OK, it's true confessions time.
I'm a secret softie. An old sap. My crusty, curmugeonly snarkomatic can get completely gummed up almost to the breaking point with enough overly heartfelt, old-fashioned cheese, and I have to say with immense humiliation and fear of ridicule that I am ridiculously in love with this overly sentimental cheeseball of a Christmas show. It's so full of love and good cheer and sentimentalism and adorable happy Klaine and then JESUS showed up and I swear I nearly started crying, and almost the very best came out of everybody and it was just such a nice vacation from all the mean-spirited garbage that they've been spewing for so many months. Christmas is the one time it's cool to be this overwhelmingly corny. Because oh, yeah, it's corny. Maybe I am posting under the influence of too much eggnog, or the Christmas stress has finally driven me insane. Sigh. I want to frame this episode and hang it on my wall and then wrap it up and watch it once a year. Every once in awhile, Glee really, really gets it right.
Is there still snark to be had? It's Glee. Duh. I'm sure I can find something to shred.
We begin as Mercedes, who is acting on the promise that she get a lot more solos if she condescends to rejoin New Directions, decorates the tree. Everything - every ornament, every garland, every box is very purple. She's totally the Christmas Plum Pudding. As she sings the line "All I want for Christmas is YOU" it occurs to me that this is a song where a person is expressing interest that somebody fall in love with them, and my first thought is... OK, is Shane going to come lumbering in here demanding that she alienate herself to everybody else again? Has his overbearing personality caused her to become boxed in? However, in the first lovely Christmas Miracle of the night, Mercedes' obnoxious boyfriend does not make an appearance as she sings this love song. I am left wondering who she is singing to? Is she missing Shane as he remains missing? Is she expressing her happiness that she's returned to New Directions? Or.... is the spell of the Trouty Mouth beginning to work his big lipped magic on her?
Then everybody else gets into the act and the next Christmas Miracle I see is that Kurt is HAPPY. There's not a pout, not a whine, not a wimper, not a worry, not a tear, not a single self-pitying word. Indeed, he's dancing around like the beautiful Broadway elf he is as everybody else throws wrapped boxes, and jumps through wrapping paper, decorates themselves with garlands and generally has a very festive time. Mercedes, girl, I SAW you flirting with Sam. It's just a matter of time. Yep. Yep. The whole thing ends with Finchel under the mistletoe that Mercedes holds out kissing. "Best. Christmas. Ever " says Rachel, happily. Given that it's the first year Finn has actually been her boyfriend at Christmas time, I can see why she might feel that way. So of course, she spends the entire episode engaging in behavior that is almost certain to make Finn break up with her, or at least like boxing her ears. Because the happier Rachel is, the more likely she is to behave like a twit. But since her stereotypical Jewish-American Princess materialism is the only conflict in the entire episode, we have to accept that there has to be SOME storyline here. Or does there, really?
It begins in the school hallway, as Rachel approaches Finn with her LIST. Please do not confuse it with the GLIST, which is another thing altogether. Call it the RaList, although anybody who reads it will know Rachel is not a realist when it comes to Finn's pocketbook. Finn is afraid that the list of this week's sins was causing problems in the relationships, and I think... oh, what a charming idea. What could possibly go wrong? But Rachel has given up on this, because keeping track of grudges will never lead to shiny BOXes under her tree. She heard SOMEWHERE that Finn was having trouble choosing a gift for her. You see, SOMEBODY is her spy in the boy's locker room, hiding in a corner adding moisturizer to his rosy little cheeks as the other guys huff and puff guy talk. He hears Artie suggest socks, (which rhymes with BOX) which might explain why he's single, and Puck says that he does not have a high maintenance girlfriend because of drama like this. Now, he WANTS the highest maintenance trainwreck on the show since Terri, (that would be Shelby) and he's hanging out with the second highest maintenance trainwreck (that would be Quinn) but they both told him to take a hike so he gets credit for his self-control here.
Rachel has no self-control. Finn says he can't afford everything on this list of 15 sacrifices on the altar of Berry, but she ever so terribly generously says that he only has to pick out five. In my mind's eye her list is something like this:
1. Two one-way tickets to New York City
2. Diamond earrings
3. A private voice lesson with guest teacher Barbra Streisand.
4. A ring to match the earrings
5. A complete set of every Barbra Streisand album ever made
6. A necklace to match the earrings and ring
7. A guided tour of Barbra's mansion, as it appears in her book "My Passion for Design"
8. A bracelet to match the necklace, earrings and ring
9. A complete DVD set of every Barbra Streisand movie ever made
10. A tasteful little tiara to match the bracelet, necklace, earrings and ring (see how she even got five things that match?)
11. A VIP pass to Barbra's next North American tour, if the old lady is ever up to do that again.
12. Spray Tan
13. Teeth Whitening
14. Dinner for two at Breadstix
15. A nice box of chocolates.
(What? She didn't want to leave him completely broke! She's got a heart, you know!)
She says she loves him, waltzes away, and Finn thinks he's dating Kim Kardashian. Well, not until she makes a sex tape, Finn.
Shame on me for not even mentioning that Rachel is demanding a huge wheelbarrow of Christmas presents from a boy who is working afternoons to save up for college, and she's Jewish. I don't recall Hanukkah being quite the huge greedy rush for stuff in shiny boxes that Christmas is.
Sue Sylvester has called a trio of very nervous boys into her office for a very special project. Wheels, Porcelain, and Other Gay are looking at her like she knows where they hid the bodies, but she's not really out for their blood at all. She just wants this opportunity to forgive them for singing mashups, and given that I don't like mashups nearly as much as the Glee producers do, I am almost with her on that one. While there are people in New Directions whom I agree she'd be gracious to forgive for their lack of singing talent, they are not currently in her office. Mostly, though I think she's trying to forgive Sweet Porcelain (whom she secretly wants to adopt almost as much as I do) for being the son of the man who defeated her for Congress, and I have to wonder... OK, so... has anything changed for anybody because of that? Would being the son of a Congressman cause any shifts in dynamic about how a fellow is regarded, or treated, or recruited for prestigious colleges? Hey, just wondering if either election actually mattered. At all. In the slightest. Or was all the drama with the ballot boxes just... for the drama?
Sue feels like it's not only time for dwarves to dress like elves, but for bitter old shrews who are destined to die alone to stave off the feelings of hopelessness and despair by giving back to people in even worse shape than themselves. Sue will be volunteering at the homeless shelter and she wants the Glee Club she's been persecuting for two and a half years to give up their Friday afternoon to sing.
Kurt, who is wearing one of the ugliest sweaters I have ever seen, is confused, and Artie objects, too. But then Sue explains why she's thinking outside the box this year. She explains to Stumbles, Gelfling, and Young Burt Reynolds that... she misses Jean. She needs to keep busy, but Sarah Palin canceled their hunting date. That's OK, Sue, she quits a lot of stuff. Maybe Herman Cain is available to hang out with. He's not running for President anymore, and you two deserve each other.
Kurt, sensing the bond that has always existed between them since he gave her her first makeover, agrees to help, and she throws them out of her office so they won't think she's soft.
Gelfling. I had to look it up. It's not, as I feared, "Gelding." I like it.
Rachel is trilling over the Christmas tree in a way that doesn't seem quite right for a Jewish girl as Kurt passes right by her wearing something on his head that doesn't seem quite right for somebody who takes immense pride in his appearance. Finn introduces Rory, who has something to say, and I groan, because it really isn't very pleasant to have to figure out what Rory is saying. I could enjoy the accent if he were a good actor, and I could take the atrocious acting if I didn't have to listen so hard and so carefully to understand him, but straining to make sense of idiotic dialogue in a wooden brogue is just too much.
He's replacing Finn? He's going to be the show's new lead? I quit. In May. Quite serious.
Anyway, Rory is lonely. His family could not come visit him in America, so he will be alone for the holidays and he wants to cheer himself up by depressing everybody else with a song. He dedicates this song to his family, and to the King, and when Kurt's eyes widen, and he says "Jesus" I find myself, for one of the very few times in my Glee watching career, questioning an acting choice Chris Colfer makes. He sounded almost interested or intrigued, and that's badly out of character for the kid who submitted an episode about being a very loud atheist as his Emmy reel. Maybe Mercedes or Quinn should have taken that line, or even Finn. Kurt was the wrong choice, unless he then rolled his eyes, or receded physically in exasperation. Unless he's been evangelized and they didn't bother to tell us?
At any rate, Blaine is the one who gently sets the record straight for Kurt that the King is Elvis, as Rory begins to sing. As I think I've said before, Rory does better singing than speaking, and he sings Blue Christmas. It's pretty, and dull, and pretty dull, but at least I can understand him. Maybe somebody could explain the concept of Skype to Rory. It might help the situation. But then, I remember that his primary company for the holidays is Brittney S. Pierce and Lord Tubbington, and I am surprised that he's not closer to abject despair. He certainly moves Santana toward depression, but Rachel suggests that they should focus on the joyous, happy pageant aspects of the season, because nobody is allowed to be a musical downer at Christmas except her. Tina reminds us all that this time last year, Kurt was a Dalton Warbler. I am glad she remembers that; the Warblers appear to have all forgotten. Sue destroyed their Christmas tree and Artie's new ReWalk broke a day after it was out of the BOX. Well, thanks for clearing that one up, Tina. Note to Shannon Beiste: if the ReWalk you just bought for the handicapped kid was something you were actually able to afford on a teacher's salary, it was probably a very bad knockoff. Either that, or Sue deliberately ran over it with her car. Last year, they were the Island of Misfit Toys, but THIS year...
Will interrupts Tina, because that is what people do to Tina, and because they are pretty much still the Island of Misfit Toys so it is best not to give into delusions of adaquacy when he can offer them STARDOM! STARDOM! PBS is unable, because of a copyright squabble, to show a Yule Log burning on their local affliate. While I ponder how a Yule Log became copyright infringement, and the implications for campfires everywhere, Puck, the local Jewish badboy, grouses that he doesn't get to watch the slow immolation of a piece of Christian wood. Therefore, the station manager, who appears to be a New Directions fanboy has decided to offer the Sectionals Champions a Christmas special, and Artie is going to direct. Artie, heady with this new layer of pretentious conceit, is hesitant; he swore he'd never sell out and do television. Everybody else just looks like they want to swear at Artie. Kurt looks like he may have remembered that they have another commitment.
Rory does not pack his locker well; one false move and everything explodes like the contents of a Jack-in-the-BOX. . Sam helps him pick the stuff up and they begin to commiserate about the pain of being separated from their families; it sure was nice of the Glee producers to go fetch Trouty Mouth so that Rory would not be the only person who is actually SEPARATED FROM HIS FAMILY for the pleasure of going to a school of the immense quality, academic rigor, culturally uplifting climate, class and prestige of Slushie Central, now with a Senior Class President who has obviously reneged on her promise to go topless every Tuesday. Maybe she means in the showers at school after Cheerios practice. That's the kind of promise Brittany would make. And now apparently the Pierce Family are going off to see the Gay Santas at Santa Fe, and for some reason Rory's not even welcome to come with them. They ask to have a foreign exchange student, who is a minor, live in their house, and make plans to abandon him 3000 miles from home during the holidays. This strikes me as being the kind of selfish crap I'd expect from people who raised Brittney.
By the way, while the size of Sam's lips don't bother me at all, I think they are making Chord use too much makeup, because if his lips get any redder I will fear he's bleeding. It's weirdly distracting and off. However, he is certainly a better person than Brittney is, because he's offering to let Rory spend the holiday with him and he's only known him for about fifteen minutes. Even Finn doesn't seem ready to do that.
As Artie wheels himself down the hall, he learns that the PBS station manager is a condescending idiot who thinks it's ever so neat that he's managed to get a handicapped student director, God Bless Us Everyone. Artie Tim would like to box his ears, but he can't reach that high, so in the spirit of Christmas he consoles himself by making two ironclad demands: he wants to make it somehow about Star Wars, despite the fact that it's an instant lawsuit, (remember the Chewbacca in your dream, Artie? He's working for Boba Fett, who works for George Lucas, and he's not here to spread Christmas Cheer. He's here to collect the money, and if he doesn't get it, he will rip out your spleen.)
And he wants to film in black and white, as a homage to Judy Garland specials. Now I imagine Chewbacca visiting Judy Garland during her special as she screams "OMIGOD, I've GOT to give up the pills and liquor! I'm hallucinating!" The station manager, who also looks a little like Boba Fett, will let Artie do anything he wants as long as he keeps it under $800 bucks, and Artie swears he can do it. Artie is lying.
Rachel is auditioning a song for the musical. To help her with this endeavor, she's imported a small forest of flocked trees, a backdrop of snow-covered hills, and quite a clever setup of falling snow that does not seem to make her even slightly chilly as she sings in her sleeveless dress. I thought they used up the decorating budget for the year? Or did this come out of the budget for Regionals and Nationals? Or is this part of the scenery for the $800 Christmas special? And why is the lady who admonished Rory for making everybody have a depressing Blue Christmas now singing about cutting down trees, making her baby cry and skating away? She offers her adoring audience a bow as she awaits the ovation she feels sure is coming, but Artie is looking a tad critical. It is not because Rachel's ears are naked, although I think her naked arms look kind of silly in the fake snow. See, Artie actually remembers the memo in the last scene about not singing depressing songs, and Rachel's tender whining does not fit his vision for the Christmas Special. This is enough to make Rachel, who apparently expected to be the star, furious. No, no, Artie has another vision. He sees a chalet in the swiss alps! The owners are... Kurt and Blaine!
Artie. Just. Cast. Kurt. As. The. Lead. In. His. Christmas. Special.
Artie doesn't know how far out of the doghouse he's just lifted himself with me. I was STILL mad about Officer Krupke. My new headcanon is that Artie realized what a crappy decision that was and is trying to make up for it now - either that, or he found out about the NYADA application and is trying to help Kurt get the heck out of Lima so that he and Rachel don't keep showing up on Glee next season and taking away the spotlight he's been waiting THREE YEARS to seize, MWAH HAHA HAHA. Hey, Artie may not know they've already sent in a blank application. At any rate - good call, Artie. Lead in a local Christmas television special IS a better piece of resume padding than lead in a high school musical, so I think that should... kinda solve the whole problem, really. Except that it's a Christmas special, and what happens in the Christmas Special, STAYS in the Christmas Special.
As Artie describes his vision for sophisticated banter and delightful songs, Rachel suddenly realizes that she.... sob.... is going to miss a pretend PARTY hosted by her BFF NYADA Best Gay unless she can be a little less depressing, but Rory is very pleased to be the Christmas Elf Itchy, who will be reciting Frosty the Snowman. You know, for somebody who is so touchy about sneers towards the handicapped, Artie sure is quick to latch onto stereotypes about others. He didn't cast Kurt well in WSS because he thought he was too delicate to be in a gang, and now the Leprechaun gets to be an Elf. I fully expect him to show up as Cupid in February. Just for that, Wheels, I am calling you Artie Tim for the remainder of this racap. Now, watch what box you shove folks in.
Artie Tim feels that Frosty the Snowman will end with fun, but Sam takes Great! Offense! At That! (Huh?) Sam goes off on Artie Tim for no particular reason because he suddenly feels that it's the SAD STUFF that makes you remember what's important at Christmas, and I think, Uh, Sam, lighten up, because you are basically treating Artie Tim the way Blaine treated you right before Sectionals. Yes, sadness happens at Christmas, and it's actually a pretty tragic problem for a lot of lonely people. (Like Sue, actually. And Rory, too.) No need to WALLOW in it for a Christmas special.
So, since the Christmas special is not depressing enough to suit him, Sam decides to go join the Salvation Army instead. Now, I can totally see how he might decide he's more interested in doing charity work than being on TV, and that's a fine, noble decision, but I am not sure how Artie Tim's desire to have upbeat music was somehow a moral failing that makes Sam feel he needs to stalk out and take Rory with him.
Rory... kinda wants to be an elf. And he's known most of these people for three months and Sam for a week, so no, there is no particular reason why he should have to leave, and this is not a huge betrayal, even if Sam looks so disgusted with everybody else that he might just walk home to Kentucky. You know, Rory is lonely, and separated from his family. Maybe he would feel better if he sang happy Christmas songs with his friends!
But Sam is mad because Artie Tim wanted to sing happy songs? SERIOUSLY? If he just thinks they need to be doing something more substantial to help the community, why not actually say that? Why not actually mention that they let down the homeless shelter? I think my problem with this scenario is that I don't really see making a Christmas special and caring for the homeless as an either/or situation. It's an artificial problem, and in the real world nobody, not even the homeless folks, would mind if you rescheduled the patronizing singalong about how it sucks to be poor until the following day. And Sue, if you want the company, come out more than once, because I am quite sure they will be more than happy to use your help twice.
So Finn lumbers up to Rachel, prepared to offer emotional support because Artie didn't think her gloomy song was perfect for his Christmas special. Welcome to showbiz, Rachel. Think of it as a favor. Artie is preparing you for the way EVERYBODY will treat you in the biz. EVERYBODY. And he was nice about it. Rachel feels that since Christmas is the time of giving, she must give her talents to the three people of Western Ohio who don't have cable. Then she asks for those diamond earrings again, because she's about to sing on television for the first time. I guess she forgot about the mattress commercial. Apparently, so did Kurt, because that would have been something to put on his empty NYADA application.
Finn is actually prepared for this moment. Well, kinda. Sorta. Well, not really at all, but he thought he was. Finn has a gift... of sorts... for Rachel. It's flat. Rachel says, "Well, it usually comes in a BOX" and opens the envelope to find... a picture of possibly the ugliest pig I've ever seen. "Where's my bling?" she pouts with the air of a five year old who got coal in his stocking. Finn explains that he couldn't really afford the diamond earrings she wanted, so... he bought her a virtual African Sow Pig. I think Kurt should explain to him the concept of cubic zirconium.
Yes, he bought his Jewish Vegan girlfriend the solace of knowing that somewhere in the world, there's a pig who is being overfed in her honor. At the end of the year, this woman who would not eat pork even if she did eat any meat at all can rest in the solace of knowing that the pig will be slaughtered and fed to a starving family somewhere. Now, I've given time and money to food banks in my time and I wholly support the idea of offering a charitable donation as a gift, but there are a lot of charities out there who feed the hungry and this seems like an unusually poor fit for Rachel. Maybe he could have donated to the local food bank or Feed the Children in her name instead... but that might have been kind of adorable and appropriate, and this was all they had for a plotline this episode, so now we've got this pig.
Which is not to say that Rachel's not being a pig herself, because she is. And during her next monologue, her sneer is so unattractive she's almost as appealing as the sow. All she wants is what's coming to her. All she wants is her fair share. All I want to do is smack her.
And now we come to the scene that reminds me how sorry the Glee producers are that they didn't make Blaine bisexual when they had the chance. Musical Moneymaker #1 and Musical Moneymaker #2 are in the choir room trying very hard to make the Glee organization very rich (God knows Darren and Lea don't see a dime from this) with a really bad original Christmas song. (See, no royalties! No overhead! Pure profit! Except that the song is awful.) I do notice that when he sings "hold me tight and don't let go" the camera shoots to Kurt, so they have not actually forgotten his real romance. Then they are into the chorus, in which they assure us that they are going to party until Santa grants their wishes, and I wish he'd give them better lyrics, and then they are making flirty faces and cuddling and Santana and Brittany are overcome with the burning desire to start dancing around the floor with them and everybody else is dancing from their seats except for Artie Tim, who just sits there looking very knowing and powerful. Blaine and Rachel end this song curled around each other, because apparently the whole Maria and Tony habits die hard, and Rachel is now the show's Official Just-for-show Beard. It's OK. She's not unfair about it. Wait until the Christmas special when she wraps herself so firmly around Kurt I think he's going to suffocate.
As the song ends, her cheery facade fades and she stares at Artie Tim like an American Idol contestant facing Simon Cowell, except that I guess he's on X-Factor now, right? I never watch that. Artie Tim thinks it's gold. He loves it. Rachel almost weeps with relief. Artie... just Artie, that joke has gone on too long... sees them performing it with Cheerios in the background, and I wonder if he had it planned for the last ten minutes of the special. Sue, that ardent supporter of the arts all season long, comes in to praise their hard work and thanks them for their preparations to sing for the homeless. Artie explains that they have to shoot their TV special on Friday and wonders if they can do it another night. Santana offers a really intelligent line: "The homeless will be homeless for awhile... that's kind of the problem." Yes, it is, and this is one of those scenes where artificial conflict is created where none is needed. Sue is berating them for not showing up on a particular day, but actually, Santana is right. It will do nobody any harm at all to switch the Homeless Shelter performance to Saturday - and they could even use the Special as a platform to advertise the existence of the Shelter and ask for charitable donations to support it. This zero sum game - morally, you MUST give up the professional chance of a lifetime for almost all these kids, because the Homeless Shelter NEEDS you to sing to them on THIS PARTICULAR DATE AND NO OTHER - does not make sense.
However, rather than explain how a collaboration here could result in a win/win for everybody, including the coffers of the homeless shelter, Artie ups the ante in the battle of grudges by reminding Sue of her own past grinchy behavior. Rachel thinks the homeless should watch the Christmas special, which I think is a good idea, but Sue says they don't have TVs, which makes me think maybe one of these wealthy kids could loan them one so they can watch a special that includes a plea to support them. However, in order for this episode to work, it must be morally imperative that they sing on that night, and that night only, and that there can be no other compromise or arrangement worked out to ensure a good result for everybody, and so Sue rides off on her moral high horse and I can't believe what just happened.
It's LIVE... a long time ago! In a chalet far, far away from Lima, which is where at least one of the chalet's owners really wants to be! Here comes the GLEE Holiday Spectacular! Featuring each of these kids named off, not in order of the importance they actually had to the special, but... apparently, in the order of importance their relative romance has to the overall series, although that would mean there's a pretty kinky threesome to start the whole thing off.
The announcer does point out that Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang are no relation, thank goodness, and when they get married she won't even have to change her name... (wait, were they actually in this special?) And for the opening credits, everybody is in color so you can see their pretty costumes before their world goes monochromatic.
Are we live? Yes, Artie, I think the announcer just told us that. OK, here's the chalet in the Lima Swiss Alps, and the opening segment to what I personally thought was one of the funniest, most cracktastic, freshest, segments Glee has had in over a year. I understand that exactly 50 percent of everybody who watched this show agreed with me about this, and the other 50 percent think this was garbage and we are all insane. So, in the interest of pleasing absolutely everybody and appeasing every single possible point of view, I will recap parts of this segment twice, giving my real opinion first and including a special, snarkalicious negative recap in italics. Because I understand that people feel they must have their own point of view validated by me and by the writers of Glee at all times.
In the window of the chalet we see the ever so dapper bachelor Blaine, peering out at the snow with worry as he begins to sing a jazzy, upbeat version of "Let it Snow". His bachelor roommate Kurt joins him, and they are ever so cute as they whisk lines about kissing goodnight and holding each other tight past the audience without a single sign of real sexual tension. It's low on heat and high on adorable, and they've got another duet that actually works on their hands. Then they start a dance routine that seems to be a little soft shoe, a little tap, a little... OK, why was Kurt in Booty Camp again? Or is this very nice dancing routine the result of him getting the extra practice? Towards the end of this really fun number, Blaine is so overcome with the passion of thinking about how the lights are turned way down low and Kurt loves him so that he actually pats Kurt's back once or twice. Then the two roommates and bachelors realize that they have company in the form of the audience and go to greet... uh, us.
Special recap for people who hated the black and white segment
Kurt and Blaine sing a really weird speeded up version of Let It Snow that is way too fast and stilted, and then they execute some clumsy dance moves that explains why Kurt was put in Booty Camp. Blaine can't even keep in sync. Then at the end of it all they pretend the audience hasn't been staring at them through the window like a bunch of really creepy peeping toms and they give this really wooden, fake greeting. There's already so much cheese we could feed nachos to the entire homeless shelter.
Living in a chalet in the Swiss Alps has given Kurt a slight European accent as he goes to introduce himself to us, the viewers, and welcome us into the perfect home he shares with his best friend and holiday roommate, Blaine Anderson. You see, since it's long, long ago in a chalet far, far away, filmed in black and white, he prefers not to specify "best friend with benefits" or "holiday bedmate". This special is set in the 1950s, except when it's clearly not, and we will get to that in a minute. And the way they touch each other's backs is just consistent enough for us to get their relationship and just vague enough to be missed by anybody who assumed Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter were straight. The two roommates and best friends exchange witty banter about the snow and Santa's sleigh that the laugh track finds incredibly entertaining. Then Kurt realizes that we've been shivering in the artic blast of winter in the Swiss Alps from the comfort of our living rooms and invites us in. Blaine offers us all some holiday libations, and Kurt excuses himself to take a quick trip in time to 2011 to bid on Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry online. The future is upstairs in this chalet... it's magical, I tell you!
Special recap for people who hated the black and white portion of this show:
Living in a chalet in the Swiss Alps has given Kurt a pretentious English accent as he stares into nothingness and sets back the gay rights agenda fifty years by pretending he's only Blaine's friend. They exchange some truly cringeworthy dialogue that makes me want to throw things at them because if I wanted to watch something this corny, I'd turn on Nick at Night, except that even they've given up on this old sitcom crap. And no, Kurt, I am not shivering in the cold and I don't want your libations. I want to change the channel, actually, but I am stuck in a twilight zone where this is all that is on. Then Kurt goes to check to see how his bid for Liz Taylor's jewelry is going, and I just throw something because this dumb special can't even pick a decade and stick to it.
Upstairs in 2011, Kurt is stricken with staccato anguish. Blaine and the laugh track think Mariah Carey has outbid him on Liz's necklace, but it's even worse than that: all the static caused by the snow and by being set in the 1950s has caused Kurt's internet to go down, so he could not bid at all. Kurt's extreme disconsolate anguish, a required Glee element in all episodes these days, is short-lived however, because the doorbell requires that he go back downstairs to the 1950s and let in the guests he apparently forgot were invited.
For the folks who hated this:
Kurt can't bid on that stupid necklace because the internet is down in the Swiss Alps. Also, because he does not have the 11 million dollars it would take to bid on that thing. Kurt cries. Again. It's about the only thing he does these days, and we can't get away from it even during a cheesy Christmas special.
Mercedes and Rachel are at the door. Despite being the first two arrivals to this party, they apologize for being late, and I am happy to see that there is at least one concession to 21st century moral and social standards in this 1950s homage; it occurs to me that Mercedes would not have been welcome in the all-white cast of one of those old corny clunkers, and she gets to shine here. Kurt assures the ladies that there is still eggnog and accepts compliments on his interior decorating skills by talking about a "splash of color" and he references the starkly black and white set. Blaine introduces the women to us, and explains that they are on television. Rachel is immediately starstruck by the whole idea, and they all proceed to speak to each other while staring directly into the camera at all times. Mercedes gives Kurt a BOX which he opens with the squawking and twittering that one would usually expect from a Victorian era British nanny; she has bought Kurt the Elizabeth Taylor jewelry he was unable to bid for online. Kurt gets to believe it's a miracle, and Mercedes conspiratorially informs us that it's a knockoff. Rachel the eternal Beard has a present for Blaine: for reasons unknown to mere technicolor mortals, she needs a BOX twice the size of a violin to give him a bowtie with little Christmas Trees on it.
Kurt and Blaine do not exchange BOXes, and the internet goes bonkers.
Notations for Negative Nellies:
Then Rachel and Mercedes show up to add even more empty calories to this silly cheese fest by talking in even faker accents that Kurt, if that is possible, while offering up their own painful presents. Kurt's going to look awfully cute in that terrible costume jewelry Mercedes bought him, and it's certainly not going to help his reputation for being "delicate." Meanwhile, Rachel gives Blaine a Christmas bowtie, which is certainly not going to help his reputation for being a huge dork who can't dress himself. And HOW DARE THEY RELEASE A PICTURE OF A KLAINE PRESENT AND CUT IT FROM THE FINAL DRAFT OF THE SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That spoiled THE WHOLE THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spoilers can be dangerous to your mental health!
But wait... there's MORE! Underneath the Christmas Tree tie there is a pair of candy cane striped Capri pants for Blaine. I can't... even.... it's a blessing this is black and white. I notice the guys don't have any presents for the girls, but they do have a piano, and the boys beg and beg and BEG Rachel and Mercedes to perform for them and for their audience. Yes, they heard that correctly. They had to beg Rachel to sing. Interestingly enough, in the spirit of Christmas (and guaranteed solos at every competition until she graduates) Mercedes is actually willing to collaborate with her. The song is "My Favorite Things", a tune from The Sound of Music that began as a conversation between a teacher and her children, and is only considered a Christmas song now because Barbra (who is Jewish) says so. Streisand Christmas Album Both of the Best Friends and Holiday Roommmates have passages in which they are required to insist that their favorite things include "girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes", which I strongly doubt. However, after two mezzo voices and a thrilling countertenor, Darren's serviceable regular tenor (or is he a baritone? Marie, my friend, help me out here...) comes as kind of a jarring shock to the system and I think maybe this should have been a Three Divas number. It's not that he's singing poorly, because he's not. He just does not match. Rachel the Eternal and Equal Opportunity Beard drapes herself all over Kurt and my Hummelberry heart skips a beat. Then I remember that they are basically doing EXACTLY the same thing with Hummelberry that they did with Raine earlier this episode. Heh. They really aren't sure what to do with these gay characters who are stronger than the straight males who were originally supposed to carry the series.
I have often said that Amber is not as good an actor here as many of the other people in Glee, and it holds true here, with an amazing affect. Because she is unable to capture completely the stilted Victorian pretentiousness that is at the heart of this particular skit, she comes across at the most natural and is actually the least irritating of the four to watch; Darren, who is a little better than Amber, makes me cringe less than Lea and Chris, who did a much better job of what the director actually wanted.
Gloomy gab for the grumpy:
The Other Unholy Trinity and the Sockless Wonder start singing this really pretentious and phony version of some song from The Sound of Music, which isn't even a Christmas song. The bad accents are all really beginning to grate, and there is no way Kurt thinks girls in any kind of dress with sashes of any kind are among his favorite things, especially now that he's got that jewelry. Blaine's voice blends like a flat tire. And then, just when I think we are at the end of this infernal preciousness, they REPEAT THE VERSES!
At the end of this ever so entertaining entertainment, Mercedes innocently asks when Christmas dinner will be served. With voice stricken by the onslaught of ever-encroaching doom, Kurt realizes that he's been so busy with guests and songs, he forgot to turn on the oven. Well, that ought to delay things by about five minutes, sweetie. Shall we order pizza? Oh, that's right. The snow. Let's just enjoy some more of this delicious cheese until your dinner cooks. And now, a word from our sponsors.
After the song finally ends, St. Kurt the Eternally Tragic realizes he forgot to turn on the stove, and if I hear that laugh track one more time I swear I am going to tweet Brad, and we can't have that. The Sockless Wonder takes us to commercial, and I find it more entertaining than this garbage.
The next segment begins with a VERY dirty joke that I am surprised got past the censors. Not that I am complaining, but it is utterly cracktastic for Kurt to be delivering a joke about... emissions... during a skit in which he pretends to be a Gelding (not a Gelfling) during the pristine 1950s. But then, this kind of mind-boggling pinball logic is actually why I love this whole segment so much. There are a few rather random references to Global Warming (which actually worries me, for real) and The End Times (which does not, for religious reasons I do not need to go into here) before they hear the sound of jingle bells. They hope it's Santa, but it's actually... uh... Finn Skywalker and Noah Solo. And I have to hand it to Cory here. He makes it very, very clear that Finn is much less comfortable in this situation than Rachel and Kurt are, and his brand of stilted, awkward delivery is completely different from their arch overenunciation as he informs the audience that he is NOT Luke Skywalker and it's only coincidental that he's dressed like a resident of Tatooine while bearing a light saber. Then our two new friends, who are nothing like Star Wars characters, no sir, cheerfully assure us that Santa Claus is Coming to Town on a sled powered by the awesomeness of Bruce Springsteen. I am reminded that this is the kind of song Cory actually does REALLY WELL (for those of you who sit in the gloom, silently resenting my comments about Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) and besides, he's at his drum kit, which is always a good idea. Does NYADA have a program for professional drummers?
In the background, Rachel clings to Kurt like she's on the Titanic and he's a life preserver. I regard them with a smile. They are the bread and butter of the spinoff IF it happens. What are they going to do with this friendship?
And now this black and white segment, which is beginning to get longer Kurt's solo on As If We Never Said Goodbye last year, goes completely off the rails as Finn and Puck arrive pretending to be Star Wars characters. Except that they aren't. And then they sing Springsteen. And I contemplate how many beers it will take for me to enjoy this ridiculous gibberish without sticking a fork in my eye.
And then... I actually think it begins to be overkill. Maybe it's because Heather is really a dancer rather than a singer, but when Mike and the Cheerios arrive to sing Christmas Wrappings, I am left a bit cold. She sounds awfully autotuned, and that's because Brittney can't really sing, and the joke is finally beginning to run a little long, at that. Also, before this segment, there were implied personal relationships between the newcomers and those already at the Klaine Chalet, but she looks like an overgrown elf who just broke into the place and held it hostage with her Ribbons of Doom. I will pander shamelessly to Brittana fans everywhere by saying it would have been more effective for the two local lesbians to arrive kissing under mistletoe, (except that this would never have been accepted in the 1950s)
For those who hated this:
I didn't like it either. Heather can't sing, and the joke has gone on long enough. We should have had Santa Baby instead.
As the number ends, through the fog comes Itchy, the Holiday Elf, who looks a lot like Rory, Brittany's Personal Leprechaun. Kurt has asked Itchy to read them all Frosty the Snowman, but Itchy, like all good Irish Catholic boys, is pretty much filled with guilt all the time, (Just read Angela's Ashes - it's true!) so he's searched his heart, and come up with another passage. Rachel breaks character for long enough to express great distress that he's broken from Artie's carefully arranged script, and Rory does his best impression of Linus from Peanuts. Mind you, Linus is epic. Peanuts is the Best. Comic strip. Ever.
Rory is reading from the Bible - Luke 2:8. And there were in the same country, shepherds, abiding in the fields.
I am not able to snark about this.
You may choose not to read anymore if you wish.
Rory, whom I normally regard as I would as a mosquito, makes me want to cry in gratitude as he puts the Christ back in Christmas in a place I never, ever expected. You are not required to agree.
There is no satirical counterpoint to this segment. I do agree quite fervently that the Christmas season is filled with good people who, without any particular religious conviction, rise to the opportunity to help their fellow man merely because it is the right thing to do, and I wish all the very best to you and yours this season.
However, what happens next does not really make sense. I am a Christian with decades in the faith, and I'm a pretty easy target for this message, but you know who isn't?
Kurt, the atheist.
Rachel and Puck, the Jews.
(Characters I adore, by the way.) So why do they sit in rapt contemplation of his words as he reads through a text which they consider to be mythology at best? And either terrible theology or plain nonsense at worst?
The black and white segment has ended, and we are back at the homeless shelter where a terrible pianist is banging through Jingle Bells as best he can while Quinn and Sam dish up the chow. Sam, who thankfully missed Crazy Quinn in the flesh, does not quite understand the complete horrific display she gave us all and thinks she's doing fine. Quinn says she's better since she began focusing on the positive. Sue steps in to remind them that they have to give stingy portions because Lima does not donate well to homeless shelters. Suddenly...
IT'S A MIRACLE!!!!!!! Through the door comes New Directions, that musical troupe so magical that last year, when they sang Christmas Carols, somebody threw a shoe at them. They are late, but they have a tree, they have a prop turkey, they have all the fixin's.
Apparently, Rory persuaded them to give to a homeless shelter by reading about Shepherds who were told of their Messiah. That particular passage was not about feeding the hungry or even caring for your fellow man, really.
Puck wants to eat. Thank you, Puck, for keeping this from being maudlin.
Then Artie admits that they are not actually here because they were overcome with guilt and generosity. They are here because they have no gig. The station manager made a deal with the Yule Log people and threw them all out before the final song. So, left in the lurch, New Directions decided to honor a forgotten promise and pretend it's a noble sacrifice to the gods of guilt. With that being said, New Directions chooses to sing, to homeless people in desperate need, a song about hungry African people in desperate need. Really. Their whole message appears to be "OK, you guys are destitute. Doesn't that condition suck?" Now, explain to me again why it would not have been better to watch the innocent, happy special that featured happy people singing happy, sappy songs?
If I had been in charge of this episode, I think I would have done this. Instead of Christmas Wrapping, we would have had the entire cast come in to talk about the suffering people at the Lima Salvation Army (address included) and tell them that these people need help. Then we sing Do They Know It's Christmas, and that actually concludes the legitimate telecast. Then the cast goes to the shelter to see that many people from Lima have come out to help the soup kitchen, and THEN we have Raine sing An Extraordinary Merry Christmas as the entertainment.
Rachel had undergone a complete personality transformation because of a minute and a half bible reading for a religion in which she does not believe. Because shepherds heard about a Christ child, Rachel has named her African Sow Pig "Barbra." I can't begin to tell you how many things are wrong with this logic. It's a kosher sow pig. Right. Finn, hush now. More to the point, Baby Jesus has made Jewish Rachel regret her earlier greedy ways, just as Baby Jesus has made Finn realize Barbra's a goner and Rachel might want something less depressing. So he got Rachel his very own star. See, Rachel doesn't need a star, because she IS a star, but since Finn's completely unremarkable and will spend the rest of his life in Lima, (unless Ryan Murphy decides that Hummelberry needs somebody to do some heavy lifting in the New York spinoff, ) he has had Finn buy himself (basically) a star. Never mind that the entire concept is a scam. And the gas star which is not really officially named Finn Hudson will look down on the earthly human star Rachel Berry. Now, let's all say it together...... AWWWWWWWWWWW......
Oh, and he got her some earrings, too. I guess Kurt finally got around to explaining about cubic zirconium. But he hocked his Letterman jacket to get them for her, and Rachel finally realizes what she was demanding of Finn. She feels belatedly terrible, which is a pretty consistent pattern with Rachel these days, so she decides to give back by rejecting this gift, for which Finn sacrificed something very important.
Sam and Rory are ringing bells for the Salvation Army, which apparently has a very hostile view towards homosexuals, just to make this whole message nice and weird and uncomfortable. Kurt, Santana, and Blaine are not hanging out with them. Can't imagine why. Finchel arrive with a donation. They've hocked the earrings that Finn hocked his jacket to buy for Rachel, and they throw the proceeds into the Salvation Army bin. See, remember... it's not Rachel who made the huge sacrifice here. Not really. It's Finn. He gave up not only his Letterman jacket, but his new Ipod as well. It's not really the Gift of the Magi, although it's clear that's what RIB were going for. And then they begin ringing the bells as well and asking for donations. Since they are all straight, they can do that. Only at the very end does Jewish Rachel wish those who offer donations a Happy Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday has been a complete afterthought in this presentation.