It’s the last episode before the mid-season hiatus, and perhaps the most important one of the whole season, because Greg is back. Unfortunately Santino Fontana isn’t, and the role is now being played by Pitch Perfect’s Skylar Astin. Who is perfectly fine – some of his line readings are discernibly Old Greg, and he has a certain charm of his own – but he isn’t Fontana. Will this matter? We’ll find out, I suppose, in due course, when his chemistry with Rachel Bloom has a chance to develop. Which it might: Astin is an old friend of Bloom’s, and it appears to be generally accepted that Bloom and Fontana, excellent actors both, were never close.
Anyway, Greg’s back in town because it’s his high school reunion, which sparks the episode’s two other plots. Valencia reveals to a fascinated Heather that, at school, she cheated on Josh with someone, even declaring her love in a letter she put in their jacket on the last day, but never hearing anything more. The reunion between Valencia and her crush is surprising and moving, and yet another reminder of the strength of this show’s cast. Meantime, Josh – behaving, it has to be said, like a bit of a jerk – finds out that he wasn’t elected as prom king after all, ends up hanging out with George and the school’s magic club, and discovers that there’s more to life than being popular. It’s slight but, as Josh plots go, not at all bad.
The main event, though, is the return of Greg, trailed by Rebecca’s ongoing “romantic trills” in relation to Josh and Nathaniel. Is she, she wonders, meant to be with either of them? Nope, say Heather and Valencia, everyone thinks that she’s meant to be with Greg. (Unpopcult certainly does.) “Greg who we literally never talk about?” asks Rebecca. “That Greg?” If not that Greg, certainly a Greg. Quite properly, the show leans into the recasting rather than pretending it isn’t happening: Rebecca observes, on several occasions, that he’s like a completely different person.
And they reconnect. There’s a dazzling, playful song which narrates their attempt to have a fresh start while acknowledging that they, simultaneously, have a whole heck of a lot of baggage; in particular, Greg doesn’t know that Rebecca slept with his father, and she agonises about whether to tell him or not, eventually coming to the conclusion that if he’s going to find out anyway – which he probably will – he needs to hear it from her. That she told him, and his underplayed reaction, is offered as an example of personal growth on both sides, leaving open the outside possibility of further romance. (Maybe it is. Maybe it does. But still. His father. Ew.) Although Greg’s transformation gives the whole thing an air of unreality, underpinned by a good running meta joke about how he’s going to be there until the end of the series… of holidays, it’s a strong episode.