No One Can Save Glee, The Damage Is Done
Actually, this was a really good episode! Adam just can't resist a good Bon Jovi lyric joke.
Well, this could have been the very specialest episode Glee has ever very specialed, and both the advance press and the title ("Transitioning") suggested that it would be, but it turned out to be my favorite episode since the season premiere, in large part because it was so well balanced. Yes, there were some Lessons Learned, and we'll get to that, but we also touched on every major plot of the season so far, all with a fair amount of realism, a tone that made sense, some actual humor, and a decent number of songs. So, what should you watch and what should you skip? Let's get to the index!
You're A Loaded Gun
We begin, sans previouslies, with a Vocal Adrenaline rehearsal of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name," intercut with Will driving to work in an obnoxiously huge SUV, voice-overing about how great his life is at Carmel, where he has an unlimited budget, a costume designer, a nutritionist, a strength and conditioning specialist, and a massage therapist. Will misses the camaraderie of the New Directions, but he likes how motivated the Vocal Adrenaline "kids" are. Groff-less VA is still pretty dull to me, but no one has ever gone wrong with this song. A wealthy alumnus ("I was always a football guy myself, but my flaming gay son loves show choir") gives Will an expensive stroller and promises his support, pressuring him to another win.
After The Show We Had A Nice Omelette
Hey, It's Emma! Ryan Murphy let Jayma Mays out of whatever dungeon he was keeping her in, and she gives Will a pep talk as they walk the baby in a park. They run into Rachel and Blaine, who have been egged by Vocal Adrenaline. This short scene is worth watching just to see Lea Michele and Darren Criss get pelted with what certainly look, in slow motion, like real eggs.
I Can't Change Even If I Tried
Will attempts to give VA a New Directions-style lesson on tolerance. The VA "kids" are having none of it because they're spoiled, and also because they're the same age as Will. Will starts to perform Macklemore's "Same Love," and I wish I could attach an audio file, to this post, of the sound I made. This girl's face will have to do:
Singing the Mary Lambert part is VA alum Unique. Yeah, this will convince them. "Shut up, stop rapping, and let us prepare for Sectionals...we care about winning." Clint gets the genius idea to make the New Directions think they're intolerant so that they'll "go into Will Shuester mode" and lose a week of rehearsal learning about tolerance. Will yells at them. Bet that will end well for him.
Coach Beiste explains in voiceover that he took some time off to "let my outsides catch up with my insides," as he returns to McKinley for the first time since we last saw him. He's Sheldon now, and he looks pretty great. Sue and Sam are the first to greet him. Sam excitedly and adorably tries too hard, explaining that they have a ton of guy talk to catch up on and asking Beiste what his preferred pronouns are. Sue is welcoming but still Sue-ish, saying that she's "taken steps to battle the scourge of cis-normativity, and trans-misogyny, and some other terms I'd never heard of until I did a quick Wikipedia search this morning." McKinley is now "fully gender-fluid," but Sue is still going to fat-shame students.
I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, there was something great about Coach Beiste being explicitly established as not transgender or gay in her (as she was then) early appearances. She was part of Glee's "everyone is awesome" cast of misfits, a butch woman who happened to be straight and vulnerable and a kick-ass football coach. On the other hand, this is the first ever transgender storyline on primetime network TV (I guess we're not counting David Duchovny on Twin Peaks because it was all post-transition?), and that's important, and pretty cool, and since Glee is a show where both anything can happen and any lesson can be taught, why not here? On the other other hand, with so little time left at McKinley, do we really want to spend this much of it with a tertiary character like Beiste? On the other other other hand, Dot-Marie Jones (thrice Emmy-nominated for this role) is delightful, so...maybe?
Love It Or List It
Rachel tells Sam that she was awakened by a SOLD sign being hammered on the sign outside the house. It seems she'd been sabotaging all the previous near sales but she somehow missed one. (We only see one of these -- Rachel as the girl from The Ring as a Japanese couple tours the house -- and I wish we could have seen them all.) Sam tries to guilt her with his prior homelessness, but she openly prefers to keep things all about her.
Rachel Needs Help
Sam calls the New Directions together to help cheer up Rachel. This is the second or third week in a row with a scene short enough to recap in half a sentence, and it's basically the same scene (alum asks Glee for help with Rachel).
Points For Craftiness
Beiste returns to the parking lot to find his car covered in jock straps spelling out "Coach Tranny," as Vocal Adrenaline speeds off. Interesting technique!
Hell To Pay
Sue's called Will and Beiste into her office to discuss the jockstrap incident. Will is, of course, furious.
Wheel Of Misfortune
Rachel announces that this week's New Directions lesson is "Buckeye Bullseye," featuring all artists from Ohio. Kurt interrupts to say that "sometimes life throws you a curveball" and this week's lesson is in fact "Transitioning." Blaine is there too for some reason (and Artie and Mercedes, but I've stopped questioning their lives), and the alumni announce that they'll be throwing a Farewell to Rachel's House Party...at Rachel's house. Girl Twin catches on that this lesson has nothing to do with them, the actual students. Artie brings out a big wheel that will determine who everyone will sing a duet with at the party. This makes no sense at all, but it does suggest we'll get a lot of songs! Kurt cheats to ensure a duet with Blaine.
How Can We Make This More Awkward?
In the hall, Blaine is totally on to the fact that Kurt moved the wheel. Does this mean that was the entire class? "We can do something up tempo. Or slow. It doesn't matter. I'm versatile." It's awkward, there are clearly feelings, Blaine runs off.
Jocks Offering To Beat Up Their Trans Coach's Bullies = Progress
Sam and Spencer ask Beiste exactly who got her car so they can go after them. Beiste, of course, tells them that's not going to happen. Beiste is proud of them for sticking up for him and for the team, because Spencer has never been a team player before and Sam's made him that way through his coaching. It's sweet.
Uh-Oh, Somebody Stopped Believin'!
Will reams the VA "kids," who are continuing to have none of it. "You have a loser mentality," Clint tells him. "Vocal Adrenaline is the last of a great, dying breed of communities that is willing to risk being called bad guys and accept the hard truth which is that every person on the planet knows, winning is everything....None of us like you. We make fun of your vests and your pep talks behind your back. You're a joke." Will kicks him off the team. Clint does an excellent Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club as he leaves.
If Nothing Else, It's Nice To See A Healthy Relationship
At home, Will angrily tries to fix the very expensive stroller, which has broken. He admits to Emma that he hates his job, but he can't quit because there are no other jobs (because he's qualified to do literally nothing?). He also admits that he loves all the extra stuff. Emma thinks it's even more important to be principled now that they have a kid, because he'll see everything. She doesn't tell him to quit, just that he has to make peace with his choice, whatever it is. Emma and her Pamphlet of the Month Club are pretty great.
Hey, Wait, Is This Song A Metaphor?
Sam, an employee at McKinley, is serving what appear to be alcoholic beverages to students at McKinley. Also the band is playing the party in Rachel's basement. I hope they're getting paid. Mercedes and Roderick do "All About That Bass." It doesn't do much for me but the cast seems to be having a blast, and it sets the scene for the party really well. It might be the first song all season I buy these characters being into? Rachel and Sam make eyes at each other and sneak upstairs.
Toucha Toucha Toucha Touch Me
Rachel shows Sam her bedroom. "Is it weird to think that someday this room's gonna be recreated in some Broadway museum? Hopefully with animatronic robots!" Aw, Sam. He notices that almost everything is packed but not the wall with her high school photos (including one of him in Rocky Horror) and Glee Club memorabilia. "The wall doesn't go away," he tells her. "The wall just gets bigger, and higher, and plastered in dreams." Like Brittany, the show really should decide if Sam is smart or dumb, but I guess it's too late now. They kiss. Is he still hypnotized? Because I don't know if this is sweet or creepy. Let's go with sweet for now until we're told otherwise.
Who Knows You Can't Be Replaced?
We see the end of an Artie and Spencer duet that somehow involved a fire extinguisher, before Artie introduces Kurt and Blaine. They do "Somebody Loves You" by Betty Who. During the song, everyone dons costumes for some reason. Does this have something to do with the video? Full disclosure: I sometimes Google the lyrics to find out what these songs are because I'm old, but usually once I get there I've at least heard of them. This one not so much. Anyway, it's peppy and fun and I do almost always enjoy a Klaine duet.
The Second Hand Unwinds
Kurt walks Blaine out. Blaine has to be up early for Dave's intramural football game. They reminisce about their first duet ("Baby It's Cold Outside") and -- surprise! -- they kiss. Then Blaine runs away. Back in the basement, Rachel and Sam sing "Time After Time." NO FAIR, GLEE. Seriously, you want to make me care about Klaine? Play the intro to "Time After Time" as Blaine runs away after kissing Kurt. That shit's Pavlovian. Kitty takes a picture of Rachel and Sam singing, which gets added to her wall...and then taken down, in a montage of everyone helping her pack everything up.
I Had To Find Out My Trans Gossip From Will Shuester??
Unique approaches Beiste, faux mad that he didn't tell her what was going on. What is with people sneaking up on each other in the locker room on this show? Find another set! Beiste says he just wants to be treated normally, and Unique says, "You're not normal, you're special. And not because of some surgery, because you're brave enough go out and get something when you want it." Beiste doesn't want to be special, he just wants to be one of the guys, but there's no one else like him around. Unique assures him that he's not alone.
Man, The VA "Kids" Are Dumb
At Vocal Adrenaline rehearsal, Clint is back, at the behest of the big donor, and flaunting it. Will admits that he put his personal beliefs ahead of "the reality of what Vocal Adrenaline is," and says he considered quitting. But he realized he still might be able to teach them something: "As long as I'm coaching here, we win the VA way. And to prove that I'm serious, I have come up with the prank to end all pranks." Hmmmmm.
Next Time Send A Robot Owl
At Karofsky and Blaine's (Blarofsky's?), Dave calls Blaine out for being distant since the party, and the kiss comes out. Dave knows Blaine still loves Kurt, and that the clock has been ticking ever since Kurt came back. He's far more mature about it all than anyone else on this show would ever be, and says he's got plenty of rebound possibilities, sending Blaine off with his blessing: "Just do me a favor? Don't sing it. Just say it." Blaine runs to McKinley, where Kurt is about to go on a double date with Harry Hamlin, Rachel and Sam. Whoops! Guess we're dragging this out, then.
There's A Light In The Darkness
In the McKinley auditorium, Will explains that he's stashed cases of KY Jelly backstage, and instructs the VA "kids" to get them and squeeze the tubes out onto the stage. Suddenly, the stage lights come on, and Unique sings "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray (which, by the way, Matthew Morrison was in the original cast of) as the New Directions watch from the wings. My first thought: it's weird to appropriate this song about the civil rights movement (which is really powerful in its context in the original musical) here, just to preach to Vocal Adrenaline, sung by a character I've never much cared about and they certainly don't. But then my second thought, as Beiste joins her onstage and the lights come up to reveal a huge choir of actual trans people of all ages and races: holy shit. Well played, Glee. I'm pretty sure Dot-Marie Jones is really crying. I'm pretty sure Lea Michele is too. I certainly am. And Alex Newell sings the fuck out of this. It's manipulative as hell and I'm all in. The song ends and everyone, choir and actors, embraces in a moment that appears 100% genuine.
No One Saw This Coming
Well, the VA "kids" aren't part of that. Out in the house, they remain completely unmoved by this display. Will tells them to suck it (I'm paraphrasing) and quits. Sue releases her hounds to run the VA "kids" off campus.
Jesus, Will, Get Some Fucking Friends Your Own Age!
In the choir room, Kurt asks Will what he's planning to do. He says that Carmel paid enough that he has some savings, so he's not worried. Rachel asks if he'd like to be the "Special Alumni Consultant" to the New Directions. They clearly need the help. Of course he says yes, on two conditions: Rachel and Kurt make all the decisions, and they call him Will. He knows he belongs there, and he basically says he wants his old job back when Kurt and Rachel leave, which they will at the end of the season -- uh, school year. They get to planning:
Will: Do the kids have any personal problems?
Kurt: We don't really know, we don't spend too much time talking to them.
Will: Well you should! Get to know them! Because one day, they might be the best friends you've ever had.
That really could have gone all kinds of wrong, but it pretty much worked! There's not a ton of depth to the Beiste storyline beyond "yay, tolerance!" It's not like they've gotten much into what any of it means, but hey kids, if your female football coach shows up to school one day and is a man, be good to him! And honestly, maybe that's enough. That's certainly what Glee is capable of (and they did do more with Beiste earlier episode this season, and with Unique's original arc). And the rest of the episode was really quite delightful too! Maybe I've just been beaten down but I'm really warming to both Sam and Rachel and the Blaine/Kurt reunion. The actors are selling it really well and the writing is finally helping them. And see, Glee writers? It's not hard to toss in a line about Will's savings and now I'll never think about how he can afford to volunteer at McKinley again. I don't ask for much! Which is good, because next week promises wacky hijinks and if we believe the teaser more than one wedding. Of twenty-year-olds. Expectations managed!