Thursday, October 25, 2018

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 4x02 Review: "I Am Ashamed" (Little House of Horrors) [Contributor: Jenn]

"I Am Ashamed"
Original Airdate: October 19, 2018

I heard a thing a few years ago that has always stuck with me — "Guilt says, 'I've done something bad.' Shame says, 'I am something bad.'" Often, we conflate the two concepts. We know we should feel guilty for something bad that we've done to harm ourselves or someone else, but it easily spirals into shame; we go from believing we did something wrong to believing we are broken, wrong, horrible, no-good, and deserving of punishment always. Rebecca Bunch has never been a saint, that's for sure. She's struggled in the past with her mental health, relationships, and processing trauma. But in the final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, we're beginning to see Rebecca's self-actualization culminate into action. Granted, "I Am Ashamed" spends most of its time focused on Rebecca creating illusions of ghosts in order to deflect from her own shame, but eventually Rebecca gets it. Sorta.


The central plot of "I Am Ashamed" is that Rebecca's been exposed to the world of West Covina. An article was published revealing all of her transgressions (of course, the meta joke is that so many of them could only be known by the viewers of the show), which sends Rebecca into a spiral. Obviously. Instead of putting away her laptop, Rebecca does what so many of us do — falls down an Internet rabbit hole. Rebecca's spiral leads her to the story of what happened in her house years ago. As you might remember — and if you didn't, the "previously on" segment helped — Rebecca and Heather live in a murder house. Rebecca learns in the episode that a young woman was innocently shot and killed, dying in a humiliating (and gross) way.

But instead of brushing off this information as insignificant, it's what fuels Rebecca to do or not do things in the episode. The shame Rebecca feels because people know all of the terrible things she did? It drives her to inaction; she spends the entire episode hiding in her house. It seems natural that a woman who suffers from phobias and control issues would fear the outside world after it abandoned and ridiculed her.

So try as they might throughout the episode, Heather, Valencia, and Paula can't get Rebecca to leave the house. She won't even step outside to have a session with her therapist. I have to give Rebecca some credit for the self-actualization she's experiencing recently. She isn't perfect, but she recognizes that her actions do have consequences and genuinely wants to become better. She struggles to do so, because falling back on her old habits (denial, hiding, blame-shifting, etc.) is much easier than admitting dark truths about herself.

Because "I Am Ashamed" is set around Halloween, Rebecca begins to hear noises and weird things in the house that lead her to believe the spirit of Devon, the girl who died in the house. The thing about Devon is that she's a perfect outlet for Rebecca's anxieties. Instead of acknowledging the shame she feels, Rebecca transfers her desperate, frantic energy onto finding out if a ghost is truly haunting her house. Devon died because she made one mistake. Now she's being judged for that one mistake, and Rebecca is (of course) internalizing the lesson and weight there.

At first, Heather and Paula are skeptical about the whole "haunted house" thing, clearly pointing out the real issues Rebecca is avoiding. Valencia is, unsurprisingly, the one of the group who's super into the spirit world. To humor their friend, the group leads a séance and tries to summon the spirit of Devon. They don't expect it to work, but suddenly weird things begin to happen and Paula and Heather are left to acknowledge the spookiness of it all. Rebecca then feels Devon wants them to visit her grave, so the women oblige because they're a girl group.

While at Devon's grave, Rebecca's internalizing comes to fruition. "Devon," she says, "I know what it's like to feel ashamed. And I know that it's easy sometimes to dwell in that shame rather than move on." It was a nice moment where Rebecca spoke to herself as much as to the ghost of this girl. Shame is hard to deal with, honestly. It creeps up when you least expect it. It makes your stomach tie in knots, and causes you to break out in sweats. Your shame keeps you locked inside metaphorical and literal places. But there is hope — that is the thing that really combats shame. It's the realization that we are all flawed but that our mistakes don't define us. And because shame thrives in secrecy, the first step — like Rebecca took — is confronting it, head-on.

This year, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reminded us that embarrassment and regrets will always be bigger Halloween monsters than ghosts and zombies. But like ghosts and zombies, they too can be defeated.

Extra fun:
  • There were some minor stories this episode — Nathaniel has a new not-so-silent partner at the firm, thanks to Rebecca's group therapy buddy. And then Darryl struggled with caring for his new daughter because so much has changed with parenting since the last time he did it. The story is played for laughs (Darryl leaves Heabecca with White Josh because he was told at his parenting group that breast milk is better than formula and goes through a black market vendor to get it), but ultimately even Darryl's ex-wife admits that he's a good parent and that his daughter will be okay even if he doesn't follow all of the advice everyone gives him).
  • The new credits debuted this week! I love that we got to hear Rachel explain it at Comic-Con and perform it for us. Seeing it completed was so much fun, though I still prefer season one's credits above... everything else, honestly.
  • "Thanks for sauntering back in here after weeks of absence."
  • "Thank you for being the kind of person I would hate to hang out with on Halloween."
  • I still don't know why Josh Chan is here, but he is.
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments below!


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