Oh Glee, if only you would just hurry up and either blossom into the amazing show I know you could be, or permanently succumb to all your worst tendencies and settle for being popular, but awful. At least if you chose the latter, I could finally give up on you in good conscience. As it is, the only thing you’re consistent at is being the most frustrating viewing experience currently on television. This week’s episode, “Never Been Kissed,” does nothing to change my overall disappointment with the season thus far.
At the start of the episode, we learn that Sam and Finn are having some trouble dealing with their girlfriends’ (Quinn and Rachel, respectively) reluctance to “put out,” so they come up with a method to put the brakes on their raging hormones when they’re in the moment: picture Coach Beiste in various compromising positions. Voila! No more sex drive. This method catches on with other members of the Glee Club, namely Tina and Mike, and soon both Sam and Tina end up calling out Beiste’s name while in the act of “heavy petting,” as the kids on this show like to call it. But because the characters on this show don’t have an ounce of logic among them, Mike and Quinn immediately jump to the least obvious conclusion: that their significant others are cheating on them with the football coach. So they both publicly confront Beiste about her new status as school hussy. Eventually, the bewildered coach demands that Will explain to her exactly what’s going on with his students, which he reluctantly does, hurting her feelings.
Beiste continues to be a problematic character for the show, which seems to want to have it both ways with her. She is continually presented as an object of ridicule (we’re treated to scenes of her dressed up as a cheerleader or a ballerina in the students’ various fantasies), only to allow the writers to then lecture the audience about how wrong it is that she’s such an object of ridicule.
Meanwhile, Kurt‘s constant bullying at the hands of the school’s resident jock population reaches a critical point, causing Kurt to question whether he can ever be happy attending McKinley High. He decides to explore other options, sneaking into Dalton Academy, a private boys school in the area (which has conveniently never been mentioned before), under the guise of doing some reconnaissance on their glee club, the Warblers, who will be New Directions’ competition for sectionals. At Dalton, Kurt immediately makes the acquaintance of Blaine (new series regular, Darren Criss, yummy), who also happens to be gay, and he and Kurt share a very sweet moment while the Warblers perform Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Afterward, Blaine and Kurt have a conversation about their shared experience of being bullied, during which it’s explained that Dalton Academy has a magical “zero tolerance” bullying policy which has made the school into a veritable utopia, where all students are truly equal. Uh huh. Blaine and the obviously smitten Kurt part ways, with Kurt being advised to have courage and stand up to his attacker.
I have to say, I’m a little disappointed with the climax to Kurt’s storyline, with the realization (courtesy of an unexpected kiss—Kurt’s first same-sex kiss, no less) that his tormentor is allegedly gay himself. The trope of the “bullying jock who’s secretly in the closet” has become a cliché at this point, and writer Brad Falchuk provides the easiest explanation for his hostility, when he might have used the show’s immense popularity to add something meaningful to the discussion about bullying and LGBT youth. I also take issue with Blaine and Kurt’s decision to confront the bully together, in public, which is entirely illogical, to say the least. Do they really expect him to come out to them on the spot? Also, why is it so easy for students to just leave their classes and wander around the campuses of other schools?
On the other hand, the fact that gay youth can turn on their TVs and find a scene like “Teenage Dream” on a major network is something of a miracle in itself.
But as unsatisfied as I am with the course of Kurt’s storyline, I’m horrified by the resolution to Coach Beiste’s. When she and Mr. Shue are having their heart-to-heart where she reveals that—just like Kurt—she has never been kissed, I cringed, hoping that the scene wouldn’t go where I feared it would. But this is Glee we’re talking about, so of course it does, and Will plants a tender kiss on Beiste’s lips. And honestly, it could have been a lot worse. Until, that is, Shue opens his mouth and announces “and now you’ve been kissed.” Gee, thanks, Will. Could you possibly have come across as any more of a condescending asshat? Seriously, does anyone like Mr. Shue at this point in the series?
The final storyline in this overstuffed episode deals with Puck making Artie into his community service project following his release from juvie. Puck promises to make Artie cool and gets him another date with Brittany, who Artie inexplicably decides he’s interested in again after dumping her a couple of episodes back. Other than that little detail, this storyline is fine, I guess. Though I’ve got no clue what the purpose is, exactly, for the pair to sing together while panhandling in the schoolyard.
I still haven’t mentioned the Glee Club’s assignment of the week: round two of their annual boys versus girls mashup competition. The boys are challenged to sing songs traditionally performed by women and vice versa. The assignment doesn’t really tie in to the rest of the episode at all, but at least the mashups themselves are pretty solid.
I had an opportunity to watch the episode a second time during the course of writing this recap, and I have to say that my opinion has softened a bit, overall. I still have a lot of the same major problems with it (a big one still being that damn kiss between Will and Beiste), but overall, everything plays a lot better the second time around. And I find that I don’t mind the little things, like the fact that the boys vs. girls competition is extraneous. In fact, I think I kinda liked that. It made it feel as if it was actually an assignment, on top of the kids’ lives outside of school, the way most of high school really works.
Next week’s episode, with guest star Gweneth Paltrow, does look like it could be a lot of fun, though. ::sigh:: I’m never going to be able to quit this show, am I?
Reviewed by ADAM