Saturday, May 28, 2011

GLEE: "Prom Queen"

I didn't take notes during this one, so I'm having to watch it again and do these live. However, I do recall that I really enjoyed the first half of this episode, and then was ridiculously angry during the second half.

Nice to return to the Ben Israel news show, which we haven't really seen since the season premiered.

Ha ha! Principal Figgis's favorite group is Air Supply! How did he even book them in the first place for prom? And does Air Supply really have anything better to do? I also want to say that I think TV is the only place now where proms have live music, and I think that's a shame. So he wants New Directions to perform.

At this point the show gets very "meta" and self-referential as Sue produces a list of the worst songs ever performed by the Glee club. She refuses to let these be played at prom. It's quickly evident that these are not all songs performed live, but just done on the show. I wonder if there's some sort of fan list floating around the internet which is the source of this list. Her number one is "Run, Joey, Run" which is indeed an awful song, however I liked it on the show because it was so intentionally bad. The mash-up of "Crazy in Love" and "Hair" is also mentioned, which I totally agree with. That was just an awful performance. I really want to know what else is on the list.

Once Mr. Shue tells the kids they are playing the prom, Rachel immediately wants to do "Run, Joey, Run". It's funny, even if Rachel would know that's a horrible choice for a school dance.

Mercedes doesn't have a date to the prom, and frankly it underlines the flaw in the writing this season. The intention last summer was to write Mercedes a black boyfriend, and that never happened. They were too busy making everyone gay. Anyway, Rachel has a plan, since she has no date either. She decides that she, Mercedes and Sam will all go to prom together and split the cost.

Kurt asks Blaine to prom, and he tells a moving story about how he and his (male) date were beaten up before a Sadie Hawkins dance at his old school. It helps give Blaine a little more backstory, as we knew he was bullied before and that's why he's at Dalton, but we never heard anymore about it. He is nervous about going to prom, but goes for Kurt. His prior bad experience is going to make him a little more worldly wise than naive Kurt in this episode.

Santana suggests that the Bullywhips provide security for Kurt leading up to prom so that nobody bullies him. She also makes a humourous reference to the Rolling Stones at Altamont, but one which the core audience of this show will not get.

Puck is worried because his street cred is in trouble since he's been dating Lauren and running for Prom King. He hopes to regain his (dis)honor by spiking the punch. Every year somebody does it, and this year Sue Sylvester is on guard. So knowing that he is the prime suspect, he asks Artie to help him do it, since he's not suspicious. Artie however is more set on getting Brittany to accept his apologies and go to prom with him.

Oh no, Jesse St. James is back. How I hate him. But his entrance is interesting here. Rachel begins a song, and he suddenly appears to finish the verse. They finish the song together. It's a rare a capella performance for this show (aside from the Warblers), and pretty good, though it's odd that the random tech kids painting sets in the auditorium suddenly can sing back-up with flawless harmonies. I wonder why they aren't in the glee club? Are the theater kids just protective of their own group? ...And why do we see so little of the drama kids at this school anyway? Turns out Jessie flunked out of college since he has no academic skill beyond show choir. Anyway, he has come to ask Rachel to prom.

Why does it seem like the Bullywhips are just Karovsky and Santana? That's not very practical.
Santana's protection of Kurt is more a means to promote herself as a prom queen candidate, and she's probably doing more harm than good shouting, "Teen gay! You are now clear to proceed without fear of violence!"

Artie apologizes to Brittany during home-ec class. He then tries to ask her to prom in song. But what does he sing? Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" which as Mercedes points out is about a baby, and thus an inappropriate choice. Having said that, when Puck and and Sam come in with guitars and Finn starts playing drums on random baking implements, it becomes a nice musical moment. I wish there were more spontaneous instrumentation moments. Now with nothing to lose, Artie agrees to help Puck spike the punch.

Kurt has designed his own prom outfit, and it's a kilt. It's actually a really good look, I thought. So often teen gays on TV go the full cross-dress for prom. So I'm glad he isn't going in a dress, but in a masculine outfit that just happens to have unfortunate feminine undertones. He wouldn't be out of place at a Scottish wedding or something though. It's not particularly ostentatious. Even so, his father and Blaine both worry that he's going to draw too much negative attention, but of course Kurt will hear none of it. They are worried he's doing it all just to be noticed, and his attitude is "Of course I am!" That will come back to bite him later.

Kurt notices that people haven't been harassing him, so he believes that the student populace has evolved to indifference over bullying. There's a very nice scene with Kurt and Karofsky. I've been unhappy with the way he was written for most of the season, but they are getting better at humanizing him (though this may be prelude to actually having him come out, which has all kinds of subtextual ramifications which are the topic for a completely different dissertation). After he escorts Kurt to class, Kurt suggest maybe the time will come soon that he can come out. Side note: I don't see why the gays on this show have to be so pushy. Nobody pushed Santana to come out (except Brittany, and that was a bit different). But everyone keeps telling Karofsky he's gay and should deal with it. Anyway, he started crying right then and I was so afraid he was going to come out right then and there and be like, "I just love you so much, Kurt! It got me so confused!" Thankfully that didn't happen. Instead, we got a sincere heartfelt apology for all the bullying. It was a nice, unexpected moment.

Finn picks up Quinn for prom, having taken Rachel's advice on exactly the corsage to get. Quinn is impressed. Sam is trying to deal with his poor man's prom; he's wearing a bolo tie, just like Springsteen did on the cover of Tunnel of Love. Jesse is not impressed since that was over 20 years ago. Jesse expresses his condolences over Sam's family situation. He says he knows how hard the job market is out there, claiming, "I couldn't even get a job as one of those singing waiters at Johnny Rockets." Now, Johnny Rockets is a '50s style burger joint. We used to have one up here in the mall (until the mall was remodeled it was basically driven out). I don't ever remember there being singing waiters. I wonder if there are any in Ohio. Jesse suggests the best job for himself would be to open a dance studio to help out show choirs. Mercedes wisely questions whether there is enough demand to keep him in business.

And then we get to prom and the show goes downhill. The surest sign of the apocalypse is the first song that the glee club performs: the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad internet meme, Rebecca Black's "Friday." If you've not seen it or heard of it, consider yourself lucky. It's just some terrible lyrics about nothing until a chorus that repeats the words "It's Friday!", "partyin'", and "fun" because that's what weekends are all about, right? The song is bad, and not really in a so bad it's good way. I hate Glee for doing it. I hate them for trying to jump on a cultural bandwagon for something that deserves no more viral attention. I hate them for in a way lending the song credibility: Glee will be around for a long time and in a decade when all this context is lost, people will think this was a legitimate pop song. Now, there's a level at which it can work. Doing prom means doing songs the kids know and like. So that's an excuse to do it for prom, I guess, though a thin one. But they do it so seriously! With choreography and everything. And not in an over-the-top brilliant way that points out the song's absurdity. That was done (and no one can top it) by Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. So in the end I have to sit through the guys singing this terrible song that tries to rhyme "bowl" with "cereal". And that horrible moment with "tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwarrrrrrds"? UGH!! I would so love to hear Stephen Sondheim rip it apart as an example of how NOT to write a song. Couldn't at least one person at prom roll their eyes at this? They are all into it? Really, I'd much rather have heard "Run, Joey, Run". It even prompts Brittany to say, "Best prom ever!" Is this supposed to be the writers being sardonic? We needed to Sue to add this to her list of "never again" songs. She didn't. And there's two minutes of my life I can't get back. Facetiously, why not just do the stinking Bed Intruder Song while they're at it.

Some dude is wearing a bluetooth headset in his ear at prom. Girl, you need to DUMP THAT PUNK!

Sam asks Mercedes to dance, just like she always wanted. Anyone think they're not going to end up together?

Sue catches Artie spiking the punch. So she takes him into a separate room to torture him with dental equipment until he reveals that Puck was behind it.

Meanwhile, Blaine is onstage singing with Tina and Brittany. It's nice that Tina gets to sing. Why doesn't she get to sing more? And for once Blaine is singing a song from a female perspective, with a lyric that says "since I was a little girl". ...I don't know whether this is a good thing or not. In the midst of it, Finn's jealousy of Rachel rears its ugly head. He thinks Jesse is getting to friendly in his dancing, so he picks a fight with him. Sue leaves Artie just in time to come and throw Finn and Jesse out of the prom. Quinn is thoroughly upset to have her Prom King candidate ousted.

The announcements for King and Queen come. Karofsky wins King. Santana assumes then that this means she wins Queen. But Principal Figgis announces that with an overwhelming majority of write-in votes, the winner is... Kurt. Kurt is embarrassed and leaves, with Blaine chasing after him. Several issues I have here. 1) This happens on TV all the time. You can't have a TV prom with a gay guy unless he ends up getting Prom Queen. 2) Why didn't Figgis look over the winners before announcing them? Or why did he read it and take it seriously? Doesn't he know that high school kids pull this sort of thing all the time? That they'll vote for losers or cast joke votes just to be jerks? Hasn't he seen Carrie? 3) Why should write-in votes be counted anyway? There was a weeks-long campaign going. Only those candidates should count, ESPECIALLY when the write-in winner is the BOY who not long ago left the school due to harrassment. Figgis should be fired for his incompetence (then again, maybe the writer of this episode should be for being so predictably television). 4) Did Karofsky win on his own merit, or was this a way to stick him with Kurt and thus the school has a big laugh at him too?

Kurt is crying in the hallway, hurt that he thought there was progress and it was nothing of the kind. Blaine says, "It was just a stupid joke," to which Kurt replies, "No it wasn't. All that hate, they were just too afraid to say it out loud so they did it by secret ballot." Sorry, I'm with Blaine here. It's people pulling a prank thinking they are being funny. It's a joke, a hurtful joke, but it's not some great announcement of their hatred of homosexuals. And didn't they warn Kurt? Didn't they say drawing attention to himself, showing up in a skirt was only going to backfire? But Kurt blames "their hate". Give me a break. Pull your head out of your kilted tuchus, Kurt and accept that if you are going to be loud and proud, you are going to be fair game. Not saying it's right. I mean, I think Carrie is the saddest movie I ever saw. But writing it off as just hateful homophobia on the part of the entire student body is nonsense.

Quinn and Rachel are in the bathroom and Quinn slaps Rachel for what she did to Finn. Quinn is thinking about leaving the school. Santana is mad she didn't win. It's all so much drama. Rachel even appreciates the drama of getting slapped in the face. Quinn is really terrified of what will happen when she doesn't have her looks anymore. Then Brittany basically implies that if Santana were open about being queer then she would have won. Um... what? We don't know who won outside of write-ins. No legitimate candidate won! This was a practical joke! We have no idea what Santana's standing was. Anyway, Kurt ends up doing the only thing he was ever really going to do: he goes back to the prom to get coronated.

Artie reveals that he didn't actually spike the punch; he just put lemonade in it. Sue has no reason to hold him, and lets him go.

Kurt returns to the prom, and we find that nobody has moved or done anything since our characters walked out. They were all just standing there for five minutes? Anyway, Kurt is crowned queen, and now it is time for him to dane with Karofsky. You can imagine how that is going to go over with Karofsky. And Kurt is a big stupid idiot who doesn't help matters by suggesting that this is the moment Karofsky should come out. Okay, leaving aside the fact that Karofsky himself said a few episodes back he wasn't sure he was gay (STOP telling other people they are gay, America! Is it THEIR sexuality or not??), is this the best thing to do after the supposedly hateful school just publicly humiliated you for being gay? You think the tough jock is going to not only dance with you but proclaim his gayness to the school? Yeah right. Just leave him alone, Kurt! IF he's gay, he'll deal with it on his own. And just to make this whole scene that much more embarrassing for everyone, including the viewer, the song they will dance to is Abba's "Dancing Queen". Get it? Dancing queen? Anyway, Karofsky walks out, and I can't blame him. So Blaine dances with Kurt instead.

And suddenly the girls are all happy again... when did THAT happen? Oh well, at least the little bit with the snapshots was nice.

But having said that, I was really ticked off at this episode. It started out so strong, but jumped off a cliff halfway through, making it one of the lesser episodes of this season. Not much in the way of musical performances, more didacticism buried under television cliché, and a sudden loss of the comedic wit of the first half. Really disappointing.

Favorite line: "He's so smart, I can't believe he flunked out of college!" Smitten and stupid Rachel, regarding Jesse St. James.

Songs in tonight's episode:
Rolling in the Deep
Isn't She Lovely?
Jar of Hearts
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You
Dancing Queen

Next episode: Jesse St. James joins the team to help coach for Nationals, and it doesn't go over well.

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