has two alternating modes: setting up future catastrophes and letting disasters unfold. Episodes in the latter mode tend to be better all the way down to their music (“You Stupid Bitch,” “It Was a Shit Show,” etc.) and episodes in the former mode, while necessary, often have problems with focus and structure. “Is Josh Free In Two Weeks?” is no exception.
With a big season finale wedding on the horizon, this episode’s job is to set Rebecca up for a spectacular failure or a wince-inducing success. (Whether Rebecca and Josh tie the knot or not, she loses either way). Unfortunately, that involves abruptly moving the lead characters around like they’re on an invisible chessboard: Suddenly, Valencia appears to start planning her ex-boyfriend’s wedding, thus sparing Rebecca the hassle of doing it all herself. A new character in Josh’s Christian basketball league shows up to possibly introduce some last-minute temptation into the equation. And Nathaniel, who spends most of the episode trying not to poop his pants after putting unwashed kale in his cleansing smoothie, gets inserted into the wedding storyline, too, by flying Rebecca’s estranged father to West Covina for the festivities. Oh, and somewhere along the way, Seth Green shows up to play a delivery guy named Patrick, who serves as a sounding board for Rebecca’s wedding-related (and general) anxiety. It’s not that I don’t want all of these people to be at the wedding together; I just wish there were a more organic, character-driven way to get them all in the same place.
There are a few highlights hiding in this awkward buildup to next week’s inevitable explosion: Scott Michael Foster is really coming into the Nathaniel character, and his disgust at being turned on by a random memory of Rebecca saying that she never washes her hands was just delightful. Josh’s reference to the “Sugar Ray cover band, Splenda Ray” is exactly the sort of clever writing that helps this hourlong comedy feel like half that length. And above all, Rebecca’s musical meltdown in front of Patrick near is one of the most powerful mental health-related moments Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has ever had. This is a comedy, yes, but it’s a comedy that has refused to reduce depression to a character quirk or use anxiety as a mere wellspring for laughs. Rebecca has serious problems and the show takes them seriously. As she begs Patrick to “Tell Me I’m Okay” and rants about the “kabal of normal people” who are “all laughing at me like I’m in my own Truman Show,” I felt genuine concern for her and a flicker of recognition. Rebecca isn’t just some unlucky-in-love quirkster; she’s someone who has never figured out some of the fundamentals of human functioning. And anyone who’s ever had a hard time being a person will see an uncomfortable reflection of themselves in Rebecca’s plea to be told—even by a stranger—that she’s okay.
Unfortunately for Rebecca—and as I’ve stated before—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is often at its best when our protagonist is not okay. The storm is coming next week and she’ll be at the eye of it, wearing a wedding dress and watching her dreams crash down around her.