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Glee Recap: Love Is a Battlefield

GLEE

It was difficult to watch last night’s Glee without being preoccupied by the statements Ryan Murphy made earlier this week about the future of the show. He had a lot to say, but for me, the key takeaways were that the show’s final season won’t be set in New York, the currently airing episodes aren’t a “preview” of what the final season will look like, and there will be a time jump between the fifth and sixth seasons. On the one hand, that’s really intriguing. On the other: Seriously, what is happening? Because when I couple that information with what I saw on last night’s Glee, I have a hard time understanding what show it is I’m watching. Why are we spending so much time on the minutia of life in New York if we’ll be leaving these stories behind in four more episodes? I’m extremely confused, and so once again, Ryan Murphy has me exactly where he wants me. Well played, sir.

Like all slapdash hours of television, this episode began with a fake World War II–style newsreel about the clap, starring Sam, Artie, Kurt, and Blaine as sailors on shore leave. It made absolutely no sense, did nothing to further the story, and is my favorite thing Glee has done in a long time.

It was really good to see an episode in which Artie finally has something to do, or, more accurately, someone(s) to do. For whatever reason, he’s wildly popular at film school in Brooklyn, which makes me legitimately wonder whether Artie invented normcore. Seems feasible. Artie’s had so much success with the ladies that he refers to himself as “The Pied Piper of co-ed trim.” I misheard this as “The Pied Piper of co-ed shrimp,” and will now be developing a reality show with that same title. Coming soon to a CW affiliate near you! His self-satisfaction segues into a performance of “Addicted to Love” that’s just … odd. There’s no other word for it, really. Maybe it’s because we haven’t seen Artie perform outside of the halls of McKinley much? There’s a little more suspension of disbelief around the musical numbers in general now that we’re not confined to a high school anymore. I had no trouble believing that the New Directions just performed anywhere they wanted to at McKinley and their classmates either ignored or worked around them. I have a great deal of trouble believing no one’s thrown a hot dog at any of these kids’ heads mid-flash-mob in New York.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, Artie gets chlamydia, which Sam is weirdly scandalized by, and so he keeps pacing the apartment telling Artie he needs to be slut-shamed. “I am slut-shaming you!” he proclaims, over and over, and it makes me wonder why Glee made us wait so long to behold the true weird wonder that is Sam Evans.

Speaking of jarring, it was surprisingly to get to the end of last night’s episode and realize that Kurt and Blaine are now the couple on Glee. Sure, Sam and Mercedes are dating, but Kurt and Blaine are the only current, confirmed, long-term couple (I’m assuming Brittany and Santana will be back from Lesbos soon, but won’t believe it until I see it). And based on last night’s episode, couples fight. Hard.

As an unabashed fan of Kurt and Blaine, both together and apart, my first response is to ask: Haven’t we been through enough? Between the break up and the rare physical contact and the misallocated solos and duets, it sometimes feels like Kurt and Blaine can’t catch a break … even on the show on which they’re the inarguable male leads. The correct response to that, of course, is that we have not been through anything. We have watched a television program, probably from the comfort of our reasonably nice homes.

Truly, though, while it’s frustrating that their relationship seems precarious, that’s just what happens to the core couple of a television show. Either they have problems that drive the story, or they’re happy in the background. Kurt and Blaine, it would seem, have problems to spare, none of which can be worked out completely in the time it takes to sing “Love Is a Battlefield,” which is one of the more innovative numbers we’ve seen on Glee recently. I love when the show remembers that, oh, right, NYADA is a theater school, and decides to have fun incorporating that into performances. The issues plaguing Kurt and Blaine are really interesting and in character, especially given the fact that Kurt spent his adolescence working to be fine and Blaine spent his working to seem fine. The Blaine body-image issues are handled in a way that feels a little too cartoonish, but they get us to the line about a fast that ends “… and then you basically jog until you hallucinate,” so I’ll allow it.

I’m not sure exactly what denomination Mercedes is, but given how open they are to having people sing solos about whether to lose their virginity during Sunday services, I am very interested in joining. I continue to be somewhere on the confused-to-pleased spectrum about her relationship with Sam, but I really, really liked her interactions with Rachel this episode. It’s so rare on Glee to get a scene between two women who aren’t being adversarial toward each other — although maybe next we could get a scene where they aren’t talking about boys? — and Mercedes’s gentle inquiries about when Rachel might start dating again were really compassionate.

Also: Is Sam kidding when he talks about the Holy Spirit? I sometimes can’t tell when Chord Overstreet is acting, and I say that with all the affection in the world.

I think my main issue with this episode, and with the talk about the future of the show, is that in the past, I’ve known what Glee was about. The thesis statements of “Glee is about opening yourself up to joy” and “Being a part of something special makes you special” were supported by every episode, no matter how far off the rails the rest of the stories or out-of-character choices or squandered bits of plot development got. Between the plans for next season and the haphazard feel of these past several episodes, there are times when I literally don’t know what I’m watching. And I’m not saying I should know exactly what’s going to happen at every turn. Good television is about surprises, but surprises work best when there’s some sort of foundation. Also, it’s late, but I’m developing a conspiracy theory whereby the last season of Glee is set in Los Angeles and Kurt becomes Ryan Murphy, and I don’t think it’s all that far-fetched.

Next week, Funny Girl opens! It’s about to get meta in here.

Photo: Mike Yarish/FOX