Last night on Glee, two boys got engaged. There was kissing and crying and a whole lot of pomp and circumstance; it was treated exactly the way a proposal between a boy and a girl would’ve been treated, and that, in and of itself, is pretty damn cool.
But on top of all that, it was a strong hour of Glee: fun, vibrant, and (against all odds) aware of continuity and character development. And if some of the vocal arrangements felt too derivative, well, then, at least they were derivative of the Beatles, and everyone likes the Beatles. Preemptively: If you’re about to make the blanket statement that you don’t like the Beatles, think really carefully about whether you’re willing to be that scowling guy wearing a black turtleneck on the beach in the middle of July. Don’t be that guy. No one likes that guy.
Still, it was surreal (and maybe even the tiniest bit morbid) to watch the New Directions kids ride around on bumper cars and dance through confetti and jump on tabletops knowing that Finn is never coming back. The show didn’t reference him at all last night, and likely won’t mention him again until the October 10th episode, which will be an hour-long tribute to both Finn and Cory Monteith. I understand the practical and emotional concerns that kept Glee from addressing his death at the outset of the season, but it was jarring to get absorbed in last night’s episode and then suddenly remember why Finn wasn’t there.
The one tacit acknowledgement of Cory’s death comes when Rachel sings “Yesterday” at the start of the episode, after a callback for Funny Girl goes poorly. The song’s heightened emotion is out of place as a reaction to a flubbed chemistry read, but it’s extraordinarily powerful – it would be great if the show’s vocal producers allowed this rawer edge into more performances – and the camera phone shot of New Directions that she glances at briefly adds to the poignancy. Why was Quinn Photoshopped out of it, though?
On a far, far, lighter note: It’s Beatles Week(s) back at McKinley! Mr. Schue mumbles something about bands changing the world and creating dynasties, Marley explains earnestly that George Harrison was bullied because his father was a bus driver and everyone nods seriously, and the depressing thing is that’s actually one of the more compelling justifications we’ve heard for a weekly theme in a really long time.
Things kick off with “Drive My Car,” sung by Kitty and Artie on their first date at a carnival, chaperoned by the entire glee club. There are midway games and bumper cars and at one point everyone gets strapped onto a spray-painted chain-link fence (it looks like the world’s deadliest Scrambler). Kitty tells Artie she wants to date on the down-low “like gay conservatives,” and Artie agrees, but after an hour’s worth of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”-ing, she admits she’s scared, but ready to give it a shot. This is the first real insight the show has given us into Kitty’s human side; indeed, it’s the first real indication that such a side even exists. It took a full season, but it seems she’s been upgraded from one-dimensional character to two-dimensional character. Well done, everybody.
Improbably, the episode throws a little attention Tina Cohen-Chang’s way, too. Blaine and the boys decide she must be lonely after seeing her alone at a meeting of the Too Young to Be Bitter Club, and cheer her up by singing “I Saw Her Standing There” to her. It’s nicer than saying, “Hey, we noticed you can’t stop eating cake and meddling and now one of us will be your pity prom date, okay?” and it’s the first time Tina has ever been serenaded, so I’ll take it, but with the caveat that I’d rather not see another season of Glee devoted to Men Solving Problems. (I am, however, very interested in a season of Glee devoted to Men Wearing Beatles-style Suits.)
And then there’s Kurt and Blaine.
It’s not clear how the two of them got from Kurt insisting that they weren’t a couple in last season’s finale to the steps of McKinley, where they share a picnic and bicker amicably about whether to get back together. Kurt points out that Jason and Bethenny were supposed to be together forever (extremely valid point), Blaine promises to never cheat again, and Kurt whips out a whistle, summons a marching band, and launches into “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
Is it weird to see one of TV’s more iconic couples reunite to a song Paul McCartney freely admits is about how much he loves weed? Sure. But Kurt hasn’t had a duet this bombastic and playful and fun in a very, very long time, and it culminates in a pretty spectacular kiss, so I’ll take it.
The performance gives Blaine the confidence and inspiration he needs to craft an epic proposal plan; when he asks the New Directions kids for help, they’re skeptical at first. Sam tries to smooth things over by saying, “My best friend! Good things! Happening! They’re fast!” and it’s a reminder of the fact that the Blaine/Sam friendship is one of the best things to come out of last season. Blaine explains that he wants to mobilize New Directions’ rivals to make a statement about coming together to stand up for equality. Or something. His reasoning is vague.
Blaine segues into singing, since talking wasn’t getting it done. Glee is at its best and most joyful when it’s doing a montage, and “Help!” is no exception. The New Directions kids recruit Vocal Adrenaline and the Haverbrook School for the Deaf choir and the Warblers to join them. Along the way, we learn that the Haverbrook kids think the members of New Directions are nerds and that Jake’s tumbling outshines Vocal Adrenaline’s best dancers’. Did we know Jacob Artist could do tumbling passes? Why is he not doing tumbling passes one hundred percent of the time? It’s the Warblers whose approval matters most – Blaine wants to propose at Dalton – and Sebastian eagerly agrees. Blaine beams and hugs him and murmurs, “Thank you, Sebastian,” which is a really gracious way to treat someone who literally tried to blind you.
A couple of days-ish later (I tried to calculate this based on how many shirts Blaine wore between “Get You Into My Life” and “All You Need Is Love,” but Glee clothes math is impossible), Burt drives Kurt to the proposal, pointing out that marriage isn’t all the sex and pasta and dancing around in your underwear one might think. Kurt asks if he regrets marrying his mother when they were young and, as ever, Mike O’Malley knocks it out of the park as he explains that there’s so little time to be with the ones we love.
Everyone sings, everyone dances, Kurt walks down the staircase where he met Blaine, and Blaine rambles on about the hands we’re meant to hold and how badly he wants to spend his life loving Kurt.
Surrounded by the choirs, by his father, and by Rachel and Santana and Mercedes (Finn’s absence looms large here), Kurt says yes.
Look, I get it: They’re too young, even by television standards. And I understand that this engagement is at least partially one of convenience; Glee needs a stable couple to anchor it, and right now, Kurt and Blaine are all they’ve got. But seeing Kurt and Blaine celebrated and loved and accepted both by each other and by their peers (in conservative Ohio, of all places) is deeply powerful, considering the violence and ridicule they’ve faced in the past. And it’s very refreshing to see a moment on Glee in which music is saying something that words alone couldn’t. That used to be a common occurrence, and I hope “All You Need Is Love” is a harbinger of its return.
Glee has an uphill climb this season: the death of a lead character, the (stunt) casting of two new featured performers, and a half a dozen more Beatles covers – and all of that is happening in the next three episodes alone. And in three years of writing about this show, I’ve learned to stop saying things like “Glee is back!” But watching last night’s episode, I thought exactly what Blaine said before he first kissed Kurt. Oh, there you are, Glee. I’ve been looking for you forever.