Glee: “Guilty Pleasures”
B+

Glee: “Guilty Pleasures”

B+

Glee

“Guilty Pleasures”

Season 4, Episode 17

“Guilty Pleasures” is such a delightful episode you forget all about Ryder’s pedophile lurking in the shadows outside. Will’s out sick and Finn’s on the lam, so Blam assign everyone guilty pleasures. For every song someone’s embarrassed to love there’s a macaroni portrait and a boyfriend pillow. Sam brings out the closet fanilows. There’s a Spice Girls powerhouse. Jake brings out an interesting discussion of Chris Brown. The musical numbers are a blast, there are plenty of jokes, and some plots even inch forward. It may be fluffy, but this cotton candy is tasty.

In fact, the only glaring bit is in New York, when Rachel and Brody get shoehorned into Radiohead’s “Creep.” Sure, Brody’s pre-tryst spiel in “Feud” suggests that he does feel like a creep, a weirdo, like he doesn’t belong here, but spelling it out like this makes me feel like Michael Bluth telling George Michael it’s just a test. Being a gigolo is not the end of the world. It might work if Brody’s self-esteem vis à vis his night job had ever been in question, but Glee is surprisingly loath to talk about this like adults, so he’s out. It’s the Rachel side that I really don’t get. Is she just singing backup because this is their breakup song? Or is “Creep” some expression of masochism along the lines of what she tells Brody about wanting to feel heartache? Regardless, the highlight of this number is the one-two jump cuts right before the chorus.

Also a highlight: Rachel is single. I love Rachel and Finn as much as the next guy who doesn’t really care who winds up with whom, but can Rachel just be single in the city for like two seconds, please? We know she’s going to end up with Finn. He’ll be there. When he’s not punching guys and pissing on his territory, he’s turning his life around. Rachel supposedly wants to find herself, and she has two solid roommates to bond with over The Facts Of Life (Santana’s back) and a fantastic apartment and a fast-track at NYADA as a freshman. She has an ex whom she’ll bump into at school and an ex-fiancé who is who-knows-where. It’s so much more Glee to watch Rachel stew in anxiety than to see her keep achieving all her dreams faster than anyone who’s ever existed. This rendition of “Creep” may not be the cat’s pajizzles, but I can’t wait to see what Rachel does next.

Speaking of relationships, Sam may have orchestrated this week’s assignment just to get Blaine to admit he has a crush on him? If it isn’t obvious from the number of wide shots in the locker room, with half-naked guys showering in the foreground as Blaine and Sam discuss embarrassing secrets in the middle, the Blaine subplot uses the guilty pleasure as a spectacular metaphor for homosexuality, starting with a little George Michael. Blam sing Wham! to get everyone in the spirit, and boy does everyone get in the spirit, by which I mean neon Ts, short shorts, and clashing accessories. But Sam says that doesn’t count for Blaine’s embarrassing love, er, guilty pleasure. So next Blaine sings “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” at the piano in a number that gets the “Teenage Dream” angst without straying too far from funny. It also conveys at least to Tina and possibly to everyone that his guilty pleasure is Sam, although the only person who should really feel guilty about a crush is Ryder’s pedophile. In the end, Blaine’s so mortified he tries to walk back the episode’s positive message about living out and proud (this is why you don’t conflate songs you secretly like with people you secretly like), but thankfully Sam stops him. They don’t untangle the issues, but this is Glee, after all. Sam tells Blaine it’s okay that Blaine has a crush on him, and they walk back to class as bestest bros forever, so judging from history (Tina), Blaine will be over Sam in a week, and the New Directions remain cohesive.

Somehow the Chris Brown conversation is almost as interesting. As soon as the girls catch wind of Jake’s proposed Chris Brown song, they surround him and recount a litany of offensive things the singer has done. So far, so good. Hating Chris Brown is a time-honored sport. But Jake protests that we should be able to separate the art from the artist. Suddenly it’s not so clear-cut, and the only Chris Brown art I know is his box-of-rocks acting on The O.C. Nobody is applauding Brown’s anger management, but Jake does appreciate his music. There’s also a persuasive argument that Brown’s skin color brings out special treatment compared to white artists who have been similarly abusive, but Jake steers clear of that. “Guilty Pleasures” isn’t really delving into this subject so much as tossing off bullet points and then trading felony assault for misdemeanor battery. The fact that there’s a scene where everyone tells Jake that Bobby Brown has also committed some heinous acts makes me queasy. As long as Glee can cover its ass with comical ignorance, it’s okay not to have a backbone? And Jake roping Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, and Rihanna into his argument is probably the most obnoxious thing that happens this week (not bad for Glee). Good thing Jake has some dazzling footwork. The argument over Chris Brown is huge and complicated, and in a few short lines, Glee successfully takes this obvious, one-sided issue and finds a compelling other side. For a social-issues show like Glee, that’s quite a win.

Stray observations:

  • Not only is Kitty nice half the time (she’s the one who scolds Tina for provoking Blaine after his piano ballad), but Brittany has really taken to putting her in her place. “Tonight’s guest is McKinley High’s biggest bitch, the girl with the weird lizard ears, Kitty.”
  • Lord Tubbington’s guilty pleasure is The Power Of Scientology.
  • I can’t tell you how much I laughed at that NYADA extra’s sense-memory exercise about the trauma of being potty-trained. Quintessential Glee joke, and it’s a fly-by.
  • Kurt’s so embarrassed about his arm pillow Bruce that he accidentally ranks his lovers. “If anyone found out, especially Adam or, God forbid, Blaine . . .”
  • Santana wants Rachel to clear some of her stuff off the bathroom shelf. Kurt responds, “One, Rachel’s beautiful. Two, you’re a bitch. And three, those are my products.”