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Glee Recap: La Cucaracha

GLEE: David (guest star Ricky Martin, C) performs with Brittany (Heather Morris, L) and Mike (Harry Shum Jr., R) in "The Spanish Teacher" episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, Feb. 7 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose/FOX

Wow! Glee! Look at you go! This episode opens with one of the most culturally insensitive moments in the history of cultures, sensitivity, moments, Mexico, and hats. Mr. Schue and a few students, draped in technicolor serapes and spangled sombreros, chant a frantic, bug-eyed rendition of “La Cucaracha” to a rightfully mortified Spanish class. In voice-over, Mr. Schue delivers a weird nonsense monologue lamenting the chilly reception: "My yearly rendition of ‘La Cucaracha’ on Taco Tuesday used to be such a hit! The truth is, I'm ashamed. To be a teacher is to offer students a gateway to the future and I blew it. How could I become so out of touch?" So … you were trying to offer these students a “gateway to the future” (EVERYTHING IS A GATEWAY TO THE FUTURE, BTW) … via white people in brownface playing leering Mexican stereotypes for laughs? So what you’re saying is that the future is a what-not-to-do diorama at the Museum of Tolerance? Because I’m pretty sure we call that kind of future “the past.”

But it’s all okay, you see, because “someone complained” to Principal Figgins, so Mr. Schue gets a mildly shamey lecture and goes about his business. Glee does this thing that drives me absolutely nuts: They act like it’s perfectly harmless for them to do incredibly offensive shit for cheap laughs, as long as someone halfheartedly condemns it later in the episode. As though people aren’t laughing at that opening scene for the wrong reasons. As though Mr. Schue’s personal journey from offensively-ignorant-Spanish-teacher-who-doesn’t-even-speak-Spanish to guy-who-has-talked-to-a-Latino-guy-once counts as compelling character development. Oh, yeah, if you missed it, Mr. Schue doesn’t speak Spanish. Like, at all. God, he is so gross.

So apparently there’s a “tenured position” opening up at McKinley (I do not believe that that is a thing in public high school), and Mr. Schue wants the SHIT out of it so that he can never be fired (noooooooooooo!). So he decides that maybe he should become qualified for his job and actually learn Spanish (spoiler: he doesn’t). He enrolls in night classes with a bunch of terrible human beings ("I was hoping you could tell me what the word gordita means?" “I just need to learn how to say ‘Stop using my toilet’ to my maid”) under Professor Ricky “Best Guest Star Ever Until Jeff Goldblum Next Week” Martin. Before he became a night-school Spanish teacher for bigots, Ricky Martin’s character, Mr. Martinez, was a “tooth model.” “It’s like a hand model but with your teeth.” Now, apparently — this was news to me — I LOVE RICKY MARTIN MORE THAN MY OWN FAMILY. (Just kidding, family.) He is super lovable and endearing, even when performing next to the existential black hole of charm that is Will Schuester.

Elsewhere, Sue is running around asking teenage boys for their sperm. (Don’t worry! “Someone complains” later!) Years ago she froze some of her woman-eggs in a meat locker, and now she’s finally ready to have a baby. With 16-year-old child-sperm, apparently. GROSS, YOU GUYS!

At Glee Club practice, Mr. Schue gives a big condescending speech about how much he loves all things Latin: “I love ALL THINGS LATIN! I love Latin food, Latin art, Latin people … ” To which Santana responds: “You don’t know any Latin people.” As much as I love Santana, that’s not quite true — Mr. Schue does have one “Latin” “friend,” named Ricky Martin. And he’s brought him along for show-and-tell. This week, he says, they’re going to do all Spanish-language-related songs, and Ricky Martin is going to hang around looking handsome and shiny-toothed. I have no problem with that.

The first musical number is Ricky Martin performing “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, which is a dismal garbage-song about dudes’ butts and stuff. Ricky Martin still manages to be completely adorable, because he is made of treasure.

Sue gets into an altercation with Roz Washington, the synchronized swimming teacher, about how old and withered her uterus is. "I'm getting pregnant, and then I am having a baby." "WITH WHOSE VAGINA???" Sue and Roz Washington both want the tenured position (not a thing). Roz Washington is hella mean to Sue. I have no problem with that.

Rachel tells Kurt and Mercedes about her engagement to Finn, and both of them flip out because they want to make sure she remembers to follow her dreamz. (Oh, but BEST KURT LINE EVER: "Why are you getting so weird and serious? Our periods don't come until the end of the month.") Then Finn and Kurt have an emotional conversation in the weight room in which Kurt tries to make sure that Finn follows HIS dreamz too: "You're a star, Finn! Just as bright as Rachel!" (I mean, he’s not really. It’s a very sweet thing to say, though.) Finn replies that “the proof is in the pudding,” and he is the pudding, and nobody gives college scholarships to bowls of pudding. It’s been proven.

Sue reveals to Emma that she wants Mr. Schue’s sperms inside of her to make her perfect Sue-baby. This is because, she explains, even though she’s always been a complete bitch to Mr. Schue, she’s noticed that he’s always been pretty nice to her back — and she does NOT WANT A BITCHY BABY! And Emma is like “Ohhhhhhh kaaaaaayyyy.” This scene makes literally no sense, but Jane Lynch deserves 47 Emmys for even being able to say any of it out loud.

Back at the Schuester/Pillsbury household, Mr. Schue is being a complete dick to Emma. She’s all excited about this new box of guidance counselor pamphlets she got printed up, and when she tries to show them to Will he’s all (direct quote), "Emma, ENOUGH!!! CAN'T YOU SEE I'M TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF YOU?" And she says, "I was just trying to show you my new pamphlets." And he’s like, "They're silly, Emma." DUDE. SHE IS A SWEET SIMPLETON WITH A BOX OF PAMPHLETS. CAN YOU PLEASE CHILL? You know, this Will Schuester character was pretty unappealing before … but what if we made him incredibly verbally abusive too? Genius! (It's okay, though, because he gets a little bit remorseful and makes dinner later!!!)

Okay. Then everyone goes to the auditorium where Mr. Schue is having some sort of ridiculous Latino-Off with Ricky Martin. First up, Ricky Martin and Santana do a squeal-inducing (at my house) duet of “La Isla Bonita,” which makes life worth living for a few minutes. Unfortunately, Mr. Schue still exists. He gets up, screams, "I'm an authentic Spanish matador!!!” and launches into a rendition of “A Little Less Conversation” in Spanish, while apparently gripped by the throes of some sort of terrible leg palsy.

Afterwards, finally, in the moment that makes the entire episode worthwhile, Santana gets up and calls Mr. Schue on his complete bullshit: "This is my education and it's not a joke to me, although it seems like it is to you … Why don't you just dress up like the Taco Bell Chihuahua and bark the theme song to Dora the Explorer?” And Mr. Schue is shamed. (See? It makes all that stuff before okay!) Like, it’s nice that the racist undertones in this episode aren’t just obliviously overlooked — it’s great that they’re acknowledged and challenged — but the episode is still basically the Taco Bell Chihuahua humping Dora the Explorer. It’s still just American pop songs with salsa on them. Basically. 

Anyway, having learned the errors of his ways, Mr. Schue decides, nobly, that Ricky Martin should be the new Spanish teacher and heads to night class to tell him. Ricky Martin starts crying. "My parents were immigrants,” he says. “And they had to lie about their citizenship to go to high school. And now I'm teaching it. That's the American Dream, right?" THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME, WHITE PERSON! Yes, the American Dream. You’re welcome, immigrants. Oh, and Emma gets the tenure. Screw you, Will Schuester.

Photo: Adam Rose/FOX