Tuesday, October 26, 2010

GLEE: "Duets"

Again, excuse the lateness here. There's no real excuse; I've had two weeks. Oh well.

First things first, I have a problem with the recap of the show. It says that "Finn called Kurt a bad name" last season, and they refer to the incident that way throughout the episode. No he didn't. Sorry, but he said the decor was "faggy". He did NOT call Kurt a fag. It's related, and I'm not defending it but that is still very different from calling Kurt a name which he did not do.

Puck's in Juvenile Hall! I wonder how many episodes he'll be gone for. I also wonder what motivated his absence from the show this week. Was it simply so the numbers would work out favorably with Sam joining the group and the kids pairing off for duets?

Speaking of which, Sam has joined glee. And Kurt has a thing for him. Mr. Shue assigns the group to come up with duets, and the winning couple gets an evening at Breadsticks (you know Breadsticks; it's that restaurant with the great breadsticks). Kurt wants to sing with Sam. Then we get into yet another example of the writers not doing their homework. Sam says, "Aren't duets supposed to be between a guy and a girl?" and Kurt says, "Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor would protest. ...'Make 'Em Laugh'? Singin' in the Rain?" WRONG. Kelley and O'Connor are a good example, but "Make 'Em Laugh" was NOT a duet!! Don't these writers ever know what they're talking about? "Moses" or "Fit as a Fiddle" were duets. This sort of thing just makes me sad. Especially when a character is acting as if they know exactly what they're talking about.

We are given a little more of the hinted bisexuality of Santana in this episode. With Puck gone, she's been making out with Brittany a little. Brittany seems to be into her, but for Santana is not about love. Now, can I just ask, watching these sorts of interactions coming off Kurt arguing against gay being a choice in the previous episode... how do we account for this? Clearly SANTANA is making choices regarding her sexual behavior. And is Brittany gay or not? She seems to have very bicurious tendencies as well. Sorry, but the "I was born this way" argument gets a whole lot weaker when you throw in the bi- community. This scene had a fun moment where Brittany suggests she and Santana do the duet together: Melissa Etheride. Santana replies that she's not making out with Brittany because she wants to "sing about having lady babies."

Santana really wants to go to Breadsticks, so she enlists the help of a partner she thinks could help her win: Mercedes. I love that Santana calls her Wheezy at one point.

Finn notices Kurt's crush on Sam and points out to him that being gay doesn't give him an excuse to fall all over someone. He points out that how Kurt was to Finn last year would never fly if it were Finn and a girl. Then Finn hits him hard with this point: "You don't understand that no means no." Wow. Kudos to the show for that one. It's so refreshing that they are really exploring Kurt and the implications of his character more. Again, gay is not an excuse to do whatever you want and then say "You're just a homophobe!" Respect for boundaries is a very good point here.

This theme continues when Kurt's dad gets involved. There's a bit of a fight when he tells Kurt that Finn has a point. Kurt counters that he wants a relationship like everyone else. Kurt's really kind of a jerk these days. I think Kurt's feelings too are not just gay-centric; they are universal. That is, there are a lot of outsiders who never get a relationship or who have a hard time finding someone to pair off with. I never had anybody in high school. So I get where he's coming from. This is good stuff!

Finn and Rachel rehearse "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". It's a solid, if obvious, duet choice. They realize they are awesome and will win the competition, but that causes them concern. Finn is worried that if Sam sings with Kurt it will kill Sam's reputation, he'll leave glee and then they won't have his voice for competition. Finn wants Sam to win as a confidence booster. Rachel meanwhile claims to be thinking of others and wanting someone else in the spotlight for once. Her reasoning is similar to Finn's; build Sam's confidence so they can win at Nationals. So they conspire to throw the competition.

Tina and Mike Chang are fighting because all he ever wants to do are very Asian things. When they eat out it's always at Dim Sum. She wants to win competition so she can go to Breadsticks and eat a normal salad that doesn't have pig's feet in it.

There's a nice bit of costume design in this episode. While Finn tries to convince Sam that it's bad for his rep to sing with Kurt, Sam is wearing a T-shirt with a bulls-eye on it. This reinforces the point that to the rest of the school Sam is something of a moving target. And then, he gets slushied!

Sam begins developing a thing for Quinn, who helps him wash the slushie out. We also learn that Sam is sort of a dork. He tries to chat up Quinn in Na'vi because she references Avatar briefly. Dude, that's just sad. Na'vi is just slightly above Klingon. If you're gonna pick a fake language to learn, it's ELVISH dude. Chicks dig the Elvish (okay, that is probably not true in general, but there's a large female population of Tolkien fans, and it's bound to work with one of them).

Santana and Mercedes do their duet: "River Deep, Mountain High". It's an ebullient performance with Santana giving Mercedes some moves. It's fun watching them shake their rumps like they just don't care. Santana's voice goes well with Mercedes' and it's a really good vocal.

Finn and Rachel worry about how they will be able to convincingly fail at their duet, until Rachel suggests that they take a lesson from Grease 2; pick a bad song. The difference between Grease and Grease 2 is that the songs were bad. I love this because it's so true. Aside from a couple that are funny as novelties ("Do It For Our Country") the music is terrible in Grease 2! And I say this as someone who owns the CD. So they decide to sing not just a bad song but an offensive song.

Sam doesn't end up singing with Kurt, and Kurt decides to embrace his queer side again (like that's working out for him so well) and do a duet with himself. Okay, I'm down with a solo duet, I think that's fun. I like to sing with myself. But I thought he'd sing along with a recording or something. Instead, he does a bit from Victor/Victoria in partial drag. He says its a duet between the male and female side. I don't buy it. Sorry, that's not a duet. Why not just do something from Hedwig and the Angry Inch? The performance wasn't bad, and I liked that he enlisted the Cheerios to make it a real performance with choreography and all, something we haven't seen much of this year. But it does feel like a reach to me.

Sam is kind of like Kurt in that he's new in the school and he's an outsider who's just trying to fit in. That symmetry interested me.

Mike Chang is reluctant to sing with Tina because he's a dancer, not a singer. So Tina comes up with a brilliant number to perform: "Sing" from A Chorus Line. If you're unfamiliar with the show, kill yourself. No sorry. If you're unfamiliar with it, the song is about a dancer who isn't really a singer, singing with her husband. It's funny. Now do yourself a favor and go listen to the soundtrack (NOT the movie soundtrack). Anyway, it was the perfect song choice for Mike and Tina, with some cute choreography. I also liked that it flipped the original gender roles of the song. This was my favorite performance of the night.

Brittany teams up with Artie in hopes of beating Santana. She tells him she'll be his fake girlfriend, basically. This culminates in Artie and Brittany in her room rehearsing. I love that Brittany has wallpaper. It may seem like a minor thing, but everybody just paints walls these days and there's something very homey and nice to me about wallpaper. Eventually, Brittany picks Artie out of his wheelchair, lays him on her bed and has sex with him. This later leaves him feeling used when Santana tells him how many guys she's been with. He's bummed because he feels like she just used sex as currency, something that was a big deal to him. I really appreciate that the sex roles were flipped here and its the girl who is promiscuous and the guy who wanted more. That sort of thing does happen, and it's good to think beyond stereotype. For her part, Brittany seems genuinely distressed that she hurt Artie. She said she wanted to go to breadsticks so they could be like Lady and the Tramp and share a plate of spaghetti. She's even been practicing rolling meatballs with her nose. On another note, I wonder if, because he's paralyzed and couldn't as easily leave her bed, one might suggest the act had overtones of rape. Just a little?

Finn and Rachel perform and it is hysterical. Finn's dressed like a priest, and Rachel's in this little proper black number, and they sing a saucy love song about how "with you, I'm born again." It was all very Thorn Birds. The group was just stunned, and Mr. Shue called them out for being totally inappropriate. The only bad thing about it to me was that it didn't quite follow the set-up. Shue points out that it's a good song but badly executed. What happened to picking an offensive song? It wasn't an offensive song, it was an offensive interpretation. So that was a tiny bummer. But really funny otherwise.

Quinn and Sam do their duet with Sam playing guitar, and having Quinn do the chords for him. There's something really sexy about Quinn fingering his frets. Their performance is groovy and fun and they win the competition. Personally, I liked it but I don't think they were the best. But because it was put to a vote, everyone except Finn and Rachel voted for themselves.

The voting has a tiny joke in that Kurt's paper lists his name as Kurt Elizabeth Hummel. Elizabeth? Is that a Producers reference?

Sam and Quinn do go out to Breadsticks and we learn that Sam is not gay as Kurt had suspected. It's a nice scene, but the capper is the camera panning past their booth to Brittany sitting alone with a plate of spaghetti rolling a meatball to no one. So sad! It's that sort of thing that keeps Brittany endearing and not just vapid.

In the end, Rachel decides to help Kurt out and sing a duet with him to make him feel better. They do a very interesting mash-up of "Happy Days Are Here Again" and Judy Garland's "Come On Get Happy." While it does take something away from the gospel feel of "Come On Get Happy" it was a nice and inventive blend and a solid ending to the show.

I thought that this episode would feel very slight, but it was actually a lot of what made the show fun in the first season. It wasn't the strongest episode ever, but it was enjoyable, and it was good to hear from some of the cast who don't always get to really sing.

Best line of the night:
Mr. Shue: What's a duet?
Brittany: A blanket.

I love this exchange. You can tell that Brittany is thinking, but it still feels non sequitur. For those who don't know, the word she is searching for is duvet.

Songs in Tonight's Episode:
Don't Go Breaking My Heart
River Deep Mountain High
Le Jazz Hot
With You I'm Born Again
Happy Days Are Here Again/Come On Get Happy

Next Week... er, tonight:
Glee does Rocky Horror. On the one hand, I'm getting very tired of theme shows that feel like desperate pleas for ratings. Glee doesn't need to stoop to stunts like that. On the other hand, it looks as though there will actually be a stage performance. It's good to see them actually do a stage show. I hope the writers don't continue to bare their ignorance and make it based on the stage show and not the movie. But I'm looking forward to it.

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