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Glee Recap: Teenage Dream

After five episodes this season, it would appear Glee has decided to go back to a little thing called “plot.” But not just one, friends! Let’s count the myriad threads as tangled as Brittany’s attempt at sewing a costume: Puck’s back from juvie, and now must learn the value of hard work. All the couples are heating up, which means envisioning Coach Beiste to “cool off.” Thanks to Mr. Schue's questionable logic, Coach Beiste finds out — cue another subplot — about Beiste’s own sense of self-worth and Sue’s continued vendetta against her. We haven’t even touched Kurt’s continued travails at school (merely part one of a “bullying saga” on the show, Chris Colfer’s Twitter tells us), kiss with a closeted football player, and crush on Darren Criss. So that’s, hmmm, approximately eight different plotlines, meaning Glee’s treading on dangerous ground, walking the fine lines between endearing and horrifying, hilarious and downright confusing.

“People Get Ready (One Love)”
Pizzazz: 6
Relevance: 6
Absurdity: 8

Puck is back from juvie (where he lamented “no chicks and no kosher meal options”) and his Mohawk is back, too! While the other dudes deal with the problems related to girls who “won’t put out” (let’s pause to reflect on the fact that this episode didn’t exactly do much to imply that this might be, oh, acceptable for high-school girls), Puck has bigger things in mind, namely completing his community service by “hanging with a crip” (that would be Artie, who’s lately always up for potentially demeaning experiences). Further cementing our theory that he’s the only one among the guys who actually gets how high-school girls think, Puck breaks out the guitar, some Bob Marley, gets some harmonizing from Artie, and voilà — the entire school is bobbing along and making eyes at him. Motives aside, it’s a pretty sweet scene, and we enjoy the blossoming bromance between Puck and Artie.

“Teenage Dream”
Pizzazz: 7
Relevance: 8
Absurdity: 7

It’s exciting to see Kurt start to fight back against the football player with a one-man destruction plan, and it’s even better to see how he’s capable of using words to slowly tear him down. Also, may we direct the writers’ attention to one of Kurt’s best lines this episode, calling Mr. Schue’s assignments “boring and reductive” (listen to your lines, writers!)? In search of a little escape, Kurt tries to infiltrate Dalton Academy, a boys’ school in competition with New Directions at Regionals Sectionals. And hey, look — it’s an apparent utopia, where all boys, gay and straight, get along according to a no-no-tolerance mandate and enthusiastically join hands and pump fists around the reuniting force of a cappella (as sung by the Tufts Beelzebubs, no less)! By which we mean, it’s more than a tad unrealistic — as is the adorable yet oddly flat new character, Blaine, who sends Kurt cryptic yet inspiring “Courage” text messages during the day. We’ll abandon our concept of reality for two seconds to note that Kurt’s face during this right-on a cappella arrangement is adorable and his feelings ones we definitely relate to (who hasn’t swooned a little at their first a cappella performance? We certainly did when the boys from Colgate sang “In Your Eyes” at our high school).

“Start Me Up”/”Livin’ on a Prayer”
Pizzazz: 9
Relevance: 3
Absurdity: 8

Let the confusion begin! Quinn’s angry at Sam for saying "Beiste" mid-make-out-sesh, and tells Sue, who recommends she basically scream this in the hallway at Sam in order to incriminate Beiste. Beiste is spooked, she tells Schue, and Schue talks to the boys, who, in a moment of what strikes us as rather inappropriate teacher-student interaction, are basically forced to explain the “Beiste = cold shower” theory, which in turn Schue must explain to Beiste. Do boundaries just not exist at this school? Thank goodness for Puck, Artie, Santana, and Brittany, whose dinner at Breadstix is a genius bit of ensemble comedy — and, despite Puck’s momentary dip back into juvenile delinquency, a hilarious reminder of how high-school dates often work out. Amid all this, the girls deliver their hairography-centric mash-up, which, despite little connection to the plot, is pretty fabulous: While bearing little actual resemblance to the Rolling Stones tune involved, it’s brash and fun, and finally provides a context in which Lea Michele’s facial expressions seem appropriate! Extra points for the badass Bon Jovi–chick outfits, which appear to have involved no actual sewing on the girls’ parts.

“Stop! In the Name of Love/”Free Your Mind”
Pizzazz: 7
Relevance: 5
Absurdity: 7

The season thus far has made an easy joke of Coach Beiste — now, in one fell swoop, like the stunned boys of New Directions, we’re meant to feel bad about laughing along. Her heart-to-heart with Mr. Schue leaves us feeling queasy: Is Schue kissing her a compassionate or ultracondescending move? Meanwhile, Kurt’s struggle at school finally got a deeper look this week, but we’re uncertain about the outcome: a seemingly easy fix in Super-Boy Blaine and a closeted bully who, against all expectations, is the one to give Kurt his first kiss. Is this a daring writing move we should appreciate — a statement about how, in an ideal world, words are more powerful than fists? Or is it an “It Gets Better” ad in Glee clothing, except not one we can really believe (i.e., few young gay men will find their primary tormentors are closet cases in disguise)? Even this charming closing number, with the boys’ adorable doo-wop moves and the group hug with Coach Beiste, leaves us undecided. Amid a whole lot of incoherency, this episode managed enough heart to keep us interested — but it’s up to Glee to follow through. Next week, Gwyneth Paltrow sings!

Photo: Adam Rose/FOX