“This isn’t home anymore.” Those four words from Kurt Hummel served notice to his preppy ex-boyfriend Blaine Anderson that he’d moved on to a life beyond the halls of William McKinley High School. But did Kurt’s message also serve a secondary purpose, summing up the feelings of the show’s core audience about Glee‘s creative direction in its pivotal fourth season? In other words, is Fox’s high-school musical more compelling when it points its GPS to destinations beyond Lima, OH?
That’s not always an easy question to answer. Indeed, as we enter the second trimester of Season 4, I’m frequently finding myself more engaged by the story arcs that don’t involve New Directions’ well-traveled Sectionals/Regionals/Nationals show-choir trajectory. Because I’ve already invested in Kurt and Rachel and Santana and Mercedes and Finn, it’s natural to want to know how they’re faring with internships and auditions and college and the music biz and the hard work of figuring out what to do with one’s entire adult life.
And yet I’d be lying if I said this week’s episode, “Glease,” didn’t hook me in completely. Maybe it’s because the show managed to intertwine Finn’s fate with that of McKinley’s misfit artistes. Or maybe it’s because, as a Glee Project junkie, I was psyched to see Blake Jenner’s Ryder Lynn emerge as undeniable leading man material (despite a ridiculous end-of-episode twist that had him “saving” Marley from cheerleader-induced bulimia).
While I ponder whether or not I want Glee to graduate from high school altogether, let’s recap what went down:
* Kitty began to methodically chip away at Marley’s self-confidence by surreptitiously taking in her Grease costumes, then convincing her rival that she was on the path to looking like her morbidly obese mother. Marley and her mom decided to embark on a diet (instead of her mother being all, “you’re rail thin, gurrrl!”), but at a subsequent sleepover for Grease‘s female cast members, Kitty suggested bulimia as a solution to Marley’s imaginary weight woes. Just when Marley began to try to make herself vomit, though, her costar Ryder stepped in and convinced her he didn’t want to kiss a girl (onstage or off) with upchuck on her breath. A pre-curtain smooch seemed to seal the deal: Marley’s got her groove back, but she’s also made Jake Puckerman a jealous guy. Cue love triangle in 5, 4, 3, 2…
* Despite Sue’s strenuous (and, frankly, logical) objections, Principal Figgins signed off on Schue’s plan for Finn to take over as unpaid advisor New Directions while the curly-haired teacher heads off to D.C. for that “Blue Ribbon Panel” on arts eduction. (Boy, Schue likes saying “blue ribbon panel” more than Emma likes picking out pastel sweater sets.) After refusing Finn’s apology for last week’s “r-bomb,” Sue then tried to sabotage Grease rehearsals, but Finn made do by staging a groovy rendition of “Greased Lightning” at his dad’s tire shop, and generally ignoring the once-again violent cheerleading coach. (I’m gonna come out and say it: I find it irksome, not amusing, when Sue physically assaults McKinley students.)
* Unique’s parents pulled the plug on her plan to play Rizzo, sighting safety concerns after finding out their possibly transgendered son had been bullied after showing up to school dressed in women’s clothing. This prompted the return of Santana, who’d essentially been preparing to play the role since she was a toddler. (Tina, for the record, was not amused at losing the role before she’d even had a chance to throw her hat in the ring. Always the bridesmaid’s cousin, never even the bridesmaid.)
* Back in NYC, Rachel scored an audition for an avant-garde off-Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, but once again enrgaged Cassandra July by suggesting her dance instructor “get back in the game” at tryouts, too. When Kurt pleaded with Rachel to go back to Lima as a show of support for exes Blaine and Finn’s Grease production, Cassandra offered her frequent flier miles, then promptly bedded Rachel’s love interest Brody. The evil instructor’s bedroom shenanigans didn’t come to a climax, though, till she was able to intercept a call from Rachel and reveal the bah-chicka-wah-wah that had just taken place. Cue Rachel’s tears. Cue Finn spotting Rachel’s tears and realizing they weren’t for him, but for another dude. Cue the starcrossed duo deciding to cut off all communication. Ditto for Blaine and Kurt, since the latter still can’t trust the former. Cheating will do that to a teenage couple, y’know?
* Ultimately, Finn and Artie’s production of Grease was likened to Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel by the McKinley Muckraker’s notoriously brutal critic.
* Bye-bye Mr. Schue — at least till after Sectionals!
And now for the week’s best zingers:
* “If I catch you hiding your dinky between your legs and parading around like Silence of the Lambs, you’re out.” –Kitty, issuing a pre-sleepover warning to Unique
* “I’m living off of Ambien and The Notebook.” –Kurt, describing his post-breakup blues
* “That’s my first-place trophy for Most Tongues Spoken at Bible camp, and this is [a picture of] Mr. Jojo. I rode him for six years — until he broke my hymen.” –Kitty, giving Marley a tour of her room
* “Most little boys don’t want to dress as Shirley Hemphill for Halloween. It’s just so specific.” –Unique’s dad, discussing how he’d understood his son’s gender confusion from an early age
* “You blew off your playdate with the hottest piece of ass at NYADA to go visit your loser ex-boyfriend!” –Cassandra, serving a cold plate of bitchery to Rachel
* “I had a couple of notes, but they were small.” –Rachel, complimenting Finn’s directorial debut
And finally, let’s grade the week’s musical performances:
Ryder, Sam, and the guys of Grease, “Greased Lightning”: A (would’ve been an A-, but upgraded thanks to Sam’s hilarious hair-combing move)
Kitty, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”: B-
Blaine, “Beauty School Dropout”: B+ (those roller-sculptures were divine!)
Santana (with Cassandra and Unique), “Worse Things I Could Do”: A- (can Naya Rivera please be on every week now?)
Ryder, Marley & Pretty Much Everybody (with Finchel, Brittana, Tike, and Klaine fantasy interludes): “You’re the One That I Want”: B (Throw stones if you will, but I just thought this one had a little too much going on. I’d have preferred if they’d just let Ryder and Marley have a number to themselves, y’know?)
Your turn! Was “Glease” the one episode that you wanted? Which plot points hit the target, and which rang false? Hit the comments with your thoughts!Follow @MichaelSlezakTV