by Halle Kiefer
This was the first episode in which I felt the darkness of real life butted up against the cartoon land of “Glee,” and, honestly, I don’t know how the show is going to hold up. Well, okay. Before I get into that eternal sadness, let’s talk about the adorable plot line of Tina the Goth vs. Principal “Actually Believes in Vampires” Figgins. After a band of Hot Fat Teen Vampires, aka Glee Spin Off Show #407, takes down a hapless nerd in the hallway, Figgins cracks down on all Goths school-wide. (I’m really hoping those vamps actually did rip open that dweeb’s throat out and gorged themselves on his blood. All I’m saying is, I buy the DVDs for the extras!) Schue intervenes in the heated argument between Figgins and Tina’s fabulous tiny top hat, reminding the principal that he once idealized Elvis so much that he started dressing like him. “But he was a Christian!” Figgins protests, “And he didn’t have the ability to transform into a bat!” Like manna from Heaven, these spin-off ideas spill unceasingly from Figgins’ mouth. Anyway, Tina thereby is forced to attend school bare-faced and be-sweatshirted with hair of a normal color. “I feel like an Asian Branch Davidian!” she laments. A Waco reference 17 years after the fact? O my! Tina must have heard about that when her mother put the radio too close to her WOMB.
After finding Christmas light boxes in a Dumpster and the local craft-store sold out of red Chantilly lace, Rachel the resourceful nut bar informs the horrified gleebians that rival team Vocal Adrenaline is doing a Lady Gaga number, the spectacle of which will almost certainly shut New Directions down at competition. O HELL NO IT WON’T! Not while Kurt still walks this earth a free man. “What’s up with this Gaga guy?,” Puck asks, and Rachel, Mercedes and Quinn sneak into the other team’s practice to find out exactly that. O, and also to force Rachel to realize that the age-appropriate woman who looks EXACTLY LIKE HER is, doy, her absentee birth mother. Meanwhile Quinn and Puck have drama about naming their baby before giving her up for adoption. “Okay, okay. Jackie Daniels,” Puck concedes after Quinn reminds him the fetus is a girl. Ah, how do I love him? Let me mount the ways…
I had never heard Babs’ “Funny Girl” [ED. NOTE: WHAT? SERIOUSLY?] before Idina Menzel’s Shelby started singing it into a conveniently placed full-length mirror at Vocal Adrenaline’s practice. Which, as a female comedian, let me just say, ugh. “Though I may be all wrong for a guy, I’m good for a laugh.” Don’t mind me; I’ll just be over here in front of this brick wall, sobbing into my jean jacket and bolo tie. Also, why has my life been so Babs-deficient up until now? I BLAME ALL OF THE SCHOOL SYSTEMS. Idina is fabulousness incarnate, but the set-up for all of the songs this week was such a streeeeeeeeeeetch. “NO, you 30 kids willfully dressed in Lady Gaga’s 2009 VMA acceptance monstrosity, you don’t get what theatricality is! Let me show you!” Rachel finally confronts Shelby about being her mom, and Shelby handles it well… for about 4 seconds, then she freaks out and bails on Rachel, leaving her to deal with it alone. Well-played, adult person! Way to handle a difficult situation where the other person involved is a child! Also, where was Jesse in this episode? Probably on another spring break, if I know that guy! Just kicking back on the beach, toes in the sand, taking a much needed second week away from his strict schedule of manipulating unsuspecting girls into finding their birth parents and deep conditioning his hair.
Schue doesn’t have any better excuses to explain why the kids should incorporate more drama into their performances, weakly suggesting that they all needed to be themselves/other people/Lady Gaga or something, who knows. Whatever, Schue! Isn’t there a Spanish final you should be grading? Ouch, CALIENTE! The girls and Kurt return to school the next day festooned in a variety of home-made Gaga costumes which were fierce, fierce, hella hella fierce. Rachel showed up in a fetching Beanie Babies and staples number, and I would personally like to declare martial law over this show to demand that Mercedes, Brittany and Santana be required to wear their Gaga outfits from now until the series finale. Miniature American flags for some, mandatory purple bow wigs and lobster hats for others! The little monsters swagger and pound their way through a delightful rendition of “Bad Romance,” a simple stage performance which, if anything, simply highlights what a truly bomb-ass song “Bad Romance” is. I would have loved to see the performance interspliced with scenes of the glee kids getting picked on (for the plot, you see! Just for the plot), or you know, any connection to the larger storyline at all, but hey, as a one-off song it was spectacular, spectacular.
Finn is immediately pouty (or as pouty as the giant stone head from Zardoz can be) that the ladies of Glee always get to choose super-girly songs for everyone to sing. This despite the fact that Lady Gaga has low-hangers like Finn has never seen (I saw a video online!). So of course the guys cram their genitals into manly spandex pants and smear on deeply masculine scarlet lipstick for Kiss’s “Shout It Out Loud,” a number I was ready to HATE for taking up my valuable Gaga-swooning time, but was actually sort of fun once it got past its stilted introduction (Sorry but, “Now it’s the boys turn!” just ain’t cutting it for me in terms of integrating the music with the rest of the show any more). Mike and Matt (GUESS WHO THEY ARE?!?!) (TEE HEE) both had one whole line each in this episode! Hurray! I hope they use the pay raise that comes with having one line to buy platinum-plated Hummers and fill their swimming pools with Perrier and purchase a huge mansion for me to live in as their mutual wife!
Now, we get into the deeply “Argh!” part of the show, I just want to put out there that in my view the problem with “Glee,” as demonstrated by almost every plotline this episode, is that it veers so wildly between genuine feeling and shallow throw-away bits that it is really hard to accurately read any scene for emotion. When two football players shove Tina against the lockers for dressing “like a freak show” in her Gaga garb, I was seriously afraid that she or Kurt would get hurt (a fear possibly compounded by the fact that their school’s administration is clearly too busy plotting each other’s destruction/sharpening stakes to take any real security measures). That is some very real hostility to be throwing at kids wearing insane claw shoes and bubble dresses and who burst into song at the drop of the hat.
The same goes for the plotline of Finn’s obvious discomfort with Kurt’s IN YOUR FACE gayliciousness. Finn’s mom and Kurt’s dad announce that the two families will be moving in together, with Finn temporarily sleeping in Kurt’s Clockwork Orange boudoir. Kurt can barely contain his boner excitement at the prospect, but Finn soon lashes out at him after Football Thing # 1 and #2 hassle him too for hanging out with our fancy boy. While Finn obviously is a shitty friend for turning on Kurt over being out and loud, I get why the new living situation would make him feel weird. Sometimes a moist towelette is not just a moist towelette, people!
Now, the thing that makes these scenes hard to process is, of course, that Kurt has reverted, at least momentarily, to the Terror Kurt we meet a few weeks ago: creepy, always watching, promising to make-over the room he now shares with Finn in the exact way “I…I mean, you…want it to be.” Terror Kurt is not the super-fey but mostly real gay teenage boy that won our hearts over with his La Roux voice and passion for fashion; Terror Kurt works at the Bates Motel and tells everyone that his mother is doing just fine, thank you very much, even though no one has seen or heard from her in years. That’s not our Kurt! Our Kurt’s a real boy! I guess what I’m saying is, we can’t have it two ways. We can’t have the show writers slamming their keyboard with their ham fists one minute, and then using real human hands the next. We don’t want to have this weird, “Desperate Housewives” cardboard cut-out of Kurt to periodically show up to connive about befriending, then boyfriending Finn by getting their parents together, because how can we expect him to handle real emotion when Finn inevitably blows up in his face (J) (L)?
Everything comes to a boiling point when Finn flips out on Kurt for redecorating their shared sleeping pod into a sumptuous Moroccan enclave. O, so everything in Morocco is gay now! I see how it is! In the beginning, I thought Finn’s rant walked a fine line between insulting Kurt’s sexuality and actual valid unease at having to share a room with someone who so clearly lusts after you, until finally he slips off into the underlying pool of venom that has been welling up throughout the episode. Finn resents that Kurt doesn’t keep his head down, strutting around as if they lived in “New York or San Francisco or some other city where they eat vegetables that aren’t fried.” Hearing a main character that we are meant to like (and that I generally do) say the word “faggy” was really difficult to stomach, so hats off for the writers for making him do it. It seemed gross and honest and sad. And that’s why we all practically cried when Kurt’s father Burt busts in and goes FULL FRONTAL DAD on Finn. “This is our home,” Burt says, clearly pained as he tells Finn he can’t live with them if that’s how he is going to treat Kurt, “he’s my son.”
Mike O’Malley is completely flawless as usual, but Burt’s speech would have been more rock solid if 1) Kurt didn’t start out this episode acting like Snidely Whiplash and/or 2) Finn was capable of expressing emotion in his facial area. Imagine what this episode would have looked like if the writer’s keyboard hadn’t have been all slippery with ham juice! When Burt puts his hand on Kurt’s shoulder and says, “I think the place looks great.”? Forget about it, you guys, it’s Hysterical Sob Town. I will tell you though, one of these days Kurt is just going to stop crying into his watch fob and start strangling bitches with his caftan; I can only hope Brittany is there to help him dispose of the body.
Rachel and Shelby have meeting up after school throughout the week, first to make Rachel a new, less bean-filled Lady Gaga outfit (two gay dads and neither can sew? Well, then what is even the point?), secondarily to get to know each other better. Rachel shyly describing the origin of her name, explaining that her dads “were big fans of Friends.” Well, who wasn’t?! But things quickly took a turn for the WORST. “I really wanted this to work out,” Shelby tells Rachel as she essentially breaks up with her own daughter, “but I’m just not willing to try in any way or do anything that would require effort of any kind. Even though I set up an elaborate, months-long scheme that involved having a student relocate to a new school district, befriend you, and then plant falsified information to lead you to me, I’m going to have to reject you three days later because I realized that you aren’t a baby and I can only love babies. BABIES BABIES BABIES! See you when my team is crushing you!”
So wait, Rachel only gets to know her mom for ONE FREAKING EPISODE?!?! Guys, you don’t have to rush everything. Rachel had a mom for less time than Mercedes had an eating disorder. I swear, Shelby had better be lying about being her mom in order to ruin her at regionals, or I am gonna be PISSED. I might be alone on this one, but personally I felt that Rachel and Shelby’s duet of “Poker Face” was a serious turd in the punch bowl that is “Glee.” I HATED this rendition, even if it did have a hilarious tip of the hat to omnipresent piano player Brad (“He’s Always Just Around: The Brad Ellis Story” is the working title of his memoir). Wouldn’t “Speechless” have been better? Or even “Paparazzi”? Or anything that does not require a mother to tenderly sing the phrase “bluffin’ with my muffin” to her teenage daughter? Epic yeesh. As a going-away/ “I’m probably really a crazy person” present, Shelby gives Rachel a cup with a star on it. A CUP WITH A STAR ON IT. YOU. GUYS.
Back at the ranch, Puck pulls his beautiful head out of his devastating ass long enough to serenade the quietly awesome Quinn with Kiss’ “Beth,” following his realization that Jackie Daniels, while a sweet name for a power boat, was unsuitable for an infant. That is going to be the hottest baby this world has ever known. O and Tina told Principal Figgins that her dad would fly into the principal’s room and eat his face if he didn’t let her wear black tulle to school, so now she’s BACK IN BLAAAAAACK.
At the show’s conclusion, we cut to Kurt being harassed by the football thugs, scrambling around in his home-made Alexander McQueen hoof boots like the beautiful, foolish pony he is. He vows never to tone his fierceness down, claiming that “it’s the best thing about me!” Ugh, you little sweet thing. You are going to get your backpack thrown under the wheels of a bus. The thugs turn in typical “Duh? What? A distraction from behind us?” fashion to see Finn standing tall and fabulous in a red rubber dress and glue-on eye mask, ready to kick some ass. Man, there is almost TOO much to unpack in this scene.
Finn’s final stand in Gaga drag is so awkward, so unbelievable and yet so touching. What kind of teenage boy would know enough to put together a fabulous red frock out of a shower curtain in order to make it up his asshat-ery to his potential future stepbrother (And WHO has a shower curtain like that? I’m imagining Sue Sylvester scrambling around her apartment in a towel, looking baffled)? I’ll tell you: a very special, very smart, very not-real boy. In Our World, both of those kids would have had their heads slammed into a combination lock and their lockers stuffed with dog shit. But in Glee World, a rubber dress is short-hand for “I’m sorry I made fun of your filigreed dividing partition. I see you”.”
Luckily the rest of New Directions shows up at that exact moment to back them up, delaying Kurt’s eventual battery by at least a good 15 minutes until he has to leave to walk home. And, man, did Schue ad lib the last 30 seconds or what?!? “What a great lesson! Wish I had thought of it! Haha, okay, instead of having those bullies suspended or calling their parents or generally acting in anyway like a responsible adult, I’m just going to remind us that we have to win sectionals or regionals or divisionals or whatever -ials we’ve barely remembered to plan for! Haha! Everyone turn and walk away…now! I said now!”
It wasn’t until the very end of the episode that I realized why this week was particularly airless and stultifying. NO SUE! What were they thinking? We need that fabulous gust of poisonous air to fill our lungs and take us away into sweet, sweet oblivion. Luckily it looks like next week she is back in full force, looking appalled/aroused in the preview as Schue apparently attempts to seduce her. Love it, love it, love it hottie! That sounds great, because I need a week off of this seriousness to regroup. If you need me, I’ll be draped over my 15th-century Moroccan reclining bench with a damp chilled wig over my eyes.