'Glee' Recap: The 'End of Twerk' Episode Not As Bad As It Sounds

An episode with a title like “The End of Twerk” sounds like a Glee recipe for disaster, but by all miracles this week skirted the line of absurd, touching, and managed to advance multiple character narratives. The last is especially a feat in the world of Glee, and if the audience has to endure a little booty shaking and inappropriate Mr. Schue failures to get there, then so be it.

Blaine’s private cleaning and twerking time in the choir room is exposed by Tina, who video tapes him and shares with the class. Schue tells him not to be embarrassed, but to embrace twerking as a form of free speech and expression, and as the perfect way to catch the judges eyes at nationals. The world of Glee hasn’t caught up to summer, or the VMAs, so that the Great Twerking Debate of 2013 hasn’t happened in their universe is the only plausible excuse for Schue’s crazy ignorance of the implications of glorifying twerking as a freedom of speech for his underage high schoolers, and doesn’t realize that performing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” with teenagers down the halls is more than inappropriate.  At least Jake tries to give some twerk background, and Sue tries to explain what “Blurred Lines” is about, even if it falls on deaf ears. When fired by Sue, he brings it to the school board with an elaborately planned out and costumed presentation with the kids about the history of dance crazes thought scandalous that we laugh at today. Do you want to be on the right side of dance history, he shouts, and inexplicably the school board is swayed. Twerking lives as free speech, until Schue realizes there’s something more important to fight for.

Jake’s cheating comes out this episode, and in response Marley performs the most demur version of “Wrecking Ball” that you get why Miley Cyrus might have wanted to change her whole vibe.  They try to recreate the video, but it comes off more like a college comedy troupe tried to spoof it, without the intentional humor. Marley sings in a buttoned up top, and then swings on the ball in blue shorts and a blue tank.  We feel her pain, and Jake is a jerk, and she should wreck him, but it was hard to care when the ineptitude of the number was so distracting. 

Unique’s fight is the real one this episode, the real search for freedom. She’s taken to using the girls room during class to avoid confrontation, but when she’s discovered and disrupts the gendered bathroom order of McKinley and retreats to the men’s, she’s harassed by the jocks. Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy” is the natural course of things, and it’s absolutely stunning. It evokes the stand-out Kurt Hummel performances like “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Season 2 and Mercedes standout vocal styles, and from music to staging rips at your gut to watch her perform it, and to watch her fellow classmates register it as she sings in the choir room.

When she finishes Sam, Ryder and Jake want to beat down the guys making her feel bad, but Unique knows that will only make things worse and not solve her problem. It’s not about fear, she explains, but belonging. Sue gives Unique a porta potty in the choir room to use, but the absurdity of that propels Schue to do one of his best moves as an educator and a champion of his students -- he offers to let Unique use the single-stall teacher’s. Sue, in turn, sees this and offers Unique up her own key if Will gives up the twerking as free speech. Thankfully he does, and the group decides they need to be more themselves to win. Back to old school, happy Glee numbers with “On Our Way,” a relatively unknown track from The Royal Concept.

It delivers as perfect old school Glee closing numbers like “Shake It Off” or “Anything Could Happen” from the past, with the group running and giggling around the stage, spinning in the middle on a rotating drum ripped from a playground. The New Direction’s aren’t twerkers, they’re pure, the song screams. Pure and “losing time” because despite the best efforts of the show to draw out time, this school year has to end sometime. We’re no closer to having any understanding of what they’ll do at Nationals, but that’s typical Glee too and nothing worth complaining about -- we’ve bought into it thus far.

What it also doesn’t have is any connection to the New York narrative, where Rachel and Kurt swigging from a bottle of limoncello (“It tastes like lemons and gasoline,” says Kurt) before getting tattoos. Rachel is on a reinvention kick, first by faking out her Funny Girl director with a short bob wig to better embody her Fanny for a “You Are Woman, I Am Man” duet that makes us hope we’ll actually get to see this Funny Girl show to fruition.

Her next idea is to talk Kurt into letting loose with tattoos. He goes first, and Rachel tells him she chickened out, but not soon enough to stop him from getting a misspelled “It Gets Better” on his right shoulder. The tattoo idea may just be an excuse to showcase a shirtless Kurt, who’s been neglected when the rest of the Glee boys have been hyped as beefcakes from time to time.  Not that any Kurt fans are complaining about a little fair play objectification. He rushes back to the tattoo parlor to get it fixed, and realizes it was his own typo not the artist’s. Still, he’s offered a fix, a free tongue piercing and some advice on embracing mistakes and shaking up his life. Now “It’s Get Better” reads “It’s Got Bette Midler,” and Kurt scurries off to Skype with Blaine in hopes of a little cyber loving. Then, in the sweetest reveal, Rachel goes to the bathroom and pulls up her shirt to look at her own, secret tattoo. Finn, in the same script as the nameplate necklace she often wore during their courtship.

While this episode is much better than anticipated with twerk in the title, the disjoint between the story we’re getting out of New York and the story out of Lima is especially pronounced.  Ohio continues the rehashing what we’ve seen before -- Sue and Schue’s struggle, cheating boyfriends with the popular cheerleader -- while New York takes us on new adventures. Despite Unique’s standout story, the grasp of Ohio continues to wear thin. There’s no real anticipation of what’s to come at McKinley, but how Rachel will do with Funny Girl or how Kurt will parlay this newfound rebellion into his budding NYC career. It’s good that next week Sam and Blaine get themselves over to New York for a bit. The sooner this never ending school year ends, the better for Glee.