Maybe I’m just looking at the glass of sauvignon blanc as half-empty, but this week’s Glee didn’t quite leave me with my usual post-episode buzz. Don’t get me wrong, there were some genius one-liners (“Unfortunately, Kitty Dukakis could not be here because of disinterest”), and I’m not ashamed to say I laughed out loud when the acrid smell of teen vomit pervaded New Directions’ big set piece. But plot-wise, “Blame It on the Alcohol” was the equivalent of flat champagne, and its musical numbers felt a little watered-down, too. Let’s dive headlong into our central story arcs:
Principal Figgins was in a tizzy about an uptick in teen drinking at McKinley High, and enlisted New Directions and a certain former First Lady of Massachusetts to bring an anti-alcohol message to the upcoming assembly. Sue, however, had other ideas, and tried to convince Will he was the one who was headed for a battle with the bottle. “You’re revisiting the details of your failed marriage with the very lemur who rejected the bestial horror of your sexual advances,” she hissed, as Will and Emma rekindled their friendship in the teacher’s lounge.
Rachel, meanwhile, found herself home alone after her still unseen dads headed off on a Rosie O’Donnell cruise — Seriously, without their diva daughter? What kind of gay dads are these guys? — and failing miserably in her attempt to write an original song for New Directions to perform at Regionals. Now while I realize that everything in the Rachel Berry universe is heightened for maximum comedic/dramatic impact, I simply couldn’t buy that she’d write something as lame as “My Headband.” Come on, this is a girl with a refined sense of the theatrical, who’s coming off an epic breakup with her football quarterback boyfriend, and she can’t dig deeper for inspiration than her accessory drawer? Surely, Glee‘s writing team could’ve/should’ve come up with a more plausible rationale for making its good girl go bad, no? Nevertheless, under the guise of seeking out experiences that would make her less of a “total bore” (Puck’s word choice), Rachel procured some wine coolers, slipped on a seafoam green home-sewn dress from 1978, invited over her New Directions buddies, and began the “journey from little princess to natural woman.”
I’m not going to lie: I was thoroughly grossed out by what happened next — and no, I’m not talking about Blaine’s bi-curious kiss. Alas, I’m referring to Finn schooling Rachel on “drunken archetypes” that apparently only pertain to females. Yep, we’ve got weepy/hysterical (Santana? Srsly?); angry (Lauren, Quinn); stripper (Brittany); happy (Mercedes, Tina); and needy (Rachel). Geez, at this rate, maybe Glee can tackle teen sex in an upcoming episode and explain the plethora of options available to today’s young women: Virgin Cards to the left, Whore Cards to the right. (Quick, somebody get Ryan Murphy & Co. a subscription to Ms.)
Oh, and yes, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the game of spin the bottle that happened down in the Berry Family Oscar-Party Room. After Sam and Brittany’s kiss scored a “no me gusta” from Santana, Rachel took her turn and ended up locking lips with Kurt’s heretofore gay crush Blaine. “Your face tastes awesome,” she chirped, as “Johnny Are You Queer” played in the background. Cut to a bouncy duet of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”; Rachel phoning Blaine while drinking something fizzy called “Lady Sparkle”; a dress-in-character date to go see the 1970 Ryan O’Neal-Ali MacGraw’s weepie Love Story; and mounting tension between Kurt and Blaine, Kurt and Rachel, and Kurt and Burt. (Oh how I wish someone in this triangle had the common decency to declare “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.“)
I liked the idea of the fight between Kurt and Blaine, although I have to admit I was somewhat distracted by the prominently placed elderly couple sitting behind them during the scene. (Did anyone else half-expect one of these folks to interject a saucy remark into the conversation?) After all, Kurt is still experiencing the altogether new surge of being completely open about his sexual orientation, and having a gay friend to share that with is half the fun; to see Blaine suddenly exploring even a fleeting heterosexual attraction for Rachel, well, you can see why young Mr. Hummel might be experiencing abandonment panic. Still, Blaine laid down the snap card — “I’d say
bi bye, but I wouldn’t wanna make you angry.” — when he pointed out that Kurt’s anger over his possible bisexuality isn’t so different from Karofsky’s rage against Kurt’s own homosexuality.
Kurt’s tête-à-tête with Rachel was a lot less tense — although who would’ve blamed him if he’d been furious at his friend for putting the moves on the one guy he’s into? “Blaine is the first in a long line of conflicted men that you will date that will later turn out to be only the most flaming of homosexuals,” Kurt sighed, predicting that Rachel and Blaine would soon be debating which one would “make the better Rum Tum Tugger.” Kurt also squared off against his dad, who (in a scene that felt weirdly disjointed) had accidentally walked in on Blaine waking up (platonically) in Kurt’s bed the morning after Rachel’s party. Burt squeamishly tried to outline some rules for his son’s overnight guests — “I sat through that whole Brokeback Mountain: From what I gather, something went down in the tent” — while Kurt pointed out it might be nice to have a dad who could answer sex questions for a gay son just as easily as a straight one. Touché. In the end, though, Rachel’s decision to plant a fully sober smooch on Blaine led to his swift realization that he’s “100 percent gay” and Rachel’s realization that she probably won’t end up with “vaguely Eurasian-looking children.” Hey, she may not have felt the Earth move under her feet, but as far as songwriting inspiration goes, the experience turned out to be “amazing.”
Because the drinking theme couldn’t just end with Rachel’s party, we had the New Directions squad, still hung over 36 hours after the soiree, imbibing in some “hair of the dog” therapy in the McKinley hallways, then tipsily workshopping Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” as a possible assembly option. Ultimately, though, our protagonists settled on “Tik-Tok” — and some of Rachel’s home-mixed hooch — for the big day. “Ke$ha’s been a cultural icon for weeks, and I really want to do her justice,” worried Brittany, before gulping down the dregs of Rachel’s dads’ liquor cabinet, mixed with Oreos and Kool-Aid and cough syrup. Brittany’s spew of vomit into Rachel’s face — and Santana’s subsequent projectile spray into center stage — may have been predictable, but the blue-gray color and silky texture were a hilarious shock. Lucky for New Directions, Figgins mistook the whole debacle as cautionary performance art, rewarding the kids with discount yogurt coupons.
Mr. Schuester, however, did not fare as well. After a work-night bender with Coach Beiste that featured mechanical-bull riding, karaoke singing, drunk-grading, drunk-dialing, and possibly not entirely platonic Beiste-on-Schue kissing, New Directions’ hypocritical coach showed up to school doing his best “Corey Hart imitation.” Oh yeah, about that intoxicated booty call: Turns out Will accidentally left his message for Sue, not Emma, and his bitter rival played the damning recording over the McKinley P.A. system (with a toy-xylophone assist from Becky).
Will returned to his New Directions kids and asked them to sign a pledge swearing off alcohol until after Nationals, even if Quinn was right that he was engaging in “a fair amount of the pot calling the kettle black.” (“That is so racist,” gasped Brittany, with a knowing nod to Mercedes.) But Mr. Schue agreed he’d take the pledge, too, and promised to give a ride to any glee-club member who slipped and wound up drunk, no matter what time of day or night they called him.
To which I can only offer a moderately cynical groan. Look, I’m not saying it’s Glee‘s job to provide today’s youth with a stern lesson about underage imbibing — that’s a job for parents, not a television program — but somehow it feels a little disingenuous for the show’s writers to take such a firm stance on bullying one week, then turn around and present such a flip message about drinking during school hours. (The same could really be said of last week’s Sue-icide jokes, too.) At the end of the day, really, Glee needs to make a choice between its desire to tackle social commentary and its inclination toward offering up totally pat/happy endings before the start of Raising Hope.
Anyhow, let’s grade tonight’s musical numbers:
“My Headband,” Rachel | Like I said earlier, I’m not buying a ditty this tone-deaf from New Directions’ supremely theatrical diva. Even worse, the lyrics weren’t funny! Musical grade: D Relevance to the plot: D
“Don’t You Want Me,” Rachel and Blaine | I was hoping for more from the combination of these Glee powerhouses. There’s nothing wrong with Human League’s catchy ’80s classic, but a few too many liberties with the melody and a little too much bouncing around by Darren Criss and Lea Michele kinda took me out of the moment. Musical grade: B- Relevance to the plot: B-
“Blame It,” New Directions | I enjoyed the all-black outfits, the shot-glass choreography, and the moody red lighting, but there’s no getting past the fact that “Blame It” is as lame a hit as there’s been in the last five years, and as with most “urban” songs on Glee, this one could’ve used about 50 percent less Auto-Tune. Musical grade: B- Relevance to the plot: B
“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” Schue and Beiste | Okay, so Beiste can kinda sorta carry a tune. But would anyone in their right mind listen to this on iTunes in the morning? Minus an additional half-point for Will chewing on a piece of straw in the song’s aftermath.Musical grade: C- Relevance to the plot: C+
“Tik-Tok,” New Directions | Who’d have thought a track from Key-dollar-sign-ha would yield the night’s most pleasing results? Then again, with Heather Morris’s absolutely sensational dancing at front-and-center — that bouncing split! whoa! — all you need is a great beat and a passable vocal. I’ll cop to it: I was chair-dancing like Principal Figgins. Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B+
What did you think of this week’s Glee? How would you rate the musical performances? Do you feel like there were better alcohol-related songs the show could’ve licensed? And did you feel like the writers were a little flip about the whole issue of teen drinking? Sound off below, and for all the Glee news you can use, follow TVLine.com on Twitter @TVLineNews.