'Glee' Recap: The Kids Are Alright, But Those Adults ...
We return from a brief holiday week hiatus to a "Glee" that stumbles as much as it shines, with two plotlines-worth of structure that make sense, and two that fall completely flat. It's a glass half empty or half full situation, and we'll try to look on the bright, gay side all episode.
The show starts with Figgins threatening to suspend Santana for her slap heard round the auditorium last week, but when even Santana's claim that her bad deeds are done by an evil alter ego named Snicks won't get her leniency, Finn jumps in and tells everyone the slap wasn't real, and thus she can't be punished. In the hallway she wonders what is Finn's angle. He explains he wants her to be at Sectionals so it's a fair fight, and that he wants her to embrace her awesomeness and not hide, and that he wants the Troubletones to join New Directions for a lesson, essentially blackmailing her to do this or he'll get her suspended. Every time you want to like Finn Hudson, he does something dickish.
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Speaking of dickish-ness, Rachel is obsessed with Kurt winning the election (which looks more and more impossible in the face of Britt's pixie stick bribes) not because he deserves it, but because she doesn't want to go to New York and NYADA without her best gay. At least we get now why Rachel and Finn are perfect for each other. Kurt considers cheating for a moment, all while wearing the most confusing studded neckerchief ever. Who cares about student government? If Kurt wrote an essay on how he selects his clothing he could get into any school ever.
Finn's big glee club plan is to sing Lady Songs and express to Santana that no matter what happens outside these walls, in the glee club everyone knows about her and Britt and loves and support them anyway. Leading off on the support song club are Kurt and Blaine, singing "a song (they) like to sing to each other in the car," Pink's "F--kin' Perfect." While what we got of the song was wonderfully done, and a perfect balance of Darren Criss and Chris Colfer's musical strengths, it's perplexing that they choose to cut the verses most relevant to Santana (You're so mean / When you talk / About yourself / You are wrong, etc.) and kept the cheeky rap bridge. Regardless, despite Kurt and Blaine's valiant effort, Santana is not ready to crack her angry-girl exterior.
Meanwhile, Sue journals about her implied lesbianism and decides to go through her rolodex of hookups to find a man to be seen with and get her image back on track. Which is already an annoying plotline because why is gay suddenly bad? Why should Sue even care? But then she manages to make it even worse by going after Beiste's newly-won man, Cooter. As always, "Glee" loses when they focus on the adults.
Back in the choir room Puck is singing "I'm The Only One" by Melissa Etheridge. It's the most awkward thing "Glee" has done in a while, and drags on forever. Sure, Mark Salling sound great on the track, but his awkward faces at Shelby could be seen from the moon, it's hard to believe that Quinn is the only one who catches it. But she is the only one who calls him out on it, and then propositions that he comes over to sleep with her. Puck, still head over heels for Shelby and for some reason really mean-spirited towards Quinn, calls her nuts and selfish and that he'd rather "rawdog a beehive" than sleep with her. Everyone on Glee is the worst human ever.
Finn is trying, though. He tells Santana that he wants her to be part of the project because he doesn't want her to die, since he's heard about gay teens killing themselves from the It Gets Better Project, and since Santana means something to him he wouldn't forgive himself if she
did something. He continues to try and win her over with a stripped down acoustic version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," which for as sweet as it was and as well sung, it still felt a little off-center. But this is what finally breaks Santana's shell, and she pulls him into a hug as he murmurs "I love you," into her hair.
It's election time and the students are uncharacteristically thrilled about voting, meanwhile in the real election barely anyone is there. In the background of a Jacob video we see Santana sweetly kiss Britt on the cheek, which makes us happy for newly out and accepting Santana, finally. We get to see which seniors vote for which candidates (for Britt we get Santana and Quinn, for Kurt we have Finn, Mike, Mercedes. Puck writes in Ross Perot) and Kurt, while voting for himself, continues to believe all his future hopes and dreams rest on this presidency. It makes you want to leap through the television and explain to him that student council elections mean absolutely nothing.
Beiste, who discovered Sue and Cooter on a date at Breadstix and learned that Cooter thought she was uncommunicative and not really invested in actually dating him, is running elections and having Sue and Cooter's new-found affection shoved in her face. She breaks into Dolly Parton's "Jolene" as the lights around her dim and we're thrust into a fantasy sequence where she watches Sue be prettier than her, and bond with Cooter over weight-lifting just like she'd done. But despite Will and Emma's urging to tell Cooter how she feels, as the music fades she's seated again, doing nothing but talking to a very suspicious looking Rachel.
As Santana walks the hallway we know that her commercial has aired by the way everyone stares at her now. A rugby playing sophomore tries to hit on her and tell her she just needs a good man, but magically the ladies of Glee appear to tell him off. When he calls them all lesbos they break into Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl," the only possible way to include the slightly ridiculous faux lesbian anthem in a positive way. We get a lovely joint Rachel and Santana lead as the girls dance their way to the choir room, flirting playfully for the bewildered boys (and the joyful Kurt and Blaine, who are capturing the moment on their cell phones.) As they finish Santana announces that she told her parents she's gay and they're okay with it. Now she just has to tell he grandma and she's finally open about herself. The happy moment is cut off by an angry Figgens who demands Kurt Hummel come to his office immediately.
Kurt has won the election, but there's too many ballots and clearly someone stuffed them. Kurt immediately protests, explaining that he may have considered cheating because he thought it was his only way to get into school, but he never really would. He finds Finn and Rachel in the hallway and explains that if they think he's done this, he'll be suspended and definitely never get into NYADA. And either way, he clearly lost to Britt. Inconsolable, he goes off to find Blaine. When he's gone Rachel admits it was her, trying to secure the win for him by any means necessary. Finn tells Rachel to confess, and when she says she can't because she'll be suspended, he points out that she's dooming Kurt with her bad decisions.
Out of nowhere, Puck is a math genius. Then his phone rings in class and he just walks out for a "family emergency," which turns out to be Beth in the hospital. Shelby called him because she has no one else, and when the ER doctor wants to sew up Beth's lip himself, Puck demands a plastic surgeon while Shelby is paralyzed with doubt. Next thing we know, they've just had sex and Shelby is kicking Puck out because it was clearly an emotionally charged bad idea. Puck calls her a coward for not wanting to be with him, but really Shelby's just a real adult, not simply a legal one, and she knows this is going nowhere good.
Santana is at her grandmother's house, who keep trying to feed her up and not listen to the fact that Santana wants to share her secret. She powers through though, explaining that she "loves girls the way (she's) supposed to feel about boys" which is a troubling and weird statement that makes us hope for more time and work for Santana's self acceptance, but she continues to explain how it's something that's always been insider her and that she wants her grandmother to know about who she really is, and how when she's with Britt she knows what love is. She admits that she's been fighting with herself, pushing it down and at war, but she doesn't want to fight anymore. Her grandmother's stony reaction does not bode well, and she tells Santana secrets are called secrets for a reason, and that Santana must leave her house and never see her again for making her feel uncomfortable and that the sin is in teh scandal when people talk about these things aloud. She walks away from an in-tears Santana.
Puck and Quinn are making out and Quinn starts pushing Puck for sex without a condom so they can make another perfect baby. Puck puts on the breaks and tells her no, she doesn't need another baby or a dude to make her special. Broken, Quinn tells him to just stay and hold her at least, and in that intimacy Puck decides to confide in Quinn about his tryst with Shelby. Clearly this will not end well.
At least one Hummel has won his election, and when Cooter wonders what Sue will do about their budding relationship now that she doesn't need him for the press, she tells him that he's the best thing that's happened since Becky walked into her life. Beiste finally gets the courage to fight for Cooter, telling him she loves him, but it's probably too late. Still, she's not going to let Sue win easily, because what this show needs is another pointless adult love triangle.
Back in the choir room, Kurt stands up and gracefully congratulates President Britt, then sits down and worries that he'll never get into NYADA now, with Blaine there quickly to reassure him that there's still hope. (Won't there be some sort of vocal audition? Why does a preforming arts school care about pointless high school politics?) Quinn is giving Shelby the stink eye as they set up for Santana's final number, k.d. Lang's "Constant Craving," which she kills on. We're not sure how long happy, positive Santana is bound to last, but even in the face of adversity this episode she's finally shown some true maturity. Now if she'd only stop being mean to her queer allies. Shelby has featured lyrics on this, and he get hers as a fantasy of her walking by Puck in the hallway. We see Beiste working out alone, and then Kurt also chimes in, dejectedly watching his father celebrate his win and working on his NYADA application in the library with Blaine. As the song finishes Rachel finally shows up in the choir room to announce that she's owned up for her ballot stuffing, and the consequences include a week's suspension, a mark on her permanent record, and being banned from Sectionals competition.
Glee is at its worst when it muddles its messages, which was clearly the case tonight. In an episode that should be about kids who are looking for approval and the various ways they do and don't achieve that (Kurt, with his loss at the election but the steadfast support of his boyfriend, Santana with the club and her parents acceptance in the face of the greater world and her grandmother's negativity), we got the completely opposite message from Sue's quest to prove her straightness like the assumption of lesbianism would ruin her. Maybe it's Glee being the real world where hypocrisy flourishes, but sometimes Glee should be the fantasy, for narrative clarity at the very least. And that's not even addressing the pointlessness of the Puck/Quinn/Shelby situation, that serves no great purpose except to highlight Quinn's further spiral and pluck at tired teen TV tropes. It even manages to muddle the closing song, with Shelby's awkward longing for Puck mixed ineffectively with Santana and Kurt's actually compelling constant cravings.
But we can get too caught up on these stories, as next week we roll into Sectionals and the drama turns to competition. We also might as well call next week the true Glee sex episode, because based on the preview we see both Blaine Anderson sweaty and yelling, and the return of Sam, who is now a stripper named White Chocolate. Chord Overstreet, we salute you.