Jukebox "Glee" made a triumphant return this week with "Guilty Pleasure," an episode that had a lot in the way of sing-a-long friendly musical moments, but mostly served as the fluffy filling to the metaphorical boyfriend pillow that will hopefully cuddle us safely to the upcoming final five episodes of the season.
A reminder: we haven't gotten to Regionals yet, so rumors of new season continuing in this school year are looking more and more likely, or a more significant time jump is in store than Glee's ever had before. Should we feel guilty about enjoying all this cotton candy pop goodness when there's so much "Glee" ground to cover in so little time? We'll follow the sage advice of Sam Evans and simply embrace it.
Sam leads the charge in Lima, admitting his macaroni artistry to Blaine after Blaine attempts to give him money, mistakenly assuming all the pasta he's been stealing is to feed his still seemingly homeless family. With that off his chest, Sam encourages Blaine to "come out" about his guilty pleasures too. Tongue-tied because his obvious guilty pleasure is Sam, Blaine blurts out, "Wham!" which leads to one of the most enjoyable musical homage moments of the entire series -- Blaine and Sam leading the leader-less glee club to embrace their own guilty pleasures by plastering on the day-glo and singing "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." There's no universe in which Darren Criss didn't study George Michael's moves obsessively in preparation for this moments, and it shows. When Glee does camp right, they nail it, ankle socks and all.
Sam pulls Blaine aside in the locker room to hear his own confession, so dramatically overblown that Blaine questions, "do you have feelings for me?" practically out of the blue (which is a decent way to tip off Sam to your actual guilty pleasure, buddy). It's not latent homosexual urges, but a deep love for Barry Manilow. Blaine says he has to let the guilty pleasure out, and so Sam "comes out" as a Fanilow and performs "Copacabana" complete with a puffy bolero jacket and zero shame. The rest of the group embraces him and declares they are Fanilows too.
With that off his chest, Sam is free to call Blaine out on his false guilty pleasure and push him to reveal the truth. For the second time this season Darren Criss sings live on the show, this time Phil Collins, "Against All Odds," which he utterly slays. After several looks suspiciously tossed in Sam's direction, when Tina presses him to say who he's singing about he's obviously fibbing when he claims it was for Kurt, then further claims he's just sad to see Phil Collins not truly appreciated. Finally Sam confronts Blaine and tells him he knows about the crush and that it's no big deal. They bro hug it out, until Sam notices a literal roll of Lifesavers in Blaine's front pocket and they share a breath mint and a chuckle about homophobia in male friendships.
Meanwhile, bad-girl Kitty tries to rehab her image with the help of Britt and an appearance on Fondue for Two. After the two bond and giggle over their love for the "Bring It On" franchise, Kitty is still only willing to whisper her true guilty pleasure to Britt, who then spills the beans immediately when the rest of the girls come a-calling. It's Spice Girls, and instead of being shamed the gang conspires to perform a song together ASAP. While they prep and select appropriate roles, they find out the Jake's guilty pleasure plan is a Chris Brown number, since he feels guilty for liking the guy's music when he doesn't like the person so much. The girls give him the fury of a thousand Tumblr blogs about it, which just fuels their Girl Power moment with "Wannabe" in full costumes and spot-on-sass.
Jake gets up to perform and slots one Brown for another, taking on Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." Musically great, but the best part is finally seeing ballet-trained Jacob Artist get to dance to his full potential. The gang also doesn't let it pass that Bobby is not much of a substitute for Chris, just more time has passed so Jake can claim ignorance instead of guilty pleasure. This all has something to do with bringing Marley and Jake closer together, but without Ryder in there to spice things up their relationship falls flat again.
Over in New York City the only one feeling the whimsey of guilty pleasures is Kurt, who's faking his way through an honesty exercise in acting class because he can't bare to share that his true guilty pleasures are binging on female power television shows, doing Richard Simmons workouts in full regalia and cuddling with the "boyfriend pillow" he named Bruce and bought in an Ambien haze. His roomies find out about the last one when sneaking into his room to prank him, and he responds by buying them each one of their own (gender-swapped for Santana, of course) to stave off loneliness. But Rachel pushes back that she's not lonely and her recent break-up with Brody is simply temporary. Breaking the pact they had not to tell her until after he big "Funny Girl" audition, Santana spills the beans that Brody was a male prostitute and that Rachel shouldn't be with him. Rachel confronts Brody at NYADA, throwing bills at him and yelling at him about honesty. He counters with her own dishonesty about hooking up with Finn at the wedding and reveals that Finn flew all the way to New York just to punch him.
They break it off for real, singing Radiohead's "Creep" as they slow-motion flee each other down NYADA's one hallway and end up fantasy backlit on a stage, for once making the emotional number the off-pitch tonal moment for the episode. Rachel ends up back at the loft, not heartbroken, but using her one post-breakup pity card to select a movie -- a perfect segue to the New York gang singing "Mamma Mia" that, just coincidentally, was Sam's plan for the final guilty pleasure group number in Ohio. New York gets camp, Ohio get campier; New York finds hula hoops and magically tosses them all the way to Lima for the white and gold 70s-style gang to sashay with across the stage.
Does anyone feel a little guilty about all this? This episode tastes great, but did we learn anything we needed to learn to get to a satisfying thematic end for the season? Not really, at least in Lima. At least in New York Rachel finally feels ready to shake off the weirdness of being a fish out of water and clinging to both the old and the shiny new and in turn focus on her own singular triumphs. For the growing kids in Ohio this was an adult-less episode, and left to run amuck in Ohio even with the best of intentions, the group didn't do much pat each other on the back and eliminate 99 percent of any lingering drama. Of course, the usual 'Glee' one-two punch is harmony as the calm before the storm, and if guilty pleasures are embraced for now, someone will likely have something to feel truly guilty about again soon.