'Glee' Virgins Lose It, Subtly, in 'First Time' Episode
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.
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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.
Out of nowhere, we get a surprise serious hallway scene between Mike Chang and his father, last seen in the episode "Asian F." Mr. Chang has found out that Mike's been preparing for the school play behind his back, and tries to strong arm him into quitting and giving up his "childish" dreams for "adult" ones. Mike stands his ground, saying he'll never be a doctor and will pay his own way through college if he has to so he can become a professional dancer. Mr. Chang is just as stubborn, saying if he continues to hold onto this path he no longer has a son, and Mike counters that then he no longer has a father. It's a lot of emotional grit to spring up in the middle of these very unrelated plots, but kudos to "Glee" for sticking with Mike's story this season as he figures out his path. Hopefully Mr. Chang will come around.
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Rachel convenes the ladies of the club to discuss her impending virginity loss. Quinn and Santana advise she waits, so Rachel seems to be settled on avoiding sex until Tina starts talking about her first time, with Mike. As she describes how great it was because they are each other's first loves and waited until they were ready, the scene is cut with the "I Have A Love" half of "A Boy Like That." It's sweet, and reminds us, and Rachel, that her contrived rush to Finn's bed for a high school theater performance should take a back seat to her actual emotions.
Kurt and Blaine arrive at Scandals, the appropriately dingy gay club, with their fake Hawaiian IDs. They enter, noting that it's less-fabulous than they might have imagined, but utterly realistic for anyone who had their first gay bar experience outside a major city. The look is denim-chic, and while Blaine and Sebastian dance dorkily while 1982 ABC heartbreak tune "Poison Arrow" continues to play, Kurt sits at the bar and runs into his former bully, Dave Karofsky. Dave is at a new school now, and trying to avoid any whispers about his sexuality there, but finding a community at the bar where he's a well-liked bear cub. He thinks Kurt will look down on him for hiding, but they come to an understanding that as long as Karofsky isn't a bully anymore, Kurt is fine with him taking his time to live his life honestly. The background music has stealthily transitioned to Thelma Huston's disco club staple "Don't Leave Me This Way" and Kurt, who's kept and eye on his boyfriend the whole time, gets up to dance with all the confidence he can muster, putting himself in between with a sly little challenging look at Sebastian.
The two lovebirds exit, Blaine stumbling and silly drunk on one beer, talking nonsensically about his desires to live at that bar and make art and help people. Kurt laughs and shrugs off Blaine's attempts to make out by pushing him into the car, only to have Blaine tug him into the back seat on top of him and try to make out. There's awkward squirming and then Blaine says they should do it, that he wants Kurt and he knows Kurt wants it to be on a flower bed "or whatever," but they should just do it now because it's about them. Kurt agrees that it's about them, but Blaine isn't listening or caring that Kurt isn't interested right now, finally getting free of the car and yelling at Blaine, who storms off saying he'll walk home (where does he live!?)
The opening night of "West Side Story" arrives and before Rachel and Blaine can call the whole thing off for lack of losing their virginities, the cast circles up to thank a nervous Artie, who tells them all that the play made him feel grown up in spite of his limitations. We get a mysterious shot of a angry, showering Finn before "America" starts. Puck is used perfectly as Bernardo, the accents are so bad they're good, and Rory the Irish exchange student makes a giggle-worthy cameo. Santana leads as Anita, and for an episode where her character had zero to do with the plot, Naya Rivera had two stand out vocal performances from West Side to carry he through. It will be exciting when Santana's plot line continues next week. At the end of the scene we also find out that Mike's father has followed through on his threats and refused to see his son perform.
Rachel and Blaine get ready to go on for their big number, vowing to channel the fact that they both found their soul mates despite opposition in the stead of their sexual experience. We fade to post show, with Blaine dancing on stage, practicing a move he apparently bunked. Kurt shows up, and remarks, heavy with barely contained jealousy, that Sebastian and the Warblers came to see him. Blaine calls him over and puts Kurt's hand to Kurt's heart, palm over it, saying Sebastian means nothing, and he's sorry he was drunk and stupid. Kurt apologizes for trying to be something he's not by going to the bar instead of embracing his inner silly romantic. Blaine tells him he's not silly, leans in and kisses him just off-center. Kurt falls into it, sighing "you take my breath away" before elaborating that not just now, but in the show, in everything, expressing his pride in being with Blaine. At that Blaine tears up, wanting Kurt to have that pride in him always, and then invites him as his date to the after party. Kurt turns it down and confidently declares instead his interest in going back to Blaine's house.
Meanwhile, Rachel shows up at Finn's to reconcile, only to find out that Finn didn't impress the recruiter, dashing his dreams of college scholarships for football. He's a mess, but Rachel reminds him that he just has to make new dreams now, and that they can do that together. He's special because she's going to give him something no one else will ever get. They kiss, and Rachel admits she was stupid and lost in her ambition, but now she is just a girl with a boy who she loves. We go back to the auditorium where Blaine and Rachel sing the sugary "One Hand, One Heart" interspersed with a tame but touching montage of the two couples in bed, pretty well clothed and not really doing much beyond tenderly embracing and staring at each other.
There might be some outcry from fans who wanted more from the actual sex part of the sex episode, but the tenderness underscores the thrust of the episode. It's not about being something you are not, or trying to have an adventure or achieve some kind of goal, but instead about the intimacy between two people. We can imply all we want about what happens with each couple, but we don't have to see more than their connection to understand that whatever happened was important and meaningful for them. In an episode that kept bringing up themes of what it was to be a man, and in turn what it was to be a woman in relation to that, the Kurt and Blaine arc especially underscores the fallacy in the drive for such definitions. Is Finn more or less a man because he won't play football, is Artie more or less because he's disabled, is the football recruiter more or less because he sees Bieste differently? Kurt and Blaine are the only main men exempt from this struggle, the question of "manliness" never enters their union, only communication, faithfulness and love. It's refreshing, their ability to both be vulnerable in turn in the episode, and, unlike Rachel's openness to Finn that is marred by the gendered issues of her "giving" Finn something special about her and Finn's emotions being all about his own insecurities, not their relationship, Kurt and Blaine's moment is allowed to be equally special for them both. Still, the simple balance and equality between the presentations of the two couple's final moments leave you with little to complain about, and little for the censors as well.