If “When Will Josh See How Cool I Am?; allowed Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin) her moment in the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend musical spotlight, then “When Will Josh and His Friend Leave Me Alone?” belongs to Greg (Santino Fontana).
Appearing first as a corporeal human making rational decisions (through song, of course), Greg manages to break free of his unhealthy relationship with Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) at the most romantically loaded location: the airport escalator. His song begins deep and dreamy, the low baritones of Josh Groban admitting he loves you. The build is slow to the song’s clever, one-word payoff, but it stings us into barking laughter. Rebecca’s smeared makeup and general rock-bottom bummerface only make the harsh truth land all the more delightfully.
In “It Was a Shitshow,” Fontana belts lines about feces in some of the best mid-2000s-love-song lighting a parody like this has ever seen. When this show goes for a genre, every crew member pitches in to imitate the era. A bit sepia-tinted with ultra-highlighted hair from strong backlighting, the scene looks like a perfect, model-starring music video. When the obscenities and disaster-riffing come in, the hilarious pang is icing on an already bittersweet cake.
Later in the episode, as Rebecca copes with this decision, she begins seeing apparitions of Greg and Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III) around the house. Dubbed “memory spirits” and “polterguys” (definitely not “dream ghosts”), they’re here to gender-flip Matthew McConaughey’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. They’re all in her head, at once fantasy versions of the boys (non-stop, Rebecca-focused sex machines) and ghostly tormentors reminding her of the superficial ego boost she’s lost. This sexual, romantic, gleeful torture swirls around Rebecca’s crumbling psyche in the middle of the night, interrupting a mental (and literal) cleanse.
This culminates in “Tapped That Ass,” a Singin’ in the Rain-style brofest with Greg and Josh as Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and Rebecca as a much more sexually frustrated Debbie Reynolds. The tap dancing, sexual innuendo, prop work, comic timing and wordplay between the two male performers transcend the most immediate touchstone, “Good Morning,” to incorporate elements of the more verbally humorous “Moses Supposes.”
The room-spanning geography of the number resembles the domestic choreography of “Good Morning,” mixed with an updating of its performers’ personae. Who’s to say whether or not Kelly and O’Connor would’ve been high-fiving frat boys in 2016? “Tapped That Ass” is also the second number in as many episodes to feature a counting-off gag, as Josh tabulates an average number of bangs per day as “5, 6, 7, 8.” It’s the first time a time signature has helped someone get laid.
The sheer numbers of puns, the Standards and Practices-skirting dirtiness (both men finishing… their dance, on Rebecca’s chest… of drawers) and the relentless grinning cements a celebration of sex into a show whose main character could, well, use a break. Although, any sequence that features a giant ass prop for hamboning (pun definitely intended) is all right in my book.
That this results in her almost burning down her apartment complex in an ex-boyfriend memorabilia bonfire is the perfect Rebecca overreaction. Nowhere is safe from those memories, that lost feeling of being needed, so screw it—burn it all to the ground.
Running to Heather’s parents (supporting cast MVPs), then “Momma Paula,” brings the immaturity we already associate with Rebecca into the narrative, not to mention the episode’s final song.
At their most “Weird Al” Yankovic, the songwriters give us a parody of Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” “Makeover” (though Yankovic already recorded the reverent I Love Lucy love song, “Ricky”). The song is the episode’s weakest—it only goes on for about a line or two before Rebecca’s cheerleader has a smile- and pep-induced stroke—but Rebecca’s douche-emblazoned cheering outfit certainly gave the costuming department a chance to shine. The metatextual humor involved in describing the steps in a post-breakup movie makeover is fun, but it’s something that’s been done to death almost as brutally as the ubiquitous makeover montage.
The song’s brief runtime and low cost, featuring Rebecca alone in a vaguely gymnastic setting with nothing but pompoms and a demonic level of eyeliner, certainly helps justify its inclusion, but with two clever and well-executed pastiches in the episode already, the barebones parody doesn’t hold up: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has gotten so good at this kind of genre and style mimicry that we’ve been spoiled. With so much musical output at such a high level, some numbers will inevitably disappoint, though I wouldn’t mind seeing the series scale back the number of songs per episode—as long as they’re at the level of “Love Triangles ” or “Tapped That Ass.”
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.