(Spoilers lurk below.)
Well, the Thanksgiving episode is a week late, but that’s okay because Thanksgiving doesn’t really have anything to do with it except as a way of bringing the non-New-York graduates together while setting Kurt and Rachel apart. “Thanksgiving” is a first this season in that it includes both New York and Ohio elements, and the Ohio elements were actually the stronger part of the show. Of course, it helped that we had the entire graduating class from season three back to lend some star power.
It was fantastic finally seeing Quinn again, and the reunion of all the graduates (minus Kurt and Rachel) really was quite emotional and fun to watch. At the same time, I can’t help thinking that it would have had a lot more impact if most of them hadn’t already spent a lot of time hanging around WMHS due to Grease or pep talks to their half brothers or what-have-you. Imagine seeing this scene after all these characters had been absent the entire season up to now. Santana kinda needed to appear in “The Break-Up,” but we could have easily left Puck, Mercedes, and Mike aside until now, since they didn’t serve much purpose in their prior appearances.
But what we got worked well. The reunion bits were strong and felt believable. Highlights are the opening musical number, their dinner conversation at Breadstix, and Santana, Brittany, and Quinn delivering a lecture about teamwork and then a song (reminiscent in style of their audition number, “I Say a Little Prayer,” way back in season one’s “Showmance”) to the newbies.
This episode also took an interesting path in addressing some character similarities that have plagued the season: they flat-out own up to them. Finn assigns each of the newbies a “mentor” in the form of one of the graduates to help them prepare for sectionals, and of course Quinn and Kitty end up paired together, as well as Puck and Jake. Quinn and Kitty’s interaction really brings home how much Kitty is like Quinn, but, to be more specific, Kitty represents a particular part of Quinn. Kitty is a psychopath, adept at manipulation but unhindered by the crippling emotions that always characterized Quinn. Quinn was capable of sadness so deep that it rendered her almost comatose, anger so red-hot that she was unable to think straight, jealousy so frustrating that she lost sight of what was important. Kitty doesn’t have any of that. She quietly, calmly, passionlessly manipulates, moving events and people towards whatever disaster she thinks will be most amusing. She continues to play the game with Quinn, pitting her against Jake… in hopes of continuing to hurt Marley.
Even when faced with evidence that Kitty is fucking with her in the form of Jake’s apparent innocence (and Puck sticking up for him) and Santana telling her that Kitty is encouraging Marley to use laxatives to lose weight, Quinn still stands by Kitty, having already been fully convinced by her act. It’s sad, that Quinn can’t recognize ploys that she herself used to use, now employed by a true master. There’s also the hint that Quinn may be concerned about Marley and Jake’s relationship so much because it reminds her of the failed relationship she had with Puck.
Unfortunately, we don’t get much out of the other mentor/newbie pairings. There was a lot of potential in Santana finding out that Marley is a blossoming anorexic, but the script bizarrely uses it to force a confrontation between Santana and Quinn and then never brings up the connection between Santana and Marley again. There wasn’t much in Puck and Jake’s relationship aside from Puck’s advice of “bros before hos.” Mercedes and Wade barely got to do anything at all.
The relationship that worked best was actually Jake and Ryder’s. Jake tells Ryder that he and Marley are dating, and that he doesn’t want it to affect their friendship. Jake, to show that there are no hard feelings, takes a dive in dance auditions for the male lead for sectionals, handing the part to Ryder. They really do come across as friends, and it feels earned after “Dynamic Duets.” It’s also refreshing in a high school show to see two rivals for a girl actually being honest and friendly with each other. I was sure that the end of “Dynamic Duets” was setting us up for a renewed rivalry between them, but I am once again pleasantly surprised.
Meanwhile, Marley starts the episode with a voiceover, further cementing her similarities with Rachel. Much like Kitty to Quinn, I think that Marley represents a part of Rachel: the part that extremely insecure. Rachel always exhibited signs of insecurity, and she still does to this day, but she is strong enough to power through it, she is sure enough of her own abilities to push it aside. Marley… is not, thanks in no small way to Kitty’s machinations. Marley is using laxatives, skipping meals, and presumably still purging in a vain effort to somehow look better than she already does. She almost has a breakdown prior to sectionals, telling Jake that she’s so scared of losing, and that she would see it as her own fault. Ryder, who overhears, responds by giving the dance lead to Jake (because Jake is the better dancer and “we have to win!”). This is sweet as a gesture to help Marley, but of course, as high school kids, Ryder and Jake both miss the point: Marley is having serious issues aside from normal competitiveness. She needs help in the worst way, as she proves by collapsing on stage (though she politely waits until the end of the number).
And bringing up the rear, we have the C plot, all the way in New York. Kurt and Rachel decide to stay in town for Thanksgiving, having already trekked back to Lima a ridiculous number of times already (seriously, Rachel has been back twice in a few months, once for the sole purpose of breaking up with Finn). They plan a little get-together at their apartment including Brody, Kurt’s boss Isabelle, and Isabelle’s friends. Brody shows some personality for perhaps the first time ever when he confronts Rachel about her being mad that he had sex with Cassie. Brody points out that Rachel left him for another guy. Rachel counters that she broke up with that guy. Brody scores the checkmate with “And I was supposed to retroactively know that would happen? Don’t become one of those crazy girls who expects people to read minds.” It’s a nice little scene that does everything that needs to be done as far as addressing what Brody did, while at the same time clearing the air and allowing Rachel and Brody to become friends again. It’s a good bit of writing, and worlds better than any scene Brody has been in before, save perhaps the date he and Rachel were having before Finn interrupted in “Makeover.”
Kurt also has a nice scene with Isabelle (and their close relationship is much more believable now that a significant amount of time has passed) in which she suggests that, before he can move on from his breakup with Blaine, he has to forgive him. This thought just kinda hangs out in the subtext for most of the episode until Kurt finally calls Blaine shortly before the New Directions go on stage. Kurt says that he can’t forgive Blaine yet, but that he wants to see him and have a heart-to-heart talk around Christmastime. I don’t think that Kurt and Blaine will get back together (at least I hope not — it would be too obvious), but I think that they do have a lot to talk about. Kurt’s emotional arc over the breakup has been handled very well, even if Blaine has mainly just been whiny for most of his own arc.
I don’t care for cliffhanger episodes in general, but by doing it this way, Marley’s collapse hits us almost as hard as it hits her friends, who didn’t see it coming.
This was a decent episode, but the Ohio half felt curtailed and the New York half felt mostly pointless. At the same time, I’m glad we’ve finally gotten two good-to-decent episodes in a row out of this season.
The music in “Thanksgiving” was good, even if not quite up to the standards of an average competition episode. First, though, I have to say that “Let’s Have a Kiki/Turkey Lurkey Time” stands out as particularly out of place. It’s set up very unnaturally and doesn’t fit the scene at all. What is it with Sarah Jessica Parker and numbers like this? The Warlbers’ two numbers were quite good, and both hearkened back to the classic Warlbers of season two. “Whistle” was probably a bit better than “Live While We’re Young.” The opening number, “Homeward Bound/Home,” was a nice way to welcome back and reintroduce the graduates, even if I always have problems with episodes that open up with a musical number right out of the box because it’s devoid of all-important context. Sometimes it works, as with this number and “How Will I Know” from season three’s “Dance With Somebody.” “Gangnam Style” was good for what it was, but was really fucking weird and inappropriate for the context of a competition (competitions almost invariably want mainstream), so I don’t really know what to make of it. The highlight for me was Quinn’s “Come See About Me,” which was a great way to reintroduce Quinn and of calling all the way back to the few happy times of season one.
Best line of the episode, from Puck as Quinn comes up to him just as he was talking about her: “Speak of the devil I knocked up.”
I also liked Puck’s reference to “loopy Quinn,” and his explanation of how to recognize her.
It seems vaguely racist at first for Tina to be lead singer on the Korean-language “Gangnam Style,” but it’s actually a fairly subtle meta-joke. While Tina has a (half) Chinese last name, actress Jenna Ushkowitz is actually 100% Korean by birth (her last name comes from her American adoptive parents).
It really does feel like Rachel is maturing, as she doesn’t take long at all to forgive Brody.