Glee


The Wife:

What a great character-driven episode, and what a great step forward for Glee. I loved Kurt’s arc and his fabulous dance performances in this episode. Caught dancing in a leotard (which wicks the sweat from his body) to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Kurt tries to butch up for his dad by pretending he’s dating Tina and that he’s now the kicker on the football team. So, with Finn’s help, he “auditions” for the football team and manages to land the role of kicker simply by being able to deliver a Beyonce-fueled kick clear across the goal posts, something their previous kicker couldn’t do with or without the help of Beyonce.

But Kurt butching up for his dad isn’t the only thing hinged on McKinley High football. Quinn tells Finn that she’s pregnant (you know, from that time he came in the hot tub because he couldn’t think of hitting the mailman with his car fast enough), and that she’ll be keeping the baby. Finn, wanting to be a good guy and not just another “Lima Loser” like other teenage fathers he’s met, knows that if he wants to be able to support Quinn and their child, he’s got to get a football scholarship and go to college. The only problem is that the football team sucks. Hardcore.

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Kurt suggests that the players loosen up by learning to dance, just as the Chicago Bears did with the Super Bowl Shuffle. I can tell you honestly that this isn’t just a myth, but that many professional athletes take dance lessons to improve their agility. Giants’s pitcher (and former Oakland A) Barry Zito used to regularly perform in the Nutcracker, and we’ve all seen how well athletes do on Dancing with the Stars. So, knowing that the football team’s reputation is on the line, Coach Ken Tenaka hands the team over to Kurt, who teaches them the “Single Ladies” routine.

But despite Finn’s heartfelt confession of his situation to Mr. Shuester and the goodness in his heart that inspires him to do right by Quinn, we all know its not possible for him to have fathered Quinn’s child, considering she’s the president of the celibacy club and they’ve never had sex. And Puck, our resident rakish, MILF-loving, pool cleaning lothario, knows that he is the only person Quinn has had sex with. Wanting her to admit what they’ve done, he spends the rest of the episode torturing her and Finn with his knowledge of the pregnancy. And Terri, learning of Quinn’s plight from her husband, sees a golden opportunity in it and sets in motion what will most likely become her plan to covertly adopt Quinn’s baby.

So with all this hanging in the air, McKinley High sets out to play football. At first, they get their asses handed to them, but with merely a second left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Finn takes a pregnant pause and calls a time out. He convinces his teammates that the only way they could possibly win now (and they so desperately need to — so they’ll have a chance at the championship, so they can get scholarships, so they can get respect) is to pull out their secret weapon play: Put a Ring on It. Rather than pass the ball immediately at the whistle, the whole team breaks out into the “Single Ladies” routine and confuses the hell out of the opposition. From there, they’re able to score a touchdown, which means that Kurt gets to be the hero of the game by scoring the winning extra point kick.

And all, it seems, is saved by the power of dance and the goodness of a little gay boy’s heart. I have to admit that I totally had tears in my eyes during Kurt’s final scene with his father in which he comes out to the man who has known all along, as all Kurt wanted for his third birthday was a pair of sensible heels. This scene, and Finn breaking down on Will’s shoulder totally got me.

Meanwhile, outside of the great parts of this episode described above, Sue has landed her own opinion segment on the local news and is speaking up for everything she believes in: caning, litter and so on. When the news station threatens to cancel her segment if the Cheerios continue to defect to the Glee Club, she reinvigorates her sabotage plans by blackmailing Principal Figgins (with his hilarious video from the time he was a steward for Mumbai Airways) to get Sandy back on campus as the school’s Arts Administrator. And Sandy’s first move as admin? Create a musical audition that will steal Rachel Barry away from Glee. Already jealous that Will wants to give Tina the West Side Story solo, Rachel readily takes the bait and when she sees that Will hasn’t changed his mind, she quits Glee Club for good.

It is a little disappointing how readily Rachel played into this scheme, but despite her seeming kindness and tendencies to be dumped upon by everyone, its also easy to see why she would be drawn to a place that wants her to have the star she so believes she deserves. A great arc for Rachel over the course of this season would be for her to realize that, sometimes, wanting what’s best for herself is a completely selfish act and that she should try to change those tendencies. Already, Will, Finn, Kurt and Quinn have grown and changed so much over four episodes, but Rachel, arguably the second lead, hasn’t.

I do think this was a wonderful episode, but I wish that the musical numbers had been better placed. Anything involving “Single Ladies” was great, but Rachel’s audition for Cabaret was not well-chosen or necessary, even if it was a “naturalistic” use of music. I was glad to hear Tina solo, but rather than the Rachel number, I felt like this episode needed to give Quinn or Finn a song to express what they’re going through. There certainly were moments where music could have worked, especially as Quinn ducks away to her car, in tears. I suspect she might have started singing along to a CD as she drove off, had Terri not been there to ambush her. Maybe the point was to break the expectations of the musical and not sing where we could all feel there should be singing? Or maybe, if Finn were to have a song, Ryan Murphy simply couldn’t get the rights to use Ben Folds’ “Brick?”

Stray thoughts and quotes:

  • “Is the baby black?” — Kendra, in horror, to her sister Terri before Terri reveals she’s not actually pregnant. What a great nod to Nip/Tuck, where Jessalyn Gilsig’s character actually did give birth to a black baby after spending the entire season making Julian McMahon’s Christian Troy believe it was his.
  • Dear sweet God, I absolutely need Emma’s baby blue sweater with the leaf detailing on the collar. This show is sweater heaven!
  • “To all those naysayers who say you can’t strike children on their bare buttocks with razor sharp bamboo sticks, I say, “Yes, we CANE.” — Sue
  • “My body is like a warm chocolate soufflé — if it isn’t warmed up properly, it doesn’t rise.” — Kurt, inadvertently also talking about his penis.
  • “Not everyone has the walnuts to take a pro-littering stance, but I won’t rest until every inch of this state is covered in garbage.” — Sue
  • Anti-embolism stockings are hilarious.
  • “If I was out to get you, I’d have you pickling in a Mason jar on my shelf by now.” — Sue
  • I’m sorry, Kurt, but as good as you look in that leotard and sparkly vest, you will never look as good as Joe Jonas, who has thighs so delicious I want to eat them. (Don’t worry about the dancing. Just stare at his thighs.)

The Husband:

Fun fact that I learned in an interview with Chris Colfer, the actor who plays Kurt: the coming-out scene was very much based on the similar conversation Chris had with his own father when he was younger. He didn’t get into specifics, but I have a feeling that pretty much everything Mike O’Malley said, aside from the “sensible heels” line, was close to verbatim. It was sweet without going too schmaltzy, but it also didn’t let some of his father’s prejudices off the hook. This is clearly a major point in Chris’ life having grown up in a very conservative town just outside of Fresno, California, and I’m glad he could share that with us.

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The Wife:

Here’s where I make a confession: I love Josh Groban. I have seen him in concert. (With my mom!) I own all of his albums. I used to own a Josh Groban tee shirt. I think his cover of “My December” is way better than Linkin Park’s original. I watched the concert version of Chess, which we all know is a fucking weird musical, because he was in it. I am a member of a Facebook group called, “I Would Have Josh Groban’s Illegitimate Children — FOR FREE!” which was started by my friend Amber, another huge Josh Groban fan. And yet . . . I had no idea he was going to be in this episode. So when I saw his name in the credits, I went like this:

“Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Man, I was already excited enough by the presence of Victor Garber! And in a bowtie, no less! But Josh Groban, too? Surely, the television was being far too kind to me!

But besides my guest star joy, Glee seems to be moving along at a fairly steady pace. At least for the first half of the season, we can be certain that the two overwhelming threats to the Glee club will be Sue Sylvester’s meddling (for no other reason than she wants her budget back at full) and Terri’s “pregnancy,” which draws Will away from his own personal interests. I suspect we’ll see a lot of retreads of situations that make things harder for the Glee kids, as well as things that distract Will’s attention, but as long as the performances keep their luster and the writing keeps its wit, I won’t be bored. It’s hard to move forward quickly during a first season, and few shows can actually achieve that. Glee has to keep reiterating these basic conceits so that it doesn’t feel so serialized that a new viewer would be alienated from this shiny happy world. I do, however, hope the retreads don’t happen for too long. With the pilot available since the spring, I suspect Glee has as many converts as it is likely to get by this point.

This week, Sue’s Cheerio spies put Rachel up to the task of telling Will that he’s not a good enough choreographer for them to be able to beat Vocal Adrenaline at Regionals. The kids want to hire $8,000 star choreographer Dakota Stanley, but they haven’t got that kind of cash, so they host a car wash fundraiser, which serves as the backdrop for Mercedes’ performance of “Bust the Windows” when her crush on flamingly gay Kurt is crushed when he says he doesn’t have feelings for her, but is in love with someone else. (You see, she doesn’t want to think she’s in love with a downlow brother, so she assumes the object of Kurt’s affection is Rachel, not Finn, even though Rachel and Tina warned her about Kurt’s disinterest in vaginas earlier in the episode.) It’s an incidental plot, but it contributes toward the episodes thematic structure, which is all about finding your confidence. By the episode’s end, when Mercedes apologizes for breaking the window of Kurt’s car, he tells her he’s gay, but never had the confidence to say it, just as the rest of the Glee club realizes when they meet the overly frank monster that is Dakota Stanley that they don’t need his fancy, overpriced dance moves at all: as long as they are themselves and perform with confidence, they can win. (Although, he did say what I’ve always thought about Lea Michele’s nose. But she’s right to counter with the fact that Barbara Streisand never did get that nosejob, and she’s a supernova.)

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

Meanwhile, when shop teacher and cough syrup addict Henri loses his thumbs in a freak accident, the rest of the teachers (including substitute shop teacher Sandy, who is not allowed with in 50 feet of children, not teenagers) try to cheer him up and realize that they’d make a totally sweet a capella group. But before I talk about the collaboration between Howard, Ken Tanaka, Will and thumbless Henri, I have to talk about Henri’s thumblessness. Outside of the apt use of music, this scene is one of the most Ryan Murphy things about the show. I adore his macabre humor here: watching Henri be presented with a thumbs-up cake, then trying in vain to use a fork, then raising the plate to his mouth and eating the thumb. Pure genius.

The guys get together and rehearse and Will’s house, which Will thinks really turns Terri on because since he started singing with the Acafellas, their sex life has dramatically improved. He doesn’t realize, of course, that this is actually because she really needs to get pregnant to make good on the news Will told his dad and mom earlier in the episode. I do think, though, that there is something Terri finds attractive about her newly confidant husband. The reaction shots of Terri and Emma to seeing Will et al perform prove that they are both a little star struck by the whole thing. Will, of course, is great, and Acafellas becomes a moderate success.

Will’s Dad: This is huge! We sold all 17 copies of you CD!

Will’s Mom: I didn’t even have to show my bosoms!

Principal Figgins likes the act so much that he invites them to perform at a PTA meeting. Sandy, who was denied a spot in Acafellas, tells everyone that he can get Josh Groban to attend the meeting, which would help the school’s clout, but only if he performs with them. As the meeting nears, Henri is sent to cough syrup rehab and can no longer perform, and Howard drops out of the group, as well. In an effort to save the performance, Will recruits Finn and football star Hank (Ben Bledsoe) lends his voice to Ken Tanaka, but only if hot MILFs will be there. (He is an above-ground pool cleaning gigolo, in addition to being a full-time high school student.) The new Acafellas put on a completely stellar performance of Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up,” which is greatly enjoyed by all, including Josh Groban, who is, indeed, “cute as a buttermilk biscuit.”

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Groban, however, was only attending the performance to serve Sandy with a restraining order, as Sandy won’t stop pestering him since Groban accidentally became his friend on MySpace. In my favorite moment of the episode, Josh Groban then seduces Will’s mom because, well, I’ll let him explain it:

“Scads of screaming teenagers don’t do it for Josh Groban. Josh Groban loves a blowsy alcoholic.”

Oh, Josh Groban! I love you!

With the short-lived glory of the Acafellas at a close and Dakota Stanley fired, Will rejoins Glee club and gets right back to work on new music for Regionals. Will’s dad tells him that, because of the confidence his son has on stage, he’s decided he’s going to finally pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer . . . which just cements the fact that this character is what Jordan Weathersby used to be before he became Jordan Weathersby.

Stray thoughts:

  • I absolutely need the floral sweater dress Emma is wearing when she’s gardening in her office. I can’t find anything close to it, but, so help me, I will!
  • “You’re going to have a school full of pansies unless you get some hot wood in those kids’ hands.” — Sandy
  • I dunno, I kind of like Crescendudes . . . Testostratones is also good.
  • “Will, if I don’t get some sleep, I could miscarry.” — Terri
  • It makes sense that Sue used to be in special ops military, doesn’t it?
  • “Yes, if by someone, you mean the tender crook of my elbow.” — Kurt, in re: kissing
  • “Who is Josh Groban? KILL YOURSELF!” –Sandy
  • I like that they made a little in-joke about Kurt wanting to see sing-a-long Sound of Music with Mercedes, as Kurt’s character was named for the fact that the actor played Kurt in a tour of Sound of Music.
  • Sue: I’m revoking your tanning privileges for the rest of the semester.
    Santana: Nooooo! [And she runs out of the room sobbing.]
  • By the way, I’ve seen Rockapella in concert. That’s right, the dudes who sing the theme song to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Be jealousssssssssss!

The Wife:

Before I actually talk about the meat of this episode, let me take a minute to be super girly and praise resident beefcake Matthew Morrison, who originated the role of TV dance hunk Link Larkin on Broadway in Hairspray. Dear. Sweet. Mother of all that is holy. That periwinkle cardi! That tie! Those shades! That murse! Morrison looked so superbly hot in this week’s opening scene that I was pretty much beside myself for the rest of the episode. Why wouldn’t Jayma Mays’ Emma be all up on that shit?

One major change in last week’s re-edited pilot was the addition of a romantic foil for Will in gym teacher Ken Tanaka. The re-edit added a few scenes in which he makes his interest in Emma known, as well as her disinterest in him, and I’m glad for those scenes, as I think they help to anchor Emma’s desire for her unattainable beau, who is preparing for the expansion of his family by purchasing a far-too-expensive house simply because Terri wants something shiny and pre-fab, with a $14,000 grand foyer.

“I’ve already did the math, Will. All we have to do is give up Applebee’s and not run the AC for the first couple of summers.” — Terri

Sue continues to rage against the very idea of Glee Club and this week’s methods of sabotage include finding an arcane rule that would required the Glee Club to have at least 12 members in order to show at Regionals, which they presently do not have. (By Sue’s count, it’s only 5 and a half, because of “that cripple in the wheelchair.”) Will’s idea for a membership drive is to show the student body just how awesome Glee Club is by having the kids perform a disco number at an upcoming assembly. Rachel, knowing that this is going to be social suicide for everyone involved (and will likely get her several more slurpees in the face), recruits Finn to help make flyers in lieu of doing the assembly, but gets caught using the Cheerios copy machine, which simply provides more fuel for Sue’s anti-Glee fire. Fortunately, the kids are only asked to pay for the copies they made (much to Sue’s chagrin) and they press on with the assembly.

“Lady Justice wept today.” — Sue

Straight hustlas.

Straight hustlas.

Rachel attends a meeting of Quinn’s celibacy club just to see what all the fuss is about, which, naturally, turns out to be an exercise in complete ridiculousness, replete with dancing against balloons and mantras such as, “Remember, it’s all about the teasing and not about the pleasing.” Rachel can’t stand the hypocrisy of the club, and speaks out against it, which earns her some points with Finn. In fact, the two later share a kiss on a not-so-impromptu indoor picnic during a vocal rehearsal, a scene that, by the way, reminded me very, very much of “Mirror Blue Night” from Spring Awakening.

“I’m still on the fence about this celibacy club. I only joined to get into Quinn Fabray’s pants.” — Finn

So while Will picks up some nighttime janitorial shifts to help pay for the house he and Terri are buying, Rachel devises a plan to change the song for the assembly into something that the student body will actually respond to. Teenagers are horny; they want sex. And so, on assembly day, the Glee Club performs the most hilariously inappropriate song to sing at an assembly . . . ever: “Push It” by Salt n’ Pepa. Frankly, this was a pretty amazing performance, and I think it accurately captured most of the crazy shit we came up with in my high school drama club. (High school friends, that’s accurate, right? I mean . . . right?)

“That was the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever seen in 20 years of teaching, and that includes an elementary school production of Hair.” — Sue

Rachel’s little stunt, rather than getting Glee Club entirely disbanded as Sue would hope, gets them slapped with a list of approved songs, most of which are either about Jesus of balloons. To keep tabs on Glee Club, Sue sends Quinn and a couple of other Cheerios to audition and join the club. I must say, Quinn did give an amazing audition to “Say a Little Prayer for You,” but I feel Rachel’s pain in that her solo in “Don’t Stop Believin’” is given to Quinn. Especially because this means she won’t have anymore alone time with Finn, and her episode-ending performance of Rhianna’s “Take a Bow” was certainly heart-wrenching.

However, nothing in this episode was more heart-wrenching than the scene where Emma helps out Will with his janitorial work, and he confronts her about her OCD, which stems from the time her brother pushed her into the runoff pool on a visit to a dairy farm. Since that day, she hasn’t ever felt clean, nor has she been able to stop smelling that smell. So she lives her life not eating dairy and washing her hands repeatedly and polishing every single grape before she puts it in her mouth. It was sheer beauty to watch Will put a tiny bit of chalk on her nose, and wipe it away after 10 seconds, but incredibly sad to see that Ken Tenaka had witnessed this act, and even sadder when he later confronts her about it, assuring her that he’s really the best that she’ll ever be able to do in their town, and that he’d put up with her crazy if only she’d stop chasing after a married man.

Le sigh.

Stray thoughts:

  • Jayma Mays’ Emma has inherited my Chuck Charles wardrobe envy. I want every single thing this woman wears, and it’s appropriate she should inherit this distinction, as she, too, was on Pushing Daisies.
  • It’s a major plot point, but so emotionally insignificant that I didn’t feel like talking about it: Terri is having a hysterical pregnancy, but rather than tell Will, she’s apparently going to fake a pregnancy. Good news, though. Now they’re not buying that crazy-ass house.
  • I just realized the jock-cheerleader pairing is Quinn and Finn. That’s amazing.
  • Hands down, the funniest part of this episode is Finn’s anti-ejaculation flashback of him hitting someone with his car. HILARIOUS.
  • “They’re gonna throw fruit at us. And I just had a facial.” — Kurt
  • “My dad always said you become a man when you buy your first house. I’m not sure what he meant by that, since he burned ours down after a drunken argument.” — Will
  • “This is where our daughter or gay son will sleep.” — Terri, about a room with a sign reading, “A Princess Sleeps Here”
  • “This banister was made by Ecuadorian children!” — Realtor
  • Every single one of Emma’s guidance pamphlets was hilarious. I can’t decide if my favorite is “Radon: The Silent Killer” or “Wow! There’s Hair Down There!”
  • Rachel: I guess I don’t have a gag reflex.
    Emma: One day, when you’re older, that’ll turn out to be a gift.
  • WANT: Rachel’s horse sweater.

The Husband:

My favorite guidance pamphlet was “My Mom Is Bipolar And She Won’t Stop YELLING.”

I am very glad to see the musical aspects of this show open up, because there are still plenty of people out there who are trying to convince the world that this show isn’t a “musical.” Yes it is. It is a musical. It’s a backstage musical, which was a subgenre for much of the first couple decades of the movie musical. A musical is not defined by simply having people break into song without lead-up, otherwise dozens of already determined musicals would cease to be considered musicals. (Seriously, I was involved in a major IMDB message board argument over this shit. I know musicals, bitch.) But unlike the pilot, we got glimpses during Rachel’s rendition of “Take a Bow,” which opened up outside of the auditorium to have her singing it into her hairbrush and, most importantly, in the middle of the school’s hallway as Finn and Quinn flirt nearby. So now the show can have its musical cake and eat it, too, and for that I am grateful.

The Wife:

I’d be lying if I said that the pilot of Ryan Murphy’s Glee was perfect. It was far from it, but so much of the show is so winning that it’s easy to overlook its few flaws and fully embrace it. It’s not a silly musical in the slightest. Ryan Murphy has always treated music with much more respect than that, even when he’s being ironic or cheeky during surgeries on Nip/Tuck. On that show, the surgery music is used to dig deeply into something as seemingly superficial as plastic surgery. Sometimes it’s funny (such as the use of Don McLean’s “Vincent” during a surgery in which Rosie O’Donnell as Dawn Budge gets a transplant ear grown on a mouse’s back . . . it’s a long story), and sometimes it’s incredibly moving (to this day, I can’t hear Leo Delibes “Flower Duet” without thinking about conjoined twins Rose and Raven Rosenburg, who died after their separation surgery and asked to be put back together when they were buried).

On Glee, the music functions as it should in any great musical: it’s intended to give us an insight into the characters, and I can think of no better example of this than Lea Michele’s (Broadway’s Spring Awakening) audition song for the new glee club, “On My Own” from Les Miserables. I hate Les Mis, but to hear Rachel Berry sing it while hearing about her backstory was the most sublime use of that song. You see, despite the fact that Rachel’s two gay dads raised her to be an overachiever and to strive to be known in the world because “being anonymous is worse than being poor,” she’s lambasted by her peers for being talented, for being different. She posts daily MySpace videos of herself singing in her bedroom, all of which receive comments from her peers basically suggesting she should kill herself (cyberbullying that would probably destroy someone with less self-confidence). She also often has things thrown at her, because for as much of a type-A personality as she is, Rachel is, in fact, on her own. She might be a little cocky and a little dogged in her quest to be special, as evidenced by her claim that the former glee club director molested the boy he gave Rachel’s solo to, but there is something in her that deserves to be recognized for who she is. And there is a tremendous sadness in the fact that no one sees her specialness but her . . . and her two gay dads.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

So with the former glee club director out of the picture and the club in danger of being shut down, Matthew Morrison’s Spanish teacher Will Shuster decides he should take over. After all, Will sees that these kids need a place where they won’t be bullied, and where they can cultivate their talent. But as usual, the activities in which the popular kids reign get more funding, especially The Cheerios, the cheer team coached by Jane Lynch, which receives the bulk of the school’s budget because they keep winning national competitions and bringing the school a lot of press, which ultimately means more funding. So Will is allowed to operate glee club, recently renamed New Directions (which is weird for me, because that’s the name of a counseling center that a friend I know from high school theatre works for), on a $60 budget, which struck me as incredibly realistic given the dire nature of arts education in America, by which I mean, the lack thereof. But even that $60 budget eventually gets cut and Will is asked to run New Directions with his own $60, something that is, for him, very difficult because he lives off his teaching salary and his wife’s 12-hours-a-week job at Sheets and Stuff.

We meet a lot of characters over the course of this hour-long pilot, but even though there are some of the glee kids we don’t know all that well, I’d say that Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is the least well-drawn. Terri is obsessed with an idea of womanhood that allows her to contribute little to her marriage and spend all of her time crafting and decorating. She’s largely just a stand-in for the thing that’s holding Will back from what he really wants from life. But that said, I think Jessalyn Gilsig, as always, turns in a brilliant performance of very little material. I mean, this is a woman who nearly suffocated her own daughter in a cargo hold (on Heroes) and, more importantly, a woman who got fucked off a building (on Nip/Tuck). I am certainly not used to her playing someone demure, and she creates a sort of quiet insanity in Terri that makes her seem both utterly unreal and yet absolutely the kind of woman who thinks her life should be what she sees in magazines. She is deeply shallow, and I think there’s something exceptional about placing a character like that amongst so many other deeply real people. She’s a wonderful contrast.

[Husband Note: Gilsig also did wonders with the quite poorly written role of teacher Lauren “The Nun” Davis on Boston Public, as well an incredible job as the oblivious sister-in-law-party-girl-way-past-her-prime on Friday Night Lights. She’s not the best actor, but she’s a serviceable television performer, and that’s good enough for me.]

Because Terri won’t give Will an extra $60 a month to run glee club (as she’d rather spend it on trinkets from Pottery Barn and crafts), he tries to drum up more membership around the school, taking guidance counselor Emma’s (the lovely and talented Jayma Mays) advice to recruit a few popular kids into glee club, and the rest will follow. He tries to get a few Cheerios in the club, but Jane Lynch’s Sue refuses to give up her girls, setting up a rivalry between the glee kids and the cheerleaders that I’m sure will continue throughout the series. But then, by a stroke of luck, he catches football star Finn singing in the shower, and blackmails him into joining glee club by “planting” some weed from the Chronic Lady (the former glee club director’s new profession: dealing weed) in his locker and telling him that he can spend six weeks in detention (which Will is now running, unpaid, due to budget cuts) which will go on his permanent record, or he can join glee. There was a moment in this scene that I truly loved because it was very representative of how Glee likes to play with cliches from high school movies. Will tells Finn that if he chooses detention, it’ll stay on his permanent record and they’ll take away his football scholarship. Finn asks, incredulously, “I got a football scholarship? To where?” And because that’s just something Will said because he heard it in a movie, he continues on, “You could go places, son.”

With Finn in the club, Will takes New Directions to see the current national show choir champions, and Emma decides to chaperone, as Terri has already turned Will down for some crafting-related outing. Emma, who clearly likes Will, is something of a germaphobe, a trait Jayma Mays does not play up for comic effect, but rather allows into the open with a kind of reserved sadness. In addition to cleaning surfaces in the teacher’s lounge with disposable gloves before she eats off of them, she brings her own food, even to public events, ands he and Will have a conversation about the state of his marriage to Terri over a peanut butter sandwich prior to the choir concert. Over that sandwich, which he says he never gets to eat because Terri is allergic to nuts, he confesses that he’s not entirely happy with his marriage. There’s just something about his relationship with Terri that isn’t working, but he rationalizes that it’s okay because he does love her, and he does want to have children with her, even if they aren’t totally happy. If you want to know why they’re not happy, look at the scene in which Terri makes Will do a puzzle with her in her craft room while she tells him it’s important for him to have a creative outlet, while in the same breath telling him that she doesn’t want him to run glee club because they don’t make enough money with him teaching. She’d rather he be an accountant, the epitome of jobs that lack creativity.

The rival choir puts on a ridiculous performance of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” which is stunningly choreographed and sounds great, but is obviously wildly inappropriate for a high school choir to sing and is incredibly funny if you absolutely don’t ever take your mind off of the lyrics. You just can’t do choreographed lifts when you’re singing a line like, “I’m gonna lose my baby / so I always keep a bottle near me.” (On the other hand, though, I think you absolutely can sing “I Kissed a Girl” for a glee club audition, because that’s just funny.) Clearly, a performance of that caliber is intimidating, but that’s not all of the problems facing New Directions. Finn’s teammates find out that he’s been lying to them about where he had to go when he missed practice. They are not pleased that he pretended his mom was having prostate surgery, and pelt him with paintballs. (“Chicks don’t have prostates. I looked it up.”) Finn eventually stands up to his football teammates when he finds that they’ve locked the wheelchair kid in a port-a-potty, telling them that, like Troy Bolton in High School Musical, he’s not going to choose between being a jock and being a singer. He’s going to do both. “Because you can’t win without me, and neither can they,” he snarls.

And when Terri announces that she’s pregnant, Will quits, following his wife’s suggestion to apply for a job at an accounting firm, leaving his newly formed club without a mentor. Emma tries to talk some sense into him, setting him up with a guidance appointment with her when she catches him filling out an accounting application at H.L. Mencken (oddly, named after a writer and literary critic for the Baltimore Sun who had some interesting ideas on elitism within social classes, rather than a traditional class or race-based social hierarchy . . . I must miss Lost a lot if I’m looking for these kind of references on other shows). Emma shows Will a video of the year the school’s glee club won nationals. It was 1993, and Will was in that choir. And he was happy. She asks him if providing money for his wife and child is really the same thing as providing them happiness, but being a man of his word, he heads off, presumably never to return.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Finn have taken over New Directions and have recruited the jazz band to help them stage their first performance, with Mercedes doing costumes, Rachel choreographing and Finn doing vocal arrangements. As Will heads down the eternal hallway, he hears them singing strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” another instance of perfect music choice. Not only does it serve as a ballad for these kids who just want to believe they’re good at something, but for soloists Finn and Rachel, those opening lines serve as portraits of themselves. Never before have I been teary-eyed hearing someone sing, “Just a small town girl / Living in a lonely world” or the phrase “S/he took the midnight train goin’ anywhere” until last night. They took that song, and made it transcendent – enough to make me believe in the beauty, sadness, humor and joy of this little show and enough to convince Will not to leave, but to remain with New Directions.

This is a show about lonely, sad people, trying to find something that actually makes them happy, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t made happy by music. So even for those of you who don’t really like or get musicals, know that Glee is simply about people trying to find happiness, and that happiness is achieved through music. I also take that last song as something of a plea to those of us who watched Glee and everyone at FOX, executives who clearly believe in taking a risk like this enough to promote it now and schedule it for Wednesdays at 9 p.m. throughout next season, picking up on SYTYCD results shows and Idol results shows as a built-in audience. FOX wants us to believe in Glee, and I do. Your Journey-infused plea has not fallen on deaf ears, Ryan Murphy.

I believe, I believe, I believe. Oh, I believe.

Some other notes:

  • “I’m Beyonce! I aint’s no Kelly Rowland.” – Really, Mercedes? Because you seemed so happy to be asked to do costumes later in the episode. Are you sure you don’t want to host The Fashion Show on Bravo?
  • For as much of a monster as I think Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is, she’s really funny. Two winners from her: “If my diabetes comes back I can’t get pregnant” and “Don’t go in the Christmas Closet!”
  • I’m told the first episode aired in the fall will be a re-edited pilot. My first edit: eliminating the references to MySpace and replacing it with something more culturally relevant. Like the word, “Facebook.” Or maybe even “YouTube” in some cases.
  • Spring Awakening fans, that last line was for you.


The Husband:

I honestly thought we were going to wait to review this show until the fall, but as it stands, here it is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to find many parallels, mostly in tone and narration, between Glee and Alexander Payne’s biting 1999 high school satire Election. Not only do we get some wonderfully insightful yet overly self-centered internal monologues from our main characters at only the most opportune times, and also revel in both the show’s insistence on clichés and its subversion of them, but Cory Montheith, the actor who plays Finn, bears a striking resemblance to a young Chris Klein. (You know, before Chris Klein started sucking.)

This is quite a show, just from the pilot, what with its heightened emotions, its parody of high school affectations, its very focused jokes and, of course, the usage of Journey. True, there were some considerable lulls, and I thought the Finn transformation happened way too early, but there is definitely something special about this show. A dramedy of the highest order, I hope it helps brings even more respect to the musical form.

And on that, some might argue this isn’t a musical. Yes it is. It’s just not a “traditional musical.” People don’t have to break out into song, but simply have the music define much of the piece itself. And Ryan Murphy, as my wife pointed out, is very specific about his song choices, so “Don’t Stop Believin’” as sung by Finn and Rachel, knowing what we know about them, defines who they are, amplifies their backstory, and fits perfectly into this world. Sounds like a musical to me. Definitely as much of a musical as Cabaret.