Between Lady Dynamite, Bojack Horseman, and You’re The Worst (among others), there’s been plenty of material to bring up in a conversation about television’s most realistic depictions of mental illness. But the fourth episode of this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for me at least, has brought this show the front of the pack. “Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend is Crazy” sacrifices some of the relatable whimsy that sometimes forms the backbone of the show’s songs in exchange for a bleakly funny, heartbreaking look at the titular “crazy ex” in a way that manages to be both surprising and inevitable.
Last week, we left off with Rebecca being swept up in Nathaniel’s arms (an Officer and a Gentleman thing, as Paula puts it), allowing herself to be carried off to Rome to escape the fact that Josh just revealed her criminal past and history of institutionalization to her friends — only for Paula, Valencia, Heather, and Darryl to meet her at the threshold and try to stop her.
The situation, which began as loving concern, deteriorates into a botched intervention attempt as Rebecca turns on the people who love her the most, hitting them exactly where a smart Ivy League girl knows will hurt the most: Valencia was “forcing her dream wedding on someone else because no one actually wants to marry [her],” Heather is a pathetic community college fraud, Paula is crazy too and neglecting her real family because she thinks Rebecca is her daughter, and Darryl cannot see the bright neon writing on the wall that says White Josh doesn’t want to have a baby with him. As for Nathaniel, in his moment of confusion as he tries to figure out what’s going on, Rebecca instantly turns on him: “You’ve been texting with them this whole time, haven’t you? You’re a traitor, just like them.”
And so, having severed herself from everyone in her life, Rebecca retreats to a youth hostel to befriend a Danish tourist (after she leaves Josh a few dozen voicemails, of course). It’s the Danish tourist and his obsession with Danish-American movie stars that ignites Rebecca’s latest revenge plan on Josh: become Erika Christensen in Swimfan. Sure, Rebecca knows she’s technically the villain in the movie — and a murderer — “but she is treated so unfairly!”
And so begins the night’s first musical number, the incredibly low-budget title sequence song for SWIMCHAN, in which Rebecca transforms into the femme fatale she’s been teasing all season. This Rebecca is “angry like a witch, but sexy like a sexy witch” and “wearing high heels and a trench coat made of murder” and ready to make Josh Chan wish he was never born using classic revenge thriller tactics.
Meanwhile, Rebecca’s friends are looking for her (even if they can’t file a missing person report because, technically, she’s just a person who walked out of her own home) and trying to digest the cruel truths she spewed before she left. Valencia and Paula have to reconcile over how crazy Paula was in season 1 toward Valencia as she attempted to sabotage her relationship with Josh for Rebecca’s sake. Valencia, obviously, is rightfully upset, not least about the tracker Paula implanted in her arm (even if it is out of batteries), which makes Paula realize maybe she had crossed a line or seven, and maybe Rebecca had been right about how she treats her family. “Do you think I’m a bad mom?” Paula asks Valencia and Heather. They answer with a chorus of “Welllllllllll.” “Two-part harmony bad?” Paula replies. The girls confirm she has been sort of neglectful. “Brendan is my weed guy,” Valencia says.
(Recap continues on page 2)