The great thing about “I Do” is it lives up to the fictional monster that people who don’t watch Glee complain about. It’s an event episode, set mostly at Will’s wedding. It’s a double-event episode if you count the Valentine’s Day evening that we all gave up to spend watching the finest paraplegic humor this side of CBS. And let me count the stunts: 1) Emma leaves Will at the altar, 2) Quinn goes bi, 3) Rachel sleeps with Finn again, 4) Brody is a gigolo (?!), 5) Rachel is probably pregnant. And that’s a conservative accounting. On top of that, it’s got classic Glee whiplash. It’s excruciatingly boring and still a bit creepy with the teacher-student intimacy, and then it has my full attention with Kurt and Blaine making out and pulling each other’s clothes off in the back of a car (take that, Modern Family). Then Sue shows up; enough said. And then Will breaks into “Getting Married Today” from Company, and Emma sings like she’s auditioning for NYADA, and there’s a split-screen, and I wish this were the whole episode. Instead, there's another half-hour of desperate grabs for attention. And it wouldn't be typical Glee (TM) without one of those last-minute motivational stage numbers where they don’t have time for elaborate costumes so they just color-coordinate, and they dance around in celebration of getting a few weeks off or something. Hooray!
I can’t overstate the virtues, which are so few I’ve already mentioned them. It’s always nice to see a bench player steal the spotlight, and Jayma Mays gets a real show-off number, singing like the dickens (although not unassisted by the magic of editing). Why are we wasting time on everyone else when Emma is right there? Figuratively, I mean. Good for her for bailing on this mess. Then there’s Kurt and Blaine. Sure the boot-knocking is tightly framed and selectively edited—can’t get too crazy—but even aside from the on-screen kissing, it’s suggestive enough: intertwined dress shoes, pulling off Blaine’s bowtie, reaching up the back of Kurt’s shirt. You don’t see that on the broadcast networks every day.
Emma’s showcase and the Kurt-Blaine fling are expressions of the same last-ditch mania that animates the rest of “I Do.” “Getting Married Today” is a showstopper in more ways than one, and Kurt and Blaine’s tryst is shot so as to plant a little suspense about first who’s kissing and then whom Kurt’s kissing. The difference is that neither are too over-the-top. A pregnancy scare and sudden bicuriosity and an honest-to-goodness gigolo? Maybe it’s good that Glee’s taking the rest of Sweeps off.
“I Do” is so overextended that the only unifying idea the writers could come up with is “Wedding!!!” Actually, Kurt probably sums it up better than Mr. Schue’s white-board: “Everyone hooks up at weddings.” Everyone except Marley, and I guess I should just be grateful that Ryder didn’t rush into her hotel room at the last minute to protect her virginity. They probably couldn’t fit a horse in there. Instead, Artie pursues this emotional hag named Betty because she has a wheelchair, too, and that’s how the world works. Never mind that Artie has a history of dating much nicer, cooler, or at least funnier women. No, Artie keeps chasing Betty after their meet-puke because, as his weak lip service attests, he finds her inexplicably compelling. So add Artie to the list of kids who are going to learn something in the episode about self-respect. Quinn spends the evening with Santana because Sam doesn’t let Brittany talk to her friends, and the two of them get drunk—another highlight of the episode being their fake IDs—and experimental. Honestly, the casual approach to bicuriosity is probably less offensive than a very special episode, but it doesn’t make it feel any less like a cheap stunt.
The big reconciliation is Finn and Rachel, and even though I’m not feeling the romance, “I Do” does its best to rekindle Glee’s hottest, well, oldest power couple with the appropriate sense of butterflies. They have a couple of awkward scenes that nail the nervous pretense of trying to be adult. I hate/love to keep calling what Lea Michele’s doing this season The New Rachel, but her faux-mature college thing is so different from her high school princess thing, and in this case, so perfect for the story. Later, at the wedding, where everybody hooks up, she catches the bouquet. (Sue throws it. “I Do” turns out to use Sue just right. She wants to ruin the wedding to get revenge on Will for hiring Finn, as you do, but it doesn’t take much. Once Emma leaves, we get a few choice shots of Sue wearing a wedding dress and taking over the bride’s duties, some good comic relief, and nothing more.) Then Finn meets Rachel before their duet and starts picking away at a flower. “She loves me. She loves me not.” They have a whole conversation about how she’s in this cool, undefined, sexromance with Brody—you wouldn’t understand—but Finn contends that they both know, whatever else happens, Finn and Rachel are each other’s endgame. She pulls off the final petal without naming it, but it’s “She loves me.” They sing a duet so hot that literally everyone on Fox got laid tonight, and, well, I jumped the gun, but the third thing is they have sex. Okay, maybe Finn and Rachel weren’t so bad.
But even before all the surprises set new records for synchronized eye-rolling, “I Do” flirts with some really aggravating politics. I try to be lenient, not just because the Internet could use fewer reactionaries and less aggression, but also because Glee is misguided and dumb, factory pop that happens to have a few handmade gems, not the end of all that is right and good about Western civilization. To my eyes, the paraplegic humor (a joke about Artie seeing Betty coming because it took her two minutes to get to him, and another about neither of them knowing whether their hook-up was any good) isn’t mean-spirited even if it does skirt the line of fun at their expense. They later admit that the sex was great, which clarifies (or retcons) the initial joke as just that, a knowing joke between them. Similarly, just because Ryder is spouting all this white-knight nonsense about protecting Marley’s virtue, it’s complicated by the fact that Ryder just wants Marley for himself, and that Glee lets Marley make her own decisions. Whereas Finn tells Emma, “I just wanted to help you,” which isn’t quite on the level of Will singing “Fix You” to cure her OCD, but boy, does it sour my goodwill. But again, Finn is the bad guy here, not Glee. There’s so much not-quite button-pushing in “I Do” that it counts as restraint that nobody says anything when Marley chases a tray of appetizers. It all adds up to a general feeling of exhaustion, like a child who is, technically, not touching you. It’s not that it’s offensive. It’s just kind of boring.
And here comes the funcooker: Rachel’s pregnant—probably, but come on—and Brody’s hooking! I can hear the writers now: “Yes and!” It’s not so terrible for a soap to end on a cliffhanger. And there is something enticing about this plot where Finn likes a girl who gets pregnant by another guy turning into a pattern. But it doesn’t keep “I Do” from feeling hollow and manic. You can really tell this is classic Glee because they brought back Mercedes to do nothing again. And just think: This is a trial run for the real wedding episode we’ll have to endure someday. Happy Valentine’s Day!
- I haven’t even mentioned the Tina thing. She gets over her crush kind of arbitrarily, but isn’t that how these things happen? One day, he’s just not the bee’s knees anymore.
- Anyway, Blaine is going to get Tina a boyfriend, which is another example of not-quite annoying paternalism (“not quite” because according to the show he’s being her best friend, not a white guy trying to shut up a woman). Maybe I’m making a mountain out of an even bigger mountain of circumstantial evidence. It doesn’t make “I Do” go down any smoother.
- Another reason to love Emma. She tells Finn, “Get over it!” in this gloriously commanding voice. I repeat: Why are we wasting time with people who aren’t Emma?
- At least when Artie sizes Betty up as the sum of her victimhood—“You’re mean, you’re awful, because you’re angry because you’re in the chair”—she tells his well-meaning ass off. And then sleeps with him. Because mixed messages are kind of Glee’s thing.
- I loved the swoop on Tina as she glares at Kurt dancing and singing with Blaine. “You’re here; you’re in New York. You’re at Vogue.com; you’re at NYADA. Who are you, Kurt? Meanwhile, Blaine’s here, lonely, and yes, he cheated. We are all human, Kurt. We all deserved to be loved back, Kurt.”
- Are we seriously still using the term “hag?”
- Brody knows Rachel’s been kissing Finn. “You’re kissing differently.” This is not a thing that happens! At least this plot point could have been something outrageous and funny, like Santana’s immunity to mono.
- Finn bucks Will up by pitching the rest of the season and the world’s worst spinoff. “We’re gonna win Nationals again. Together, we’re gonna find your wife.” Fasten your seatbelts, etc.