OK, folks, it's been a long time since the last episode! It's finally here! Am I excited? Did I love it? Was it funny? Was the music exhilarating? Did I see some very welcome personality transplants? Was there some wonderful acting? Were there some things that bugged, and others that just sank like a stone?
Well... yes.... and no...
Uh, uneven episode that wrapped up moments of inspired brilliance in layers of false pathos and contrived suspense. At times I was squealing GLEE IS BACK! GLEE IS BACK! Other times I was squeaking "Uh, what just happened?" and once or twice I sulked, as is my tedious habit, "OK, where the hell is Kurt?" (Answer: I am not sure, but I think he was in hiding because he kidnapped the real Sue Sylvester and replaced her with this delightful imposter who acts like a teacher. He spent all episode disposing of the real Sue's body, which will never be seen again. At least, that is my fervent hope. Sue's Not-Evil Twin is welcome to stay forever. Hell, they might find something for Jane Lynch to do again.)
At any rate, the course of true love never did run smooth, and this bumpy episode begins at lunchtime, as all these kids who live Ohio gather outside in light jackets to share gossip and a meal... in January. Guys, I don't wanna eat outside in January, and I live in flipping Texas. But hey, I shouldn't be nitpicking so much, because the sound stage is set in California. At any rate, even though Mercedes is rumored to have this enormous boyfriend who destroyed her chance to be in West Side Story and made her temporarily quite obnoxious, Tina has noticed that Sam and Mercedes have been stealing glances in the choir room. It is clear Tina approves, and of course she would, because it's actually against Glee Club rules to date anybody who is not in Glee Club. You can sleep with a TEACHER.... as long as she's involved in the Glee Club. Mercedes admits to the girls that she and Sam had a fling, as the girls begin to squeal like it's all the most romantic thing they've ever heard, and not six month old news from a girl who moved on to grimmer pastures months ago. Clearly, they all want Mercedes to ditch Shane as much as I do, so cheating on Shane in her head is very much to be encouraged. Surrounding Mercedes in this gab-a-thon are all the girls: Tina, Quinn, Santana, Rachel, Brittany, and even Sugar.
Meanwhile, over on the bleachers, Sam is discussing the same summer fling with all the guys: Finn, Puck, Mike, Blaine, and even Rory. As Sam rises to his feet, two bewildered questions come into my brain at virtually the same time.
1. Where the hell is Kurt? Have they just decided he's not even welcome to hang out at all any more? Or is he off fitting the real Sue Sylvester with concrete shoes?
2. Why did Puck just kiss Sam's hand? Uh... Puck? How badly did Shelby mess you up, anyway? Did she put you off women altogether? Because we could probably find a guy or two more willing to kiss you than Sam... just saying. Or maybe they are just trying to keep the Bisexual Sam dream alive.
With this intro, they begin to sing Summer Lovin' from Grease. I think it's a terrific idea, and I begin grooving happily to this song from my own teenage years, which I know absolutely by heart... and I keep looking through both the girls' scene and the boys, noticing that Kurt really isn't there. Rory and Sugar are there. Kurt's been left out. And just when I'm really beginning to get ticked off, I get another reason, because god almighty they have chopped the bejesus out of this song, and it's really jarring. And then Kurt suddenly materializes with the girls, POOF! and I think OK, that's some REALLY bad editing. Or the Real Sue finally stopped struggling and expired, so now he's free to hang out and get the six month old scoop on an ex-boyfriend of a woman who used to be his best friend. By the time this very choppy song is done, it is clear that both Sam and Mercedes are destined to be together by Valentine's Day, and there is no suspense to this situation at all. Sam is a little more into it, but I guess that's to be expected, because when looking back Sam can compare his adventures with Mercedes to the disastrous relationships with Quinn and Santana. Mercedes, however, offers Sam a much more daunting rival: how will he ever compare with Tots?
At first we see a little monkey, and then we hear the elegant sound of Becky's Inner Voice. The voice Becky shows the world may sound like Lauren Potter, but in her heart of hearts, Becky knows that her True Inner Voice belongs to Helen Mirren. As she points out, she's able to sound any way she wants in her head, so lay off, haters. I reply, "That's true, honey, and this is an excellent example of how closely head canon generally resembles reality."
Becky's feeling like a real queen these days: she's Cheerios co-captain, and President of the Perfect Attendance Club. Hey, they don't let just anybody into that club. Becky thinks she could get any boy north of the Mississippi, so she thinks she can afford to be picky. Rory grins too much. Also, he's a leprechaun, or something. Puck has a dead squirrel on his head, and it's about damned time somebody mentioned this. She doesn't like Mike Chang because she's not a Rice Queen, although, more to the point, Becky would never make a convincing Vampire and she can't forge his name. So the Chang/Jackson romance is not to be. Then she sees him.
Sweet, smart, and handi-capable. Voice of velvet. A self-proclaimed expert on sex and not afraid to inflict his knowledge on anybody within 500 paces. Yes... he will be her new boyfriend. Poor Becky. She does not yet understand The Rules. Glee Club members can only date Glee Club members, and this rule will be enforced with a vengeance.
Finn! Oh, dearly exalted student for whom I clearly have way too much affection and inappropriate favoritism! Please give me a drum roll!
Finn, happy to be doing something musical that he's actually quite good at, complies. They are in the choir room, and Will has a new assignment for his Glee Club. Now that Emma has publicly humiliated herself by asking him to marry her, in song, without any help from anybody else, Will has made a decision. No, he's not going to actually accept that delightful proposal that SHE made, because... he's a guy and he's got to make the grand gesture and oh yeah, he's a douchebag. No, he's going to have the GLEE CLUB propose in song to her on his behalf.
Rory is dressed up like Kurt would normally be. Kurt is dressed like an ordinary person. I would like to know what caused this. Maybe Rory was playing decoy in case Kurt had to see to further details concerning the disposal of the body? But I digress.
"Yes, I am proposing to Miss Pillsbury" says Will as the room explodes in applause. Even Santana looks happy. "This is the kind of news you share with your family" says Will, "And you are my family." Does that mean both of his parents have died and he didn't bother to tell us? Does this mean he has no family? We find out a little later that he has no close friends his own age, and clearly no brothers. These kids are all he has and most of them are graduating? Gee, sucks to be Will. Will's going to ask her parents for permission, because she's 18 and has never gotten married without their permission before, except that one time, and because Will is stuck in the wrong century. Maybe he should just take her to Taco Bell. At any rate, for some reason it's up to these kids to come up with a proposal number that makes HIM look good, instead of, oh, preparing for Regionals or something like that. Remember how he didn't direct the musical because he couldn't be distracted? Well, that's over.
Sam chases Mercedes out of the choir room, with romance on his mind. Does she want to get married some day? Does she know who it is? Is it possible he could ever be nicknamed Trouty Mouth? Mercedes, torn between romance with a handsome and pleasant boy who belongs to the Glee Club and a grossly obese moron who brings out the worst in her, but belongs to the football team, is putting her foot down. She's with Shane, what she had with Sam was a summer fling, and summer is over. Then she walks off with the ambulatory gelatinous mass of blubber she's currently dating.
Pop quiz: Does what Sam is doing now qualify as predatory sexual harassment? Would it be if Sam were gay and Mercedes were a straight boy? Does Mercedes need a restraining order? Does Sam need to learn that no means no? Just curious. Does the fact that we are not supposed to like Shane make it all different? Maybe I've actually made my point already and we don't need to get into a heated argument here, but really.
Meanwhile, Artie comes up to Sugar and invites her to work on a duet with him. I am going to assume for a moment that Artie, a very talented vocalist, has never actually heard Sugar sing. Sugar, despite her fake Aspergers, has picked up enough social cues to understand that in Glee club an offer to "duet" automatically means "will you be my endgame OTP?" and she does not want to go out with Artie. Because... his legs are thinner than her arms, or some such nonsense. Of course, from wheeling that chair around, it is likely that his arms are stronger and thicker than her legs, so it balances itself out, but she'd rather just whisk away being her rude, shallow self, and I think Artie just dodged a bullet. Then Becky bounces up happily and says, with the clarity of a person who does not play any headgames at all, "Hey, Artie! Do you want to go out?" and strokes his hair. Artie is looking a little shocked at this idea, but he's also smiling slightly. Way to catch him on the rebound, Becky.
Sam is in the locker room, talking to Coach Beiste. He wants to joint the basketball team. Scratch that. He does not care about basketball in the slightest. He wants a letterman jacket so he can impress Mercedes, whom he seems to think is THAT shallow. Obviously, Sam does not understand that no means no. I suggest that he hit the local pawn shops. He might be able to find Finn's jacket. Beiste levels with him. While he was living in a hotel in Kentucky (which we know for a fact was a two story house with hardwood cabinets, paid for by his sexy abs of steel) other boys were working very hard to get good at sports they actually cared about for the love of the game. There is no team for Guys Who Just Want to Impress Mercedes. But Sam presses, and Beiste relents. There's one. But she does not think he's going to like it.
Sam is going to letter in Completely Gratuitous Semi-Nudity! He's joined the synchronized swim team! He stands, wet and shirtless, triumphant on a platform of hands created by his entirely female teammates. As he leaves the pool a male assistant coach so prissy he makes Kurt look like a linebacker hands him his one official sham-wow, and he is informed he will also get a letterman... robe. Seriously, Sam, go check out the pawn shops. Meanwhile, from the other side we meet Coach Roz Washington, played by a woman whom I've heard was in some reality show or another. However, she's actually really good, so if I didn't know she was an egregious stunt cast, I'd think she was here on merit. She thinks Sam is funny looking, which means he had to overcome, and she knows all about that because it's the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and she had a DREAM! that she would get her forty acres in a pool. There's so many stereotypical comments here coming out of this black woman's mouth that it makes my head spin and I can't even keep up with them all, so I have to remember the recent RIB comment that this show was supposed to be a satire and run with it. The prissy assistant and Roz agree that she won a bronze medal in Individual Synchronized Swimming at the Beijing Olympics. Then she gives him a stiff warning. If He. Pees. In. Her. Pool. She. Will. Kill. Him.
Can you hold it, Sam? Atta boy.
Here's the kicker. If we assume that Glee is in an alternative reality, what Roz is saying is not actually impossible. Individual Synchronized Swimming WAS an Olympic sport from 1984 - 1992, until folks with brains finally figured out that a person swimming alone can not be in sync with anybody. It made this list of the strangest discontinued Olympic sports ever Perhaps, in the world of Glee, the Olympics were still championing this strange sport in 2008. Maybe we will also find that Michael Chang, who in our world once won the French Open, gave up his tennis dreams, moved to Ohio, and bore a dancing son whose dreams he's been trying to crush ever since. I wonder if, in the world of Glee, the Dallas Cowboys don't suck. And maybe our Super Bowl didn't get crushed by two severe winter storms in one week for a city that goes into hysterics when we get a quarter inch of snow flurries.
Sam has a DREAM! He believes he can be on the swim team without peeing in the pool. He leaves the locker room, happy and damp, and greets Finn with the news that he's joined the Synchronized Swimming Team. Finn, who has consistently been the voice of ignorant intolerance every time anybody has ever suggested that some guy might behave in a way that defies hetronormative expectations, objects. Again. Like usual. And once again, he's obsessed with the idea that Sam needs to conform so that he won't get bullied. Never mind the Zero Tolerance Policy or making the bullies act like human beings. It's the victim's fault. Again. Sam's already a target because he's in Glee Club... uh, whose fault is that, Finn? ... so joining the SSwim team is a death wish. Somehow, I think I've already seen this scene regarding Finn, and last time, it made me very angry and I disowned him for a year. He's never learned a damned thing. (And neither does anybody else on Glee, except occasionally the gay kids, because they are the only ones ever allowed any character development. So there IS hope, Blaine fans. Rory fans are out of luck.) Sam, undeterred, heads toward to Mercedes to impress her with his athleticism, because pursuing a person who has said no repeatedly is not sexual harassment if the person's boyfriend is a jackass, a villain, or a guest star. Sam gets hit with synchronized slushies, one from each side.
This might make him very, very cold, but it does not make him cool. (Seriously, isn't this kind of a dangerous thing to allow in school? Won't somebody slip and fall with slushies all over the floor all the time? Why don't the janitors go on strike? WHY DO THEY ALLOW THIS with their zero tolerance policy? Satire. Satire. Just a satire. None of it is to be taken at all seriously, not one little bit, none.) Mercedes sees, and she is overcome with concern as she begins to mop up the mess. However, Shane also sees, and it's giving him pause... for pretty good reason, really. I think Shane's beginning to figure it out. While others saw a potentially abusive vibe in Shane's obvious jealousy, I don't think that's necessarily fair. He's just aware that she's wiping off the face of her ex-boyfriend, and it may not be the first time he's notice the sparks between them. He's certainly not wrong.
Artie invites Will into the auditorium. He's got an idea of how he thinks Will should propose to Emma. He does not think Will should listen to the girls, who are likely to suggest that he sing a treacly, weepy ballad. No. Artie sees a different approach for Shu. He thinks Will should bring the hips, bring the swagger, bring the moves, bring the.... disco ball, which suddenly appears out of thin air... bring the Moves Like Jagger. With that, Mike Chang begins to dance, and Artie launches into a terrifically entertaining tribute to the Rolling Stones. Kevin McHale is moving so well himself you can forget he's in a wheelchair, and soon Will is moving with them, dancing between reality and fantasy as fast as he can change his shirt and back again. In the background, all the studly macho men of New Directions have gathered to help sing backup on this macho proposal song. There's Puck, there's Finn, there's Blaine.... but no Rory, and no Kurt. Clearly they are still chopping up the body and setting fire to it. Sam is also not there. If he's not off changing out of his slushied clothes, maybe he was excluded from this testosterone fest because he's in Synchronized Swimming.
It's Glee's second terrifically entertaining song of the night, and at least one person in the audience approves. Becky has come to watch. As they finish, Will agrees that it's a terrific idea idea and he loves it, but... he has to dance. And dance means sweat. And sweat means dirt. And dirt means hysterics for Emma. So he might just have to pass on this macho malarky and come up with a song that actually looks or sounds a little like something that would involve actually asking Emma to marry him. While this number is a lot of fun, there is a danger that she will think Will is merely asking her to go with him to a midnight showing of Gimme Shelter at the Oldies Documentaries Movie House.
Artie is clearly unclear on what constitutes a marriage proposal. He is also unclear on what constitutes a date. Apparently, Becky is here because he invited her to watch him sing this song for Schue. The entire "date" was only about him getting to bring the sexy for approximately two and a half minutes. And she came in halfway through. However, Becky lets him off the hook. This can be Part One. Part Two.... Dinner at Breadstix. Artie looks a little stunned, but apparently he realizes he does actually owe her a date, since he apparently agreed to go out with her, so for the moment, Bartie II is on.
Finn and Will are in a jewelry store looking at diamond rings. Rachel, who was last seen demanding bling from Finn so she could sparkle at her NYADA audition, has informed Finn that a man MUST spend two month's salary on an engagement ring. Finn wants to know when the wedding is, and Will admits that he's nervous. He does not want this marriage to fail, too. Apparently, Will sees that there are drawbacks to marrying women with pronounced mental illness. However, he has decided on one thing. He wants Finn to be his Best Man. Finn has taught him more about being a man than anybody he's ever known.
Huh? Wha...? Why? Doesn't this man have any friends his own age? Can't he at least ask Burt, for crying out loud? I'd even be up for him to defy hetronormative expectations and ask the person who actually appears to be his best friend - Beiste - to be his Honor Attendant. (Hey, it's happened before.) But no, he's choosing to make his excessive favoritism towards this semi-talented lead singer very, very clear to everybody in Glee Club by asking him to take on a task reserved for his very closest companion. And why?
Because... Finn stands up for his friends? Uh, no. He doesn't. He consistently doesn't. Not until they've had the crap beaten out of them and he's learned his Very Special Lesson for the week. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Repetitive storyline is repetitive. He let Sam down not five minutes ago. Finn CAVES when his friends are bullied. Constantly.
Because... he's not afraid to cry? Well, if that's the criteria for choosing a groomsman, Finn is probably not the first male name that comes up, although this is a more accurate reason than the last.
Because... he'll make sure Will doesn't do anything too stupid at his bachelor party. Well, since Finn is the only old Glee kid we've never seen drunk, I guess this is possible. He might keep Will from behaving badly, or he might just sit around explaining the archetypes of how to behave badly at a bachelor party.
That being established, Finn wants to talk, man to man. He is concerned about his future, so he went and talked to an army recruiter. He wants to do something special, just like his dad did... without, you know, the whole dying thing. Well, buddy, that's the thing about the army. The whole dying thing is sometimes part of the package, and it's not a voluntary option that you can decide not to choose. It's kind of... senseless and random, and a constant threat. That's why we honor our veterans so much, kid. Will gets it. Finn does not. Finn begins babbling about rings again, and Will's face gets very serious and dark.
Now that New Direction's manliest men have weighed in on how Will should propose to Emma, it's the girl's turn. And Artie is absolutely right. They end up singing a maudlin ballad that makes EVERYBODY cry. Rachel, Mercedes, Santana, and Tina march their teacher into an office to get some salient details. Will protests, because he's proposed marriage before, but this puts him under the welcome slash of Santana's razor-sharp tongue as she deftly dissects everything that was wrong with that pairing. Of course, Terri's brand of crazy is completely different from Emma's so the problems will be entirely different this time. Mercedes asks Will about the first time he met Emma, and Will flashes back to a day when he saw a new teacher meticulously affix her name to her door. Their attraction, it seems, was instant, even though he was married at the time and Terri wasn't even faking pregnancy. Will sighs. "I'll never forget the way I felt the first time I saw her." It was adultery at first sight. How romantic. And oh, look, I hear a song coming on. So does Rachel, who now has enough information from Will to know exactly where to go with this. The four girls run off, grab black dresses, and begin to take turns singing lead on "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" . As each girl sings, we are shown flashbacks of a beginning romance. Rachel passes by Finn, sporting the letterman jacket he eventually had to pawn for her, and the very thought of it sends her into overwrought weeping for no good reason that I can see. She looks like she's in pain. This is exactly wrong. Fortunately, Tina takes over quite beautifully, and shows us a loving picnic with Mike. Unfortunately, she is also weeping. The harmonies on this song are gorgeous. Santana looks almost mad as she begins to imagine her first meeting with Brittney, although at least she's not in tears. Then, we get to the one girl in this group who might actually have reason to find this scenario upsetting. As Mercedes takes over the lead, her mind floats to... Sam. Sam in a letterman jacket he supposedly doesn't have (did he hock it?) grinning at her like she's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Not Shane. Sam. Contract renegotiation is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Rachel, please stop crying. Finn's not going to break up with you again; I think the reverse is actually more likely to be true. And I take a quick role call. Is there anybody in the Glee Club who did not get featured at all in either of the two big group proposal songs we've just seen? Sam and Brittany did not sing, but they appeared as the beloved. Blaine, Finn, Puck, Artie, Mike, Santana, Rachel, Mercedes, Tina. The ones left out... Rory. Sugar.
Not macho enough to move like Jagger, not female enough to do Roberta Flack. Of course, we've actually already seen the first time Klaine met, and it's not necessary to repeat it, but it does seem like he's been moved into this special category of hermaphrodite that doesn't fit in, or get to sing, anywhere. Maybe he should join the Synchronized Swim Team. Maybe he's too busy hiding in Sue's office, removing all the fingerprints that might incriminate him or Rory.
As the song ends, it becomes clear to me that Rachel's tears must have been foreshadowing, because Mercedes runs off to the bathroom, bawling, and she's actually got a pretty good reason. As the other girls follow her in, she explains. When they began to sing the beautiful, moving song, Mercedes found herself thinking about the wrong guy. Rachel tells her to take it slow, listen to her heart, and obey the lawyers who drew up Chord's contract renegotiation.
We are in the home of Will and Emma, and the two odious things who call themselves Emma's parents are sniffing in disapproval at the Christmas tree, which has still not been taken down. I am a little puzzled by this as well; I do not have OCD, and my first inclination is that she'd want that unseasonal clutter out of the way of her perfect house as quickly as possible. Emma's dad takes a potshot at President Obama, just so we can all choose sides, and Will arrives with the wrong kind of tea. Emma's mother calls her "Freaky Deaky" again as she primly spits the tea on the coffee table. The woman just oozes class and tact, and we see immediately exactly how much respect Will should be giving their opinion. Will comes right out with it; he wants to marry Emma, and he's hoping for their blessing.
Rusty also comes right out with it: NO. Will is taken aback, but then they explain. Marriage is messy. Children are very, very, very messy. Emma will not be able to handle having children. At all. While I am inclined to agree with this, my first reaction (as a mother of three) is to say, "SO????!!! THEY ARE NOT A REQUIREMENT! If Will loves Emma more than he wants to be a daddy, this might be worth it!" By the end of this conversation, these two awful people are advising Will that he might not really want their daughter in his life at all, and Will... actually appears to be listening to them. The fact that he and Emma have already been living together for several months does not enter the calculation of whether he would be... able to live with her on a daily basis. Now, the question of kids - yes, that's a big deal and worth discussing. She might not be able to mother babies effectively if she can't change a diaper or endure being vomited on. And maybe Will does need to think, long and hard, about the implications of living with a woman who has OCD for the rest of his life. But Emma probably needs to think, long and hard, about the implication of living with a completely insenstive and tactless douchebag for the rest of her life, too.
Interventions appear to be contagious. The Glee Club confronts Artie because he took Becky to Breadstix, Santana thinks it's weird. Puck wants to know what his angle is. Artie says he had no angle: they flash back to the date at Breadstix, and we see Bartie II chatting cheerfully as Becky... shoots out some funny comments and confesses that Schindler's List is her favorite movie. Artie finds himself enjoying the conversation.
At the news that Artie enjoyed this date, Rachel intervenes in the tone she normally reserves for somebody who wants to steal her solo. She thinks it's great that he's being nice to Becky... but...
"I don't". Santana cuts through the crap, once again, coming forth with what is, without question, the best argument against Bartie II that anybody makes the entire episode, and it's true. "That girl's a sly, conniving bitch." She's been hanging out with the late Sue Sylvester for too long... and Santana, it takes one to know one. Finn just thinks that Artie might be leading Becky on, because Artie couldn't possibly actually want...
Artie, who has probably heard Finn's closed-minded prattle one time too often, explodes. "You guys talk a good game about how it's OK to be different, how it's what's on the inside that counts, but I think you're just as narrow-minded as the rest of the school." Well, given how Artie behaved while casting West Side Story, he could probably listen to a slice of his own scolding, but everybody in this group has been intolerant at least once that I can remember, and Artie's point still stands. He talks about how well Becky has handled what life has given her, and wheels off in anger.
Finn enters a classroom to find an intimidating phalanx of adults on hand, grim faced, to greet him. Another intervention. His most trusted teacher, the school counselor, his mother, and the guy who wants him to run his family business because Kurt's not the type. Burt starts off immediately - Will has told them Finn's plans for the future. Which don't entail running the tire shop so that Burt can go to Washington. His plans? Finn bristles quite understandably.
Will betrayed him, and told about something private as if he'd revealed he was a drug dealer. In fact, everybody is behaving as if Finn has indeed broken some rule with grave consequences to come. Burt is completely open about the fact that he expects Finn to take care of the tire shop, and for the first time, I am genuinely annoyed with this man. Excuse me, Mr. Step-dad, but who are you to tell Finn to lay down the dreams he's trying to create for himself so that he can carry on yours because you don't think Kurt can.. or wants to... do it for you? And what's wrong with dinner jackets? I give it a week, tops, until Kurt gets the dry-cleaning bill and comes up with a new business model for drawing in exclusive clientele. Burt's pretty blunt about where he's coming from with this, and now he wants to know where Finn's coming from with this. He still sounds like he wants to know where Finn has hidden the dime bag he was saving for his birthday.
Finn confesses. He hid the drugs in the.... no, that's not right. Finn wants to enlist in the army because he owes it to his dad. He wants to be tested, to walk in his father's footsteps. Carol, over in her corner, is melting into the wall in despair. Uh oh. Does mean the fluffy funny funtime is over? Now we have gut wrenching Emmy fodder? Mike O'Malley, an Emmy nominee two years ago, gives the signal to Romy Rosemont that it's time for her Emmy Nomination Close-Up, and she turns it on. Finn's dad, Christopher, did not die in Iraq.
Finn's dad... was not a war hero at all. Cue dramatic music. Dun DUh DUN! It appears, we learn as Romy warms to her task and gets more weepy, that Mr. Hudson came home, DIShonorably discharged, with a terrible case of post-traumatic stress disorder, addicted to drugs. One day... he simply did not come home from his bender, dead of an overdose. Finn feels sick to his stomach, and I do, too.
I know this scene had a lot of fans, and I think Romy and Cory did absolutely everything they could with the material, but the writing on this was really, startlingly bad. Yes, a lot of good men came home from combat broken and unable to function, but that's not what I disliked about this scene. I think the painful death of Christopher Hudson was not treated as a powerful story to tell in its own right, but merely a cheap, manipulative narrative device dreamed up to set up the story the writers actually cared about - Finn proposing to Rachel. Seriously. Think about it. Finn dealing with his father as a sad drug addict as he gets ready to enlist in the army is very rich, meaty stuff. It's the stuff of which a significant, LONG story arc could be made... and they threw it away in five minutes so that Finn would panic and make a wild clutch for his girl.
Carol tries to tell Finn that she sees the good of his father in him, but Finn wants to know why she lied. The answer, of course, is that your dad WAS a war hero until earlier this month, just like Blaine used to be the same age as Kurt and Kurt used to be an award-winning Cheerio until he had to have a blank resume. But Carol says that she DID intend to tell him... uh, sometime... or not...
Romy did a wonderful job with the scene, but I felt like she was being shown a picture of a rich meat stew and asked to recreate it with nothing but some water, two potatoes, and a half a can of corned beef. The fact that the scene is palatable at all is a miracle. Emmy bait for a series on the decline. Best Performance by a Guest Actress. For Your Approval, Emmy, 2012.
And by the way... why is this conversation happening in school? Why is Emma here?
Becky Faye Jackson is strutting down the corridor. She got the voice like Helen, she got the moves like royal, and she absolutely rocks. In her hand is a smart phone to seal the deal with Artie, her headcanon man candy for the upcoming Special Olympics Ball. Artie cheerfully asks her "What's up?" and she replies "We're going to do it." Nope, no head games with Becky. Completely straightforward. She's sent him a text as she moves on, caressing his shoulder, and Artie checks his messages.
Becky has sent him a nude photo of herself, and she believes they are taking it to the next level on Friday.
Artie is not pleased and excited. Oops.
Apparently, Artie was leading her on, after all, and the Glee Club intervention was necessary.
In a panic, Artie goes to see the one teacher on campus whom everybody knows to come to with their most intimate and embarrassing problems - the wise, no-nonsense and compassionate woman who has taken over Sue Sylvester's wardrobe. She looks at the photo and declares that Becky has a cute little shape. Artie is freaking out - not because he's gotten a dirty text, since he's dated Topless Tuesdays Brittney, but because telling Becky that he liked her made her think... that he liked her. Sue suggests, firmly and kindly, that he needs to treat Becky like any other girl he's not interested in. He needs to tell her so that she can move on.
Then this woman remembers that she's supposed to be impersonating Sue Sylvester, and the insults come out. He sounds like a puppet. Get rid of the riding gloves. Stop buttoning your shirts up all the way like a demented nine-year-old.
"Thanks, Coach" says Artie with real warmth, and he wheels out.
OK, this is a public service announcement. If you are a Wemma shipper or a Will Schuster fan, I invite you to skip over this next paragraph, because what happened here is among the most disgusting and heartbreaking things I've ever seen on Glee. It's kick-a-puppy cruel. It's Wash-That-Man-Right-Outta-Your-Hair heartless. Will walks into the living room, where Emma is shining Christmas ornaments until they gleam as she puts them in their boxes for another year. This, apparently, is why it's taken her so long to take the tree down. She is more upset by dust on the balls than she is at the existence of the unseasonable clutter in her house. She asks Will to have a seat. A very specific seat.
Sue has been giving Emma good advice again. She has suggested that Emma ask Will. And so she asks the big, hard question. "Do you want to be with me?"
"Of course I do" says Will. Shaking his head. Shaking it.
What happens if they have a house? (Don't they have a house now? What are they living in, a really huge Winnebago?) What if YOU can't handle this? What if YOU can't handle that? What if it's all too much for YOU? What if YOU aren't good enough, strong enough, mentally healthy enough? What if Will can't "fix YOU?"
Will, why don't YOU take one of those apples off the table and stuff it down your grossly insensitive windpipe? Just STOP TALKING.
Emma looks like she's been punched in the stomach. Her stammering is absolutely heartbreaking, like a child who is begging a parent not to abandon her. " I've been taking my meds... some days are great... "
"It just seems so hopeless" says Will. Notice that he has placed every single centimeter of responsibility for anything that might go wrong her entirely and solely on her having... a disease.
To Emma's eternal credit, she does not stalk off or cream him with a frying pan. Her next speech hits the level of heartrending pathos as cleanly and perfectly as Remy's missed it. Maybe it's because we've been watching Emma's story all this time. Her story is not merely talky exposition to set up a cheap shocker: we've lived through it with her as she says "This is what you get... this incomplete person, with toothbrushes and rubber gloves, and with so much love for you.."
And then, in a moment of staggering honesty and strength from her frail and vulnerable position, she actually tells him to do his business or get off the pot. He needs to decide if this is not what he wants, and he needs to be honest with her and with himself. The sooner the better.
Emma is the weaker and less healthy of these two people? Hell, no. Not by a long shot. Yeah, stick that scene in the Emmy vault for Jayma, while we are at it.
Next scene: Breadstix. Finn, Rachel and Kurt are all sitting around moping about their futures and opening their own special vintages of whine.
Finn: I have loser DNA. Whine, whine whine. Merlot, 1976.
Kurt: I'm never getting into NYADA. Whine, whine, whine. Muscato, 1995.
Rachel: The letters came out, (whine) and I've been trolling the chatrooms, (whine) and they are all talking about their letters (whine) and Figgins booby-trapped me (whine) and..
Kurt's getting a whole cheesecake. His life will look much brighter if he gains ten pounds.
At this point, Kurt utters a line that seems clearly to be more a Statement By the Writers About How Life Is For Graduating Seniors than it is anything else. I can tell they worked on this for days. " "The future used to be such an abstract idea. The dream was enough, you know. And now the future has the nerve to show up and it’s expecting us to do something and it’s not interested in giving a lending hand."
OK, make that two cheesecakes. The world will be even kinder if they all gain thirty pounds.
Finn goes back to whining again. Why can't he have ANYthing in his LIFE that's SPEcial, that MEANS something, and Kurt jumps out of his self-pity spiral to look sadly at Rachel. Maybe she's special? Maybe she means something? The musical director surely seems to think so, because Rachel begins singing "Without You", and this marks the second love song she's sung to Finn in THIS EPISODE. And this time, she does not have to share the spotlight as they move to the choir room and the overwhelming presence of her love for him wafts all over the room like a mist, settling on every pair of lovers in sight with knowing glances and clasped hands. Klaine are allowed to gaze at each other for a second or two - that's their big romantic moment in an episode absolutely filled to the gills with lovey dovey stuff for straight couples - and Brittana actually hold hands. Finchel, of course, get to make out in the middle of the choir room while everybody applauds. By the end, I've dozed off.
Every once in awhile, I find I do not have to resort to my own wit or observations for these recaps because the writers have beaten me to the punch. Here, for the next paragraph, is my guest recapper, Santana Lopez. Verbatim. She NAILED this sucker.
Santana: I just wanted to say that you blew that song out of the water and totally nailed the assignment. Oh, no, wait a second, the assignment wasn't "make everything about Rachel Berry and force everyone to watch", was it?
Then Artie chimes in with "A little overwrought for my taste" and I decide that he's my favorite character of the week. But what he really wants to know is.. which song is Will going to use? The answer, of course, is that he's not going to use any of them because Emma gave him the finger and moved out last night. No, wait, he's not going to use them because they aren't wet and messy enough, and because he didn't think of them first.
Speaking of Emma... There she is, anxiously polishing a coffee pot like it will explode if she does not get every smudge. Will watches her sadly behind her back and meanders down the stairs to greet yet another student with an idea of how to propose to Miss Pilsbury. Sam the Incredible Merman has an idea. One has to wonder... if Finn had not gotten the idea that he had to go to Kentucky to find somebody with star power, rather than peeking in his brother's bedroom, would Wemma have ended up breaking up this episode? Were they saved by the Power of the Pool? It boggles the mind.
Emma's professional aspirations appear to have taken a bleak turn. Even though the oldest people she counsels are generally around 18 years old, she has bought some depressing new pamphlets just for Sue, herself, and all other faculty members who are living Happily Never After, Dying Alone, or sitting around saying to each other, "So, You're a Spinster." Unfortunately, Emma appears to have bought into the idea that married people are automatically happy. Just as she stops to admire her own personal pity party (Kurt and Rachel will be sending over a cheesecake later) Will knocks on her door. Oh, goody. Just the asshole she wants to see right now. Here, Will, Emma has some pamphlets for you.
Will is not interested in the pamphlets. Instead, he offers her his hand, and she takes it, with puzzled anticipation. As they walk down the hall, random students start handing her white roses as awful electronic music starts to beat in her head. Then it's staff giving her the roses - there's Bieste, beaming because she knows the secret. Here's the kindly cheerleading coach formerly known as Sue, smirking warmly because they got away with it, and McKinley is a better place. A full bouquet later, Emma's in the school's aquatic center, where an entire choir of Glee kids are running around in antique bathing suits, about to make like Esther Williams. Rachel is singing again, as if she's been oddly short on solos all season and has to catch up now. At least she's not singing to Finn again. "We found love in a hopeless place" she chirps very mechanically, and I remember... autotune ruins everything. Lea Michele does not need autotune. And yes, McKinley is certainly a hopeless place for every kid in it, so I guess that's why they chose this cold, lifeless song for the big proposal number. The boys start diving in, and over in the corners of the board I inhabit the most, people begin to get the vapors. Kurt ... is in a bathing suit. Mind you, it comes with a tank top, but it's still a minor miracle.
Seriously, there are fainting spells being had. These other guys, we are used to seeing skin, but the Multilayered Wonder? We may never recover. Are those... muscles.. on his arms? Who knew? Wait.. Artie... Artie? ARTIE HAS JUST PLUNGED HEADFIRST INTO THE POOL, STILL IN HIS WHEELCHAIR!!!!!! MEDIC!! MEDIC!! Artie, don't drown! Becky's not worth it! McKinley's not THAT hopeless! Where did he go?! Santana, stop singing and help me look for Artie! Oh, look Will and Emma don't even CARE. He's put her in that chair like it's a throne, and somewhere in that pool, Artie has found death in a hopeless place...
Oh, look. More Cheerios dancing for this proposal. You know, McKinley's cool kids sure go out of their way to help the school losers. And now the synchronized swimming begins in earnest as the kids do arm movements and leg movements in time, and Sam swims around underwater like seal.
And we find Artie sitting in an aqualounger in a hopeless place, enjoying the music and not looking at all drowned. I almost start to ponder how he actually managed to get there, but then I realize... Artie is in the lounger because the Prop Department brought in the lounger and able-bodied Kevin McHale plopped himself in it between takes. It's really best not to think about it any more than that. He gets to be the center of every formation, and he's loving it.
And then Will emerges, in full white tie, tux and tails, complete with top hat, and he's walking on the damned water. Emma looks too stunned to speak, and then Will dives off this translucent diving board and swims to Emma. He comes up beside her, soaking wet, and I think...
"Uh, Will. She's got OCD. She may not think it's romantic if you are dripping on her skirt."
If Will had not made me so annoyed earlier in the episode, I'd probably be more enthusiastic about his actual proposal. But there it is, and I am sure every Wemma-loving heart in the world burst with joy as he told her she was the one. It is a very heartfelt, romantic proposal, and several people in the pool are swooning with the sweetness of it all. He pulls out the ring (two month's salary, remember...) and she says yes, and everybody cheers and squeals, and that's pretty much the peak for Wemma. Savor it, guys. This was The Big One.
Artie wheels down the hall like a man who is forced to shoot his terminally ill dog. He sees Becky, who turns to him and beams. "Are you excited?" she asks.
That's... not quite the word. "I haven't been clear with you" says Artie. "I really like being your friend, but I don't think we should date." Becky, with a flash of compassion and social intelligence that I was not expecting, immediately gives him a gracious exit.
"Is it because I'm too intimidating?"
Well, yeah, OK. That will work. Sure. You scare the snot out of him, you fierce, strong woman, you. Becky turns away from the crestfallen Artie, who realizes he's being a bit shallow with this. Sugar refused to sing with him because of his disability. Now he is refusing to date Becky because of hers, and everybody in Glee club thinks that's the right call - except Santana, who is the only one who took Becky at face value and just disliked her for her actual actions.
Becky trudges bitterly down the hall as Helen Mirren sadly points out that Artie has rejected her because of the Downs Syndrome. Since Becky was so quick to jump into bed with Artie, I wonder in the back of my mind if she's had other boyfriends before. That did not seem like the behavior of a girl who was not sexually active, unless the other Cheerios have put ideas into her head as to how a girl should behave around a boy she likes. And of course, for solace she seeks refuge from the kindest, wisest teacher in school, the New and Improved Sue Sylvester. Sue greets her with soft tissues, kind words, and commiseration: she has also been dumped this week, or her doppelganger was. Sue then breaks out the surefire remedy for a broken heart - ice cream and sappy female viewing on Lifetime television. She takes Becky's hand: they are going to get through this together. Adults choosing a high school student as their closest confidante and best friend: a professional hazard at McKinley High school.
Finn is looking sadly at a picture of his father in uniform. Rachel tells Finn that he has his mouth and eyes. I certainly see the resemblance. Rachel wants to know if Finn brought her to the auditorium to discuss his dad. That's not the reason. Finn wanted to bring a picnic, like the one they had the very first time he cheated on Quinn with Rachel. How romantic that was. Then Rachel remembers that he ran off quickly... she could never figure out why. Hey, the postman cometh, and he wasn't the only one. Finn says he was nervous. Yeah, run with that, Finn.
And he's still nervous, possibly because, unlike Will, he does not have any students to which he can outsource his upcoming task. He needs for Rachel to shut up and actually listen until he's completely finished. See, for most of his life, Finn was afraid he could not live up to the legacy of his father. Now he's afraid he will. He's figured out, quite realistically, that he's likely to peak in high school, as so many high school stars do. But he has one special thing in his life.
Rachel Berry is a big gold star, and she chose to let him love her. Actually, she chased him around like a maniac until he cried uncle. And now he thinks his mediocre, lackluster life will be OK if he can just keep loving her. Now, he already hocked his letterman jacket to buy her the earrings at Christmas... which they immediately hocked and threw the proceeds into the Salvation Army bin in a fit of guilt - so he had to get a credit card for this next bit of phenomenal foolishness. He has bought her an engagement ring.
Rachel Berry... Will you marry me?
Those of you who wish to waft away amid thoughts of the beauty of it all may stop reading now. If you want my real opinion, check out the snark under the spoiler bars. OK, so the recruiter rejected him, so she gave him her virginity. Now he's found out that his dad was a drug addict, so he wants her to marry him. I can't wait to see what catastrophe is going to predicate her getting pregnant and giving him a baby. Rachel! RUN! RUN TO NEW YORK AND NEVER LOOK BACK!