S2E20: For the first time in I’m not sure how long, I can say that I actually enjoyed last night’s Glee. Sure it had a few glaring flaws – I’m looking at you, “Friday” cover and Jesse St. James’ general presence – but what it did do was manage to capture the innocent excitement and emotion that accompany your first prom. It’s something that Glee hasn’t managed to do well often this season: make us feel something.
Granted, there is one big problem that this and every other episode this season seems to forget: the glee kids are supposed to be losers. Right? Aren’t they supposed to be facing adversity and seeking refuge in Glee club? Half of the club shouldn’t be running for Prom court and being interviewed by an A.V. club crew in the halls. They should be dodging slushies and hoping no one throws tomatoes when Figgins asks them to replace Air Supply as the Prom band. In season one, we felt their pain as they struggled against the raging waters of the average American high school, but now, the only struggle they face seems to be a budget for Nationals that Sue Sylvester occasionally screws with. That linchpin element is gone and that’s why even though I truly enjoyed the McKinley High Prom festivities, I still can’t say the show’s won me back.
“Oh, William, I’m devastated, positively horny with grief.” –Sue
Remember back when Sue was actually terrifying? Now they just throw in lines like this one, which I’ll admit made me spit out my Diet Dr. Pepper, but the magic of Sue Sylvester is somehow gone. That being said, she’s powerless to stop Figgins when he replaces his favorite band with the Glee club for the Prom, offering up a much-needed $400 to Schue’s kids.
This paycheck forces even those who’d decided against Prom to attend – but hey, free tickets, right? This is no problem for the happy folks like Lauren and Puck, Finn and Quinn, Mike and Tina, Santana and Brittany, and even Rachel, but there are a few whose roads to the Prom aren’t quite as easy. First up is Mercedes. I really enjoyed this moment because I was an awkward girl in high school and thus without a Prom date come that fateful Saturday. The girl without a date is essential to any Prom episode, but (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) Mercedes’ admission that while it doesn’t usually matter, Prom is the one time she feels like she should be treated like a princess was such a genuine moment. And that’s high school’s fault, but it’s true and Glee made me remember what that feels like. Yeah, Glee made me feel. Imagine that.
Of course, Rachel has a plan to pool her money with Mercedes so they can take Sam to Prom in a triple date – but not “the gross kind” – and all is well for them. For Artie, things aren’t quite as simple. He’s still devastated over losing Brittany and he plans a romantic Prom proposal to get her back. He sings Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” with the help of the other Glee guys and thankfully Mercedes points out that the song is about a baby. Even so, it’s cute and it hearkens back to the innocence of the first season; plus, Artie didn’t rap! Unfortunately, Brittany is a stronger woman that I’d pinned her as and she stands by her decision to dump Artie for calling her “stupid.” (Though Artie does get a dance with Brit by the end, botched spiking-of-the-punch-bowl, dental torture and all, because it's Prom Y'ALL!)
“There’s simply nothing off the rack that’s suitable for the young, fashionable man in Ohio.” -Kurt
Duh, buddy. Kurt’s also having a hard time with Prom. Blaine was once the victim of a hate crime when he tried to take his crush, the only other gay man at Dalton, to the Sadie Hawkins dance, so he backs up Burt’s worries when Kurt sashays out in his Prom kilt; he’s worried that Kurt’s trying to draw too much attention to himself and the result could be worse than a little bullying. Kurt of course decides he’s doing Prom his way no matter what. For once, I don’t think he’s being a brat, I think he’s being remarkably brave, though I was worried about what some bigot idiots at McKinley might do.
Luckily, Santana’s plan to nab Prom queen to have her watch-group, The Bullywhips, protect Kurt makes us a little more at ease until the Prom. It also gives a chance for Kurt and Karovsky to spend a bit of time together. That moment where Kurt expresses compassion for Karovsky’s pain about staying in the closet and Karovsky expresses regret for treating Kurt so badly was a little out of left field, but it worked. With everyone else feeling so much during a week that has an entire high school at the height of stress and emotion, it made sense.
“I don’t know why or what a recession is, but it’s my understanding we’re in one.” –Jesse
Why, why, why is Jesse St. James back? Why. Okay, I get that he’s the catalyst for the trouble these next three episodes, from setting off Finn’s jealousy to what the previews show will be him acting as a consultant for the glee club right before Nationals, but he’s so damn obnoxious. I get that they want him to be stupid and the idea that he thought USC would get someone to take his math and science like the school did when he was in Vocal Adrenaline was a bit funny, but the idiotic exchange between him and Rachel at the Breadstix Prom dinner was deplorable.
Of course, the worst part about Jesse being back was that he and Rachel sang Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” together. First of all, people need to stop covering Adele – her voice is half the reason the songs are so amazing. (I’ll admit that John Legend’s cover was great, but that’s because he’s another artist whose style and substance depends wholly on his fantastic voice.) Anyway, Jesse not only hijacks Rachel’s performance, but he sings this heart-wrenching song like he’s trying to win a medal at nationals, not like someone who knows what the lyrics really mean (and considering how dumb he is, he probably doesn’t).
Of course, at the Prom, Jesse gets grabby with Rachel – who by the way, is totally into it; dumb girl – and this sets Finn off. They fight and, boom, they’re ejected from the Prom. Of course, Rachel’s desperate (but beautiful) performance of “Jar of Hearts” probably helped fuel his anger, but we’ll let that lie for now.
“Kate Middleton, eat your heart out.” –Kurt
So, at the Prom we see a few Glee club performances including the awful and far-too-long rendition of “Friday” – even Rebecca Black doesn’t want to hear that song anymore, so I’ll spare you the video evidence. Luckily Blaine offers to “jam” with the New Directions (NERD) and rescues us from that song with “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You.” Of course, this is appropriately when the Jesse/Finn fight breaks out.
Finally, the Prom court is announced. Karovsky is elected King and to everyone’s surprise – even mine – Kurt is elected Prom Queen. For a second I thought they were going to ignore the social implications and have him run up there happily, but no, they did this right. Kurt is rightfully hurt and devastated because he just got to the point where he thought his school was accepting of his lifestyle. Of course, his real emotional turmoil is peppered with shots of Santana and Quinn crying over losing and a shot of Quinn slapping Rachel for no reason other than that it was something compelling to plop into a preview commercial. Santana is upset no one likes her and Quinn worries what she’ll do when her looks fade and she has to work for something. This is all just petty high school drama compared to Kurt’s feelings.
Of course, because Blaine is amazing he makes Kurt feel better and he decides to accept the crown with pride and rub it in his classmates’ faces. He does just that and receives riotous applause for it, which is unrealistic but this is TV Prom so I’ll allow it. Of course, Karovsky can’t handle the pressure of having the King and Queen dance with Kurt and flees so Blaine takes over (and we all say "awwwwww") just as Santana and Mercedes start singing “Dancing Queen.” Normally, that song terrifies me and I doubt high school students would pick it, but it was perfect for this moment. It’s almost insulting when it starts, much like Kurt’s write-in election, but by the end, everyone’s dancing and enjoying the Prom together.
It certainly wasn’t a full-scale turn-around, but it was lovely on most accounts and for once, Glee gave us an episode with some serious heart.