Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The RBI Report: "Blame It On The Alcohol"

What I learned from "Blame It On The Alcohol":

1. The entire Glee cast is ridiculously attractive.
2. Apparently drinking is bad for you, or something.

Okay, okay, I'm just kidding.  (But not about #1.  Seriously, how are they all - ALL OF THEM - so damn good-looking?  Truly baffling.)

"Blame It On The Alcohol," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Eric Stoltz.

So, "Blame It On The Alcohol" could have been awful.  An episode devoted to teenage drinking seemed sure to promise some sort of embarrassing binge and then they'd all sing about it and we'd get hammered (no pun intended) with a heavy-handed message at the end of the episode about the perils of alcohol.  But, it turned out to be a solid episode in design and execution, and a pretty joyous episode in the details.  And for that, I am extremely relieved, because, if you recall, I was not feeling last week's turnout.  

As far as I'm concerned, the episode had three great strengths going for it - the first of which was a careful hand at directing.  Welcome back, Eric Stoltz!  Mr. Stoltz first blessed us with "Duets," and he's done the show another solid with tonight's fare.  Each of the characters and their relationships was paid attention to, through purposeful reaction shots and subtle camera blocking.  Sometimes it was used for empathy, like with Quinn looking melancholy at Sam and Santana's burgeoning makeout sessions, but it was also used for comedy - who did not absolutely fall in love with the shot of Real Rachel Berry stepping in front of Portrait Rachel Berry, perfectly framed?  Oh, it was euphoric.  

Eric Stoltz also steered the episode away from being trite and schmaltzy with its pro-sobriety message.  The show could have easily painted themselves into a corner here - underage drinking is not really something you want to make light of on a television show aimed at a younger audience.  But Mr. Stoltz's direction was able to deliver the message without being too on-the-nose, something other Glee directors could learn a thing or two about.  (I'm looking at you, Ryan Murphy!) 

Take, for example, the scene between Coach Beiste and Will after their night at the bar.  Shannon basically sums up the message, saying that adults can't stop kids from drinking.  The only thing you can do is make them aware of the risks, give them some tips for safety, and hope they make the right decision.  Cue that tinkly piano music that lets us know we're watching something that should tug at our heartstrings, and then... she laughs.  It's the perfect way to exit us from Saccharineville, especially with two drunk people talking.  She laughs, and we're back to normal, in terms of tone.  I applaud you, Eric Stoltz.  Please come back again.

Of course, I can't give all the credit to the director - Ian Brennan also handled the writerly execution rather well.  The hour was evenly divided up between drunken frivolity (I'll get to that in a minute) and some rather intriguing discussion.  Rather than make the whole episode a two-dimensional debate of "Is Drinking Good?  Check YES or NO," Ian deftly crafted interesting discourse out of the consequences that these particular characters faced as a result of their drinking.  Smart, no?

For example, we got Blaine dealing with his possible bisexuality after his drunken kiss with Rachel.  His resulting conversation with Kurt was pretty fascinating, and I have to give points to Blaine for trumping Kurt with the "not being liked for who you are" argument.  Then, there was the conversation between Kurt and Burt, where Kurt called his dad out on the double standard of his reaction to the idea of Blaine sleeping over at their house.  Then, there was the debate between Rachel and Kurt over whether or not Blaine could be attracted to Rachel, and the conversation between Will and Shannon over the concept of adults preaching against alcohol while they themselves drink.

By my count, that's four pretty thought-provoking discussions that all spoke to the episode's keyword (DRINKING!) without being two-dimensional in their manifestation.  And the resulting thread became something that spoke to self-awareness and self-education, and responsibility for your own actions.  Kurt advocated for Burt to educate himself on the trials of same-sex relationships, and Blaine's storyline put forth the idea that it's important to know oneself completely.  These two points fed smoothly into the actual drinking message, which was one of being educated and aware of the consequences.  How mature!

Speaking of mature, can I just give a round of applause for the handling of Kurt and Rachel's conflict over Blaine's sexuality?  This could have turned into the Bitchiest Bitchfest of Self-Centered Proportions - complete with a side of misunderstanding, but instead the two characters communicated honestly, demostrated their competition simply, and nobody did any yelling or slung insults!  This was lovely.  I was nervous that Kurt and Rachel's relationship would implode over this bit of drama, but the writers chose for them to handle everything maturely and I'm so relieved.

Even the setup for the episode wasn't terribly clunky, with Rachel deciding she needed to "live life" to be able to write a successful original song for Regionals - which, with some urging from Puck, translated into the need to party.  I bought it.

In all, I think it was one of Ian Brennan's more sophisticated undertakings - which is remarkable, considering that this was the man who used to give us episodes that stated the theme about twenty-five times from start to finish.  (Remember "Funk?"  Of course you do.  Funk funk funk funky funk funk.)

The third success of the episode was just the hilarity of seeing the Glee kids drunk.  I was prepared for so much secondhand embarrassment but in reality everybody was just so damn funny that I wanted that party to last the whole episode.  Everything amused me, from Rachel calling Quinn "GURLFRAND," hitting on Mike (and Tina subsequently separating them, ha!) and thinking that Blaine's last name is "Warbler," to Santana being a hysterical drunk and calling Will "Count Boozy Von Drunk-a-Ton."  It was almost as good as Sue calling him the Alcoholic Teen Vomit Fetishist.  Oh, and Figgins pronouncing Ke$ha as "Kee-dollar-sign-ha" and proclaiming her signature hit "Tik and also Tok!"  I laughed a hell of a lot in this episode, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit it took getting teenagers drunk to make it so.

But, all the messages were in place by the end, and the Glee Club successfully communicated the anti-alcohol message to the rest of the school, even if it was by example.  No good came of anybody's drinking in this episode - even Will's.  That drunk-dial was seriously embarrassing.  And speaking to the students, who on earth would want to get barfed on like that?  Eurgh, that crap that came out of Brittany's mouth looked like house paint.  Not gonna lie: I covered my eyes. 

And, points to Will for mentioning that high school kids drinking is, indeed, illegal - at least in the US.  I feel like so many television shows portray underage drinking as troublesome and problematic, but rarely is it actually communicated that it's straight-up against the law.  And the show even tackled this notion, and the dilemma that arises from drinking being glorified in its portrayal in the media.

When it was all said and done, the kids signed pledges to stay booze-free, and Will decided to do the same - I will say that it was laid on a little thick through this finishing scene, but I'm not going to complain.  Glee needs to keep the PTC off their back and if it involves Santana using the phrase "cool beans," well, so be it.

All in all, this was a rather successful episode.  It was in parts hilarious and thought-provoking, and all of it was handled with sophistication - surprising, given the fact that the characters were wasted for a solid part of the hour.  I was expecting far less from an episode titled "Blame It On the Alcohol," and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: A (Can Hemo dance forever, please?)
Dialogue: A+
Plot: A

Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Can I give a three-way tie between Rachel Berry, Shannon Beiste, and Blaine Anderson?  Or can I just give it to everybody?


  1. I generally liked the episode, but some of the music fell flat (really Blame It on the Alcohol?)and I felt like Glee continued with its "Girl" problem to a degree last night. Why were they the only ones Finn pointed out to Rachel? While I thought the scene was funny it left a stale taste as I thought about it more. The guys were drinking just as much and will be acting just a stupid. By only highlighting the females really stood out to me as it the purpose of only doing so was never explained.

    Overall an episode that was more of your traditional comedy vice drama, not too much in this episode will have lasting implications. I will also say Glee needs to decide between using social message at times to cure societies ills and being flip at other times, it is disingenuous. Episode like this make the Bullying arc stand out as being preachy when you treat another serious issue flippantly. Overall I think the writers are on better ground for themselves with episodes like this.

  2. Oh, The Girl Problem was definitely there last night with the drunk girl stereotypes, and somehow it felt worse that it was Finn giving the rundown. And the fact that it funneled into Rachel being clingy and him scolding her made me even more cranky. Frankly, the less those two interact these days, the happier I am. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I need some time to grow fond of Finchel again, haha.

    And you're right as well about Glee having tonal issues. I think that's why this episode set well with me - it didn't take on too heavy a message, but it wasn't too frivolous either. The comedy all worked, they hit their message well, they raised a few good arguments, and they got out. Usually when Glee tries to get socially responsible they go balls out and end up making themselves look like hypocrites. It's not pretty.

    And the thing is, the bullying arc has gone nowhere. I was happy to see Blaine mention it last night, just to confirm that I didn't dream the whole thing. Glee has started having problems with pacing during a season. Everything usually happens all too fast and then fizzles out. It'd be nice if everything was seen to its logical conclusion in a timely manner, haha.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I think Glee has had pacing poroblems since the back 9 last season. The front 13 while crammed with different plots, flowed much better than what has followed. I blame part of that on the need to have songs for the sole purpose of ITunes sales which don't fit any plot regardless of how good a vocal it may be (Bills, Bills, Bills and Papa Can You Hear Me I am looking at you).

    Hey I'm trying to figure out if Beth or Puck being her father was a dream, they certianly have painted over an arc that more or less lasted the entire first season. But who needs interesting plots when you have what we are getting now.

  4. I agree with your review, yet my reaction to the episode was affected by my own experiences feeling like the "only one" who never got drunk in high school. I'm 24 now, and I drink alcohol sometimes, but watching the episode brought those insecurities right back. I understand why people liked the episode, but I'd be curious to know if anyone had the same reaction I did.

    I think it would have been interesting to see a character at McKinley who chose not to partake in the drinking - I don't count Finn here, because I inferred that as one of the popular kids he has experienced being drunk. I did go to high school, after all.

    I apologize for venting about my own social awkwardness on your blog. I agree the episode handled the issue fairly well. Unfortunately, I did not see much discussion about the consequences of drinking coming from fans yesterday. I get that too, but it makes me feel that the episode did glorify binge drinking.

    P.S. I give the MVP award to Figgins whenever he is in an episode. He's more naive than me, which I love, but his intentions are always good. Also, he's hilarious.

  5. Teehee. O Glee. Making me like songs that I hate--because really, "Blame It On the Alcohol" is SUCH an annoying song. So is "Tik-Tok". And YET.

    This ep was all-around pretty fun. And as you point out, it could've been awful. When I went to bed and told Jeremy that this was "the drinkinge episode" he asked, "PSA?" and I was happy to tell him, no, not really at all!

    I am happy to hang out with Tina and Mercedes in the happy drunk girl corner.

  6. Anonymous - I'm pretty sure pacing will always be an issue with Glee, haha. But maybe one day they'll mention Beth again! Maybe.

    Sarah - I mean, I'm not really a big drinker or partier. But I think the kids that don't want to drink and party won't do it and the kids that do, will. If you really look at the episode, I don't think that the storylines glorified drinking. The fact that the cast is all attractive and looked good doing it? Well, that's a different story, and I can see the argument in glorification there.

    I suppose it would have been interesting to include a character who decided not to drink, even with Finn and Kurt filling that role. (Technically we've already seen Kurt drunk though, thanks to April Rhodes.) But I feel like the episode would have turned out way more like a PSA if there was a student character opposed to drinking - and I personally did not want a PSA. They all signed pledges in the end; that was good enough for me.

    Diana - I cannot stop listening to "Blame It" SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME.

  7. I think the episode certainly showed the consequences of drinking, I'm sorry I didn't make that clear. I think what you said about showing an attractive cast having fun at a party is true, and from what I gather, what people were talking about most the next day. Once again, you articulate my feelings better than I can.
    For the record, I don't have a problem with people's personal choices regarding drinking. I also don't jump to the conclusion that people who enjoy drinking scenes on movies and TV are heavy drinkers themselves and vice-versa. My concerns lie more with when people feel like the choice not to drink is uncool. I understand this is an issue that transcends Glee, and it's not Glee's job to take a stance on this. I just want to share my opinions without feeling like doing so will make me uncool.
    By the way, I also liked the acknowledgment of drinking underage being illegal. I completely agree with you there.
    P.S. Doing the best I can to articulate my views on a complex issue. Thanks for listening!

  8. Sarah - I gotcha; no worries! I guess the crux of the issue is that if Rachel HAD been more reluctant to drink, she would have been ridiculed, and that's totally not okay. It does make me wonder if it were another character other than her, what would have happened. If Quinn had chosen not to drink because of her last experience with wine coolers, or what not.

  9. I completely agree. I had actually thought about Quinn's previous experience with drinking and how that could have been tied into this episode. I think that would have been interesting to watch.

  10. A couple of things about 'Blame it on the Alcohol':

    1. I thought the Burt/Kurt scene was handled poorly because it was left ambiguous as to which side of the argument the show fell on. For the record I felt that Burt was completely in the right in his conversation with Kurt. He pointed out that he would have a problem with Finn having a girl sleep in his bed.

    The issue wasn't the sexual orientation I think it was more a question of sexual attraction. It was a parent not wanting a child to have someone spend the night when there exists potential for impropriety.

    No matter what Kurt /tells/ Burt, Burt cannot know for certain that Blaine is a platonic friend or that nothing happened. Similarly Burt could not simply take Finn's word that Brittany/Rachel/Tina/Santana/Mercedes/Quinn could spend the night IN Finn's bed and that nothing happened.

    2. I was weirded out by Kurt telling Burt to look into anal sex in case he had questions. I'm gay and I never asked my Mom to look into lesbian sex for me to answer any questions I might have. My siblings are straight and THEY never asked either of my parents to look into sex to answer any questions.

    That is what the internet is for. ;)
    I just thought it was weird.

    3. I don't understand the resolution of the episode. Will asked the students not to drink until Nationals and told them that if they DID drink to call him as a designated driver. The thing is the kids were ALREADY making use of DDs. Finn was looking out for the glee kids and Kurt didn't let Blaine leave his house because Blaine was drunk.

    So, really, what did the episode accomplish?

    3. Was I the only one bothered that Kurt called Rachel a faghag? He actually called her a hag that hung around gays. How is it okay to only use the half of the term he finds less objectionable? If the writers were looking for a more PC term, why not use 'fruitfly'?

    4. I really hope bisexuality gets fully explored with Brittany or Santana. This episode didn't really give the issue justice.

    5. I hope Carl punches Will in the face.

    6. Beiste is the only adult on the show worth listening to.

    7. The Hairband song would win at Nationals.

  11. Melissa -

    1. Yeah, the writing was a little fuzzy about what they were trying to get across with that Kurt/Burt scene. I kind of appreciated that Kurt made his case and Burt made his and it was mostly left up to the audience to interpret what they will, but I can definitely see how the waffling would be frustrating.

    2. Hahaha, this is a totally fair argument here. If they follow through on that it is going to be Awkward City.

    3. Involving Nationals in their pledge was a little silly; you're right. And I think the show wanted to have their cake and eat it too in terms of their message re: alcohol. That being said, I think it's one of their better efforts to please both sides of the issue, even if nothing was really forwarded.

    3.2. Yeah, the "faghag" thing didn't quite sit well with me either. This is what happens when Glee tries to play with stereotypes and still stay PC. :/

    4. Bisexuality really does need to be addressed on Glee. Blaine's stance on it was a good start, but he didn't actually turn out to be bisexual, so. And furthering the sentiment on Brittany and Santana, we really do need to get some gay or bisexual ladies on the show. The gay dude to gay lady ratio definitely unequal.

    5. I kind of do too. I am just DREADING the day the writers try and force Will/Emma again when they've really ruined that pairing by having Will be such an asshole sometimes.

    6. Word.

    7. Double word. :)

  12. I know I am way late to this party, but I sorta recently became addicted to this blog. I feel the need to say this is the only time I can think of I have ever disagreed with it.
    Did no one else find Kurt's attitude in this episode offensive?? Particularly what he said about bisexuality. I am a huge (and I mean HUGE) Kurt fan, and I still found this inexcusable.
    And maybe I need to watch the ep. again, but I dunno while I DID find it hilarious (we don't disagree there) I also found it to be rather pointless. Also, I thought it's aesop was sloppily delivered, which I'll admit is much better than a heavy-handed delivery, but still. I legitimately am not sure if it was really a sloppily executed Very Special Episode or a slightly sloppily executed satire of a Very Special Episode.

    --random anon stalker is randomly crashing the party.


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