I was fascinated to see how Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would follow up last week’s episode, which was so impressive it felt more like a magic trick than a narrative arc. One would think that after turning on her friends, becoming the horror-movie villain in Josh’s life, and sleeping with Greg’s father, Rebecca Bunch had hit rock bottom. Consider “I Never Want to See Josh Again” a jackhammer.
Paula, for all of her maternal instincts when it comes to Rebecca, understands that she’s not actually Rebecca’s real mother. And so when Rebecca disappeared last week, she called Naomi Bunch (the wonderful Tovah Feldshuh) who brings Rebecca back to Scarsdale to get her life back on track.
For Rebecca’s mom, “on track” means resigning from her West Covina job (which she does for Rebecca via fax) and getting her old job in New York City back. That’s the plan, at least until Naomi looks at Rebecca’s laptop and sees that her daughter hasn’t been retooling her resume like she said she was. Rebecca had been researching ways to kill herself.
Suicide is always a delicate subject to discuss and depict onscreen — shows risk minimizing it, or veering into the maudlin and exploiting it for drama. But for all its candy-colored musical numbers, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has hardly ever misfired when it’s come to its depiction of mental illness. The show’s unofficial credo seems to have been snuck into a parenthetical from the first season’s theme song: “The Situation Is a Lot More Nuanced Than That.”
And so the normally controlling and overbearing Naomi Bunch becomes Mother of the Year overnight, offering Rebecca an endless stream of full-fat strawberry milkshakes and wearing matching Juicy tracksuits with the daughter she’s so desperate to cheer up. “Maybe she’s not such a heinous bitch after all!” Rebecca sings in a gleeful doo-wop number, complete with black-and-white background dancers. Audra Levine, nemesis, comes over to bring a casserole and warn about Naomi’s seemingly inexplicable mothering streak (“What do opinionated Jewish mothers do when they turn 60? They change!”) but Rebecca doesn’t want to hear it. Rebecca may have given up on controlling her own life, but it seems playing Twister and eating popcorn with a mother finally showing her love and affection is making suicide a more distant preoccupation.
Back in West Covina, Nathaniel immediately jumps on Rebecca’s absence to hire a new replacement: the eternally professional Cornelia, who also went to Yale and Harvard but doesn’t mention it unless someone asks. Cornelia is the anti-Rebecca Bunch; she shies away from office drama, works diligently, doesn’t talk about her personal life, and treats all of her co-workers with basic, non-sexualized respect. And so, of course, all of the office employees become insane projecting their needs from Rebecca onto this poor woman. Maya wants a millennial-friendly mentor; former background-character Bill needs someone to replace Rebecca as his will-they-won’t-they office romance (don’t you remember that nonexistent plot line? Everyone saw their chemistry!); and Darryl needs someone he can talk to about White Josh, and Cornelia’s polite recommendation of a relationship book she read a review of in the New York Times just isn’t going to cut it. (Masterful music detail: the background reprise of “Who’s The New Guy,” reminding us probably not to get too attached.)
And Nathaniel. Poor Nathaniel, who caught feelings for Rebecca and now holds tight onto her stuffed alligator while moving men hired by Naomi clear out her West Covina apartment. Nathaniel seems alternatively perplexed and outraged by the fact that Cornelia is a professional and not the sexually electric and completely inappropriate Rebecca. (Recap continues on next page)