In many ways, this is the Glee I’ve been waiting for. The recaps I wrote of season four’s early episodes boil down to little more than me whining for a Glee set entirely in New York. I’m not saying last night’s episode was a “be careful what you wish for” scenario, but I’m not saying it’s the episode I’d always dreamed of, either. But we’ll get to that.
When it comes to the episode’s (very lovely) opening number, I don’t care that “Downtown” is overly simplistic. I don’t care that it’s too easy for Kurt and Blaine to pass coffees off to each other at a corner in the Village. I don’t even care that it’s impossible for Artie to have such an easy time navigating Washington Square Park in his wheelchair. I’m just beyond excited that Rachel, Kurt, Blaine, Artie, and Sam are in New York City together. But I also don’t care for how breezy Rachel is about Artie’s inability to navigate the city in a wheelchair. I’ve had to navigate the city with a stroller, and even then, when you can beg the person you’re walking to navigate the city on his own two legs, it’s a bit of a nightmare. Is Rachel’s oblivion a surprise? No. But still.
Artie aside, this episode has given the Kurt and Blaine dynamic the space it needs to finally – finally! – stretch its legs. The pairing is not only finally allowed to sleep in a bed together (after how many years?), they’re also allowed to properly enjoy one another. Would I have chosen “You Make Me Feel So Young” as the song that celebrates their reunion? No. Absolutely not. This is a pairing with unparalleled chemistry on Glee. I’ve been confident in their ability to change sheets together for years now. It’s a absolutely a lovely duet. That’s not even up for grabs. It’s lovely, and it’s playful. But the idea of Kurt and Blaine making one another feel young is not any sort of novel revelation. They are young. They feel young. And good for them. But “You Make Me Feel So Young” as a tone-setting duet for their relationship makes me nervous. And rightly so, I guess. Why not choose a song that isn’t, like, hearkening back to the youth the two of them still very much have? This is Darren Criss and Chris Colfer, Glee. Let’s have a little fun.
Sam’s inability to abandon his gaming console and the stains it carries quickly move to the forefront of the episode, and his “Best Day of My Life” duet is plenty of devil-may-care fun. It’s also deeply, deeply disconcerting, because for as many times as I’ve heard this song (insurance commercials, NBA playoff promos, etc.) I’ve never had the foggiest idea about this song’s original performers. American Authors? Cool, except I’ve literally never heard of them. Confusion about the origins of the song notwithstanding: I’m so glad to see Blaine in New York at last, and I’m glad to see Sam and Blaine singing side by side. I was a bit of a late adopter when it came to their bromance, but the friend-chemistry (fremistry?) the two of them have is undeniable, and I’m always in favor of any Glee story line in which the characters involved actually enjoy one another. Team Blam? Maybe? Probably? It’s all very confusing.
Meanwhile, Kurt’s busy learning to express his accursed ennui in his miming course, and also learning how to pretend it doesn’t bother him that Blaine’s weaseled into the majority of his course load. As Blaine crashes his miming class, the instructor gravely informs him, “At first, the box seems big enough for the two of you, but then, the box begins to shrink.” Oh, Glee. Will your willingness to make subtext text never cease? (Spoiler: no.)
Somewhere in the middle of this, Sam cuts his ponytail off, and the angels rejoice.
Armed with a hot water and lemon and the street-smarts that accompany having given a homeless person a ten when you meant to give him a one (Lord, but we’ve all been there), Rachel decides to make Artie’s safety in the city her No. 1 priority. Rachel hasn’t ever expressed anything other than indifference toward Artie in the past, but since we’re trying to, like, reboot the series and everything, I guess I’ll allow it.
Somewhere in the middle of that, there are bedbugs. Since my well-being hinges on pretending that bedbugs point-blank don’t exist, we’ll need to disavow this subplot. Starting … now. And Starchild agrees with me! He uses Kurt’s decontamination anecdote to pivot neatly into Great Big World’s “Rockstar.” It’s a great performance; Blaine’s concern about the chemistry Kurt and Starchild share isn’t warranted, but it’s certainly understandable. They’re great together. They just are. Everything else notwithstanding – and please understand that this isn’t me calling for a “Kurt and Blaine struggle with jealousy” subplot, because ain’t nobody got time for that – I am bummed that this is the last time this season we’ll see Kurt and Starchild performing together, and I hope Glee finds a way to integrate Adam Lambert into season six. But you probably shouldn’t listen to me – in the midst of all this, Blaine makes a Pippin reference and, accordingly, I lose my ability to make rational adult statements.
Also, Blaine’s perfectly insecure “Elliott’s hair is so full and thick that he probably doesn’t have to rely on hair gel” will probably become my ringtone. No big deal. Equally not a big deal: My newly adopted philosophy of foisting an acoustic guitar on anyone who shows up on my doorstep with a problem to solve. Preach, Adam Lambert. Preach. Still, I’m irritated about Blaine’s decision to move out of Kurt’s loft, but I’m adopting a zen, eyes-on-the-prize approach to the Kurt/Blaine relationship. Results thus far: mixed. I think he and Sam could do well in Mercedes’s loft, but wholeheartedly support Mercedes’s threat to start biting people’s lips off. Do it.
And against all odds, there’s a compelling Artie-Rachel duet in the mix! Even as it disseminates misinformation about taking the subway while in a wheelchair (seriously, though, it’s hard), it’s lovely – have we ever had a proper duet between the two of them before? I like that it results in Rachel getting over herself a tiny bit, but am less crazy about the fact that we know nothing more about Artie than we did when this story line was introduced. Let’s make that a goal for the rest of this season, eh, Glee?
It’s tough. If you’d asked me shortly after the fourth-season premiere what I wanted from Glee, I would’ve described something that looks a whole lot like last night’s episode. Kurt and Blaine are together! Rachel’s on Broadway! Many of the (former) New Directions are making a go of it in New York City, too! This is what I asked for. This is what I wanted. I’m just not sure why it doesn’t look right.
Next week, there’s a lot of Sondheim. I’m not sure if this makes things better or worse.