Tuesday, May 10, 2011

GLEE: "Rumours"

Glee does Fleetwood Mac! A whole episode devoted to one album and a good one at that! I'm so happy!!! As both the album title and the episode title suggest, the story will deal with rumors.

We open with Brittany's internet talk show, Fondue For Two. It's an amusing scene where she has a guest on and they talk about things while eating fondue. There are a lot of funny asides about how fondue isn't great to eat and questioning why people did it in the '70s. This scene also made me wonder whether Rachel was still posting YouTube videos of herself ever day (remember that in the pilot?). It's basically a gossip session, where Brittany says that Santana plays for two teams. She doesn't mean that she's lesbian, but that of course is how we all take it, and rumors begin buzzing around the school, which makes Santana very unhappy.

Sue meets with Terri in a coffee shop to plan ways to bring down the glee club. Sue is dressed as David Bowie, trying to be incognito. Why the heck does Sue think she can blend in in silly outfits? I thought the Grinch thing was bad enough, but she really seems to think this is working! She even changes outfits halfway through the scene. It's very unrealistic and cartoonish; the kind of thing you'd expect from Scrubs in its later years (like how JD can fit inside a backpack). The second disguise is Ann Coulter, which leads to a few funny moments.

Kristen Chenoweth's character, April Rhodes is back. Why? We finally got rid of Holly Holiday! Why must yet another guest star/ex-lover of Will's show up on this show? I want more Jessalyn Gilsig! Anyway, her all-white production of The Wiz was a flop, and now she's planning a Broadway musical based on her life. She wants Will to come be involved with it. He agrees to at least help her with it right now. Apparently this was all Terri's plot to get Will to leave the group.

Meanwhile, Sue's idea is to use the school newspaper to spread malicious rumors. The paper was shut down years ago, but now has been reinstated. Will talks about how good the school newspaper used to be. The paper is called the Muckraker. While it's an appropriate enough title for what it's doing now, can any school paper be considered good or credible with a name like Muckraker? What faculty member okayed that years ago?

Early on, the way they wrote Becky was kind of cute. She wasn't exploited, but people looked out for her and she wanted to be like them. It was endearing. But now she's more and more just Sue's lacky and acts mean. Like the Telly to Sue's Oscar the Grouch. And it's slowly getting to a level I can't take anymore. When Becky's going around spreading vicious rumors, that's NOT fun or cute. That's just bad. Are we to take it she doesn't know any better? And if so, then Sue is exploiting a handicapped child, and that is all kinds of wrong. Stop it, Glee.

Will's assignment for the group is to perform interpretations of the songs on Fleetwood Mac's classic Rumours album. I am so happy, as I've said. I hope this episode gets more kids into this album and good music, the same way Freaks and Geeks brought out the joy of the Dead's American Beauty.

And the first song to be performed was an obvious choice, "Dreams". It's been covered by The Corrs, it's a great song, and was okay on the show. Unfortunately, they had Chenoweth sing it with Mr. Shue and it's really not in her range or her style. The performance wasn't bad, and I thought it was a reasonable arrangement, but Kristen Chenoweth is no Stevie Nicks.

Following in the vane of the Rachel/Quinn fight back in "Original Song", there's a very nice scene between Artie and Brittany in this episode. Artie wants to know what her relationship is with Santana, because he's somewhat threatened and concerned she'll dump him. This turns into an argument, as Artie tries to tell her that Santana has been manipulating her. When he asks if she's cheating on him, she says no. But then follows that with "I can't cheat with her, she's a girl. Fooling around with her isn't cheating, it's just friends talking with their tongues super close." Santana told her this, among a few other things. So Brittany's bisexuality with Santana also comes down to Santana taking advantage of her. With her new status as "closet lesbian", might this be construed as an unflattering portrayal of lesbians? Doesn't it fit the old stereotype of the predatory lesbian? Anyway, Artie is genuinely concerned, but it comes out as "why are you so stupid?" Well, that is too much for Brittany. Despite putting it on her T-shirt last episode, she is hurt by being called stupid; especially because Artie was the only person who never called her that. I loved this scene not only for saying things about the Santana/Brittany relationship that needed to be said, but because each character was written from an understandable viewpoint, which is the best kind of dramatic writing. You totally understand how Brittany is hurt. But you also get where Artie is coming from. I also thought it was funny how Artie described himself as someone who "wears saddle shoes on legs that don't work." Buck up, Artie. You know who else wears saddle shoes on legs that don't work? A muppet named Bert.

The fight segues into a wonderfully surreal little musical number. Artie sings "Never Going Back Again," with Puck backing him up on guitar. Then as the song progresses, Sam joins in on his guitar. They just trail behind him as he wheels around the school. Then there's another guitar. And suddenly we cut to the auditorium and there are nine guys all playing guitars to accompany him. It was an interesting way to build the song, and I really liked the arrangement with all the guitars. A nice image and a nice performance.

Meanwhile, something's going on with Sam. Rachel asked him to the prom, be he refused, saying he wasn't going. Rachel and Finn take it on themselves to go on a stakeout to find out what's going on. They follow him to a motel where he meets Kurt. The next day, he comes to school wearing Kurt's jacket. Rumors circulate that Sam might be gay and that Kurt is cheating on Blaine. This is an interesting development, since the season began with the idea Sam might be gay. We were told then that he wasn't. And he's not, as we'll soon discover. But I thought that was a sensible rumor.

During the stakeout, Rachel says, "This is just like Hart to Hart." It's a funny reference, but I'm wondering whether Rachel would really make it. I don't think anyone of her generation even knows what Hart to Hart is. That show went off the air long before she was even born. I suppose it's possible that she watched reruns with her dads in syndication, but that is suspect to me too. I'm often surprised that this generation doesn't know who Punky Brewster is. And that series both in its original run and syndicated reruns is more recent than Hart to Hart. Maybe she's been watching the DVDs? Anyway, it smacks of writers making references for themselves.

Santana sings a song for Brittany. If you know the Rumours album at all, then you know it was going to be "Songbird." I don't know why she constantly has to sing these girl on girl love songs to Brittany. But more than that, I find it a tad hypocritical that she can sing about the girl she likes, but Blaine, Kurt and the Warblers have never sung about a boy. Even when they did that song in the Gap to a boy, it was about a girl. The song was fine, but I noticed Santana's voice cracked during it. Not the best performance. But it's a good song. Brittany suggests Santana come on Fondue For Two and come out to the internet world to put an end to the rumors around the school. Santana ultimately backs out.

The hurtful things in the Muckraker don't go unnoticed, but it doesn't stop these guys from continuing to print it. And who's on the paper? Basically the same group that was in the heckling club (with a few more added). So I guess Ms. Holiday's lecture about hateful words went in one ear and out the other. Or they just don't consider gossip the same thing.

Another night of staking out the motel finds Quinn meeting with Sam. This concerns Finn. He wonders if she is cheating on him. Quinn saw him and Rachel and wonders the same about him. They don't know if they can trust each other, and this leads into a wonderful duet of "I Don't Wanna Know." This might have been my favorite of the episode. You can read the sarcasm and "acting" on their faces during performance. I like that they just don't seem into it, which is something that's surprisingly never happened during any assigned song on this show yet.

There's something that's been confusing me for some time, and I wasn't sure I had it right until this episode. Mr. Shue says that Quinn has no say over who pairs up for Nationals because, "Vocal Adrenaline doesn't need any help from us." That makes it clear that Vocal Adrenaline is competition for them at Nationals. ...WHY? I don't understand how this competition works. Vocal Adrenaline is a local school group. One they competed against at last year's regionals. This tells me they are in the same region. So was there more than one "regional" competition site? Why would more than one school from the same region be going to Nationals? Or shouldn't there at least be one more level before that, like States? It all makes no sense to me and seems concocted so that they had time to win Regionals before facing off with their nemesis again. Plus the whole Kurt at Dalton story. I want Ryan Murphy and the writing team to really work out the logic behind these competitions because to me it is unlikely that Vocal Adrenaline should be there with New Directions.

April and Will do a little performance of an original song from her new Broadway show about herself. I have no idea what the song is titled, so I'm calling it "My Name is April Rhodes." It's delightfully overwrought and silly, recalling last year's storyline about Will and April. It gets Will seriously considering leaving the school for Broadway. Ultimately Will decides he can't abandon the kids like that when they need to prepare for Nationals. But can I just ask why he can't do this over the summer? Heck, Nationals are in New York. Why can't he do a few performances while he's there? Or at least help at rehearsals.

Rachel performs her "favorite Fleetwood Mac song", "Go Your Own Way." Hey, that's my favorite too!

The truth about Sam is finally revealed when he's pressured by the group to explain what's going on. Turns out his father lost his job, they lost their home, and they've been living in that motel. Kurt was giving him some clothes, and Quinn was helping him watch his younger siblings. Now everyone feels like jerks. I like this story because it brings the recession home to this group. Living in a motel stinks. I was also effected by this bit having recently been forced out of my own home. I don't live in a motel, but were it not for a few lucky happenings I probably would be, or worse. I like Sam's siblings; they're cute kids. So the money issue is why Sam isn't going to the prom. Though this also feels like Saved By the Bell to me, and I hope the next episode doesn't have a "Zack and Kelly's Prom" moment where Sam shows up in a sweatshirt and dances with Quinn outside the gym.

And Sam's siblings get to join the glee club in their final Fleetwood Mac performance. I knew they were saving this one for last: "Don't Stop." The theme song of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. And it's still a great song. After the bummer of a bombshell, they had to end on a positive note, didn't they?

I was very pleased for the most part with the episode. I thought there were some strong dramatic scenes and some nice bits of absurd observational humor, like the fondue thing. Most of all it was surprising to see a theme show actually work well. I was so glad they devoted a show not just to one group but to one album. It was really nicely done. Just a shame they couldn't work "Second Hand News" in anywhere, and that Terri once again didn't get much to do.

Songs in tonight's episode:
Fondue For Two theme song
Never Going Back Again
The Chain
I Don't Wanna Know
My Name is April Rhodes
Go Your Own Way
Don't Stop

Next episode: I'm bummed that I'm still an episode behind in these postings. Anyway, the next episode is the Junior Prom. There's a lot to like and a lot to dislike. But all in due time.

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