This week, Glee was all about turning points—realizing the point when situations have changed and embracing the new realities, recognizing and being OK with being different from the crowd. One hopes that Glee as a show is also at a turning point after several weeks of up and down—but mostly down—episodes. The show wasn't perfect tonight, but it was better than previous weeks—and some parts were so spot-on, they made me remember why a silly show about glee clubs captured so much attention two years ago.
The episode opens in a tried-and-true way—Blaine Anderson busts into the Warbler room and sings a pop song. The staging is great and the Warblers are being their hilarious, boppy selves (also, they've apparently taken a few dance lessons), but Kurt is starting to think that Blaine is becoming a bit of a spotlight hog. (Is he a blogger?) Sure, Kurt's singing and smiling along to Maroon 5's "Misery" because he just can't help himself, but he's annoyed enough to call Blaine out. Kurt is jealous but he's also right, quipping, "Sometimes I don't feel like we're the Warblers, we're Blaine and the Pips." Kurt coming out of his "trying to impress Blaine all the time" shell and acting more like himself made me write down "is this a dream sequence?"; I had lost so much faith in Glee, I thought this development couldn't be be real.
Over at McKinley Rachel has written a follow-up to "My Headband," and while it's an improvement on that dismal track, it still has lyrics about tissues, eggs and bunk beds. This scene takes a while to get to the point: Rachel's deep emotional pain stems from her gay dads not having a second child. She probably doesn't realize the considerable expense of them even having her (surrogacy is pricey!), and let's not forget that Miss Berry would have not taken well to any other Berries growing on her family tree. Finn, who is in a death-match with Quinn for the title of Most Uneven Glee Character, somehow manages to be emotionally dumb while also having deep emotional advice for Rachel.
Quinn is watching Rachel and Finn interact and we get her inner monologue, which this week sounds more forced, weird and awkward than usual. She snatches back the uneven characterization championship from Finn by deciding to be laser focused on Prom Queen and has convinced herself that Finn is her ticket to this because he's "a shoe-in for prom king." Why? Who would even vote for Finn? No matter; apparently Rachel is somehow in Quinn's way, so Quinn decides to befriend Rachel and support her songwriting ventures.
Then it's time for the big Glee death: R.I.P., the metaphorical bird introduced back when Kurt moved to Dalton. Except Glee actually forgets to pick up the metaphor, or at least changes the game and makes the bird's death stand for freedom within Dalton, instead of Kurt being killed by his gilded cage. Kurt, dressed as a mourning Victorian doll, returns to the Warblers to sing "Blackbird." Chris Colfer had success earlier this season singing the Beatles in tribute, with "I Want To Hold Your Hand" dedicated to his ailing dad, and he's no less impressive when singing about fowl. Blaine, who hasn't really seen Kurt solo like this before, can't keep up his background "doos" and "dahhs" because he finally realizes what the fans have known all along—Kurt Hummel is awesome and deserves a boyfriend ASAP. I still wish Glee would give us more inside info on how Blaine came to this epiphany, but beggars can't be choosers.
This episode is super charged. We got three songs before we got a commercial break, and the pace doesn't slow down once we're back and New Directions learns they can't perform the My Chemical Romance anthem "Sing" as planned because Sue met the drummer for My Chemical Romance in 1996 and got a cease and desist order. (Note: there isn't a real drummer in My Chemical Romance anymore. Also they weren't a band in 1996. If Schue knew his emo band history we could have avoided this entire plotline, since we later find out Sue forged the letter!) Quinn backs Rachel and says they should write original songs, but Santana wisely points out that everyone else should get a chance to write. Hooray?
Glee's writers, showing a glimmer of respect for continuity, give us a scene where Britt and Santana discuss Santana's love confession. Britt is confused why Santana won't spend time with her anymore and Santana reacts with aggression and barbs, saying Britt lost her chance and now she'll write a heterosexual love song about Sam. But before Brittney can convince her otherwise Sue shows up and berates them both for ruining her cheerleading career and covers them in dirt she strategically placed inside their lockers.
Back in magical gay Warbler land, Blaine declares he is fed up with the group making every performance song about him and wants them to rework the Regionals piece into a duet. Then he completely negates the idea of fairness by declaring he wants Kurt to be his duet partner and getting everyone to agree. It's a unanimous vote, so it's fine, but someday one of those other poor Warblers is going to go postal. I'm placing bets on the dude with the really big hair.
Schue is urging the McKinley kids to use rhyming dictionaries to write songs, which is never a good sign. They take turns showing off their progressively less awful attempts. Santana's ode to Sam's lips, "Trouty Mouth," is a sultry jazz tune that's better than all of Rachel's attempts, but it clearly embarrasses Sam (his body image issues reappear! Glee really is keeping up with storylines now). Puck comes up with a song for Lauren called "Big Ass Heart" that straddles the line of offensive and adorable. Instead of just being simply about how Lauren has a big heart (does she? She's not really kind?) it actually describes how Lauren is overweight because of the actual size of her heart. No one should ever sing this song. In the hallway we find out that Quinn and Finn are going to keep their relationship a secret until after Regionals, but of course since they're talking about this in a crowded hallway, Rachel overhears. I'm terribly excited for the day when Glee is finally over this love triangle, which has been boring me since day one.
Kurt is bedazzling a tiny casket for his dead bird when Blaine joins him (where are they storing his poor dead bird for so long? Doesn't he smell by now?). The song they're performing at Regionals, Hey Monday's "Candles," is a three-year-old song that is being rereleased and that no one ever heard of, so Blaine has to give it a full name and artist shout-out when they discuss it. And even Kurt can't miss the intense heart-eyes Blaine is giving him and asks him why Blaine chose him for this duet.
Over the course of writing these Gleecaps I've been more critical of Blaine Anderson's characterization than any other person on the show. The first time Blaine appeared on screen, he filled a void I'd been longing to be filled both on Glee and on television in general. As a queer viewer I've had very few instances of seeing my experience projected in mass media and Kurt and Blaine's flirtation and friendship were a beacon of necessary light. To watch Blaine's character hit so many bumps during the second half of the season was frustrating, to say the least. I tried to accept the borderline offensive one-off bisexuality episode, his awkward hero-complex issues, and the superficial nature in which he's portrayed as proof of Blaine's character being uneven; while he's buttoned up, confident and charming to the outside world, when it comes to the person he cares about the most, he's awkward and bumbling. Finally, the show brought together all these disparate (and frustrating!) elements into the beginnings of a real storyline. In front of the Warblers Blaine has every bit of his charm, but when asked flat-out about his feelings by Kurt he has to try so hard to explain himself, and to take that leap. He steadies himself and explains that he finally woke up and saw Kurt and realized, "Oh, there you are—I've been looking for you forever." Just the fact that he was able to touch Kurt's hand with intent was a thrill. Blaine knows how to flirt in song, but only now is he able to kiss Kurt.
This is definitely the most anticipated kiss of this season of Glee, if not of all television this season. (I was sure the writers were going to keep it in their back pocket until the finale.) The execution was flawless. I've spent possibly too much time thinking about how this would eventually come about, and I was satisfied; the chemistry between Chris Colfer and Darren Criss gives me chills, and when they pull back their reactions are intense. When Blaine suggests they should "practice," meaning their duet, and Kurt quips, "I thought we were" before pulling Blaine back in to kiss again I may have screamed. The fast cutaway in the middle of their heated kiss is jarring in all the best ways, leaving a scene stirring enough to raise eyebrows but not so overdone that the show doesn't suck all the excitement out of the relationship. It's only a matter of time before Kurt breaks into those pamphlets Burt gave him last week.
It's so great that Mercedes gets a solo again, but unfortunate that it's placed it right after The Kiss—people will be distracted from the fact that she's the only person in glee club who can write a song so far. "Hell to the No" is a great tune, although I was distracted with thoughts about how wonderful it'll be to watch Blaine and Kurt develop a romantic relationship. I tuned back in time to find out Britt's favorite song is Rachel's "My Headband." But, as Schue points out, all the great anthems that people love (even "My Headband," we guess) are about pain, and he wants the group to write about pain instead of triumph. What a downer. The group brainstorms about how they feel when they are put down, specifically by Sue, and come up with the idea for "Loser Like Me." Then it's back to the rhyming dictionaries.
At their songwriting session Rachel confronts Quinn and confirms that she and Finn are dating. We finally circle back and find out that Quinn is obsessing over having Finn and winning Prom Queen because she feels like that's all she's able to do. She tells Rachel that Rachel is better than Lima, and that she and Finn are meant to stay here together and start a family and have boring jobs that are expected of them. First of all, I don't buy that Quinn is self-aware enough to have this kind of insight into her situation and rationalize her behavior like this. And further, a teenager like Rachel doesn't want to hear these sorts of things about the boy she likes, even if there's some truth to it. I want to believe Glee will follow through on these issues with Quinn and her self-esteem, but they've left the character hanging for so long this season that I can't maintain that kind of hope. By next week Quinn will probably be head cheerleader again and dating Karofsky for the status points.
After all the build-up it's finally Regionals time! The judges are Sue's old flame Rod, a Tea Party religion nut Tammy Jean (played by Kathy Griffin) and a stripper-turned-nun (played by Loretta Devine). To impress this group Aural Intensity sings a song about Jesus. It's pandering but obviously no contest for the other groups, so the "suspense" of the competition is completely missing.
Kurt has never had a competition solo before and is nervous, but Blaine encourages him and they step out to sing "Candles," which is simply a horrible choice. There are so many better duets they could have chosen for this moment. The sparks between them and their passable vocals (which I hope were intentional so they wouldn't win the competition) carry along the performance. Blaine can't help but want to dance a little bit even to this, and once it's done he gets to break out into his typical hammy self and perform Pink's "Raise Your Glass." Blaine really needs to join New Directions so he can dance more, because even if this performance is more upbeat than the Warblers' Sectionals piece, it's still fairly mechanical. I want them to do flips and breakdancing in competition! Why hide those skills?
Rachel wrote a song inspired by her heartbreak and she tells Finn to pay attention because she means every word. Lea is breathtaking on songs like "Get It Right," which she sings on her bedazzled pink microphone. Mostly during her performance I am thinking how I really want Rachel to just be awesome alone or find a better boyfriend. Rachel is so wonderful, and Finn is so not worth it. (I'm pretty sure this is not what the show actually wants me to feel.)
Rachel brings the group out and they perform "Loser Like Me," the upbeat ode to embracing your geekdom sung by a group full of football players and former cheerleaders. Of course, the actual message of everyone being a loser even when they aren't stereotypically one is the soul of Glee. The best part about this number is that the dance moves aren't overdone, and everyone is just having fun on stage. It's not polished and it captures the glee club we see in the choir room (at Sectionals "Dog Days Are Over" would have been preferable to that horrible Sam and Quinn duet, for example). While the song itself isn't as good as Rachel's, I'm sure if it was sung by Katy Perry it would be topping various charts right now. The number finishes with the group tossing Slushie confetti at the audience, although how people who don't go to McKinley would get that inside joke is beyond me.
The deliberation is thankfully more brief than last year and all the guest stars get in great jokes. Back in the auditorium the only person they can find to announce the winner is the Lt. Governor's drunk wife, who announces that her husband is verbally abusive before cutting to the chase and letting us know what we knew all along—New Directions is going to Nationals! Even without the suspense the vibes are still good, and they're only lessened by the look on Kurt's face as he realizes he won't be going with them... as of yet.
In a field somewhere Kurt and Blaine finally bury the poor bird. Blaine says somewhat insensitive things. (Does this bird funeral remind Kurt of his mother dying? Really? And bringing up that performance in The Gap where Blaine flirted with another boy? He actually is awful at romance. More plot consistency!) but Kurt's clearly so in love with him he doesn't even flinch. Kurt confesses he is more sad about losing than about the bird's death, and Blaine reminds him that they've both won something better than a trophy—each other. They walk off holding hands. Here's hoping Blaine doesn't have another sexuality crisis or meet someone who can get him a Banana Republic discount.
Meanwhile the New Directions have instituted a competition MVP award and Rachel is the first recipient. Instead of being her typical showboating self, Rachel gets truly emotional and thanks everyone for making her feel special and chosen. I want to give her a big hug, and all the glee kids do it for me before we fade to black. This feels much more like the end of a season than a midseason episode; I could turn of Glee for the next three months and be satisfied... well, not really. There are still so many questions! What will happen with Britt and Santana? Will Kurt ever return to McKinley? What does Holly Holiday learn at her meditation retreat? Will Sue go to jail for punching that drunk lady? Learn all this or more likely none of it all when Glee returns in two weeks. Until then, I'll be watching this gif on repeat: