Glee Recap: Poking the Bare [Updated]

glee sam jake nakedThere are few attention-getting formulas in life as sure-fire as adding a little bit of “naked.” Google knows it (440,000,000 search results can’t be wrong, can they?). Ryan Murphy knows it. Even fruit-juice manufacturers know it. And so does Tina Cohen-Chang.

Yes, folks, this week’s Glee found New Directions’ perpetual second fiddle experiencing a flash of naughty inspiration: Getting the men of New Directions to pose for a clothing-discouraged calendar to raise money for Regionals.

PHOTOS | Glee Sneak Peek: Look Who’s Back for Will and Emma’s Wedding Day – Plus, It’s Diva Time!

You read that right: New Directions is back in the competitive show-choir game, now that the Dalton Academy Warblers have been DQ’d from their Sectionals win for using performance-enhancing drugs. (That opening-scene anchorwoman meltdown was one of the show’s funniest moments all season.)

Sue railed against the calendar idea (surprise, surprise) but seeing how she posed for Penthouse back in the day — and Finn secretly recorded her confessing to the shoot — the glee club’s reigning nemesis got shut down faster than you can say “Mr. July.”

Of course, the strip-down shenanigans brought out unexpected reactions among the McKinley kids. Sam, reeling from SAT scores on par with the average clinical-trial monkey, ramped up his body obsession — culminating with a diva fit at the photo shoot and a subsequent tender scene in which BFF Blaine helped him realize his self-worth wasn’t merely skin deep. My favorite scene of the hour was Blaine showing Sam a video of the glee kids’ testimonials about all of his great qualities, culminating with a tearful hug. I kinda hope Blaine can quash his crush on his straight buddy, as their growing closeness is as satisfying as it is unexpected. I’d hate to see the bowtie aficionado mess up another relationship by thinking with his Little Anderson, if I’m not being too subtle.

Artie, meanwhile, flinched at the idea of being the only guy posing in clothes — worrying he’d be reduced to nothing but his wheelchair. (Sam eventually showed solidarity and put his shirt back on, Artie re-committed to the calendar, and along with Jake, Ryder, Joe and Blaine, they each took two slots in the 12-month beefcake parade.) This storyline felt a little less fleshed-out than Sam’s, but it did give us a nice Finn-Artie moment in the library.

The final story arc in the high-school halls found Marley and Jake playing a game of “I love you” chicken, both of ’em afraid to be the one to admit those feelings first. Jake sweetly wrote it, Marley sweetly verbalized it, and Becky made the gagging noise that brought the scene back to reality (and reminded us why this show is categorized as a comedy). Honestly, do high-schoolers today really use the L-word after like a week and a half of dating? Actually, don’t tell me: I’m not sure I want the answer!

Back in New York, Rachel grappled with whether or not to go topless for a role in a student film about a woman with Alzheimer’s. Kurt called in the out-of-town troops (Quinn and Santana) to stage an intervention against such a naked display, while Brody rubbed his bare parts against Kurt’s vintage flea-market chairs to show his support. Rachel’s internal debate played out in a fascinating duet that pitted Old Rachel vs New Rachel — and the contrast was stark indeed. Still, it’s one thing for Rachel’s kneesocks-clad alter-ego from the past to drop lines like “You’re not a porn star — even though your hair and your makeup make you look like one.” It’s quite another for Kurt to get all Judgy McJudgerson and accuse her of being “Slutty Barbie.” Yikes.

In the end, Rachel just couldn’t drop robe, even if it cost her the role. I respected the decision, and the fact that it wasn’t a total black-and-white decision for the wide-eyed freshman. (Oh, and Santana, in a very quick aside, she began to realize NYC is more her speed than Kentucky. Story is developing…)

My biggest disappointment with the hour? The absence of a rendition of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s seminal semi-hit “Barenaked.” (No, I did not type that ironically.)

Speaking of musical numbers, let’s grade the six of ’em from “Naked”:

Rachel vs. Rachel, “Torn” | Like I said up top, what a startling juxtaposition between our past and present protagonists! Despite their differences, though, the gals harmonized with nothing less than the total perfection you’d expect from such hard-charging perfectionists. Grade: A-

Sam, Ryder, Kitty and the Guys of New Directions, “Hot in Herre”/”Centerfold” | Lots of Cheerios gals riding New Directions guys like they were rodeo bulls. Lots of flying legs and gyrations, too. I just wish the actual mashup of Nelly and J. Giles Band had been a little more seamless. Grade: B-

Marley and Jake, “A Thousand Years” | This song choice seemed overblown for this very young, very recent pairing — even by Glee’s unabashedly pro-romance standards, no? Grade: C+

Jake, “Let Me Love You” | Puck’s baby bro can definitely sing, and I liked the relaxed, stripped-down vibe of this particular performance. Grade: B

Rachel, Santana and Quinn, “Love Song” | So nice to have these ladies sharing a stage, choosing a catchy ditty, and harmonizing the beans out of it! I just wish we’d had a few more scenes of dialogue to see the trio compare notes on their freshman years. Grade: A-

New Directions, “This Is the New Year” | I found the whole white-screen setting a little jarring, but the kids sounded solid in unison, as usual. Grade: B

And finally, the week’s best zingers:
“After the break, a Ft. Wayne squirrel who’s also...a doctor?” –news anchor Rod Remington, heading into commercial

“I could sell more of my semen.” –Sam, brainstorming ideas to raise money for New Directions’ bus to Regionals (I just loved the use of “more”)

“Those Twilight books are poop on paper, and we’ve turned them into a billion-dollar industry.” –Kitty, explaining the purchasing power of women

“No, I did not cheat: I swear. All I did was I filled in ‘A’ for awhile, and then ‘C’ for a little bit, and then ‘D,’ and then I did ‘A’ again. And then I used the dots to draw a clown and then a penis.” –Brittany, explaining how she aced her SATs

“My future looks bright: I’m gonna graduate. I’ll to Harvard or Princetown or Mit or Stanford & Son or the University of California at Charles Barkley’s house, ’cause evidently I’m one of the smartest people in America.” –Brittany, describing her new post-graduation plan

“Chicks dig hot guys who are willing to get naked for a calendar, but what they’re really looking for is a guy who’ll get naked emotionally.” –Ryder, counseling Jake on how to win over Marley (that was supposed to make me LOL to hear a teenage boy talk like that, yes?) (also the “boys comparing arm muscles” bit was the homoerotic scene in Glee history, no?)

“Topless is as nude as anyone’s gonna want to see you.” –Santana, responding to Rachel’s argument that she only had to remove her top, not get completely naked, in the student film

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of “Naked”? Did the Marley-Jake storyline reel you in? Were you pro- or anti-nudity when it came to Rachel’s role in the student film? Sound off in the comments, and for all my weekly TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!