Glee Recap: A Dude Ranch on a Nuclear Waste Site

Photo: Adam Rose/FOX
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For months (years?), I’ve been asking Glee to stick to being a show about singing teenagers, and every so often, it obliges. The episodes that fall between Glee’s cornerstone episodes — premieres, finales, competition episodes, and tributes — can have an unfortunate tendency to turn into Very Special Episodes or gimmicky throwaways. But last night’s episode was a delight.

The episode may have had a different feel simply because it was the first Glee writing credit for Rivka Sophia Rossi, who’s better known online as Sophia Rossi, one of the founders of Hello Giggles. Interestingly (according to my late-night sleuthing), Rossi is the first woman to have a writing credit on a Glee script since December of 2012, and hers is only the seventh script to be written by a woman during the run of the entire series. This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking revelation; the Glee writers’ room has always been particularly insular, since the lion’s share of its episodes are written by the show’s three creators.

I’m not trying to say that last night’s episode was better than normal just because it was written by a woman; the metrics of better and worse don’t and can’t and shouldn’t work that cleanly. But for a show that tries to tell an awful lot of stories about women and has a tendency to get an awful lot wrong in the process, more diversity in a writer’s room has to be a good thing. At any rate: I hope Rossi sticks around.

The show’s most delightful moments come from the trio of Sam, Blaine, and Tina, who are beginning to cope with their upcoming graduation. There’s lots of crying — especially from Tina, and while I still struggle with how the show has misused her, I will never get tired of the gag where she collapses in a heap of emotion for no good reason. Blaine spends half the episode running around in his Nightbird costume, and Sam’s mostly just along for the ride, until he starts noticing that Tina has better boobs now than she used to and makes out with her. Their rendition of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is a little out of place — I think its placement in The Breakfast Club makes people mistake it for a song about high-schoolers, which it definitely is not — but their “Hold On,” which closes the episode, is perky and perfect.

Really bad kissing notwithstanding, there’s a wholesomeness to all of their interactions that’s weirdly appealing. Like, these are kids whose dream version of “most epic week ever” is a performance of a Destiny’s Child song followed by a school-sponsored and presumably chaperoned lock-in. And I’m confident saying that performance of “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” was preceded by a serious conversation about whether it was even morally right to perform the song as a trio when it was recorded as a quartet. I’ll point out that I’m still a little bit iffy about the ways Glee plays around with sexualizing Becky Jackson, who turns up at their sleepover, but I definitely prefer the party-crasher version of Becky to the one who accidentally shoots holes in the floor of the high school with her handgun. Trade offs!

Miscellaneous fact: Sam has now made out with Santana, Quinn, Brittany, and Tina, which means all he needs is Rachel to have successfully macked on (do the kids still say macked on?) all the original Glee girls. I point this out to congratulate him and his trouty mouth, but also to say that I’m absolutely positive he’s going to go five-for-five by the end of the series.

Meanwhile, Will and Emma are trying to get pregnant, which plays out in ways every bit as awful as you’d expect. Scheduled sex in school bathrooms! Misinformation about how fertility works! Farm-animal metaphors! That last one’s not even an exaggeration; Coach Bieste’s advice leads Sue to ask her, “And where do you come from? Seems like a dude ranch on a nuclear waste site.”

Pregnancy turns to slapstick pretty quickly on television, though, and so the broader moments are forgivable. I do hope that a lot of men anxious for their wives to conceive won’t try to copy Will’s method of singing “Danny’s Song.” Sure, Emma got pregnant, but I’m pretty sure listening to someone sing about how you’re absolutely going to have a child and that he’s going to be a boy and your life is going to be perfect as long as you get pregnant is not all that relaxing. Still, it’s a nice, redemptive moment for Will, who’s only been able to get women pregnant with imagination babies in the past. Boy or girl, they’re going to name it Finn though, right?

Speaking of: This will sound far more backhanded than I mean for it to, but I’m really glad that Glee is allowing Rachel to continue to be horrible, even after Finn’s death. It would be easy — and maybe even forgivable — to slot Rachel into a grieving widow’s role for the remainder of this season (or even the remainder of the series). She could be tiptoed around and coddled, and my God, the potential for ballads — from the wistful to the power — boggles the mind.

But that’s not what Glee’s doing; instead, it’s exploring her feud with Santana in a way that’s not particularly flattering to her — or to Santana. Rachel comes off as unreasonable and quick to take advantage of those around her, and to then express surprise when those people don’t want to be her “best gay.” Santana is manipulative and hurtful. What’s compelling is the continuity — not just from last week’s episode, but from previous years. This argument didn’t begin when Santana won her role as understudy. It started in a small town in Ohio years — a decade, even — ago. It’s more nuanced than is typical for the show, and it’s really compelling, without sacrificing Rachel’s trademark hair-flipping and Santana’s Lima Heights Adjacent vitriol.

Their “Gloria” sing-off is plenty sassy, but Rachel’s less-adversarial performance of “Barracuda” with Starchild is just as good, with the added bonus of guitar parts played by Heart’s Nancy Wilson. Consider this my official re-petition for Adam Lambert to become a series regular, please and thank you. While I’m making petitions, I’ll reiterate my weekly “more Kurt, please,” especially now that Pamela Lansbury has reformed as the great, bewilderingly jazzy One Three Hill.

Next week, Nationals and Los Angeles! If Cooper Anderson doesn’t make a brief appearance, all is lost.