Cleaning your bathroom isn’t fun. But there’s no substitute for the feeling of taking in a bath in a spotless tub that was once too grody for anything but the quickest of showers. It’s no secret that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has also had some cleaning up to do. The departure of Greg (Santino Fontana) left a gaping void in the show’s cast and, as I wrote last week, Josh has been relegated to an ancillary role in the overarching narrative. The distance between Paula and Rebecca, too, deprived us of one of the show’s most generative couplings. The last few episodes have been a well-written, often hilarious mess, but a mess nonetheless.
So it’s no surprise that last night’s twin episodes, aired consecutively, weren’t always fun. They had a lot of dirty work to do. But by golly, they did it. The first episode (“Who Is Josh’s Soup Fairy?”) was fairly uneven despite flashes of brilliance. But by the end of “When Do I Get To Spend Time With Josh?” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has finally gotten itself spick and span. Get the bubble bath ready. This show is one damn clean bathroom.
Crazy Ex accomplishes this feat in less than two hours mostly by slamming the accelerator on its several subplots: Scott cheats on Paula and gets thrown out of the house, leaving an opening for Rebecca to come back into the Proctor household. Anna breaks up with Josh because he’s too earnest and uncool, sending the Chan Man running straight back into Rebecca’s arms. And the Greg-sized hole in the show gets plugged by the law firm’s self-satisfied new boss, Nathaniel Plimpton, played by a deliciously statuesque Scott Michael Foster. Oh, and along the way, Rebecca briefly loses Tommy Proctor in a nightclub, Josh tries out modeling, and Paula digs up a grave to help save everyone’s jobs. Phew. If that sounds like a lot more than usually happens in two episodes of Crazy Ex, it is. Some of these stories are handled better than others and certain plotlines—like the Paula-Scott separation—feel rushed but this is exactly the kind of reshuffling the show needed post-Greg.
But instead of focusing on the bad, let’s consider what’s so terrific about the results of that reshuffling. First, Crazy Ex displayed exemplary self-awareness about how quickly it had to move to get its act together. The second episode features the show’s best fourth-wall breaking moment yet: a song from the lower-level employees of Whitefeather and Associates in which they sing about the sudden introduction of a new major character. References to “episodes” turn out to be references to “Karen’s manic episodes” and lyrics about “terrible ratings” are actually about the law firm’s online reviews. It’s cute and winky and borderline too-clever-for-its-own-good but it also leverages the trust the show has built with its core fanbase. “Look,” the song seems to say, “we didn’t want Greg to leave, either, but we’ve gotta do something.”
And that new character ain’t all that bad, either. In previews for last night’s double episodes, the cast compared the new Nathaniel-Rebecca dynamic to the Jack-Liz dynamic in 30 Rock and that’s more or less accurate. The show even borrows a device straight from 30 Rock by having Nathaniel’s comments about Josh play out in Rebecca’s head while she’s trying to listen to Josh speak. (Remember James Marsden’s Criss, anyone?) And although the asshole-who-turns-out-to-be-relatable type is pretty played out by now, Rebecca needs a brainier and more biting energy in her life, and Nathaniel fits right into Greg’s shoes. By the end of the episode, too, Rachel Bloom and Scott Michael Foster have already established a believable rapport that should have taken several episodes to develop. (One of Rebecca’s barbs, in particular, completely ruined me: “Paging Dr. Freud, Oedipus needs his blankie,” said in her best baby voice.)
The final moments of last night’s two-hour marathon made it clear that Rebecca kind of likes Nathaniel. I do, too, and I’m ready for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to luxuriate instead of having to tidy.
May Saunders is a professional dog walker living in Minneapolis and an occasional freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, who does not need to be walked. Follow her on Twitter.