Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The RBI Report: "Prom Queen"

Prom prom prom!  Fun fun fun!  (Would this be a bad time to confess that I never watched the original version of "Friday" by Rebecca Black?  Somehow I sat out that pop culture phenomenon.)  "Prom Queen," like any Glee episode, had its goods and bads, but we were in for a treat this week because I found myself grinning like an idiot, nodding in agreement, and awwing far more than rolling my eyes or waggling a finger at the television.  Glorious!

"Prom Queen," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Eric Stoltz

It was the peak of prom season at McKinley, and everybody's prom agendas were kicked into high gear.  Puck wanted to win King but still maintain his reputation as a loveable miscreant, Artie wanted to take Brittany as his date, Kurt wanted to go with Blaine to heal old wounds, and Quinn continued to live in a fragile shell of tunnel vision set to the tinkling piano soundtrack of a horror movie.

Oh, and Jesse St. James came back with his collection of dramatic scarves and a newfound understanding of what it means to actually go to school.  So much going on!

First things first: Rachel decided she wanted to go to prom with Mercedes (adorable!) and the two put their heads (and wallets) together to encourage Sam to take both of them (double adorable!).  How wonderful was this?  Firstly, points for remembering Sam's situation - last week introduced a much-needed point of interest for his character, and I was delighted to see that it wasn't forgotten.  And on top of that, I will always champion new character interactions.  Plus, it made each of them so damn likeable, I defy anyone not to love their little Prom Date Triforce.

Of course, Jesse St. James burst on the scene not long after, apparently with the intentions of apologizing, winning Rachel back and/or taking her to prom.  I don't really have any issues with Jesse coming back, although I'm far more delighted by him when he's spouting off his divinely absurd dialogue than when he's getting in shove fights with Finn - which admittedly he did not incite.  But more on that later.  No, Jesse is graced with some of the best lines on the show, and I adore his construction as a slightly detached narcissist who says the dumbest things with complete and endearing confidence.  

And of course, Jesse and Rachel would reintroduce themselves with a duet.  How much do I love that Rachel didn't bother asking Jesse why he was back until after they finished singing?  Bless these two show choir goons.  Romantic or otherwise, their characters are delightfully crazy together, and their interactions are a charming reminder that indeed, there's nothing (or perhaps everything) ironic about show choir.

To be expected, though certainly not justified, Finn didn't take too well to Jesse's return and inclusion in the Sam-Mercedes-Rachel Prom Excursion.  And here's the thing.  It used to be kind of sweet and angsty when Finn and Rachel still acted on their feelings when they weren't together, but it's wearing thin.  Last week, Rachel had no right to go tearing through Quinn and Finn's relationship, no matter how invalid she thinks it is, and this week, Finn had no right to get his knickers in a twist over Rachel and Jesse.  Rachel and Finn are not together, and although it's apparent that they are meant to be together, it's frustrating when the characters act as though they belong to one another... when they're dating other people.  Why didn't they act that way when they were actually dating?  It's maddening to me.

As Finn's involvement in this episode was mostly manifested in being slightly doofy towards Quinn and mostly rude towards Rachel and Jesse, I found myself enjoying it immensely when he wasn't onscreen.  Shove fests ruin everyone's fun, especially when they're unjustified!  But how darling was he with Blaine, Burt, and Kurt?  Let's have more of that, please, and less overwrought triangle drama.  Especially considering that - gasp! - Rachel and Quinn made some headway this episode with an actual friendship.  

We all knew, based on last week's promos, that Rachel was getting the slap side of Quinn Fabray's palm this week.  We just didn't know how or why.  Turns out, Quinn crumbled with the loss of Prom Queen, momentarily blamed Rachel in a moment of violence, and immediately regretted it and opened up with the confession that she's terrified of an unknown future.  Because Quinn Fabray is not a terrible person, people.  She's just a control freak, and a coward who doesn't show her emotions.  She's not just a pretty face - which is what Rachel told her in assurance that Quinn could have a life after high school, a lovely payoff that synthesized their interactions in "Original Song" and "Born This Way."  

I have long been squawking that Quinn needed to be treated as more than just her looks, and praise all that is Murphy, Brennan, and Falchuk, it finally happened.  May we keep this up, please?  Maybe if Quinn and Rachel retain some mutual respect and/or friendship, this Love Triangle will freshen up a bit.  Three-dimensional characters all around!  And can I give a final kudos for Quinn taking her prom picture by herself?  Doth mine eyes deceive me, or is that... independence?  Quinn Fabray's character arc is a go!  Or at least, I sure hope it is.

Let's dig into the other Awkward Triangle that actually isn't as Awkward as it could be - thankfully.  The Artie-Brittany-Santana conflict resumed this week, but in a lovely turn of events Brittany basically rejected being the lynchpin in that dynamic, with a polite refusal of Artie's prom proposal and friendly support only in Santana's struggle to accept her identity.  Can we get a heyo for Brittany S. Pierce?  She wants to work on herself, and dance with everybody's dates at prom, and damn if she didn't do both those things with confidence and panache.  And she encouraged Santana to support Kurt, and told her she voted for her because she knows exactly how awesome Santana is - because she knows exactly who Santana is.  Brittany Pierce may not know exactly how chickens and eggs work, but she's damn savvy when it comes to relationships.  Well done.

Of course, Artie got the short end of the stick, even though he politely accepted Brittany's rejection (good man!) and so he teamed up with Puck to spike the punch in what I'm assuming was the punchbowl that Nana Sylvester died in.  Sue got a hold of him, and in what was perhaps the only out-of-place plotline of the evening, threatened to remove his teeth for the offense.  Oh.  Okay?  I'm always in the camp that prefers Sue Sylvester talking about torture in a sort of hyperbolic kind of way, so that I can naively assume that she's not actually serious.  It's times like these when I have to negotiate Sue Sylvester as both a villain and a normal human being, and it's always a bit tonally jarring.

Santana and Karofsky, however, were darling in their transformations from sometimes-villains to protectors of Teen Gay Safety.  Their unrelenting dedication to the Bully Whips (walkie talkies!  checkpoints!  escorting Kurt from class to class!) was damn near perfect, and the icing on the cake came in a long-overdue apology from Karofsky to Kurt.  A meaningful, heartfelt apology, the traces of which vanished as soon as someone was in earshot - but the impact of which didn't slip away.  And Kurt forgave him, which, considering all that's happened, is huge, and a lovely character detail for Mr. Hummel.  What should have been a sticky plot point was instead channeled into an honorable character highlight - kudos.

Bless him, but Kurt Hummel was fantastic this episode.  Proudly attending prom in a kilt, and gracefully accepting the title of Prom Queen without accepting any of the malice intended with it.  I love when Kurt gets the chance to live up to his oft-trumpeted standard of transformative and inspirational character.  I love when nothing keeps that boy down, and although the results of the vote were treated with the appropriate amount of horror (I'll ignore the fact that Figgins had to be a pretty sucky educator to allow this moment), I appreciate so much that Kurt rejected the negative and embraced only the positive.  Just, bless him.  While certainly important to the LGBT-specific scenario, the message also transcends into a beautiful universal significance as well.

In that light, "Prom Queen" craftily connected Kurt's struggle, Santana's struggle, and Quinn's struggle in the climax of the drama, deftly weaving their scenes together as each character confronted the notion of living honestly.  Kurt was nothing but honest and got shot down, and Quinn and Santana were everything but honest and still didn't get what they wanted - but were their goals honest to begin with?  Together, all three of them were encouraged to live genuinely and without apology, by Blaine, Rachel, and Brittany, the three of whom acted selflessly and in solidarity.  Blaine stepped in to save Kurt from dancing alone, Rachel wiped away Quinn's tears, and Brittany flat-out told Santana she believed in her.  It was beautiful, and significant for all six involved.  Everybody hug!

All in all, "Prom Queen" was a great episode.  Lovely character dynamics all around - I didn't even mention how much I loved the Search for Prom Dress, or the sudden-but-darling Sam/Mercedes interaction (he's a well-intentioned and honorable goober!  she's a sassy-but-vulnerable, no-nonsense non-goober!  fall in love, please!).  

And the tiny details -  Brittany dancing with some random girl whose story I am now FASCINATED by, Jesse showing sympathy to Sam's situation, Puck trying to distract Sue with his dancing, Santana waving sweetly to Kurt, Kurt calling Santana "Satan" by accident, Santana giving Karofsky crap for not using proper walkie talkie protocol, Santana wearing the same dress as another prom attendee, Burt's description of his prom suit, Jesse not really knowing what a recession is, Kurt calling Blaine "Blaine Warbler" a la Drunk Rachel, and Sam dancing with the home ec teacher!  I squealed at each.  Not even Rachel's super-depressing song choice ("Jar of Hearts" at prom, Rachel?  Really?) or Finn's irrational behavior could bring me down.

Well done, "Prom Queen!"  Solid characterization and honest moments, lovely friendships and interactions, and the lovely message of self-acceptance.  It all led to happy kids dancing - myself included.  Let's keep this up!

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A
Dialogue: A+
Plot: A

Characterization: A
Episode MVP:
Kurt Hummel.  But massive points as well to the other five kids in the cross-cutting montage.  And maybe also Sam Evans.  There can be seven MVPs, right?


  1. Thank god I'm not the only one who thinks that about Quinn's background theme. It's super creepy, it's no wonder people think she's secretly a serial killer.

    I was shocked to find myself actually enjoying this episode. Save for the time Finn was onscreen and killing everyone's buzz, of course.

  2. The epic porpotions Glee has achieved in the last couple of episodes has blown my mind. Totally erases the disgrace Night of Neglect was. Every time I think Glee can't get any better, it does. The storyline and character development this episode was amazing. The writers really have a gift at this, and I just want it all to last as long as possible.

  3. Sure, MVP can stand for Multiple Valuable Players.

    And I too had never heard any variation of 'Friday' before tonight, and I kinda wish it had stayed that way.

  4. Best episode in a while.

    But this is a series that's hard to praise until we see an episode or two down the road. I hope the writers honor what's happened this week and don't just sweep away all the progress.
    I have a bad feeling about Jesse becoming their coach, but I'll wait until that episode airs to say anything else.

  5. Excellent review of a wonderful Glee episode. In my mind, I feel that Glee would've made a spectacular summer show. It reminds me of my senior prom with those lovely prom dresses me and my friends wearing.

  6. I agree with you Anika. The episode should be ranked as one of the best high school dance episodes in television history, and who could forget the look on Santana's face when she saw another girl wearing the same dress as her? Classic prom drama at its best.


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