Welcome to the Convo, where ACG Blog contributors get together for discussion and analysis. Today’s topic is last night’s episode of “Glee,” “Duets.”
Last night’s episode of “Glee” featured solid performances, a smidgen of plot and a heaping helping of character development. The week’s theme is duets, in song and in love. Sam finally joins the glee club, as we knew he would, and instantly both Quinn and Kurt are gaping at his pillowy lips and floppy blonde Bieber hair. “Glee” sets up a little is-he-or-isn’t-he arc, and Kurt latches on out in the hallway. Kurt tells Sam pairing with him for the duet competition is his best chance of winning the grand prize (Line of the night courtesy of Santana: “Have you been to Breadsticks? They are legally required to never stop bringing you breadsticks.”). Sam reluctantly agrees, but Finn later accosts Kurt, saying it will kill the fledgling Sam’s reputation if they sing together.
Finn also proves he isn’t quite as dumb as he’s been portrayed (“What means this word, ‘bel-ieve’?”). He’s figured out Kurt really did have a crush on him last season (and still?) and although he’s sorry about what he said, he really wasn’t wrong thinking Kurt has feelings for him. Kurt, again, brushes off the accusations as homophobic, but we all know Finn is right — and now Kurt’s doing the same thing to Sam.
In a sudden and somewhat unbelievable change of heart, Rachel acknowledges that she’s been extra-selfish lately and wants instead to work for the good of the group. That’s still kind of selfish, Finn says, because if they all get to nationals, so does she, but that’s a selfishness I can live with. They set about to break up the Kurt-Sam duet, convinced that they need Sam to win and stay in the club, but Sam is too much of a gentleman to go back on his word with Kurt. I know, I know, a glee kid with principles, it’s unusual, but Sam seems to be a genuinely nice guy. Also, dorky, as he speaks Na’vi, and a little naïve, as he transferred from an all-male boarding school. But that’s what endears him, both to the audience and Quinn.
After Kurt talk with Burt (recovering nicely), who, like Finn, lays down some hard truth, Kurt dissolves his duet plans with Sam. Burt helped Kurt realize that, until he finds someone as strong and open as he, Kurt is going to have to go it alone. Okay, so he dumped Sam while he was in the school shower, but to Sam’s credit it was shower-awkward, not gay-awkward. So Sam teams up with the brooding Quinn, but when they almost kiss she freaks out, wishing to remain in power and on top, which apparently means no relationship. Somehow they get over it and do sing together, a nice rendition of Lucky,” but nothing crazy. Did they deserve to win the duet-off? No. That would be Mercedes and Santana’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (or possibly Tina and Mike Chang’s “Sing!” which certainly looked challenging).
Artie, meanwhile, managed to lose his virginity to Brittany, something he regretted the next day (How could you have predicted that when her foreplay includes, “Before our duet we’re gonna do it.”). Sex means a lot more to him than to her, and now what would have been special is tarnished. As he left, however, a lingering shot on Brittany indicated maybe she has developed feelings for Artie. This plot should have had more power and force, but it took an unsatisfying backseat to the rest of the drama. We’ll probably revisit it later, but for now the whole situation was unsatisfying.
Tina and Mike Chang were fighting. It was more dialogue than Mike Chang has spoken in total to date. Tina is sick of their dates consisting of dim sum with Mrs. Chang. He suggests Asian couples therapy. “Why does the couples therapy have to be Asian?” Tina mutters. He’s a dancer, not a singer, and they manage to find a song that capitalizes on both.
Sam and Quinn’s Breadsticks friends date turns into a real date when she finally pulls it out of him that he’s straight (followed by the sound of a million Gleeks sighing). Dianna Agron really put on a nice performance last night. In the next booth over, Brittany practices rolling a meatball across a plate with her nose. The episode ends, however, with Rachel and Kurt duetting “Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy.” Rachel, in another unselfish (but abstractedly selfish) way, shows Kurt that he’s not really alone — he has 12 friends who love him. It actually dovetails nicely with Chris Colfer’s recent video for the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” initiative. This episode also proved that, delicious as Sue Sylvester is, the show can carry itself without her menacing presence in every single episode.
I loved nearly everything about this episode. A tight plot, good musical numbers, hilarious dialogue, even some of that rare character development — this one had it all. Any quibbles I could raise should be understood as just that; on the whole, the episode was flawless.
The theme of the episode was “duets,” which in fact involved my biggest complaint about the episode. What kind of team coach is Will, to not realize that his glee club has an odd number of members, or to realize that and assign the kids to work in pairs anyway? While it led to a fairly interesting “solo duet” by Kurt, I found it very strange that Will would put one of his kids in that situation — or that Quinn, who was slated to not have a partner before Kurt dropped out of his duet with new kid Sam, didn’t seem at all fazed at all by this fact. Clearly it made the episode work, but it would have been nice to see what Quinn was going through when everyone paired up besides her.
Speaking of people pairing up with Quinn, I loved her with Sam — both their Jason Mraz duet and their not-a-date-just-kidding dinner at Breadsticks together. This was really Sam’s first full episode, and it was nice to see him join the glee club with little fanfare or drama. The writers scripted his character’s cheerful awkwardness and unclear sexuality just perfectly, and even if I’m still not convinced that Chord Overstreet is the actor’s real name, it was a delight to see him hitting on the head cheerleader in Na’vi. His adorable nerdishness was enough to make me forgive the cheesy sunglasses line, and I was legitimately touched by his blossoming romance with Quinn. Her character has been through a lot in the past season, and it’s nice to see her smiling again.
The biggest character development definitely came from ditzy cheerleader Brittany Pierce, however, who actually seemed to feel bad after she took Artie’s virginity to try to get back at her lover Santana. (Or rather, after Artie explained to her that that was a very callous thing for her to have done.) Other than the announcement that she doesn’t like to be compared to Britney Spears, we haven’t really seen any emotion from Brittany, so the shot of her standing alone and downcast in the hallway after Artie broke things off was a big step forward for her character. Of course, her deadpan one-liners and ridiculous actions — like pushing a meatball across a plate of spaghetti with her nose — were as top-notch as ever.
Rachel’s actions to sabotage the duet competition were another weakness of the episode, but I have to admit they were in character for her. Her first duet with Finn, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” was very well done, and I thought it was a shame they didn’t compete with that. Maybe if Will had told the students that they’d all be voting on the competition winners, Rachel and Finn wouldn’t have put so much effort into their bad and offensive performance. After all, they could have easily voted for someone else’s duet while still doing a good job on the assignment themselves. But I have to admit, I watched the episode thinking that Will would award the dinner coupons to the best duet performers of the week, and I was genuinely not sure who that would be. With the exception of Rachel and Finn, all of the glee club shined this week.
Except for Puck, who’s in jail. Who says this show doesn’t keep its viewers on their toes?