by Halle Kiefer
Due to Ramin Setoodeh’s uber-dumb Newsweek article from a few weeks ago, “My Head Is Filled With Diarrhea, and Other Musings,” in which he questions gay actors’ ability to play straight characters (which apparently is a real thing that adult humans besides the author actually think?), I’m sure more people than usual were scrutinizing Neil Patrick Harris as he guest-starred as a straight man in this week’s episode of “Glee.” Who wasn’t busy analyzing his wrist-limpness or lip-gloss application count or unconscious eye rolls of disgust at naked ladies’ bodies, or however else we are judging perceived gayness in FICTIONAL CHARACTERS these days? However, if my PANTS have anything to say about it, I’d say NPH nailed his Glee debut. His Bryan Ryan is the exact mix of camp and swagger that spells Glee perfection, a female Sue Sylvester served up for our delectation. And like Sue, Bryan took great pleasure in ripping apart the club for which Will Schuester had sacrificed so much (his marriage! His Spanish classes! That complementary [OKAY, COMPLIMENTARY!] mattress he slept on that one time!) to build.
This week’s theme is dreams: dreams deferred, dreams realized, dreams wherein I meet NPH in real life and somehow convince him to make-out with me (I promise you will be only slightly disappointed!). Threatening budget cuts as the douche-iest member of the school board, NPH straighted it up as Schue’s former glee club rival, a one-time musical theater star and current Hummer dealership owner (MMM HMMM. Girlchild, please!). Bryan rips into New Directions for foolishly having hopes of stardom, turning their dreams to shame with his true-life experience with the triple-threat of failure. Dream Crusher, you’ve got the best of me! And you keep on crushing dreams in-ces-sant-ly! Having his ambitions crushed makes him want to do the same to the glee-sters. “You can’t feed a child sheet music,” Bryan snarls at Schue: “Well, you could for a while, but they’d be dead in a month.” Let the Battle of the Has-Beens BEGIN!
On the way out of practice, Hot Topic hot mess Tina picks up the crumpled piece of paper on which Artie had scribbled his dream, which says only “dancer.” O Artie! Lordy lordy, this plot line was devastating for sure. As Artie struggles with the idea that he will have to give up his life-long ambition due to his disability, Tina suggest they choreograph a dance they could both perform. Growing frustrated with his limitations (“My tap wheels suck!”) and thwarted by an early face-plant while using crutches, Artie pushes Tina away in anger. O Artie, aren’t all of our dreams just so many sucky tap wheels on the stage of life? And aren’t our tap wheels often so insufficient that we can’t even appreciated our superhuman upper body strength and the beautiful Goth that loves us no matter what? Tina encourages Artie to look into new therapies for his spinal cord injury, telling him to never give up his dream of walking. Can’t see how this could possibly end in heartbreak! Good job, TINA.
That night Bryan and Schue bond over their mutual despair and sizable pomade budget, serenading the Saddest Bar in Ohio (I’m joking; they are all this exact same bar) with a “Piano Man” duet. Bryan breaks down over his faded dreams of performance glory. “I have a box of Playbills in a box in my basement…like porn!” he confesses through his tears. The regular in the corner sips his Ohio Sunset (Lysol and blackberry brandy) and wipes away a single tear.
Meanwhile Jesse returns from SPRING BREAK (a spring break of one’s own, he calls it) just in time for classes to keep happening like they happened the entire time he was gone, and redoubles his efforts to sabotage and/or canoodle Rachel. Jesse is seriously so, so cute; I just want to eat his little marzipan face! He’s like a koala with better hair. I’d also like to offer his scenes in this episode as Defense Exhibit 1 Billion that gay actors can make convincing straight characters. “But Halle,” I can hear Mr. Setoodeh whining from the sewer grate he lives under, “you’ve dated at least 2 guys who later came out as gay, so maybe you aren’t the best judge of what’s straight-acting…” WILL. YOU. JUST. SHUT UP. ALREADY? Get your tentacles off of my Glee, please! Anyway, Jesse nudges Rachel to open up about her real dream of finding her birth mother, whom she has narrowed down to Bernadette Peters or Patti Lupone (“Was Mandy Patakin involved in this?” Jesse teases) (WELL, WAS HE?!?!?). As they search through her fathers’ files about her birth, Jesse slips in a fake tape for Rachel to find and think is from her mom. Uh oh, Kurt is going to have to give up his crown of human hands; we have a new psycho in town!
Filled with the bruised ego of a man who is mocked incessantly by a cheerleading coach and whose wife once tricked him for months with a fake pregnancy belly, Schue encourage-challenges Bryan into trying out for a local production of Les Mis, for which they both plan to audition for the role of Jean Valjean with Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” Seems like maybe you would want to sing a song from the show, but then again, I am not the community musical theater guru you might take me to be. Due to time constraints (“I need to spend more time with my pies!”), the director has them sing what turns out to be an awesome duet, and they leap exuberantly around the unfinished set like vest-wearing gazelles. And, look guys, just because their “Dream On” duet made me want to see NPH and Schue kiss each other, locked in a sweaty embrace with bomber jackets and v-necks in a pile on the floor as their fingers run through acres of overly poofy light brown hair, that doesn’t mean either of them is gay in the show. It just means both of them are gay in my mind. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We rejoin Artie and Tina at the mall, where she has to separate from him to run upstairs for a pretzel, because apparently this is one of those old historical malls that don’t have an elevator. Can we be real for a second? If there was a mall in America where people had to climb actual steps to get to an Auntie Anne’s, the protest would be bigger than the entire Tea Party movement. Anyway, before she can climb the rock wall between them and the pretzel stand, Artie stops her and reveals that due to multiple “treatments” that he started “yesterday” he was now miraculously able to walk. Ho boy. For a few seconds I actually thought they were going to do this, and just cure him of his paraplegia in order to facilitate a dance number. I mean, it would have been the only logical reason to cure him of it, but still, continuity. Unfortunately we soon realize that we are inside Artie’s day dream, but not before he rocks a be-sweater-vested “Safety Dance,” joined by the mall-going crowd on what appears to be Most Attractive People Ever to Be in a Mall At One Time and Also Somebody’s Aunt Day (aunts get a free pretzel if they make it to the top of the Agro Crag!).
Sue chews out Bryan for changing his mind about budget cuts to New Directions, and they have a delicious snappy back-and-forth about the merits of the arts vs. sports programs. “Have you ever heard the term â€˜anger sex’?,” NPH growls. “The only kind I know,” Sue shoots back, and off they go to get their hate-fuck on in Sue’s secret Letterman sex room. YES, GLEE-ASE! Not sated by what I assume was incredibly angular love-making, Sue grabs her chance to kill two dreams with one stone, ferreting out the information that Schue has landed the role of Jean Valjean over Bryan, causing NPH to fly into hysterics and take back the three glee essentials he had purchased the New Directions just moments before: Broadway sheet-music, bedazzled jean jackets and tear-away dance wear. Later when Schue finds him nursing his wounds, I loved the touch of NPH reading his one line in the play (“Hurray!”) in the voice of definitive Broadway Jean Valjean actor Colm Wilkinson. Flaw to the less. Being the doormat he is, Schue gives up the plum role to Bryan in order to guarantee that there will be no cut-backs to the club’s budget. That’s how casting works, right? If an actor doesn’t like a part, he or she can just bequeath it to whoever is standing near-by, which is actually how Rob Schneider got his entire career.
I am so HUMILIATED that I didn’t realize that Idina Menzel’s rival glee coach Shelby Corcoran was Rachel’s Mom! DUH TO THE NO SHITH DEGREE. Ugh. I feel like such a maroon for not putting that together sooner, especially considering Rachel looks like Idina Menzel time-traveled back to her adolescence and kidnapped her high school self to play her own daughter (that is going to be the season finale reveal; I’m calling it!). So it turns out that Shelby’s plot to get Jesse close to Rachel was not a terrifying, invasive means to sabotaging New Directions; it was a terrifying, invasive way to get close enough to let Rachel discover who her mom was! Or it is BOOOOOTH? I hope it’s both. My only question is, so where are those two dads?
See, this the problem with having a family headed by two gay men; statistics prove that eventually there will be a family where both parents are traveling salesmen. What a lonely life! Sitting there, night after night in cheap motels with your sample case of scrub brushes or quality knives, holding a thumb-worn picture of a husband and neurotic offspring you can barely remember. My god, what year in school is she now? Already? It is all slipping by you so fast. So fast. Rachel presses play on the planted tape, and she and Idina duet to “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Mis, and let me just say, it was Fabulous and Devastating. Fabulating. Devestabulous. However much I think the character of Rachel is often limited to that of a glassy-eyed songbot, she and Idina kill it here, without a doubt. Their version makes Susan Boyle look like a pile of puke (Ahhh…you know what, you’re right; I’m going to put that one down and walk away from it).
AND INTRODUCING MIKE CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG! Trumpet Fanfare, Mike Chang! SQUEEEE! I literally shrieked with glee…with joy when Tina finally called his name as her new dance partner. Rejected by a momentarily defeated Artie, Tina finally bequeathed Hot Asian Dude with a name, after which he immediately stepped forward to deliver this season’s best line-FADE TO BLACK. FADE IT. TO BLACK. JUST CUT TO SOMEONE ELSE. We let him have a name; let’s not get all crazy and start giving him lines, for god’s sake! Mike and Tina do a charming dance as Artie and the gang sang “Dream a Little Dream,” a number seemingly more about the life Artie wished he had than the life he could have with Tina in reality. Sad! Touching without being maudlin! Marry me, Artie!
Overall an adorable and well-done episode that is definitely one of my favorites, even if that is based largely on my love for Neil-io. Yay! I feel like this ship is finally steering away from the iceberg and headed toward the continent of Funlandia. I’d also like to end this review by mentioning that Tuesday was my birthday, so I in essence spent it with you, watching Glee and then drinking enough Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to give me heart palpitations so that at 4:00am I can figure out a synonym for the verb “squee” (the correct answer is: squirtle). Thanks again for spending time with me and Glee on this never ending road to Calvary. And next week? Well, I already wrote the review, and it is three words long: LADY GAGA EPISODE. But according to the preview they also do a KISS number? Please, please, I BEG of you, Glee, do not waste precious Lady Gaga time with that business. Not that I wouldn’t also love a Kiss song at some point, but seriously, if my eyes aren’t bombarded every second of that hour with the sight of Brittany with silver lobsters on her face, my soul might die. I also heard that Idina and Rachel will sing “Poker Face,” which already has me sputtering Moolatte across my computer screen in excitement. I did not live until today.
Halle Kiefer is another year younger.