Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The RBI Report: "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"

And unto us, this thirteenth of December, was born an episode of Glee that brought tidings of great joy - without offensive portrayals of sensitive topics, flawed premises, or sloppy storytelling choices.  And Rachel even remembered to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, too!  (Sure, it was an afterthought line of dialogue two seconds before the fade-out, but I'll take what I can get.)  "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" was one of the more extraordinary Glee episodes of late, in that it made smart and meaningful choices for the characters involved, raised somewhat thought-provoking questions about how to celebrate the season, and remembered a solid amount of its own history without twisting it - all wrapped up in an homage to holiday specials of years past.

"Extraordinary Merry Christmas," written by Marti Noxon, directed by Matthew Morrison

Glee tends to do better with smaller concepts for their episodes (duets!  rumors!  prom!) - and this episode wasn't much different.  "It's Christmas; let's sing!" was the basic premise of the whole shebang, settled easily on the shoulders of a few simple constructs.  The larger of the two was the conflict between New Directions' opportunity to put on their own Christmas special for local television, and the charity performance they promised Sue Sylvester and the homeless shelter - inconveniently occupying the same time slot.  It's not anything revolutionary - the struggle to choose between your own gifts and giving back to others is not new to any holiday narrative.  But, at the same time, Glee made it work, with the individual choices made for the characters involved.

Sue Sylvester's best episodes are the ones where she shows a little bit of her vulnerability and her heart, but without becoming a charity case or a punished villain.  "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" found this delicate angle, and presented us with a Sue who had completely legitimate reasons for wanting to volunteer at the homeless shelter, and was downright endearing in that she wanted the glee kids to sing for them.  Sure, Sue's had her moments of derision towards "urban campers," but maybe she realized that it's not so easy to just trying to not be so homeless, for a change.  In any case, it was nice to see a Sue who cares, but isn't out of character in doing so.

Double points as well for extending this courtesy to Quinn, who opted to not participate in Artie's campy TV special in favor of serving food to the homeless with Sam and Sue.  They gave her dialogue that acknowledged her struggles, with Quinn finally coughing up the words we've been waiting to hear her say for almost two seasons now: she's finally stopped focusing on what she doesn't have, and is instead concentrating on what's good.  Hey, that fits in nicely with wanting to help out people who really don't have much for the holidays!  The character work for Quinn was subtle, but on point this episode.  Finally!

Sam got more of the front-and-center, as he reached out to Rory, who expressed his loneliness over being away from his family at the holidays.  This was excellent!  After two weeks of bewilderedly watching Finn helping Santana come out of the closet and wondering if Glee chooses its meaningful character assists via blind lottery, it was refreshing to see that the show really does pay attention to its characters and what they actually have in common.  In this case, Sam is also living away from his family, and realized Rory must be having a tough time.  So, he offered to be Rory's "Christmas sponsor," and help make the holiday special for him.  Sweet, right?

One of the more interesting conflicts came from this interaction, after Artie derided Rachel's mournful performance of "River," and declared that holiday specials needed to be upbeat and happy.  Sam protested, with a valid argument that melancholy isn't necessarily bad, when it can remind you of all the good things you have in life.  But apparently he's the only one who thinks so, because Rory opted instead to take the onscreen role of a lifetime (Itchy the Holiday Elf!) and participate in sugared-up Christmas joy.

Honestly, this conflict resolved itself a little too easily, and it would have been nice to have a little more discussion devoted to it - simply because both Artie and Sam had reasonable points.  Not only that, but Rory makes two large choices that have sizeable consequences, and we didn't really see what went into those decisions - especially the second one.  Rory's choice to honor Sam's intent and return to the "true meaning of Christmas" felt a little schmaltzy, and while it was (thankfully) not overplayed, it still felt a little bit like a stock answer to every question about what the holiday season's really about.  (It also echoed a lot of Linus' speech in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and frankly that wasn't helping sell the originality factor.)  Thirdly, the Sam and Rory friendship is one of the more successful dynamics that Glee has naturally developed in recent memory, and it would have been nice to honor that with some more interaction between them in the middle of the story.

Perhaps more time could have been taken out of the Finn-and-Rachel storyline, which seemed like it might have worked better in a smaller package.  "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" presented a Finchel dynamic that worked better than many previous ones, but that still seemed to strike slightly left of center.  Rachel, in the never-ending portrayal as high-maintenance shrew, gave Finn a list of 15 things she wants for Christmas, despite the fact that he doesn't have a lot of money.  She steamrollered over his every protest, and pressured him to bedazzle her with spray tans and bling.  Why is it that Rachel always has to be manifested like this, in her relationships?  It constantly dances into the "bitches be crazy!" territory of TV relationship comedy, and I for one am tired of the narrative actively commenting on how exhausting it must be to date someone as manically self-absorbed as Rachel.

"Extraordinary Merry Christmas" did a few things correctly in the execution of the storyline, though.  Firstly, Finn gave Rachel the dumbest possible gift at first - a slaughter hog from South Africa.  It bears repeating: he bought his Jewish, vegan girlfriend... a pig that was raised to be meat.  Worst ever, right?  So at least they were matched in their inability to behave like rational human beings.  The second good decision for this storyline was that, in the end, they both relented and did something to appreciate the others' good intentions - Finn did his best to buy Rachel a meaningful gift, and Rachel did her best to show Finn that she didn't need an expensive gift for it to be meaningful.  And the star idea was great!  I was delighted to see that someone else indulged in Rachel Berry's self-ascribed star metaphor, until I learned that the star is actually named... Finn Hudson.  

Now, I know I'm not nearly as romantic as at least 75% of Glee's target audience, but that star should have been named Rachel Berry, dammit.  What better way for Finn to show that he's supporting her dreams than by not involving himself in them?  Sure, you can argue that a Finn Hudson star will always be watching over the earthbound Rachel Berry, who is a natural star, blah blah blah.  But there's something far more magical in the simplicity of Finn Hudson buying a star and naming it after Rachel Berry.  It's a stronger choice, and much easier to communicate, without some convoluted second metaphor that draws attention to the fact that we have no idea what these kids' relationship is going to be like in the future.  (Especially if they keep buying each other iPods and warthogs.  I predict a spring breakup if that pattern of gift-giving continues.)

The resolution of this storyline was Rachel saying she needed to give back more, and so she and Finn hocked their gifts and donated the money to charity.  On the one hand, I like that Rachel herself learned her own lesson, and for once nobody told her what she was doing wrong because she's, for example, so socially inept and self-centered, gawd.  Honestly, that deserves credit on Glee.  But at the same time, I'm so tired of storylines where the narrative indicates that Rachel is tyrannical about irrational desires, and sets about teaching her a heavily-plotted moral about selflessness.  We've seen Rachel be selfless countless times in scenarios far more sophisticated in execution (by virtue of show, not tell!) and it's exhausting to keep subjecting Rachel to "lessons" in half-assed plotlines masqueraded as "character development."  Moving on, please!

In its presentation, "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" was all wrapped up in a pretty endearing gimmick: the New Directions were going to have their own television special, and, under Artie's direction, decided to pay homage to the Christmas specials like Judy Garland and George Lucas created!  It's pretty nutty to mix Star Wars and Christmas, and I for one, was on board.  On a larger scale, the show-within-the-show worked, simply because it was creative and had a lot of raw material for laughs.  I totally wanted to visit Kurt and his Hollywood roommate at their chalet in a galaxy far, far away!  

However, I think devoting the middle chunk of the episode solely to this diversion is a little bit of an easy out for screentime.  It seemed to run on too long, with whole numbers for Kurt and Blaine, Rachel and Mercedes, Finn and Puck, and Brittany and the Cheerios.  Not only that, but there's only so many times the laugh track and 50s' era humor works without becoming a one-trick pony.  Even though it was delightful to see a gay couple hosting a vintage-era TV special, it still felt slightly bloated - especially since the whole point of the episode was to spend at least as much time volunteering as you might putting on a Christmas special for western Ohio.  The volunteering was left simply as a magical afterthought, and the Christmas special became an oversized endeavor that bogged down the middle.

Moreover, I think there was a rare opportunity in Artie's TV Special that the Glee writers often try to create but rarely execute well: not since the likes of "Sectionals" and its wood-paneled judges room has the show successfully used a situation to make commentary on the dichotomy between glee club's frivolity and the surrounding disinterest from Middle America.  Sure, Ohio's been portrayed as inhospitable and narrow-minded, but rarely do the glee kids get to interact with that in a way that doesn't somehow result in a flat-out negative reaction.  It's hard to strike that balance of showing the glee kids stepping out and being themselves, receiving a harmless deadpan reaction, and not feeling the wind gust right out of their sails.  

"Extraordinary Merry Christmas" had the opportunity to incorporate that idea, under the duress that the New Directions' gay-fronted TV special was going to air locally and be seen by Lima's residents (the same ones who denounced Sue's affiliation with Santana as a lesbian but praised Burt Hummel's affiliation with the arts).  It's unrealistic, based on what the show has given us, to say that the Gleeks could get on TV and be accepted - especially with a clumsily sophisticated throwback concept.  It would have been classic Glee to allow the kids to do their thing, only to find out they had terrible ratings, or witnessed some sort of reaction from Lima that aligned with snarky but not damaging.  What happened to the lady who felt uncomfortable by Haverbrook Choir's "honking?"  Where is the Lima local who auditioned for "Les Misérables" with "Hey Big Spender?"  I miss the charming commentary that poked fun of showmanship in a decidedly dour environment - especially when the result was so triumphant, in its own sharp-edged kind of way.  

The episode did manage its own brand of snark, though, in its reference to last year's twinkly dreck of a Christmas special, where Brittany couldn't tell the difference between three separate Santas (all of different race and gender... not to mention, one was green), Artie got a miracle walking contraption we never saw again, and Sue made her sidekick dress up like a reindeer.  When it aired, it was a sugary shock of Christmas fun, but the episode has not held up well over time, and I giggled madly that Glee referenced its own ridiculata, citing it as a "bad Christmas," and clearing up the confusion of Artie's contraption, with Tina saying that his "magic legs broke the next day."  I love that Glee took its own miracle and completely poked a hole in it.  (Because seriously, whose idea was it to give Artie the ability to walk and then never show it again?  Irresponsible.)

In all, "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" had solid character work that made the most of meaningful moments, and an interesting premise that felt entertaining and unique.  Sure, there were a few opportunities missed on capitalizing the strongest components of the construct, and left the pacing a bit saggy in the middle - but in all, it was a far cry better than most of this season so far, insofar as the choices made for its characters and presentation of plot.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: A
Dialogue: A
Plot: B
Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Let's give it to the Sue Sylvester-Sam Evans-Quinn Fabray volunteer triforce, shall we?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The RBI Report: "Hold On To Sixteen"

Dear Glee fan, reluctant or otherwise,

You may be wondering if I'll ever write a good recap for this show ever again.  In fact, I myself was questioning the same thing after the back-to-back rude bombs Glee detonated in our unwitting faces.  Well, if any episode could bring this show back from the brink of offensive and return it to pleasantly tolerable (as long as you ignore the details) - it's the annual trip to Sectionals.  Season 1's competition remains the most magical the show has ever been, and Season 2's effort did a pretty solid job of recapturing that same allure.  So, how about Season 3's fare?

"Hold On To Sixteen," written by Ross Maxwell, directed by Bradley Buecker

The key to enjoying "Hold On To Sixteen" is to try and forget "Mash Off" and "I Kissed a Girl," and maybe most of the first season as well.  On its own, the episode works more or less solidly.  Obstacles were overcome, friendships were forged, relationships reinforced, transgressions forgotten, and it was happy hug times for all.  It's hard to argue with that, right?  But, "Hold On To Sixteen" still sits amongst Glee's storytelling ups-and-downs, and if you look too closely at it, some cracks start to emerge in the episode.

The theme, naturally, was about wanting to make the most of youth, as these Seniors begin their farewell tour with the first competition of glee season.  It's a great theme, on paper, and the writers used it to full extent - applying it to Quinn, Sam, Finn, Blaine, Shelby and Puck, Mike and Tina, and the ladies of the Troubletones.  Phew!  This theme worked double time, and I will say that it wasn't hammered in as blatantly as some of Glee's previous themes.  ("Funk," I can't say we hardly knew ye.)  This is a plus!  It's a strong theme, given our natural attachment to these characters and the built-in ability for us to relate to wanting to delay a goodbye and make happy memories in the meantime.

Where it faltered was in the execution of the storylines, many of which seemed to wrap up quickly and simply through applying the magic of a sentiment that felt a little too similar to, "Well, we're all going to die some day!"  This was one step short of sending a meteor crashing towards Earth to up the stakes on everyone's objectives.  (It would be kind of cool to do that on Glee, though, yeah?  Imagine the solo Rachel Berry would attempt to perform as a destructive ball of fire hurtled towards mankind.)  The problems set up in this episode were rather top-heavy and messy, and yet they resolved simplistically, and in a few cases, offscreen.

Conflict #1: Without Rachel, New Directions lacks star power.

Naturally, the first thought is to go to Kentucky to rescue Sam Evans from the throes of exotic male dancing.  This problem resolved itself early, with Rachel and Finn begging Sam to return to Ohio to live out his dream of performing with more clothing and less glitter.  Sam feels he grew up too fast, because of the stripping, and therefore wants to be a teenager again.  Theme alert!  His dad relents, and Sam returns to Ohio to sing a song about being drunk with his long-lost friends.

(Full disclosure: did I grumble at the fact that Sam's scene with his parents was completely onscreen, whereas Santana's with hers last week was left to our imaginations?  Yes, I did.  Did I grumble about "Red Solo Cup" being such a long performance about... nothing relevant?  Yes, I did.  But, as the glee kids are trying to hold on to sixteen, I am trying to let go of 3.06 and 3.07.  It's a work in progress.) 

Honestly, this was the only storyline that dealt with Rachel's absence from the competition in a real way, and Rachel was mostly left to work through that angst in the background.  To me, it seems that if you're going to bench Rachel Berry from the alleged "Rachel Berry Show," then there might need to be more fallout from that.  But, c'est la Glee!  (New goal: to use that phrase once a recap.  And then maybe copyright it.)

Conflict #2: Quinn is going to help New Directions win by exposing the truth about Shelby and Puck to get Shelby fired.

This plan makes total sense when you consider Quinn's current point of view.  Want to win a show choir competition, with the added bonus of getting custody of your biological child?  Just reveal the affair your competitor-and-baby's-adoptive-mother is having with your baby's daddy and call it a day!  Y'know, it's almost too easy.

Truthfully, Quinn's resolution came in the form of the theme - hold on to sixteen, via Shelby.  Shelby revealed to have wanted to be with Puck because it might make her feel young again (it wasn't because of the daddy issues and the fact that Puck is apparently smarter than doctors?) and she realized you can't get those days back.  The message is relayed to Quinn, who realizes, in turn, that she really does want to be sixteen again and will therefore make the most of her remaining days at McKinley High.  Then, Shelby says she's ending her relationship with Puck, quitting her teaching job, and appears to be on her way out.  Look at all that resolution!

Honestly, it felt too easy, and it also seemed to ignore what Quinn's original issue was.  (Although she's had so many in the interim that it's hard to keep track of how to narratively get that girl back on her arc.)  Why should Quinn Fabray want to be sixteen again when her sixteen involved getting accidentally pregnant and kicked out of her family?  It seems like an oversimplification of Quinn's issues, and combined with the fact that Sam told her she had "rich white girl problems," "Hold On To Sixteen" seemed to take a paper-thin version of Quinn Fabray and give her a shiny new lease on life without any consideration to what her character actually is, beneath the pretty teenaged face.  Do we expect anything else for Quinn Fabray at this point, though?

As for Rachel's involvement in Quinn's storyline, "Hold On To Sixteen" got them to friends territory with relative ease, mainly reliant on the charming dialogue and effortless chemistry in the final scene.  Frankly, though, Rachel had little to do with Quinn's storyline within the walls of the episode.  As it was, Quinn spent most of the forty-five minutes as an aggressively hostile tyrant, and then within one scene, flipped instantly towards gushy devotion to her relationships.  While I love that Quinn seems to value her friendships now, it's hard to believe that two seasons' worth of Quinn Fabray psychological mess could be resolved with a Shelby-given "you're only 18 once!" message - especially when she still schemed her way through three-quarters of the episode.

But in the bigger picture, it felt more fluid using the idea that Quinn got back on track with Rachel's help.  Quinn expressed a hint of self-awareness and remorse, while Rachel offered up encouragement, and ultimately, empathy.  The best part of Rachel and Quinn's storyline was that Rachel wasn't chastising Quinn for being a hot mess, but telling her that she knew what it was like to do the wrong thing.  That connected to their characters' arcs on both a larger and smaller scale, and it was the strongest footing for their dynamic to stand on given the storylines they're currently in.  Not only that, but it was nice to see Quinn getting a dose of truth without getting yelled at or demeaned.  So really, despite all this quibbling, I look forward to seeing a Quinn that appears to be genuine, with real friendships and a hint of self-acceptance in her heart.  

Conflict #3: Blaine feels unempowered in New Directions.

Finally, we got some insight onto this Finn-vs.-Blaine conflict that the writers have dropped randomly into previous episodes!  Turns out it's essentially what we thought it was: a pissing contest.  Finn felt threatened by Blaine's talent because it made him feel bad about himself.  That's totally valid, and is in keeping with Finn's shadow arc right now, but wouldn't it have been nice to see that incorporated into a storyline for Finn, that Blaine could be a part of?  In "Hold On To Sixteen," Blaine just blew a fuse at his mistreatment, and Finn immediately owned up to the transgression and apologized for it.  So, it's more telling and less showing.  How... uninteresting.

I will say that I enjoyed seeing something that got under Blaine's skin enough to upset him.  He is a real boy!  If Mr. Anderson is indeed going to be a part of this ensemble, he needs flaws too, that are manifested in a storyline and (hopefully) worked through.  It felt rewarding to see Blaine behave like an actual emotional being, and in the end everything was resolved with a fist bump anyways, so no harm, no foul.

It continued, though, with a tiff between Sam and Blaine about choreography.  Sam, bringing his newfound sexiness to the mix, scoffed at Blaine's "boy band" choreography and wanted something with a little more gyration to it.  (So Sam's Bieber days are behind him, then?  Because this side of six months ago, homeboy thought the epitome of cool was being in a boy band full of Justin Biebers.  But hey, stripping changes a man.)

Regardless, this altercation was also cleaned up easily, as apparently the New Directions had no difficulty pulling their routines together.  The boys fought, and then resolved their issues offscreen, just in time for the audience to get a whopping three full numbers, back-to-back-to-back, that would ultimately win Sectionals with absolutely no resistance whatsoever.  Oh.    

Conflict #4: How can the Troubletones and New Directions reunite?

Easy, of course!  Have Quinn, with her randomly newfound (but not unwelcome?) Kumbaya attitude, beseech the Troubletones to return to New Directions so they can all be together for that last school year!  Forgive me for playing devil's advocate, but couldn't that logic work if Troubletones won and offered to absolve New Directions?  Which, surprisingly, they did, in a gesture that honestly seemed rather nice of them.  But apparently it was just as offensive as Santana's fat jokes, judging on how poorly Finn reacted to that idea. 

Wouldn't it have been ballsy storytelling if New Directions didn't win?  But was there any question whatsoever that they wouldn't, even though it was technically a real possibility based on the competition from the Troubletones?  Blaine himself said that New Directions was a mess, and the Troubletones had one fierce performance with "I Will Survive/Survivor" - both vocally and with choreography.  So why not let that follow through?

I had a writing teacher once that said, "Write yourself into a corner, just to see how you get yourself out of it - you never know what interesting things you might come up with."  The Glee writers often back themselves into a corner, but rarely do they ever get themselves out of the corner in an interesting way.  They just push down the walls so they can have a new room with a new corner to paint themselves into.  And that's how this show has no rules, because we don't know what walls are going to stand and which are going to be pushed down.  In the case of the glee club split, the interesting way to get out of that corner would be for the Troubletones to win and see where the narrative could take them.  But instead, the writers knocked down their seemingly-unforgiving obstacles (Rachel being suspended!  New Directions being a mess!  Santana and Mercedes having powerhouse voices!  Shelby being a nationally-renowned glee club coach!) with hardly any resistance, and we're all left scratching our heads, wondering how the rules work.

Conflict #5: Mike's dad refuses to let Mike pursue his dream.

I confess, even though this storyline resolved almost as quickly and easily as the others, it was still rewarding to watch because of the execution.  It was lovely to see Tina stand up and fight for Mike's happiness, and even lovelier to see her refuse to back down when he opposed.  How great was the "I'm disappointed in you/Well that makes two of us" exchange?  Tina Cohen-Chang, bless your beating heart, you're the beacon of hope for strong ladies on this show!  She even went straight to Mike's dad - who, let's face it, is a formidable man - and spoke her mind!  Remind me again why this character doesn't get any screentime?

But even that changed tonight, with Tina getting a fair part of Mike's storyline, as well as a good chunk of a solo in "ABC."  Mike got to share the lead as well, with his father in the audience to witness his talent so that he could believe in his son.  The conflict in this storyline was interesting, in that it doubled over between Mike and Tina as well as Mike and his dad, and while it may have been an easy fix to have Mike's dad change his mind simply by seeing his son happy, it's a touching construct that's difficult to knock.  That resolution was by far the least worrisome of the easy wrap-ups.

Let's talk about some of the extraneous tidbits, shall we?  With the return of Sam, we also got the return of Samcedes!  While the "I'm not going to respect your boundaries with your new boyfriend because we're totally meant to be together" trope is nauseatingly worn thin on Glee, I confess that I look forward to developing Sam and Mercedes' relationship simply because we never got to see it.  And it held such promise!  For a show that deals so disgustingly in stereotyping, I was excited to see that Glee might push forward an interracial relationship between a hunky white football player and the larger-than-size-2 black girl.  In that vein, I love the prospect of them having some kind of happy relationship together, and if we have to trudge through Sam trying to "win her back" just so we can see them interact, then so be it. 

Of course, we also got the return of the conniving and lascivious Sebastian, who really did not mince any words when giving Kurt the rundown of his plan to invade Blaine's pants.  Is there anyone in the audience that doesn't think Sebastian is slimy?  Even through the TV, I could tell that he really does smell like Craigslist.  But the conflict is left to simmer on the backburner as we await what this snake in the grass could do to muss up Kurt and Blaine's perfectly-coiffed relationship.

So, as third year Sectionals comes to a close, did it really measure up to the years before?  The short answer?  No, not really.  The fact that the obstacles were overblown and unrealistically resolved made everything feel slightly unearned, and combining that with the obvious triumph of New Directions led to a slight tired feeling amidst it all.  The episode's best moments were in the last number, "We Are Young," in which the glee kids came together again and had fun singing together on stage - no competition, no stress; they could just be themselves.  Those five minutes had more magic packed into them than the entire forty minutes that preceded them, and it had more to do with the actors loving on each other than any story-based payoff.  It was still great, though - from Mercedes joining first with her voice, to Rachel extending a hand to a reluctant Santana, the reunion was touching and genuine, if a bit out-of-left-field.  It's charming, and perplexing at the same time, which seems to be an accurate descriptor of Glee on its good days.

To be fair, I do not envy the job that Ross Maxwell had in this episode, because he attempted to singlehandedly resolve five different plotlines with one main theme.  I give him credit for even attempting that, given the narrative mess that he's inherited as a new writer.  In the end, "Hold On To Sixteen" managed some but not all of the show's magic, and used a strong theme - but was burdened with overwrought problems that sorted out a bit too easily.  At any rate, I'm now at least looking forward to next week again, and ultimately, that is a good thing.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: A
Dialogue: B
Plot: B
Characterization: B
Episode MVP: Tina Cohen-Chang

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The RBI Report: "I Kissed a Girl"

It's no secret that last week's Glee left me somewhat enraged and frustrated with how the show's writers handle its storylines - in particular when dealing with the choices they make for the portrayal of the female characters.  Plus, I griped about the seeds of Santana's coming-out storyline, in which Finn outed her in front of a crowd and called her a coward, but because she was written as such an absolute bitch we couldn't really blame him.  Many of you told me to wait and pass judgment after this week, after seeing more of the fallout of Santana's secret come to light and how the show handled it.  So, was "I Kissed a Girl" any better than "Mash Off?"

"I Kissed a Girl," written by Matthew Hodgson, directed by Tate Donovan

I'll get the short answer out of the way: no.  No, "I Kissed a Girl" was not really any better than "Mash Off," at least where sexism and the handling of Santana's storyline are concerned. 

Basically, "I Kissed a Girl" followed the same character format for Finn and Santana that "Mash Off" did - Santana acts like a heinous bitch when people are trying to be nice to her, and Finn pushes her because he wants what's best for her.  The episode picked up where "Mash Off" left off in more ways than one, and found Will, Shelby, Finn, and Santana in Principal Figgins' office, where Santana was receiving suspension for slapping Finn across the face.  (Let's ignore the fact that there have been several other acts of physical violence that were held completely unaccountable both by the narrative and this damn school.  Yeah, let's ignore that.)

Finn, being the Hero of Our Story, stepped in and saved Santana from suspension and removal from participating at Sectionals.  He said he felt bad for her, thereby making this a pity play, and called her awesome, claiming that she needed to embrace it.  And, clearly, the only place to do that is New Directions.  So, he blackmailed her into returning to the club so that she'll realize how great she is.  This was basically a paper-thin plot device to get the Troubletones back in the same room as their erstwhile teammates so it's easier to float the idea that everybody's going to sing to Santana for an episode.

Indeed, Finn declared, unilaterally, that this week's theme was "lady music," in support of Santana and how she should accept herself for who she is.  "I don't get a say in this?" Santana retorted, and the clear answer across the board is no.

And here we arrive at the main problem with "I Kissed a Girl" - it denied Santana her place as the hero of her own storyline.  She did not get a say in any of this.  The episode and the characters in it treated Santana like a project - she was someone to be encouraged, to have the show's message (be yourself; only good things can come of it!) forced on her without any indication that it would actually be helpful to her.  And when it worked, she basically said, "Thanks, guys!  Guess I was just being a bitch."  Boys sang to her about how awesome she is, which of course speaks to the rich history of boys singing to girls on Glee to either a) win them over or b) make it all better.  This is just another awful instance of girls being objects to the male subject in this show.   

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the episode's "girl power" effort - the ladies of the club coming together to support Santana by singing "I Kissed a Girl" and touching each other a lot.  To be fair, we have to give some credit to the notion that these girls aren't hating on each other, and stood up for Santana like a bunch of little bosses operating in complete harmony.  I approve!  But "I Kissed a Girl?"  Really?  When you look at the whole episode, this choice plays like another example of the Glee writers trying to do something lady-flavored and actually giving it over to the dudes.  "I Kissed a Girl" is about a girl kissing another girl to get a guy's attention.  This the most transparent, two-dimensional (and slightly offensive) song choice for the storyline.  "I Kissed a Girl" is not about being gay, or how it's socially acceptable to be gay.  It plays right into the social concept that girls make out for guys, and trivializes any real feelings that a woman, and by extension, Santana, might feel for another woman.  (Just a reminder: gay ladies make out with other ladies for, well, ladies.  I fail to see how that's not an obvious statement.)

It wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have a rather extensive history of Glee subverting song choice for the purpose of redefining masculinity.  Hell, nearly everything in the Blaine Anderson songbook is originally sung by a female artist, and by having Blaine sing them, unaltered, it makes a statement about society's definition of masculinity.  Blaine breaks the mold, because he sings Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and doesn't change the pronouns.  In the Madonna episode, the boys sing "What It Feels Like For a Girl," in an effort to subvert masculinity.  Kurt sing songs originally by women, and the narrative puts forth the idea that that's perfectly acceptable (which it is!).  Artie sang "Stronger" by Britney, Finn sang "I'll Stand by You" by the Pretenders, and Puck and Sam sang "Friday."  And in "I Kissed a Girl," this construct reappears with Finn singing Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Kurt and Blaine singing Pink's "Perfect," and Puck singing Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One."  

What did the girls sing?  "I Kissed a Girl."  And the writers had the audacity to name the episode the same thing!  But truly, "I Kissed a Girl," as an episode constructed of its song choices, was technically a commentary on masculinity.  Again.  It would have been such a stronger choice if the girls had actually sung "Constant Craving," by k.d. lang, which appeared at the end of the episode through Santana, Shelby, and Kurt.  (Although maybe with all the touching and the talk of constant craving, it would not have gotten past the censors.  Sigh!)  At the very least, the song needed to actually be about women loving other women (not kissing them for attention) or, even better, a song sung originally by a man, intended for a woman.  Or hell, if they wanted a song to communicate the idea that the ladies are A-OK with the gossip mill calling them lesbians, then how about singing Bonnie Raitt's "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" instead?  Same basic idea, considerably less offensive - and actually accomplishes a subversion of femininity, because at least it's a song sung by a woman to a man. 

(And, if you're counting, the closest Glee has come to making commentary on femininity through its ladies' song choices is Quinn's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," and Mercedes' "Sweet Transvestite."  At basic tallying, there have been 22 songs originally by women sung by Glee's boys.  Conversely, Glee's girls have sung 9 songs originally by male artists.)

But I'm getting off track.  Even without the heinous inclusion of "I Kissed a Girl," the Santana storyline was seriously mishandled, especially insofar as it considers Finn.  We're at the point where Santana herself says she's a "mischievous bitch" and Finn says, "I think you're awesome."  Why is it that Finn, as a character, is flat-out telling the audience about the psychology of Santana (she acts out because she's hurt inside!  she's going to start attacking herself one day!) instead of showing us through Santana's actions?  Firstly, I find it a bit unlikely that Finn, who has historically shown little evidence of being emotionally perceptive, would be that clued-in to the inner workings of Santana's psyche.  And secondly, where is the good storytelling in this construct?  Naya Rivera's sitting in that kitchen chair acting her heart out so that we can relate to her, but the essential construction of the narrative is basically telling us that Santana's something that Glee - and its collection of hero boys - needs to fix.  Thirdly, what the hell does Finn Hudson have to do with Santana Lopez coming out of the closet?

The only scene that allowed Santana to be the center of her own storyline was the final scene with her abuelita, where she heartbreakingly tried to be honest with her grandmother (who, it's clear, is basically who Santana modeled herself after) and instead of being met with support, gets thrown out of the house.  How powerful was that scene?  But the writers put it in the wrong place.  "I Kissed a Girl" should have started, right off the bat, with Santana trying to tell her family the truth, with the reason being that there was going to be a political campaign ad broadcasting her sexuality across every television in Lima - and she wanted to tell them first.  

If that scene were the very first thing we saw in "I Kissed a Girl," those emotions would have informed Santana's actions for the rest of the episode, set the tone that what was happening to her was not okay, and the resulting support of the glee club would have felt much more genuine and less like Santana was being forcibly pushed from the flannel closet with the promise that everything would be okay.  But because the writers put that scene with abuelita at the end, that made everything not okay.  Everyone told Santana that she was fine, she could be openly gay and everyone would embrace that, but at the end of the day, the one person she needed approval from (other than Brittany) told her she never wanted to see her face again.  Some message, eh?  See, it's not so much what's happening to Santana as how the writers are framing it - either accidentally or on purpose.

Furthermore, why is it that Santana's storyline featured so little Brittany?  Santana is a young gay woman who has (arguably) chosen to come out, and she already has a girlfriend in the situation.  This storyline affects Brittany almost as much as it affects Santana - and she certainly has more stake in it than Finn Hudson.  And yet we saw very little scripted support for Brittany to give, and no honest discussions between the two of them about Santana's feelings on the matter.  There's prime opportunity there - Sue's scared of Santana's sexuality keeping her from office, so how about Brittany?  Brittany ran for Senior Class President concurrently with the public knowledge of her sexuality and relationship with Santana coming to light.  Were there no repercussions for that?  And if there weren't, then why wasn't it mentioned so that we could think Brittany was a badass for winning an election as an openly bi-corn lady?  

Are the writers afraid to make Brittany sound like an intelligent human being who's capable of understanding her girlfriend?  Or is she just the punchline to an endless parade of dumb blonde jokes?  Denying Brittany and Santana a genuine, scripted interaction as they deal with Santana's scenario whiffs strongly of the fear of having to show two women, front and center, in a genuine and loving relationship.  Or even just the fear of having Brittany demonstrate any semblance of competence, or Santana demonstrate any level of compassion that isn't squeezed out of her by the kind-hearted actions of a boy.  Either way, something foul is afoot.

Glee had a second opportunity to patch up this storyline this week, with Sue Sylvester's involvement.  Sue got caught in the crossfire of mudslinging after the truth about Santana dropped, and the media began to question her sexuality.  Here was Glee's chance!  They could write Sue as being annoyed by the allegations, but ultimately unaffected by them, because who cares?  She could have been the better person, laughed off the "accusations," and demonstrated to Santana that what people say doesn't matter.  And hey, bonus points if Santana reacted by saying "It's easy for you to say because you're not actually gay," and then we would have an interesting gray area discussion about being openly gay and dealing with negative feedback - and from whom it's easy (the media!) or difficult (abuelita!) to disregard. 

But no, instead we got Sue desperately trying to show the media that she loves men, and using Cooter Menkins, Coach Beiste's would-be paramour/exercise buddy, as her trophy boyfriend for the cameras.  Cooter, in a bout of frustrating doofiness, went along with it, because he didn't realize Shannon was into him.  And apparently he likes a lady with a protein shake.  Sue, being an obnoxious villain, flaunted her "relationship" with Cooter in Shannon's face, and Shannon declared that she will fight for him.  He, being the Confused Male (one of Glee's signature incarnations, see: Finn and Will ca. S1) claimed to like both ladies, and it seems this entirely-unexpected love triangle will continue to next week.

Also continuing week-to-week is Puck and Shelby's flirtation, with the constantly-derailing sidecar of Quinn and her ill-advised Machiavellian schemes.  On this week's docket was Puck and Shelby having sex, and Quinn wanting to have sex with Puck to make another perfect baby.  Oh, because both of those things are great ideas.  Puck and Shelby sex was justified (or at least, tried to be justified) by Beth bonking her head, Shelby calling Puck in a panic, and Puck advising the doctors to have a plastic surgeon look at her, instead of just giving her stitches.  McKinley High must have a great educational program, because Puck went from thinking women have prostates to knowing the quadratic formula, and even being smarter than a doctor!  No wonder Shelby wants to be sleep with him!  (Please tell me your sarcasm detectors are beeping.)  

Except technically Shelby doesn't actually want to be with Puck, and this time when she said so, Puck lashed out and called her a coward.  I still can't believe we're not getting Rachel/Shelby redemption storylines in favor of this nonsense.  Sorry, Shelby.  Glee doesn't want you to be a mature adult attempting to atone for the mistakes you've made, and instead would prefer you to be emotionally confused and tangled up in teenage drama that will only lead you to more mistakes that you probably won't get a chance to make up for either.  C'est la glee!

As for Quinn, Puck got to step up and work his magic on her (maybe he's smarter than a therapist, too?) as she delusionally tried bed him in an effort to make another kid.  (Because that makes so much sense.)  The roots of this storyline for Quinn are so tangled and rotted that we basically need to cut the whole tree down at this point.  But since Glee has oh-so-nobly declared that they're doing multi-episode storylines now, every bit of crap carries through to the next one.  Is this a case of "be careful what you wish for?"  Perhaps.

Regardless, Puck stopped his makeout session with Quinn in order to tell her that she's messed up, and at least demonstrated some level of understanding that no one seems to care about Quinn.  Wouldn't it have been nice if Quinn had expressed that in her own right, though, without yelling and bitching, only to be made a pity case?  But, at least someone seems to be sympathizing with Quinn, so I'll take it, and hopefully this tentative bond won't be destroyed by Quinn going firemonster on Shelby for sleeping with Beth's real dad.

The final thing that happened in this episode was the conclusion of the Senior Class President election, with Rachel stuffing the ballot boxes for Kurt and coming forward on his behalf so he wouldn't be suspended.  All I have to say about this is that the writers basically took Pilot episode Rachel Berry and stuck her in the seventh episode of the third season.  I'm tired of recycled plotlines where Rachel cheats or schemes to get ahead - I suppose that it's somewhat better that she did it on someone else's behalf, at this stage in the game, but then that should have been a manifested character point for her.  As is, she just snaked through the background with a devious plan and ended up paying the price.  And what are New Directions going to do without her for Sectionals?  I'm guessing the writers will have to come up with some worn-thin plot device to get Santana and the Troubletones back on their own (probably making them unlikeable in the process) so that the competition is ratcheted up.

In the end, "I Kissed a Girl" was just as bad as "Mash Off," in that it presented a messy and needless dynamic between Santana and Finn, and deprived Santana her own place as the main character of this storyline, until it was time for her to be sympathized with.  In all, "I Kissed a Girl" was rife with sloppily-handled storylines helmed by characters that felt no more real than cardboard cutouts.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: C
Dance Numbers: N/A
Dialogue: B
Plot: D
Characterization: D
Episode MVP: N/A

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The RBI Report: "Mash Off"

Apparently, when it's not as simple as writing a one-word theme on the whiteboard and creating a glee assignment out of it, Will Schuester's lesson plans must broaden the eensiest bit to incorporate "friendly competition" with his students, which somehow never seems to work out all that friendly.  And of course, this usually involves falling back on Glee's favorite tradition of self-congratulation: the cross-pollination of two songs to birth a mash-up.  "Mash Off" was certainly a good example of these two things, and in all, while the episode was constructed strongly around a theme - with great mash-ups to boot - it still managed to send all the wrong messages in some messy and subjective storytelling.

"Mash Off," written by Michael Hitchcock, directed by Eric Stoltz

Competition and the concept of fairplay snaked through all of "Mash Off," and Emma Pillsbury was in the episode long enough (thirty seconds?) to stamp the message right into place: "If you win by fighting dirty, it's not really winning."  This sentiment lingered over every single conflict in "Mash Off," and turned out to be a useful barometer in determining the level of BS bogging down the pertinent interactions.

It all started with Sue, who is not running a very clean campaign against Burt Hummel in the race for Congress.  She's got one set of TV ads claiming that he has a baboon's heart, and another set alleging that he's married to a donkey.  (Poor Carole!)  Of course, she's completely intentional in her poo-flinging, and when Kurt confronts her about it, she claims that it's not personal - just politics.  Sue continues on this smear campaign tactic until it takes a turn for the worse, when a third candidate drags Santana's sexuality into the mix and uses it as a slam against Sue.  But more on that in a minute.

Will and Shelby are on the opposite side of Coach Sylvester's tack, shelving any potential animosity over coaching rival glee clubs and teaming up for a duet of "You and I" and... "Yoü and I."  (Lady Gaga, I like you, but that is an errant umlaut and if there's one thing I profess to be, it's diacritical.)  This was really the only instance in "Mash Off" where two characters actually managed to take competition and use it in a positive way.  Maybe that's what Rachel meant when she called the mashup "weirdly amazing."  Because everything else really was a lot of mudslinging, and it was in these messy dynamics where some shady - and disturbingly sexist - storytelling shone through.

Let's start with the most innocuous and work our way down, shall we?  The race for Senior Class President has been escalating between Brittany, Kurt, and Rachel, and it's introduced early on in "Mash Off" that the reason Kurt is not garnering support is because he's not fighting dirty.  He doesn't have a strong cause, and he's playing fair.  So already, by the episode's message as deemed by Emma, he's a good guy.  Brittany and Rachel, on the other hand, are not playing fair - Rachel stomped all over Kurt's friendship in her "borderline sociopathic" ascent to the top, and Brittany keeps giving empty promises and lying.  Putting these facts against Emma's decree, they are therefore excluded from the episode's messages.  Both girls fought dirty, and are hence not really winners.

To slather on an extra layer of subjective storytelling, Kurt decides to run on the platform of anti-bullying, after seeing the cruelty subjected to Rory during the dodgeball game.  (Hint: if you want more evidence of a character being a "winner" or "loser," look no further than how they treat Rory, the doe-eyed innocent from Ireland.  Rory is the ultimate Litmus Test: Finn, Kurt, and Blaine all treat him with kindness and respect.  Santana treats him like shit, and Brittany doesn't seem to remember that she was his first friend at McKinley.  Sigh!)  In the end, Kurt delivers a touching speech about refusing to be bullied, and he promises to ban dodgeball from McKinley's halls.  Rachel, being In The Wrong This Whole Time, is so inspired by Kurt's heroism and withdraws from the race, citing that Kurt deserves the presidency and she was simply being selfish.  She even goes so far to say she's now his campaign slave.  Really, writers?  Really?

It would be lovely if Rachel could be incorporated into a story where her flaws aren't constantly manifested in the plot for the other characters (and the narrative!) to shame her.  So far in Season 3, "Asian F," "The First Time," and now "Mash Off" have storylines where Rachel is lambasted for being selfish and desperate for attention - by people who are supposedly her friends!  But one of the best scenes in "Mash Off" was a one-off that defied this pattern: Rachel asking Shelby to write her a letter of recommendation, as that burned bridge is slowly being rebuilt.  But it was one scene!  We finally have Shelby back on the scene, and instead of seeing a manifested storyline slowly repairing a broken relationship between mother and daughter, we have drawn-out drivel about a woman whose adoptive daughter's birth mother is trying to send her to jail and the birth father is trying relentlessly to get into her pants.

Which leads me to the Puck/Shelby/Quinn of it all.  If you're looking for more sexism, you'll find it here too.  Hell, you don't even need to look - it smacks you in the face like a dodgeball.  "Mash Off" starts out with "Hot For Teacher," where Puck waxes poetic about his randy crush on Shelby.  This is not the first time a student has had the hots for a teacher on Glee.  But if you'll recall, the first occasion was in Season 1's "Ballad," where Rachel suddenly thinks Mr. Schue's the cutest.  In the episode, Rachel is doe-eyed, creepy, and relentless.  Schue is weirded out and tries to protect her feelings.  In the end, Rachel realizes she's setting her sights on an unavailable guy because she has low self-esteem.  It's kind of a downer, but it's handled with heartbreaking relevance for Rachel's character, because it's communicated that she's misplacing her emotions.  She gets over it, apologizes, and Schue is relieved.

But with Puck and Shelby, there's not really the same treatment there.  Puck's crush is inappropriate, sure, and it too is chockablock of misplaced emotion, but it's all coming up daddy issues and family talk.  Yeah, he thinks Shelby's hot, but he wants to be a family with her.  He gets to be a good dad to Beth, and he can be a positive part of Shelby's life too - and not only is Puck telling us (and Shelby) that, the narrative is showing us the same thing.  (Although I did like that Puck offered to put Shelby's crib together, and then later they show Puck holding the baby, while... Shelby puts the crib together.  It's a nice detail that made me laugh.)  Puck is not showing up at Shelby's house like a stalker offering to cook her dinner, like Rachel with Will - he's showing up and taking care of her kid and offering to help her.  We are basically being told that we should want for Shelby to "give in" to Puck, because he's just so damn good to her.

To boot, Puck came clean to Shelby about Quinn's dastardly plan with kitchen condiments and baby-stealing, thereby making him a Good Guy, and dragging Shelby out of her rank as Rational Adult and into the bitchy trenches with Quinn.  Gone was the calm and reasoning Shelby that knew how to handle Quinn in "I Am Unicorn," and instead we got a Shelby that just yelled at her, and cut her out from Beth's life.  I'm not saying Quinn didn't deserve reprimanding within the narrative, but wouldn't it have been nice if someone were actually able to help her instead of telling her she doesn't matter all the time?  By that point in the episode, I was trying to not shriek at my screen, "Another storyline with Rachel!  Another storyline with Rachel, please!"  (At either Shelby or Quinn, at this point.  I'm not picky.)

So, are you still keeping track of winners and losers, based on Emma's message?  So far, we have fairplay winners: Kurt and Puck.  Probably also Will and Burt, but that's mostly background.  As for losers who fought dirty, we have: Rachel, Brittany, Sue, aaaaand Quinn.  Shelby started out a winner, and slowly descended to Loserville.  Are we seeing a pattern emerging?  And we're not even to Finn and Santana yet!  Let's visit that mess now.

The episode sets up, early on, that Santana is particularly on point with her verbal abuse lately - especially towards Finn.  She strikes first, with a barb about Finn's weight, and when Rachel points out that Santana's insults are just evidence of insecurity, Santana tells her she has a mustache.  Low blow, right?  Ten minutes into the episode, and we already know exactly which category Santana shuffles into.

Finn, naturally, gets tired of being called fat all episode long, and wants to take a stand against Santana.  He claims that she's just trying to demean them so that they'll stay losers, but it's time to get inside her head and do the same thing.  Is it inappropriate to bring up the phrase "Turnabout is fair play" right now?  Because this was essentially the tack that the Glee writers used to keep Finn Hudson in the winner category and Santana Lopez in the loser.  Santana provoked Finn so much that of course he retaliates - with the worst ammunition anyone could ever volley at someone.

It's no coincidence that right before Finn outs Santana, she delivers a 48-second-long monologue against Finn, where it's clear she's crossing a line.  But there are several things wrong with the sequence of events here, that stack heavily against Santana and render the situation completely imbalanced.  Firstly, as I mentioned, it was immediately set up that Santana was the aggressor in this episode.  From her first insults cast, to the choice for the Troubletones (all girls!) to sing the lyrics "I'm gonna getcha" while the New Directions sing "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," Santana was designed to be a tyrant on the offensive.  The whole episode was Santana vs. Finn, even though Mercedes is the leader of the Troubletones, and, technically, Finn is only co-captain of New Directions.  It comes down to Santana vs. Finn in dodgeball, and she pegs him in the face before he even attempts to throw the ball.  Then - Rory Litmus Test alert! - she encourages her teammates (all girls!) to assault Rory with dodgeballs while he's defenseless.  And laughs.  Seriously, writers, seriously?

Secondly, Santana swore, immediately before Finn's confrontation, that she was going to play fairly.  She promised Brittany, and her teammates, that she'd be nice - and then two seconds later, walked up to Finn to tell him he was talentless, and destined to ride Rachel's coattails his whole life, mixed in with a cocktail of fat jokes.  So, not only does she hit below the belt, but she lies.  I repeat: seriously, writers?  Seriously? 

In the end, Santana's aggression in the episode was enough for the writers to warrant "turnabout is fair play," and they didn't even make the effort to humanize Santana until "Rumour Has It/Someone Like You."  When Finn outed her, Mr. Hudson lingered in all of the camera coverage until the last few seconds, and only then did we finally get to see Santana's face.  Do the Glee writers not understand that that was Santana's worst nightmare?  They specifically wrote that it was, in "Sexy," and then completely ignored that fact.  Because we saw Santana again, right after the commercial break, and she didn't seem to be devastated.  They seem to be telling us that Finn got away with it, because he's up on stage jauntily singing about how dreams come true.

Only until one of Sue's political rivals gets a hold of Santana's sexuality does she fly off the deep end - and rightly so.  But again, all I wanted was to see Santana's face while watching that commercial.  Because that, right there, was everything she's ever feared.  I call bullshit on Finn's assessment that Santana is scared of Brittany not loving her back.  Santana Lopez isn't a coward.  She's afraid.  And there's a difference, especially when the situation involves being publicly gay, and having to deal with the fact that society will treat you differently under that circumstance. 

The only retribution Finn received for making all of Santana's fears a reality came at the very end of the episode: with a slap across the face, for something that she assumed was whispered by Finn into Rachel's ear.  Of course, he didn't actually say something negative, he was just complimenting her!  Santana smacked him anyways.  It's too soon to tell if this consequence is actually appropriate given the gravity of what Finn's actions perpetrated on Santana's character, because of course we got a cut-to-black not seconds after.  Will Finn be held accountable for his actions?  It should have happened, much sooner in "Mash Off" than it did, and I'm dreading the notion that it may not.

So, if you're still keeping score, Finn shuffles neatly into the Fair Play category, because he was so provoked, and Santana drops cleanly into Dirty Play category, by virtue of... well, everything she did all episode.  So, for every character that had an actual storyline or character arc in "Mash Off," every male character came out a Hero and every female character came out a Villian (with the exception of Shelby, who's mainly there to support Puck being a Hero and Quinn being a Villain).  How is this okay? 

And how is it okay for a show that is supposedly supportive of gay rights and sending a positive message to young gay teens to demonstrate that a gay character who is outed somehow seemed to deserve it because she was a bitch who tears other people down and doesn't play by the rules?  It is so, so difficult to not claim that this is because aforementioned gay character is female, given the blatant sexism embedded into the construction of Glee's storylines, coupled with the saintly treatment that Kurt and Blaine receive as main gay male characters.

Unfortunately, "Mash Off" made the worst possible choice for Santana's sexuality storyline, where she is forcibly pushed out of the closet, and her sexuality used as ammunition in a political campaign on an extremely public platform.  How is that not the worst?  How does that not seem to tell young gay youths that it's possibly terrifying to come out of the closet?  I get that it's naive to think that there aren't horrible real-life examples of gay teenagers coming out into hostile environments, but if you're a television show that touts the notion that you're trying to make it better for young gay teenagers, then you need to make good on that promise.  Tell stories where Kurt and Blaine can be happy together, and their relationship can survive any obstacles!  Tell stories where Santana can come out into an environment on her own terms, so that she doesn't have to live in fear of what people might say about her!  Tell stories where gay people aren't terrified, please.  It's an important message to send.  And "Mash Off" took that message, drove a knife into its heart, and twisted it.

I do want to pay some attention to the few good things that "Mash Off" had going for it.  The mash-ups were fantastic.  Naya Rivera's acting was superb, wielding both comedy and tragedy with remarkable ease.  And I think the only character in the episode who genuinely behaved like a leader was Mercedes, who took charge of Troubletones, but still told Santana she was a valuable member of the team who needed to find a way to play fair.  Sure, there wasn't any inkling prior to this that Mercedes was blessed with such leadership skills, but I'll take it!  Troubletones for the Sectionals win!

In the end, though, "Mash Off" was marred with terrible storytelling decisions that revealed a nasty whiff of sexism as well as an irresponsibility when dealing with their "messages" about LGBQT youth.  For those reasons, it's hard not to see "Mash Off" as one of Glee's worst.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A+
Dance Numbers: A+
Dialogue: A
Plot: D
Characterization: D
Episode MVP: Mercedes Jones

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The RBI Report: "The First Time"

So I'm not sure, but I think last night's episode was about characters losing their virginities?  Actually, to be fair, "The First Time" was not nearly as theme-y as I thought it would be, but I do still question some of the choices made for what storylines rotated through to the front and how they were supported in the narrative.

"The First Time," written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, directed by Brad Buecker

The basic premise for "The First Time" rested on the idea that Blaine and Rachel felt insecure in their roles as Tony and Maria, because they are both virgins who haven't experienced a sexual awakening.  (Which, by the way, ew.  The phrase "sexual awakening" is almost as cringeworthy as the word "lover," especially when applied to teenagers.)  Artie questioned Blaine and Rachel's first times, and they both confessed that they hadn't had one.  Rachel, being Rachel, immediately sets out to rectify this so that she can give the performance of a lifetime, and Blaine subverts the suggestion into a discussion with Kurt about spontaneity and adventurousness.  Cue lots of talk about teen sex.

But here's where this whole thing falls apart: there's not an iron gate that drops down if you try to step onstage as a virgin.  Blaine and Rachel could easily play Tony and Maria without having sex, and the idea that Artie broaches the issue without any retort from Coach Beiste or Mrs. Pillsbury is ridiculous.  Yes, Emma got awkward and left the room, but wouldn't she be the first person to tell them being a virgin is okay?  And that "virgin" and "actor" aren't incongruous?  This just reeks of the time when Rachel thought she needed to get wasted to write a good song, and it's another instance of me shaking my head and wondering why the writers are saying that these are things that make sense because no one in the narrative argues with it.

So, the fact that all the sex talk rested on the shoulders of something ridiculously flimsy and untrue didn't help matters, but the specifics of the discussion worked, on a character level.  Rachel approached it like it was on a checklist to becoming Barbra Streisand and Finn felt insecure and offended.  Blaine got drunk and handsy, and Kurt wanted it to be romantic.  The actual virginity-losing was fairly tame and sweet, although I do have one quibble about the Finn-Rachel scene.  Finn, in a crisis of low self-esteem, told Rachel that he wasn't good enough, and she reassured him that he was special because he was getting something that no one else was going to get.  Which I assume meant her vagina, which is a weird way to tell someone they're special.  I think there could have been something charming in the idea that Rachel would be really honest with Finn, and say, yeah, you may not be the best football player or singer or whatever, but you're not defined by those labels, and she loves him as a person.  Cue sex.  Because as is, it played an eensy bit like Rachel was showing Finn how special he was by giving him the key to her high-security bajingo.  (Elliot Reid shoutout!)  

Or was that a metaphor and Rachel didn't literally mean her vagina?  Either way, that moment should have been about Finn's actual traits and not how awesome it is that Rachel is going to "give him" her virginity.  Because Finn's self-worth really shouldn't be tethered to whether or not he's let into Rachel's pants.  His character work means more than that, and it's also a little concerning that Rachel thinks they're related, somehow.

"The First Time" also saw the culmination of the West Side Story arc, by synthesizing it with the main discussions about teen sex.  It worked, and it didn't.  All that cross-cutting!  It's a surefire way to tell that an editor (Brad Buecker) directed.  Cross-cutting Sebastian and Blaine's conversation with Santana and Rachel singing "A Boy Like That" tickled my fancy at first, but then I found that I didn't really understand the connection there.  They used the tack again for Tina's story about her first time, and it worked a little better in that instance.  But that could perhaps be because Tina is (supposedly) a main character on this show and we're not wondering why the hell she's there.

But Sebastian?  Why was he so heavily involved in Kurt and Blaine's storyline?  I get obstacles, yes, and I get that he may continue to be a thorn in their relationship and it needed to be set up.  But I do not get why he was written to be so meddlesome in a storyline that the writers knew was going to result in Kurt-Blaine sex.  What was the point?  It feels like every time Glee goes to Dalton, we have to stretch the narrative to justify returning to Blazerland, no matter how many students want to warble their way into Blaine's pants.  (Seriously, Sebastian was coming on stronger than the aftershave on that sweaty sack of potatoes.)

There actually was some great interesting character work in "The First Time," but it was all fairly peripheral.  Honestly, I would have rather seen an episode where West Side Story was given the forefront, and then allowed for character development to happen based on the conflicts arising from that.  It would have been more strongly synthesized, especially considering that it was such a flimsy foundation for broaching the topic of sex.  Not only that, but the WSS arc has been brewing since the season opener, and launched some really interesting character moments with Mike, Mercedes, Artie, Kurt and Blaine, and Rachel - it would've been rewarding to see those re-emerge as the show actually goes on.  

Especially when the hints of WSS-related character work in "The First Time" were so compelling.  Even aside from the idea that Santana and Rachel had to work together (how on earth did those rehearsals go?) there was development given to characters that directedly tied into the musical.  Mike went through with performing his role of Riff, and his father found out and disowned him in the hallways of McKinley.  Not gonna lie, it's really hard to care about teenagers yapping about virginity when Mike's family life basically rips apart in one fell swoop.  But it was only given the one scene, with the idea that this is going to continue.  And we're at a point, thankfully, where I don't doubt that it will continue, but it's still awfully disconcerting to throw such a huge Mike moment, in one tiny scene, into an episode about teen sex without any tether to the narrative.

Not only that, but Artie had a pretty great mini-arc that was A and Z and nothing in between.  At episode's beginning, he expressed the idea that he had found his niche in directing, and at episode's end, thanked everyone for making him feel responsible and adult - with the heartbreakingly realistic notion that Artie usually feels coddled because of his wheelchair.  (We'll ignore the fact that they connected this to masculinity.  I'm tired of Glee talking about manhood.)  How great was that speech?  It would have therefore been nice to see Artie actually having a storyline in the middle, showing, not telling, that allowed for him to deal with the pressure of leadership, and for us to see the other characters trusting him and bonding with him.  Instead we just got a simple beginning and a sweet conclusion, with no real connection between the two.  (And Puck denying him a fist bump in the beginning; what the hell?)

And how about Finn?  Finn had some big moments this episode, but because he's not even a part of WSS, they ran rather small.  While I don't like seeing Finn have to give up on football, I think it's interesting that they're confronting, head-on, the idea that he doesn't have Mr. Quarterback as an identity to tout for his future.  And combined with the fact that they're back-burnering him in glee as well, it makes me wonder what's on the horizon for Mr. Hudson.  He's almost in a similar position as Quinn once was - a blank slate, who has the chance to redefine himself with something real (although Finn's always been at least a little bit more genuine that Quinn) and that's exciting to me.  Especially because Finn is so frequently a passive character, I want to see him be more active about it!  This storyline has simmered all season long, and I want for it to be incorporated more strongly into the narrative - maybe give Finn some tether into the story and his dreams other than just Rachel.

There were two other characters who had development in "The First Time" that were peripheral even to the New Directions, but that were actually handled pretty well: Dave Karofsky, and Shannon Beiste.  We finally reunited with Karofsky at Lima's gay bar, and Kurt got a chance to see how he's been dealing lately.  It felt like an appropriate step in Karofsky's arc, and the right tone to communicate: that he's just a kid trying to get through high school, and made some mistakes.  Kurt said it best: as long as you're not beating people up, it's okay to be who you are at your own speed.  (This is also an apt descriptor of what the episode should have been putting forth about "first times."  Jury is out as to whether or not they achieved that, for me.)

As for Coach Beiste, she was given a rather darling flirtation with Cooter Menkins, the unfortunately-named recruiter (Cooter the Recruiter?) from Ohio State.  What's great about this is that while yes, Shannon has a crush, Menkins is equally as into her.  This is the first in a series of Good Decisions.  Because Shannon Beiste can become something of a pity case in her relationship inexperience, and historically, Glee has walked that line very carefully.  But this episode not only confronted what problems can arise from that portrayal, it also assuaged them!  Shannon was completely and adorably clueless to Cooter's signals, and when he was straightforward with her, she immediately assumed he was disingenuous, claiming that guys like him only date pretty girls, and she doesn't look the way that pretty girls look.  How heartbreaking is that?  It's hard to invalidate that character choice when the result is so well-acted and sympathetic.  But at the same time, it infantilizes Coach Beiste, and puts her self-worth in the hands of the dude she's interacting with.  

When it was with Will in "Never Been Kissed," he was a Good Guy, and kissed her, and it all read a little bit like Good Guy Benevolence.  But with Cooter?  He replied that he doesn't date girls, he dates beautiful women, just like Shannon.  Swoon!  Let's have a little confetti party for this, please.  Because not only did it de-infantilize Shannon, but it also put her in a position to reclaim her self-worth.  He didn't pity her; he reassured her.  A+ writing decision!  And hopefully this will put Shannon on a path where she can value herself as a person worthy of a relationship and a Cute Guy and we can get Glee out of the "girls with low self-esteem must be validated by a boy" trope.

Which leads me to the final topic of discussion: the whole purpose of having an episode devoted to "the first time."  Stepping back and looking at the choice to make this episode raises some important questions.  I imagine that the showrunners wanted to put forth something that spoke to the realities of being a teenager, and have a candid, open discussion about what it means to lose your virginity.  Honestly, the only scene that really fulfilled this idea was Rachel's meeting with "her girls" (hilariously complete with gavel) because of Quinn and Tina's opposing experiences in contrast, both opinions completely valid.  (Let's ignore Brittany's surprise alien sex, shall we?)

Really, the rest of it was rather extraneous and distracted from what the core message should have been - which is that a "first time" really just needs to be hallmarked by open communication, respect, and consent.  It doesn't matter what's on Kurt's bucket list, or the existence of Sebastian Smythe as a sexual villain.  It has nothing to do with being sheltered as artists.  It doesn't have any bearing on acting ability.  It has nothing to do with a boy becoming a man or a girl "giving it up."  It has nothing to do with what makes Finn special.  It just doesn't matter when you have sex - if you're Santana, or Emma - as long as you're ready.  The rest is just bogged-down mythology about virginity that the media likes to package up and present to teenagers under the duress that it's a good message.

Everything gets skewed as well with the reminder that these kids are high school students.  And yet, they go out drinking at gay bars like it's no big deal and the teachers don't care when a student director talks about using sexual experience as something to draw on for stage acting.  There's a strange dichotomy in how these characters are sometimes wielded as young people and sometimes wielded as mini-adults, and that only becomes more glaring in an episode about virginity.  As it is, it now stands that all of Glee's main characters have done the deed, except for Mercedes, Emma, and Coach Beiste - the first two of whom didn't have any part in this episode, and the latter two are proof that not everyone has sex in high school anyways.  And it's communicated that they think there's something "wrong" with them because of it.  Sigh!  It's a messy, messy topic that Glee hasn't even begun to handle well, on a larger level.

In all, "The First Time" was monopolized by a lot of unnecessary drama surrounding the weird media-propelled mythology of virginity loss, and as a result, the strong character moments felt dwarfed by something needlessly complicated and overblown.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: B
Plot: C
Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Tina Cohen-Chang

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The RBI Report: "Pot O Gold"

I confess, friends, this RBI Report may be a short one.  "Pot O Gold" wasn't bad exactly, it just... left me a little apathetic.  More than anything, the episode was chockablock with setup, which doesn’t usually happen in these parts - or if it does, it’s more likely to be left unresolved in payoff. Regardless, “Pot O Gold” fell a little flat for me, which is unfortunate, because this was the first episode of Season 3 penned by one of Glee's new hires!  But hey, one episode does not a writer make, and so I'm not losing any faith in the newbies anytime soon.

"Pot O Gold," written by Ali Adler, directed by Adam Shankman

"Pot O Gold," had four main storylines threading through it: the introduction of Rory, the further splintering of the glee club, Burt Hummel running for office, and the continuation of Puck and Quinn spending time with Shelby.  The first two tangled together in interesting ways, the third was new and intriguing, and the fourth was just kind of there, at a simmer.  Let's go in order of most successful to least successful, shall we?

The most interesting thing the episode put forward was the prospect of Burt Hummel running for office against Sue Sylvester, with a pro-arts platform.  When the glee club lost their funding for West Side Story, Burt stepped up and found three creepy funeral directors who were willing to foot the bill.  He's clearly capable of getting the job done, and it seems realistic that he'd be a popular candidate, with his blue-collar charm and no-nonsense ethics, but would Burt actually be a good politician?  Jury is out for me.  

But I appreciated the idea that if he wins, it would have some pretty resounding effects on the Hudson-Hummel clan - particularly the idea that Sue would surely turn to mudslinging about Kurt and his sexuality specifically.  In all, this is a can of worms opened that has a lot of promise.  Burt has the possibility of actually wielding a blow to Sue Sylvester, which is more than most people on this show can say - and that’s a rather interesting position to put these characters in. 

The second most interesting thing the show put forth in “Pot O Gold” runs in the same vein as the Burt storyline simply because it’s an interesting progression: the splintering of New Directions and the rise of the Troubletones. On the paper, the sustainability of having a second glee club seems somewhat daunting, because these kids can only stay separated until Sectionals at most, right? But this doesn’t change the fact that the Troubletones are seriously threatening to New Directions, and everyone knows it. 

There’s an interesting intersection of construct and narrative here, that’s resulting in some metacognition on Glee’s part, which of course doesn’t always work in their favor. Yes, the glee club is imbalanced, and yes, it is the Blaine and Rachel show, but honestly? So is Glee, the show. How many times has Tina gotten a solo in three seasons? Quinn? How many have Blaine and Rachel gotten? It’s an imbalance that the writers accidentally (?) wrote, and instead of rectifying it, are channeling it into storyline for the purpose of conflict. It works, and it doesn’t. Usually, it works when Santana is the mouthpiece for it, because it caters to her natural characterization of truth-telling, and also reveals that she cares more about the glee club than you’d think.

It doesn’t work when the writers don’t actually do anything to change Glee from The Blaine and Rachel Show, though. In other words, Mercedes needs to be a valued member, Tina and Quinn should get solos sometime soon, and we should start seeing how the glee club is a family instead of just hearing about it all the time. And if they have no intention of balancing out their ensemble, then they shouldn’t write Mercedes and Santana as constantly rebelling then, because nothing’s going to come of it and everyone will just be shuffled behind Blaine and Rachel anyways. What’s the point? It just makes Santana and Mercedes look bad, and the writers look worse.

With the Troubletones, though, some interesting character work could be done here - Santana and Brittany flanked Mercedes in the hallway in an eerie replication of how they used to flank Quinn, when she was Queen Bee, and it felt like an opportunity to explore this dynamic. And how about Sugar? How are they going to get around the fact that Sugar is a self-involved crazypants who can’t sing but won’t leave the club? How sweet was that moment at the end, with Kurt, Artie, and Tina waving to Mercedes? I hope something comes of that, too.

At the very least, let’s not forget that Shelby Corcoran is not just Beth’s adoptive mother, but also the award-winning coach of Vocal Adrenaline. Lady knows how to run herself a show choir. Is it bad that part of me hopes she’ll show Will Schuester up a little bit?

It’s not that I don’t love the original gang; I’m just tired of hearing Will Schuester talk about how he’s going to make everyone’s dreams come true and then just yells at Sue Sylvester - or worse, his own students. And why are we talking about making these kids’ dreams come true? The great thing about Glee, originally, was that these kids were discovering their dreams and their abilities to achieve them. It was manifested in storylines, and therefore felt very real and natural, and made these characters winsome and relatable. But now? Now it seems like everyone just self-righteously preaches the virtues of New Directions and expects that to get them somewhere. They talk about dreams like glee club’s simply going to make them come true, and in the moments in between, there are hardly any storylines where these dumbasses aren’t scheming, meddling, or letting stupid arguments get in the way of their friendships and alleged glee club family. In short: there needs to be less talk, and more walk.

Because honestly, I found it difficult to like most of the characters in last night’s episode, and not in a good way. Don’t get me wrong; flaws are great, but we have to be able to understand these people and their motivations. Take Rory, for example. Glee did their damnedest to make Rory likeable right off the bat: he felt ostracized and alone in America, and was on the receiving end of some bad bullying Chez McKinley High. He even sang a puppy-dog-mournful rendition of “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” (Cue eyeroll from me about the fact that the Irish boy sang about being green. How many references to this kid being Irish can we make?) He’s so desperate for friends that he somehow became the episode’s accidental villain: he manipulated Brittany so that she’d give him her “pot of gold” in exchange for granting her crazy-ass wishes. Because she thinks he’s a leprechaun, and wants to eat her cat’s poop in candy form.

(Somewhere, there is a line that separates Daffy Brittany, Insane Brittany, and Debilitatingly Unintelligent Brittany, and the Glee writers have yet to identify that line and its importance. She wants to eat Lord Tubbington’s candy poops? And Santana helps her cross the street? I mean, that’s sweet, but honestly, I want to sleep at night knowing that Brittany S. Pierce won’t die if left unattended.)

The problem with Rory’s storyline is that it ignored the part that made it heartbreaking. It shouldn’t have been that he wanted Finn’s friendship so badly that he was willing to manipulate Brittany and Santana, but that he wanted Brittany’s friendship so badly that he was willing to manipulate her naiveté to make that happen. Brittany thought she was the only person who could see him, and honestly, that was basically true. Everyone at that school wrote Rory off and called him names - but Brittany was the only one to treat him nicely. How sad is that? That should have counted for something, and it was right there in front of the writers. But instead, Rory just wanted to get into Brittany’s pants (that was the pot of gold metaphor, yes? which really makes me wonder why the episode was called that) and her headlining trait wasn’t her kindness but her stupidity. Two marks missed.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the mini-explosion of Santana and Brittany development that feels so forward and backward all at once. Yay, our girls are finally dating! But… we’re kind of right back where we started with them, yes? They’re just taking baths together offscreen and acting vaguely couple-y onscreen. Nothing that happened in the season-and-a-half interim seems to have affected them, except for the part where Santana got her head out of her ass and at least seems to be making an effort now. Under the napkin, anyways. In any case, it feels like this is the motto for Glee’s third season: Regress to Redress. They’re backing a bunch of stuff up in an effort to fix it, and hopefully it will be more successful the second time around. 

This same notion seems to be afflicting (or aiding?) the Puck-Quinn-Shelby storyline. Puck gets his shot at being a dad, sleeps with hot moms, and Quinn is simply a crazy girl with a plan and the faintest of heartbeats underneath all her issues. Seriously, I had major déjâ vu, what with Quinn hissing at Puck that he needs to make more money, and Puck crowing the wonders of his pool cleaning business. His narrated portion was basically the exact same as his very first monologue in “Showmance,” his original introduction to the show - except now he shows off his kid’s pictures like a dork and loses the cougar action.

This storyline is basically a mess. It all goes back to its foundation: Quinn Fabray’s Nefarious Plan, which is to make Shelby look like an unfit mother so she and Puck can get their baby back, despite the fact that she didn’t talk about her for a year and didn’t even talk to Puck for a year. Anyways, cue Crazy Eyes and putting tabasco sauce in Shelby Corcoran’s cabinets. Really? Really? Here’s the thing about Quinn Fabray: they’re so busy saddling her with crazy-ass plans that deny her development so much that they literally can’t focus on her development in tandem. Case in point? Quinn held Beth for the first time that we’ve seen, since giving her up, and Beth squalled as soon as she was in her arms. How tragic is that? It is the foreboding doom of Quinn’s plan sounding the alarm, because Beth is letting us all know that Quinn is not her mother. She’s basically a stranger to her. And how heartbreaking to Quinn, to want this kid back, that she gave birth to and who changed everything, but who doesn’t even like her in the most basic of ways? 

Alas, as soon as Beth screamed in Quinn’s arms, Puck took her away and calmed her with his Awesome Daddy Baby Charm, and Quinn set about putting books about baby sacrifice on Shelby’s shelves. The important moment was completely breezed by, dusted under the rug, and shoved aside so that Quinn could twirl her mustache with a madcap grin. (For the record, baby sacrifice makes Puck sad.)

Turns out “Pot O Gold” was like almost every other Quinn pursuit: Quinn is crazy for nine-tenths of the episode, and then suddenly, BOOM, she comes out with some heartbreaking motivation that makes sense, and that we wish were there all along. But, as usual, these scenes are isolated and come out of left field - rarely do they actually connect to her plans in a narrative way. This should therefore be a clue to the writers that her plans are crazy and need to be synthesized with Quinn’s character more. There is a huge disconnect between Quinn’s emotions and Quinn’s actions, and while the motives eventually make sense for her character, it does nothing to actually develop her character or make her seem any less insane - especially when it keeps happening over and over.

In any case, hearing Quinn say that Beth was the only perfect thing she had ever done basically tore my heart in two, and I while I don’t necessarily think she’d have much more than conflicted resentment towards that child, it makes enough sense for me to go along with it. If only these emotions carried through to other scenes, to help us stay connected to her character, and not alienated by her batshit behavior.

As for Puck, he gets to be Daddy Hero in the scenario, stepping up for both Beth as well as Shelby - helping be a nurturing caretaker, and protecting them from Quinn’s pending path of devastation. Of course, Puck is complicating everything even further (did we even think this was possible?) by piling his attraction to cougars on top of his daddy issues and winds up kissing Shelby at episode’s end. Is there outrage over this? It seems like there would be, considering that this has officially become the world’s most insane family tree/love square (which, frankly, no family tree should ever be a love square… unless you’re in a Bronte novel). To boot, technically Shelby is a teacher and Puck a student, although hopefully not underage. They’re playing with fire here.

In concept, though, I’m not terribly unopposed. Puck’s cougar love and daddy issues have been there since Day 1, so it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that he’d go for Shelby. And Shelby becomes so much more messed up by getting involved with her adoptive daughter’s real dad, because it smells faintly of displaced emotions over being a single mother. There’s a lot of potential here, if they round out Shelby and make the attraction interesting, genuine, and duly full of angst. Longing, even.

But honestly, “Pot O Gold” didn’t quite feel like it hit all the marks for Shelby and Puck. One scene where Puck sings to Beth and Shelby talks about being alone isn’t enough for me; I wish it had a slower build, like a trainwreck we all see coming but can’t look away. I want to want them together, dammit!  Give me an almost kiss to build on!  Because if you’re going to put a student and a teacher together, you better damn well make me like them together, and you have to do that by giving mutual benefit to the two participants. In this scenario specifically, there’s possibilities ripe for the development, and it’s doubly interesting in the idea that nothing good can come of this. How is this going to affect the other three parts of this insane family tree? Beth’s therapy will come years later, but Rachel and Quinn are aware enough now to be duly angered by it. (And while I’m here, let me just implore the writers to drag Rachel back into the Shelby storylines. It makes everything 100x more interesting because of the accidental parallels between the mothers and daughters. And Puck, who’s apparently willing to make out with any of them. Except Beth, hopefully.)

In all, “Pot O Gold” was hallmarked by mostly interesting new developments that are certainly laying the path for more to come, regardless of how successful this setup was. From Santana and Brittany’s quasi-hidden relationship to the assembly of the Troubletones, Puck and Shelby’s kiss, the inevitable implosion of Quinn’s crazy-ass plan, and Burt’s pledge to run against Sue Sylvester, we have a lot coming up for us. I’ve yet to decide if I’m really looking forward to all of this, considering the amount of material the writers have to deftly maneuver through, and their track record of being able to do so. But perhaps “Regress to Redress” is indeed the motto, and hopefully all that “Pot O Gold” set up will be paid off in a rewarding way.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: B
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: B
Plot: C
Characterization: B
Episode MVP: Burt Hummel
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