Glee Recap: Rebels With All Their Flaws

Tuesday night’s 90-minute episode of Glee tackled more social issues, psychological disorders, and physical hangups than your average network drama would touch in an entire season. But that’s the beauty (and the frustration) of Ryan Murphy’s hyperactive teenage dramedy: It throws the entire pot of boiling plot-sta against the wall in the belief that most of it will stick, and eventually wind up as part of a delicious and filling (if not entirely healthy) meal.

Anyhow, if you happened to blasphemously spend your Tuesday doing something other than watching “Born This Way,” allow me to give you a rapid-fire account of the major points — in the classic “here’s what you missed on Glee” format: While rehearsing dance moves for Nationals, Finn broke Rachel’s nose — not on purpose! — and Quinn agreed to guide her one-time rival through the process of getting a nose job. Kurt staged something called a “Barbra-vention” flash mob to stop the rhinoplasty insanity, then transferred back to McKinley after Karofsky renounced his abusive ways by forming an anti-bullying club called the Bullywhips with his new fake girlfriend Santana. Santana, for her part, threatened to tell the school about Karofsky’s secret gay desires if he didn’t play his part in her plot to bring Kurt back to McKinley, help New Directions win Nationals, win her classmates’ hearts and minds, and ultimately land the title of prom queen. Quinn and Lauren wanted the tiara, too, but declared a truce after their early campaigning — including the revelation that Quinn had been oveweight, and the not-so-proud owner of a much bigger nose, back in middle school — got meaner than a Sue Sylvester insult. And finally, Will pushed Emma to get help for her OCD. Then all the kids from New Directions took ownership of their insecurities and danced it out to Lady Gaga. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

[Whew.]

Because Glee moves at Tasmanian Devil speed, more stuff happened, too, but I’m pleased to report that none of it came careening out of left field or ended up feeling less than germane to any particular character’s story arc. In fact, since you’ve now read enough plot points to hold your own in any Glee-centric party conversations this weekend, let’s run through a list of the major ailments, insecurities, and societal issues our characters confronted this week.

Teenage Rhinoplasty
How disturbing was that scene in Rachel’s doctor’s office, where he declared that a nose job is “a rite of passage for Jewish girls”? I know at this point in the Glee-verse, we still haven’t seen a glimpse of Rachel’s fathers, but I found it hard to believe they’d let their high-school-aged daughter fly solo during a consult for a major cosmetic surgery procedure. (Yes, folks, it’s time to bring on the gay dads!) I did like, however, the way the New Directions kids pointed out that in high school, even the slightest insecurities can get magnified through the harsh prism of peer judgment. Cue Santana wondering aloud if Rachel needed her beak “to crack hard seeds.” I also liked how Finn couldn’t help but blurt, “Please don’t do this! You’re beautiful!” to his ex-girlfriend, right in front of his current one. Whoops.

Speaking of that current girlfriend, we discovered that Quinn actually did go through with rhinoplasty (and a name change) back in middle school — before her transfer to McKinley. Lauren leaked this intel in humiliating billboard size, along with Quinn’s former nickname “Lucy Caboosey” (shades of Never Been Kissed‘s Josie Grossie, anyone?). Much as I can’t understand why so many of Glee‘s bright young female characters are obsessed with the prom-queen title, I spend more time pondering why Quinn and Rachel don’t give the boot to Finn and enjoy the (relative) ease of being single for a while. On Tuesday, though, Finn had an especially adorable moment with Quinn, explaining the “Lucy Caboosie” snapshot in his wallet thusly: “That’s my girlfriend. I used to have another photo of her but I like this one better…. I think this is the first one where you can really see her.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
After challenging his kids to put their biggest insecurities on a t-shirt, Will discovered his long-standing crush, Emma Pillsbury, had copped out by going with “Ginger.”: “People say that I smell like copper, I can get a sunburn indoors at night, and according to recent legend, I have no soul,” said our neat-freak guidance counselor. But after another session of polishing grapes while wearing latex gloves (yes, as bad as it sounds), Will argued it was time for Emma to get help with her OCD. Cue Emma spending 48 out of her 50 minutes at therapist Kathleen Quinlan’s office by sanitizing her chair. But, hey, at least she’s started taking SSRIs to conquer her crippling panic attacks. As for Will, I was disappointed he went with a “butt chin” logo, as opposed to “egotistical douchebag” or “dreadful grammar.” Was dude serious with this sentence? “I know how I’m gonna get the kids to accept what their differences are — by using their two favorite teachers: Me and Gaga.” Me and Gaga? Me and Gaga? Oh, Schue, how you live to disappoint.

Bullying
Yeah, he was forced into starting “Bullywhips” by Santana, but thanks to Max Adler’s surprisingly nuanced performance, I thought there was some definite oomph behind Karofsky’s words when he stood up in front of New Directions and announced how sorry he was for his abusive behavior toward Kurt. “I’m really ashamed of who I am and what I did.” Yeah, it may have been a little heavy-handed for him to discuss YouTube videos about how bullying leads to teen suicide, but given the gravity of the subject matter, I’m okay with a tiny PSA thrown into the dialogue.

Outing
Does anyone else get totally giddy when Santana gleans characters’ innermost secrets just through the power of keen observation? The teenage Mentalist figured out Karofsky’s attraction to guys when he lingered a little too long ogling Sam’s “jeans” at the water fountain. “I’m a closeted lesbian and a judgmental bitch, which means one thing,” Santana smiled. “I have awesome gaydar.” The complex play of emotions in Karofsky’s eyes when Santana simultaneously came out to him, threatened to out him, predicted his sad future as a closeted state senator or deacon, and offered him a quick-fix solution by pretending to be his beard, was tremendous. (Again, as a character who started out as a human battering ram, Adler is bringing a terrific amount of depth to Karofsky.)

Kurt, however, told Karofsky his secret was safe with him, even though he was both repulsed and impressed by the scheming of “the Latina Eve Harrington.” Again, I found it a little unrealistic that Kurt would demand Karofsky launch a PFLAG chapter as well as chair the Bullywhips, but if Google search results for PFLAG (or certain Anne Baxter characters) are on the rise this morning, then I’ll quit my kvetching right now.

Oh, and before we get to grading this week’s musical performances, I’ve got to give props to Naya Rivera for filling the hilarity vaccuum created by the total absence of Jane Lynch. (I remember the days when a Sue-free episode made me depressed, but last night, I hardly noticed she was missing until the previews rolled for next week’s show.) “The only straight I am is straight-up bitch,” said the girl who’s “not ready to start eating jicama or get a flat-top yet,” but there was real pain in her eyes at the end of the telecast, as she sat there in her “Lebanese” t-shirt (a gift from awesome Brittany) and played observer to New Directions’ moment of empowerment.

And now, onto the “Born This Way” set list:

“Unpretty”/”I Feel Pretty,” Rachel and Quinn | A vocally and visually stunning set piece for the unlikeliest of duet partners. I particularly liked that brief flash of Quinn’s fluorescent-lit profile to show the not-so-glamorous underbelly of a young girl going under the surgeon’s knife for non-medical reasons. Musical grade: A Relevance to the plot: A

“I Gotta Be Me,” Finn (and Mike Chang) | The jazz band arrangement and the Mike-teaches-Finn-some-moves choreography was cute, I guess, but it’s not a good sign that I spent half the number focusing on Mike’s matching green t-shirt and shoe laces. Also, in an episode about confronting one’s greatest teenage insecurities, I wonder if there might have been a better choice for a solo than the popular football player with the cheerleader girlfriend lamenting his inability to dance. Musical grade: B- Relevance to the plot: C

“Somewhere Only We Know” Blaine and the Warblers | I’d have been more moved by the Warblers’ farewell to Blaine Kurt if they weren’t just a collection of hastily sketched chalk outlines. Still, I can’t be too mad at another pretty song sung well by Darren Criss. Musical grade: B Relevance to the plot: B

“As If We Never Said Goodbye,” Kurt | I feel like we haven’t had too many strong musical moments from Kurt this season, but this number, which pushed Chris Colfer’s falsetto to impressive heights, went a long way to erase the deficit. That shot of Kurt from behind, with his New Directions pals getting misty in front of him, was a glorious touch. Musical grade: A Relevance to the plot: A

“Barbra Streisand,” Kurt & Flashmob | Okay, so the kids were just lipsynching to Duck Sauce’s catchy dance track, but who doesn’t love some good clean flashmob fun? Side note: Anyone else find themselves focusing on that, um, charismatic fella in the maroon hoodie and yellow t-shirt who got a quick dance solo and stood behind Rachel on the escalator? Make this guy a McKinley regular, stat! “Musical” grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B-

“Born This Way,” New Directions | It was nice to see and hear Tina, Mercedes and Kurt on lead vocals — instead of, say, Blaine, Rachel, and Mr. Schue. And this song was born to get the Glee treatment, no? I just wish they’d set Brittany free to get her boogie on. Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: A-

What did you think of this week’s Glee? Which story arcs were you loving? Which ones did you have problems with? Sound off in the comments, and for all my TV recaps (including one coming later this morning on the premiere of The Voice), follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.