There are a lot of good individual scenes and moments in "Home," but the stories trying to unite them are all absolute messes. In theory, an episode about Kurt trying to get his dad and Finn's mom together so he can be closer to Finn is a good idea. In theory, an episode about Will again bumping into April Rhodes but now being single and tempted by her is a good idea. In theory, an episode about Mercedes confronting the fact that she doesn't look like a cheerleader or Sue's cheerleader ideal and trying to do something about it is a good idea. But meshing all three together in the same episode ends up with an episode with powerful moments that drown as they're nearly subsumed by everything else going on. In short, this is an episode with lots of good scenes. It's also an episode where the story doesn't really make any sense.
Let's start with the story that worked the most for me. I liked the central concept of the Kurt storyline quite a bit, and it's always good to see Mike O'Malley turn up as Kurt's dad (and, yeah, that's not a sentence I ever thought I'd type). I also liked the way the story turned on its ear, when Kurt was suddenly terrified that by bringing a more stereotypical masculine boy into the household, he'd created a situation where his dad would no longer have time for him. In short, this storyline more or less made sense, and the emotions that ran through it were largely consistent and moving. The scene where Kurt and his dad fight about his dad's new relationship with Finn was heartbreaking, and the scene where Finn and Kurt's dad talk about Finn's dad was nicely done, even if it did end with Kurt lurking outside like a stalker. (And even then, I was totally down with it in the moment, because Chris Colfer really sold the hell out of that facial expression.)
So, yeah, I could have really enjoyed an episode just about this storyline with maybe a few comedic tales of Mercedes trying to fit in with the cheerleaders or Will realizing what a crazy bumbler April was or Rachel trying to hide her relationship with Jesse or whatever you want. It's certainly moving and well-done enough to center the episode, and I think it's what keeps much of the thing from flying completely off the rails, even as it threatens to at numerous points. It's also nice that the one song in the storyline - Kurt's frank re-appropriation of a Luther Vandross song, of all things - is a good showcase for Colfer's voice and is a nicely subtextual number, giving lots of chances for Finn to look guilty and Will to look as though he can't figure out just what the hell is going on. (Seriously, this show needs to do something about the constant Will reaction shots.)
What's more, this is the kind of storyline you can do believably in just one episode. There's a beginning, middle, and end, and the ending point of the storyline - with Kurt looking devastated - leaves room to pick it up again at some point in the future, as the series has Kurt and his dad figuring out their relationship in the wake of Kurt revealing he's gay all the way back in "Preggers." The same cannot be said for the other two storylines, which attempt the blend of comedy and drama the show usually does pretty well and mostly fail at it.
Take Mercedes suddenly developing an eating disorder. This is the kind of storyline that might have worked better if it were more subtle and if it had more room to breathe. Make this storyline the episode's focus, or introduce it here and then pay it off in a later episode, and you might have something that actually deals with Mercedes in a way worthy of her character. Mostly play it in the background as a struggle she's having on her own that no one notices, and you do the same. Instead, the episode brought it up abruptly with Sue challenging Mercedes to lose 10 pounds in a handful of days, developed it abruptly with Brittany and Santana coaching Mercedes through extreme weight loss, and abandoned it abruptly with Mercedes realizing she is beautiful in every single way and singing about it. In the middle there, Mercedes fantasized that her friends were made of food, and it was just sorta stupid. (It certainly does not help that if you are going to choose a song for this plotline, Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" is just about the most obvious song you could pick.) And then everyone sings along with Mercedes and sways back and forth, and Will looks really touched, and the moment is just so forced that it loses any power it might have from what's a genuinely nice arrangement of the song.
The show has a big problem with what to do about its supporting characters. Artie, Tina, Mercedes, and Kurt could all be just as interesting as the main characters, if not more interesting than them, if the series gave them something interesting to do, but they mostly seem to be on the show to get shoehorned into after-school special plots like this and comment about how they have nothing to do. It's fun and cute and meta, sure, but it's also sort of irritating, particularly when the show points out how little it gives its minority characters to do. I've been fighting against the notion that Glee hates women or minorities because the former are terrible and the latter get nothing to do, but in the case of the latter, I'm starting to come around to that point of view. This is a show that increasingly has very little time for them except as window-dressing.
This is to say nothing of Will and April, who spend much of the episode in a plot that lurches from point A to point B as though most of it were on the cutting room floor. It mainly seems to be here to give Kristen Chenoweth lots of time to sing. This is fine, since she has a nice voice, but it also stops the story dead in its tracks every time. I love Springsteen's "Fire," and "Home" is a good, cheesy number from The Wiz, but it's as though no one considered that this might not work. The one number that almost works - that duet in Will's apartment - is one that pushes the story forward (nicely suggesting the two are going to have sex before removing that possibility via clumsy exposition) but also goes on for-fucking-ever. (I timed it.)
This all comes back to something I've been worrying about since the show returned: The songs are taking over the show, and they're not doing so in a terribly graceful manner. This episode had less than last week's episode, but they're also longer numbers and mostly ballads that drag the story to a halt in its tracks. The performances here can't be just about the performances. They need to have some sort of momentum or subtext to them. It's as if Glee has just suddenly decided that any song is good enough, so long as it contains a big production number with it, and that's gotten away from what made the show enjoyable in the first place.
- Sue wanting to impress the journalist was a fairly believable motivation, and I liked the actor who played him (though I feel I know him from somewhere). But if we're going to nitpick, we may as well nitpick: Someone writing for Newsweek could never win a Pulitzer. I mean, GOD, Glee. Get some journalists on staff.
- OK, that scene between Mercedes and Quinn was nice. It would have been nicer with a few more episodes building toward it.
- As much as April's return felt like a strained way to get Chenoweth back in the midst of things, I like the notion that there's a parallel series running to this one about how April comes into fame and fortune and then squanders it through improbable fashion.
- I also wanted to see more of the kids performing in the roller rink. You don't set up shit like that and then barely pay it off. ROLLER DISCO, Glee. ROLLER DISCO.
- Look, I can be as concerned about Glee as I want. We all know that the Neil Patrick Harris/Joss Whedon episode is going to make all go right with the world again. Right?
- "How do you two not have a show on Bravo?"
- "I have to put in a call to the Ohio secretary of state notifying them that I will no longer be carrying ID. You know why? People should know who I am."
- "I'm pretty sure my cat's been reading my diary."
- "Sometimes I have a teaspoon of sand."
- "I've finally realized my lifelong ambition of being a mistress to an incredibly wealthy strip-mall tycoon and the owner-operator of a cabaret roller rink."
- "I imagine when the Kennedys and the Bouviers first broke bread, there was a similar sense of joy and urgency."
- "I'm really hungry, so stop trying to get me to eat you."
- "You're bossy, insulting, and the fact that twice you called me Rerun makes me think you're a little racist."
- "I haven't had a drink in 45 minutes."