If there’s a sign of how good Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has become, it’s this: For the first ten minutes of “Josh and I Go to Los Angeles!” I forgot that this show was a musical. I forgot even though I’ve reviewed this show for 13 weeks, and constantly listen to my favorite songs from episodes past during my day job. I remembered, of course, as soon as Rebecca Bunch and her childhood rival Audra Levine broke out into a Jewish American Princess” rap battle but, for the first act, I was so invested in the characters that I wasn’t even expecting to be rewarded with a musical number.
To me, that means that the quality of the show itself has finally caught up with its excellent soundtrack. It’s not that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s writing or character development have ever been bad, per se, but the series has always been a bit of a slow burn. For a show that was besieged by cancellation rumors before Rachel Bloom took home her Golden Globe, it sure didn’t seem in a hurry to get anywhere. Characters who are now part of the show’s emotional core didn’t get properly introduced until midway through. Daryl’s character didn’t have much depth until episode five and now even more of his layers are getting peeled back. Josh didn’t even fully come into focus until episode ten and he’s the reason Rebecca is in West Covina.
But looking back now, I’m glad that Crazy Ex took its time building to this point, if only so that “Josh and I Go to Los Angeles” could bowl me over with how uniquely lovable each of these characters has become. In that sense, the show’s slow pace has mimicked the speed with which you get to know a dear friend: Bit by bit, you learn more about them and then, one day, you realize you need them.
The episode itself is a significant one for the show’s overarching storylines. The Josh-Rebecca, Greg-Heather and Daryl-White Josh relationships all reach climactic moments: a kiss (!) for Jebecca, a breakup in Greatherland, and a very public coming out for the once-closeted half of #WhiteJoshFeather. Narratively, it makes full use of the hourlong runtime with very little of the padding that’s weighed down some past episodes: Rebecca’s fake boyfriend stunt backfires when the old college classmate she found on Facebook decides he wants to be her real boyfriend, Greg grapples with his feelings for Rebecca even as Heather becomes his coworker, and Daryl wants to date White Josh but doesn’t want to go anywhere his friends might see them together. And all of that takes place against the backdrop of Rebecca’s legal battle with Audra Levine and Greater City Water which, as we know, began as a pretense for getting closer to Josh Chan.
But it’s the little touches, not the big plot payoffs, that truly make this episode sing. Everyone gets a perfect moment. Rebecca gets a much-needed taste of her own stalkerish medicine when Trent (played perfectly by Paul Welsh) decides to play along with her lie about him being her boyfriend by living in her apartment, blackmailing her, and making handmade pasta in exchange for the opportunity to sleep at the foot of her bed like he’s a dog. Daryl and White Josh’s conversation about the close may be the most honest and painfully funny depiction of multi-generational LGBT differences ever to appear on network television. Daryl is nervous—understandably—about coming out and Josh is reticent—also understandably—to hide their relationship.
“I didn’t come out until I was twelve,” he says to Daryl, adding without a hint of irony, “Those were some tough years.” (Meanwhile, of course, Daryl is only coming to terms with his bisexuality in middle age.)
Greg’s fixation on Rebecca prompts a perfect reprise of “Settle For Me” from Heather who instructs him not to settle for her because she deserves a man’s full attention and, well, he should just get over his pride already. And Josh’s long history of meaningful looks at Rebecca finally turns into action: a kiss, the kiss we’ve all been waiting for and, as such, a lip-locking that can never live up to expectations.
The music is here, too, of course. There’s the aforementioned rap battle and a populist anthem in the style of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables called “Flooded by Justice.” Yes, they’re catchy, excellent and riddled with clever lyrics. But this week, it almost doesn’t matter. This week, you can subtract the songs and you’d never notice the difference.
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.