Glee: Hello Ice Cream Visions, Goodbye Horses
by Halle Kiefer
Halle Kiefer is watching a television show called Glee, which is set in a magical American high school in Ohio, and trying to make sense of it week by week. Last episode, the infamous all-Madonna episode thrilled and disappointed in near-equal portions. Last night, though she ran into both hilarity and then…. a wee spot of trouble with bulimia and the jokes about bulimia. Definitely there are spoilers.
Let us start with the elephant in the room: last night’s episode WAS THE BIGGEST WASTE OF A ROLLER RINK. EVER. Right? I mean, when our Spanish teacher Will Schuester first walks into Rinky Dinks (or Rink Springfield, or The Fellowship of the Rinks or whatever god forsaken pun they named that place) to rent it out for glee club practice space, I was like, o ho ho, let’s do this! But then… they blew it. Just one middling duet of the Boss’s “Fire” between Schue and bag of strings April (Kristin Chenoweth), who they’ve made so tan and sinewy she looks like the Skin Horse from The Velveteen Rabbit. No skate-jumps! No skate-lifts! No roman candles flaring in slow-motion as back-up dancers spin horizontally over their couples skate!
We quickly learn that Sue has reserved (read: blackmailed the principal) the high school’s gym in perpetuity, thus preventing the Nude Erections from having enough room to practice those huge show stopping numbers they will at one point be choreographing. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because the glee club would practice in the auditorium, so maybe Sue booked up the auditorium? Except the Cheerios practice in the gym? Either way, Sue definitely hates Will for some reason that I have long forgotten, and she is really sticking it to him in this episode! In a moment of amazing hubris, Sue tells Will that she is blackmailing Principal Figgins. Mwuh oh, Sue!
At first I was like, there is no way Sue Sylvester would ever have let that slip out. Keeping terrible secrets is like Rule #1 in the Psychopaths’ Handbook! But I actually prefer the idea that her pathology has filled her with such an overweening sense of invincibility, boosted, no doubt, by an impeding visit from Tracey Pendergast, reporter from Splits! Magazine, whose visit I’m certain will not be interrupted by any unplanned events, least of all a festive musical number. Sue shoos Will from her office, saying that she has a call to place to Ohio’s State Government to let them know that she won’t be carrying ID any more. Why? Sue explains, “People should know who I am.” Ah ha, yes. Delicious.
Speaking of pathology, in which episode did they reveal that Kurt was secretly a baby serial killer? Because damn, boy! I must have MISSED THAT ONE. To their credit, the writers gave the slobbering masses what we wanted: a Kurt & Mercedes episode! GIVES IT TO US! WE WANTS IT! When Sue warns K&M; to slim down or risk their spot on the Cheerios, she snarls, “How do you two not have a show on Bravo?” Looks like someone has been getting my LEEETTTEEERRRS! But Kurt barely has enough time to not eat, what with all of his energy going to getting his dad Burt and Finn’s mom Carole to start dating (successful!), fueled by his crush on Finn (pathetic L) and with the goal of getting Finn and him to move into the same house (weird and a little scary!). Well, Kurt, sounds like a solid idea. Don’t see what could possibly go wrong with a manipulative, underhanded scheme to become family with an unsuspecting straight high school football star and enact the sordid, unattainable fantasies that have been roiling in your brain for months. Actually… wait…no, that is pretty hot. Fair enough!
After the most uncomfortable rendition of Bab’s “House is not a Home” IMAGINABLE (Finn just sits there dull-eyed and expressionless, breathing through his mouth like a handsome Sasquatch; Kurt has one single tear running down his cheek because…what? He loves Finn so much? He senses it can never happen between them? He realizes how highly inappropriate that duet was to do in front of other people?), Finn flips out at his mom, unready for her to considering replacing his father in their lives, prompting his mom to put the urn filled with Finn’s father’s ashes into his father’s old arm chair and talking to them like they were a real person. God Mom, diva much? Finn is 16, not 36, despite what his birth certificate/body hair might tell you. Take it down a notch!
Kurt’s dad and Finn’s mom seem pretty eager to reach the bone zone, so he sits his son down to discuss loneliness, football and other completely non-fabulous things as Kurt furiously re-decorates his room, because if there’s one thing the writers know about gay kids, its that they love paint and fabric swatches. (It’s in their pink, sequined blood!) (Which coincidentally is what Lip Smackers are made from.) When we see Kurt taping up 36 difference shades of grey on his wall, at first I was like, “O that Kurt, always doingOMYGODWHYDOESKURTLIVEINANINSANEASYLUM?” Every single object in Kurt’s room, from the furniture to the little Ikea bud vases, is stark, blinding, institutional white. That is seriously some middle-school Patrick Bateman shit RIGHT THERE. No thank you! And right about there is when the character we know and love switches over from “ignorant but well-meaning stereotype” Kurt to “Collection of sound bites the Westboro Baptist Church uses to get its hate up” Kurt. Our littlest diva went from sassy androgyne to baby-faced sociopath in about 20 minutes, real-time. At that point it’s like, maybe your dad has a hard time communicating with you because you never stop talking about your “dark passenger,” and won’t to pick up the human teeth you left laying all over the den! Argh, raising a teenage Bond villain is hard! The episode ends, I kid you not, with Kurt sobbing as he looks in the window of Finn’s home late a night, jealous of Finn as he bonds with Burt over sports and the admittedly hilarious line, “I hate Duke more than I hate the Nazis.” Who doesn’t?!?! O those gay men, always shopping and decorating and sobbing and lurking and conniving and digging up the yard in the middle of the night for nefarious purposes. Maybe you and your dad can bond over that bone saw you requested for Christmas?
Meanwhile, over in No One Gives a Shit-sville, April finagles a way to rest her weary leather bones on Will’s couch after confiding in him that she is currently a mistress for an exceedingly old strip mall tycoon/struggling to stay on the wagon/ generally being a sad dusty sack of troubles. Despite my total lack of engagement with this plot line (it’s hard to invest in any of Schue’s romances when he has a veritable STABLE of damaged, emaciated women for him to belt into their mouths), I really liked their duet of Streisand’s “One Less Man/A House is Not a Home” (Butter & Things That Are Like It Rating: 6), which they sang side-by-side on the biggest bed known to the planet (remember last season when Schue slept on a mattress in the band room because his wife was crazy, and then they couldn’t return the mattress to the Mattress King which almost disqualified them from Regionals, which is a hilarious thing to be such a HUGE plot point? LOLOLOL. Ah, simpler times, simpler pleasures). Say what I will about that little gritty penny, Kristin Chenoweth has got pipes on her for days, and I was so relieved that they didn’t make her rub up on any of Schue’s pipe-person knobs or valves…at least not this week.
And now onto Mercedes! She should seriously get a trumpet fanfare every time she walks on camera; I’m going to add one in my head until the network catches up with popular demand. After begrudgingly heeding Sue’s warning to lose weight or lose her tiny toehold on the ladder of popularity, Mercedes tumbles head-first toward an eating disorder, complete with Sue Sylvester’s Master Cleanse (“Sometime I add a spoonful of sand,” Brittany helpfully suggests) and cast members in hallucinated foam food costumes. Luckily for the desiccated emotional heart of this show, Mercedes is the only actor who doesn’t feel the need to gnaw off the fucking wallpaper in each and every scene she’s in, unlike SOME Jewish-American-Two-Dad-Having-Princesses we know. But because this is “Glee,” Mercedes inevitably passes out from fasting for like a day (I’m with you, girl!) and is rushed to the hospital, where she learns an important lesson from disgruntled former Cheerio Quinn: getting pregnant helps you learn how to eat better (it also apparently gives you FLAWLESS hair, but this was not discussed to the length I would have liked it to be).
But…we couldn’t stop with an anorexia joke or two, could be? Nope, we just had to keeping pushing the plotline past clumsy and out onto the terrorscape. Last night gave us the worst scene of the series BAR NONE, when Sue Sylvester jokingly (?) encourages Becky, the cheerleader with Down’s Syndrome, to get bulimia, cheerfully predicting she will be leaving “baggies of upchuck” around her house for her parents to find. HAHA. Do you get it? It’s because the world is horrible nightmare planet and everything in it is beyond terrible? I understand that this was someone’s insufferably smug nod to Sue’s view that Becky is in all ways equal to the other cheerleaders (“Now you can be like every other girl your age,” Sue says, in support of Becky’s recent mandatory weight loss), but seriously, isn’t there something to be said for choosing not to willfully remind the viewers that our existence is filled with unending sorrow visited in a million ways on the most innocent and vulnerable among us? Like, come on, I watch “Glee” for the musical numbers, not the CRUSHING NIHILISM. Also, I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t want to see Jane Lynch encouraging a girl with Down’s Syndrome to get bulimia. I JUST DON’T. The fact that I even have to TYPE THAT PHRASE should make every writer, director and producer affiliated with this show really question exactly when Satan took control of their minds and bodies (hint: it sometime before or during the shooting of that date rape blackmail episode).
After I finishing scraping most of the misery vomit off of my eye balls, I was pleased to see Mercedes eventually tie her bed sheets together, hang them out the hospital window and shimmy down a drain pipe (I’m just filling in the blanks here), arriving back to school just in time to tear the pep rally down with Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” a lovely production number brought to you by On The Nose Productions, a subsidiary of No Doy Industries. I’m just kidding; I am not EVEN going to pretend I didn’t get something in my eye during that song (this time it was a tear!), because that is the song we all mumble quietly to ourselves when someone brings up who ate all the peanut brittle that had fallen on the floor, or asks you “When the baby due”?” and “Wasn’t that brittle already in the garbage can already?” This number represents how great “Glee” can be when once a week it realizes it can bring us these tiny harmless joys WITHOUT dipping its ham-fists into the pool of unremitting sadness that pervades most of existence and slopping it all over our Sue Sylvester!
Also there for Mercedes’ emotional firestorm (definition: a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. Yes!) was Sue’s visiting reporter from Splits! Magazine, and it turns out…it’s a man! He’s a Man Tracey! After he sees the performance, Sue and Man Tracey meet up in her office and boy does he look upset! Is he going to be mad about Sue’s highly unorthodox cheerleading squad, which includes men and African-American people and upwards of one big girl, and let’s be honest, didn’t really do much cheerleading, but still managed to have the entire audience on its feet weeping and singing along? Is he going to chastise her? Of course not! Why would anyone be mad about that? Is that a thing someone would be upset about, ever? Also, are we still doing this kind of set-up? “Okay, Man Tracey, you start a sentence with, “Never in my life…,” and then Jane Lunch, you interrupt with, “Look, I can explain…” but before you can get it out, he continues with, “…Never in my life have I ever seen magnificent cheerleading!” Just let him finish his sentence, Sue!
The only other soul-deadening moment of this week’s episode is when April finds Will to happily proclaim that the withered man-skeleton she was falling asleep under has finally died, causing his grieving widow to pay her for her silence (!!! Hurray, good job April!) to the tune of millions! “And I haven’t had a drink in 45 minutes!” she crows, in the episode’s most emotionally honest line. But then, as April’s explaining her good fortune in having her elder lover die of a sudden stroke, Kristin Chenoweth literally turns down the side of her face in imitation of a stroke victim. Oh my god, people! This week’s episode, co-written by the Lord of the Flies!
Either way, the glee club wins the day, as April uses her gross-old-man sex winnings to buy the auditorium (?) (her words, not mine), thus giving the New Directions a place to practice! Hurray! Because everyone knows that when you pay to have an auditorium named after you, you get to control who gets to use it, forever and ever into infinity. It’s just true! As she is leaving to be carted off with the other rags for burning, Kristin brings another classy, fabulous performance, this time singing “Home” from “The Wiz,” but, I don’t know, all the tawny despair of her character sort of sucked any potential joy out of it for me. Maybe, as I think every week, maybe I’m just expecting too much. Maybe I should just walk away, away from this show of laughter and horrors…
And then. O ho ho, and then. They showed a preview of the guest stars for next week: Molly Shannon & Olivia Newton-John. And the plot revolves around a Hot or Not? List of the Glee Club. Buh! Guh! Duh! Ooooo, alright, you got me. You got me good. I know I should look away, “Glee,” but I just can’t! Especially not with my eyes crusted open like this.
Halle Kiefer doesn’t get out much on Tuesday nights.