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


  1. One thing I actually liked about this episode is that Mercedes and Santana actually looked happy. That was, perhaps, the first time in a while that they both smiled fully.

  2. How can anyone find the whole Shelby/Puck thing cool? its just creepy/sick and needs to be over with.

    Bitch needs to at least find someone that has actually graduated high school.

  3. (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.)

    I've become convinced that Brittany is a secret genius, and has been trolling her classmates for the lulz for he past three years.

  4. Sorry to disappoint you but Puck actually *is* underage and I have no idea why anyone would even be interested in the Shelby/Puck storyline. I was too busy puking.

  5. This episode was a mess.

    I don't know why the writers would have Quinn do what she did to discredit Shelby. Teenager or not,it makes the character almost irredeemable. And this is on top of lying to Puck and Finn for all of season 1 about who the father was.

    Funny thing is, she didn't need to do any of that to make Shelby lose custody of Beth. All she had to do was call CPS and say that Shelby left her kid in the care of a convicted Juvenile Delinquent-Puck. Or have the writers & producers already forgotten that he did time for crashing into the store and stealing the ATM?

    The Puck/Shelby(Shpuck?Phelby?) was vomit inducing. I guess being an adoptive mom has turned her into an idiot?

    I think Heather Morris is one of the highlights of Glee, but Brittany's talk of eating cat poop wasn't funny, just stupid. She's gone from "immature, quirky, flakey teen" to "teen who should be in a mental hospital".

    As for the music:
    That Foreigner songs sucks, Salling's version was even worse.

    And if Murphy,Falchuk and company want to make some sort of political statement about the need to fund Music Education, having Blaine sing a song that talks about a menage a trois, getting drunk and running naked('Last Friday Night') is a bad way to do it.

  6. @J.A. Morris
    Quinn wouldn't have turned on Puck because the deal was that they would get Beth back, both of them. Together.
    That's why she asked him to get a better job because a kid costs a lot etc.

    Honestly all she needs to do is call the police and tell them Shelby is sleeping with Puck and she'll get Beth back without any problem.
    (And before you talk about how they didn't sleep together, only kiss, just wait a couple of episodes)


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