After a few episodes of traditional Hollywood songs and traditional sitcom emotions, while we mourn the loss of Greg (Santino Fontana, you will be sorely missed), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is moving on and getting weird in the best possible ways. There’s a brief and not unpleasant Jason Mraz-style song for Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) as he daydreams/tries not to daydream at work in the Hawaiian-themed electronics store, but “Why is Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Eating Carbs?” is on a wavelength no hammock-dwelling ukulele player can reach.
This week’s episode also features some strange brain-ballet performances, induced by drug tea procured at a knock-off Burning Man. Downing two cups apiece of “triceratops” (also known as “three tops,” “mecatle trichloricane,” “mixie,” “toxie,” “gloxie”), Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) and Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz) fade into some unconscious classical-theatre movements. But is it a song? Maybe not, but I’m giving myself permission to include quiet, hallucinogen-driven mind ballets in my analysis.
Both women’s dances focus around their initial point of mutual interest, and the episode’s thematic core: insecurities derived from exes, specifically their shared past with Josh. For her part, Valencia’s smoky, blue environment and elegant, flowing, wedding-like dress—shot from a flattering high-angle to emphasize her poise—is disrupted by low-angled (and thus sinister-looking) Josh. When he pirouettes, superhero-like, into a frightening triceratops mask, it’s clear who the villain is in her dance.
Rebecca, confused, blunt, and aggressive, end up as, well, a triceratops—one that doesn’t seem to realize either that its horns are for defense or that it’s an herbivore. Especially when it gores, rips, and eats Josh’s heart from his chest. Her dream is red-tinted, violent, and coarse: She yells, “Weee, I’m a pretty ballet dancer!” in the background, which hardly ever happens in ballets; her moves are unwieldy and robotic, climaxing with her transformation into a revenge-seeking dinosaur in clumsy pursuit. The choreography here, as in Valencia’s it’s-all-working-fine-until-the-betrayal scene, tells the story beautifully, though it’s still silly enough to be a funny drug trip.
This, like the cinematic ballets in everything from The Red Shoes to Black Swan, translates into “off-stage” emotions. When they come to from their psychotropic nightmares, Valencia and Rebecca also come to emotionally honest epiphanies: They feel betrayed by Josh in different ways, which makes their responses equally inconsistent.
Valencia’s description of the ballet (and the relationship) as “horrible and beautiful and sad” is her reflection upon a long-term bond that fell apart after years of work. It’s the acknowledgement that, though there’s a certain adolescent power in being the dumper rather than the dumpee, both parties know how and when they really grew apart. Valencia’s scared to be alone because she put in the work and got nothing in return. Rebecca’s pissed to be alone because she’ll do anything to be the opposite and takes rejection as a personal affront. Rebecca’s “roided out” anger, mad at the advantages Josh took (which she quickly and eagerly offered) is just another manifestation of her selfishness: Nothing is her fault and she’ll be damned if anything doesn’t go her way. She didn’t rip Josh’s heart out, but at her most primal (and most immature), she wants to.
In the ultimate confrontation, though, both Rebecca and Valencia twist their emotions into empowerment—even if they’re pretty hard on the completely unprepared Josh. They may not have accepted their roles in their respectively crumpled relationships, but they’re certainly not playing the victim now, either. And if the ladies of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can’t bond over trippy ballets and feminism, then what can they bond over?
That Rebecca legitimately and caringly asks about another person’s problems—for the first time… all season?—immediately after her Valencia pee-party is, ironically, the best sign of character growth we’ve had yet. All it takes to get Rebecca out of her selfish shell is drugs, ballet, and feminist revenge. Maybe next season it’ll only take one of the three. And maybe next season, we won’t have to hear sad refrains of “Here Comes The Sun” as Rebecca stares longingly at the people she’s driven away.
Jacob Oller is a writer and film critic whose writing has appeared in The Guardian, Playboy, Roger Ebert, Film School Rejects, Chicagoist, Vague Visages, and other publications. He lives in Chicago, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and struggles not to kill his two cats daily. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jacoboller.