Last week, I praised Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for placing its characters in believable situations rather than instantly rearranging them into a love triangle: Greg is trying to recover from alcoholism, Paula is applying to law school, and Rebecca is still chasing Josh while he pulls away. Each of these is an interesting, well-written predicament in its own right and many of them feel fresh. How often, after all, do we get to watch a middle-aged woman with a family and kids sing a Disney-esque song about her lost career dreams?
But the problem with these character’s conflicts is that many of them are isolating: Josh wants to have an “independent” relationship with Rebecca, Greg is off at AA meetings, and Paula has literally signed a contract to stay out of the show’s romantic storylines. This week, the show could have benefited from some old-fashioned plot contrivances to throw our favorite characters back together again. I’d even accept something as tired as trapping Josh and Greg in an elevator if it meant I got to see the show’s leads interact with each other again.
“When Will Josh See How Cool I Am?” has four songs and four storylines: Rebecca tries to learn ping pong to make Josh think she’s a classic “cool girl,” Josh is not doing a very good job of keeping his new sort-of-relationship with Rebecca a secret from Greg, Paula needs a letter of recommendation for her application, and Greg is trying to deal with being angry at Josh without resorting to booze. The good news here is that the show’s supporting cast gets a chance to shine: Josh shares Boba with Father Brah, Paula has kitchen chats with her adorable husband, and so on.
But the bad news is that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend still needs to figure out how to put the main attractions back in the same room without repeating last season’s dynamics: What can Paula and Rebecca do with each other that’s not scheming to get Josh’s attention? How will Greg fit back into the picture after he stops trying to go it alone? I have no doubt that the show will figure out some new character pairings in time—the teaser for next week’s episode promises some meta-commentary on the show’s love triangle—but for now, the show feels a little more listless than usual.
That’s not to say that the individual components of the show aren’t fantastic. They are. Paula sings a fairy tale song about rotting deer carcasses, broken vibrators, and lost dreams. Greg gets his own Irish bar tune about having sex with a bush in a drunken stupor. And Josh’s number—“Ping-Pong Girl”—is both a loving homage to Green Day and a perfect skewering of the cool girl trope: “She’s so aloof / it borders on cold / and that’s what makes me want her.” The cast has never been better, with special marks to Donna Lynne Champlin for her thrilling soprano and to Santino Fontana for bringing much-needed emotional weight to Greg’s struggle with alcoholism. In so many ways, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is better and more confident than it was last season. The show is bursting at the seams with ideas and characters and music. It just needs to figure out how to put them back together again.