Well, after last week”s “Glee” debacle, I wanted to drink as much as the characters did in this week”s installment, “Blame It on the Alcohol.” This episode sent me back to more tried and true reactions, which left half of me wanting to toast the episode and the other hand feverishly looking for booze to numb the pain. There are times in which I”ve not liked an episode of “Glee” because it was either dull or offensive. Tonight”s episode falls under another category of disappointment, but it”s the best of my personal three. “Alcohol” left me underwhelmed due to the show”s chronic inability to edit itself.
[Recap of Tuesday’s (Feb. 22) “Glee” after the break…]
It”s a problem that not many shows have, but “Glee” seems to excel at it. How many episodes of other shows have you seen in which you can feel the writers straining to stretch the plot out to fill the network-mandated time slot? “Glee” has the opposite problem, often shoving what could be half a season of narrative into a single hour. That gives the audience a lot to take in. Too much, in fact. Just look at how many storylines were thrown against the television screen tonight, Wacky Wallwalker-style:
1) Figgins decides to employ New Directions to help curb rampant drinking on campus, the first of its kind ever in this show
2) Rachel tries to start writing her original song, only to be stymied by lack of life experience
3) New Directions throws a drunken party at Rachel”s house, in which several new interactions are teased out
4) Will deals with his loneliness through drinking
5) Blaine starts to question his sexuality
6) Burt and Kurt have their first real dealings with the physical manifestation of Kurt”s sexuality
Each one of those, ON THEIR OWN, could be an episode of television. Some of them could even be great episodes. Personally, having a karaoke-style bottle episode in Rachel”s Oscar-themed basement could have yielded the greatest episode of the show to date. Everything about that room represented possibility, while still staying within a recognizable reality. Yes, that basement is ridiculous, but totally in keeping with everything we know about Rachel”s parents. Having a stage for them to perform gave the show every chance to have the group perform songs fueled by season-long melodramas plus Big Daddy Booze to yield some earned character shifts and maybe even breakthroughs. It was a simple, brilliant, and economical way to work through all the intra-team romantic relationships.
So, naturally, that only lasted for about six minutes, with the rest of the episode dealing with the fallout from that party. And yes, Blaine”s confusion stemmed from that party, and Will”s embarrassing voicemail to Sue did tie into New Directions” embarrassment onstage during “Tik Tok.” Considering how walled off this show”s multiple storylines tend to be, this represents something of a breakthrough, an almost “Mad Men”-esque economy of storytelling. (Relatively speaking, of course. Let”s not get carried away.) It”s in some ways silly to criticize this episode for being something I wish it hadn”t been. But given the show”s seeming inability to film anything but a first draft of the script, wouldn”t have everything after Act 1 been something we could have seen next week after a lengthy, long night”s musical journey into a far too bright day?
Normally here”s the point in the review where I wail and moan about the show”s continued insistence on spending quality air time that could be spent on the kids focused instead on the adults. And even though not every moment spent with The World”s Worst Spanish Teacher was miserable (I really liked the unique energy and atmosphere of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”), it”s still plainly clear that “Glee” is no longer his story. At least, it”s plain to everyone not working on the show. This isn”t a slam on Matthew Morrison so much as a slam on the way in which the show treats him.
In an ideal world, the show would treat him in the way that “Freaks and Geeks” treated its guidance counselor, Jeff Rosso. (At this moment, I fear people like Alan Sepinwall are sitting down like Obi-Wan did after the Death Star destroyed Alderaan for even mentioning the two shows in the same breath.) Rosso had his students” best interest at heart, but rarely actually connected with them in a meaningful way. Then again, “Freaks and Geeks” knew that it was a show about the kids, not the adults. So Rosso could be as meek and ineffectual as can be without hurting the show as a whole. But as long as “Glee” wants to consider the show to be about Will”s journey as much as the students”, then neither side really gets to shine. (Remind me: wasn”t John Stamos once on this show, like, five years ago?)
With Will”s storyline on the front burner this week, the Blaine/Kurt/Rachel arc got reduced to something akin to a “One to Grow On” promo. Blaine kissed a girl, and he liked it…at least under the influence of booze. That, plus a drunken sleepover at Kurt”s, provided the chance for some really thorny issues of burgeoning sexuality to play out in a realistic manner. Normally I wouldn”t assign such high hopes to the show, but anytime Kurt”s father appears onscreen, things usually get elevated past the show”s normally prosaic/didactic approach. But instead, the show opted for pat results (Blaine”s confusion ends abruptly, Rachel”s ecstatic about having new material for her songwriting) and the return of Kurt-as-Ryan-Murphy, lecturing his father about…well, it was unclear. When Kurt, or anyone on the show, turns from a character into a mouthpiece, I tend to tune out. (See: every time anyone in New Directions lectured Will on the hypocrisy of underage drinking.)
Some other thoughts about tonight”s episode:
- I loved that Rachel”s initial stabs at songwriting sucked beyond the pale. I half expected her to produce Joni Mitchell-esque results on the first try.
- Much more ambient music in this episode than in any one I can recall, which I”m sure added to the overall cost of the episode but also gave a nice sense of the way in which the people in this world pick up on the sounds around them in order to feed into their own performances.
- Finn”s breakdown of the different archetypes of drunk was amusing, though not as amusing as his use of the word “archetype.” (Also? It was a cheap way to avoid telling a full episode length story at the party. It”s as bad as substituting analysis with a bunch of bullet points. Oh. Um. Moving on…)
- Heather Morris certainly proved her worth in “Britney/Brittany,” but also stole nearly every performance she was in tonight as well. Artie is one lucky fellah.
- I”d try to come up with an in-show reason why Sue and Becky reenacted the PA announcements from “Grease,” but we all know it”s because someone in the writers” room threw it out there, the other two laughed, and it ended up onscreen.
- We need to come up with a name for the horrid concoction that caused half of New Directions to throw up onstage. I vote for “Flaming Schuester,” but willing to open up the discussion in the comments below for better suggestions.
- “It tastes like pink!”
- I wonder if the “Glee” finale will go the way of “Seinfeld,” in which a litany of past characters beaten up/pushed down stairs by Sue will appear at her trial.
In summary: less would be more on “Glee,” but more will always be more for both the writers and a lot of the show”s fans. They”ll drink that show up the way Daniel Plainview will drink your milkshake up, drinking it until they get sick from overconsumption. But a little moderation could go a long way. All the way to Nationals, in fact.
What did you think of tonight”s episode? The more, the merrier? Or too many plots spoil the broth? What role to Will and Sue truly serve at this point in the show? And did the Kurt/Blaine storyline feel forced or realistic? Sound off below!