(Spoilers lurk below.)
In a way, with this episode, the character of Kurt has come full circle. At the beginning of season 1, he was scared and timid, unwilling to admit to anyone the fact that he was gay, despite how obvious it was to everyone around him. After he came out to Mercedes, and finally his father, he gained a lot of confidence. He even overdosed on it a bit, becoming cocky and self-absorbed to the point that he started acting on his crush on Finn by acting in a somewhat stalkerish way. Kurt even got his dad together with Finn’s mom as a way of getting himself closer to Finn. This season, Kurt’s self-absorption was challenged by his father’s heart attack and coma, and his confidence has been challenged by the bullying of Dave Karofsky. Kurt has, in a way, reverted back to the timid boy he was at the beginning of season 1, even to point of choosing to retreat by switching schools rather than stay and fight. Notice how Kurt has even obeyed Karofsky’s command not to tell anyone that Karofsky kissed him (with the notable exception of Blaine), suggesting that maybe he took Karofsky’s death threat seriously.
This episode also heals the rift between Kurt and Finn that Kurt took great pains to create last season. The new, humbler, Kurt probably recognizes that his behavior towards Finn was not acceptable, even though he doesn’t seem to have apologized directly. Finn, however, dealt Kurt a pretty rough blow by refusing to come to his aid against Karofsky, even though Sam, Artie, and Mike all agreed to protect him. Even Puck wanted in on the action, but was prevented out of fear of the consequences of violating his probation. (However, that could be attributed solely to Puck’s love of mayhem in general.) Finn, however, finally decides to reach out to Kurt, even calling him his brother. He may have been inspired not only by how Sam, Mike, and Artie got into a fight with Karofsky, but by Kurt’s dad’s immediate and impotent rage against Karofsky for daring to even mock Kurt’s homosexuality.
They’re continuing to portray Karofsky as not wholly villainous. His dad seems genuinely concerned for his son, even taking his expulsion calmly, perhaps wondering if it wasn’t what his son deserved. I wonder what happened between the elder and younger Karofsky afterwards, behind closed doors. Did Dave convince his father that Kurt was lying? Did Dave, even obliquely, let on about what he was going through? His father knew that the bullying was not Dave’s only problem. Again, I hope to see more of this character, and I think it’s probably likely to happen. I’d like to see more of his father too.
If it seemed a little off for Rachel to be leading the charge to protect Kurt as one of their own, it may be just because I’m not quite used to character development in this show yet. Rachel and Kurt grew closer in “Duets” as they shared a song and, as I mentioned then, they have a lot in common. If Rachel really is losing her self-centeredness enough to care about her other friends in the club, then it really does make sense for her to be the one who wants to stand up for Kurt.
Sue’s turn as principal was pretty interesting. With one exception, in this episode she seemed entirely calm, level-headed, and reasonable during the times that she was acting as the head of the school. (The one exception was the expulsion of Karofsky. She should have investigated the allegations further before laying down a verdict like that. It was bound to be overturned.) Even her jokes (“I’m sorry, I thought that was your name”) come across different when she’s speaking as principal. She’s understated instead of over the top, concerned about other people instead of self-absorbed.
That’s directly in contrast to her part of the plot in which she decides to marry herself because she’s the only match for herself possible. Playing to their strengths (?), the writers contrast this bizarre plot point with the return of Sue’s mother and Sue’s confrontation with her about her absentee parenting. Sue is concerned not only about herself this time, but also about her sister Jean. Jean doesn’t seem capable of confronting their mother, so Sue tries to do it for the both of them. In an unusual twist for a television show, there is no reconciliation to be had here. Sometimes a bad parent is just a bad parent.
Carol Burnett was good, but not outstanding, as Sue’s mother. I actually wish that the whole self-marriage subplot hadn’t even been there so that we could have focused a lot more on Sue, Jean, and their mother’s relationships. I think that would have given Burnett more of a chance to shine. Her rendition of “Ohio,” however (including the screaming argument in the middle of it), was one of the highlights of the episode.
The marriage between Burt and Carole was a more fun plot, but it didn’t feel exactly earned. We haven’t seen much of their relationship, and now they get engaged and married in the course of one episode. You know how I know we haven’t seen much of them? I couldn’t even remember Finn’s mom’s name before I looked it up just now. So even though I’m pretty much a sucker for weddings, even television ones, I didn’t feel much for Burt and Carole. That said, the ceremony was as much about Finn and Kurt, and their joining as a family, as it was about their parents. That part rang true.
Musically, this episode felt a little lean, but what little it used did deliver a punch. I mention Sue and her mother’s rendition of “Ohio,” but I think the musical highlight of the show was “Marry You.” It was a strange way to start a wedding ceremony, but it felt right. The glee kids dancing in as couples was also fun to watch, and it made me realize more than ever that Glee is about relationships more than anything else, at least right now. Almost everyone in the club has paired off by now. The exceptions are Mercedes and Kurt, for obvious reasons (though not for lack of trying on Mercedes’s part before Kurt came out).
Something also has to be said for “Just the Way You Are” too. What it may have lacked in lyrical appropriateness as a way for healing the rift between Kurt and Finn, it more than made up for in execution. Kurt’s smile as he’s dancing with Finn tells you that he realizes how lucky he is to be surrounded by people who love him and accept him for what he is. That must have made it so much harder to make the decision to transfer schools.
This was a pretty good episode overall. I’m not sure if I should complain or commend for the way they blend the absurd with the dramatic, sometimes uncomfortably, so I’m going to just continue to accept that for what it is.