Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

I've decided to "re-run" what I wrote last Memorial Day, because I feel like something should be said and I don't think I can top myself.

I know everyone sees this as a day to party or see a movie or open the pool, but try to give some thought today about the dead. And not just the obvious ones. Yes we remember those who stormed Normandy or fell in 'Nam. We remember those who fought in the Pacific. We remember all those Americans who killed each other at Gettysburg and Antietam. But let's remember ALL of them. Remember the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the ones in all other military conflicts abroad that don't earn the memorable "american war" status. Remember the ones in Korea. Remember the ones in World War I. Remember those in the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-American War. Remember all who fell at the Alamo. Remember the American Revolution beyond the tea parties and committees; beyond frozen wooden teeth crossing the Delaware. Remember the men. Remember the women. Remember the white, the black, the hispanic, the American indian, the Asian, the arab, the gay, the straight, the old and the all-too-young. Remember those who died on the ground and those who died in the air. Those who fled sinking ships and those who went down with them. Those who stood against the British, and those who fought beside them. Remember the medics who tended the wounded, even at the cost of their own lives. Remember those who served and never saw combat, but have died with the distinction of serving our country however they could in whatever thankless job in time of crisis. Remember the typists, clerks and translators. Remember the recruiters and technicians. Remember the people at home who suffered loss, and the ones they wept for. Remember the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the minutemen, the militias, the National Guard. Remember them, and never forget.

"War must be, while we defend ourselves against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." --
Lord of the Rings, book IV, chapter 5

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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good move, CBS!

Recently, Katie Couric announced she was stepping down from anchoring CBS Evening News. It was about time. She was never really a fit there, and I don't think audiences really bought her as a serious anchor. She was a daytime host, and that's where she belongs. Aside from the highly public Sarah Palin interview, she passed completely off America's radar; nobody cared about her. When she would do pieces on 60 Minutes, you could tell there was just a different energy, like a kid trying to play with the big boys. The marketing folks at CBS seem to have had a hard time with her too, working overtime to promote the show. She was put in suits, and glasses, and posed at computers. "Right, Katie, now start typing! Make it look like you're hard at work!" And I never bought it. So I have been curious to see who CBS would replace her with.

Well, I saw a commercial today on CBS that I thought was an ad for 60 Minutes, but was in fact a promo for the new Evening News host: Scott Pelley. Now, it's a well-made promo regardless; classy and everything that the Couric promos were not. No need to try fancy tricks. It's just Pelley at the desk. And I thought this was a wonderful choice. For years, Scott Pelley has been somewhat carrying 60 Minutes and doing many of its best segments as the old guard continues to age or dies off. While I disagree with him politcally, and thus with the bias that sometimes creeps its head into his pieces, Scott has my respect for being a guy of integrity and a good journalist. He knows what he's doing. What this will mean for the future of 60 Minutes, I don't know (but they'd be smart to keep Couric out of it). Probably Pelley will be present in a more limited capacity, and Steve Kroft will carry the show. But this is a big move for CBS, and a great way to rectify a mistake. What do you think of the decision?

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.

Monday, May 9, 2011

GLEE: "Born This Way"

This episode was aired in a 90-minute slot, though the actual show was only ten or twelve minutes longer than normal. So while it was nice to have an extended episode, it also meant there were so many commercial breaks. Scene, commercial break. Song, commercial break. It was very distracting.

The group was put into dance boot camp (or "booty camp") to improve their dancing for Nationals. This had nothing to do with the rest of the episode, but I hope they deliver on that promise. During this dance training, Finn accidently hits Rachel in the face and breaks her nose. That was pretty funny, and carries the thread that Finn can't dance, which will continue in this episode. ...Although he seemed to do fine in Acafellas and at his mom's wedding...

Rachel's doctor looks at her nose and asks if she'd like rhinoplasty, since he's going to be fixing the nose anyway. He says that nose jobs are "like a rite of passage for Jewish girls", which I found hilarious. He also suggests that it might improve her singing voice. So Rachel begins contemplating whether or not to shrink her schnoz. I thought this story was handled really well, even though we the audience know that she was never going to go through with it. That would entail the actress actually getting rhinoplasty, which would not happen.

The nose issue leads Mr. Shue to tackle the whole body image issue. The show has mostly avoided this, except in the matter of weight a couple times. And I'm glad they kept it broad. Everyone has something they don't like about themselves. Finn says he doesn't, and Santana
suggests his weird nipples (hee hee). So Shue tells the group to learn to embrace that part of themselves they don't like. They are to sing a song about it, and boil it down to a word that Emma will then silk-screen onto a T-shirt. They will then all wear their T-shirts during a performance of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". It starts out as a nice enough idea, but the specifics are going to cause complications later on, so I want to be clear on exactly how Mr. Shue phrases the assignment:
"I'm telling you, the thing you would most like to change about yourself is the most interesting part of you."
and later Emma describes the T-shirt: "We will then use this letter press to write a word or phrase that best describes the thing about you that you're the most ashamed of, or you would like to change but you can't because you were born that way."
As an example, Will had Emma do a shirt for herself. He wanted her to write OCD to help her come to grips with her disorder and recognize she has a problem. ...But that's not really the assignment, is it? At least not how they described it above. Her OCD is something he DOES want her to change because it's supposedly harming her.

What Ms. Pillsbury does put on her shirt is the word Ginger. She talks about how she is accepting being a redhead. While the moment is light and silly, and Will is disappointed, I was actually very glad the show did this. One of the more common threads of hatred based on looks these days is the "ginger hating". To write off redheads as "gingers" or "daywalkers" or other terminology that makes them seem like a subspecies of monsters. Yes, some of them are not the most appealing to look at. But that's true of everyone. And this is another line of bullying that's lead to teen suicides and such. Generally nice people have no problem with this kind of nomenclature. It's used all over Facebook, propagated on South Park and I'm glad the series addressed it, if only briefly.

Meanwhile, all the girls want to be Prom Queen. Santana wants it, but doesn't know how to beat Quinn. Then there's this awkward moment when she realizes Karofsky might be gay. She now refers to herself as a "closet lesbian" (again, I don't buy it), and suddenly she has "amazing gaydar" and spots Karofsky right away. No way. Firstly, I don't buy "gaydar" anyway. But the show so far has always avoided it. I love that Kurt doesn't seem to have one, and suspected Sam (was wrong) then wondered about all the Warblers. Now Santana has one? And not only that, she's been gay for like two weeks and suddenly everything is clear? GIVE ME A BREAK. She decides to join forces with Karofsky. If she can get him to apologize and get Kurt to come back to the school, she would be a hero to the glee club and get their votes for queen. She tells Karofsky that they will pretend to be dating so that neither of them is "outed", and make nice to Kurt. Though to sell this she talks about "beards", that is, gay people who date to appear straight. "Like the Roosevelts," says Santana. Hold the phone! No matter what correspondence might have been found from Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR was NOT a beard. It might be funny to a writer, but today's teen who has no clue about American history is going to take it seriously. They were cousins in love. Deal with it.

We also learn that Lauren Zizes was a pageant toddler. That's an interesting backstory for her. And it allows the show to take a quick stab at the whole toddlers in tiaras thing. She hasn't worn a tiara since, and thus also desperately wants to be Prom Queen. She makes it her mission to destroy Quinn and run on the "I'm just like you" angle.

Quinn goes with Rachel to her doctor because Rachel essentially wants Quinn's nose. They take some photographs to do some mock-ups of what Rachel's new nose might look like. This leads into a duet. The girls sing "Unpretty" mashed with "I Feel Pretty" and I really enjoyed it. For the arrangement, and the vocals, but also because it went back to a more stylized visual look for the song. It segued into their performing for the group. I like when the show does this kind of thing of which they used to do more. Also, some of the stuff Quinn sings hints at later revelations in the episode. Just a really strong song sequence overall.

When the show comes back from commercial, there's a scene between Quinn and Finn. I love the way they shot it, from the lockers' point of view. Besides the fact that it's just different, it puts each character into their own little box, signifying how the argument puts them in separate places. It was very creative.

Finn and Mike Chang perform "I Gotta Be Me." I really enjoyed this one as well. The conceit was basically Mike Change "teaching" Finn to dance during the number. It was brilliant.

Tina meanwhile has been wearing blue contact lenses because she doesn't like her eye color. Mike calls her a "self-hating Asian" and she argues there are no Asian sex symbols and she's just trying to be fashionable. First, I would argue that's not true. Maybe there are few Asian-American sex symbols, but to say there are no Asian sex symbols can't be true. What about Lucy Liu? Anyway, she decides she should be that first sex symbol herself. She's decided to live by the philosophy "Be the change you want to see in the world." This is one of those things people think sounds great and makes good inspirational poster copy, but is terribly impractical. I want to see all kinds of change in the world, but I'm constantly told it's never going to happen and I should just get over myself. If I just decide to "be" how I want things, it
doesn't get me anywhere. Nor does one person being a certain way generally have any effect on the global society. It's overreaching idealism.

I'm still confused about Will. He's trying to make Emma accept that she has OCD, but he wants her to change because of it. He wants her to get past it. But that's not the same thing at all. He started this whole thing talking about what OTHERS want to change about themselves but shouldn't. Now he's talking about what others DON'T want to change but SHOULD. He goes on by trying to make her eat unwashed fruit. This is torture and it's not funny. "I'm just trying to help you get better." For some reason, this notion is prevalent throughout our world and I'm sick of it. Just expose someone to something hard enough and they'll get over it? No, that's torture. You see it on talk shows where guests have weird phobias, and then are tormented before an audience on national TV. Stop it.

The episode keeps wanting at this point to say you should never change your body and love who you are. Plastic surgery is wrong. But what about the Soleil Moon Frye scenario? For those who don't know, Ms. Frye played Punky Brewster in the 1980s. As a young girl she developed rather large breasts. She was unable to get acting work past Punky for awhile because she looked too young for older roles, but her breasts made her look to old for younger roles. Add to that the back pain, etc. and ultimately Frye had breast reduction surgery. It's a well known story. Was she wrong to do that? I mean, I always thought she was cute, but I understand her reasoning. She's still a pretty woman. Though I wish she'd stop straightening her hair and let it be the way it was when she was younger. The straight black hair thing looks weird on her. But that's just me and my opinion. It's her hair. My point though is that she didn't do it out of mere vanity, and there has to be an exception to this "you can't change yourself" rule. And they will
get to that later in this episode.

Karofsky agrees to Santana's plan, and thus the bullying arc comes full circle. The glee club is vocal against Karofsky trying to get Kurt back and they don't trust him. But Principal Figgis tells them to hear him out while he apologized. Karofsky says he didn't mean to be so awful to Kurt. He says Santana showed him stuff on the internet about teen suicides due to bullying (they've finally mentioned this on the show, which we all know was a primary reason for this entire story arc), and he says it scared him straight (so to speak). Now, did Santana really do this? We don't know. But it's possible. If so, it may be that Karofsky really has had some sort of epiphany. And to make sure what happened with Kurt never happens again, Santana and Karofsky have begun a new program: the Bullywhips. They are like a student police squad that stops bullying when they see it start. Figgis says that incidents of bullying have gone down since they began (though how much raw data can there be if they just started?). Several points to make about this: first, wasn't Sue Sylvester going to do exactly that before Kurt left? Second, giving students that kind of power can be dangerous. Third, it won't stop cyber-bullying, unless Bullywhips police known bullies' Facebook pages and such. And really, what kind of a name is that? I get that it's a pun on bullwhip, but let's just say that if Karofsky wants to appear straight, walking the halls in a beret and calling himself a Bullywhip isn't doing him any favors.

Kurt and his dad meet with Karofksy and his. Burt Hummel is suspicious of the whole thing. Mr. Karofsky makes the point that he didn't side with his son in the last meeting, but that this new contrite David is more the boy he raised. It's a fair point. Kurt asks to speak with Karofsky alone. He asks what the angle is. Karofsky reveals that it was Santana's idea to make her Prom Queen. But Karofksy also seems more mellow than he has, and I'm glad because I liked the one we saw in "Sue Sylvester Shuffle" who wasn't a one-dimensional character. Kurt agrees to come back to the school, but also says they have to start a chapter of PFLAG at the school. Really? Why aren't the Bullywhips enough? Why does it HAVE to be solely about the whole gay angle yet again? ...And why is there a public school at this point that doesn't have a PFLAG chapter?
You'd think outspoken Kurt would have done that a long time ago. Before these moments, Kurt tells his father that he believes Karofsky is sincere. But does he? We are never really left with any certainty, because he was suspicious there was an angle. I hope we get to see a normal Karofsky now.

There was a funny bit when Kurt found out about Santana's plan and called her "a Latina Eve Harrington." When Karofsky says, "Who?" Kurt says, "Honestly, if you're going to be gay, you have got to know the reference!" Karofsky counters, "I'm not even sure I am gay." And that's a very important piece here. I'm glad they went there, but I'm also afraid the show only means it in the temporary Blaine sort of way. I very much want the show to decide he is straight because it's just too cute otherwise. I didn't like the "closeted gay being the gay-bashing bully" angle this season. Though after Santana suddenly decided she was gay, and Blaine confirmed it for
himself, I'm worried. Already in an earlier scene Santana wrote Karofsky's future, calling him a "late in life gay" who will only fully come out in his middle age after he's married. Is it so bad to think maybe he's just a teenager with confused feelings who is not actually gay? I was at least glad the show shied away from the "don't you tell anyone I'm gay" Karofsky and gave us the "I'm not really sure" more honest Karofsky.

So now, with the Warblers having served their purpose and lost Regionals, Kurt has no reason to be at Dalton, and the show moves him back to McKinley. And therefore, I was unfortunately proven right. The entire Karfosky bullying arc was just a deus ex machina to get Kurt away from the school for artificial drama at Regionals. Once that function was served, all these threads were wrapped up neatly and everything's back to normal. I hate transparent writing like that.

Kurt's transfer is official at noon. So is it like a half-day or something? Why noon that day? And furthermore, why is the entire group from Dalton there to say goodbye? Don't they have school? Or maybe it's a weekend? Also on the subject of Kurt's fashion sense, I didn't understand his outfit in this scene. He's wearing these black biker gloves and a top hat. In the same ensemble. I'm sorry, even Tim Gunn would tell him it doesn't work.

Kurt saying, "I say old bean, shall we ride our Harleys now, what what?"

The Warblers perform for Kurt in the McKinley courtyard. I would like to know why there is a piano out there. I mean, there's drums and other instruments too, so I guess this was planned as a surprise for Kurt, but moving a whole piano outside? The song they sing is "Somewhere Only We Know", proving once and for all that the Warblers must listen to the same satellite radio station that plays in my local Dunkin' Donuts. Pretty much every song they've done I hear twice a week in there (just today it was "Misery"). I wonder if they'll ever do any matchbox twenty.

I guess, based on the theme of this episode, the show has finally come down on the side that gays are indeed "born that way". I have this itchy thing in my brain that objects to that kind of simple determinism. The kind that says that because your parents were drunks you are predisposed to be an alcoholic too (basically, you're an alcoholic before you ever take a drink), or that your soul is stained with original sin. I have a real problem with what I'm going to call biological destiny as a construct. At least, in it's "this is always the case" form. And so far in the episode everything else has been a physical trait, with the exception of Emma's OCD (which she suggests she wasn't born with, but developed early) and Finn's dancing. Which also brings up a question: was Finn born that way? And if not, should he be putting that on his shirt? Because the assignment was to pick something you can't change because you were born that way. But he can be a better dancer, right? Or was he born with some sort of dyspraxia which makes him incapable of dancing as well as others? ...Do you see what a slippery slope this whole "acceptance" theme becomes?

While I'm thinking of it, I think it's interesting for the episode to focus on acceptance when the glee club had such a hard time accepting Karofsky in this episode. Oh! And that argues yet another point! What if Karofsky the bully was "born that way"? What if he was genetically predisposed to be a sociopath or something? Do we just let him embrace that, accept it and try to avoid him? See why this sort of liberal pop philosophy doesn't work in reality??

With Kurt back in the school, he performs a little "I'm glad to be back" number for the glee club. It's from the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical version of Sunset Boulevard, which is just perfect. This choice was really smart and appropriate as it lyrically expresses everything Kurt wants to say, but is also exactly the sort of song a person like Kurt would pick. Add to that the role being originated by Patti LuPone, who the character adores, and you have another great number. The one odd thing is how it starts with Kurt walking through the auditorium. There's a set there for something, but we don't know what. It's like waves, and students are painting it, but it's also moving. Why are they making the waves move when they are trying to paint?

One of the most interesting dramatic revelations on this show occurs in this episode when Lauren uncovers something about Quinn. I always thought that Quinn was an odd, TV-sounding name, and we learn that it is not her real name! Her real name is Lucy. Quinn is her middle name. There's a whole backstory for Quinn that's revealed here. She was a fat, ugly middle-school kid named Lucy who all the children would tease. It tormented her so much that finally she begged her father to let her change her appearance. She got a nose job (hence her perfect nose), got super athletic and dropped the weight (there's also a nod to the cheerleaders' awful liquid diet from last season) and changed her name. And Quinn doesn't regret any of it, because now she's beautiful and people like her. It's a very moving element, and much more organic to the story, which is why in this case the bullying theme works. ...Though part of me was annoyed that everything once again came down to bullies, it made an interesting point. The photograph we saw of young Lucy was a little much. It felt to me like it had been badly Photoshopped. Is this a real picture of a young Diana? In the photo, her hair looked red or brown. Are we to believe Quinn's blonde hair is a dye-job? Because I've never believed that, and I think Kurt would have spotted it. That part bothered me, but otherwise I thought it was a very interesting choice. While there's a sense of ret-con behind it -- why would a Bible-thumber like her father allow his daughter plastic surgery? -- it never felt like it wasn't her character. Santana's bisexuality or whatever for me came out of left field. This backstory on the other hand seems organic. Quinn, the popular cheerleader to whom popularity was everything, fits this model and I liked that.

Lauren Zizes really hits below the belt by putting up posters all over the school with the young Lucy on them. Quinn is understandably traumatized. I feel really bad for her. Also, I think we can definitely agree that Lauren's actions here TOTALLY qualify as bullying! Where the heck are the Bullywhips??

The gang still wants to convince Rachel not to change her nose. They continually invoke the name of Barbra Streisand to make their point. This ultimately leads to them using a flash mob at the mall to sell her on embracing her nose. The show did this sort of thing once before last year, but it was a dream. This time it's real.

Emma's OCD is really bucking the whole "born this way, embrace it" theme as I've said before. But it's good for the character to be doing more about her anxieties on her own. So far the series has only shown her make progress through the love of a man. Now we see her in professional counseling. These scenes are difficult, and I think were written well to reflect both characters in the room. In the end, it is suggested Emma start medicating to keep her impulses under control.

Lauren had hoped to bring Quinn down a peg, show that her perfection was a fraud, and thus earn votes for the Zizes Prom Queen campaign. I'm glad that her plan backfired splendidly (though I knew it would). The regular girls who were on Lauren's side now decide to vote for Quinn since she's not only beautiful, but also is really one of them deep down. I'm also glad Zizes apologized to Quinn for what she did to her.

There's a scene between Brittany and Santana where Brittany has made her T-shirt for her. It says "Lebanese" though she means lesbian. I'm not going to repeat everything I've said about this storyline. But Santana is still hurt that Brittany is with Artie.

Finally we come to the capper of the end of the show, with the performance of "Born This Way". Some of their shirts are brilliant (Sam's is Trouty Mouth), others are not so much. For example, Brittany's is funny, saying "I'm With Stoopid" with an arrow pointing up to herself. ...But was she born stupid? Is that something she can't change? I guess it's okay to embrace yourself, but it's not quite how things were set out at the episode's start. Also, Kurt's shirt says "Likes Boys". Well, we know that. But this seems just a way to further advertise sexual orientation in the mix (and as an element of the song), and not part of the assignment. Again to quote Emma, "The thing you're most ashamed of, or would like to change but you can't." Does that fit Kurt to you? Because Kurt has never seemed to me to be ashamed of his homosexuality. Now, Santana in this regard actually does fit the assignment, and we see her sitting in the auditorium wearing the "Lebanese" shirt she had previously rejected, though she doesn't join the performance. I also don't get Mercedes' shirt. It reads "No Weave!" Now, is she proclaiming that she has no weave and is mad about it? Or mad that she was born without a weave and thus wears one? Why does it have an exclamation point? I get that it wants to ride on the whole issue of black hair that's in the popular mindsight now, but I'm not sure where it stands in relation to it. Though I guess nice to see it wasn't about her size.

The performance of the song itself was alright. It was better Gaga than the previous Gaga episode, though I don't exactly like that a whole episode was written around a song that just came out. Considering how television works, this was probably penned immediately on the song's release. As I've said before, riding on what's hot now is a slippery slope. Anyone remember the irrelevance that was TaTu some years ago? It's not a fabulous song, but works enough for the theme. I also think that the show's version helped the song's weaknesses. Santana's malaprop shirt makes the mention of Lebanese in the song carry more weight, and also overshadow the "orient" lyric that follows. That lyric has caused some recent controversy for Gaga, as people find the term oriental offensive these days. Personally, I've never really understood why, since its more appropriate to me to the region than Asian which covers a whole continent. I mean, Saudis are "Asian", right? So the Lebanese thing (Lebanese! Also Asian!) does take focus off that. But also, the lyric works on its own for Tina and her storyline about embracing her Asian eyes.

In the end, Emma finally does appear in a T-shirt that reads "OCD", and as I've iterated above, I really think that goes against the point.

Oh, and Rachel doesn't get the nose job. Obviously.

On the whole, this was a mostly solid episode if not fantastic. The longer running time helped provide more good to even out the predictable or aggravating. I applaud some of the more interesting visuals, the final coffin nail in the stupid Karofsky storyline, and the Quinn story. While the episode thematically was all over the place, well-intentioned but unfocused, the song choices and performances were strong. I don't think there was one that I really hated, which is rare for this season. Actually, the flash mob wasn't the best, but wasn't awful. And no Sue Sylvester at all. I guess having her berate everyone goes against the love fest of this episode. Though I didn't exactly miss her. Still, that meant delaying Terri's return until next episode.

Songs in tonight's episode:
I Feel Pretty/Unpretty
I Gotta Be Me
Somewhere Only We Know
As If We Never Said Goodbye
Barbra Streisand
Born This Way

Next episode: I'll be finally caught up, and just in time when I review "Rumours". Terri's back, and Glee takes on Fleetwood Mac! Now THAT's what I'm talking about!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GLEE: "Night of Neglect"

The glee club needs money badly for their trip to New York. Well, of course they do. Maybe if they hadn't spent all that money on the Rocky Horror show that never happened... And wasn't Nationals the plan from the beginning? Why hasn't the group done more to raise money throughout the year? At least Finn did that kissing booth thing.

Not only that, but the academic team, the Brainiacs (consisting of Artie, Mike Chang, Tina and ...Brittany) won their match and can't go to finals because there's no money. Mike is ticked off that nobody in the group even cares about the Brainiacs. So Mr. Shue decides they will be raising money to help the Brainiacs TOO. How does he suggest raising money? Selling salt water taffy. Sure, try that. Why don't they sell marijuana-laced cupcakes like last year?

Holly Holiday tells Mr. Shue that the candy idea is stupid. She suggests a fundraising night of singing. And because the clubs are so neglected, she suggests a theme of neglected artists. A "night of neglect". I was intrigued by this idea because focusing on neglected artists is a great thing for this show.

Sunshine finally returns. I was wrong about how many episodes it would take, but she finally reappeared. She wants to sing at the benefit because she considers herself a neglected artist, since she's tiny and Asian. New Directions is worried about her being a spy (sure, but Blaine you all trust implicitly...), but recognize her Twitter fan base will get butts in the seats and bring in more money.

Meanwhile Sue Sylvester has had it with the group and decides to bring them down. So she forms her own league of supervillains. First, the drama coach who was fired last year. Second, the coach of Vocal Adrenaline. Third, Shue's ex-wife, Terri! I'm so glad Terri's back! Sue gives herself the code name General Zod. Amusing enough. I was hoping she'd say "Kneel before Zod" at some point, but never did.

Mercedes knows just which neglected artist she wants to use: Aretha Franklin. Hold it, Aretha neglected? The first one they pick? She's called on it, saying the Queen of Soul is not neglected, but Mercedes counters that she is by the glee club. Great, so by that logic just about anyone from before 1990 is a neglected artist. By that logic, can we PLEASE get some Dylan up in this joint?

Sunshine auditions for the group with a performance of "All By Myself". It's fine. It's so weird how she loses her accent when she sings. But now I'm really confused; is this a focus on neglected ARTISTS, or songs about being neglected?

Emma has regressed to her OCD ways because Carl left her. Well, of course he did. The show doesn't want them together, that was just a complication. I liked Stamos on the show though.

Sue sends the Vocal Adrenaline guy to seduce Holly Holiday, thus rattling Mr. Shue. It doesn't work. Meanwhile, the gay ex-coach forms a heckling club at Sue's behest. Several students are called in (tricked into thinking they are getting homework help) to be hecklers at the event. These include a football player, Jacob Ben Israel and Becky. Really? Becky? Isn't that warped?

The Vocal Adrenaline guy pulls Sunshine from performing at the Night of Neglect. This means all her Twitter people won't show up. Everyone is worried.

During all of this Mercedes has been playing diva and acting insane. She wants the final solo spot, but it goes to Rachel. Lauren suggests that for Mercedes to get her way, she has to act like a selfish pop star, demanding impossible things. So she demands humidifiers and a puppy to dry her hands on. She demands green M&Ms. The club thinks it's nuts.

Finally, the big night has arrived and can I just say it looks like nobody came. Did they even advertise this thing? At first I thought I was watching a dress rehearsal because the only people there were the hecklers and Kurt. Seriously, nobody else showed up? Figgis couldn't attend a school event? No other faculty or family members? I call shenanigans on that. That is RIDICULOUS. They had a good turn out last year with the night with Kristen Chenoweth. So there's no reason to have under 10 people in attendance. Why even HAVE the thing at that point? They were just banking on Sunshine, who pulled out at the last minute? Puck rightly suggests calling it off, but Finn reminds them, "What's that saying? The show's gotta go all over the place."

The only folks who did show up are Kurt and Blaine. Of course, they have to drag Kurt back into this show. I was enjoying an episode without Warbler interruption for once (note they didn't bring any of their Warbler friends). In the hallway, Santana, Kurt and Blaine run into Karofsky. First of all, what time of day is this? Is it just before the event or are they just hanging around all afternoon? Is Karofsky going? Was he staying late after school?? Anyway, Santana stands up to Karofsky on Kurt's behalf, and it's sort of implicit that her new-found lesbianism is behind some of that. Funny how nobody is cowering when there are three of them. I found this scene aggravating because first of all Karofsky is just there for this scene for no reason. Secondly, it's like subtextually he's defeated by a queer army.

So the performance is upon us. Mercedes is hiding in her car, refusing to do anything until her demands are met. Tina is the first person to sing. She comes out to do her solo and is heckled badly, till she cries. I like when Tina gets to sing on the show, and I hate that it's always interrupted. So she's crying backstage from all the booing and such. Seriously, why is NOBODY else in attendance?

Mr. Shue tries to quiet the hecklers with taffy. Next up is Mike Chang dancing. He's performing to a Jack Johnson song. This entire sequence is so totally perfect. I love that of all the group, Mike Chang always totally seems to "get it" when everyone else doesn't. Jack Johnson is a perfect neglected artist choice. Just last week for a display at work I suggested Jack Johnson and the person said, "Who?" Mike's routine is a lot of fun. It shows a high Gene Kelly influence, to the point where he's dancing with a mop. Contemporizing Gene Kelly? Loved it.

So intermission comes quickly (since Mercedes refuses to perform), and Holly has a chat with the student hecklers. The whole scene becomes a didactic speech about how easy it is to insult someone's work in this culture of anonymous internet heckling. That's right, she plays the internet card. Apparently, the show wants us to believe that posting how much last night's episode of "Hellcats" was awful is the same as shouting boos at people during live performance. While I guess there's a tiny correlation, the scene was terribly preachy. It felt less truly motivated by drama and more like Ryan Murphy felt he hadn't covered cyber-bullying in all his previous "bullying is bad" hours of this show (am I bullying you right now, Mr. Murphy? How about what you had to say about the Kings of Leon??).

Rachel goes out to talk to Mercedes. She tells Mercedes about the kind of woman Aretha Franklin was and how she got the name Queen of Soul. She praises her singing ability and says acting like a diva doesn't make you one, basically. Mercedes gives up on the act, which she never really wanted to pull anyway, and agrees to come back. Rachel is going to let her sing the final number.

But first, the next singer up is... Miss Holly Holiday. That's right, she gets to sing too. And at this point there is pretty much nobody in the audience since some of the heckler kids have gone home and Sue is talking to her heckling coach. It's basically just Will, which makes the scene less subtle (I'm sure Blaine and Kurt are there too). She's essentially singing the song direct to Will. It's all about how she's not the kind of person to stay tied down and stuff. I am so over her, but I'm glad this seems to indicate she'll be leaving. I also didn't think much of this performance. Paltrow sounded kind of nasally to me, and I didn't like they way she said "turning tables".

Any subtlety of the scene with her singing right to Will about how she can't stay was quashed when she outright says so later. She is leaving and they break up (hooray!). But then she has to say, "Didn't you hear my song?" Argh!! I hate when the show feels like it has to connect the dots for us! Trust your audience!

Finally, we get to see Mercedes perform her Aretha song. She is dressed a lot like Aretha. Love the dress on her, and the flower in her hair. But wait... suddenly there's a gospel choir singing back-up for her! Why is New Directions not singing the back-up? Because they have to watch her sing. But what a shoddy event this was! They never planned a group number, or back-up vocals at all? They do not deserve to call themselves an award-winning glee club. Mercedes' performance is very good. I just don't understand where all these people came from. We never saw them waiting in the wings. Did they pay to attend? Wouldn't it have been civil for these 25 singers to have been sitting in the audience cheering? WHAT THAT HECK?? That's just bad writing, staging something solely for effect that has no logic behind it.

As expected, they raised no money. But luckily, the Aretha song moved Pink Dagger, our heckling friend, and so he decided to give them the money they need. It's drug money, of course. Isn't it always him and his drugs that bails them out in situations like this? But at least the event had that one positive to it; they got the money after all.

Sue is of course terribly angry with her team, and turns to the one member she hasn't used yet: Terri, who she calls Honey Badger. I was really disappointed to be teased with her appearance, only to have her disappear for the rest of the episode. I hope that her next appearance is worth it.

What a waste of an episode. A benefit concert that is nothing of the sort. Terri's appearance, but no real Terri appearance. More stinking Holly Holiday (though at least she's gone now). And to top it off, a theme of neglected artists that mostly wasn't. How hard is it to come up with neglected artists? What about Donovan, The Corrs, They Might Be Giants, Don McLean, Evanescence, Bree Sharp, I don't know. The list goes on. When we consider artists neglected by this show, it gets even longer. On that front, I was pretty disappointed. Though I give them credit for Tina doing a song by Lykke Li.

Songs in tonight's episode:
All By Myself
I Follow Rivers
Bubble Toes
Turning Tables
Ain't No Way

Favorite line: "It's drug money, but it's actually a fantastic way to launder it."

Next episode: Good, 90 minutes. Bad, more Lady Gaga.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama and Osama

The glorious day long been hoped for in America has finally come. Public Enemy #1 Osama Bin Laden is dead.

For all the mistakes made over the past ten years strategically, something has finally happened. Something to show to the American people who ask why we have still been fighting. Our primary "war on terror" objective has at last been achieved.

I commend President Obama for giving the kill order, especially considering his previous foreign policy regarding Pakistan. I think this will also help vindicate President Bush for coming after him in the first place. The people can argue about the decisions made in the interim ten years, but I don't think the victory belongs to any one administration.

If anything, rather than give credit to the Commander in Chief, let's celebrate the military men who did the job! Congratulations and sincerest thanks to the servicemen who pulled off the operation with no American casualties. And since I have family ties to the Navy, I'm particularly pleased he was brought down by Navy SEALs.

So many of our prior foreign conflicts have been left without any sense of resolution. The death of Bin Laden has given us a sense of closure here. Whatever strategically foolish decisions were made at the top, Hussein is dead, Bin Laden is dead, and America rejoices.

Memorial Day is just a few weeks away. I am so glad that this Memorial Day present came early. May it be a reminder to all those in this country to think of the veterans and soldiers in their lives, and renew their faith in the military's ability to get the job done.