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Glee Recap: The Channing Tatum Former Male Stripper Grant

GLEE: Artie (Kevin McHale) performs in the "Movin' Out" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, Nov. 21 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Mike Yarish/FOX

It’s probably become clear over the past few weeks, but I have absolutely no idea what to make of Glee this season. It’s gone from a very sweet two-part premiere (which I stupidly assumed was a return to form) to Finn’s moving tribute to a spate of more uneven episodes. I’m used to being outraged by Glee. I’m used to being infuriated by it. I’m even used to loving it. But I’m not accustomed to being flat-out bored with it, and that’s where I’ve found myself after the past couple of episodes.

And really: a Billy Joel tribute without “We Didn’t Start the Fire”? Seriously? Or without “Vienna,” now in its third decade of being obnoxiously yell-sung by teenage girls driving around with the windows down? What’s the point of a tribute episode that doesn’t really pay tribute to the full range of the artist? It makes it seem like the entire point of the episode was to give Darren Criss an opportunity to sing “Piano Man,” and there’s got to be an easier way to get that accomplished.

So, Sue’s done a lot of legitimately horrible things in her tenure as coach and principal, but this time she’s clearly taken things too far by … hosting a career fair? Mr. Schue’s fierce opposition is a rare bit of continuity, since in four years of Glee, we’ve only seen him endorse dancer, teacher, actor, singer, and Yale attendee as desirable career paths. (Awkward question: He knows his wife is a guidance counselor, right?) Mr. Schue does the mental gymnastics to connect the obstacles that Billy Joel had to overcome as an artist with the obstacles the One Direction kids face. Even for him, it’s shaky reasoning, but it’s Billy Joel week nonetheless! Kitty, who’d hoped it was finally Marilyn Manson week, is gravely disappointed.

If I were the sort of person who believed in writing open letters, I’d write one to Chord Overstreet’s ponytail, because I’m really not sure how it’s still around. Is Glee setting up some sort of multi-episode arc about male hair length? Is that the extent to which they’ve run out of Important Issues to tackle? Still, Sam prefacing “Movin’ Out” by announcing he and Blaine were about to share their “take on a classic BJ” made me laugh; I know some people have gotten tired of the constant Sam jokes and asides as Glee has begun to rely more heavily on them, but they’ve been a bright spot for me in the past few episodes. His, “So, you’re … black. That’s … that must … be interesting,” to the Hunter admissions officer was particularly spot-on, as was his eligibility for the Channing Tatum Former Male Stripper grant.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about how Sam’s (now formerly?) homeless and unemployed parents would’ve felt about his plan to forgo college, especially when he talked about how he felt pressure not from them, but from a United Negro College Fund commercial. I guess the broader point is that if I’ve become uninterested in enough what’s actually happening onscreen that I’ve had enough time to create an elaborate daydream about the character’s parents’ inner life, Glee is probably doing something wrong.

Sam’s scene at the modeling agency wasn’t all that compelling (I hit my Tyra Banks saturation point around Life-Size), but I do buy into the idea that he’d find male modeling appealing. It’s an easy enough way for him to integrate with the New York cast post-graduation, and he certainly has the abs for it. A bit more bewildering was his chemistry with Rachel — while it wasn’t more than some friendly support and stolen, meaningful glances, it was jarring to see Rachel connect with someone who isn’t Finn. I’ll be interested to see whether it plays out further.

Either way, I hope to see more of Kurt, Blaine, Santana, Sam, and Rachel singing around the loft’s newly acquired piano. There was a nice, playful ease to their performance of “Just the Way You Are” — Glee needs more of that these days. And I love the idea that Blaine and Sam took Billy Joel week so seriously that once they got to New York, they informed Kurt and Rachel and Santana they could only sing Billy Joel songs for the duration of their stay.

Speaking of Blaine, he spends most of the episode fretting over his upcoming NYADA audition. After dragging Sam to visit safety schools, Blaine tells Kurt he doesn’t want to try out, and Kurt responds with a baffled, “Well, you can’t get in on reputation alone.” Blaine goes on to point out that NYADA only offers performing-arts courses and that he’s interested in other things like teaching or pre-med courses, but Kurt calls his bluff, telling him he’s afraid of trying out and not getting in. Blaine’s (off-screen) audition goes swimmingly, so I guess the moral of the story is why have safety schools when you can have dreams instead? The best part of the whole exchange is when Blaine refers to his ambition to practice medicine as his “secret shame.” Yeah, I knew a lot of kids in high school whose parents were devastated when they finally admitted they wanted to become doctors.

Meanwhile, Marley and Jake are still broken up; Ryder wants to date Marley, but she’s not ready yet. All of this requires two complete Billy Joel songs (Ryder sings “An Innocent Man” and Jake sings “My Life”) and one completely tone-deaf pep talk from Marley’s mom, and the whole thing is right back where it started by the end of the episode.  At least Jake got to dance, I guess? The whole thing mainly serves as a reminder that Glee spent multiple (slow, painful) episodes building up Ryder’s catfishing storyline last season and has yet to ever resolve it. I’m not saying that I need ten more episodes about it. Two sentences would do the trick.

I’ve always been a little leery of the way Glee treats Becky Jackson. Even with the school-shooting debacle aside, there have been times where the way she’s written verges too far away from “laughing with” and into “laughing at” territory. That said, I’m glad Glee took the time to address the issue of how someone with Down syndrome might take on the challenge of college, and I’m glad they did so by featuring a real program. But I’m also really aware of the fact that Glee tends to celebrate having handled tough issues in a sensitive way by never, ever mentioning them again (see also: Unique’s storyline last week, completely ignored in last night’s episode), so the whole thing’s a mixed bag, really.

Next week, puppets and Janet Jackson covers. You have my attention, Glee.

Photo: Mike Yarish/FOX