Glee Recap: Choke
I sit here in front of my television, laptop poised in front of me, with
my eyes alternately as big as saucers and narrowed in disdain. What
the hell just happened?
This was the best of Glee... it was the worst of Glee. Everything I
have ever loved and hated about this brilliantly and absurdly uneven
television show was splayed in its full glory and unending shame, with
frequent shoutouts to Glee's giddy glory days and snide asides about its
worst narrative habits. It was yet another episode in which a
stunningly talented cast took miserable material and turned it into gold
- in one case, a startling pair of gold lame' pants. The actors and
singers absolutely get an A++ for the work they did on this, not only
for Chris, Lea, and Dot, but surprisingly enough, for Jenna, who I think
did some of the best work I've ever seen her do. The writers,
however... depending on which story we are discussing, I am prepared to
hand out grades of B, C, and the stinkiest F that ever F'd on this show.
Writing as bad as what we saw during Kissed a Girl. Offensive garbage
that was rendered worse because it knew it was preachy dreck, informed
us of that, and then barreled on anyway in a concentrated effort to
insult our intelligence.
But oh, those gold lame' pants, and the song that went with them.
The first shoutout to the glory days of Glee - back when it was the
hottest thing on television, back when it was always intentionally
funny, back when Rachel Berry was rightly more in love with herself than
with her milquetoast, mediocre boyfriend - comes as Rachel begins to
prepare for her NYADA audition. Suddenly we Rachel in her natural,
gloriously unsweetened state, the ambitious diva who will stop at
nothing, nothing I say, to keep her from her dreams. In this state, we
find Original Recipe Rachel as amateur astronomer, who stops for a
moment to enlighten us, her lucky and grateful audience, as to the
difference between her and a passing ball of gas like Puckerman. She...
is a star, her time is now, her NYADA audition is pressing, and it is
her time to shine. We find that she is still, after all these months,
working out on her elliptical as she stares hungrily at a poster that
shows her goal and pictures of her beloved Barbra. We see clueless
Finn, his own story arc at an end, oafishly helping her practice a dozen
fake facial emotions at the speed of light. He's timed her
expressions. This technique is going to wow all the folks at the
Actor's Studio. She won't get phlegmy vocal chords from milk... but...
she wouldn't anyway because... she's a vegan? She won't touch
doorknobs, but that's OK, Finn can do it for her if he accepts that she
won 't kiss him. Superstitions? She's got 'em. Walk backwards. Avoid
cracks. Look suspiciously into the eyes of every passer by and pretend
they are serial killers who want to kill you or make you mess up your
audition. She passes by an innocent girl who has no idea that she's
become a Murderous Stalker, but forgets to include an invisible placard
for Stage Fright. She's mentally well protected against' Adele's Vocal
Polyps, but not against Self-Destructive Arrogance or Counting Her
Chickens Before They Hatch. "You are a star, Rachel Berry," she tells
the mirror, "and two days from now... you are going to experience how
Kurt's been feeling for most of the past two years.
YES! This is classic, funny, Original Recipe Glee.
Finn catches up with Puck in the hallway. Finn caught Puck schmoozing a
sophomore in the hallway... which is grosser than it sounds because Puck
is about 30. Puck does not think Finn should butt in... he has a
fiancee... but Finn has other matters to discuss. Finn discovered that
Puck might not graduate. As he explained to the little sophomore, gowns
are for ladies and tassels are for strippers. Finn, that intellectual
powerhouse, lectures Puck on the importance of graduating from high
school before he begins cleaning pools and seducing the owners, like
he's doing right now. He needs to think ahead to the time when that
thing on his head won't be sexy anymore and he might need to prove
himself literate. Maybe he'll want to clean the White House Pool! Hey,
you have to have a doctorate in Seductive Poolology to be qualified for
Puck thinks he'll be fine. He's doing very well in Auto, Metal and
Woodshop. If he can pass European Geography, he's home free.
Puck knows how to fix cars, work with metal and do carpentry? As well
as clean pools? Holy crap, THIS is the great underdog story of Glee!
This kid has PRACTICAL SKILLS. He knows how to DO STUFF. Whatcha wanna
bet he's the ONLY senior who is never unemployed?
Oh, wait.. what was Puck's plan, by the way?
He's going to try to seduce his middle-aged geography teacher. Damn, this kid LOVES older women. Maybe they've got skills.
Senior Class President Brittany, the one who defeated a determined and
self-righteously ambitious Kurt Hummel, finally went to a Student
Council meeting and found out that she had to host a prom. First she
thinks it should be Alien Abductions... I am beginning to become
concerned about her, because it's a real theme now... and then Shannon
Beiste comes by, and Delightful Original Recipe Glee comes to a
screeching, screaming halt as Preachy, Heavy-handed, Sanctimonious Glee
You see, the Beiste has a terrible bruise on her face. And while
Santana has never been a NICE person, her specialty has generally been
to observe other people's genuine weak suits and skewer them mercilessly
while cracking like an egg the first time somebody says her nail polish
I am not sure I really buy what Santana does next. I expect her to make
fun of Beiste's weight, her sex appeal, her inappropriate love of
chickens, I am not sure I believe that Santana made a joke about Cooter
hitting Shannon, and I absolutely do not believe that Mercedes, one of
the two closest friends of a kid who had to leave school because of
bullying, thought it was funny.
But the scene really goes completely off the rails when Roz hears her.
Rox is offended that Santana thinks men hitting women is funny, because
Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. (By the way, Roz, you are not
Olympic Champion. You came in third.) Roz says she wants their names,
and then oddly chooses to rename them with some random crap that nobody
is going to remember tomorrow.
Original Recipe Glee Villain Sue and Third Season Surprisingly Effective
Stunt Cast Black Sue (Roz) are sitting very amiably in the teacher's
lounge together, sharing a cup of coffee and several rounds of cutting
insults. They are cut from the same cloth, and they will be best
friends for life when they inevitably stop hating each other. Their
reason for bonding over refreshments and ridicule? This week, for one
week only, Domestic Violence Is Really, Really Bad. It's funny when Sue
wants to blast Brittney out of a cannon, or throw somebody down a
flight of stairs, but it's inexcusable for Santana to make some nasty
jokes about a bruise because this week, for one week only, Domestic
Violence is Really, Really Bad. Shannon and Will arrive to see their
distress over the idea that teenagers can be idiots, because this has
never come up on Glee before, and Beiste is concerned that the kids
think she got hit. (Actually, I doubt Santana would have made those
jokes if she thought Beiste had gotten hit.) Beiste does something that
many abused women do; she tells a lie about how she got that bruise.
Will can't believe that anybody in his Glee Club full of perfect,
compassionate kids who jeer at each other for everything could possibly
make jokes about the bruise, because this week, for one week only,
Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. Sue assures Will that the
three ladies will take care of this shocking, shocking lack of
sensitivity on the part of the Glee kids, who will soon come to
understand that this week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is
Really, Really Bad.
This storyline is already Really, Really Bad.
OK, let's go on to something they handled rather better this week. To
get us in the mood, we need candles. Lots and lots and lots of candles.
We hear some very sweet singing from a lovely countertenor voice, and
see that Kurt Hummel has decided to take on the Phantom of the Opera for
his NYADA audition. I have always wondered, when considering the male
parts he could play on Broadway, (meaning either Kurt OR Chris) whether
the Phantom would work.
My answer, having seen this, is a happy, resounding yes... in about
fifteen years with a good acting coach. The vocal range and tone is
absolutely there. Now? Nuh uh. He's too young, he's too sweet, and
the arm movements he has created to show how he's bewitched Christine
look alternately like windmills and bat wings. Then he starts pulling
her towards him like he's reeling in a rigging. He's singing this like a
sweet teenaged boy who is trying to serenade this pretty girl so she
will like him and go with him to Prom. The Pretty Girl of this teenaged
lovesick puppy's fancy is Tina, doing a pretty hysterical exaggerated
1. A Zombie
2. Sarah Brightman playing bewitched Christine
3. Jenna Ushkowitz under the care and direction of the producers of Glee.
Kurt is working very hard on motions that aren't terribly effective and
he's as menacing and seductive as a baby penguin. But boy, he sounds
pretty. Blaine loves it. Of course, after all the hubbub last week, I
think he's probably going to go out of his way to be loving and
supportive. It's very sweet, but probably not the best coaching style
possible. Kurt realizes that there's something wrong. This audition
has to be perfect. Maybe he could...
1. Put sequins on his cape? Not everything can be solved with glitter, sweetie.
2. Sing it in German? Sounding a tiny bit more like Hitler will not make you more menacing.
3. Do it in the nude? Tumblr goes bananas. This was a popular idea...
and it came slightly closer to being carried out than the other two did,
with hilarious results.
Kurt knows that what he's doing is pretty cliched, and he may have
figured out that he currently lacks the malevolent gravitas to really
make this thing fly. He's bored with it! So is Tina's foot, which has
fallen asleep with the tedium. She meekly asks for permission to walk
it off, which he rather dismissively grants... and then remembers to
thank her for her help. She smirks with mild, justified annoyance.
Kurt, who has spent three years in a Glee Club that never rehearses a
damned thing until the day before it's actually due, wants to dump the
song he's been working on ever since he got his letter in favor of
something fresh and edgy. Maybe he needs more candles? Blaine
blanches. No! No more Candles! in what is quite obviously a meta joke
about their disastrous Regionals duet last year.. unless he's the guy in
charge of lighting all these candles, blowing them out, and making sure
they don't burn down the place.
Puck goes to see his geography teacher for a little intimate private
tutoring sexsion... er, session. Ah, that's just an excuse, Puck. We
know you like the older ladies. It's been consistent with you -
possibly the single most consistent characterization in the history of
Glee. While his teacher is newly divorced and lonely, and finds his
attentions momentarily enticing, she succeeds in tearing herself away
from his spell when he starts kissing her... see, Shelby? It can be
done, by somebody older, less attractive, but much more principled than
you are. Or maybe she just heard about you and wishes to avoid your
fate. The Geography teacher advises him to study. You see, she thinks
Noah is not really stupid. He's just lazy. Well, actually, I think
it's possible he might be both, or maybe he's just not a big fan of
Europe. He does, however, appear to be a big fan of Alice Cooper,
because after enough "Screw Yous!" to establish that she's probably
going to fail him just for spite now, Puck hits the halls for an
elaborate production number of "School's Out." At least some of this
rabble-rousing rocker must be supposedly happening, because he leads a
rowdy crowd flinging paper into the choir room and scares Joe.
Actually, by half way through the number, he's got Kurt scared as well.
After seemingly causing enough damage and mayhem to get expelled, Puck
hits the footfall field with his motorcycle and we are in a fantasy
sequence now. The cheerleaders are all Alice Cooper, and he burns his
guitar. This is the kind of thing Glee does reasonably well, and at the
end, Puck finds himself staring at the rest of the choir as they stare
at him. His undamaged guitar lies on the ground, and he storms out as
Finn looks on with concern. It does not occur to anybody that Puck
might want to investigate the possibility of getting a GED.
Sue begins the next segment that may have to stand as the single most
insulting, most infuriating, most offensive thing said in the history
of Glee. She faces down the girls who are guilty of not understanding
that this week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really
Bad. Then she informs them... and us... "Now I realize that this room
is America's #1 destination for cheap, sappy moralizing. But your
insensitive behavior is about to subject you to a whole new level of
In other words, they are aware that they've been hitting the PSAs too
hard recently. They are aware that these stories are going over badly.
They are aware that this poorly done sermonizing is dragging the show
down... so they decide to make fun of this exact situation and do it again anyway. They
are deliberately proceeding with a feature of their show that they
clearly know is failing to amuse, educate, entertain, or make their
viewers happy, and they are giving the moral responsibility of this
sermon against violence to the single most violent person in the history
You have got to be kidding me. If the NYADA auditions weren't this
week, I'd have shut this crap off, I swear to you. Only Hummelberry
kept me from swearing off completely. Even Sugar, as new as she is,
understands that Sue Sylvester has no business at all preaching to any
of them about anything, ever, but that doesn't matter, because this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad.
Beiste tells them that this week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad.
Roz gives them a whole monologue that basically tells us this: this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. Roz
has an aunt who got beaten, and she did not leave her abuser for years
because she thought she had it coming. She adds an extra PSA advising
any battered women who might just happen to be watching this show to get
a divorce. Sue, taking a page out of the WIll Schuster Teaching
Handbook, demands that the girls prepare a song about female
empowerment, and about how this week, for one week only, Domestic
Violence is Really, Really Bad. Shannon just looks really sad.
Mike comes up to see Blaine boxing, because, you see, Blaine's a "Fighter" ya'll. Tina is demanding that Mike take on an extra-greasy look for prom, so he's come to the Gel Master for guidance. We learn a few things about Blaine that I don't really need to know, such as the fact that he uses sweat for his extra shiny look, (yes, I'd also be in favor of releasing the natural curls) and Finn comes in with a real concern. No, he's not trumpeting his weight loss, Sam. He's worried, because Puck has been missing for... oh, I don't know, about five minutes now. Joe's about to go into full-blown prayer mode... Glee writers, please don't make this a running joke... but Finn has a more immediately practical solution. He wants all of them to graduate together... well, all of them except of course, Artie... and Blaine... and Joe... and Rory... and Sam... who will not be graduating this year. And of course Kurt, who will be graduating with Finn, Mike and hopefully Puck, is not even in the scene because he's an honorary girl... or something like that. Good lord they've got this screwed up. They are going to go for a Hail Mary Pass. They are going to make Puck study.
Rachel charges up to Kurt with histrionic fury. She has sworn to rest her voice and not talk to Kurt unless Princess Kate gets pregnant, Liza Minnelli dies, or one of them is in grave danger. While we have high hopes for the Royals and Minnelli's just fine, Rachel is currently concerned about Kurt. Kurt wants to perform Not the Boy Next Door. I am going to guess he's actually been quietly rehearsing it on his own for some time now, but Rachel is totally opposed to him singing it, because... it's a song from an acclaimed Broadway show that won Hugh Jackman a Tony, so it must be a completely inappropriate audition piece for a musical theater school.
Kurt wants to do it because he is excited about it, it inspires him, and he loves it, which might also have been true about "I'm the Greatest Star" and "Some People", two inspiring songs that have served him very poorly in the past. Rachel shrieks that it's too controversial, which is silly, but her real concern is that he hasn't rehearsed it enough, which might be true except that Glee exists in an alternative reality where everybody masters intricate musical numbers in a matter of minutes. Rachel has been belting out Don't Rain On My Parade since she was two. (Note that we are never told exactly how long Kurt's been belting out Not the Boy Next Door in the shower to himself.) Rachel thinks he should not take risks, and Kurt thinks it's the best time to do that, even though his track record after taking risks has been just heartbreakingly bad ever since he asked to sing Defying Gravity way back when the show was consistently excellent. Rachel, the amateur psychologist, tells Kurt that he's committing self-sabotage because he fears he isn't good enough. Rachel wants Kurt to do Phantom so fervently, she's prepared to be his Christine.... boy, I bet Tina's going to feel great about that one... yes, she MIGHT mind being recast, you selfish little twit... and so Music of the Night is ON, Baybees!
Kurt just has to make a few alterations to his costume. You know... just in case. And he's going to go break the news to Tina... along with another set of instructions...
Well, here's our girls, who have all come to understand that this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. They are going to show us how much more they understand this important concept by giving us a song that embodies their sense of female empowerment... Cell Block Tango, from Chicago. My visceral reactions as I watch the beginning of this, in order.
1. Oh, wow! I love this song! Oh, wait, they are going to ruin this.
2. Oh, for crying out loud, they are all dressed like strippers.
3. Oh look, Tina gets to talk. Wait a minute... is that animation and energy I hear in her line readings? Is she actually doing this monologue about Bernie and the gum... pretty well? Really well! OK, what's happening here?
And what hits me, of course, is that Jenna was originally a stage actress, and for this scene, she's using stage acting technique, and she's proving to be really quite excellent at it. In fact, I'd say this was the most interesting and animated she's been since she told Figgins she was a vampire. This little triumph for Tina, at least in my own mind's eye, made me enjoy this whole scene a whole lot more than I ever would have otherwise, because I have just seen the Jenna that Ryan Murphy thought was good enough to cast in his subversive TV show. If they ever write for her again, I think they should have Tina pretending to be dangerous, crazed characters all the time, because this really works for her.
After that happy moment for the show's most misused cast member passes, Santana begins to tell the story of the character who stabbed her husband during the carving of a chicken dinner, and all of us a sudden... we are in Beiste's mind. There's the chicken she's cooked for dinner... and there's the hateful husband, drinking a beer, clearly very angry about something. Is it Wilbur? It's also Cooter, looking very mean and threatening. Dancer Mike runs into Santana's pretend blade ten times while Beiste carves and Cooter yells at his tearful wife. The DIRTY BUM! scream the girls, and Beiste has to leave. That roast chicken is hitting way too close to home. The girls end the song about six verses early, stripping the song of almost all its real narrative power as Sue and Roz stare in shocked disgust. Roz screetches at them about why the song was completely inappropriate for the situation, thereby absolving the Glee writers for picking it just because they have always wanted to do Cell Block Tango and were looking for any possible excuse. The girls clearly do not understand that this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad.
Sue goes to confront Beiste about leaving the room, but it turns out that Shannon didn't just hate the singing. She was embarrassed... somehow the thing about the chicken is vaguely connected to the fact that she and Cooter had a fight. (Is it over the fact that she cooked roasted chicken six days in a row? Oh, sorry. This
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. So is this portion of this script.) Cooter hit Beiste because she forgot to do the dishes. Then he apologized and begged for forgiveness. Roz and Sue both think Beiste needs to kick his ass... (because Domestic Violence is not Really Really Bad if it's against the man?) and leave. But Shannon won't leave him... because before Cooter, she had never been kissed, and she does not believe she will ever find love again.
And there's the infuriating part of this script. In the midst of this sea of mindless garbage, Dot Jones is absolutely heart-breaking, and I believe every single word she says. Beiste's story IS the story of thousands of battered women each year, and for one breathless moment, she elevates this horrifying, preachy script to the level of sympathetic believability. It is the worst of Glee... it is the best of Glee, as a fantastic cast member does everything in her power to save a terrible script. Then Sue decides she's going to take Beiste home with her so she does not have to go back to Cooter. I will ignore the nasty tent crack because I am too confused by kind, generous Sue.
We have a very brief scene where Puck is seen cleaning the pool of a pretty cougar who would like to have a quickie, but he's not interested. He's still recovering from being rejected by the sexy geography teacher, surely. He wants to keep it legit and give her a free goodbye gift before he heads for the coast. Apparently he understands that sex is not a goodbye gift. Puck is done with school, and he's ready to just clean pools. I still think he could probably get a GED without too much trouble. As we head into the commercial break, however, Puck sees something that stops him in his tracks. Apparently, he's found his AWOL dad.
Finn the master strategist has come up with a master plan to find Puck that involves a massive all - guys- minus Kurt intervention at the Schneider's pool. Sam will drive, Rory will be on lookout, and Blaine, Mike, and Finn will lie in wait behind bushes. Except that it appears that Blaine is hiding behind a bear. Or is it a shrub? Artie will put himself in dire danger of drowning, because that is now his trademark. But it doesn't matter because Puck stumbles in, his face looking like death. He has seen his father, who began the conversation by offering him a beer. See, I told you Puck was legal! However, he also does not trust his father's homemade brew, and there's good reason. Dear old Dad has popped back into his life, not to apologize, mend fences, offer advice, or even congratulate his kid on his upcoming graduation. His father needs money... and Puck gave it to him. Five hundred bucks. That was the money he was relying on to get him to California. Puck gave Dear Old Dad the money because he knew that loan would remove the bastard from his life forever. Puck does not want a future in which he's begging Beth for a loan, so he has to graduate. I think that 500 dollars would not have lasted Puck ten minutes in LA. Dear Old Dad helped him out of a plan that would have led to starvation or worse. Puck thinks he wants to graduate, and feels there is no other option. I have a suggestion: Get that GED, kid.
Kurt is pacing in his Phantom costume, ready for the biggest audition of his career. It occurs to me for the first time that we have never seen Kurt pass a single audition that didn't let in absolutely everybody... except the football tryout. So, he's nervous. Rachel- as- Christine appears to give him some throat spray and some information. The most important person in the entire collegiate theatrical world EVER! is in the audience, ready to hear him sing. She's Carmen Thibadeaux. Yes, THE Carmen Thibadeaux, dean of NYADA, and Whoopi Goldberg's long-lost identical twin sister. She's performed in the greatest opera houses in the world, and Will is following her around like a puppy. Apparently Carmen is a tempermental diva who will shop the show if you glance at your watch, so she's going to be extra hard to please...and just as Kurt's speaking voice rises a squeaky octave with fear, Thibadeaux calls his name, and Kurt faces his execution, because he knows damned well he's not better than Michael Crawford... yet.
Kurt sounds like a doomed man facing a firing squad as he announces that he's singing Phantom, and the moment he sees her bored expression, he knows he's made a tired, cliched decision. What happens next requires a stunning amount of headcanon for me to explain away as being even remotely believable. I will set my headcanon aside from the rest of the recap in italics. Kurt announces that he's decided to go in a different direction (as Blaine in the audience nearly faints) and Rachel looks frozen in terror. He calls out Brittany, Mercedes, and Tina, all of whom are dressed in the costumes they wore for their very first Regionals competition in a nice tip of the hat to Glee history. They were waiting on standby. Kurt had Plan B ready to go all the time, and that also explains what he's going to be able to do to his clothes. It's also why he asked Rachel to play Christine; he needed Tina for this, because she was far more likely to be willing to help him with his real audition.
Kurt begins to sing "Not the Boy Next Door", and as the girls begin to dance with confidence, it is very obvious he's been rehearsing this heavily on the sly. The moment he reaches the line "Underneath it there's somebody new" he strips away his Phantom costume, revealing a black shirt and very tight gold lame' pants. He got a tailor who specializes in stripper costumes (maybe recommended by Sam) to make his Phantom costume. Boy, he spent some money on this. Another sign that this switch was actually carefully premeditated: there's not a candle in sight.
With that, Kurt's singing and dancing his heart out, like it's his very last chance. There's a throwback to the Single Ladies dance back when he was too baby-faced to have the raw sex appeal he's showing now, and it's a nice touch that Tina and Brittney, his backup dancers for his very first dance number, are here with him on his last. Rachel, dressed in street clothes, appears in the audience so quickly I think she must have a stripway costume as well, and Kurt throws himself on the piano in a pose that turns into the Crotch Shot that Broke Tumblr. Did I mention that those gold lame' pants were tight? Um, let's just say that I am surprised the network censors didn't catch that. Kurt's the only boy in New Directions who has never shown off his nipples, but we got quite an eyeful here of something else that probably was not intended. Blaine, you are a lucky, lucky man.
I watched the Hugh Jackman performance of this on the Tonys, and I think I've got a final answer as to the ongoing debate on whether or not Kurt's dancing was difficult enough for this NYADA audition. He basically replicated most of the signature moves Jackman did on Broadway, and did them really well. Since Carmen Thibadeux knows Jackman, she's going to know what Kurt's done here. We see many of the dance moves we've associated Kurt with before, whether he was doing Single Ladies or Le Jazz Hot, and he ends with a beautiful high note, not at all shrill, that's got to be at least as impressive as the F he had to botch during Defying Gravity. As I once heard a TV announcer say of a guy who won an Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating.... "Everything he had was in that."
In the audience, Will, Blaine and Rachel applaud. Carmen Thibadeaux does not. She makes stern notes, and then says a little coldly, that Hugh Jackman won a Tony for The Boy From Oz, Kurt makes a terrified little nod. Carmen feels that Hugh would have been... as impressed... as she was. Carmen praises his bold choice and his willing to take a risk. I personally don't think the risk was what made this impressive; I just think it was a great song that Chris knocked out of the park, because he WAS comparable to Jackman in a way that he wasn't to Crawford.
Kurt Hummel can't impress Will Schuster in giving him a competition solo. He never has, and we now know that he never will, be allowed to lead a song in a New Directions competition. He can't impress Jesse St. James, and he can't impress Shannon Beiste. The only person he's ever been able to impress... is Carmen Thibadeaux. This kid doesn't get to sing in the chorus of a high school musical, but he's on his way to NYADA, which only allows in 20 people a year nationwide. One of two things is definitely the case here: either the people of Lima are just incomprehensibly small, cruel, and brainless, or the writing of Kurt's story arc this year has been downright stupid. On the one hand, I do think that the audition just given, performed by award-winning actor Chris Colfer, would get a boy into a prestigious theater school, but I do not believe that absolutely nobody around him would ever feature him as a star performer on the local level. The final story arc for Kurt Hummel ends on a bittersweet note; some very bad writing has been saved by a phenomenal performer, and my hat is off to Chris, because I know damned well this is his swan song. Kurt Hummel will never again perform a solo as a member of New Directions, and his story is done for the year. They have no idea what's going to happen next year, so this may be it for him.
One down, one to go. Rachel gazes into the mirror and tells herself that she's a star, and Finn comes up gently behind her and seconds that. Is she nervous? No... she's ready. And then she's out there on the stage, wearing a little black dress that's a little like the one she wore for that important Sectionals back when Glee was good. Back... when she was good. She begins very well, with the confidence of one who has sung this song so many times she's lost count, but at the second verse, quite suddenly, life's candy again and the sun's a forgotten line. She stops, stunned, frightened, and begs to begin again. It is absolutely not believable at all that Thibadeaux allows this, but indeed, Rachel does get to begin again... and this time it's worse, because now she's scared and rattled. Finn and Kurt can only sit in horror as every dream Rachel has ever had whisks down the drain. The entire audition has taken approximately one minute, and Thibadeaux shuts it off. "You get eight bars" she says to Rachel. "I gave you sixteen. Do you know what happens when you forget the words on Broadway? They give the job to your understudy."
That's absolutely accurate, by the way, I was a theater student back in the day. You just don't ever stop when you flub a line. You absolutely must keep going no matter what, and part of success lies in being able to cover your mistakes. Thibadeaux was generous. "I'm very sorry, but this audition is over." And so is everything Rachel has worked for these past three years - every song she's ever sung, every solo she's ever demanded, every tantrum she's ever thrown to get ahead - were all preparation for this moment in time, which she has botched horribly. She's like the top-ranked Olympic diver who gets to the finals and hits her head on the diving board on the very first jump.
I will tell you exactly how good Lea was here. I was spoiled about this episode. I knew this was going to happen. I am absolutely certain that Rachel is going to find a way to join Finn and Kurt in New York anyway, and I was riding the happy crest of Kurt's triumph at the time this scene happened, and yet... at the exact instant that Rachel realized she had truly blown it, I felt like crying right along with her. That was HEARTBREAKING. That is the best of Glee, although Rachel fans probably feel like it was the worst. Buck up, guys. I promise you, she's in NYADA by graduation. This is actually a recycled,shorter version of the wringer they've been putting Kurt through all year. This choke was her Officer Krupke. She'll end up just fine, and she's got four more episodes of storyline to go. As I said before, successful Kurt... is done.
But Puck's chances for passing grades aren't over... yet. The guys (minus Kurt) are taking turns drilling Puck on his knowledge of European geography Seriously, they even let JOE in this club, but not Kurt. Well, maybe he's off somewhere holding Rachel's head, feeding her ice cream and keeping her away from sharp objects so that Finn can be here to help Puck study. No... I guess not. Joe asks Finn how Rachel is, and Finn says she is devastated and wants to be alone. Well, maybe Kurt's not helping them study because he really does not like people who used to throw him in garbage cans. Puck is really getting to be too tired to care about Spain, until Finn asks him about rainfall. The rain in Spain stays mainly... where?
The flatlands. Oh, the Plains! Hey, wasn't that a song? Why yes, it was, a very famous song, and just like that, the guys have turned it into a raucous punk rock anthem, more likely to be screamed by cockney skinheads in the East End of London than prissily spoke-sung by Rex Harrison. I assure you, Professor Harold Hill would NOT approve, although Eliza Doolittle might think it was kind of fun. I thought it was pretty ugly, myself, and I didn't enjoy it, although I sat there wanting to put cotton in my ears and feeling like a real fuddy duddy stick in the mud for having that reaction. I did enjoy Mike Chang as Harold Hill for a moment.
Shannon is having a pensive moment when Sue comes up to fuss at her. Not to rage uncontrollably about unreasonable crap, like she normally does, but to fuss gently because Beiste stood her up. She didn't come to Sue's house - and Sue had NINE whole chickens just waiting to be inhaled, bones and all! Shannon tells Sue that she's moved in with her sister, Denise. Sue can't believe that the woman is called Denise Beiste, but then again, there's a guy on American Idol who is actually named Phillip Phillips, so you know, these things happen. Sue admires Beiste for leaving Cooter, because it's hard, but Shannon knows one thing that's harder. In fact, it's not only harder, it's probably inappropriate and she should not do it. She's going to overshare about how Cooter hit her to the girls who do not understand that this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. And then we get another five minutes of PSA about how this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. Here's the thing that really gets me about this. The problem is not really that they are addressing Domestic Violence as an issue; it's that their approach in doing that is to give speech after speech after speech about people who have faced it, the correct way to deal with it, the surprise that may come when your beloved husband is guilty of it, and this whole thing is chock full of "Tell, Don't Show." Nobody talks to each other the way these people are talking, and frankly, the reaction is horrendous overkill to a bad joke one rude teenager made about a bruise. This story isn't merely preachy, it's completely unbelievable, and it might have worked better if they had made it a story about the adults, and had not insisted on dragging in the girls. The script is so full of cliches - "This would never happen to me" and "Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors." Actually... isn't that a song? I guess I should be glad they did not try to shoehorn it in somehow. Beiste gives a tearful speech and I am torn between how heavy-handed and pedantic the speech is and how well Dot's delivering it. I'd bet money they wrote this script so that Dot could get another Emmy nomination, but I don't know how they can do that for her when the material is so bad.
Puck's in the schoolroom, taking his final exam. At first he's just doodling, and dawdling, but when he sees Finn's reproving face in the doorway, he settles down and looks at the paper. The first question is about the Rain in Spain... it's still on the Plain! He knows that one! And he knows the next one, too! The guys DID help him! He's going to ace this thing... oh, wait. Question three... that was not in the song... Puck does his very, very best, and when he comes out, he feels like he may have done well. His guy friends are all there to support him - except, of course, for Kurt, who clearly is not Puck's friend, because Puck's friends have shown him what it's like to Be A Man, and all Kurt could do, of course, was possibly show him how to color coordinate his separates for Spring. Or some such nonsense. He's indebted to them all - "even Blaine." OK, got it. The problem is homophobia. After all this time, Puck is not really comfortable with gay people. Well, I guess that's believable, if not ideal. Group hug!
Oh, goody, now we get to have MORE about how the five girls who giggled at a mean joke have finally come to understand that this
week, for one week only, Domestic Violence is Really, Really Bad. They are SO sorry about what happened, and they feel SO bad, they are going to sing to her! The girls then sing a very pretty version of "Shake it Out", praising her for her courage in leaving Cooter. What they do not know, as we watch in flashbacks, is that Shannon Beiste has returned home to Cooter Menkin, and over chicken dinner, he is very humbly thanking her for giving him a second chance. Of all the scenes in this terrible, misbegotten storyline, this is the only one that rings true. The song is beautiful, there are no sermons, and Dot's face as she looks at those girls, whom she is deceiving, is enough to make you want to tear your heart out. Because that's the way it goes in houses where there is domestic violence Rarely, if ever, does the woman leave for good after the very first hit. At least they did not tie this one up with a trite, pat little bow and declare all Shannon's problems solved. I know it's an infuriating ending to the tale, but realistically... they could not do anything else. Women don't leave the first time. This story is not yet told. Unfortunately. I do notice that while Sugar sits on the stools, she does not sing.
Rachel is standing, her face still puffy from crying, at the lockers, as
Kurt comes up to her. In an attempt to be a great friend, he's a
little ungrateful for a minute, calling Carmen Thibadeux a bitch for not
allowing Rachel to start her song for the third time. I suspect the
writers very deliberately made him the mouthpiece for a large group of
very sad, disappointed fans right now. He goes on to declare that
Rachel killed the beginning of the song, and that she might get in
anyway... but Rachel knows the truth. She knows she blew it. She knows
the decision was fair. She also knows that Kurt was amazing, and that he gave the performance of his life when he absolutely had to have it. It's like Kurt Browning and Paul Wylie at the 1992 Winter Olympics; Browning, a world champion, choked horribly both of his programs while Wylie, who had never had a clean competitive program in his life, put two of them together on two successive days and came out of it with the silver medal. (I LOVED that story.) That medal changed his life and his reputation. These things most certainly do happen.
Then Kurt tries to convince her to come to New York anyway, but she's too tired and too sad to have that conversation, so they just embrace instead. "I love you, Rachel Berry" says Kurt, in what can be, as you are inclined, either a gentle nod to the most well developed friendship on Glee, or very blatant fan pandering to the Hummelberry shippers. Rachel replies "I love you, too." Well, that's canon now. I guess they are lovers now! Hey, if there's all this sexual tension in the scenes with Rachel and Quinn, then I guess it's here too, for folks who do not care about sexual preferences when choosing their ship. And hey, this scene ended almost exactly the same way that the Klaine scene in Emma's office did, with exactly the same amount of PDA. I'm.... just saying, writers. Really.
This is actually a beautiful scene if you don't think about how the writers may or may not be adding ambiguous elements to please the shipper fringe, or about the fact that Kurt is allowed to be as physically intimate with Rachel as he is with Blaine. Lovers or friends, I love my Hummelberry. I think these are the two most divinely talented kids in the cast, and they do wonderful work together.
All there is left now.... is for Rachel to Cry. And so she does, to the music of Kelly Clarkson, singing her broken heart out in the performance she should have given Carmen Thibadeaux. As she sings her despair, Puck gets his paper back. He has gotten an F. Puck will not graduate, and Rachel will not go to New York, because she didn't choose a safety school. The episode ends in a shroud of gloom, with only one bright spot glimmering in the spotlight... a pair of gold lame' pants. For the first time ever, the only triumphant hour belongs to Kurt Hummel, perennial Glee whipping boy, and everybody else must cry. Are you nice and depressed yet? Now! Let's get ready to go to Prom!