Warning: This week’s “controversial” episode of Glee — entitled “The First Time” — contained not a single scene of gratuitous teen sex, nor did it linger on the undulating, half-clothed bodies of its young and attractive cast members.
What the action-packed hour did accomplish, however, was reminding the world that there are still great stories to be told about the residents of the fictitious William McKinley High School, and that it has a deep and talented cast capable of brining those scenarios to vivid life. (It also made a strong case that the show might be at its best when Mr. Schue and Sue Sylvester are relegated to benchwarmer status.)
If you were too busy bellying up to the bar at Scandals to catch “The First Time” — which poetically juxtaposed scenes from the McKinley production of West Side Story with moments from a week in the lives of Kurt, Blaine, Rachel, Finn and their cohorts — please allow me to catch you up (in the classic “here’s what you missed on Glee” format):
During final rehearsals for West Side Story, student director Artie unearthed the fact that his leads Rachel and Blaine were still virgins, and questioned their “strange aversion to fun.” The insecure thespians naturally began to wonder if they could successfully portray Maria and Tony without experiencing their own sexual awakenings, but their initial efforts to go all the way with their respective beaus went badly awry: Rachel offended Finn when he found out her main reason for wanting to lose her virginity was to improve her acting, while Kurt got into a fight with an inebriated Blaine when the latter teen went in for a drunken grope in the parking lot of local gay bar Scandals.
Complicating the Blaine-Kurt dynamic was Blaine’s coffee-klatching with Dalton Academy acquaintance Sebastian Smythe; their cups of coffee practically boiled over with sexual tension during conversations that turned show choir into a metaphor for the big nasty, and Blaine didn’t help matters by initially playing a little coy about his relationship status. (“McKinley is where my heart is,” were his exact words, which did not include the nouns “boyfriend” or “Kurt.”) After Kurt met his new rival, he promptly agreed to a group outing to Scandals (the better not to look like a guy whose main bonding mechanism is a rigorous over-the-phone skin-sloughing regimen), and that’s where he ran into former bully Karofsky, who revealed he’d transferred to a new school to experience a “normal senior year without people hearing rumors about me.” Was that some budding chemistry between two former enemies whose names begin with ‘K’? The story is developing…
By episode’s end, both Rachel and Blaine found forgiveness — and sexual willingness — with their partners. “Sebastian doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Blaine. “I was drunk and I’m sorry.” And after Kurt’s saucy retort — “Sure beats last time you were drunk and made out with Rachel” — the boys beat a quick path to the bedroom for a subtly shot sex scene that left pretty much everything to the imagination.
Rachel, meanwhile, went to Finn’s to apologize for letting her ambitions trump her emotions, and discovered her boyfriend devastated by rejection from a college football recruiter. “Your dreams are not dead: You’ve just grown out of them,” said Rachel, before dropping this not-so-subtle bombshell: “I’m going to give you something that no one else is ever gonna get.” Oh gurrrl! With that, Rachel went all Julia Roberts in Notting Hill — “I’m just a girl here with a boy that she loves, wanting to remember this moment for the rest of her life” — and the two “touched hands by the fireside,” if I’m not being too subtle. (Bonus points to Rachel for bringing her own condoms, like every modern girl should.)
And despite all the Kurt-Blaine/Rachel-Finn action, the episode found time to advance the story arcs of other ancillary characters, too: Bieste got to go on a date with the guy she’d long considered “the bees’ knees” — aforementioned football recruiter Cooter Menkins; Mike Chang and his floppy-coiffed dad disowned each other when he refused to quit his role in the school play; and Artie discovered that being a director (and getting support from his friends) made him feel like a man, not just a boy in a wheelchair. And that’s what you missed on Glee.
Now, with that out of the way let’s run through a couple of the episode’s choicest bits of dialogue:
* “Nah, but you can have the rest of my chili. There’s nothing left but gristle and a few beans, but it eats pretty good.” –Beiste cluelessly misinterpreting Cooter’s lunch-date invitation
* “Why did you leave Dalton? Were you bored with all the preppies around here, or is it that you broke too many hearts to stay?” –Sebastian, making a serious play for Blaine
* Kurt sharing that his bucket list includes “become CEO of LOGO” and “have relations on a dewy meadow of lilac with Taylor Lautner, before he gets fat.”
* Finn questioning Rachel’s readiness for sex: “Last time we talked, you said you wanted to wait till you won a Tony.”
* Rachel revealing that a trophy is a trophy is a trophy: “People’s Choice would’ve gotten you to third base.”
* “It was like being smothered by a sweaty, out-of-breath sack of potatoes that somebody soaked in body spray.” –Santana on sex with Finn
* “We gotta work on this kid’s diction.” –Bieste in full meta jacket, discussing Rory (Damian McGinty’s) marble-mouthed Irish intonation
And finally, I know I usually assign grades for the week’s musical numbers, but this week, I just can’t separate the individual West Side Story numbers that were often inter-spliced with workaday McKinley scenes to heighten the dramatic effect of what was happening in the characters’ lives. I will say this: Santana and Rachel’s “A Boy Like That”/”I Have a Love” brought to ferocious life the dangers (Sebastian) and the tenderness (Finn) of teen love; their harmonies on “Tonight” were chill-inducing; and Santana & Co.’s “America” was joyously delicious. Only the Blaine-free Warblers’ “Uptown Girl” stood out as a weak link. Overall musical grade: A
What did you think of this week’s Glee? Which plot points made you happy, and which had you looking for a rewrite? What was your favorite musical number? Hit the comments with your thoughts, and for all my Glee recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!