(Spoilers lurk below.)
Where do I even start with this? Season four as a whole could be described as unfocussed at best and unremarkable at worst, at least until the season finale came along to drag down the average. “All or Nothing” is shockingly bad. It feels more like a parody of on episode of Glee than a real one, or perhaps like a 14-year-old’s fan script that accidentally ended up getting produced somehow. Just try to remember everything you loved about every other competition episode, and then for the love of God don’t watch “All or Nothing,” because it hits every note falsely, carefully following the general road map of what such an episode should look like while ruining every single moment.
In short, I didn’t like it.
What the episode bizarrely seems to want to be about is Brittany losing her fucking mind. She comes back to WMHS from being recruited by MIT and is acting like a total bitch, demanding “all the solos,” breaking up with Sam via text (while standing right in front of him), quitting the cheerios by throwing her uniform in a trashcan in front of Roz and burning it, and in general acting nothing like Brittany has ever acted before in her entire life. She’s even over the top when compared to her actions in “Britney 2.0.” This episode spends a lot of time on the “mystery” of Brittany’s bad attitude, as we watch Sam, Will and Sue (together), and finally Santana (at Sam’s request) try to get to the bottom of this. Brittany finally admits that she was accepted to MIT “early admissions” and that she has to leave “right away,” which is why she had that “meltdown.”
First of all, the audience knew about her acceptance to MIT from the beginning of this episode because It was in the first fucking scene. Second of all, everyone in the club knew that Brittany was being recruited by MIT because Will mentioned it, even using the term “early admission” if I recall correctly. Third of all, Brittany should have graduated last year. And, fourth of all, a bunch of other people are fucking graduating! So Brittany leaves a few months early; is it really worth hijacking a season finale and competition episode with all this faux drama, complete with a long goodbye speech that wanders so far from the main point that it plummets off a cliff?
I get the feeling that this is mostly about Heather Morris, who was pretty obviously pregnant and rumored to be retiring from acting to concentrate on raising her child. I can understand wanting to say goodbye to an actress who has been there since the beginning (and the tone of the show owes a lot to Brittany and the way that Morris charactered her), but you don’t have to ruin the episode to do it. A quiet scene with Sam, a phone call to Santana, and Brittany gets a nice send-off that could have also showcased Morris’s dramatic acting and skill at comic relief, rather than just let her go insane.
And let’s talk about the MIT scene for a moment, because it’s emblematic of a lot of what’s wrong with Brittany’s character, here and in some previous episodes. It hinges on the idea that Brittany is “secretly” smart, which is something I’m not sure if I’m supposed to believe or not. For some of TV’s goofball characters it’s believable, such as Welcome Back, Kotter‘s Arnold Horshack. With Brittany… it’s just not. They’re accepting her to MIT because of one test and some numbers she scrawled on a piece of paper, which they bend over backwards to interpret in some way that sounds somewhat stuffy and intelligent? That’s… stupid. And it’s hard to see Brittany doing anything at MIT other than washing out, as even the admissions people know that she has a 0.2 GPA. I don’t care how smart you are, you have to get good grades in any college, especially if you’re on scholarship, and it’s impossible to imagine that Brittany could do that. Brittany has never accepted that she is not intelligent, making her appear delusional in addition to unintelligent and most likely suffering from some form of mental illness.
But that’s enough about that bullshit, let’s talk about some other bullshit. Blaine has decided to propose to Kurt, because apparently Brittany’s stupidity is catching, so he goes to the mall to shop for an engagement ring. The jeweler, Jan, is an older lesbian woman who bizarrely decides to encourage Blaine in his proposal plans, despite not knowing him personally at all. Apparently, straight couples getting married right out of high school is just dumb, but if a gay couple wants to do it, that’s A-okay. It’s possible I’m being unfair here, but I feel like I was watching the episode’s expressed viewpoint, like we we’re taking a detour so that Ryan Murphy can deliver the message that ALL GAY PEOPLE SHOULD MARRY EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW. Blaine and Kurt’s supposed nuptials are just not being given the same respect and seriousness that Rachel and Finn’s wedding plans were for nearly the entirety of season three.
Kurt and Blaine have dinner at Breadstix with Jan and her long-time partner Liz, where they are witness to Jan finally deciding to pop the question for some reason (despite, as they mention, gay marriage not being recognized in Ohio). Liz and Jan are like a fucking commercial for gay marriage, and they pretty much hijack the plot for no discernible reason. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, because I support gay marriage, but I don’t think that this scene or these characters were included in the episode for any reason other than because Ryan Murphy is excited about the strides that gay marriage advocates are making. That’s no reason to include something in an episode, and it pretty obviously intrudes on the story. Jan even mentions the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the subject of gay marriage, which may in fact be made over the summer, lending a new light to Blaine’s plans at the beginning of season five.
Anyway, Blaine doesn’t go through with the proposal this season. Tune in next time! Hey Blaine, maybe you should ask him if he maybe wants to go to a movie sometime before you ask him to be your fucking husband? Consider it a goal for the summer.
Ryder’s lying Internet girlfriend finally shows herself in this episode, since Ryder loses his shit in the choir room and throws a fit so scary that I’m pretty sure that Will should have called security rather than just sit there with his thumb up his butt. The catfish is… drumroll… Marley! Marley? That doesn’t make any sense. She has a boyfriend, she has no reason to fuck with Ryder, and I’m pretty sure that she’s been scientifically proven to be the nicest person on the planet. Oh wait, Marley was just covering up for Wade, as we find out a few scenes later (though we actually find out during Marley’s confession itself because of the way the scene was shot with Wade always in the foreground looking guilty). So the same episode that celebrates the strides that gay Americans are making paints the only transgender character on the show as a creepy stalker.
But that’s not the reason I don’t like this. I don’t like it because it takes Wade, a character remarkable for her courage in the face of everything during seasons three and four, and robs her of both her dignity and her courage all in one fell swoop, and does so by making her fall from grace over a man. Because hey, she’s a woman on TV, so her entire life has to revolve around a guy, right? I was hoping for Wade to get an episode all her own this season, and that didn’t happen. At least they allowed her, for most of the season, to be herself, show courage in the face of adversity, and form a strong friendship with Marley. But what they did to her here is absolutely unforgivable.
No matter who the “catfish” was it was going to be awful, since no one comes out of something like that looking like anything but a creep. But at least Kitty and Tina are already creeps. Wade was a strong , independent, brave, self-assured woman, and they turned her into a creepy lying stalker. THANKS.
Also, it felt like this was supposed to be about Ryder on some level, but he didn’t really do anything. His announcement that he’s quitting glee club after regionals seemed like it was supposed to be the end of a storyline for him, but I don’t know what storyline.
Lastly, Emma and Will get married at the end of this episode. I have nothing to say about that except that I wish they had done the slightest bit to rehabilitate Will’s character. Even Emma in this scene says that she “can’t handle the pressure” of a big wedding, and makes no mention of the fact that Will didn’t do anything to help her or take the pressure off, despite her fucking asking him to. From what I know about Will and Emma right now, I see Will being the Terri of their relationship.
And now let’s talk about the glee club winning regionals. Let’s not even get into the fact that it doesn’t feel like they should have won based on performances, because that’s very subjective and really not important in terms of the story. What is important is that this season has seen the kids lose sectionals, get back into the competition circuit on a stupid technicality that didn’t even make sense, and then win regionals despite being incredibly fragmented by Ryder’s catfish drama and Brittany’s manic episode. Compare this to the season one regionals loss. In that case, the kids simply had not paid enough dues to earn it, despite working like crazy and having a superior performance. The story was not ready to let them win. I’d argue that the same is true here. There are several newbies in the club, and this is the wrong way for them to experience their first big win. They need to earn it.
An even bigger problem was that, structurally, it scarcely felt like the competition even belonged it the episode. It felt like an afterthought. Compare this to the best competition episodes, like “Sectionals,” “Journey to Regionals,” “Original Song,” “Hold on to Sixteen,” “On My Way” and “Nationals.” Those episodes had a buildup, their storylines and structures respected the importance of the competition, even if the competition itself amounted to little more than a series of music videos. That doesn’t happen in “All or Nothing.” Instead, a series of music videos just suddenly happens in the middle of the episode.
So what did work in “All or Nothing?” Exactly one thing: Rachel’s audition. She came in, sang an amazing song, and then was treated to “Thank you, next please.” Even as she wipes tears out of her eyes from how much she put into that audition, the judges are just doing their jobs. That’s reality right there. Of course, they didn’t reveal whether or not she got the part. I honestly think it’s a tossup. As with the glee club, it feels like she needs to pay more dues before she achieves this kind of success. On the other hand, the cancellation of Smash means that there’s no competition for dramas set on Broadway, and it would give Rachel some new opportunities for character growth. It didn’t seem like the judges were too impressed, however, and Rachel is greener than grass in spring, so I doubt she gets the part. Her failure would honestly give better opportunities for character growth, if more challenging to write.
After several episodes that I liked quite a bit, this was not a good way at all to end the season, and not an auspicious way to go towards season five and beyond.
The music in this episode was decent, but far below par for a competition episode. Rachel’s “To Love You More” was very good, even if it didn’t match the emotion of “Don’t Stop Believin'” from “Sweet Dreams.” It was certainly very “Rachel.” “Clarity” and “Wings” by the rival glee club Hoosier Daddies (fronted by Jessica Sanchez of American Idol fame) were both great, and I’d probably call “Wings” the highlight of the episode. The New Directions’ “Hall of Fame” was okay and “I Love It” was very good, probably the runner-up for highlight of the episode. Original song “All or Nothing” was disappointing: generic and rather lifeless. Stick to covers.
What was the point of one of the clubs being “excommunicated by the new pope?” Just to bring in the new Warblers?
I was amused by their lampshade-hanging of Sugar and Joe’s absence.
Sam, on his relationship with Blaine: “I mean, he wants to do me, but we’re just friends.”
Brittany, on Will and Sue’s rivalry: “They were enemies, and then friends, and then enemies, and then friends, and then enemies, and then everybody stopped caring.”
We finally have an answer as to who works the camera for “Fondue for Two”: it’s Lord Tubbington. I shoulda known.
This episode at least wasn’t a complete loss since it had a gratuitous scene of Santana in her underwear.
See you in a week or so with my season four overview!