If last week was about secrets, this week on "Glee" it's all about loyalty. From the new kids discovering that their family of choice is more powerful than their prejudices and previous cliques, to Finn dealing with the consequences of that chosen family no longer being the right fit for him, to Santana's unique brand of loyalty, our characters find their definitions and test the boundaries of their friendships.
We finally get the Unique story that's been a long time coming that deals with her gender presentation and acceptance within the walls of McKinley and the walled garden of glee club. When Unique confronts Ryder about messing with Marley and Jake, Ryder responds to Unique as if he was dealing with a male peer, calling Unique "dude." When she counters that she's no dude, but a strong black woman, Ryder dismisses her identity repeatedly. The two take to the court of glee to battle, duetting on a mash-up of Elton John's "Bitch Is Back" and Madonna's "Dress You Up," invoking their decades long but now resolved feud. Ryder continues to be parallel to Finn Hudson, both in playing drums while performing and being the club member who struggles with acceptance, while Unique crowns everyone in tiaras because she is perfect and knows the importance of props in winning over a crowd. Even though the glee club sees things and settled, Unique says it isn't until Ryder calls Unique a girl, but he still refuses, saying what he sees is boy. "It doesn't matter what you see, you don't get to decide," Unique explains, and Jake, who is still mad at Ryder but back together with Marley, calls him a douchebag for his attitude.
What keeps this from after school special territory is Ryder isn't intentionally cruel, just misguided. He doesn't know how to process Unique who varies between gender presentation from day-to-day. He confesses this to the new companion in his life, a online-only friend named "Katie," who reminds him that he should respect Unique's truth, even if he doesn't understand it. Would he want someone to deny their online-only relationship just because he can't prove his truth like Unique can't offer "proof" of hers? That's right, an online relationship for Ryder means Glee is going Catfish. But it's Catfish for a good cause, as it prompts Ryder to apologize both to Jake and Marley as a couple, as well as Unique, who confesses that outside of their sacred group she is getting harassed and followed home by popular girls taunting her. They all vow to take turns staying by her side, even Kitty who shows up and professes her loyalty to their group above all else. They must keep the glee torch alive and keep their safe haven.
The second reverberating secret from last week that tests loyalty is Finn's betrayal of Schue by kissing Emma. They are speaking, but mostly so Schue can passive aggressively torment Finn. Finally Artie, Tina and Blaine corner them and demand they work out their aggression in the form of a mash-up focused on greatest musical feuds of all time. After dismissing Biggie vs Tupac for the morbid ending, they decide to evoke the media manufactured feud between the turn-of-the-century boyband leaders, Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. Their performance of "Bye Bye Bye," helmed by Schue with dance backup from Blaine and Jake, versus Finn and the rest of the boys on "I Want It That Way" plays out as a musical duel interspersed with a physical fist fight. In the world of the fist fight, the men embrace after getting out their aggression, but when Schue finishes his masterful puppetry homage and Finn's classic boyband posing, Schue still can't forgive Finn. Frustrated, Finn storms off, deciding to move on from McKinley for good. While he packs up his office after hours, Marley stops by to thank him for everything he's done and give him some candid advice not to let Schue and McKinley define him. He's a natural teacher, and he can go get a teaching degree and do that, with or without McKinley. Is this finally Finn's last straw into true adulthood with the rest of last year's seniors?
The comic relief on the loyalty topic this episode comes in the form of a Blaine vs Sue feud, but of course even that is laced with the serious. Sue has a forged contract demanding Blaine's loyalty to her cheer squad so that she can win Regionals with the aid of a non-threatening gay. This is a lecture and a lesson on Blaine's commitment, something that he's felt is his weak point in the breakup between him and Kurt, and when dealing with this issue with Sue we see Blaine put into the dominated and controlled role. When Blaine refuses, she puts cement in his hair, ruins his family's credit and flies a banner over the school that proclaims, "Blaine Is On The Bottom." (Not true, he says. Not really. Oh Glee.) They must resolve this battle by enacting a pop star diva battle between formerly warring American Idol judges (nice synergy, Fox) Mariah Carey and Nick Minaj. Blaine embodies on the Carey part, taking "I Still Believe" to an upbeat place, well within the traditional canon of Blaine Anderson Is A Great Performer.
Sue, on the other hand, takes it to full Cheerios insanity level, busting in with Nick Minaj's "Super Bass" complete with costumes, cheer backup, blacklights, motorcycles, feathers and a stage. Poor little Blaine is overpowered by sheer spectacle and loses, forcing him back into his uniform (and a thong to avoid pantylines, if Sue has her way). He accepts his fate as team Co-Captain, earning an surprise kiss from Becky after a previous non consensual ass-smack. Overall, everything Sue does to Blaine through this story speaks to her power over him, playing out as both sexual, fiscal and identity, and in this final scene we see Blaine submit to her authority clearly uncomfortably. Luckily after he leaves her office he reveals to Sam his grand plan is to spy on Sue from within her ranks and ruins her reign of terror. Oh Blaine, if Santana can't take Sue Sylvester down then nobody can, but have fun trying.
NEXT PAGE: Male Prostitutes Performing Marina and the Diamonds'
'How to Be a Heartbreaker'? 'Glee' Did It
Speaking of Santana, over in New York she's still suspicious of Brody the possible drug dealer. It's revealed that her suspicions aren't unfounded, just off the mark. Brody is a high-end male prostitute for older ladies, peddling himself at some mythical New York hotel full of gigolos. He and the other prostitutes tango through the hotel performing Marina and the Diamonds "How To Be A Heartbreaker" as a newly un-pregnant (a false positive false alarm confirmed by a doctor) Rachel duets from the loft, encouraged by Santana to take stock of her life and her choices.
Brody claims the extra cash is from a cater waiter job, and although Rachel believes him Santana is unconvinced and continues to snoop, showing up to Brody at NYADA and threatening to fully uncover his sketchiness if he doesn't disappear. To prove her prowess she leads the conveniently available dancers on the conveniently available scaffolding in a sensual performance of Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted." Unfortunately for her, her tried and true methods of threatening gyration doesn't deter Brody, who tells Rachel and Kurt what Santana did a turns them against her. They tell newly-employed Santana to move out, despite her confession that she may not like the two of them 90 percent of the time, but she loves them and they are her family she'd do anything to protect. She storms off from the loft, obviously upset.
Of course, our Santana is undeterred; she just needs to pull out the big guns. She illicitly books Brody, who immediately begs her not to tell Rachel what's going on. She's got much larger plans, of course, leaving him in a hotel room with Finn, flown in simply for the purpose of running Brody off. He tells Brody to shut his mouth and disappear from Rachel's life forever. Brody tries to grab Finn to stop him from telling Rachel and their confrontation escalates quickly into a full fistfight and trashed hotel room. Finn screams, "stay away from my future wife" as it scene transitions into the glee club singing Tegan & Sara's "Closer," which is a very weird tonal shift, the second week in a row this has happened. Maybe someone needs to remind Glee we don't actually need the song to be the final number if it's going to miss the mark, even when the performance and song are great. What we do end on is Ryder asking his mystery girl to meet him in real life, and her signing offline without responding.
This signals the shift we should expect coming forward, from loyalty to trust. Ryder is trusting someone he doesn't really know yet, and good plotting tells us it's either someone within the school manipulating him, or even more great outside evil that will put him and possible the club in danger. In the bounds of their loyalties, Unique needs to trust the rest of them to support her, and when guilty pleasures are revealed next week, characters like Kurt and Blaine need to trust that their confidants won't abuse that power of confession, while Finn needs to trust himself and move forward without the McKinely safety net.
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