Episode 4.14: “I Do”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

This was a surprisingly great episode, which started on a sad note and then proceeded to slowly let the atmosphere fill with tentative happiness. What with the wedding, there are obvious parallels with season two’s “Furt,” and you’d think that someone would have mentioned that. Also, with so many couples retiring to their bedrooms at the same time, there are parallels with season one’s “The Power of Madonna,” in which Finn lost his virginity (to Santana), but neither Rachel (with Jesse) nor Emma (with Will) were able to go through with it. This is an especially interesting comparison to make because “I Do” presents yet another example of Emma failing to go through with a life-changing event with Will. However, what “I Do” reminds me of more than anything else, at least in tone and structure, is season two’s “Duets.” Both episodes present a fairly disjointed story, one about relationships and how they change, remain the same, or take convenient detours.

One may legitimately ask when enough is enough with these character relationship episodes, especially when we continually revisit things like Kurt/Blaine and Rachel/Finn. We’ve had several episodes that centered around such things just this season, most notably “The Break-Up,” with Blaine moping about Kurt nearly all season and Finn doing his share of moping over Rachel. Well, I guess it’s enough when it ceases to be entertaining, and I don’t think that it’s reached that point yet. However, I’m one of those odd Glee fans who also sees season two as the pinnacle of the series.

The first plot thread, which carries us through two acts and then disappears, is Will and Emma’s wedding. Emma is freaking out over it. Like, having serious “I forgot to take my meds” level freakouts. Will, who is back from Washington but still apparently the same dumbass he was in “The Break-Up,” fails to understand the depth of Emma’s issues, despite the fact that he left her (a woman in therapy with very serious OCD) in charge of planning the entire wedding, and the fact that he knows that she has a very bad past when it comes to weddings. And not just with Carl, mentioned several times in this episode, but with Ken, who significantly left her at the altar in season one’s “Sectionals.” Will also admits later that Emma had tried to warn him that she was overwhelmed and he essentially ignored her. Will and Emma’s performance of “Getting Married Today” was one of the best numbers of the season, despite being mostly imaginary. It did more narrative work than just about any other song in the series, as it showed both Emma’s inability to cope with her feelings and go through with the wedding, as well as Will’s complete obliviousness to the fact that his fiancée is having major problems and needs his support more than she needs… him ignoring her. Anyway, Emma runs away in her wedding dress and hails a cab (reminiscent of a famous scene in Rhoda, but in reverse), leaving Will to mope around for a while and then exit the episode to search for her.

Finn’s kiss with Emma at the end of “Diva” was a red herring throughout the episode. Finn had nothing to do with the wedding disaster; it was Will’s fault for failing to respond to Emma’s needs because of his own self-absorption.

Emma’s parents, who hate Will, footed the bill for the reception, so they figure they might as well go through with it. The next two acts, the bulky middle of the episode, are absolutely fantastic and among the best character writing that has been done on Glee, as the kids and graduates hang around the reception, get drunk, and connect and re-connect with each other. Kurt and Blaine are having a friendly fling (“bros helping bros,” as Blaine puts it) while Finn makes a surprisingly smooth pass at Rachel while trying to explain to her that she is his lobster. Artie shows his desperation by doing everything he can to form a relationship with Emma’s bitchy niece Betty. Jake tries to build on his relationship with Marley with the help of Ryder, who knows exactly what needs to be done to impress her. And, out in left field, we have Santana and Quinn’s relationship becoming suddenly sexual. Make no mistake, though, they built up Santana and Quinn’s slowly escalating relationship beautifully and they actually make the most believable couple of the bunch. And now we just need Quinn and Brittany to have sex with each other, and Glee will finally have a fully complete relationship triangle.

While watching the surprisingly enjoyable escapades of Jake, Marley, and Ryder, I started wondering why this relationship is working for me while Sam and Mercedes in season three never did. It isn’t because the characters are better developed because, while they’re getting better, they really aren’t. A lot of it is that we got to witness the entire relationship from the beginning. A lot of it is that Melissa Benoist and Jacob Artist have more chemistry together than Chord Overstreed and Amber Riley did. And a lot of it is that Ryder’s involvement actually makes it more interesting rather than just another triangle. Ryder is a rare breed in this episode: he is a complete innocent with nary a deceptive bone in his body. He genuinely likes Jake and feels close to him, and we wants to help Jake get closer to Marley because he wants him to be happy. At the same time, he likes Marley a lot, and he’s clearly put a lot of thought into what he would do to win her over if he had the potential for betrayal within him. He wants her to be happy too, and that plays into his attempts to turn Jake into a better boyfriend. And through it all, as he plays Cyrano (“Who?”), he wants nothing more than to trade places with Jake. This may be another love triangle, but it’s unusual for being one with almost no negativity underlying it.

Finn and Rachel may have had sex, and Finn may truly believe that Rachel is “the one,” but I got the idea that Rachel doesn’t really buy it. She did break up with him, after all. All this may mean that Finn is just setting himself up for another big fall. And imagine if Rachel really is pregnant. Back to season one! Fourth verse, same as the first! I must admit, I never saw Rachel taking on Quinn’s role, though.

I’m not sure what to make of Kurt and Blaine. Blaine starts to sound kind of needy and whiny again near the end, and even makes a “You’re my lobster” speech to Kurt similar to the one that Finn delivered to Rachel. Are we supposed to believe it, or is he fooling himself? For his part, Kurt still doesn’t seem to see anything in the future with Blaine. What was really entertaining, though, was Tina’s involvement, as she went back to rage mode to rag on Kurt for how he treated Blaine, and then apologizes and goes out as friends with both Kurt and Blaine. I’m relieved to see everything between Blaine and Tina out in the open now, and we can put the unpleasantness of “Diva” behind us now (“Did you vapor rape my ex-boyfriend?!”).

I can’t emphasize enough how much fun it was to watch Santana and Quinn hang out together and be bitchy. Fuck Kurt and Rachel; give these two their own show. Their going from friendly, to flirty, to slow dancing, to going up to a hotel room was all 100% believable and handled very well. I don’t think that “Quinntana” is going to become a thing, but it was a blast to watch it happen in this episode.

Unfortunately, Artie and Betty’s relationship was mostly disappointing. Betty didn’t really have any characterization beyond “bitch,” and we weren’t given much of a reason why Artie kept pursuing her, unless it was just her huge… tracts of land.

The episode ends with the hint that Rachel might be pregnant (and who’s the father!? — the episode establishes that Finn and Brody are both candidates) and Finn trying to cheer Will up while worming his way into a permanent glee coaching position. Is he even being paid yet? Also, Ryder kisses Marley, but she kinda cornered him.

So, yeah. This was a really good episode and strangely happy and positive, not something I would have expected from Will’s shattered wedding.

The musical highlight by a mile was “Getting Married Today,” which I talked about above. Kurt and Blaine’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” was also very good, and I like the way that they kept some action going underneath the song. Love songs “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “We’ve Got Tonight” did their work, but weren’t spectacular. The final “Anything Could Happen” was pretty good, and suggested a hint of a theme for the episode.

Other thoughts:

The episode alludes to the egotism of both Rachel and Finn, as Rachel thinks that Finn’s loss of control with Emma was about his feelings to Rachel, and Finn thinks that his kiss could have single-handedly broken up Will and Emma.

Is it sad that “impromptu” musical numbers are so commonplace in the Glee universe that I questioned how impressed Marley should have been with Jake’s number? I will say that Jake and company went the extra mile with the lighting. How did they manage that in a classroom?

At least Will has a moment of self-reflection in which he realizes how much he is to blame.

It was kinda fun seeing rage-filled Tina again after a couple of episodes of lovesick Tina.

It’s interesting how an episode that began being about Will’s wedding ended up being all about the glee kids and graduates. It’s almost like a metaphor for the show itself.

Anyone else notice that the number of petals on Finn’s daisy wasn’t completely consistent between shots? You’d think they’d be careful of that, because I doubt I was the only one counting petals to see if he was going to end up on “she loves me” or “she loves me not.”

The scene leading up to and after the “hotel sex” was very artfully shot.

Are four people really living in the loft in New York City now? Sounds pretty awkward.

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Episode 4.13: “Diva”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

After the wackiness of last week, it was good to get a little more down to earth, or at least what passes for “down to earth” on Glee. This was a decent episode, but its good setup was undermined by some subpar resolutions. At least Tina finally kinda got a story all her own, even if it did revolve around her feelings for a gay guy (and Rachel thought that she had a failed relationship with Blaine). It’s going to be a Quinn-level event when Tina finally comes crashing down.

Last week, someone on a message board I frequent said that “Naked” reminded them of season one. And, in terms of tone, it did. I even had the same “this is bad, but I’m enjoying it” reaction that I had for much of that season. But musically and thematically, “Diva” is actually even more reminiscent of season one. It helps the connection that it’s an episode that is, for Glee, unusually rooted in continuity. Kurt and Rachel are at each others throats again, and their competitive duet of “Bring Him Home” brings to mind “Defying Gravity,” which was mentioned. Kurt even cops to throwing it. Blaine mentions his brief fling with Rachel. Santana is moping over a lost significant other, and her duet with Sam of “Make No Mistake (She’s Mine)” brings to mind Mercedes and Santana’s “The Boy is Mine,” which in season one was about Puck. Finn is moping over his breakup with Rachel, which happened about every other episode the first two seasons. And, course, we get to witness a bitter competition among the club members (sorta).

Anyway, Finn is still leading the glee club and, since this is an episode that is not “Swan Song,” he seems to be doing a pretty bad job at it. Through Emma, he steals one of Will’s old ideas and tries to get the kids fired up for regionals by having them compete in a “diva-off.” There seems to be a lot of interest in it, with Blaine, Wade, Brittany, Marley, and Tina all expressing interest in proving that they can be a diva. Unfortunately for Wade, Brittany, and Marley, there apparently wasn’t time in this episode for their competition numbers, and this ends up being all about Tina and Blaine (Heather Morris, while a talented enough singer, doesn’t have a powerful enough voice to seriously compete anyway). They help each other out, as Tina tries to help Blaine clear his head cold (apparently Chinese chicken noodle soup is magic) and Blaine tries to help Tina gain some confidence and pick a song to compete with.

There are some good things about this plotline. Blaine is finally moving away from the “depressed whiny bitch who misses Kurt” persona that has ruled him for most of this season, and Tina is finally showing up at the forefront of a story (and she really is the subject here more than Blaine is). However, it’s disappointing that Tina’s story should once again revolve around a man, as it did in “Asian F,” her previous nearest miss with main character status. However, I can buy it because Jenna Ushkowitz really sells it. She’s completely lovesick over Blaine, and it’s driving her nuts because she knows it’s futile. At the same time she pursues it because she can’t stop herself. When Tina starts crying and kinda latches onto Blaine while he’s asleep, it’s kind of a creepy scene, but it also speaks volumes about what Tina is feeling, and Ushkowitz plays it masterfully.

So I’m comfortable with Tina’s role for the most part, but what’s really disappointing is Blaine. He can’t be so naïve as to not realize that Tina is in love with him. I mean, he literally can’t, because she pretty much told him as much in “Sadie Hawkins.” So Blaine ends up looking like a huge jerk for leading her on and taking advantage of her feelings for him. Both Blaine and Tina seem to have missed the point of this when Blaine apologizes for not being grateful for all Tina’s help (which Tina seems to accept) and then asks her to be his date to Will’s wedding. As far as I can tell, Blaine showed plenty of appreciation for what Tina did for him. Tina had good reason to be mad, but that wasn’t it: she should be mad because Blaine is playing with her feelings. And now that they’re going on a “date,” Blaine gets to string her along even further.

I don’t think that this is supposed to be the audience perception of their relationship, but that’s definitely what it looks like to me.

Meanwhile, Kurt decides to call Rachel out on being bitchy and self-absorbed by challenging her at NYADA’s “Midnight Madness,” a Fight Club style underground sing-off, a concept that sounds much funnier than it turns out to be. I like this because in the past couple of episodes it has become obvious that Rachel and Kurt are drifting apart, and Rachel has always had an ego that will balloon out to massive proportions at the slightest provocation. Of course, this is a lesson that Rachel has had to learn over and over again, so there always needs to be some kind of a new spin on it. This time, when Rachel is defeated by Kurt, she becomes depressed not because she got beaten, but because the perspective gives her a chance to see exactly how bitchy she had been. Kurt forgives her and all is well, now that she’s been knocked down a few notches.

While this plotline works better than Blaine and Tina’s, to a certain extent one has to ask what the point is. I guess it was nice finally seeing some cracks in Rachel and Kurt’s relationship, considering that they’ve been best BFFs forever ever since season two. I was expecting part of it to be about Kurt being a little jealous of the attention that Rachel is giving Brody, though.

Bringing up the rear in the C plot is Santana, who has come back to town because she’s upset that Brittany is dating Sam. Why she’s so upset that it’s Sam in particular is never really made clear. Because he’s a guy? Because he’s kinda dumb? Because Santana used to date him? Because he could unhinge his jaw and swallow her whole? I don’t know. I did like their confrontation over her, even if Sam and Brittany’s relationship hasn’t really earned the gravity that Santana and Brittany’s has. Santana’s scene with Brittany, on the other hand, was the best scene in the episode. Even if the writing didn’t earn it, Naya Rivera and Heather Morris onscreen together are always magic. While Sue offered Santana a job as an assistant cheer coach, Brittany convinces Santana that she should move to New York, which is more her style.

While I like the idea of Santana moving to New York purely because I’d like to see her on the show more, the series has not really offered us a good explanation as to why she should go. I asked this question at the end of last season in my review of Goodbye: what is she hoping to do there? We know why Kurt and Rachel went to New York, but Santana has never really expressed interest in Broadway (or in anything else other than being a lesbian and a bitch, really), so what is she doing there? What are her goals? She is as lost as Finn in many ways, she just doesn’t seem as bothered by it.

I did like her entrance into Kurt and Rachel’s apartment. “What are you doing here?” “Moving in.”

Also happening in this episode: Emma has a panic attack about planning for her wedding, and Finn decides to snap her out of it by kissing her. Speaking of callbacks to season one, I’m getting a mental image of Will decking Finn. I’m not sure where they’re going with this, but it can’t be anywhere good. In the meantime, Emma better get her meds adjusted.

Overall, I’d call this a good episode. It wasn’t without its flaws, but thematically, for the most part, it was pretty well put together. A lot of it was about changing relationships: Blaine and Tina, Rachel and Kurt, Santana and Brittany, Emma and Finn. Santana and Brittany’s relationship evolved, Rachel and Kurt’s faltered and then got stronger, and the other two are disasters waiting to happen.

Musically, this episode was strong thematically if not artistically. “Diva” was easily the worst, pulling us way out of reality with a song that just isn’t that good. Blaine’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was good, but unfortunately, Darren Criss is no Freddy Mercury. I think its telling that Glee‘s previous Queen songs were mostly ensembles, since it’s very hard for a single person to impress with a song originated by Mercury, who had a ludicrously good voice. The main exception is season one’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” sung primarily by Jonathan Groff. But Criss doesn’t even have Groff’s voice and, as talented as he is, “Don’t Stop Me Now” comes across as a pale imitation because his voice just isn’t powerful enough to carry it. Similarly, “Bring Him Home” invites unfair comparisons to season one’s “Defying Gravity,” which was far superior. The highlight was Santana and Sam’s oddly sad and brooding “Make No Mistake (She’s Mine),” which worked thanks more to Naya Rivera than Chord Overstreet, but I think that they both sold their feelings for Brittany. Santana was regretting that their relationship had to end, while Sam was quietly telling Santana that she is with him now, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Close behind are Tina’s “Hung Up” (which seemed a little mean-spirited) and Santana’s “Nutbush City Limits,” which was just a ton of fun. Santana’s “Girl on Fire” seemed like it was trying to channel Rachel’s “Roots Before Branches” from season three’s “Goodbye,” which Rachel earned but Santana did not.

Other thoughts:

I liked how Emma just kept talking while the glee kids started arguing with each other leading into the musical number, which resulted in the funniest punchline of the episode: “And that is how I made the manager cry at the Cheesecake Factory.”

The scene with Blaine and Tina in Blaine’s bedroom was already creepy enough before Blaine fell asleep and Tina started unbuttoning his shirt and mounted him. Luckily she just wanted to put some vapor rub on his chest for his cold, but it was pretty uncomfortable, and it was meant to be.

Finn describes himself as a “manboy,” which pretty much describes the box they’ve put him into for any fourth season episode not named “Swan Song.”

Santana seemed very different from the mature, adult woman who broke up with Brittany in “The Break-Up.” I guess striking out with that girl in Louisville really did a number on her.

Kurt’s victory over Rachel was “the closest in Midnight Madness History?” What, does their history only stretch back to last Tuesday or something?

Tina earned her victory here, but I hope they give her something to do in the future that isn’t mainly mooning over a guy. I know, I’m impossible to please.

Sue’s explanation for how the graduates keep showing up back in Lima: teleporters.

Episode 4.12: “Naked”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

Let’s not mince words here: “Naked” is bad. It’s probably the worst episode of an already weak season. On the other hand, it may actually be so bad that it’s good. I laughed through a good portion of the first act, including Rachel and Rachel’s performance of “Torn,” which I think was supposed to be dramatic? But really, the first act took us from the local news reporting on the steroid scandal that allowed the New Directions to go to regionals in place of the Warblers (complete with the co-anchor losing her shit on air over what’s considered news this days), to Tina’s bizarre idea to raise funds by selling a sexy calendar of the high school age boys of the glee club, to Brittany’s insane YouTube interview show (seriously, who’s working the camera?), to Rachel arguing with herself Gollum-style and then doing a duet with her imaginary younger doppelgänger. I emphasize that all this happened before the first act break. It’s at around this point that I started wondering if I’d accidentally taken some crazy pills before I started watching this episode.

It’s almost like the ridiculous plot point of the Warblers’ disqualification allowing the New Directions to go to regionals (and what about the Mennonite glee club?) caused the whole production staff to just say “fuck it, we don’t need to make sense anymore.” And when you consider how little sense Glee has made in the past, it’s truly frightening how completely off-the-wall they can be when they stop trying.

So what A plot there is revolves around Sam and Artie’s body issues, making this the third time that body issues have formed the core of an episode, after Finn in season two’s “Rocky Horror Glee Show” and Marley in “Glease” earlier this season. Artie doesn’t want to pose for the camera, and Sam, finding out that he tanked the SATs and thinking that his body is all he has left, never wants to not pose for a camera. His “broga” class with the other guys and the ensuing ludicrous “Centerfold/Hot in Here” mashup was the one intentionally hilarious bit of the episode. Artie finally stands up to Finn and refuses to pose shirtless, and Sam finally realizes that he has value beyond his looks and poses clothed to make Artie feel better.

A lot of this plotline felt really uncomfortable, and not just because a lot of the characters posing for sexy pictures are underage. The way that Finn totally goes along with Tina’s idea is very strange, and I can’t imagine Will doing the same thing, especially after the bad experiences with sexualizing the glee club in season one’s “Showmance” and season two’s “Britney/Brittany.” I thought Finn was supposed to be maturing here? That facet of his character development was on display in “Swan Song,” but he’s taken a big step backwards here. Watching Artie attempting to tell Finn that he isn’t comfortable doing the calendar was really awkward, and it made Finn look simultaneously stupid and like a bully. You’d really think that Finn would understand Artie’s concerns considering, you know, Finn had an entire episode about his own body image issues. Equally uncomfortable was watching Finn trying to blackmail Sue over her supposedly having once posed for Penthouse. Again, it makes him look like a bully, not a mature adult.

I did like the resolution to Sam’s plotline, as Blaine reminds him of everything he’s accomplished outside of looking good. Going all the way back to season two, Sam really has done and accomplished a lot, and it kinda sneaks up on you when you think about it. What I don’t like is how idiotic this season has made Sam. It’s really getting on my nerves. He used to be a reasonably intelligent kid, and now he’s like a completely different character.

Meanwhile, Rachel has taken a part in someone’s student film in New York, and finds that it requires a topless scene. She agrees to do it at first, leading to the aforementioned argument with season one Rachel, who they recreated spectacularly. It also serves as a reminder for how much better Rachel used to look, without bangs or heavy makeup. I’m on season one Rachel’s side; what they’re doing with Lea Michele now makes her look like a porn star. Anyway, Brody is all for it, but Kurt, who at one point flatly tells Brody that Rachel doesn’t do nude scenes when Rachel is standing right in front of them, as if he’s her manager, is having none of this bullshit. However, he’s apparently busy with his Coulton-robbing new boyfriend, because instead of doing something about it himself, he calls Quinn and Santana into town to talk some sense into Rachel.

I actually liked Rachel’s argument with those two, because it felt very honest and genuine. I could also easily believe where they were coming from, as Quinn is a girl who has made a lot of mistakes and Santana actually did have a sex tape get out (in season three’s “Saturday Night Glee-ver“). Though I did find it amusing that Santana says that the sex tape followers her around “to this very day” when it can’t possibly have been much more than a year, if that, since it got out. It was also very cool, of course, to see Quinn and Santana back, and seeing them interact with Rachel was fun because they didn’t do that all that often in the first three seasons, despite the fact that they were good friends by the end.

So Rachel starts out on set intending to do the topless scene, but finally decides that she’s “not ready” and leaves the set just in time to do a song with Quinn and Santana. We end this plotline with a hint that Santana might move to New York, which I’m all for if means more Naya Rivera in Glee.

What can you say about an episode that ends with high school boys selling sexy photos of themselves while an adult woman rejects exposing her body to the world because she’s not ready? Did I mention that this episode is nuts? … no pun intended.

The C plot revolves around Marley and Jake trying to say that they love each other. I’d argue that the show is rushing their relationship, but I think that Glee has adequately proven in the past that it knows what high school love is. I’m also glad we’re not playing the love pentagon game with these characters right now, even if Kitty and Ryder are jealously watching from the sidelines.

The songs were mostly forgettable, but “Centerfold/Hot in Here” deserves a mention for being really funny despite the mashup never really gelling. And of course I thought that “Torn” was (unintentionally) hilarious, but I might have been high off the wackiness of the preceding scenes at that point… or on crazy pills, who knows. Jake and Marley’s love songs (“Let Me Love You” and “A Thousand Years“) were nice, but cheesy, and I don’t think that their relationship has earned all the drama yet. The highlight was Rachel, Santana, and Quinn’s “Love Song,” though that’s mainly because I loved seeing the three of them together. The final “This is the New Year” was good too, but I’m not really sure it fit in the episode.

Other thoughts:

I am very disappointed that this season brought us back to the competition circuit, but I guess there’s not much purpose in kvetching about it. I’ll just wait and see how they play it. I’m not even going to ask questions about the logistics of how and why they were allowed back in, because then I’d just get stupid answers.

Brittany and Marley are fun together, but they never clicked in the “Fondue for Two” scene for some reason. Maybe Lord Tubbington was too much of a third wheel.

Tina’s crush on Blaine is still on full display. Is this going somewhere?

My immediate reaction after Rachel’s plot thread was resolved: “So what was the point of that?” I still don’t know.

As if to top off the weirdness of this episode, the normally six-act show was only five acts this time. When the credits started rolling, I at first thought that I miscounted.