This week "Glee" goes all the way, with the storyline focused on two of the main couples (Finn and Rachel and Kurt and Blaine) taking the next step in their relationships amid the pressures and insecurities of high school. It's a tricky task to translate that in the midst of a show about singing and dancing, as last year's "Like A Virgin" episode proved, and especially with the TV-boundary-breaking courtship between gay teens Kurt and Blaine in the mix. So how do you mesh teen sex, 8 p.m. on FOX, Broadway musicals and a message with success? "Glee" goes for that elusive combo in "The First Time" and comes away generally a winner.
Billboard's 'GLEE' Q&A Series
We start with Artie, who is finding his footing as the director of the school play. After what he determines is a lackluster rehearsal of West Side Story's "Tonight" (we agree) with Blaine and Rachel, Artie awkwardly calls them both out on not having enough sex in their performance. After both stutteringly admit they're virgins, Artie suggests they consider sexing it up with their respective partners to drive their acting. (Interestingly, Artie is the only non-virgin on the stage including the two adult teachers, although to be fair we don't know much about Brad the Piano player's personal life.) This is a pretty intense method, especially for a high school play, but it's also "Glee" so we're lucky it wasn't an official assignment from Mr. Schue.
Rachel projects enough sexuality at Finn to get him to suggestively invite her over to his empty house this week while they canvas the hallways with Put A Berry On Top Of Student Government posters for Rachel's campaign. Meanwhile, Blaine seems to have completely forgotten the sex plan, instead dancing around his bedroom to 70s British art rock group Roxy Music while Kurt starts quizzing him about if he's too boring, and if they aren't sexual enough. Of course, once Blaine brings up masturbation, Kurt gets awkward and Blaine settles to calm him. The two of them are moving at a pace that's comfortable to them both, and they'll continue that way, Blaine says. Plus Kurt wears too many layers for Blaine to rip all his clothing off in the heat of passion anyway.
There's also a weird Artie and Coach Bieste plot line about how Bieste hasn't had sex, or a boyfriend, and has a crush on the football recruiter but is clearly missing all his signals and advances because she's not confident in herself. Artie plays matchmaker, and by the end of the episode they're on a date. It's a nice carry-over from a year ago, when Bieste had never been kissed and Will landed her with a pity smooch. Now she's got her own actual love interest, so cheer to her.
Back in the teen sex plot lines, Blaine arrives at Dalton Academy, walking down the stairs in a mirror of Kurt's first arrival on the scene in episode 6 last season almost exactly a year ago. He then wanders in on an in-progress Warbler rehearsal. Blaine, of course, joins them as they serenade the first Dalton teacher we've ever seen with "Uptown Girl," which has leads by minor Warbler Nick, played by Curt Mega. It's refreshing and nostalgic all at once, a bright pop musical spot in an episode devoted to Broadway and a reminder of the dominant Dalton presence last season. The Warbler boys beg for Blaine's return, but he's only visiting to invite them all to see "West Side Story." We're introduced to Sebastian, dubbed the new "Glee" villain, who begins shamelessly hitting on Blaine immediately, sitting for coffee and trying to find out why Blaine left school. Blaine is interestingly cagey about it, and we get the first interplay of "West Side Story" songs and "Glee" plot with Santana and Rachel chiming in with a performance of "A Boy Like That," the most heavy-handed way of letting us know that Sebastian equals trouble. Except the final thrust of that song is about how the perceived bad boy is actually the right boy. Is it "Glee" foreshadowing or "Glee" failing at song choice a little bit -- remember "Candles" the breakup song used as Kurt and Blaine's get-together duet?
Kurt approaches Blaine in the hallway, where he suddenly gets existential about their artistry and if they're limiting themselves by not exploring all the possible adventures in the world. Kurt gives Blaine the same bemused side-eye viewers wish they could give him at this speech, but notes that he gets the feeling and that's why he has a bucket list that includes becoming the CEO of Logo TV and sleeping with Taylor Lautner on a bed of flowers (before Lautner gets fat.) Although he reminds Blaine they're young and have lot of time explore, Blaine seems set on adventures now. All this talk of adventures is pretty obtuse if Blaine is trying to actually seduce Kurt. Maybe Kurt thinks Blaine just wants to go hand-gliding. He at least has some sort of hint as Blaine saunters away and Kurt's left stroking his own knuckles thoughtfully.
Blaine's adventure-seeking leads him to a coffee meeting with Sebastian, who points out how plebeian Lima is because he can't have Courvoisier in his coffee. Something in Sebastian's totally out there, life experienced attitude clearly intrigues Blaine, but he draws the line when the flirtation gets too intense, finally admitting he has a boyfriend and no, he's not interested in something on the sly that will mess up the great thing he has going. Kurt arrives just in time to hear the tail end of this, and sits down with an icy stare and secure arm around Blaine's elbow to face his challenger. Sebastian tries to show-off his worldliness by invited them on an illegal jaunt at the West Lima gay bar in the face of their tepid regular evening plans, and even though Blaine demurs Kurt accepts the obvious challenge, saying it's time for Kurt and Blaine to check off a long line of firsts together.
At Casa Hummel, Finn and Rachel's romantic evening turns sour when, as they settle by the fireplace to make the next move, Rachel lets it slip that she's suddenly ready for sex in part because she wants to improve her West Side Story performance. Finn, who'd been saving up for a nice Marriott hotel room for their first time, understandably backs off, hurt, and leaves her to go make some pound cake. All season long we've been witnessing the standoff between Rachel's ambitions and the people Rachel cares about. Finding a balance between the two will be her ultimate growth this season before she's off to college with people who have no prerequisite to love her, or even tolerate her.