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.

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.

The Wife:

Picking up from where the last episode left off, Ned finds Chuck and her alive-again father. He barely has time to process what he’s seen before he hears the Aunts burst through the downstairs door, forcing Chuck and Charles Charles to hide in a closet. Lily’s no fool, though, and knows that something must be in the closet. When she opens the door, she shoots. Fortunately, what she shoots is a tiny clown doll that Chuck placed in the closet as she and her father squished close to the side wall, knowing how much her Aunt/Mother is terrified of clowns. Sated on both bloodlust and terror, Lily and Vivian return home, not to be seen for the rest of the episode. Chuck and Ned escort Charles Charles back to Ned’s place, knowing full well he can’t stay at the old Ned house anymore without Lily and Vivian finding their once-dead mutual lover. With zombie dad safely in Ned’s apartment, Ned and Chuck retreat to the roof to discuss the reckless and thoughtless thing that Chuck did in keeping her father alive. Though disturbed, Ned seems to accept Chuck’s actions once he knows that the person who died in Charles Charles’ stead was murderous Dwight Dixon, knowing also that he did this exact thing in bringing back Chuck. Happy that Ned isn’t unhappy with her, Chuck and Ned share a tarp-wrapped hug.

At the Pie Hole, young Shane Botwin from Weeds enters with a jar of coins, asking for Emerson’s help in solving his mother’s murder. A lighthousekeeper, the widow Nora McQuoddy was killed and melted onto her own Frensel lens. According to television reports, she was killed by her long-missing and presumed dead husband, Merle McQuoddy. Olive, a lover of ghost stories, informs everyone of the legend of Merle McQuoddy, which differs greatly from the reality that Merle McQuoddy was marooned by Typhoon Tyrone during a routine dungeoness crab fishing expedition and did not return home for an Odyssean ten years, when he was finally saved by a gay pleasure cruise. Though many didn’t know he was alive, young Elliot McQuoddy is sure that his father didn’t do it. All anyone saw fleeing the lighthouse was a yellow raincoat. It could have been anyone. Choosing instead to deal with Charles Charles, Ned and Chuck take a personal day, leaving the case in the hands of Emerson and Olive, whom I am very glad is joining up in the detective ranks more and more these days.

After waking up Nora McQuoddy, Ned and Emerson realize that this is going to be a much more difficult case. Nora can’t tell them who murdered her because her mouth has melted onto the Frensel, making it difficult to speak. She does, however, give the morse code for PCHS, which Emerson knows to be, not peaches, but the Papen County Historical Society. His duty done, Ned returns home to Chuck and her father, who has decided to resume being the dad he didn’t get to be for 20 years and has become increasingly concerned with Ned being around his daughter, lest Ned accidentally commit Chuck to the ground for good. (He’s also a bit pissed that Ned killed him.) Ned assures Charles Charles that he has rules in place for living with Chuck. Charles Charles agrees to live by said rules that Ned outlines in the Alive Again Handbook, but only if Ned agrees never to see Chuck again. Only allowed to canoodle at the Pie Hole, Chuck relishes the teenage-like romance she and Ned can now have – the one they never got to have as teenagers because Ned was away at boarding school and Chuck was an orphan in the care of her eccentric aunts, with no father to bully her boyfriends. The way Chuck sees it, she and Ned are now free to live out their high school fantasies, sneaking round, pretending to be jocks and cheerleaders and making out through saran wrap under the bleachers. (Wasn’t that saran wrap kiss spectacularly hot?)

Meanwhile, Emerson hooks up with Olive to work on the case, amused by her gift of a custom cod-print raincoat. (Olive also bought a pie-print raincoat for Ned and an olive-print one for herself.) Emerson is none too pleased with investigating the lighthouse case in the impending storm. He really doesn’t like rainy days. They meet with Augustus Papen, director of the Papen County Historical Society, who tells them that Nora McQuoddy had the lighthouse declared a protected historical sight after her husband’s alleged death, an idea she got while hanging out with Annabelle Vandersnoot, a woman who runs a social group for widows dedicated to making dioramas of their husband’s untimely demises.

“Such a depressing word. Diorama. It has ‘di’ in it. I like ‘rama.'” – Augustus Papen

Annabelle Vandersnoot demonstrates one of her dioramas for Olive and Emerson, a recreation of the munitions explosion that killed her ammo-producer husband. (Oh, Mary Kay Place. Of all the scheming Mormon wives of Roman Grant, I never thought you’d be the one to kill him. Cutthroat Bitch was all over that shit, and she wasn’t even his wife.) She tells the gumshoes that Nora was her best friend and she couldn’t imagine hurting a woman who had already been hurt so badly by the loss of her husband.

Boy, am I ever happy to not be wearing prairie dresses and long braids!

Boy, am I ever happy to not be wearing prairie dresses and long braids!

Charles Charles catches Ned and Chuck sneaking around at the Pie Hole, which forces Ned to throw out all of his customers and leads to a broom fight with zombie Charles in the bakery. Charles Charles just can’t imagine why his little girl would want to be with a guy like Ned, who makes pies, when Charlotte always preferred cake as a child. Ned insists that if Charles Charles is going to remain alive again, he has to follow the rules. Chuck gets to go out in the world because she doesn’t have a corpse face, but if corpse face Charles Charles gets it, it exposes Ned’s secret to the world. Charles Charles is upset that Ned is only thinking of himself in that case, referring to Ned as Victor Frankenstein, until Ned reminds him that the rules are in place for Mr. Charles’ own safety. It isn’t Victor Frankenstein that the villagers care about. They’re only after the monster. The two commence their fight when Charles Charles refuses to follow the rules, leading to Ned locking him in the walk-in until Chuck comes to rescue her dad, shooting daggers at Ned for being the kind of boyfriend who beats up a girl’s dad.

“Who’s not for chocolate? Everyone at least tolerates it!” – Ned

Thinking that Elliot McQuoddy might know more than he’s saying about his mother’s death, Emerson and Olive head to the lighthouse in their new raincoats. Emerson tells Olive that he and his wife used to love rainy days. When they were together, they’d stay inside by the fire, drinking cocoa and snuggling, but ever since she left, rainy days just haven’t been the same for Emerson Cod. They find Merle McQuoddy living in a cave, not too far from the lighthouse and interrogate him about his wife’s murder. Merle tells them that by the time he returned, his wife had taken a lover, assuming that her husband would never come back. While he didn’t know who that lover was, he new that said lover had given Nora a spoon engraved with their initials. Olive recognizes this as a Dutch love spoon, a trope from Harlequin romances and Emerson recognizes the lover’s initials, AP, as those of Augustus Papen. They later discover the plans to redevelop the lighthouse into an amusement park and think that Papen killed his lover because she wouldn’t release the lighthouse from its historical landmark status. Hoping to catch him at the scene of the crime, they find Elliot McQuoddy dangling over the side of the lighthouse by Papen’s hand. Papen was actually there to save Elliot from falling when he tried to raise the semaphore flags by himself in the rain. Papen then reveals that he and Nora had planned to turn the lighthouse into a day spa, complete with barbershop quartets who sing “Candle on the Water,” leaving only Annabelle Vandersnoot as a suspect. Vandersnoot appears downstairs, trailing gunpowder that Olive thinks is glitter. She killed Nora because she, too, loved Augustus Papen and she was simply not willing to share her lover with her best friend.

Arrr -- those be some fine raincoats, yerve got there!

Arrr -- those be some fine raincoats, yer've got there!

After the fight, Ned realizes that his relationship with Chuck (and her dad) just isn’t normal and that unless she helps Ned control her father, they have no chance of being normal together. Upset, Chuck goes to her father, who tells her that the way she lives with Ned marginalizes her. As a child, she and Charles Charles dreamed of going on adventures together, often playing them out in their living room per the claymation opening segment of this episode where a chicken poxed Chuck and her dad pretend to ride camels through the desert. He offers her a chance to leave and go on adventure with him, asserting that, without Ned, they could actually have a normal existence.

“We’re only freaks in Ned’s world.” –Charles Charles

He presents her, again, with the choice between cake and pie. I wondered while watching this about the validity of saying that cake is rich and complex where as pie is just a crust with a filling. As someone who has made both, I feel like Charles Charles is really oversimplifying here. Making the filling of a pie is easy, sure, but it’s the crust that holds it all together. And that’s the hardest part. The hardest part of pie is making a protective, encompassing layer that will itself hold. Something that isn’t too flaky. Or too moist. Or too dry. It has to be perfect for the pie to work. A cake, true, has literal layers, but the dough is easier to work with. It’s much easier to make a cake, even if it’s more complicated in terms of flavor and can be more attractive and varied in its appearance. Looking back, I see the validity of the metaphor. Ned is like that pie crust. His rules and regulations hold Chuck’s world together. With Ned, she is safe and happy and warm and perfect. Although not attractive at all anymore on the outside, having her father alive is a cake-like promise. It’s easy to want one’s father to be alive again, but that is an incredibly complex thing to actually pull off. It’s a little slippery, but I get where they were going. Ultimately, though, the writers are asking us to choose between confections, between two scenarios that are so fantastic that we should be happy to digest either one.

Chuck, however, chooses Ned. She chooses her pie crust, and her father claims that he will apologize to Ned, but when Chuck and Ned go to find him, they realize that he has given them the slip and headed out into the world, unprotected and unregulated, a formerly dead man with a bandaged-up corpse face. If there’s one good thing about this plotline, it’s that we’ll get to visit locations outside the PD canon in the coming weeks as Ned tracks down the monster he created. As for Olive and Emerson, Emerson thanks Olive for her good work on the case and offers her a job, should she ever find working with the man she loves and his undead lover to be too unbearable. In addition to paying her for her help, he also thanks her for her friendship – a friendship I was happy to see develop through simultaneous line readings and similar speech patterns over the course of this episode – in the sweetest line I heard all episode:

“Itty Bitty, you made me love a rainy day again.” – Emerson Cod

Olive and Emerson share a victory butt-fuck.

Olive and Emerson share a victory butt-fuck.

Costuming Notes:

  • I have Olive’s purple Banana Republic trenchcoat, but in charcoal grey. (The lining on my coat is that shade of purple.)
  • I hate the 1970s, so I wasn’t pleased with Chuck’s return to a 1970’s palette in this episode. However, it did make the most sense with her character’s state of mind. She’s wearing the kinds of colors and patterns that would have been popular in her youth (the late 70s/early 80s), which is appropriate for an episode in which she reconnects with her father, the only thing she really has from that childhood. Still, I miss 50s/60s-style Chuck.

The Husband:

I was prepared to get all referency with this episode, as the lighthouse, the missing husband at sea, the almost duplicated cave dwelling and the similarity of the name Merle McQuoddy to the town name of Passamaquoddy all point to a major episode-long reference to Pete’s Dragon. I wasn’t entirely certain if they were 100% aware of their homage to the 1977 Disney movie, but it was worth a thought. The movie itself is a wonderful-for-kids but ultimately disposable live-action trifle that was clearly made very quickly (except for Elliott the animated dragon, which according to IMDB was originally intended to be invisible) and then shelved for several years. (I especially enjoy the cheapness involved when despite the film taking place at a seaside town, the movie itself was clearly filmed nowhere near any semblance of water.) But I love the songs, and I think the dragon itself is a nice and nostalgic design. I’ve always felt bad for the kid playing Pete, though, because acting opposite an invisible dragon is not easy.

But then Bryan Fuller and the writers show their cards and have a barbershop quartet sing the film’s Oscar-nominated and most famous song, “Candle on the Water,” right in the freakin’ episode, leaving me to basically come here and state the obvious. (The song, along with “Nobody Does It Better,” lost the Oscar to “You Light Up My Life.” Ugh…)

So I’m just going to be the bitch and say that “Candle on the Water,” while pretty, is a pretty expendable song in the realm of the plot. I vastly prefer two other songs, both goofy, both strangely pretty, and both kind of absurd.

Here’s the first. (Note: This is a song I have mumbled to my cats more times than I’d like to remember.) The song starts at 6:23, but I hope you’d like to watch a bit of the movie anyway. It’s sweet, even if it is kind of a failure.

The second is just gloriously dumb and very 70s. The song starts around 1:40.

I’m also kind of amazed that they cast Josh Randall, an actor who has pretty much gotten by on shows like Scrubs and Courting Alex simply on his bland handsomeness and his slight sardonic quality, as Charles Charles, someone whose face is entirely hidden. It’s a testament to Randall that he didn’t completely suck, but I wish they’d gone for a better, less douchey actor. Someone with a little more fatherly inflections. I don’t know. Just not Josh Randall.

I loved the mystery, though, and appreciated that the twists were numerous but not completely impossible to follow. Also, maybe you all can help me. Was PCHS involved in that windmill sanctuary from PD s1 in that episode with Dash Mihok and Jayma Mays? I don’t have the time nor the energy to look into that too closely right now, so I’m counting on others to do that work for me.