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Glee s3e5 review: 'The First Time'

REVIEWS - TV

Every time Aaron tries to get out, they pull him back in...

Glee Season 3

There's no escape. No escape. No escape. They taste like ladyfingers, ladyfingers...

So, if you care, you may have noticed there are no reviews for episodes two through four of this season. See, I wasn’t raised with the maxim “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I was, however, taught that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Simply put, the last three episodes disappointed me so much that I just couldn’t write about them. The best I would’ve been able to say is that there were occasionally some cute moments, a few slight advances of character sub-plots and damn, that Dianna Agron sure is pretty, isn’t she?

For the most part, the past few hours have been stupid, bordering on offensive when not just-this-side of boring. The worst offenses? Quinn’s subplot this season is that she’s trying to get her daughter back from Shelby. This is, by far, the worst thing the show has ever done. In an effort to justify giving Agron a paycheck, they have her scheming under the delusion that it is even possible for a seventeen-year-old high school student with no job to regain custody of a child she gave up to an award-winning, thirty-something professional educator and performer more than a year after giving her up simply because she squoze the little she-bastard out of her under-used baby-chute.

If it weren’t so terrible, it’d be hilarious, and by “hilarious,” I mean “awful.” I fully supported season one’s putting forth a teen mother who makes the decision to offer a baby for adoption and not regret it. I think this is an excellent message to spread as one of the lesser-talked-about options available for girls in her situation. It made for good drama and established a strong character to hang narratives upon. Then season two slid by with only the slightest attention paid to Quinn and now we have this shit.

If that weren’t bad enough, we finally get to know more...excuse me, anything, about Mike, only to have it be just as Asian-centric as every other narrative wisp that’s slipped from the anus of characterization he emanates from. Mike’s dad (Keong Sim, The Last Airbender), also named Mike, doesn’t approve of his son’s decision to dance and lambastes him for getting an A- on a chemistry test, which is referred to as an “Asian F,” also the name of the episode. This is ludicrous on so many levels that I don’t think I even need to explain it. The one good thing to come out of this is that we get to meet Mike’s mom, Julia (Tamlyn Tomita, The Joy Luck Club), on whom I’ve nursed a celebrity crush for over twenty years.

Add to that an Irish exchange student, Rory (Damian McGinty, The Glee Project), apparently the only person on Earth who’s ever tried to have sex with Brittany and failed; Mercedes, Brittany and Santana leaving Nude Erections to join the Troubletones, Shelby’s rival choir originally created as a star vehicle for the relatively talentless Sugar; and the blatant shoehorning-in of pop songs for Blaine to sell on iTunes. It’s really no wonder I have no desire to write about this show anymore.

That doesn’t mean I have nothing to say...far from it.

The current episode is ostensibly about some more characters having sex for the first time, because God knows that when teenagers lose their virginity on a TV show, they never have meaningful sex again unless it’s with someone new. This is ludicrous and sad since the only examples on this program that even come close to proving me wrong are when the slutty characters’ (Puck and Brittana) promiscuity is played for laughs, but more on that later.

Getting on with this week’s mishegoss, the perennially neglected Artie is feeling pretty damn good about himself, having figured out something that makes him happy: bossing people around. Yeah, it’s awesome isn’t it? I’d like everyone who’s ever been in a management position to pause with me for a moment and bask in the memory of telling someone what to do and them having to do it or you fire them.

Glee Season 3 E5

Ahhhhh... the sweet smell of power...and sweatervests.

Artie uses his position of authority to inappropriately recommend the minors under his direction go have some sex so as to better understand their characters’ frustrations and motivations, which neither of the adult educators in the room do anything to stop. While, on a certain level, I agree with Artie’s idea, it’s not exactly creepy, but definitely improper for that suggestion to be made in this context. Sure, as Artie points out, the song they’re singing and the show in general are about sexual awakening, as is the source material, but come on, man, there’s a line.

Rachel and Finn’s mouths move and sounds come out for a minute or so before Finn invites Rachel to come by while his parents are out of town. Meantime, Blaine’s doing the only two dance moves he knows while waxing ecstatic over Roxy Music as Kurt wonders if Blaine finds him boring. Kurt somehow manages to insinuate his interest in sex while concurrently reminding us how ickily uncomfortable the subject makes him.

Glee Season 3 E5

Then again, I don’t know how eager I’d be to have sex with this guy. What if his eyebrows get off before I do? That could be messy.

The whole thing’s got Coach Beiste thinking about her crush on Ohio State’s football scout, Cooter Menkins (Eric Bruskotter, Starship Troopers), a sweet guy who’s into her, but she turns down his date requests out of obtuseness and fear. I was afraid this would lead to a subplot featuring more Will/Emma foolishness, but I got lucky this week with Will shoved completely aside and, as an added bonus, no Sue! It’s truly sad that an episode gets extra points for what it doesn’t have in the way of regular characters.

Blaine goes back to Dalton’s Academy of Tolerance for no significant story reason, leaving the true motivation bare-assed to the world: giving Darren Criss an excuse to sell iTunes singles and unimaginatively exposing the plot mechanics of introducing another new character, Sebastian Smyth (Grant Gustin), whose name either establishes him as a Silver Age DC villain or... well, that’s all I got. Sebastian (a name that doesn’t get any easier to type the more you do it), makes sexy-eyes at Blaine because he’d like to have sexy sex with him. Wasn’t Blaine introduced as the worldly homo-Yoda for Kurt? Now he feels like a completely different character in that he’s both younger and less confident than he for whom was once... words fail me, you get the idea.

Glee Season 3 E5

Go ahead, take your pants off, Blaine - don’t let my smug get in the way!

Sebastian’s seduction of Blaine is intercut with what is now surprising skill and efficiency through Santana and Rachel’s rehearsal of “A Boy Like That.” They habitually put so much rouge on Naya Rivera that she looks like a Hispanic Raggedy Ann doll (Andrajosa Anna?), but golly, do I love listening to her sing. Sebastian lays it on thick for Blaine, thicker than Santana’s cheek paint, and leaves him breathlessly waiting for their next meeting.

Speaking of seduction, Artie tells Cooter to ask Beiste out again but be super-obvious about it. Odd as this is, it worked against my better judgment. Rachel and Finn have their own little soiree at Casa de Hummel, complete with fake-meat dinner (did they establish Rachel as a vegan earlier and I just missed it?) and a roaring fire (which casts an strange television-like blue glow on the room). They’ve both brought protection (“Every modern girl comes prepared,” Rachel says; if that were true, we wouldn’t be suffering through Quinn’s bullshit subplot), but Rachel derails the festivities by admitting she wants to get it on to better understand her character. This makes Finn an even bigger idiot than usual. Even though I hate her and wish she’d fall in a pit and die, if a girl as good-looking as Rachel wanted to have sex with me when I was in high school - for any reason, up to and including harvesting my organs - I would’ve done it.

"This isn’t exactly a rape-joke kind of show and combining the flip way it was said with Brittany’s sub-par intelligence, it’s left unexplored whether she even understands what happened"

Mike’s plot-line gets some work this week, but not to any useful end. Mike Sr. shows up at school to front off his son about the musical two days before it opens - did he just find out it was going on? Anyway, Mike flat-out tells his father he’s not going to be a doctor, so Mike Sr. disowns him on the spot. This dismayed me from a lazy writing perspective, but not nearly as much as Brittany’s only contribution to the episode. In a scene where Rachel gathers all the girls together to get some advice about Finn (Santana: He’s lousy, forget it; Quinn: Wait, you might regret it; Tina: Go to it, and good luck), Brittany informs us her first time was when she was raped.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

The way it’s worded is, “I lost my virginity at cheerleading camp. He just climbed into my tent - alien invasion.” They immediately move on without any reaction shots, explanation or later callbacks. It’s used as a punch line. That made me very unhappy and lowered my esteem for the show even more. This isn’t exactly a rape-joke kind of show and combining the flip way it was said with Brittany’s sub-par intelligence, it’s left unexplored whether she even understands what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll laugh at a rape joke if it’s funny, but you’ve gotta go to an extremely well-established, George Carlin-level of black comedic tone to make me okay with something like that, and Glee ain’t that show.

Moving thankfully forward...

Glee Season 3 E5

DAVE!!! We’re only five hours into the season and we finally get to find out what happened to Kurt’s big bad bully. Turns out he transferred schools (How may high schools are in Lima, anyway? In real life, there’s only two) to avoid anyone finding out his secret and now he regularly haunts the local gay bar, Scandals (“I’m what they call a ‘bear cub’.”). He and Kurt have a remarkably civil conversation that still manages to fly in the face of continuity. Kurt, the same guy that frequently pressured Dave to come out last year, tells him that he’s “all for people being whoever (they) have to be at (their) own speed.” You know what I’m all for? Character development. This would have been such if Kurt were shown actually developing this new opinion. Lazy motherfuckers writing this show, I swear.

"This is what fans are reduced to with this show: in lieu of actual, reliable, quality entertainment, it’s catch-as-catch-can glimmers of reality and characterization"

As Kurt Co-Blaine leave the bar (startling amount of minors there), Blaine tries to convince Kurt to do it in the back of his car. This turns a nice night into a fiasco of yelling and hurt feelings. Normally, this would bother me, but for Glee, it’s an unusually realistic reaction to a plot development. This is what fans are reduced to with this show: in lieu of actual, reliable, quality entertainment, it’s catch-as-catch-can glimmers of reality and characterization.

Artie has a pre-curtain panic until the cast gets together and lets him know they appreciate his work. He then gives an uplifting speech about... something and I’m distracted by how great the Cheerios’ hair looks all done up fifties-style. Kidding aside, Artie’s speech doesn’t come across trite or cloying and again, my low expectations are rewarded.

An awkward shot of Finn fully dressed in the shower and a laughable accent from Puck leads into the best musical number of the season thus far, a Santana-centric performance of “America.” Me, being the child I am, can’t think of this song without “There Are No Cats in America” from An American Tail nudging its way in. Anyway, this song is presented with extreme competence and edited in a way that, like the Rocky Horror episode, made me want to see a stand-alone movie of the cast doing West Side Story all the way through.

Glee Season 3 E5

Side note, though? Who the fuck are all those extra dancers and singers? I am...so tired of this series trotting out the “we can’t get anyone to join glee club” bullshit. Look at all those people! I even recognized that Samoan dude from “The Safety Dance,” which means he wasn’t just a figment of Artie’s imagination. Hold on, while we’re at it, there was a goddamn full house for this show but literally no one wanted to see the last thing they did? How does this make any sense to anyone? Jesus Christ, even a half-empty auditorium would have made some kind of sense, but am I to believe that the sheer drawing power of the musical they’re putting on provided enough of an audience for three sold-out shows? Get the fuck out of here with that!

After Blaine and Kurt make up (and out) on stage after everyone’s gone to the cast party (I was rooting for them to get naked right there), Rachel goes to Finn’s house where we find that he’s not getting a football scholarship to Ohio State. He’s muy tristé that he’s not good enough at anything to get out of Lima and Rachel basically throws him a pity fuck. Somehow I don’t think either of them are really aware that’s what happened and I don’t see how we’re supposed to buy this as anything else.

For a good while now, Glee has ignored the old “Born to Run” / Portrait of an American Family fear-of-suburbs-as-fetid-cesspools-of-stagnation-and-existential-rot tonal stance it used to lean on in season one. They’ve only paid it the most scant lip-service since then, but this mini-meltdown of Finn’s was a good way to bring it back. As Blaine and Rachel sing this week’s last song, we get to watch the two pertinent couples gaze soulfully into each others’ eyes with their clothes on and knees pointed at one another, which I guess is network television shorthand for “they’re gonna do it.”

Ok, that wasn’t too painful... except for those things that were really painful. This is normally the point in the review where I reiterate all the things I normally complain about, but really, what’s the point? I’ve said them before and they aren’t listening to me, so what matter? On a rare positive note, next week’s episode has Eric Stoltz back behind the camera and the one after that is called “I Kissed a Girl,” so with any luck, it’ll be a Brittana-fest and Katy Perry won’t get any licensing fees, but I’ve given up that hope.

Grade: B-

Songs

“Tonight” from West Side Story (Rachel and Blaine)
“Uptown Girl” - Billy Joel (The Garglers w/ Blaine)
“A Boy Like That” - from West Side Story (Santana and Rachel)
“I Have a Love” - from West Side Story (Santana and Rachel)
“America” - from West Side Story (Santana w/ the Nude Erections)
“One Hand, One Heart” - from West Side Story (Rachel and Blaine)

Random Observations

Why wouldn’t Puck - give Artie a high-five in the hallway (aside from it being dorky)? They’ve been established as friends.

Soooo... - the musical is only days away and they’re still not off-book, remotely finished with the sets and still making decisions about costuming. Awesome.

Nice touch - the close-up of Rachel’s feet, standing on her tiptoes to kiss Finn.

Stop the press! - Who was that disastrously hot French teacher at Dalton who somehow broke into correct choreography during “Uptown Girl”?

Mike Sr. - wanted to be a tennis player. There was a professional tennis player named Mike Chang who named his son after himself.

The door guy at Scandals - I loved the delivery of his one line, like he knew Blaine and Kurt were underage (Dave and Sebastian, too probably) but was just resigned to the bar’s need to make money. The droll sadness with which he said, “Enjoy - it’s Drag Queen Wednesday,” was fantastic.

Great Lines

Artie - As your friend, I support your strange aversion to fun.

Finn - Kurt’s my brother, it’s kind of hard to vote against your brother.
Rachel
- You can’t do this with your brother. (kisses him)
Finn
- I also don’t live in Kentucky.

Puck - I’m happy for you - and Rachel. Always thought it’d be me, secretly hoped it’d be you. As for the condoms, no idea, never used em - it’s worked out for me about ninety-nine percent of the time.

Artie - Excuse me, Mr. Cooter? Can I see you in my office?
Cooter
- You don’t mean the handicapped stall, do you?

Check out Aaron's previous Glee S3 review

Glee at Shadowlocked

 

Comments 

 
#1 Meh Michael Donovan 2011-12-07 23:48
I agreed with a lot of what you said but you really missed the mark about Artie. He was INCREDIBLY inappropriate throughout this entire episode. It's horrific advice to tell your friends they need to lose their virginity randomly (when, up to this point Rachel has said she wanted to wait and Blaine said he wanted to make sure he found the right person first) just to satisfy a role in some stupid play. And honestly, if that conversation had happened between him and Beiste, AN EDUCATOR, about her virginity in real life ... Man, there would have been so many arrests. Artie was unbelievably horrible this episode.
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