Finally someone had the brilliant idea to pair all of the characters on Glee for an evening of duets. It also helped to establish some couples among our band of misfits. The episode was mediocre, but the idea was divine.
As far as its place in the Glee canon, this episode will probably be known more for its songs than for its story. It was fine—heartfelt, touching, amusing—but didn't really bring the funny or the emotional the way the best episodes can. I mean, how good can an episode without one second of Sue Motherfucking Sylvester really be? What was great about it was all the action centered around the kids without the politics or romantic lives of the grown ups getting in the way.
At the top of the episode, Mr. Schue tells all the kids they have to sing a duet. Why? Who knows. But the winner will get a free dinner at the mythical strip mall dining palace Breadstix, which I imagine as a cross between the Olive Garden, a Pizza Hut, and a really creepy Italian restaurant I once went to in Richmond that had pink tablecloths and those candles in wine bottles with twine wrapped around them.
Let's get to the duets, shall we? First up was Finn and Rachel, naturally.
For a change, Finn actually sounds great doing the Elton John part on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." Naturally Rachel makes for a fine Kiki Dee, but what was shocking was that she wasn't the one to announce that they would obviously win the singing competition. This time it was Finn. Rachel comes to the sudden realization that she's not a good person. God, Rachel, we've known that since the first moment we met you! Rachel is the kind of girl that you hate, but you're friends with anyway partly because you know all her annoying qualities stem from a deep-seated insecurity, and also because she's fairly entertaining in her neuroses. To make up for being horrible she decides that she and Finn will throw the competition so that new Glee club member Sam will feel welcome and stay in the club. This is how Rachel is kind to others—but doing something that will benefit herself. Of course she's all, "But how ever will I lose?" as she bats her eyelashes repeatedly and then tilts her head in the air pressing the back of her wrist against the center of her forehead. Rachel would be a great silent movie actress.
As the rest of the crew is breaking into gruesome twosomes to sing their duets, it creates some tension within the group, and in the most interesting of places.
Now that Puck is in juvie for driving his mother's car into a Kwik-E-Mart and stealing Apu's ATM machine, Santana is hornier than ever, so she wants to scissor with Brittany. Santana is like a lizard, if she doesn't have something warm beneath her she can't digest her food. Brittany doesn't mind being her something warm, but she wants to get all dykey with Santana, even singing a Melissa Etheridge song as a duet. That's more lesbian than reading an Audre Lorde poem while wearing flannel Birkenstocks and eating a vegan casserole from a pot luck dinner at the food co-op.
OK, we need a minute to talk about Brittany and Santana. Because we are humans, we need to put labels on each other. Just what the hell are these two? Santana is probably bisexual. She wants to do it with Puck, but she'll take the pleasure of a woman in a pinch. It's not like she's making out with Brittany in the middle of a frat party to turn on a bunch of boys, she's doing it in private because she enjoys it. For Brittany it seems to be something else. I think she's a full-blown lesbian who has sex with guys because she thinks it's expected of her or to get her way, but she's really in love with Santana. After all, look at how hurt her feelings get when Santana decides to duet with Mercedes. It's like cheating!
And their duet of "River Deep, Mountain High"(which always reminds me of the scene in What's Love Got to Do with It when Angela Bassett records the song) is amazing. Santana is selfish and, just like she toys with Brittany's emotions to get laid, she wants to win dinner at Breadstix to prove she's the best. So does Mercedes. They sing an amazing song and the plot rolls along.
Speaking of rolling, Brittany sets her sites on Artie to sing a duet and to make Santana jealous. It doesn't quite work.
Babygay Kurt is also trying to set up a predatory partnership with Sam, the dreamy new guy (who graced us with multiple topless scenes last night. Thanks, Sam!). BG Kurt wants into Sam's pants so he gets him to agree to do a duet. Sam agrees, even after Finn tries to convince him that it's not a good idea because everyone is going to think he's gay and then he'll be unpopular. Finn also approaches Kurt and tells him to call it off because it's going to make Sam leave the club and strand them with fewer than 12 members, the cut off to perform at nationals.
This dredges up all the drama from the original round of tension between Finn and Babygay Kurt when Kurt had a crush on Finn and was trying to push himself on the straight guy. This whole storyline seemed like a bit of a course correction from that former episode, when Finn got branded a homophobe for shooting down Kurt when Kurt was the one who was behaving out of line. We're glad this was finally addressed, and Finn was vindicated. However, Finn says that he's not homophobic—which I think is true—but then he also basically says, "but everyone else is, so we have to behave in a way that won't incur homophobic response." That's not bigotry, that's cowardice, which sometimes is even worse. If he's not willing to help his friends stand up to the homophobia it's never going to get better, so shame on you, Finn.
Partly as an apology to Finn and partly because he wants to keep Glee together, Kurt decides it's best to cut Sam lose and do a duet on his own.
I love a Broadway show, but I've never been a huge fan of Victor/Victoria and this number certainly didn't impress when it was on stage. It wasn't so great here either. I think it's just a case of great performance (and the things Kurt does with his voice are amazing) of a bad song. Also, I didn't quite get how it's supposed to be a duet. It's more of a performance about duality, which is an interesting dynamic for the episode, but didn't really play by the rules of the competition or subvert them in a really interesting way.
But I really feel for Babygay Kurt. It's not easy to be the only gay in high school (just ask me how I know), and invariably Kurt is going to have crushes on boys, because that's what teenagers of all stripes do, they have crushes. Since there are no other gays around for Kurt to lust after, he's going to end up hoping against hope that one day he'll turn a straight boy. It's very frustrating, and does messed up things to your head. One day, BG Kurt, you'll meet some other gays that will want you and you won't have to keep having these unattainable crushes. One day.
And one day Mike Chang will finally get a chance to sing. And that day is today (or last night, actually).
"Sing!" from A Chorus Line was the perfect choice for Mike, who's known more for his dancing prowess than his vocal power, especially because his girlfriend and singing partner sure can carry a tune. But not here. Is it me or did you cringe each time Tina sing her one note at the end of his sentence? It just never seemed on pitch or clear, which is sort of the opposite intention of the song.
Tina and Mike are maintaining their Asian connection, but Tina is afraid that they're a little too focused on their shared heritage (are they both even the same flavor of Asian?). They bicker a little, but they don't seem to be breaking up anytime soon. This makes Artie upset and he tries to lose himself in Brittany's arms, but it doesn't work. When Artie gives up on their duet practice and wants to wheel back home to lust after Tina some more, Brittany does what she's best at and takes his virginity. Once he's finally fallen for Brittany, Santana sabotages it and tells him that Brittany just used him for sex.
OK, what is up with Brittany and Santana? Brittany is clearly in love with Santana, but is Santana in love with Brittany too? And did Brittany really have feelings for Artie? Does that mean she's not a lesbian. God, life is so much easier with sexual labels!
The only thing that I'm more mock offended at is Finn and Rachel's "offensive" number they used to throw the competition.
"With You I'm Born Again" was a Motown hit for Syreeta Wright and Billy Preston that I never heard before this morning. They sound pretty great singing it, so why is it so offensive? Because they were dressed like a priest and a nun? It could have been a lot more offensive. Is the other Glee members' shock supposed to be sarcastic? I don't get it. This was really stupid.
What wasn't stupid was Sam's duet with Quinn.
I'm just going to say it, I hate Jason Mraz, also Gavin Degraw, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and the rest of those sappy, emo male singer songwriter types. God, I hate them all. But, in the hands of Sam and Quinn, I didn't entirely hate "Lucky," Mraz's duet with Colbie Caillat. OK, I kind of liked it. I still hate Jason Mraz though, just on principle.
When Babygay Kurt doesn't want to sing with Sam anymore, Sam turns to Quinn and their rehearsal becomes a bit of a seduction. But Quinn doesn't want to be involved with a man. She says she needs to be worried about humiliating Rachel and besting Santana, not worrying about boys. Boys are what got her in trouble last year with the pregnancy and everything and she doesn't want to fall into that trap again. After that scene where she walks out on Sam I said to myself, "Damn, self, they really don't use Quinn nearly as much as they should." With some cajoling from Finn and Rachel (who says she just wants Quinn and Sam to sing together so there will be some competition for second place—classic Rachel Barry), they team up and deliver a solid performance.
When they go to Breadstix as the winners of the competition, there's a very sweet scene where dorky Sam embarrasses himself and then redeems himself by impressing Quinn by being sweet. Sure his using lemon juice in his Bieberish locks is nothing like her giving a baby up for adoption, but he makes it seem like it is. He tells Quinn that he understands her and she is comfortable enough to say that their triumphant dinner at Breadstix is really their first date. This is sure going to get messy when Puck gets back!
What was even sadder was Brittany nuzzling a meatball all by herself in the next booth. She's a Lady with no Tramp. Or maybe she's both Lady and Tramp. Either way she broke Artie's heart and feels bad about it. Maybe somewhere in her daffy brain Brittany realized she did to Artie what Santana is doing to her and it upset her. Does that mean she's a lesbian? And is Santana so stung by Brit's dalliance with Artie that she won't go back to her "girlfriend?" Wow, Brittany and Santana really have the most complicated and interesting relationship on primetime television.
At least they have someone to be gay with. When Babygay Kurt wants to get gay, he has to sing a Barbra Streisand/Judy Garland duet with Rachel.
For those who don't know, this was a remake of a performance from Judy Garland's 1960s TV show where Garland and Streisand sang a mash up (if you can call it that) of two of their signature songs. Every person who has ever been to Musical Monday in a gay bar has seen it. Rachel even wears Barbra's little Donald Duck sailor top. Their rendition really was stunning, and if you can stand alongside Garland and Streisand, then these kids are doing something very right indeed.
But even more powerful than the song was the emotion behind it. Of everyone in Glee, Rachel knows what it's like to be alone, and she finally has some sympathy for someone other than herself. She explains to Kurt that everyone in the club loves him just the way he is, and even though he won't have anyone to date, that doesn't mean he has to be lonely. Wow, I think that was the first time that Rachel Barry ever made me cry. Her unselfish act earlier in the show—losing the duet competition to keep Sam in Glee—wasn't unselfish at all, but she had nothing to gain by asking Kurt to sing with her. Finally Rachel does something altruistic, and we've never liked her more. Sometimes the best couples have nothing to do with romance at all.