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Glee Recap: Songs About Sweaters

GLEE: L-R: Becca Tobin, Alex Newell, Jenna Ushkowitz, Heather Morris and Melissa Benoist perform in the "Guilty Pleasures" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, March 21 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Like all of the greatest stories of our time, this week’s Glee begins with the theft of macaroni. Blaine tries to give Sam some money, because he’s seen him smuggling pasta out of the cafeteria and thinks it’s because his family is struggling. But Sam says that isn’t why, and takes him to a room filled with the fruits of his guiltiest pleasure: macaroni art. Since Mr. Schue is out sick, Sam and Blaine suggest that confessing and performing their musical guilty pleasures as a team will bring them closer together as they prepare for regionals.

It’s not a bad idea as team-building exercises go, but it raises the question: When the hell are regionals? The past two seasons, the competition has happened in the sixteenth and fourteenth episodes of the season. Thinking about that opens up a host of questions about what Glee will look like over the next few episodes and next season (although it’s worth mentioning that it’s only one of a few scripted series that Fox hasn’t yet renewed), but it’s hard to think about that when you have Blaine and Sam in front of you, under a black light, singing “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” I generally find that any version of this song that doesn’t end in a gasoline fight isn’t worth watching, but it’s a great way to kick off a surprisingly strong episode. (Glee has a habit of delivering those after episodes like last week’s, which make you question the entire point of the show.)

“Guess what? EVERYONE HATES YOU,” Brittany tells Kitty, and says the only way she can rehabilitate her image is by doing an interview on Fondue for Two! Kitty agrees, and her appearance on the show makes me wonder whether a full hour of Glee dedicated to Fondue for Two! would hold up. I’d watch it. Probably twice. After they recite the various iterations of the Bring It On franchise to each other, Brittany begs Kitty to tell her her true guilty pleasure. “Come on, this is a safe space! We’re on the Internet!” Finally, Kitty gives in and tells Brittany what she wants. What she (ahem) really, really wants. She’s a Spice Girls fan.

It’s odd that every last female member of the New Directions is overly enamored with the Spice Girls since the film Spice World would’ve come out when they were maybe 2 years old; then again, I actually like the Spice Girls, and I like numbers like these that feature general merriment and Brittany acrobatics, so I’m willing to overlook it. That said, with her hair straightened and with a Victoria Beckham dress on, Marley easily looks 25 (but Melissa Benoist is 25, so I’ll allow it). This performance highlights how fun it is in the choir room with no grown-ups to meddle or moralizes; give me the self-governing version of glee club any day. There’s not a sweater vest in sight.

Because admitting that he loves macaroni art wasn’t enough, apparently Sam pulls Blaine aside in the boys’ locker room and tells him that he’s a huge fan of Barry Manilow. Blaine is horrified and tries to shush him, but Sam can’t shut up. “The stories. The breakups, the lost love. In the rain? Who shot who!? It’s like he’s talking right to me!” Sam says that even if he’s ostracized forever, he knows he’ll feel better if he tells everyone how he feels, and I am delighted. He decides to perform “Copacabana” for the rest of the kids (complete with the ruffliest shirt in Glee history, and that’s saying something), and prefaces his performance with a lengthy introduction. I don’t know that we’ve ever heard Sam speak at length and so articulately about anything (with the possible exception of his family’s homelessness in season two), which makes it that much more hilarious.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this, Tina walks around dressed up as Vicki, the robot girl from Small Wonder. You do you, Tina Cohen-Chang. You do you.

All the girls are furious when they hear that Jake is planning to perform a Chris Brown song, and they throw down an impressively comprehensive litany of the things he’s done wrong (they leave out the multiple ways in which he’s violated his parole but, hey, the show’s only an hour long). He rolls his eyes a lot and compromises (sort of?) by performing “My Prerogative” instead; this means we finally, finally get another Jake dance solo. It’s been way too long. I’m glad they reiterated that the things Chris Brown has done are reprehensible, and I’m glad they introduced the question of whether or not it’s okay to still like music if it’s made by reprehensible musicians, which is a really complex, important conversation. And I’m glad the whole thing ended without the performance of a Chris Brown song, even though (as one of the characters said as an aside) Bobby Brown got Whitney Houston hooked on drugs.

But still, it’s a touch hypocritical for Glee to be taking such a staunch anti-violence stance when Finn is being lauded as a hero for beating up Brody in last week’s episode. It’s okay to fly to another city, corner a guy, and beat him senseless for lying to your ex-girlfriend? Cool story, Glee. I’m not directly equating the two, but violence is violence.

Finally, after several gentle nudges from Sam, Blaine sits down at the piano in the auditorium and sings “Against All Odds.” It’s sung live, and beautifully, and it makes me wonder why Darren Criss is the only cast member to sing live — do other cast members not have the inclination, or have they not been asked? The immediacy of performances like these adds so much more depth to the show, and that’s something Glee is lacking these days. As compelling as the song is, its intention is point-blank bizarre. While Blaine claims initially that he’s singing the song because he misses Kurt so much, Sam finally (and kindly) confronts him to say he knows about the little crush Blaine has on him.

It’s nicely handled and everything, but it feels wrong. I get that it’s possible to have a crush on a straight person if you’re gay (and vice versa) or to have a crush on someone when you’re in a serious relationship, but I have a hard time believing that someone as in love with Kurt as Blaine is (remember, when he last saw Kurt, he said they’d be together forever) could be nursing something else on the side. What’s more, the lyrics of “Against All Odds” are very clearly about trying to win someone back, so is the some sort of double/reverse/backward psychology? What seems most plausible is that Blaine is maybe projecting his feelings for Kurt on to Sam, but I don’t think that’s what the writing was suggesting here. It’s a shame because Sam and Blaine’s scenes are so strong throughout the episode — I think this is the most Chord Overstreet has ever had to tackle in a single episode, and he carries it off really well. To have it end in a way that feels somehow untrue to who the characters are is unfortunate.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Kurt’s guilty pleasure takes the form of sleeping with a pillow in the shape of a man’s arm. I won’t comment on this except to say that they’re real, and they’re spectacular. Even though they’ve already broken up, Rachel finally finds out about Brody’s work as a gigolo and confronts him at NYADA, a scenario that seems entirely orchestrated in order to give them a breakup song. Radiohead’s “Creep” doesn’t exactly seem applicable to the situation (or in place on an episode of Glee), but it allows for a lot of slow-motion running through hallways, so there’s that.

Rachel thanks Santana for sending Finn to deal with Brody (ugh, again) and requests a viewing of Mamma Mia! She and Kurt and Santana break into song almost immediately, and so do the New Direction kids (clad in white and gold and silver and all looking properly fierce). There are golden Hula Hoops and impressive amounts of hair flipping, but most important, everyone’s learned that it’s okay to be yourself! Don’t feel guilty about your pleasures! Seriously, is all the rest of the Ryan Murphy canon like this? Do the ghosts look at each other at the end of American Horror Story and comment on how glad they are that they’ve learned to accept something about themselves?

Some of the many contenders for line of the week:

“Hunger’s a big problem in this country. Although so is obesity, which is confusing.” —Blaine

  • “Please be songs about sweaters.” —Brittany, on the theme of the week.
  • “Just curious — you're going go over to his house and straddle him while he’s passed out and rub some ointment in his chest?” —Sam to Tina, after she tells him Mr. Schue is sick.
  • “Lord Tubbington’s guilty pleasure is Scientology.” —Brittany
  • “Marley, you should be Posh Spice because you’re super skinny and you make everyone uncomfortable.” —Kitty
Photo: Jennifer Clasen/FOX