Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MTVP So Cal Summer 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1.08: "My Mom, Greg’s Mom and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves!"

“Look, this is important. No one is wearing a Christmas sweater. Why isn’t anyone wearing a Christmas sweater? It is National Christmas Sweater Day. Whatever.”

This was “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” first attempt at a holiday episode, and overall, it was quite charming and insightful. We finally really meet Rebecca’s mother, and she’s kind of horrifying. By the end of the episode, she explains to Rebecca why she’s always been so ridiculously tough on her, but I don’t think the explanation justifies her behavior. I believe she loves Rebecca, but her way of showing that love has done quite a bit of damage. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we learn more about Greg’s difficult relationship with his mother where he is the one with the worse behavior. He resents that his mother left him and his father when he was a kid, but he is completely hostile to any attempt by her or her new family to be kind to him. Both Rebecca and Greg come to difficult realizations in this episode, Greg more than Rebecca. Also, in a C plot that kind of mirrors my own feelings about the holidays, Josh is bummed because the holidays aren’t quite as fun when you’re an adult and have work and responsibilities and stuff. This plot has the advantage of showing off Vincent Rodriguez III’s amazing dance skills.

It’s the holidays, and Rebecca’s mother Naomi is coming to West Covina for Hanukah. Ahead of the visit, Paula rightly accuses Rebecca of being an Level 5 Mom Pleaser. We get all sorts of flashbacks to Rebecca’s mom-pleasing ways throughout this episode. She basically always tells her mom exactly what she wants to hear in every situation. The dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter seems to go back generations in Rebecca’s family. First thing in this episode, we see ancestors of Rebecca coming to the United States on a ship, and the mother of that generation is just as judgmental as Naomi. We also learn about the Garfinkel ring, an heirloom in Rebecca’s family. The ring is passed down from mother to daughter on her eighteenth birthday, but Rebecca still hasn’t gotten it. Naomi hasn’t found her worthy of it yet.

Naomi arrives in West Covina with a vengeance, immediately bursting into a song called “Where’s the Bathroom?” where she simultaneously berates Rebecca and repeatedly asks where the bathroom is. Naomi is played by Tovah Feldshuh, who perfectly captures this type of overbearing, hypercritical mother. She’s not passive aggressive – she’s full-on aggressive. Rebecca also takes her mom to visit Whitefeather, where Naomi is not impressed at all. Audra Levine has a much nicer office and is married to a hedge fund manager, after all. Being the mom-pleaser that she is, Rebecca says that Whitefeather isn’t her actual office – she just goes there often to mentor “underprivileged attorneys,” which Naomi points out is kind of an oxymoron. As a former public interest attorney, though, I’d say that’s not entirely true (I worked part-time at a nonprofit for $20 an hour my first year as a licensed attorney), but in general, she’s on the mark.

Greg’s mom left him and his father when Greg was young, and now she lives in Beverly Hills with a husband and two teenaged kids. Greg resents this immensely. Nevertheless, he goes to his Mom’s family holiday gathering on Christmas Eve Eve (also my late paternal grandmother’s birthday) every year. Greg is at the mall begrudgingly shopping for presents for his half-siblings when he runs into Heather, who is working as a Santa Elf. They vaguely remember each other from Rebecca’s party, so Greg starts telling her about holidays at his mother’s house. Heather, because she has no filter, asks if she can come along. After pausing because the request is kind of odd, Greg basically says “why not?” Greg’s mother’s house is beautiful of course, and his half-siblings are typical teenagers, but not especially horrible people. Greg, however, finds every detail of the proceedings offensive. It’s all rather Norman Rockwell, complete with gingerbread house-making. Heather is actually having a great time eating all the food and talking with Greg’s siblings.

Rebecca desperately wants to convince her mother that she’s not hanging out with losers anymore, so she asks Paula to pretend to be the kind of person her mother would really like. They all go to lunch together, and Paula pretends to be a British Jew. Naomi, of course, thinks this is fantastic and classy and not at all loser-like. I found it interesting that even after criticizing Rebecca for being a mom-pleaser, Paula still can’t resist a scheme. Anyway, later when they’re hanging out, Rebecca gets a call from Calving, and Naomi insists she take it. After all, what could be more important than work? Rebecca also notices that Naomi brought the Garfinkel Ring with her, and Rebecca really, really wants it.

Back in Beverly Hills, Greg is continuing to be super annoying and finding every aspect of the celebration offensive, even as his family is doing their best to be nice to him. Heather eventually calls him out for this, saying he’s the one being horrible, not his family. Since Heather is a neutral party in all this, he actually takes this seriously and starts reevaluating how he has been behaving. He and his mom end up having a good conversation where Greg talks about his abandonment issues and his mom admits she should have pushed harder for joint custody, even though her instinct at the time had been to not separate Greg from his dad. It ends up being something of a healing night for everyone. Afterwards when they debrief about the evening, Greg and Heather start making out. I found this pairing extremely random, although I’m glad Heather was at least able to help Greg make some peace with his mom and her family.

Rebecca arranges for Calvin, herself, and her mom to meet for drinks so that Calvin can go over his latest real estate issues. Naomi, though, is flirting with him like mad after she has some wine. Calvin leaves the table for a minute, and Naomi starts insisting that Rebecca needs to set them up. She can’t find any suitable men at her age in New York, and she thinks Rebecca owes her this. Rebecca wants her mom’s approval so much that she actually asks Calvin to sleep with her. Thankfully, sanity prevails and he says no. Rebecca is ever the mom-pleaser, though, and she tells her mom that Calvin wanted to sleep with her, but Rebecca said know because it could affect their business relationship. Naomi isn’t happy about this at all, and Rebecca does not get the Garfinkel ring. She also tries to send her mom to the airport in an Uber. Before she leaves Naomi says that she loves Rebecca and that’s why she pushes her so much. She wants to know she’s able to survive. I guess that’s nice, but it’s done some real damage.

Josh, meanwhile, has been bummed that he’s got to work a double shift on Christmas Eve, so he can’t see the local high school do their Winter Showcase. He was on the dance team as a student, and he really wanted to be there to support the kids during their performance. He meets one of the current students while hanging around the mall, and they really hit it off. The kid is really excited to meet Josh, since he’s apparently still a big name at the school. Josh ends up having his mom call in sick to work for him, and he goes to see the showcase after all. The student he met pretends to have an injury so Josh can dance. The whole thing is kind of inconsequential compared to the other plots, but Josh does realize that he is a grown-up after all, since while he could still do the dance routine, it really hurt afterwards. The whole episode ends with a gaudy Christmas group number called “California Christmastime,” which has wickedly subversive lyrics. Would you expect anything less from this show?

No comments:

Post a Comment