off as an accident.
Paula and Jeff spend the entire day together working on the camero. Cameros are one of Paula’s secret passions. Jeff asks Paula to dance. She tells him that he makes her feel special, like she’s young again, without adult responsibilities.
As the dance turns into a slow dance, Paula asks if Jeff ever regrets breaking up with her. He admits that he does, big time. They almost kiss, but Paula backs away. All she needed was the validation of being wanted and getting to make the choice to walk away for herself.
Bob and Rebecca bust into the garage to rescue Paula, but she’s already rescued herself. When she gets home, Paula tells Scott that he’s the guy she’d always choose first, at least if Brad Pitt isn’t available.
Paula shares the story of Jeff Channington with Rebecca, who’s surprised that Paula has never told her it before. Paula says that she wanted to take care of Rebecca, not burden her. Rebecca suggests that they work on being equal best friends from now on, not acting like mother and daughter. Paula agrees.
When Rebecca gets home, she goes to Nathaniel’s apartment and practices her flying squirrel jump on him. She tells her doctor that they had lots of sex. He gives her a grape scratch-n-sniff sticker for her blowout C+ weekend.
Josh is going through a tough transitional time. So is Chris, though his involves more hormones. Kevin overhears Josh and offers him a bartending job. Josh decides that he could make bartending cool. He makes acrobatic drink mixing his specialty, just like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, even though the bar serves mostly beer.
It all goes wrong when he gets an infected pimple from touching an open sore without washing his hands. The zit pops and the puss squirts straight into the cocktail that Josh has just presented to his date. Josh has been making big boy jokes throughout the episode. Heather helps him realize that he needs to be a man.
Madison pushes Darryl to break up with White Josh because of the baby issue. She tricks them into meeting at Home Base during a baby shower. Darryl takes the bait and breaks up with Josh. Josh looks stunned, then shocked, then devastated, then pulls it together, all subtly and quickly.
Kudos to David Hull for the facial expressions. WhiJo has always come off as someone who doesn’t let anyone get past his walls or hurt him. Those looks said the break up was hurting him, and he was shocked by the intensity of his feelings. Will that lead to action? Who knows?
Daryl and WhiJo dither for a moment, then decide to try to be friends. They stand and talk for the next two hours. When they’re finally about to go their separate ways, Hector arrives and talks them into staying to watch Josh Chan’s Cocktail bartender performance. I hope this break up doesn’t take. Maybe WhiJo just needed a push to get him to stop skimming the surface of life.
The Syracuse University jabs were an inside joke. SU is home to the Newhouse School of Public Communications, one of the top journalism and media schools in the country. There are probably people on the show’s staff who went to SU. The medical school isn’t exactly terrible either. (I happen to be from Syracuse.)
Paula is an Outlander fan who dreams of stepping through the stones into another life. Josh tries on the life of Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Rebecca experiments with having Paula’s dad be her dad for a weekend. All three are using escapism differently. For Paula it’s an escape from the bore of everyday life. For Josh it’s a fantasy that let’s him pretend he’s not spiraling. Rebecca explores what it would be like to have a different kind of father, one who treats her like one of the guys.
So Rebecca’s daddy issues will be solved now, right? Her doctor will never even have to recognize them as the root of her overall problems. He can keep giving her stickers for the same type of behavior that led to her breakdown. The Buffalo trip consisted of Rebecca obsessively making as many mistakes as possible to gain her doctor’s approval, and submerging her true self to gain Paula’s father’s approval.
This is the halfway point of the season. It’s been a rambling, lackluster season for me so far. Despite the showrunners’ statements that Rebecca’s breakdown and recovery are what they’ve been aiming toward all along, they don’t seem to know what to do now that they’re here. By the end of this episode, almost all of the characters had reached a point of stagnancy, and often also malaise.
That’s a bad place for a show to be in, especially one with ratings problems. Where are the storylines and cliffhangers to excite the viewer to come back after the break?
They have so few stories to tell that we’re subjected to Josh’s pimple getting infected and bursting in public as a major event with an audience. I’ve tried to come up with a life lesson from that, but the best I can do is, always wash your hands. Which Greg could have taught us in season 1. I miss Greg, and the days when this was an amazing show.
Greg was the emotional anchor for Rebecca and the show. Without that grounding presence, we’re left without someone to even out the highs and lows and to reel the characters back in when they go too far, or to give them a nudge when they need it.
The show hasn’t learned to work around the loss of the character. They’re making it clear how necessary he was. Watching Heather, his ex-girlfriend, and Josh, his best friend, stand at the bar that he worked in and look so utterly lost at the end of the episode, drove the point home that Greg was the heart of their friend group. He’s still sorely missed by them.