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Glee s1e18: "Laryngitis"

REVIEWS - TV

The suckness is over for the moment, and we're only an episode away from Joss Whedon's Glee stint...

Glee!

First thing’s first - I saw naked artsy pictures of Brittany last week and that made me smile. It didn’t make up for how bad last week’s episode was, but at least it got me to stop thinking about it.

Anyway, this week’s episode was better in so very many ways; it’s probably not a coincidence that it was written by series creator Ryan Murphy, who also wrote “Wheels” and “Mattress,” two of my favorite episodes so far. It’s no secret that when the person who created the characters writes for them, excellence usually ensues (see Whedon, Joss).

The episode opens on Puck having his non-mohawk shaved off. I’m sorry, but that landing strip on his scalp doesn’t count as a mohawk no matter how hard someone might want it to. Until it needs hairspray or glue to stay up, it ain’t a mohawk. Regardless, it’s gone now and no one seems afraid of Puck anymore. That’s actually kinda dumb - he still looks like he can kick just about anyone in the school’s ass, but this silly twist has the dweebs tossing him in the dumpster. Oooooookay.

Rachel is coming down with something and blames it on always having to carry the solos. Bitch, nobody’s asking you to do that. Well, I’m not at any rate; I’d love to hear the other girls sing more often, Quinn and Tina in particular. Tina hasn’t had a solo since she sang “True Colors” however long ago that was and I think Quinn’s voice is seriously underrated. Maybe if Rachel sang more often instead of yelling in tune, her voice wouldn’t’ve gone out for the length of a single episode. Then again, if it hadn’t, she wouldn’t’ve had the opportunity to learn an important after-school-special-style lesson about what a self-centered twat she is. More on that later.

Through irrelevant technological chicanery, Rachel figures out specifically who in the club isn’t holding up their weight (Finn, Quinn, Santana, Puck and Brittany). This translates into Will’s Thematic Assignment of the Week: in order to work out the issues of those who aren’t participating, everybody gets a solo! Well, not everybody, only the ones the plot needs us to hear. Sorry Mike... Matt... Brittany... Tina, Artie and Quinn.

In order to get back some of his rep, Puck figures he needs to date a Cheerio. Instead of his ex-cheerleader babymama, Quinn, or the one who is actually interested in him, Santana, he sets his sights on Mercedes. Ummm... why? This doesn’t make sense, in the strictest sense of the phrase - sure, she’s a Cheerio, but other than that and a desperate need for a subplot, why would he go for her?


"I can’t seem to get a hold on the series’ internal logic, which is important in any story where disbelief must be suspended for the sake of the most basic workings of the plot"


Is this the point at which I’m supposed to park my sense of reality (which already gets slowed way down the second the show starts) and just go with it for comedy’s sake? I’m really bad at that. I can’t seem to get a hold on the series’ internal logic, which is important in any story where disbelief must be suspended for the sake of the most basic workings of the plot. When a piece of media constantly swings its pendulum of realism (a specific example in Glee’s case being switching from imaginary musical scenes to actual performances, sometimes in the same song), it can be difficult to judge what’s intended to be taken seriously and what’s supposed to be shrugged off.

Actually continuing a single character subplot for a record three weeks, Burt shows up at school to pick up son-substitute Finn to go to a Reds game. The Reds play baseball, right? Isn’t it still winter? I mean, I never could tell since no one ever wore a fucking coat, but is winter over? Baseball season starts at the beginning of April, is it April already? I guess so, if regionals are in a month and big events on tv shows about high school always coincide with the end of the school year. Damn, this show’s sense of time has always fucked with me.

So yeah, Burt spurns his son yet again in favor of babygay Kurt’s hopeless crush, but this time his angst seems less petulant than usual. Even though Burt’s reasoning is sound (Carole thinks it’d be good for Finn to do something with a father figure) and I think Kurt shouldn’t get as bent out of shape as he does, he decides to radically alter his look in order to get his father’s attention by dressing like him: jeans, low boots, flannel, trucker cap - the whole deal.

Rachel’s solo goes awfully, owing to her developing tonsillitis, causing her to go to the doctor, who recommends their removal. Afraid it will damage her voice, she refuses the procedure (she’s a minor, where are her dads?) and goes on a heavy antibiotics regiment, which blows her system completely out of whack and denies her even the comfort of sleep. Still trying to win her back, Finn points out how fleeting Jesse’s affections are and persists in trying to cheer her up and help her any chance he gets, even though when put down to it, he couldn’t think of a single positive attribute she possesses other than her voice. Sometimes love is blind, I guess.

This leads into Finn’s solo, which I’m mortified to say I didn’t actually see coming - “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. Being an early eighties AOR hit, it’s distinctly within his range, far more suited to him than that embarrassing display two weeks ago during “A House is Not a Home.” Rachel looks wicked uncomfortable during the performance and like she’d rather be someplace else, even though the rest of the group are digging it. Then again, they probably also dig seeing Rachel uncomfortable for a change.

Puck, to impress Mercedes, sings “The Lady is a Tramp” by Sammy Davis Jr and the performance really swings. He pulls Mercedes up to sing and dance with him and it gets even better. Santana doesn’t think so, though, giving Mercedes the stink-eye throughout her involvement. Quinn is a bit more helpful, telling her to go ahead and date him, even though he’s only using her to raise his own social standing. Mercedes understands this, but since no one’s ever pursued her before, she wants to run with it for a while. Quinn is becoming a real friend to Mercedes lately, sliding further from the ice queen of the show’s beginning and warning her about Santana’s wrath.

Kurt confuses everyone with his performance of “Pink Houses,” trolling the low end of his considerable range. Since the assignment was to find a song that expresses their true voices, Will tells him that even if it’s easier to be someone else, “don’t lose track of who you are.” Thing is, it looks like he’s having to try really hard to not be himself. Brittany, in the interest of making out with everyone in school who’s interested, offers her services to him and he accepts. Oh, Kurt... this can only end in laughs. And the laughs, they do a-come when Burt walks in on Kurt and Brittany following an admission from her that Internet Rule #34 states will make a certain subset of viewers shift in their seats. Burt is rightfully confused by what he sees, but plays it off with aplomb, telling his son that whatever sexuality he does finally land on, he’s “good either way.”

When Puck finally does something right for Mercedes, it is immediately followed by a dirty look from Santana, leading to a duet of “The Boy is Mine,” a song nowhere near as good as “The Girl is Mine”. This one wasn’t as successful as the last couple songs, mostly given to the heavy production applied to the vocals that breaks the suspension of disbelief that these two are supposed to be singing this in a classroom, not lip-synching off a studio track. But hey, it’s Santana’s first kinda-solo, so that’s something. Oh, and it ends in a shoving match, which gets broken up too soon by Will. Booooo! Boooo, I say, boooo!!

Finn takes Rachel to visit Sean (Zack Weinstein) a friend of his from football camp who has been paralyzed from the mid-chest. I guess Artie isn’t an object lesson enough in “don’t be a stupid bitch, be happy with what you have.” Actually, I think the character was written in as a Take That to critics and waaaambulance riders who kick up a fuss because the guy who plays Artie can get up and walk around between takes. So we get an actually disabled actor playing this character, but unfortunately, his presence isn’t used in a narratively organic manner and ends up pretty heavy-handed and after-school-specially, something the show is beginning to rely on a bit too often. It’s not quite South Park in it’s “what I learned this week”-ness, but it’s definitely noticeable.

Mercedes quits the Cheerios and breaks up with Puck when she sees “order being restored”: dweebs lining up to be dumpster-tossed by Puck and other football players, neatly castrating another single-episode subplot. On the other end of the spectrum, Kurt’s tale of woe continues as his father shows up to tell him he’s taking Finn out again. Kurt responds in a spectacular flurry of gayness including not only his knee-high Docs and pocketful-of-rainbows scarf, but a loud show tune and his name in lights.


"In a classic (and all-too-frequent, in this song’s case) example of “missing the point,” they sing a song of what they think is togetherness and trust, but what has repeatedly been described by the band as being about “[a] bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who've been through some nasty, heavy stuff,” and “breaking up.”"


Two solos in a single episode, bra-vo Kurt, usually only Rachel gets that treatment. His dad sees the inexplicable performance which totally blurs the line between imaginary and real, and the two finally reconcile after Burt stops taking his son’s petulant bullshit and finally interrupts his pity party to have some much-needed openness and honesty between the two. Burt is a damn good father and until now Kurt has been too blinded by jealously and pettiness to see it. Maybe now this thread can be laid to rest.

Rachel shows up at Sean’s house to offer him singing lessons as payment for helping her pull the stick out of her ass a little. However, the song she picks (“One” by U2) doesn’t really fit the scene or the episode’s theme, for that matter. In a classic (and all-too-frequent, in this song’s case) example of “missing the point,” they sing a song of what they think is togetherness and trust, but what has repeatedly been described by the band as being about “[a] bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who've been through some nasty, heavy stuff,” and “breaking up.” However, the lyric “we get to carry each other” slips in a note of ambiguity, perhaps to highlight that even though many of the team actively dislike each other, they must work together to succeed and that to do so is actually a privilege, so maybe they didn’t completely miss the point after all.

This was better - much better - than last week’s mess of an entry and definitely shows more of what made the show a must-see in the first place. Maybe this can be kept up, but I have my doubts. I can only hope Murphy wrote next week’s Whedon-directed episode, “Dream On,” which better have that damn Aerosmith song in it or I’ll stab someone. Either way, that episode is not allowed to suck!

Grade: B+

Songs

“The Climb” - Miley Cyrus

“Jessie’s Girl” - Rick Springfield

“The Lady is a Tramp” - Sammy Davis Jr

“Pink Houses” - John Melloncamp

“The Boy is Mine” - Brandy and Monica

“Rose’s Turn” - from Gypsy: A Musical Fable

“One” - U2

Random Observations

Who hasn’t had a solo? - Or at least a non-choral part? Brittany, Mikeandmatt... that’s it. If it hadn’t been used in the pilot, I’d say Mikeandmatt should duet “Mr Cellophane.” What should Brittany’s first solo be? I think they’ll give her a duet with someone, like they did for Santana’s first non-choral.

Santana - is left-handed.

Mike - Ok, we get it, he can dance - seeing him doing Michael Jackson’s hip thrust from the live version of “Billie Jean” only solidifies that. Now can he say something? Seriously, he’s even pulling away from Matt in how often he’s onscreen. Soon, Matt will be all alone at the bottom of the “no development” pole.

Rachel’s “sick” look - Is it just me, or were her loose plaits really cute?

Quinn’s housing situation - is finally addressed in-universe: she is staying with Puck. How many episodes did we have to wait for that? Five?

Puck’s interrupted Super Mario Bros 3 speech - It wasn’t Mario 3 that had the Star World, it was Mario World.

Great Lines

Puck - I feel like that guy that lost all his hair then lost all his strength. Santana - Samson? Puck - Agassi.

Puck - (v.o.) Get ready, black girl from glee club whose name I can’t remember, the Puckster is about to make you his.

Puck - I’m a sex shark; if I stop moving, I die. Mercedes - Ok, I’m gonna ask you to stop; cause I’m starting to get embarrassed for you.

Sue (questioning Kurt’s untested sexuality) - So you like show tunes; it doesn’t mean you’re gay - it means you’re awful!

Rachel (desperate) - I am like Tinker Bell, Finn, I need applause to live!

Brittany (describing what boys’ lips taste like) - Sometimes they taste like burgers... or my armpits - kissing my armpits is a really big turn-on for me.

Burt - Ok, I’m confused, I came home to find this note on your doorknob: “Do not enter under any circumstances, I’m making out with a girl.” I just thought I was the star of one of your murder-mystery dinners.

 

p.s.: “One” was the first song I ever sang in front of people whose opinions mattered (other teenagers). It was in a kitchen at a house party in 1995 and I was accompanied by a local guitarist named Sean Kagalis. Fun times.

Glee at Shadowlocked

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Comments 

 
#1 Guest 2010-05-12 15:46
"...kissing my armpits is a really big turn-on for me." Did she really say that?! I think Brittany is fast becoming my favorite character.
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