It’s hard to apply the Bechdel test to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. So far, Rebecca and Paula have been equally single-minded in their pursuit of Josh and he is frequently their only topic of discussion. And yes, if there were no depth behind their mutual investment in an offscreen man—if their characters were solely and shallowly defined by him—this wouldn’t be the feminist show that it so often aspires to be.
But Rebecca has legitimate reasons for her Josh obsession that have been thoroughly explored this season: depression, her parents’ divorce, career pressures, etc. And Paula? Well, her fixation on reuniting Rebecca with her summer camp ex has been a little harder to pin down. At first, Paula seemed to be using Rebecca to distract herself from an unhappy marriage but even after she rekindled her romance with her husband, she was still hell-bent on helping her friend land Josh Chan.
Why? What’s in it for Paula? Her answer makes this episode of Crazy Ex one of the most significant so far, and one of the best.
“Josh’s Sister is Getting Married” finds Rebecca a changed woman after her round-trip flight to JFK. Of course, it remains to be seen just how changed she is and how long she stays that way but for a solid couple of days, at least, she exclusively makes good choices. Instead of sabotaging Valencia by taking a spot in Josh’s sister’s wedding, Rebecca uses the Chan fam’s admiration to get her and Valencia both into the bridal party. And rather than succumbing to Josh’s charms, she rebuffs him when he comes storming into her house, clearly looking for an excuse to process his unresolved feelings for her.
It wouldn’t be an interesting episode without a few more temptations, though, which come in the form of Paula’s scheming—her idea to rub poison oak all over Valencia’s bridesmaid dress is inspired—and Greg’s sexual overtures.
For his part, Santino Fontana as Greg gets to chew on his best plotline to date. Greg spends the bulk of the episode working through his own attraction to Rebecca by mentoring a grocery store employee who is dealing with a similar love triangle. He’s also struggling to overcome the toxic mix of apathy and overconfidence that’s holding him back academically, which gives us the episode’s first song, a 90s alternative rock jam called “I Could If I Wanted To.” Fontana nails the arrogant but loveable slacker energy here, showing us that his range extends beyond the sarcastic, cantankerous foil he often plays to the Chan crew. Greg, too, wants to start making some better choices for himself and so he eventually finds the strength to turn Rebecca down even though he has spent weeks pining after her.
But there’s another pairing in this episode that’s more important than Grebecca: the Paula-Rebecca friendship. For most of the episode, Rebecca ignores the ticking time bomb that is Paula’s insistence on sabotaging Valencia. With a healthy dose of self-deprecation—and a perfectly-choreographed song about the weight of her “heavy boobs”—Rebecca helps her rail-thin romantic rival feel better about herself and more at home with Josh’s sisters.
Paula, though, goes rogue, hacking into Valencia’s phone and uploading a private photo of her trying on Josh’s sister’s wedding gown to social media. Rebecca takes the fall for Valencia during the fallout with Josh’s family but she’s still furious with Paula, and presses her friend to confess why she’s been so invested in making Josh Chan happen. And if Donna Lynne Champlin’s delivery of Paula’s answer doesn’t make your eyes well up with tears, get an EKG to make sure you still have a heart.
“If we’re not chasing Josh, then you’re not gonna want to to hang out with me anymore, I know it!” Paula sobs, calling him the “glue” that binds them together.
Rebecca reassures her that she loves her apart from their Josh schemes, and that their friendship is much bigger than him. It’s a Bechdel test moment sixteen episodes in the making, and all the more powerful for the long delay. It’s powerful enough that it almost overshadows the end of the episode, in which Rebecca chooses to sleep with Greg not because Josh rejected her but because she genuinely seems to want him.
Men will come and go. Greg might stand the test of time or their renewed romance could crumble again. But this episode made it clear: Rebecca and Paula are forever. As Dr. Akopian’s dream ghost would say, “Forget about the guys!”
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.