Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The RBI Report: "Sexy"

 More often than not, Glee comes through our TV screens every week with a strange yet undeniable mix of Good and Bad, and this week was really no different.  Let's talk about "Sexy," shall we?

"Sexy," written by Brad Falchuk, directed by Ryan Murphy

The thread that held together "Sexy," was, you guessed it - sex.  Sex, and sex education gave birth (ha!) to every plotline in the episode, even though Brittany probably thought it was the stork and Finn would have guessed it was just a hot tub makeout.  On the whole, Glee turned a discussion about sex into some fairly interesting storylines with a solid message, but in general, they stumbled in some of the details.

"Sexy" made good use of Holly Holliday's return, giving Gwyneth Paltrow the chance to show off her comedy chops again with Holly's kooky brand of left-field humor.  Holly is an intriguing fixture in the Glee universe - she breezes into an episode, noses her way into nearly every storyline, and breezes back out as if she'd never been there.  It always makes me wonder if she's really necessary.  This time, though, it looks like perhaps she might stick around for some romance with self-proclaimed Excellent Educator Will Schuester - right on the heels of learning that Emma still has feelings for him.  Hm, how long can this last?  

To be honest, I'm a bit weary of the Will-Emma drama.  The one true drawback of having an episode deal explicitly with sex is simply that only the relationships are touched upon - again.  The Glee writers seem to be unable to create any conflict between characters that isn't to do with romance, and "Sexy" fed into that weakness.  Emma's discomfort with sex felt exaggerated, to quickly break down her marriage to Carl and make her available as soon as Will gets involved with Holly.  

The execution there left a little something to be desired.  Last we saw Emma, she was happily married - with only a single close-up of doubt to indicate to us that she felt otherwise.  Memo to the writers: characters should not experience changes of heart offscreen, with five episodes spanning the in-between.  It makes it difficult to understand them.  We're no longer with them; we have to catch up to them.  

But the Glee showrunners assume that we understand what Emma's feeling based solely on the fact that "Wemma" are "made for each other."  I'm sorry, why does Emma like Will these days?  It would be lovely to see some sort of solid interaction between these two that isn't automatically based on the assumption that they're already in love.  I would like indication that they could be compatible, and happy together before I'm expected to be on board with a romantic reunion.

Sex also worked its way into a nice (if a bit odd) storyline with Puck and Lauren, McKinley High's Most Unexpected Couple.  I'm not really sure why the decision was made for them to make a sex tape - it seemed a bit out of character for Lauren.  But, it did foster the reminder that - heyo! - these characters are underage and - double heyo! - that would be child pornography.  Moreover, it allowed for Puck to demonstrate a lovely bit of character development at episode's end: that he likes wooing Lauren, and he doesn't care if that makes him a nerd.  Puck's getting such nice progress this season, even if it's not front-and-center. 

The concept of sex also worked into Kurt and Blaine's storyline, with the notion that Kurt is completely clueless about sex and would like to stay that way.  Blaine sees this as an unhealthy attitude, and reasons with Burt that he should use his Good Dad Status to help his son be informed so he doesn't get hurt.  All in all, the storyline didn't do much for the characters except set the stage for the idea that assumedly Kurt and Blaine are going to seal the deal eventually.  But, the message is an important one to communicate, and allowed for the true success of the scenario: hearing Burt's philosophy about sex.  We had to muddle through some strange gender stereotypes while waiting for him to get to the point, but it was worth it.  Because Burt told Kurt that he should use sex as a way to connect to another person.  To not throw himself around like he doesn't matter.  Because he matters.  

Seriously, can all Dad of the Year Awards be redirected to Burt Hummel?  No matter the situation, there is never any doubt that he loves his son, wholly and completely.  And the lesson Burt imparted on Kurt in this particular instance?  Lovely.  Everyone should approach love, sex, and relationships with the notion that they matter.  Hell, approach your life like you matter.  Got that?

This notion was also applied nicely to Holly Holliday, who admitted that she doesn't think she's right for relationships.  She called herself damaged goods, guys.  She doesn't think she matters, and I appreciated Glee for giving our guest star some actual depth underneath her Ms. Fix-It hat.  I wish they had focused on that a bit more, honestly.

I'm rounding the corner into easily the best part of the hour: our one and only Santana Lopez.  Burt Hummel may have provided the episode's soul, but Santana - in conjunction with Brittany - was the raw, vulnerable, beating heart.  Seriously, how much did you feel for those two girls?  I couldn't look at either of their heartbroken little faces without wanting to bawl my eyes out.  That speech?  Santana's speech?  Transcendental.  

This is a character who, since Day One, has barely uttered a single word that hasn't been dripping with disdain.  She insults, she wisecracks, she snarks - she is McKinley High's Resident Bitch, and the writers have allowed her to be little else.  She doesn't like feelings, and we are endlessly reminded of that fact.  Naturally, all I have wanted for the past eleven episodes is for Santana to show a little honest-to-goodness vulnerability, and oh, tonight, we got it in spades.  The Santana Emotion Drought quickly turned into a Santana Emotion Flood.  She cried all through Landslide, she cried when she realized she's only a bitch because she's angry and afraid, and she cried when she poured her heart out onto the hallway of McKinley High - only to have it stomped on.  Turns out, Santana hates feelings because she has so many of them.  And for the first time ever, she opened up - and was turned down.  She told her best friend she was in love with her, and wanted to be with her, only to be told that she's unfortunately unavailable.  Ugh, may I please wrap this character into an enormous hug and never let go?

But the only thing I was thinking during this part was, why did it take eleven episodes to get from the brief Santana development in "Duets" until now?  And why, pray, in those eleven episodes, was Santana only used as a device to break up Finn and Rachel, cause trouble with Finn and Quinn, start comedic fights with Lauren, make out with Sam, sob hysterically while drunk, insult people, and get called a bitch by nearly everyone?  I just don't get it.  It is painfully clear to me that the writers have a fantastic opportunity with Santana, both as an individual character, and in conjunction with Brittany, and yet they have been wasting it.

Santana is currently the show's most complex character, but you wouldn't have known it until her Big Speech tonight.  She always says what's on her mind, but never says what's in her heart.  And the show set it up from the very early on that there was a very real possibility that she was in love with her best friend.  They had a unique opportunity to have an amazing, well-rounded, three-dimensional character, with a built-in chance to portray a lesbian relationship on television between two characters who are basically already soulmates, which is more than most other couples on the show can say.

But instead of capitalizing on that opportunity, and letting it unravel over several episodes in an honest, paced, genuine way, they crammed it all into one, where the characters' purposes are born and killed within the span of 44 minutes.  Where a peripheral character comes in to force the hand, and where there is a conveniently-placed, ill-developed relationship standing in the way of one that could be amazing if they just put in the effort.  If Santana, and her relationship with Brittany, were given the proper care and screentime, Naya Rivera would be nominated for an Emmy.  Plain and simple.  It is here where I tend to get truly frustrated with Glee.  They have such great potential, and somehow they manage to flub the execution, time after time. 

Riddle me this: could the character development that happened in this episode have happened without Holly Holliday's involvement?  I think you could make a compelling case for "yes."  And I grow tired of roundabout contrivances to get Kurt involved with the theme even though he's at Dalton - that scene where Sue confronts him the coffee shop?  Pure machination to force Blaine's idea of the Warblers going "sexy" so that Kurt can realize he has the sex appeal of a baby penguin.  Aren't there more natural ways to set up these storylines?  I really have to imagine there are.  

And hey, while we're at it, let's talk about the complete random inclusion of the Finn/Quinn scene.  You want to know how you can tell that it didn't fit in naturally?  Because they busted out a narration for Quinn to deliver.  Oh, sweet hell.  Pro tip: when there's random narration at the end of your episode, you are having some storytelling issues.  And past that, this entire Finn/Quinn scenario is being executed with the precision and likeability of a tornado.  My notes for that moment read, verbatim: "YOU ARE ROBOTS."  

The writers are not giving Finn and Quinn any solid reasons to continue their romance, and certainly not any valid excuse for us to feel any desire for them to do so.  I wager no one empathizes with them right now, and that is a problem.  They are strangers to us, and it's only going to result in more relationship drama, which, as we've established, is the last thing this show needs.  They could be really interesting.  They were going to have a baby together before their relationship went to hell, and then they never spoke again.  The writers could do some interesting stuff there.  But instead, Quinn just shows up to Celibacy Club with a hickey on her neck and we want to punch the writers in the face.  Ugh, just wake me up when they decide to execute that storyline better, please.  

"Sexy," while having some very strong scenes, performances, and development, felt a bit plotted - from Emma's intense prudish resurgence, to Sue's random appearance, to Lauren's weird need to make a sex tape, to Holly's involvement in nearly everything.  The episode could have been much more strongly constructed, and it's a testament to some killer acting skills from Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, and Mike O'Malley that their own storylines still managed to be effective, despite some questionable storytelling. 

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: C
Plot: B

Characterization: A for Santana, Puck and Burt, C for everybody else
Episode MVP: Santana Lopez, by a - forgive me - landslide.


  1. Agree with everything you said, but particularly with the part about the pacing of the Brittana storyline. I was thinking "really?" during the entire sit-down scene with Holly (the one right before Landslide), because the last time Santana spoke in the episode she was all "ugh feelings are stupid", and suddenly here she was opening up about her feelings and her sexuality to a substitute teacher she's had twice (even though she is awesome), and in front of Brittany, with whom she really didn't want to discuss this topic. It was a big Holly ex machina and felt awkward/rushed.

    Of course, then Landslide and the locker scene happened, I was blown away by Naya Rivera's phenomenal acting, and all my doubts were temporarily buried under a feelings explosion. Now that I've calmed down a bit and started collecting my thoughts on the episode, though, the pacing flaws came to mind again. Like you said, if this story line had been given more time to develop, it would have been a lot more natural. What if in previous episodes there had been more Santana inner monologues, or even brief shots of her noticing Kurt's bullying with apprehension??? I can't imagine how amazing the payoff would have been, considering how much fandom is freaking out right now. Oh well...in the end, I'm just happy that Brittana is now officially on :)

  2. "Holly ex machina" is perhaps the best way to describe anything having to do with her character, hahaha.

    The pacing really was off, and they're lucky they were still able to get a good payoff with such a haphazard set-up to the situation. If Santana's development had been a slow burn across multiple episodes? Oh, it would have been the most amazing wonderful torture with the best reward, and it bugs me endlessly that apparently Glee doesn't seem to do multi-episode arcs anymore. :(

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Not sure what to make of this episode. I’ve never been the biggest Santana/Brittana fan, so not sure what I could add there except to say I wish the writers would give the non-gay relationships in the show as much positive attention as the gay ones. That comment is certainly not meant to offend any one, I just feel the majority of the good relationship writing this season has gone to Kurt and no one can say the story line last night was not handled with extreme care and well thought out, though I would say Brittana till last night had not been well thought or developed (their Duets moments was very Fan service to me).

    Paltrow, didn’t love her or hate, and maybe that was the problem with last night, really didn’t love or hate anything. While I like the fact she does have connections to the kids (why April worked well the first time and Bryan Ryan didn’t, IMO) her return felt rushed into the season. It was like the writers said “hey people loved her once, lets go right back to it”. I also think they went one Paltrow song too far, she has sung more solos/duets than the majority of New Directions Characters this season.

    Kurt and the Warblers, how right you are about that being another forced moment for no reason then again, here is another Darren Criss song. If the point was the address the robotic nature of the Warblers and their desire for Sex Appeal or that hey Blaine has it and Kurt doesn’t, not sure Animal was the right song. I certainly don’t think bubbles and beach balls in the middle of the song gave them that either! I also think while very nice, the Burt speech to Kurt didn’t need Blaine to get him there.

    Puck and Lauren, sorry they lost me an episode ago. First Lauren in the Christmas Episode wants Puckerman to love her, then she plays hard to get with him throwing himself at her feet, now she wants a sex tape with him? While she has provided him character growth, just like Blaine and Burt above, she isn’t needed for that. In an episode about sex, a guy who knocked someone up and had his heart broken needs a sex tape to teach him about restraint and the dangers of sex? Sorry not buying it. The show has already provided him the vehicle to grow, they just refuse to use it for Quinn or himself as I guess the baby is no longer a part of Glee Canon it seems. At this point I see very little value in this relationship beyond a few laughs.

    Will and Emma, this might have been the first time I really disliked Emma. The show has always walked a fine line with her “handicap” and this was one time I just didn’t buy into it. I suppose we are suppose to buy into the whole she hasn’t slept with her husband because of her feelings to Will. Just feels very like a rehash of the Ken Tanaka story line from Season 1 in a different package. Shame is I don’t think the show has really take advantage of the talent of John Stamos this season. I did like the Afternoon Delight performance.

    To the last what moment of the night, Finn & Quinn. I don’t think we are suppose to think they work, once again. As you pointed out, that makes this just another road block on the way to Finn and Rachel, which they were in Season 1 (hum, I sense a pattern of we have no new ideas folks). The only thing I will say about the shoe horning in of that last scene was I feel that plot (Quinn/Finn/Rachel) will be big next week. It almost had a to be continued feel to it. I am anxious to see where we go with this as the writers need something to get them out of the hole they are in, not with Finn and Quinn, but Finn/Rachel and Puck/Quinn. My hope is the closure that Finn and Quinn should/will eventually get is the spring board to better plots for all those characters. I would like to challenge the writers to actually do something daring and leave them all single for at least half a season. Write about friendships, family and other non-romantic plots. Those are some of your betters actors on the show, they can rise to the material you give them, just put as much though into as you do Kurt’s plot.

  4. So many good points here. I was really soured by most of this episode (I'm. Offically. Over. Gwenyth. Paltrow. Not just on Glee but in general), but what saved it for me was Lauren/Puck, Burt Hummel and Brittana. Santana is quickly becoming my favorite character (it was Will and Emma, but I have no words for how much I'm soured by both of them right now, and I was the biggest Wemma shipper you could imagine), and though it could've been executed better, her storyline last night was incredible.

    Also, I really feel bad for John Stamos as an actor and Carl as a character. Both have gotten the shaft from their appearances so far this year.

  5. Could Carl seriously be a bigger chump?

    But Brittana was awesome, and that's all I care about.

  6. "Write about friendships, family and other non-romantic plots."

    Good idea! After all, we're near the end of Season 2, we've yet to see Rachel's Dads. We know from the Christmas show that Brittany's parents are involved with her life, it might be nice to see them too. Maybe they could explain why Brittany is so...unique.
    Same goes for families of Mercedes,Artie,Tina,Santanna. At least their parents would have more reasons to appear than "guest star of the week" characters like Holly.

  7. What a mess of an episode. As you point out, the true (and only) highlights of this episode were Burt and Santana. Santana! Wow, to think that she started as a supporting character, when Naya Rivera had such a great talent. Honestly, I had previously read your blog entry on Naya's acting skills before, and I thought I couldn't see it. After this episode, I just think she's among the VERY best performers this show has, maybe even better than some of the "untouchable" stars (I'm not giving names). I'm amazed you could have perceived this with the poor treatmemt her character had received up until now. I barely even considered her a character until this episode, she was more of a human plot device (a couple-breaker tool, a wisecrack deliverer, etc, not a true "person").

    The rest of the episode? Rubbish, frankly. The songs, except for Landslide, felt sort of random and senseless, the whole Celibacy Club thing felt completely forced, unreal and inconsistent with previous "characterization" (can this word and Glee even be used in the same sentence?). Brittany's childish mentality is simply absurd and unbelievable. When she was a supporting character with one or two funny lines per episode this worked fairly well, but now she's being fleshed out (and that's great), it's just too unrealistic and feels wrong. She can be somewhat dim and naive. She can't believe in storks bringing babies, period.

    And finally, my usual complaint: while the guest star recieves song after song, screen time and character development, "main" (???) characters such as Artie, Tina, Mercedes or Sam barely utter a WORD during the whole episode. Sometimes I really wonder how Jenna Ushkowitz or Amber Riley feel about the way they are being treated :(


  8. - Anon @ 7:03am - I agree with a lot of what you say, with the only real exception being Puck and Lauren. I think the true merit of Puck and Lauren's relationship is in that it is a relationship between two seemingly improbable people. In a way, you could relate it to the Brittana relationship and why it has potential for successful storytelling - they are both romances that have blossomed out of a dynamic one wouldn't have originally anticipated.

    I will agree that there have been a few hiccups in the Puck/Lauren romance, but for the most part, their development has worked for me. Except for the sex tape - they lost me there. But I was back with them for the nice moment at the end.

    You are also very right about Will and Emma. The writers can't come up with any other conflict for them, and we do indeed have Kanaka Redux, except this time with poor John Stamos, who, bless him, deserves more out of this role.

    And, if only the characters stayed single for a whole season. I would be so thrilled, and so perplexed about what the writers would choose to develop as an alternative. I think it could be pretty awesome, though.

    Thanks for the comment!

    - Anon @ 9:00am -

    Oh, if you don't like Gwyneth Paltrow, then this episode is pretty much a wash, isn't it? I don't really hate her, but I definitely agree with the highlights of the ep. And I must say, speaking as someone who's loved Santana for awhile now, it makes me happy to see she's becoming your favorite! It does suck about Will and Emma's character assassination though. Let's face it; this is Glee: the characters are all going to go to hell at one point or another. :(

  9. @ scurley -

    Poor Carl. He really loves Emma, and it sucks that he was brought on the show just to be a casualty of the unstoppable burning train that is Will/Emma. Sigh.

    @ J.A. Morris -

    Sounds good to me! Although, after discovering that these kids are woefully misguided in so many areas of their lives, I shudder to think what their home lives must be like; goodness.

    @ Ronan -

    Santana, indeed! She was so heartbreaking this episode, and Naya killed it. I'm glad you got to "see the light," as it were, about Naya's performance! ;) She's easily one of the best the show has. And y'know, I bet if they gave the others good material, they'd impress us too. (Speaking to your Jenna/Amber complaint, for sure!)

    And yeah, "characterization" and "Glee" really don't belong in the same sentence, unfortunately. They're killing me here! They have such great characters, and each of them gets dragged through some serious mess of a portrayal at least once a week. Shame.

    And I don't even know what to make of Brittany's stork thing. I was not amused by that. The only good thing to come out of that weird aside was Rachel's reaction, haha.

  10. I watched the episode this morning, and resisted commenting on it because there was too much rage built up in my head. Now it is night time and all the rage has fallen out, and I'm just left with disappointment. And yet, I fear I am still going to be unable to coherently communicate from whence stems that disappointment. I should start taking notes like you do.

    You managed to find the silver lining in an episode that, while watching it, I was convinced was complete rubbish. Honestly, throughout the first 3/4 of the episode, I was saying "WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAAAAAAAAAA?" aloud.

    It is exceptionally clear that the writers of the show are losing control over virtually all of their "main" characters. Schuester is a disgusting slob who makes less and less sense as a character every week. Emma makes no sense anymore, is going nowhere as a character. Carl... has little characterization and serves no role other than to wear an ascot and look extremely dashing.

    Sue is, I must tearfully admit, a joke. Why was she even in this episode at all?! Oh, right. They needed a plot device.


    I disagree with the "A" for the musical numbers... if only because I honestly cannot even remember most of them, other than that they made me feel uneasy and had no real relevance to the plot. Sexy dancing to teach about STDs? The Warblers in what looks to be an abandoned Industrial warehouse? The Sanatana/Brittany/Holly trio was beautiful, though. Note that it was the only song not really about sex.

    The Puck and Lauren subplot was alright, but, really, where did it go? It felt like the Rachael/Mercedes fake rivalry that popped up three episodes ago. Absolutely no point to it other than a way to get Puck to sing with Sundress Emma and the sunshine band. I definitely agree with you, the sex tape rational was flimsy and unbelievable and out of character for Lauren.

    Kurt's talk with his father was touching. the Santana/Brittany relationship was outstanding and well done. Why are these moments surrounded by a whole lot of terribly written drivel?

    Augh I'm rambling.

  11. Santana was never allowed to be developed until now because this show is overstuffed with cast members and they have wasted precious screentime with the lame Kurt at Dalton plot. They could have taken some time and care to develop Brittana over the last few episodes, but no...they had to allocate performance time to the Warblers to sing their randomly inserted songs to be pimped out on i-Tunes.

    The writers are just stalling the inevitable Finn/Rachel reunion with F/Q but at the same time they are taking pains to make sure that no one in fandom actually take a liking to this couple and create a rival fanbase that would threaten their main one. This mirrors how they always operate with P/R. Give them a little taste, but never give them any hints that it will be a full-blown relationship. One of the reasons for Puck/Lauren to be prolonged for more than one episodes is that they need Puck to be tightly roped into a relationship while Rachel is single and Finn is off with another girl. Otherwise, the vocal P/R fanbase would have been up in arms wanting Puckleberry.

    /bitter rant over

  12. @Ronan -
    I agree with what you said about the role give to certain characters this sesaon. IMO, it is espically striking when you compare their roles to Paltrow and Darren Criss right now. I would take it further to say while Dianna and Corey have absolutely gotten more plot and development than Tina and Mercedes, I wonder about how they are feeling about their Glee futures right now (you can add Mark to this list as well). I don't want to spoil anything but Amber tweeted something yesterday and I found it to be sad on certain level. I'm very nervous about the future of the show as they seem hell bent on adding more cast, not reigning it in. While I know Santana and Brittany certainly have a fan base, I feel the show has never regained its footing after adding them as full cast members. They are spread way to thin and all over the place.

  13. While I know Santana and Brittany certainly have a fan base, I feel the show has never regained its footing after adding them as full cast members. They are spread way to thin and all over the place.

    @Anonymous I agree with you totally here

    /another anonymous


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