Episode 3.14: “On My Way”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

Well, if it’s a competition episode, then I must be a sucker for it. This was a very strong episode that goes to a place that’s darker than Glee has ever gone before while at the same time managing to feel uplifting and hopeful. Aside from the unnecessary cliffhanger ending, I’d say this is a great example of a quintessential hour of Glee.

There are several individual plotlines going on here, but they are all connected by one event. Dave Karofsky was seen with Kurt on Valentine’s Day by one of Dave’s schoolmates, and it’s all over school that he’s gay. He comes into the locker room to find that “FAG” has been spray-painted on his locker. He goes online to find that his Facebook page is filled with hateful messages. Dave has been a tragic character from day one, someone tightly-wound and terrified on the inside. He can’t take it, so he proceeds to put on his best suit and hang himself, as Blaine’s performance of “Cough Syrup” plays over. That scene is right up there with the best scenes that this show has ever done, with a perfect song choice, perfect transitions, and the growing sense of dread as it becomes obvious what’s happening to Dave.

For any show but this one, I might have believed that Dave would succeed at killing himself, but going quite that far would be a little too much for Glee. Dave’s father finds him in time and cuts him down. He ends up in the hospital, alive but on suicide watch.

Before any of this happens, Sebastian attempts to blackmail Rachel into dropping out of the regionals competition by threatening to put photoshopped “naked” photos of Finn wearing high heels on the Internet. This threat of a false, silly humiliation (the photos are clearly not really Finn) is subtly contrasted with the real humiliation that Dave is put through. Dave is still struggling not to hate himself because he’s gay, so to suddenly be outed with no control and no support is absolutely devastating. Imagine what would have happened to Santana if she hadn’t had warning of the political ad that was going to out her. He reaction wouldn’t have been nearly as negative, but it would have been much worse than doing it on her own terms, with her friends behind her. Dave feels like he doesn’t have any friends. With no friends, so support, nothing but hatred visible forever on the horizon, it’s entirely believable that Dave would see suicide as a way out. It’s very important that it feel believable, because Dave has evolved into a real character over the course of his history on Glee, and I hated the idea that he would be used simply as a plot device, the way that the less-developed Jean was in “Funeral.” His suicide attempt, and his reasons for doing it, felt real and tragic, and I think that the writers imbued it with the dignity and respect that it deserved.

It turns out that Dave had also approached Sebastian, attempting to get advice on adjusting and accepting the fact that he’s gay. Sebastian brushed him off. Because of that, Sebastian feels partly responsible for Dave’s attempted suicide. This apparently causes a revelation of character for him, as he calls the Gay Couples of Glee over to tell them that he deleted the photoshopped images of Finn and that the Warblers are going to dedicate their regionals performance to Dave while taking donations for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. He invites the New Directions to join them. I was like Santana during this scene, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Apparently, however, we’re meant to believe that Sebastian really has seen the light, at least for now. I’m willing to believe it because Sebastian is gay, he does have some reason to feel close to Dave’s attempted suicide, and because even a near death has a way of clearing the air. I just hope he doesn’t go into a heel/face revolving door situation the way that Sue has done in the past.

Meanwhile, Will approaches the subject with the glee kids by telling them about a time in high school when he contemplated suicide. It’s a powerful moment, because Will has always been characterized by his optimism, and to think that he once saw the world as so bleak that it wasn’t worth living is difficult. It’s also important, because none of the glee kids think that they could ever even think about doing such a thing. But Will tells them that everyone has something that could lead them to that edge. He encourages them to think about things in the future that they are looking forward to, things that, no matter what happens today, could still be possible.

That scene actually comes across as a great lesson from Will, and it’s hard to believe that this person is the same schmuck in “The Spanish Teacher” who never should have been allowed in front of a chalkboard.

Sue recalls that she was principal when Dave was first accused of making a death threat against Kurt (continuity!), making her feel responsible because she didn’t do more. She conveniently forgets that she attempted and failed to have him expelled. While Sue’s storyline is a bit truncated, it seems like the shock of Dave’s attempted suicide and the fact that she’s pregnant are meant to make us believe that Sue is a good guy from now on. For God’s sake make it true, and stop making her into a villain! It’s not necessary!

Kurt feels responsible for Dave because he ignored all Dave’s calls after that Valentine’s Day when Dave approached him. Kurt fears that by pushing Dave away, he made him feel alone… and he’s right. That’s not to say that Kurt should feel like anything is his fault, but he had to know what a bad place Dave was in, and how much it means to someone in Dave’s position to have a friend. Kurt in season one of Glee was a huge douchebag, but he had Mercedes by his side when he came out of the closet, and he was lucky enough to have a parent who accepted him immediately, no matter what. To knowingly deprive Dave, someone who is trying his best to reform, of part of the support network that he’s seeking comes across as cruel. I may be being too hard on Kurt, seeing as how Dave is hardly blameless when it comes to how Kurt perceives him. However, anyone could see that Dave is trying as hard as he can, and that he needs help.

Kurt does come around afterwards, and his scene with Dave in the hospital is very moving.

Rachel and Finn, meanwhile, can’t really feel responsible in any way for what happened to Dave, but they are inspired by Will’s lesson to look forward to the future by deciding to get married right after regionals. The fact that this is insane is lost on few, but Quinn, who was previously a big advocate against the whole idea, decides to step up and be a friend to Rachel by supporting her. Honestly, this was the weakest plotline in the episode. Its connection to the main thread is weak, and I was really hoping they’d give this arc a rest after last week.

Quinn is in the background of a couple of plotlines, but the only one of her own that she really has going on is that she asks to rejoin the Cheerios and help them win another national championship. Sue refuses at first, but comes around after regionals. I didn’t really see the point of this, unless it was meant to be characterization for Quinn, in which cases it brings up too many bad memories of “Audition” for it to do anything for me.

There is, however, a nice jab at her character during Kurt’s plotline. She attempts to compare Dave’s pain to her own, saying that she never contemplated suicide even through all the bad things she went through. Kurt dismissively says “The world never stopped loving you, and you’re going to Yale.” To be fair, Quinn was thrown out of her parents’ house, which is a difficult thing to go through. But to seemingly be hated by the world, as Dave is… it’s true that Quinn can’t appreciate his pain.

Then we have the regionals competition itself, which lasted two acts and was mainly a showcase for music. However, the song choices were great and were meant to address the stated theme of “inspiration.” The fact that Sebastian decided to make peace beforehand helped the moment, as it was easier to appreciate the message when the animosity had been cleared away. I’m not sure I get what the deal was with the vampire judge, but I will say that I’m glad that the “judges’ deliberation” gag is still retired.

The “shocker” at the end of the episode is that Quinn’s car gets T-boned while she’s texting Rachel on the way to the wedding. “To be continued” indeed. I don’t like cliffhangers like this, I don’t like ending a tragic/uplifting episode based on Dave with this note based on Quinn, and I don’t see the narrative or thematic purpose of it. That said, I saw it coming and it was hard to watch. Quinn, against all odds, is one of my favorite characters, and I hate to see her hurt just as she’s turning her life around- especially if it’s for no good storytelling reason. But I’ll have to reserve judgment on that until the next episode.

The songs were all good, and about half were great. In terms of theme and narrative, I have to give the highlight to Blaine’s “Cough Syrup,” which did a difficult job in laying the groundwork for Dave’s attempted suicide. Also very good was “Fly/I Believe I Can Fly,” the song that probably best reached the theme of “inspiration.” It also proved that Santana and Blaine are both better rappers than either Will or Sam. The Troubletone’s “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” was also great, if a bit obvious yet questionable of a message for an attempted suicide. The Warblers’ songs were both good, but not great. Unfortunately, the weakest entry tonight was probably the finale, “Here’s to Us.” I’ve said it before, but after “Get it Right” in “Original Song,” there’s no way to do justice to Rachel singing a personal song to Finn again. It’s been done perfectly.

And with that, Glee is on hiatus until April. I’ll try to come up with some Glee-related topics to post about between now and then but, in the meantime, this was overall a great episode to go out on.

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