There’s something sad about the fact that Glee, once a flagship show, is now tucked away on Friday nights, dying a slow death after a television program called (you can’t make this stuff up) World’s Funniest Fails. But there’s also something really liberating and compelling about the fact that this is a Glee with nothing to prove and nothing to lose. It’s not a juggernaut series anymore, and it feels safe to predict we won’t see massively ambitious production numbers this season. What I think we’ll see instead is a show quietly and confidently moving back to its roots.
As they plan for their first full week as New Directions’ co-leaders, Kurt and Rachel decide to assign mash-ups from Carole King’s Tapestry and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Since Rachel sang an Alanis Morissette song last week, too, I’m wondering whether there was some sort of fire sale for the rights to the Morissette catalogue? Kurt suggesting Carole King makes sense, since he’s still in the sad, mope-y music phase of his breakup with Blaine, but Rachel’s sudden love for Alanis is surprising. I can picture Rachel Berry singing an awful lot of songs into her hairbrush, but “You Oughta Know” isn’t one of them. Still, it’s a successful choice because both albums are packed with songs that are small-scale yet emotionally stirring. We hear more from the New Directions alumni than we hear from the newbies this week, but Jane and Mason’s mash-up of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”/”Head Over Feet” is very sweet and more than a little flirty.
Yes, that’s right — all of the New Directions alumni have stuck around for another week, taking time away from film school and the Ivy League and the Air Force, all places that I’m sure excuse you from your duties so long as you have a signed note from a glee-club instructor. Britt and Santana offer to kick the week off with a duet, then go home and vigorously scissor in preparation. (Every couple engages in vigorous scissoring and then immediately puts on T-shirts and boxer shorts, right?) In the afterglow, they snuggle, discuss the history of scissoring, and, in a roundabout way, decide that they’d like to spend the rest of their lives together.
So after they perform in the choir room, Santana gets down on one knee and pulls out a ring. While a “Hand in My Pocket”/”I Feel the Earth Move” mash-up isn’t the most romantic choice, the proposal itself is very sweet, and Brittany accepts when Santana asks her to mash up with her forever. Apparently, I now share Glee’s “third time’s the charm!” stance when it comes to teen engagement, because I found the whole thing really charming. The newbies are confused at so much pomp and circumstance in their choir room, but Puck explains: “This kind of thing happens in here all the time. Just go with it.”
Everyone’s excited for Brittany and Santana but Kurt, who’s still so lovesick he thinks it’s a bad idea for anyone their age to be getting engaged. He spends most of the episode thinking about Blaine — imagining singing to him, looking at pictures of the two of them together, trying to put thoughts of him out of his head after they run into each other at the sheet-music store — and Blaine does the same. Honestly, for a broken-up couple, these dudes are getting a lot of simmering-hot screen time, which leads me to wonder whether they might just beat Santana and Brittany to the altar. After receiving a pretty spectacular smackdown from Santana (more on that later) and a few hours helping Brittany fill a heart-shaped jar with Mounds bars (the “lesbian” candy, according to her), Kurt comes around and apologizes. In return, Brittany lets it slip that Blaine and Karofsky are moving in together and that she’s decorated their apartment for them. She also describes Blaine and Karofsky’s sex life as “a U-Haul mounting a moped,” so, as ever, Brittany S. Pierce for president.
Not to sound like your uptight aunt, but I don’t like the gag where Becky Jackson calls everyone sluts and stupid bitches and is an all-around sociopath, and at this point, I don’t think I ever will. Still, I continue to be impressed with the way Glee tells stories about the issues of a young woman with Down syndrome, first with Becky’s experience applying to college and now as she begins to date a neurotypical guy. The boy, Darrell, brings up a good point: Why are all of Becky’s friends trying to tell her what she can and can’t do? She’s allowed to date whom she likes. I particularly liked the fact that Darrell calls the National Association for Down Syndrome to basically verify that it was okay for him to date Becky. Weird, but adorable. Do you, Becky Jackson.
And then there’s Coach Beiste. When one of the football players voices concern to Sue about Coach Beiste’s erratic behavior, Sue searches the locker room and finds testosterone pills. (Somewhere in all of this, Sam uses an iron as a mirror and I begin fervently hoping that Chord Overstreet will have something weird and hilarious to do after Glee ends.) Coach Beiste initially claims to be taking testosterone for cancer, but finally admits to Sam and Sue that he’s undergoing hormone therapy to transition from female to male.
It’s a lot to take in, and a lot for Glee to take on. While trans characters are becoming less of an anomaly in popular culture, to my knowledge, this is the first time on network television that we’ll witness a character’s actual transition. Glee doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to tackling subject matter like this fully and sensitively, and I’m always concerned when non-trans performers are cast in trans roles (a concern similar to my ongoing frustration with the fact that Artie isn’t played by an actor in a wheelchair).
But the speech Beiste gives as he explains who he is and what’s to come is surprisingly frank and nuanced. He explains he’s always felt this way and that this is a question of “not who I go to bed with, [but] who I go to bed as.” He asks Sam to look after the football team for him, and while Sue complains and asks Beiste to “spare the details of your literal sausage-making,” she also makes it clear that Beiste’s job will be waiting for him when his surgeries are complete. I’m glad this isn’t the last we’ll see of Beiste this season, thankful for how adeptly the show is handling his story so far, and hopeful it will continue to do so.
To close, a (by no means comprehensive) list of some of the things Santana called Kurt in her epic, mike-dropping rant:
- An extra out of one of Andy Dick’s more elaborate wet dreams
- A breathier, more feminine Quinn Fabray
- One of those cats who can smell cancer
- A sexless, self-centered baton-twirler
- A three-dance-move wonder: the finger wag, the shoulder shimmy, and the one where you pretend to twirl two invisible rainbow-colored ribbons attached to your hips.