Get a load of the viewer discretion warning for “The End Of Twerk”: suggestive dialogue, language, sexual situations, violence, minority-gawking, a thousand disconnected plot points, Mr. Schu singing “Blurred Lines” with a parade of teenagers in need of some serious deprogramming. Calm down, y’all. It’s just twerking. The occasion? Tina caught Blaine twerking in what he thought was an empty school, which raises all kinds of questions, but the point is everyone makes fun of him so Mr. Schu decides that he shouldn’t feel ashamed of his gift and makes twerking this week’s lesson. Meanwhile Rachel and Kurt are trapped in a grief rut, which is a kind of space-time warp that takes characters back to before they started a band together so their retcon makes sense, and they decide they need tattoos to break out of their malaise. Oh, and Glee feels sorry for Unique again. The surprise is that this isn’t the train wreck those plot descriptions suggest. The anti-surprise is that this is a bunch of parts with no whole.
So let’s take it piece by piece, starting with the twerking. “The fact is twerking is about blurring the lines between past and present, between men and women, between tradition and envelope-pushing,” says an educator to his students, blatantly misunderstanding twerking as part of his blatant misunderstanding of “Blurred Lines.” There isn’t much substance here, because it’s just shaking your booty, but Will tries to make it an Issue about freedom of expression which should be grounds for suspension right there, and whaddyaknow: “You, Will Schuester, are fired,” Sue says. Great minds think alike. He smiles, all “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine,” and she just cackles and Force-lightnings him to death. Now twerking is about saving Will’s job, but this is so inconsequential. Firing Will/Sue/Figgins is like killing off a Marvel character.
So instead of boring narrative substance there is some light visual substance, starting with that opening, one of those occasional Glee shots that begins in one reality (in this case, Blaine’s after-school solo twerking) then transitions via cameraphone, the medium of teenager interaction, into the real reality. Then there’s the ridiculousness of those green jeans bouncing before the title card, the pompous but delightful carnival of sexy dancing from the waltz to the lambada and beyond, the sight—and I stress, just the sight—of Will’s revolution parade. I wouldn’t have gone with “Blurred Lines,” which is not only acknowledged by every other character as a date-rape apologia but is spiced up with shots of teenagers writhing on each other—specifically girls uncontrollably falling all over the boys as they sing, “I know you want it”—in the middle of class as part of Will’s free creative expression, but there’s a lot about Will Schuester that I find actionable.
There is a modicum of narrative substance running throughout the twerking lesson once Breh decides out of the blue to tell Marley that she and Jake twerked all night and that he has a mole on his thigh and that she actually takes voice lessons to sound that annoying. So Marley publicly yells at Jake and then sings some song that makes no impact while swinging on a wrecking ball. Every scene of the New Directions after “Wrecking Ball”—I remembered the song title—is charged by Marley, from her resignation that she’s had an awful week to that song-ending turn from empowerment to heartbreak. It’s a performance I didn’t know Melissa Benoist could pull off. The best part is that Marley has a spine, that she has been wronged, and that she doesn’t need Will Schuester and his squadron of straight dudes to fix her problems for her.
Unique doesn’t either, though. She’s been sneaking into the girls’ restroom during class so that she can do so without disturbing the other girls of McKinley, but Breh catches her, and soon enough the whole delicate bathroom ecosystem is in flux. In the boys’ restroom, she gets harassed by replacement bullies since the other ones have graduated, and after cowering in a corner for a trigger-warning infinity, she sings “If I Were A Boy,” mostly for the moving title lyric. During the song, everyone’s working really hard on their sympathy faces, except Artie and Kitty who are holding hands, a gesture important enough that the camera pans to their hand-holding twice. Afterwards, interpreting Unique’s passion as evidence of harassment, the boys stand up. “We need some names.” Will spends his one sensible line per episode here: “Come on, guys. You know that’s not the solution.” Unique agrees, so the episode has to find another way to condescend, this time involving Will and the faculty restroom and a very special hug. Not sure what happens next because my notes from this portion are just “STOPPPP” over and over, but there’s a temporary trans Porta Potty in the choir room and then an ultimatum from Sue. Turns out, “The End Of Twerk” isn’t about one last stand for twerking. It’s about the New Directions trading their school-hours booty-bouncing for Unique to have her own key to the faculty restroom, a safe space. Which at least has the virtue of nonviolence.
New York has nothing to do with twerking, cheating, or patriarchy, although you might be able to argue it has something to do with blurred lines. Rachel and Kurt go to get tattoos as a way to kickstart their rebellious, creative impulses. Rachel frames it as trying to get back to high school where every decision was make-or-break. She’s chasing that Glee high. So this leads to a notably fit Kurt getting “It’s get better” scrawled on his back, and Rachel backing out altogether. After a chat with the faultless tattoo artist, Kurt takes his advice and gets a tongue piercing and lets the guy fix his tattoo: “It’s got Bette Midler.” “Oh my God that is genius and it makes absolutely no sense,” Rachel tells him. For what could have been the New York equivalent of an episode about twerking, this is really just a vivid slice of life. Rachel goes to work, she comes home beat (one of my favorite parts of “A Katy Or A Gaga” that I forgot to mention), she banters with Kurt, they help each other improve their lives. It’s got singing, it’s got jokes, and it’s got a heartfelt ending as Rachel reveals only to the audience that she did get a tattoo of something she loved enough to put on her body for the next 50 years, Finn. This is the plot that has the least to do with anything else in the episode, it doesn’t make perfect sense in continuity, and it sidelines most of the New York characters for a tight close-up, but it’s the best part.
- Throat Explosion is really grossing me out.
- “You Are Woman, I Am Man” has a great ending: Peter Facinelli, playing the madman director, shouts, “Stop!” And in this golden two-shot, first Rachel, then her co-star turns and looks at him. It’s intense.
- Lima Newscaster: “Both orangutans have been charged with solicitation and impersonating a police officer.”
- Everything about Tina and the Porta Potty is gold. Halfway through a scene in the choir room, she walks out of it. “What? It’s convenient. Jeez, get your priorities straight.”