Someone once described The Last Five Years to me as “Two terrible people in a terrible relationship, but with really good music.” While I’m not going to spend this article glorifying Cathy, because she’s got her own issues, Jaime is the worst of the two. Join me on my song-by-song analysis of Jaime Wellerstein, the worst person in the history of musical theatre.
First, some background info on The Last Five Years. Written by Jason Robert Brown, and loosely inspired by his failed marriage, it follows the relationship between two people, Jaime Wellerstein and Cathy Hiatt, however, their stories are told in opposite directions. Jaime’s version of the relationship is in chronological order, from when they first meet to when they (spoiler alert) break up. Cathy’s is told in reverse chronological order - we see her first at the end of the relationship, and then through to when they meet. You meet Cathy first, in “Still Hurting.” Cathy sings about how Jaime has left her and moved on. She feels confused and wants an explanation. Seeing Cathy this vulnerable right off the bat definitely sets her up as the victim in this story, but I want to focus on Jaime - his immaturity, his flirtation and his selfishness.
This is the first time we hear Jaime in this story. He’s singing to Cathy about how he’s so excited to be dating outside his religion. Cathy isn’t Jewish, which makes her almost a forbidden fruit to him. In this scene, Jaime is young and impulsive, so it’s easy to forgive him for his excitability. But let’s dig deeper.
Jaime tells Cathy that he wouldn’t care if she was the worst person alive, if she had ever drank blood, if she once was a man, if she had tattoos, a bald head, or came from a family that was involved in the mob or practiced incest-- the most exciting thing about her is that she’s not Jewish. And yes, those are all actual things that Jaime says to Cathy during this song. I’m not making any of this up. Not that she’s a budding actress or has big dreams, or that she’s a romantic that wants to be her own independent woman at the same time, but her religion.
Jaime goes on to tell her how he’s exhausted all opportunities within his religion. He’s tried dating several Jewish women to try and please his family, but couldn’t fall in love with any of them. He tells Cathy that his grandfather must be “rolling in his grave” at the thought of him being with her. Already, Cathy is a novelty to him, something new and exciting and dangerous, but not much more.
“Moving Too Fast”
Again, young Jaime is impulsive. I don’t have much against him in this song, but we later learn that Cathy has already asked him to move in with her by this point. Jaime calls her halfway through the song, after he has been offered a large publishing deal on his first novel. He waits for his own stability before he moves in with Cathy. This could be seen as cautious, but based on what we already know about young Jaime, I’m going to chalk it up to “he was hesitant, but now that he knows he’s going to be okay, he’s willing to go for it.” To me, this seems selfish. I might be reaching, but again, I told you I didn’t have much against Jaime in this song.
“The Schmuel Song”
In this song, Jaime’s actually a decent boyfriend. He spends this song building up Cathy after she’s been having a string of bad luck in the acting business and he gives her a nice watch because it’s Christmas. It’s the tiniest bit condescending, but other than that, this is the one song for me in which Jaime redeems himself.
“The Next Ten Minutes”
This is the first song in which Cathy and Jaime sing together, the point where their timelines intersect. It starts from Jaime’s point of view, pointing out famous monuments and buildings around Central Park to Cathy. He then proposes...sort of? He asks Cathy to share her life with him for the next ten minutes. And if that works out, maybe another ten minutes. And if everything goes fine, ten more minutes, and so on and so forth until the end of time. Some might see this as romantic, but for me, it seems hesitant again, almost as if he’s nervous that they won’t make it ten more minutes.
I am going to mention Cathy’s part of this song - in her verse, she sings of her flaws. She’s not always on time, but she tries. It’s out of her control, but please wait for her and give her a chance. She wants to die knowing that she “had a long, full life” with Jaime, that she was his wife. Why am I bringing this up in particular? She’s apologizing. She’s timid. She wants to be remembered as Jaime’s wife, as Mrs. Wellerstein, not as Cathy. She’s already falling in step behind him, something that has come up in a song earlier in the musical (I’m a Part of That) but later in the relationship (remember that Cathy’s point of view is told in reverse).
They sing together, exchanging vows, and then the song ends with Cathy singing the responses to Jaime’s intro, asking about the buildings near Central Park.
“A Miracle Would Happen”
At this point, Jaime and Cathy are married. Also at this point, Jaime has become an extremely successful writer and has begun going to parties being held in his honor. At these parties, he’s surrounded by beautiful women, who want to be noticed by Jaime. And he is loving it. He sings about how it’s not fair that all these women are noticing him now that he’s married. He calls it a “challenge to resist temptation” as if fidelity is a game to him. He even admits to encouraging a woman to flirt with him, then tries to cover it up when Cathy appears. The miracle that he wants to happen is that every other woman in the world disappears so that he doesn’t have to deal with the temptation.
“If I Didn’t Believe In You”
Alright friends, buckle up, because I hate this song with a passion. This is the song that makes me hate Jaime so much. I can’t listen to it. I have so many issues with this song, I could write ten articles about it. Musically, it’s beautiful, but I can’t get over Jaime in this song. I hate it.
Long story short, Cathy and Jaime are fighting. Jaime is preparing to go to another party being thrown in his honor and Cathy doesn’t want to go because she knows that she’s going to be sitting in the corner, waiting to be noticed, to be deemed worthy of company.
Jaime shifts the blame onto Cathy, asking her if she’s really mad at him, or just mad at herself for not being a successful actress yet. He essentially pulls out the “you’re being a crazy girlfriend” card and takes zero responsibility. He says things like “If I didn’t believe in you and all f the 10,000 women you are” and “I will not lose because you can’t win.” Jaime isn’t in this with Cathy. He says he’s on Cathy’s side, but he’s not. He’s on his own side. He always has been, but this is where it really starts to show.
“Nobody Needs to Know”
Jaime is not singing to his wife in this song. He’s singing to his mistress, telling her that nobody needs to know about their affair. He’s planning to go to Ohio, where Cathy has been performing in a regional theatre group over the summer. Jaime compares visiting Cathy to going into battle, while waiting to see his mistress again. At the beginning of the musical, we see him show up to see Cathy for all of a few hours before returning to New York for “another party” thrown by his publisher.
He feels like Cathy gives him no privacy, no corner of his mind that is his own. This is the only time in the musical that I feel for Jaime, this is his one redemption for me. Until one verse later when he sings the line “I could be in love with someone like you” to his mistress, a line that he sings to Cathy in “Shiksa Goddess” at the beginning of the musical.
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful song that Jaime sings, but similarly to “If I Didn’t Believe In You,” the lyrics are so divisive and heart-wrenching that I can’t really feel sorry for him or his actions.
“I Could Never Rescue You”
This is actually another duet between Cathy and Jaime - both are saying good-bye, but in different fashions. Cathy is saying good-bye to the young Jaime that she just met, while Jaime is singing goodbye to Cathy as he is leaving her. Jaime has written a letter, telling Cathy that he has given up. Even now, he is still blaming Cathy, saying that she couldn’t see that he was hurting, that it’s her fault for driving him away. To him, it’s easier to just leave.
Jaime’s behavior is selfish and borderline abusive, mentally and emotionally. He blames Cathy for everything that goes wrong in the relationship. He makes a game out of not cheating on her (which he ultimately fails at) and he can’t take the relationship seriously at all. Jaime is a terrible human being, and is one of the worst characters in the history of musical theatre. Sometimes when I listen to the cast recording, I will just skip over Jaime’s songs because I get so angry when I hear his side of the relationship. Does this also make me a terrible person? Yeah, probably. But I stand by my arguments. Jaime Wellerstein sucks.