Friday, March 22, 2013

The RBI Report: "Guilty Pleasures"

I'll be honest: at first, "Guilty Pleasures" didn't seem like an episode I would enjoy.  I'm not a big fan of the concept of a "guilty pleasure" in the first place, because it implies feeling shame for liking something and we'd all be better off not feeling like we have to apologize for the things we genuinely enjoy.  (Although we wander into new territory when that thing we like is Chris Brown.  But more on that in a moment.)  No, a "guilty pleasure" episode featuring wacky pointless covers of Wham! and ABBA seemed like it had the potential for high cheese.  But in a weird way, "Guilty Pleasures"... worked?

"Guilty Pleasures," written by Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner, directed by Eric Stoltz

There are a few things that helped "Guilty Pleasures" along, which were done surprisingly well.  First of all, the episode was low content.  This can either be a blessing or a curse.  Having room to breathe can mean letting us spend fun time with likeable characters just doing their thing, or it can mean that the audience might tune out because nothing in particular is holding their interest.  Low content doesn't sound like a selling point, right?  But low content for "Guilty Pleasures" worked, simply because Friend, Lerner, and Stoltz allowed for the fun stuff in between the plot and supporting the plot, which kept it from wading into murky and overwrought territory.  Elements of the story tied together without being hamfisted or too melodramatic!  (Okay, maybe not those slow-motion running shots during "Creep."  But otherwise.)

The other aspect of "Guilty Pleasures" that helped bolster this lack of content was the idea that these kids were unsupervised for a week.  Glee has rarely been able to seamlessly incorporate the adults into their universe, and thus tends to work better when we leave Sue and Schue and Emma and Beiste at the door.  It's less cluttered to just deal with the kids, and there's something charming about this gang of misfits plugging along without any adult supervision.  "Guilty Pleasures" featured a Schue-less week, and left the kids in Lima and the kids in NYC to their own agendas.  And the agenda this week?  Getting secrets out in the open.  

The third highlight of "Guilty Pleasures" was what the narrative chose to do with these secrets.  Usually, the unveiling of secrets is an easy way to create conflict - both inner conflict and person-to-person tension.  It's a tried-and-true, go-to, shit-stirring device.  In other words, Finn's bound to kick a chair.  So it was refreshing that Glee instead chose to use secret-revealing as a way to bond the two groups of kids together... without anyone making them!  There was a lovely sense that we were somehow watching these mini-groups (the New New Directions and the New York Roommates) cement their camaraderie as they weathered through a barrage of truth bombs.  It's the first time this season where I've felt any real inkling of togetherness in either location.  The character dynamics in "Guilty Pleasures" were actually firing naturally on more cylinders than we've seen in a long while.

Which brings me back around to my first point: the filler.  Those spaces in between the necessary serialized plot points found interesting character interactions for Kitty with the New Directions - Brittany?  Tina?  Artie?! - as well as Rachel and Kurt with Santana, and even Blaine and Sam, whose storyline finally confronted the awkward unrequited love thing and made good on the straight-guy-and-gay-guy-are-meaningful-bros display Glee's put in their front window.  We were shown things about these new and heretofore-underdeveloped interactions!  That's what happens when, y'know, there's actually time to do stuff.  We get little gems like Kurt and Santana watching The Facts of Life, y'all.

In New York City, Santana has promised Kurt to keep the Brody-is-gigolo secret from Rachel, which makes it super weird when you realize she has no idea why he broke up with her.  But the secret doesn't stay in for long, and eventually Santana drops the truth bomb and Rachel is forced to confront Brody.  I will say this: I feel really badly for Brody, actually.  Guy does not deserve all the heat for being a male prostitute.  He needs a way to pay the bills!  Guy probably does deserve all the heat for having lied to Rachel about it, because having sex with a dude who's having sex with a lot of other people and not telling you is not quite on the up-and-up.  Lying?  Yes, bad Brody!  Gigolo?  Cut the dude a break.  If Glee shames their male prostitutes this much, I'd hate to think how they'd treat a lady prostitute character.

Anyways, "Guilty Pleasures" made me feel genuinely bad for Brody, and that, for me, is a point in the plus column.  Of course, this point is negated completely by Rachel seeming to swell with love at the idea that Finn beat the shit out of her boyfriend for her.  (More awkward still that this physical violence was romanticized in the same episode where Chris Brown was vilified for his own acts of physical violence.  So it's bad when Chris Brown does it, but romantic and gentlemanly when Finn does it?  Yikes.  It's bad all around, Glee.  Physical violence is bad.  Sure, I guess you can argue that domestic abuse is not the same as an all-boy saloon brawl, but... that's getting into a whole mess of gender-related issues.  Let's just stick with this: physical violence is bad.  I don't care if it's 'on behalf of a lady's honor.'  Let's not glorify male aggression and encourage feminine frailty.  Physical violence is bad!)

So Brody accuses Rachel of still being in love with Finn, and Rachel basically agrees.  Actually, the moment at which I felt worst for Brody was when Rachel told him she was dating him because part of her wanted to make Finn jealous, and the other part wanted him to help her with her own heartache.  Uh, ouch?  Two terrible reasons to be in a relationship!  And while I think the writers were stretching these reasons to (re)write their own history for Rachel and Brody, it doesn't change the fact that those reasons, assuming that Brody accepts them as true, really, really suck.  I was never Brody's biggest fan, but damn.  Damn.  

(Also, on a sidenote, did the thought strike anyone that maybe Cassandra July paid Brody for sex back in that one episode where she wanted to piss Rachel off?  Add Brody's cost to the JetBlue miles Cassandra gave up so Rachel could go home, and that was one pricey backstab.  And it somehow makes Cassandra July really rather tragic.  But she's not here anymore, so I don't know why I'm devoting brainspace to her.  Be free, Kate Hudson!)

Through all this messy Brody-Rachel-Finn nonsense, though, we finally got to witness a fleshed-out dynamic between Kurt and Rachel, Kurt and Santana, and Rachel and Santana.  "Guilty Pleasures" seals the deal on Santana's incorporation into NYC being a good choice for the show.  We got great moments of snark and heart, all with effortless ease of interaction.  Kurt and Santana casually watched The Facts of Life and chatted; Rachel and Santana casually went about their morning routine in the bathroom and argued; Rachel and Kurt casually made gooey-BFF eyes at each other as they supported each other through their troubles.  Rachel and Santana were going to prank Kurt!  Kurt made Rachel and Santana matching boyfriend/girlfriend pillow arms!  Santana's a part of the family now!  This three-handed dynamic is easily the best character-based thing Glee has done since... well, who knows how long it's been.  

Back in Ohio, Blaine and Sam co-opted glee club and decided to make it all about spilling your secrets because it feels so good.  What idiots.  In a charming way, it worked, albeit with a few hiccups.  These all kind of boiled down to the fact that confessing you like Barry Manilow is really not the same thing as confessing to your same-sex crush that you like them.  It's really, really not.  But luckily, this was helped along by the redirect at the end of Blaine's piano ballad - he never meant to reveal that his "guilty pleasure" was Sam (which is kind of a weird notion in and of itself, but whatever) and instead stuck to his Phil Collins story.  I breathed a sigh of relief that this was not going to blow up in Blaine's face in front of the whole New Directions.

In the end, Sam brings it out in the open for Blaine, and reassures him everything's going to be fine.  What could easily have been a big deal, for drama's sake, was wrapped up smoothly and without embarrassment.  There was no "predatory gay" angle, or discomfort on Sam's part that Blaine has a crush on him.  Basically, this was the Finn-Kurt storyline from S1 done with far fewer cringeworthy moments - although, admittedly, with far less character-based emotional depth as well.  So, I choose to remember the Blaine-Sam team-up for this graceful sidestep of messy homophobic drama, while I simultaneously choose to forget that Sam told Blaine he could never really bond with Kurt because of the gay thing.  

Meanwhile, Jake tried to sing Chris Brown and everyone yelled at him.  Sure, the "separate the art from the artist" argument has its merit, but the issue with celebrity and success is that if you're buying the music, you're paying the artist, and therefore endorsing the continuation of the celebrity and the success.  It's messy.  Tackling Chris Brown is a messy, messy topic.  Much of what was said is not entirely wrong - Chris Brown has done some real shitty stuff.  And allowing so many people to speak out against Jake's song choice is fine.  But I'm not entirely sure I'm on board with Marley voicing concern that Jake liking Chris Brown's music might be a red flag that Jake is capable of domestic abuse.  It's a messy, messy implication that's a) pretty heavy, and b) kind of offensive.  I felt a definite twinge of discomfort about Glee questioning its only MOC (currently onscreen) about his capacity for physical violence.  Let's just not, please.  Again - especially when two scenes over, Finn beating up Brody is treated as the equivalent of handing a lady a white rose.  Messy, messy, messy.

(On a sidenote, is anyone else wondering, after Jake's performance, why he isn't the new featured player of New Directions?  It's never even been a consideration, and yet I find myself watching his fancy footwork and thinking it should have at least been on the table.  I'd love to see the guy lead a group number, instead of his endless string of shmoop duets with Marley and bro duets with Ryder.)

The remaining guilty pleasure at McKinley High belonged to Kitty, who for some reason didn't want to divulge her love of the Spice Girls.  Spice World, as a masterpiece of high camp, I could maybe understand - but the Spice Girls?  Since when was it embarrassing to like them?!  Finn and Will had no issue recreating the boy bands of the same era, but the Spice Girls are embarrassing?!  I comprehend nothing.  Anyways, I just appreciated the way "Guilty Pleasures" wielded Kitty as a character.  She's finally starting to show some layers, without feeling really inconsistent!  She's becoming interesting, without declawing her completely!  Consider me intrigued.  Her brief interaction with Artie has me hopeful for some kind of goofy relationship, and her quiet "don't" to Tina after Blaine's performance has me wondering what exactly prompted the emotional nuance.  Basically, I'm curious about how the writers are choosing to handle Kitty, who was basically introduced as a Molotov cocktail of Sue, Quinn, and Santana.  At first, she was a bit two-dimensional.  Then, she started getting funnier and a little less villainous.  Now, she's one of the gang, but still pretending to be annoyed about it.  (Her offscreen exasperation at Tina following her as Vicki the Robot Girl cracked me up.)  I think this works for Kitty, and might perhaps be a new way to explore the loser vs. popular kid theme without being so heavyhanded about it.

Finally, credit must be given to Eric Stoltz for directing the crap out of this episode.  Glee's pesky "oh by the way" flashbacks and signature-if-clunky narrations were handled a bit better than usual, thanks to visual intrigue.  I loved the cutaway to Tina watching Brittany and Kitty on "Fondue for Two," placed perfectly after the line about the internet being a safe space.  There was also a bit of fancy directing with the two time-lapse segments in the episode: Kurt zoning out in front of his "powerhouse ladies of television," with Rachel and Santana milling around behind him, and Brody and Rachel not quite connecting as one sits up and sings while the other half sleeps in their bed.  Both instances worked rather well.  The choice to act out the story of "Copacabana" with Artie, Brittany, and Jake was another smart choice.  

And while this bit of praise can also be attributed to the individual actors, I'm going to throw a little Stoltz's way as well: he got some great performances out of everyone this episode.  Chord Overstreet and Darren Criss did fine work with the comedy, and did well to avoid cheesiness in their final scene.  Naya Rivera, Lea Michele, and Chris Colfer had a great ease of chemistry and walked that fine line between warmth and sass in their dynamic.  And Michele and Dean Geyer both demonstrated some strong and specific acting choices in "Creep" - the closeups onstage actually showed off the genuine emotion of the song in this context.  I was surprised to find myself actually engaged in their emotions of their breakup.  Rachel exuded anger, pain, and sadness, while Brody sort of numbly expressed bitterness only.  Some really great acting choices by all in this episode, actually, and very well-directed.

So, in a weird way, "Guilty Pleasures" was one of the stronger episodes this season.  It didn't try to do too much with its potentially overdramatic plot threads, and instead focused on using its spare time to foster friendships and create a believable group dynamic without any adults watching.  Because of that, there were so many little gems in this episode, all of them pretty delightful.  With only five episodes left in this season, it's a bit disheartening to say that this was the first episode to feel like the characters are all finally clicking.  But, better late than never.  

The RBI Report Card...

Musical Numbers: B
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: A
Plot: B-
Characterization: A
Episode MVP: Santana-Rachel-Kurt

Friday, March 15, 2013

The RBI Report: "Feud"

I know that Glee exists in a heightened reality, where wacky things happen to exaggerated characters and we all just have to suspend our disbelief to enjoy the ride.  Early on, the writing balanced out these moments with glimpses of emotional depth in their archetypes, allowing them to express themselves in the quiet spaces between the big musical numbers and glee club circus.  Now, we're just kind of expected to fly along with the plot as it leaps from one scene to the next, accepting whatever rules the writers flimsily define for this episode and this episode only.  "Feud" definitely filed into this category.

"Feud," written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, directed by Bradley Buecker

It's not that there weren't any good moments in "Feud."  But between these few gems of comedy and genuine emotion, I found myself wondering how much suspension of disbelief was required to get full intended enjoyment from the episode.  Will and Finn's feud naturally must result in a Very Serious Sing-Off between 90s boy bands - as assigned to them by their students.  Naturally, Sue must desperately want Blaine on the Cheerios and will do anything - including a glee performance - to win him.  And just as naturally, we're supposed to believe that it was Blaine's plan all along.  Oh and also, Rachel is dating a gigolo.  I guess Glee is just like Santana: "You can't apply logic to Lopez."  I should probably stop trying.

So, the feuds...

Will vs. Finn

The biggest feud of the episode belonged to Will and Finn, simply because it involved the most deep-seated emotions.  Will felt betrayed by Finn because Finn kissed Emma in a moment of panic.  How could these bros ever survive?  Well, they first had to get all their feelings out in a mashed-up duel of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" and NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye."  The physical brawl turning into happy man-hugs was a bit weird, but Buecker needed something to cut to so he could track the emotional journey of the song and what else was he supposed to do?  I will say, I was pretty impressed with the amount of upper body strength required to maneuver dance choreography with those life-size marionette strings.  Respect on that front, for sure.

As for the Will vs. Finn of it all, I wasn't really interested until Marley swooped in to give Finn a cold dose of reality.  (Although I find it awfully fresh that Marley's advising people to grow a pair.  I'm pretty sure I've been wanting Marley to grow a pair all season long, simply to make her character less passive.  Her boys-fighting-about-me love triangle and mean-girl-brainwashed-me-into-an-eating-disorder certainly don't give her Active Character points.)  This was perhaps the best moment of the evening, because it allowed for a teeny glimpse of what Glee used to do with their characters originally: let them show vulnerability as they struggled with negotiating their identity and the real world. 

Since Finn has graduated, he has been a lost little tumbleweed looking for direction.  And as the erstwhile Mr. Ethos of glee club, the football team, and McKinley High in general, he doesn't know how to redefine himself beyond that realm.  What a lovely little construct for Finn to actually manifest, because it's true.  Finn has been grasping at the passions of everyone else in his life - Rachel, Will, Burt, his father - trying to cling onto something of his own, and he's never found it.  His glory days are defined by being Mr. Quarterback and Mr. Glee Club - but what next?  Every post-McKinley endeavor has been a failure. 

Turns out Finn's talent is for teaching and leadership, in the footsteps of Mr. Schuester, which is apparently only a surprise to Finn himself.  Character parallels are never in short supply on Glee, usually for worse than for better.  We all saw the Schuestering of Finn Hudson from a mile away, from the plaid shirts to the Emma kiss to the belief that you totally don't have to respect the boundaries of your ex and her new boyfriend! 

Anyways, Finn is not exactly reconciled with Will, and he's off to pursue a teaching degree thanks to the doe-eyed wisdom of Marley Rose.  Was anyone else expecting Finn to haul off and kiss her too?  Part of me hoped he would.  That same part of me hoped that Finn would march up to Will and declare passionately "We are endgame" when Will admitted he wasn't ready to forgive.  When will Finn show up on Will's doorstep and serenade him, thereby solving all the problems?  And, finally, the same part of me that wished for these absurdities (or continuation of pattern?) went straight to the gutter when Ryder told Jake, "you know I have good hands."

Ryder vs. Everyone with Human Emotions

Yeah, Ryder was in the dog house with pretty much everyone this week.  Jake was pissed at him for kissing Marley, and pissed at Marley for letting Ryder think that was an option.  (I really wish Marley knew how much Ryder and Jake talked about dating her without her even there, because she really has a leg to stand on with that argument in her back pocket.  Also, Jake, you were the one that basically let Ryder woo Marley with all those presents, so are you just as guilty of "letting" Ryder think that Marley was a kissable option?  Messy.)  Eventually Ryder apologized, and it was boring.

Turns out Ryder is getting over Marley because he's got a new mystery love interest, seen only through internet chatting.  This girl may as well serve as Ryder's brain/moral compass, because homeboy acted real stupid and insensitive until she spelled things out for him.  See, Ryder was having trouble being a decent human being and accepting Unique's right to define her identity whatever damn way she pleased.  Oof, this was awkward and terrible.  Yeah, in the end the right message was communicated, but there were a few problems with the execution.

First: it threw Ryder under the bus.  I know that most teenage boys in Middle America aren't going to be understanding of trans* issues, but the sheer refusal to even respect Unique's point of view rendered Ryder beyond both sympathy and likeability.  The exercise used him as an excuse to PSA, making him little more than a prop for the message.  Which wouldn't be so bad, if his epiphany actually came from an interaction with Unique instead of his online flirt buddy.  The whole point of this storyline is to demonstrate that it is entirely up to the individual to decide, embody, and project their identity into the world, no questions asked.  This idea is centered squarely on the notion that this decision and declaration come from the person in question - in this case, Unique.  And while Unique made her case and stood her ground, Ryder didn't accept it until someone else's voice did the talking.  And not just anyone else - a faceless girl who he's imagining to be cisgender, blonde, white, and into him sexually.  This sadly undermines the whole point, and makes me wish that Ryder's mystery girl is in fact Unique, effectively proving a sadder truth about the acceptance of trans* voices by society.

The one nice result of this storyline was a pretty solid mash-up between Elton John's "The Bitch is Back" and Madonna's "Dress You Up in My Love."  I was digging it.

Blaine vs. Sue

So apparently Sue Sylvester must have Blaine's skills on the Cheerios, and will stop at nothing to recruit him.  I feel like this storyline overlooked a few details that would have helped float its boat a little easier.  Do we not remember Blaine's Warbler training?  Both Dalton's Warblers and Sue's Cheerios have demonstrated a high level of showmanship throughout the seasons, and it makes sense from that angle that Blaine would fit right in on the Cheerios.  The uniforms, the precision choreography, the sacrifice of individual identity for the sake of the group?  All Warbler and Cheerio qualities!  It would make so much more sense to hinge Sue's pursuit of Blaine on this textual commonality, rather than rest it on that certain je ne Blaine quoi. 

This could have also bolstered the performance duel between Blaine and Sue, if both parties brought their flashy choreography and army of sycophants to back them up.  Sue had the A-game, but apparently the New Directions has rendered Blaine's performance abilities to some basic incarnation of putting on a hat and twinkle-toeing around the room.  Warbler may have lost his touch.  Anyways, Blaine whines about unfairness (while I whined about him singing Queen Mariah) and got his ass dragged back to the Cheerios.  Except - plot twist, y'all!  He and Sam somehow planned this all along, so they can finally take Sue Sylvester down once and for all, FROM THE INSIDE.  I mean, I guess these two sleuthed their way into uncovering the Warblers' steroid regime, but I'm not entirely sure I buy this deus ex machina reveal.  Blaine and Sam are the equivalents of two human puppy dogs.  They like to jump around and smile at people.  Neither of them seem quite capable of rivaling the Clever Underboob of Santana Lopez!

Santana vs. Brody (and Kurt and Rachel)

So, now that Santana is in New York, this naturally means that she is supportively accompanying Rachel to pregnancy-related doctor visits, calling Rachel back to her true identity, actively trying to take down the gigolo boyfriend that she perceives as a betrayal of Rachel's true identity, and working at Coyote Ugly.  Well, sure.  Even with this clunky assemblage of plotlines, Santana still manages to be a welcome presence in the New York landscape - if only for her scenes with Rachel and Kurt where they all get to show off their snarky sides.  Santana doesn't even mind that they make her breasts ache with rage! 

Basically, Santana becomes a heat-seeking missile intent on ridding the Hummelberry Loft of Brody and his gigolo lies.  She intimidates him at NYADA with a sultry performance of Paula Abdul's "Cold Hearted," and when Kurt and Rachel kick her out for embarrassing them and being hostile towards Brody, she sets a trap for Brody and invites Finn to come beat the shit out of him.  Damn.  Don't mess with Santana Lopez.  Girl's a trickster.  While I kind of think Kurt would be Team Santana in opposition to Brody, and that it's tiresome to bring in Finn to brawl with Brody (especially with the line of dialogue "stay away from my future wife!") - this storyline is dumb from every angle, so I may as well enjoy whatever snarky tidbits it brings me.

Perhaps this Brody-as-gigolo storyline is the pinnacle of Glee's ridiculata. Yes, so many storylines require complete surrender of reality for them to make any sense, but this one takes the cake. It's so beyond the realm of grounded human emotion that it's just floating in a sparkly cloud of melodrama, perfectly primed for pregnancy scares, Santana snark, sexualized group dances, brawls in hotel rooms, and even a weird long shot down a hallway with weird snappy editing. (Buecker. This isn't The Shining. I know you're bored, but all play and no work makes Brody seem like a serial killer.) Anyways, my point is that this Brody business is nestled so neatly in the stratosphere of soap opera plots that I can't help but let myself float right through it marveling at all the rainbows and overwrought drama. I've found my threshold, right after I loop-dee-looped by Sue Sylvester in full Nicki Minaj gear.

The RBI Report Card...

Musical Numbers: C
Dance Numbers: B
Dialogue: C
Plot: C
Characterization: C
Episode MVP: Santana Lopez

Friday, March 8, 2013

The RBI Report: "Girls (And Boys) On Film"

Last time we saw Glee, big stuff was happening.  A runaway bride!  Wedding hookups!  Inappropriate kissing!  A pregnancy test!  A possible gigolo!  This is the stuff of high drama, folks.  And "Girls (And Boys) On Film" devoted itself to continuing the development of these storylines, in one of the rare episodes that doesn't actually introduce any new plot points and holds responsible to the already-established.  Everything within the hour was a linear progression from the events of "I Do," managed neatly within the confines of the week's theme: movie songs.

"Girls (And Boys) On Film," written by Michael Hitchcock, directed by Ian Brennan

Generally-speaking, the structure of this episode was a little bananas.  Act breaks happened in really weird places, and exposition came from left field.  (Seriously, they couldn't figure out a better way for Santana to talk about Brody being a psycho besides just having her get up and announce it?)  Beyond that, the choice to pay homage to famous film numbers didn't have as much impact as perhaps the showrunners intended.  The musical performances were actually the worst part of this episode, save for the stylized opener, simply because their content wasn't actually all that relevant.  They just made me want to watch Moulin Rouge itself, instead of sitting through the songs cribbed from it for less dramatic impact.  (Also, shouldn't the girls be disqualified for their mashup being completely snitched from the movie itself?  I mean, Marley was spouting Jim Broadbent's dialogue.  They don't lose originality points for that?)

Anyways, the backwards (and probably unintended) result of this construct was that "Girls (And Boys) On Film" was an episode of Glee where the actual scene content was stronger than the musical numbers padding out the hour.  When's the last time that happened?  Usually the music is what hides the imperfections in Glee storytelling, giving the episodes at least a mindless jolt of energy if not, at its best, an emotional anchor.  But this episode's musical numbers were flatter than ever, and instead we got three, maybe four nuanced dramatic scenes and a solid smattering of comedy.

The episode's strongest scene goes to Kurt and his new beau Adam, in a refreshing conversation intended to cut the bullshit.  I love when characters decide to cut the bullshit!  We had to wade through some BS to get to this point, though, naturally.  See, Kurt gets all weepy watching Moulin Rouge because he always dreamed he'd sing "Come What May" with Blaine at his wedding.  Adam notices, Santana spills the truth tea, and Kurt tries to hide the feelings.  I don't think these story elements are all that bullshitty (except for maybe Santana knowing what Kurt and Blaine want to sing at their wedding) - but the musical number was.  It's one thing if Kurt watches Moulin Rouge and fantasizes about singing the song with Blaine.  But with the way "Come What May" actually happened in the episode, it felt more like Inception than Moulin Rouge.  As in, they decide to watch the movie, we cut to commercial, and when we're back, Blaine is wandering on top of a rooftop wistfully singing to the night sky.  Kurt is nowhere to be seen.

I'm sorry, but aren't we in Kurt's fantasy?  Why did he not even bother showing up for it until it was time for the harmony?  Couldn't we at least have him watching Blaine sing, like Marley watched herself confuse her love interests over the potter's wheel?  As it stands, we have a Kurt fantasy that doesn't even seem like a Kurt fantasy because it's not even from his point of view.  And the writers tried to cover that up by sticking a commercial between Kurt's POV and the actual musical number, to break it in two.  You can't fool me, show!  I have DVR!  I fast-forwarded through the ads!  Honestly, the whole things smelled like a reason to give Blaine most of the song, with the nasty side effect of completely marginalizing Kurt from his own POV and also confusing the hell out of the audience.  It was like a fantasy within a fantasy within a fantasy.  But look - slow dancing and twinkly lights!  How romantic.

Sorry.  That was the BS that set the scene for Kurt and Adam's BS-cutting interaction.  Adam is straightforward with Kurt, who does his best to be truthful in return.  In an echo of the conflict between Kurt's wishes and reality, it's not as simple as wanting to forgive someone, or be over someone, and making that materialize emotionally.  I appreciated that continuation of Kurt's complicated feelings, and the acknowledgement that it's near impossible to move on when you're stuck hoping for a fantasy.  While Adam making it clear that he can't compete with that is perhaps a gloomy harbinger of their demise, I still liked that he brought it up.  Because it's true.  And Kurt knows it, judging by his forced enthusiasm at scene's end.  All in all, it was an interesting interaction to shake out onscreen.

The other darling thing from these two was their impressions of the characters from Downton Abbey, which frankly showed up Sam's blowhard impersonation of Nicolas Cage.  I'm less about Adam's take on Mr. Carson, mostly because I couldn't stop laughing at how accurate they were at imitating Mrs. Patmore and Daisy.  Not only are they two of the funnier characters to mimic, Chris Colfer and Oliver Kieran Jones were eerily spot-on with it.  So delightful.  

The roommate dynamic has much more possibility for this type of goofy comedy now, with Santana around to poke fun of Kurt and Rachel, accentuating their dork status by contrast, and getting dragged into it herself.  "Girls (And Boys) On Film" already made good use of the new trio's back-and-forth(-and-back) by pitting Kurt and Santana against Brody, as they think he's actually a drug dealer.  They got a lot of joke mileage out of this concept - my personal favorite is a toss-up between Santana's confusion over Brody offering her a New York makeover, and her description of him showering: "scrubbing the drug shame from his frictionless body."  But the montage of Santana going through all of Rachel and Kurt's belongings was pretty great as well, if only for the sight gag of Naya Rivera flailing on the ground with her head under the bed.  How nice to see her getting some physical comedy to go with the usual verbal charge!

The Rachel/Santana scene didn't quite rank as high for me as a few others in the episode, but it was an interesting vehicle for the new turn in this duo's dynamic.  I confess, I'm still not really on board with Santana saying things like, "Rachel, I'm your friend!  You can trust me!" in complete earnest, but hey.  We can get there.  What I liked more is how defensive and angry Rachel was in response to Santana, which felt like a very real reaction for someone who is scared and alone and taking a lot of crap from an uninvited house guest.  And I like the idea that because Santana is an uninvited house guest, who has decided to pry into Rachel's business, she's kind of all Rachel has, whether she likes it or not, and so Rachel kind of has to open up to her.  It's a nice way to show both sides of this prickly friendship, in the classic "lock them in a room together and make them be friends!" tradition.  So, cue the floodgates, and the moment we thought we'd never see on Glee: Santana holding Rachel in her arms and telling her it'll all be okay.  You know what they say; babies make for strange bedfellows!  Erm, metaphorically-speaking.

I think the best scene of the episode, for me, was Will and Emma finally getting a chance to talk about their botched nuptials.  Again, this did a lot to cut through all the BS people like Finn were spouting all episode long.  Because naturally, Glee applied its classic male-female interaction paradigm, and even hung a lampshade on it through dialogue:

Will: She's made it clear she doesn't want to see me.
Finn: Well, then make her want to see you.

I don't know if the urge to laugh or cry was stronger, when these awful words fell on my ears.  It's classic Glee: when a lady's not doing what you want her to, just ignore her wishes and make her see it your way!  She'll come around.  Trying singing to her.  It'll work.  And, of course, this is exactly what Will did.  Finn advised him to make the Grand Gesture, which sits at the end of every romcom, when a dude goes all out to "win" his girl back.  My main problem here is not even on principle; it's the fact that this generalized movie bullshit was applied to a situation where it didn't even fit.  Emma left Will at the altar; this story involves her POV more than anyone's.  It's not about Will getting Emma back and proclaiming that he'll never leave her again.  Fool, she left you!  This whole exercise completely marginalizes Emma from her own story and replaces her with bland Hollywood nonsense.  The arc should really be about Emma getting a chance to voice what made her run, and why.

Luckily, after another dumbass musical number cribbed from Say Anything, Emma actually got that opportunity.  Turns out she felt like she didn't know Will anymore when he got back from DC, and didn't know what to do about it.  Sure, it's kind of an underwhelming reason, but it's believable and a bit heartbreaking that something so small blew up so big.  Plus, Jayma Mays was on my screen effortlessly acting her butt off and it's a surefire way to enchant me.  But narratively speaking, this basically returns Will and Emma back to square one, and an eensy part of me wonders then what the point was.  It'll be interesting to see the couple after this development, simply because the writers have deconstructed them so far away from their original fairytale paradigm that I'm curious to know how intent they are on demonstrating that in practice.  Will and Emma, weirdly, feel like more real a couple than ever, with a lot of problems to work through and no promise for the future except the one they keep making to each other, despite the obstacles.  In a strange way, I find that more romantic than any narrative promise of "endgame," the talk of "soulmates," or even any heartfelt duet.  The little nod to the tradition of date-night moviegoing was a nice touch to theme, as well.

But the little hiccup in Will and Emma successfully moving forward at this point is, unfortunately, Finn's confession that he kissed Emma during her pre-wedding panic attack.  This was another solid scene, although a bit melodramatic with Will's silent walkaway, and lacking the one element I really wanted, which was for Will to think Finn was joking when he first confessed it.  How great would it have been for him to laugh in response to it, and then realize that Finn was being serious?  Alas, that was not meant to be, as mostly we got Finn hurriedly explaining everything and Will looking more and more betrayed.  So, the true love story of Glee has now been sullied by treachery and lies, and it's unclear whether these dudebros will recover.  But I think they're going to sing about their feelings next week, so the broken trust stands a chance.

In the final continuation of "I Do," Marley confesses to first Kitty and then Jake that Ryder kissed her.  Awkwardly, I didn't really care.  Although for a brief moment - speaking of dudebros in love - I was confused by Marley's out-of-body experience and thought she might be watching Ryder and Jake canoodling over the potter's wheel.  Anyways, I have little invested in this triangle, perhaps because Marley and Jake's innocent sweetness isn't interesting enough on its own, and somehow becomes even more boring with the added complication of the best friend.  Wake me up when Kitty comes around to make fun of them all.

At the end of "Girls (And Boys) On Film," we were reminded that this "mash-off" was in fact a competition, one in which... everybody wins.  The resulting outrage from the overly-competitive glee kids was pretty hilarious, I must say.  Gettin' real tired of this shit, Mr. Schuester!  But then they did another musical number that didn't matter, this time to "Footloose."  By that point I'd taken to picking out the most attractive glee club member in each performance outfit.  (Tina won the girls' mashup, Jake won the boys' mashup, and Sugar won "Footloose.")

Weirdly, the musical numbers of "Girls (And Boys) On Film" fell short of engaging and relevant, as Glee's scripted scenes actually took up the challenge.  The added element of Santana in New York shakes up the dynamic and provided both comedic and dramatic content, and we got a few refreshing scenes that actively worked against the show's own BS!  It was an unexpected hour of Glee, still telling outlandish stories and presenting its own half-baked universe of romantic drama and random character progression, but at the same time it found some good moments and refreshing emotional honesty in the spaces between.

The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: D
Dance Numbers: D
Dialogue: B
Plot: B-
Characterization: B
Episode MVP: Adam, for his flawless Daisy impression and intolerance of bullshit  

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