What to do when faced with the holiday season in the midst of a bloated timeline that leaves the world of “Glee” in June when it’s December for the rest of us? Take a mallet to the pesky remaining fragments of the 4th wall, smash it to hell and have Jane Lynch introduce a fictional alternative version to last year’s holiday episode, “Rough Trade Santa,” which the powers-that-be didn’t approve. “Glee’s” already done every plot line imaginable, and all the Christmas lessons have been learned in the last four years. Every imaginable complaint has been leveled at the show in those years, from structure to plot-holes to political correctness, and so this Christmas “Glee” decided to go Alternative Universe to start to peel back the layers and see just what “Glee” would be like with some of those complaints taken into consideration.
This episode has more in common with “It’s A Wonderful Life” than last year’s homage segment, actually. Less Blaine Anderson? His yule log obsession plot-line is cut and when he tries to lead the group in an impromptu “Joy To The World” everyone responds with “Shut up Blaine!” Need “Glee” to have a better track record on race? How about we give you a song and dance number with a black Virgin Mary? More New York shenanigans? Sure, but we have to leave them robbed and violated in exchange.
Which reality do we prefer? It’s a mixed bag. In Ohio we get mostly more of the same, as the show comments on the haphazard plotting and nonsensical nature of “Glee’s” holiday episodes and, in a greater sense, “Glee” in general. We re-wind to everyone’s characteristics circa fall 2012, which means Tina is firmly crazy and demanding. Up in the air is the club’s quest for a meaningless trophy based on the best holiday decorations, an “annual tradition” that Sue comments we’ve never seen happen before. After complaints from Tina and Sam who’ve been sexually harassed by Becky in the hallway, Sue turns on a dime and admits she gives Becky special privileges and will stop. This results in her begrudgingly awarding the “Glee” club the top prize for their all natural green Christmas tree, which they decorate while performing a flouncy, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree“.
The other McKinely plot revolves around a living nativity display that Bieste is tasked to cast. Jake pipes up pretty immediately expressing concern that such a religious event wouldn’t even make sense on school grounds, and everyone pauses, then barrels right along. If you ever want to ask why an aspect of “Glee” seems unrealistic, the show’s just given it’s definitive response to that complaint. We touch the only aspect of relevant characterization in the whole episode with Kitty and her refusal to audition for the Virgin Mary. Despite her thinking she can snag the part with her eyes closed, she eventually admits to Marley that she can’t go after the role because she doesn’t feel worthy spiritually.
The group decide to provoke her into claiming the role by offending her sensibilities with a performance of “Love Child” by The Supremes helmed by Unique, Tina and Marley — with Unique giving birth to the black baby Jesus mid-song while wearing a sequin gown. This coupled with the trio’s audition number, a homage to German disco group Boney M’s 1978 version of “Mary’s Boy Child” complete with white fur caplets, gives us something we perhaps should have been demanding from “Glee” all along — more disco homages from this trio. There’s sass, the vocals are on point and even the background performers shine. Appalled by the blatant disregard for the True Meaning Of Christmas (™) Kitty takes over the role of Mary. All that’s left is to make peace with a depressed Becky by giving her the Christmas Tree trophy and conscripting her to play Baby Jesus. The group gathers, sings “Away In A Manger” and all is right in the alternative universe of Christmas 2012, Ohio we guess.
In New York, where everyone’s been crying for more more more all of this year and last, “Glee” gives us what we’re asking for. Santana shows up unannounced, setting in motion her eventual True Glee Timeline move with a wink and a nod to the impracticality of her dropping a scholarship mid-year to run away to the city. She also brings the gift of a booklet of JetBlue vouchers, a nod to the frequent back and forth of characters between Lima and New York.
Rachel arrives with a harebrained scheme to get their foot in the door in showbiz — the gang will be Christmas elves at a mall where lots of Broadway producers take their kids. Unfortunately Santa is a diva and a drunk, and they improvise a performance of “Here Comes Santa Clause” to placate the waiting families. Then we get a gratuitous and implausible shot of Santana who’s jaunted back to Bushwick for a bubble bath mid-shift, and who’s begged back to work by Kurt and Rachel so she can take over the role of Mrs. Clause. We’re gifted with a montage of Santana dealing with children — offering iPads for gifts instead of kid-protected tablets, telling one kid to get some dental work and projecting her emotions about Britt onto a darling girl who looks like her mini-me. When this doesn’t satisfy the customers the gang is at a loss, until Sexy Santa saunters down the escalator and saves the day. But before he can get to work he requires some bonding time, and tells the gang to host him at their place for a get-to-know-you session.
He arrives with a sack of balloons, helium and rum, setting off a whimsical Alvin and the Chipmunks performance of “The Chipmunks Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” They twirl with tinsel, Kurt Hummel flirts and grinds on another man in a non-sanitized and decidedly not PG way, and even goes as far as to make out with Santa over a tabletop (remember, he’s a single man in this current universe, and looking to sow his wild oats), although Santa reminds the girls that he swings both ways so there’s plenty of naughty to go around. Cue the choir of satisfied fans with the appearance of more queer affection on the air, queer sexuality and a male bisexual character. Never mind it’s not affection between the beloved canon couples, never mind that the affection is drunken, dubious and for shock value. Alternative Universe Glee is just giving you the most basic version of what you asked for.
In the harsh light of day we’ve learned that Sexy Santa is a con man who robbed them blind and hogtied Kurt half-naked in his bedroom. Yikes. Aside from their belongings, the group is more worried about their reputation after losing their jobs. Luckily Rachel has one more trick up her sleeve, a gig performing as living store window displays, and they sing “Away In A Manger” in synch with their Lima counterparts.
“Glee’s” off for a prolonged hiatus before new episodes air, and often that’s the most ripe time in the fandom for complaints, fixation and demands. These reactions aren’t unwarranted — fans aren’t passive receptacles for the media they enjoy nowadays, and should not stop questioning and wanting more. But “Glee’s” also firmly planted its flag. What you wish for may not always turn out as perfectly as you hope, and the Glee powers-that-be will happily take your wishes and twist them into comedy, the absurd, and the plain disturbing. “Glee’s” been doing that since day one, though, and while this might be the official notice after copious hints that the fourth wall is gone the real lesson we learned this Christmas is it was probably never there to begin with.