While "Glee" aired Tuesday night, North Carolina placed a gay marriage ban on its state constitution. On "Glee," two queer-identified women unsuccessfully ran for Prom King and Queen. Last year we watched Kurt's classmates write him in as Prom Queen as a joke, and this year he's forced to deal with the memory of that moment by crowning the new victors. Another write-in vote, and Kurt's reaction shot to this news, before it's revealed that Rachel will take the crown by way of well-meaning deception, is one of the few redeeming moments in this entire episode. Harsh reality juxtaposed on high school fantasy. It would have been a good "Glee" if this episode wasn't otherwise so hasty.
"Glee" is the hardest to watch when it's just about the smallness of high school, as tonight was. For adult viewers, it's all too clear the frivolity of these moments, and when the show doesn't elevate them it falls too flat. We're meant to care for Rachel's future, but as we watch her literally pack away her dreams in a box labeled dreams, it's hard not to want to reach through the screen, shake her and scream "you don't even know who you are yet!" She proclaims that now she only dreams of weddings, prom and nationals -- nothing that extends beyond the end of this season. Spoilers may tell us there are still NYC hopes for Rachel Berry yet, but nothing in this episode does.
And yes, there were songs, but nothing that moves a narrative like we're used to on "Glee." The first number was jarring and not in the good way. We drop into Rachel singing a chopped up version of Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry." The released track has great moments for Kurt and Blaine, and some lyrics especially pertinent to their storyline ("Yes, you can hold my hand if you want to / 'Cause I want to hold yours too /We'll be playmates and lovers / And share our secret worlds") but on screen we get zero context, strangely cut verses, and all the focus on Rachel. The trio laments about prom and decides to host an anti-prom, but when it's announced to the rest of glee club, Santana lays some realness on her and tells her to get herself together and deal with her shit. Of course, the anti-prom is a bust. Blaine watches Bravo reruns while Becky raids the mini bar and orders room service. Eventually Finn rescues all but Becky and Puck from the doldrums, and then those two rescue each other through strip poker and self-proclaimed King and Queenship. All Becky wanted was a crown, and after Puck gives her that, she makes his dream of spiking the prom punch finally come true.
One gem in the episode was the prom committee. Hopefully all those lovely bit actors will stick around McKinley's halls next year, planning sock hops and dinner theater productions for our amusement. Britt picks a dinosaur-themed prom, possibly as an excuse to sing Ke$ha's "Dinosaur," complete with a Pebbles-style cavegirl outfit and Cheerios wearing dino heads at the prom. Figgins has really upped the production budget this year. She also places a ban on hair gel, building Blaine's list of reasons to not attend the prom. Apparently no one, not even Kurt who has theoretically slept with him multiple times, has ever seen Blaine without gel. While the non-senior boys perform One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" with more boyband moves than the actual boyband ever musters on stage, Blaine washes his hair out and returns. Everyone gasps, but it looks almost the same as his '80s-style hair from several episodes back so it's no big shocker. Even after Britt grants a reprieve for him to put gel back in, Kurt won't let him because he wants the world to know he's proud of his boyfriend in his natural state. It's kind of unclear if anyone knows they're boyfriends, however, since they haven't touched or danced yet.
The actual Queen plot focuses on Quinn, who is holding back from the fact that she can actually stand and walk small distances now to garner sympathy votes. She gets Finn to campaign with her, but he discovers her deception by creepily walking into the girl's bathroom. While Santana sings "Love You Like A Love Song" by Selena Gomez, Finn shouts at Quinn to stand up, causing a scene on the dance floor that almost gets him thrown out of his second prom. After he brings Rachel, Blaine and Kurt back, Rachel confronts Quinn to apologize for her jealousy, admitting that she still sees Quinn as this golden girl from Season 1, and that her proudest accomplishment now is being Quinn's friend. Quinn and Santana head off to count the votes, and when Quinn wins by one vote (Rachel's), getting the one thing she's been seeking all this time, she feels nothing. Santana doesn't care either way since Britt didn't win as her King, and the two decide to rig the vote for Rachel as a gift.
When Rachel wins it's quiet, but not the same sickening silence for Kurt last year. Santana and Quinn serenade the winners with Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" as Rachel wonders if it's a cruel joke, if they'll throw pigs blood on her now, but of course nothing happens. Finn tells her she's beautiful, and she earns back a tiny chunk of her confidence from a crown that, by this time next year, will mean nothing to her. Everyone's triumphs tonight were minimal and contained. Quinn and Santana embrace their charmed life in high school and bestow a token on Rachel. Puck might not pass high school, but he poured a flask worth of liquor into punch only Tina seems to want. Mercedes and Sam are becoming something of a couple again. Rachel Berry (and Finn Hudson and Quinn Fabray and the rest of straight McKinley) can all exist in these minimal high school victories and losses. Kurt and Blaine and Santana and Britt don't have that luxury. Their prom story doesn't stay within the gymnasium walls. Yes, they get the small high school victories too, but the bigger wins and losses are barreling down on them. With only three episodes left, it's time for "Glee" to turn to the outside world more fully to prepare for the road ahead.