Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: “My First Thanksgiving With Josh!”

Premiered November 15, 2015

"It's the holidays, Paula.  People don't always get what they want." 
- Rebecca Bunch

Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) has recently re-located to West Covina, California to stalk Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III).  She and Josh had a relationship ten years earlier during summer camp.

Thanksgiving is approaching and Rebecca isn't looking forward to spending turkey day with her mother in New York.  She runs into Josh and hears that his entire family is coming to town for Thanksgiving.  Rebecca is envious and wishes she was spending the holiday with Josh and his family.

However, Josh is in a relationship with mean girl Valencia Perez (Gabrielle Ruiz), his girlfriend since high school.  Valencia doesn't get along with Josh's family because they think she's "dumb."  Every time she visits the Chan family, Valencia and Josh almost break up.

Rebecca's friend from work, Paula (Donna Lynn Champlin) sees the tension between Valencia and the Chan family as a "boulder" they can use to crush Valencia and Josh's romance.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Paula arranges for Rebecca to literally bump into Josh's mother Lourdes (Amy Hill) at a grocery store.  Rebecca and Paula tell Josh's mom that Rebecca  has no where to go for Thanksgiving dinner.  They mention Rebecca's Ivy League education and Lourdes invites Rebecca to dinner.

Before leaving for the Chans' house, Paula outfits Rebecca with an owl broach.  It contains a video camera and microphone that will allow Paula to remotely watch Rebecca's triumph.

At Thanksgiving dinner, everyone enjoys Rebecca's presence.  She's the life of the party. 

As she sings in one of the show's musical numbers,  Rebecca "Gives Good Parent."  Josh even comments that she's making his father smile, something that rarely occurs.

The exception is Valencia, who sees right through the charade and accuses Rebecca of sucking up.  Valencia tells Rebecca that she should forget about ever getting back together with Josh.

Meanwhile, Rebecca's maybe/maybe not other love interest/Josh's friend Greg (Santino Fontana) plans to quit his bar tending job and go back to business school, but a family emergency may well get in the way.

How will the Thanksgiving festivities pan out?   Will Rebecca and Paula succeed in pushing Valencia out of Josh's heart?

J.A. Morris says:
For those who haven't seen it, I should mention Crazy Ex-Girlfriend features elaborate song-and-dance numbers in every episode.

This a great episode of one of my favorite current series.  In Thanksgiving episodes, it's common for characters to dread the holiday and the family gathering. However, in "My First Thanksgiving With Josh," Rebecca goes out of her way to weasel an invitation and has a good time at Thanksgiving dinner, until...well, I won't spoil the ending.  Let's just say that after charming the Chans, Rebecca's Thanksgiving takes a turn for the worse.

The high point is Rachel Bloom's performance of the song "I Give Good Parent."  Bloom dances in a turkey costume with "Pilgrim" back up dancers!  It's a sight to behold.

I also appreciated the jokes that centered on the National Dog Show, which has become a Thanksgiving television tradition.  Rebecca mentions that she normally spends the holiday with her mother "body shaming dogs."

If there's anything wrong with this episode, it's that the subplot that focuses on Rebecca's on-again/off-again boyfriend Greg takes time away from the Thanksgiving portion.

I don't know that I'll watch this episode every November, but it's fun and worth watching at least once.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 and a half pumpkin pies.

RigbyMel says:
This is a fun episode of an excellent series.   As tends to happen in real life, holidays like Thanksgiving often tend to kick interpersonal drama up a notch.    In this episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,  we get to see that Turkey Day doesn't turn out so well for any of its main characters.   Rebecca horns into the object of her affection Josh's family celebration  in an attempt to break up his relationship with Valencia but things do not go quite as planned.     Her on-again-off-again friend/love interest Greg also experiences a rough Thanksgiving of being stuck at work and caring for his sick father.   Paula is vicariously joining in on Rebecca's adventures (with the aid of an owl shaped brooch that also happens to be a camera) rather than engage with her own family and disappointments.

So there are THREE Thanksgiving celebrations at play here as well as songs ... and poop jokes.  Many shows struggle to make an A story and a  B story work well without throwing in musical numbers, so kudos to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writers for pulling off an impressive balancing act.

As in any good musical,  the original songs in this episode are well written and tell us something about the characters and/or plot.    Rebecca's "I Give Good Parent" song is VERY funny, but also tells us a lot about Rebecca and her plans to kiss up to Josh's family with her authentic Filipino dish with an eye to destroying Josh and Valencia's relationship.   The song is all about what she visualizes as happening and bears only a limited resemblance to what actually happens.

This notion of what we visualize for ourselves vs. what actually happens in life is mirrored in Greg's solo song "What'll It Be"  is both a clever take on "Piano Man" AND an expression of Greg's frustration at feeling trapped in a dead-end job and not being able to do what he feels he needs to do to get on with his life. 

That being said,  neither song would work if we didn't have well-written, flawed and interesting characters making their way through good, thoughtful stories surrounding them.   

"My First Thanksgiving With Josh!" is a good holiday episode that both adheres to and slightly subverts Thanksgiving tropes (such as uncomfortable times with family and/or friends and cooking).  Fans of the series will definitely enjoy this episode -- if you're new to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend though, I'd suggest starting from the beginning so you can get your bearings.  Trust me, you'll be glad you did!

RigbyMel's rating:

3 pumpkin pies