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Glee Recap: Your Christmas/Mayan-Apocalypse Gift Is Prostate Cancer

GLEE: L-R: Finn (Cory Monteith), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Artie (Kevin McHale), Marley (Melissa Benoist), Ryder (Blake Jenner), Kitty (Becca Tobin) and Joe (Samuel Larsen) perform in the "Glee, Actually" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, Dec. 13 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT)

I think we can all agree that Glee’s relationship with Christmas has been complicated at best. There have been some very good moments (Kurt and Blaine singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) and some very, very bad ones (Artie’s magical Israeli army-issued walking machine). The problem is that the holiday episodes start out with a massive handicap. While singing Christmas songs is (often) fun and listening to Christmas songs is (often) fun, watching people sing Christmas songs is almost always boring. That said, I was tentatively excited for last night’s episode, since Glee does micro-storylines best, but it wasn’t exactly a Christmas miracle. Also: I’ve forgiven Glee a lot of things, but Coach Sylvester saying that no one really likes Love, Actually is going a bit too far, right? Right?

Artie

After falling out of his wheelchair and hitting his head, Artie takes a concussion induced-nap where he has an It’s a Wonderful Life–style dream about what McKinley would be like if he’d never been paralyzed. It’s a cute enough idea on paper, but the problem with dream sequences (or musical fantasies) in which Artie can walk is that they remind viewers that Artie isn’t played by an actor in a wheelchair, which is one of my longstanding issues with Glee.

Rory is back to guide Artie through his dream as his “Christmas guardian angel.” By Glee logic, does this mean that Rory is dead? They visit Becky first, who, according to Rory, is the “school slut” now, because Artie never taught her to respect herself. I can’t decide if this is more problematic for its misogyny or for its lack of sensitivity toward people with disabilities. This is a dilemma I often have while watching Glee.

Artie also discovers that the New Directions boys (save for bullied-into-not-graduating Kurt) are jock bullies, Blaine doesn’t exist, and Mr. Shue is still with Terri, and he’s enough of an alcoholic that she’s keeping a doll as their “baby” and he doesn’t notice. God, I never thought I’d be glad to see Terri again, but I actually feel like her particular brand of crazy is exactly what this season’s been lacking. If Glee is going off the rails — and I think this episode is proof that it is — let’s go for it. More Terri in 2013! After Artie’s plan to show the New Directions kids how great singing can be (“Feliz Navidad” really isn’t the song with which to try to prove that), he walks dejectedly down the hallway until he sees an empty wheelchair in a beam of light. It’s Quinn’s; she never recovered after her accident without the support of the glee kids, and she “died of a broken heart.”

Okay, except that’s a little dark, considering that this is a Christmas episode.

Kurt

As Rachel gets ready to go on the Rosie O’Donnell cruise with her dads (God, I miss Jeff Goldblum), Kurt mopes around the apartment hanging Christmas ornaments on houseplants. Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door, and it’s Burt Hummel, Christmas tree in hand. Typically, when Burt’s back, all’s right with the Glee universe, at least for five minutes or so. But this time, after a touching anecdote about the first Christmas after Kurt’s mom died (one of the only moments of real emotional resonance in the episode) and a trip to Radio City Music Hall, Burt announces that he has prostate cancer. Wait. What?

Serious question: Is Burt faking prostate cancer so Kurt and Blaine will get back together? Because that’s the only justification I can see for this development. Otherwise, it functions as little more than an aside. I’d hate to think that Glee needs to manufacture some sort of massive life trauma to justify a moment of emotional connection between two characters, especially these two characters, who’ve always been effortlessly emotive together. Without Burt’s revelation, those scenes work just as well, and why couldn’t he have flown Blaine into New York just because he wanted to do something for Kurt? Just so we’re abundantly clear, if Burt Hummel dies, I will be livid. Don’t do this to me, Glee.

All of this notwithstanding, Kurt and Blaine do reconnect, although they don’t get back together. They’re shockingly cordial for people who’ve been through a messy, protracted breakup, but their “White Christmas” duet features almost as many establishing shots of extras as it does the two of them. This is probably a result of the boredom that would be induced by watching an ice dance number performed by two people who aren’t trained figure skaters and can’t snuggle with each other, but it’s visually jarring nonetheless, and disappointing, since it can only signal that Kurt and Blaine won’t get back together anytime soon.

The Puckermans (Puckermen?)

Puck comes back to McKinley to “do research for his screenplay” and to talk Jake into coming back to L.A. with him for the holidays. Jake agrees, and rides from Ohio to L.A. in the sidecar of Puck’s motorcycle. This all culminates in the two of them dancing around the Paramount backlot as they sing “Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah.” Make no mistake: This is bonkers. It features showgirls, thirties gangsters, running nuns, a flash-mob hora, and, in the big finish, an enormous Christmas tree piled with presents. Jake gently steers Puck back to Lima, so they can have Christmas with their moms.

It’s great to see Aisha “Ross from Friends’ Girlfriend” Tyler as Jake’s mom, but the holiday meal with her, Jake, Puck, and Puck’s mom just feels forced and schlocky, and I’m pretty sure that a surprise dinner with your ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend isn’t too high up on anyone’s holiday wish list. It’s another example of Glee trying to force things to be touching, rather than letting touching moments happen more organically. Watching Puck and Jake be total goofballs together in California was heartwarming enough.

Brittany and Sam

This is almost too ridiculous to recount, but: Brittany and Sam believe the Mayan apocalypse is going to happen, so they get married by Coach Bieste, but then when it turns out that the Mayan apocalypse doesn’t happen, they’re glad to find out that Coach Bieste was just pretending to be a Mayan high priestess. Also, Sam sings “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Sue and Marley

Glee still can’t figure out what to do with Sue this season. Three weeks ago, she was berating a transgendered student in the bathroom; this week, she’s filled with Christmas spirit. She draws Marley’s mom, Millie, as her Secret Santa, and eavesdrops outside the cafeteria to get gift ideas. She hears Millie telling Marley that they won’t be exchanging gifts this year because they need to save money to pay for a therapist that specializes in eating disorders. While I’m not a parent, I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to tell your child that there isn’t any Christmas because she needs too much therapy.

Sue’s moved enough that she breaks into Millie and Marley’s house (only on Glee is this an affectionate action) and leaves behind presents, a tree, and $800 for therapy. Millie comes to thank her, and Sue tells her that single mothers have to stick together, because apparently now Sue feels human empathy?

As Brittany said when she found out the new, postponed date of the Mayan apocalypse, “That gives us, like, two whole years of giving love and brutal honesty to everyone we know!” I don’t know about two more years, but I know there will be plenty of time in 2013 for love, brutal honesty, and Glee. See you then!