“Music Video” might be the most efficient Alone Together episode so far. It features about the same amount of hijinks for Benji and Esther to get into, but manages to introduce and resolve conflict in what feels like record time. The speed of this week’s plot finally felt on par with the low stakes Benji and Esther are regularly dealing with. There’s no real reason for a conflict to be drawn out and overcomplicated through a whole 22 minutes when we know it’s not going to linger longer than that in the minds of the characters.
We get into the heart of the episode almost immediately, dropping in on Benji trying to teach his young cousin Parker how to play guitar – specifically ska guitar, which Benji is obsessed with. Parker puts up a fuss because he doesn’t want to learn “ska,” whatever that is, he wants to play like the Lumineers or Kurt Vile or “what’s cool now” (do 12-year-olds know Kurt Vile? Maybe in L.A.). At the same time, Esther concocts homemade slime to sell on Etsy so she can scrape up enough extra funds to buy Rihanna tickets.
When Aunt Renee arrives to pick up Parker, an opportunity to make a music video arises. Apparently, all the bar and bat mitzvahs lately are including music videos of the children – and Benji takes it because he “makes memes and gifs all day, [so] he can make a music video.” His ulterior motives are to make an excellent music video showing off his great ska song from his high school band in the hopes that “Parker’s new Dad” in the record industry will see it and “remember” how great ska is. Esther’s face when he tells her his plan is perfect, as is her response: “Oh, Benji…. maybe.” It isn’t long before she joins in on the video so she can get paid by Aunt Renee and get those Rihanna tickets, as well as get in good with Parker so she can start being a rich person’s babysitter.
Before we get to the music video shoot, we get a scene of Esther and Jeff laughing at Benji’s old music video, in full ska-mode. It’s definitely the most joyful and peppy Benji has ever seemed – and the longest his sideburns have ever been. They recruit Jeff to help with the equipment on the video shoot and he, of course, signs up because he knows that Benji and Esther have never really worked together on something before and “it’s going to be a disaster.”
Naturally, it isn’t long at all before that happens. I don’t even think Benji and Esther get through more than a couple minutes of footage before they start to bicker and fight. The shoot goes wrong from the first moment because Parker isn’t interested in ska. Then, Esther doesn’t wear the costume Benji wanted and instead opts for a more PG look so she can look wholesome and help her babysitting reputation. Finally, Benji snaps when Esther won’t follow the script he’s decided on and instead does her own thing (all stuff that is there to make her look like a good potential sitter). They fight, knock over the video camera, and storm off – normal stuff for these two.
Surprisingly, and very conveniently, Esther goes to Benji to immediately apologize (sort of) afterward. She tells him that his song is “not that bad” (“I’m not saying it’s good or that it’s a real song, but someone somewhere might like it”), so he can get his spirits up and finish the video.
We then move forward in time to Parker’s bar mitzvah party, where it seems that it all works out for the best. Aunt Renee thanks Benji for inspiring a discipline in Parker, who has been practicing “non-stop,” and she even mentions a babysitting opportunity for Esther because Parker is a fan of her, too.
I did manage to have a little bit of hope for the pair for about thirty seconds after that, before Aunt Renee goes to play the music video and I realized it hadn’t been revealed to everybody yet. Then I knew that something was going to go horribly wrong with this video.
Of course, Parker was practicing a lot because he was going to commandeer Benji’s ska video and turn it into his own piece supporting his original Lumineers-lite song, with the footage edited to make Esther’s doting on Parker – caring and maternal on-set – to look so inappropriately flirty when set to a song called “The Babysitter.” Naturally, every parent in the room is horrified and Esther and Benji leave the party as fast as they can.
It’s almost a little tired to have this reversal of resolution that keeps happening every week, but this ending in particular works very well regardless of how often we’ve seen it because it’s in keeping with what a 13-year-old boy would do, particularly Parker, based off what he was giving us in the rest of the episode. He was surprisingly hitting it off with Esther – which might have translated to a kind of crush in his mind – and he was adamant about not learning un-cool music like ska. Besides, ska is so lame that Benji almost deserves this kind of disappointment.
The plot is pretty much what we’ve seen regularly in the past several weeks, but the elimination of extraneous details and characters, as well as an ending that truly feels realistic and deserved, creates an episode that moves at just the right speed and has just enough material to fill the time and be satisfying.
- This episode was written by Eben Russell & Dan Bailey and directed by Amy York Rubin.
- The casting of Benji’s cousin Parker is the third Crazy Ex-Girlfriend “crossover,” after Povitsky and Gabrielle Ruiz – the young actor Steele Stebbins plays Paula Proctor’s youngest son, Tommy.
- The ‘argument’ Esther and Benji have over Selena and Bieber (Benji thinks you can’t ‘upgrade’ after Beiber, Esther says ‘no one likes Bieber!’) rings very true. I actually sided with Esther on this one; there are so many ways to upgrade from Bieber.
- The episode ends with them watching an equally embarrassing high school video of Esther’s, where she’s doing a contemporary dance (those are the dances that are just people leaping around in flowing dresses looking sad) that leads to a promposal, which was rejected. We also get a glimpse of a distraught after-Prom Esther crying into the camera. Man, being a teenager is kind of the worst.