8.5

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Review: "Josh and I Are Good People" (1.05)

Comedy Reviews Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
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<i>Crazy Ex-Girlfriend</i> Review: "Josh and I Are Good People" (1.05)

From the start of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca has been pursuing Josh with a breathtaking singularity of purpose, selfishly using every other character as a means to an end: Paula enables her, Valencia is the competition, and Greg gets her one step closer to her true love. That leaves her boss Darryl whom she, not coincidentally, has ignored this entire time despite his plea in the premiere for help dealing with his divorce.

But, when she’s prompted by Greg’s anger to prove that she’s a good person, Rebecca finally agrees to help Darryl (Pete Gardner) with his custody battle, setting the stage for a strange, uneven, but still clever episode of Crazy Ex. Musically, “Josh and I Are Good People” is one of the finest episodes since the premiere. Narratively, it struggles to build to a thesis. But it gets there in the end.

First, the music. If you haven’t noticed or recognized his name in the credits, much of the music in Crazy Ex is co-written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne fame. Schlesinger has also crafted poppy earworms for movies like That Thing You Do and Josie and the Pussycats, so it’s no wonder that the Crazy Ex songs are so catchy week in and week out.

The big winner this week is an opening country number in which Darryl attempts to explain his immense love for his daughter without sounding creepy. Father-daughter culture is easy to skewer, and Crazy Ex certainly has fun at its expense, but this song also gets credit for having its character be self-aware about how “songs like this can come off” while trying, however haltingly, to put his feelings into words. On one level, the song works as parody, but it also reads as an awkwardly earnest attempt to capture the complexities of that relationship, summed up by Darryl with the closing lyric, “Having a daughter is… [cue falsetto] weeeeeeird.”

And, after Rebecca successfully helps her boss gain temporary full custody, she returns triumphant to Greg to gloat about her altruism with a catchy, dancey tune, in which she declares herself “Mother Teresa Luther King.”

With such strong music this week, it’s a shame to watch the plot play catch-up. After last week’s subversion of the nice guy trope, it’s disheartening to see Rebecca be so desperate for an indignant Greg’s respect throughout the first two acts of “Josh and I Are Good People.” But, to its credit, the show attributes Rebecca’s need for validation to her childhood relationship with her parents instead of ascribing it to some sort of inherent womanly need for male approval, as other, lazier shows might.

“Somehow I’ve made Greg my new moral arbiter in this town,” Rebecca realizes out loud, after reflecting on her lack of parental validation (and in the midst of planting $10,000 in Darryl’s soon-to-be-ex-wife’s suitcase in a last-ditch attempt to make Greg like her—it’s complicated). Without that line, which was a little too long in coming, the episode would have felt frustratingly unresolved, and a little too far inside Rebecca’s head to still be pleasant to watch.

Central narrative aside, Crazy Ex is slowly improving at giving its supporting cast things to do in the B and C stories. With Darryl and Rebecca out of the office, Paula takes over and rules with an iron fist. But it’s Josh’s own quest for validation from his priest “Father Brah”—a nickname derived, as Josh notes from the sequence “Father Joseph, Father Broseph, Father Bro, Father Brah”—that proves to be the most enjoyable plotline. Vincent Rodriguez III is becoming a more charming actor the more screen time he has, and he nails the simple-minded/good-hearted combo this episode with an uncanny precision.

Josh’s list of sinful thoughts, which includes thinking about a girl at the mall watching him have sex with two sexy mannequins, produces the episode’s most unexpected laugh. (Except, perhaps, for the episode’s tag which features Paula’s co-worker Carrie, played by Stephnie Weir, reviewing her new menstrual cup on her YouTube channel with a quote from the book of Psalms: “My cup runneth over.”)

After admitting his attraction to Rebecca at the end of the episode, Josh informs her of his decision to stay with Valencia anyway, but the word “attracted” is all that Rebecca needs to hear to undo all of her progress toward becoming a better person. The episode ends with her maniacal laughter and the promise of more selfishness to come.

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.