Here’s what you missed on Glee: A little bit of attention makes anyone in the New Directions a total diva, the straight white kids still haven’t read their pamphlets on white knighting, there’s a bitch test required to join the Cheerios, popularity at McKinley is so moment-to-moment that the kids might need an ADHD episode, Rachel is New York’s greatest actress, love is all you need if you’re a gay teenager who wants to get married, and when someone leaves their role, they’re replaced by a shallower clone like that scene in The Prestige only with no conscious sense of horror, and that’s what you’ve seen ad nauseum on Glee. I could—and I’m still hoping to someday—compile a review entirely out of snippets of past reviews, but I’d rather just get this over with. I just hope the writers are asking themselves why they’re doing what they’re doing as often as I’m asking myself every Thursday night.
The thing is, “Tina In The Sky With Diamonds” is several cuts above the premiere. But where that episode was a sad fish flopping around that eventually got turned into sushi, or at least some really greasy fish and chips, this one takes an opposite course (a tasty fish that got overcooked by the chefs?). The popcorn banter is back, there are multiple labyrinthine insult-ologues, and it ever so briefly flirts with Tina’s latent psychic rage destroying the Cheerios once and for all. Why the show didn’t pull the trigger—too soon?—is beyond me, but that excruciatingly slow scene gives us plenty of time to realize that instead of blowing the roof off the joint, Glee’s just going through the motions again. So Tina reenacts that script from when Kurt got embarrassed at prom, ran out crying, and then threw caution to the wind and waltzed back into prom like he owned it. You have to admit, it's pretty next-level to present a clip show as new content. But, not to belabor the point, there are two seasons left and declining ratings. Why is Glee singing the same old song?
Glee still has all the promise in the world. Tonight’s episode was written and directed by co-creator Ian Brennan. The last time he pulled double duty, we got “Dynamic Duets.” Which probably explains why the humor is back (“Let’s face it: There are good kinds of yeast and bad kinds of yeast,” says Santana to the camera while rolling some dough on her yeast infection—let me finish—medicine commercial). And why the musical numbers completely transform the standing sets (particularly Sam’s rendition of “Something,” which uses lights and space and movement to get at the heightened attention of infatuation). And as someone who doesn’t equate covering a song with ruining it (although admittedly I had to do my breathing exercises when the dynamite of “Get Back” whimpered onto the soundtrack), devoting two weeks to the Beatles delighted me.
But where does Glee’s ambition go? Breaking off from the calendar year hasn’t changed much. In fact, it would almost make more sense if season five were a new school year, considering the new principal, the new queen bee, and the departure of at least one senior (What happened to Sugar? And a follow-up: Sugar’s a senior, right?). Is this just about halting the progress of the remaining seniors, buying some time before deciding what to do with them? Suddenly that calendar decision is looking a lot safer than it did at the time. As for taking on the Beatles’ later years? In service of more romance, rejection, and self-esteem or whatever, although it is pretty psychedelic that the show gets stuck in a time loop and nobody notices. The most relevant moment, I guess, is Tina taking her prom queen nomination as a sign she’s bigger than Jesus, which is good for approximately one joke in 44 minutes. I guess we can just be thankful there wasn’t an acrimonious team break-up at the end. Then again, that’s exactly the kind of game-changer Glee could use right about now.
As for the plot particulars, Sue has instituted a joint junior-senior Brundleprom, because Ian Brennan is awesome, although that does raise questions about every other prom the multi-class New Directions attended. Tina and Kitty are both up for prom queen, but Tina really wants it and Kitty wants to support her because, deep down, the writers really don’t want us to hate Kitty. Hence, Bree, who isn’t a character but at least has a pretty funny Kitty impression. So Tina, Kitty, and Kitty’s proxy Bree reenact the posters bit from back when we found out Quinn was fat once, and then the Carrie scene happens at prom but with a slushie. And truth be told, it’s an amazing scene, like five minutes of agony as Kitty just stands there trying to get her dumb little brain to put two and two together about the big obvious bucket above Tina, who is just blissfully scanning the crowd from comically robotic Bree to her proud glee club compatriots. And the silence that follows the splash! I’m not joking when I say that I thought Tina was going to manifest some latent supernatural power. Glee could so pull off a horror episode. Instead, she does the Kurt thing, and everyone hygiene-shames her when she says she wants to go home and shower, so instead, the team cleans her off, pins her hair up, and trades out her dress while singing, “Hey Jude,” because of the lyric, “Take a sad song and make it better.”
The other McKinley plot: Sam has a new lust at first sight, but isn’t that basically how these things happen in high school? The new nurse, a college sophomore named Penny, has a line of high school boys winding around the corner waiting their turns for a little flirting and pants-dropping (meningitis shots). It’s a little awkward from her perspective, but at least Sam is just a couple weeks (nine episodes?) away from graduating.
On the other hand, everyone’s patting Sam on the back for deigning to take Tina to prom even though he doesn’t find her hot. As if friends don’t sometimes go with each other to prom because they like each other as people. And when Tina gets her solo, the hilariously misappropriated “Revolution,” it’s a comic bit cut short by the bell, not a display of talent. As usual, when Glee needs someone to humiliate, it’s Tina, who only gets the spotlight when there’s a proverbial bucket of slushie waiting to fall. I repeat: We’ve seen this one before, Glee.
Back in New York, however, things are momentarily looking up, unless we’re talking about Kurt, who claims Vogue.com doesn’t pay enough (to fund several trips to Lima and the world’s most obnoxious wardrobe) and winds up working at the cool Broadway diner. But Santana meets a new girl, Dani, who I’m pretty sure is Demi Lovato in one of those Princess Jasmine scenarios where she’s trying to find someone who loves her for her. At last there is word on Brittany: Santana reluctantly admits she still loves Brittany, but that they’re over. There are still two seasons ahead, so we’ll see, but it remains impressive how Glee, the show with a new crush every week (ahem, Artie-Kitty, Sam-Penny), developed these three central romances, one male-female, one male-male, and one female-female. It took them through high school rituals and young adult obstacles. And then it broke them all up, whether through the tension of distance, the separation of distance, or cheating. And the breakups stuck, as they do for so many high school relationships in the real world but rarely on teen dramas. One couple is back together and diving into commitment, but one couple will never be able to reunite—more on that next week—and another is starting a new season without even a hint that things will go back to the way they were. No more Dawson’s Creek soul mates. Just a girl, standing in front of a girl, telling her she really liked Rachel’s cover of her song back in “The Break Up.”
Oh, and Rachel got the part, pending that cake Peter Facinelli ordered. Surprise!
- “Here Comes The Sun” kind of sweeps me away, visually. The quiet, empty early-early-morning diner, that wide shot where the sun finally starts to shine off Santana’s back, the ending, as Santana and Dani walk through the romantic soundstagey streets full of actors in costume (the waitresses, the policeman, the construction workers). Not quite as strong a showcase for Brennan’s direction as “Something,” which also has the comedy of Sam lip-syncing during a demonstration of the Heimlich maneuver, but it has a surprising magic.
- Kurt tells Rachel, “We can’t let our feelings of self-worth be determined by some part in a play.” Do these characters listen to themselves? He’s specifically telling her to let her feelings of self-worth be determined by a part in a play (Santana’s commercial) while saying the exact opposite about a part in another play (Fanny).
- Artie’s an attentive Maxim reader: “Why is your head Photoshopped onto Olivia Munn’s body from February 2011?”
- Penny is played by Phoebe Strole, whom you may know as yet another Spring Awakening graduate, but whom I know as the pregnant donut store worker whose baby Liz Lemon wants to adopt.
- Sam’s Denzel impression, though, right? I mean, right?
- “If you can get me to take a shot, then Sue will have to see how great of a nurse you are and keep you.” Glee logic if I’ve ever seen it.
- “Guys, this is so great. I feel like I’m in Smash season one.” That’s what I’m afraid of, Rachel.
- Love the way Rachel says, “I’m so tired. I have to get home,” while trying to play match-maker. I wasn’t joking about Glee: New York, Fox. Make it happen.
- No comment on whether or not Stoner Brett winning prom king helped me grade this episode more favorably.