Welcome to the 20th recap of the fourth season of Glee, a show which combines the realism and authentic emotional adventures of 80’s after-school specials with the exuberance of spritely homosexual teenagers singing unfortunate cover songs. Season Four has taken us on a wild adventure through water flume rides, vacuum cleaners, gummy worm factories, Rite-Aid stockrooms and the innermost ring of hell and this week was no exception.
In honor of this being Episode 420, I got stoned before watching this show. Just kidding, I always get stoned before watching this show!
So, I’ve given up at commenting extensively on the realism or lack thereof on this show, I think they’ve made it explicitly clear that nothing about this world even attempts realism besides the emotional issue-of-the-week, which we’re somehow supposed to buy into despite it being stuffed into stories bursting with inaccuracies and enormous suspensions of disbelief and general all-around wackiness AND despite the fact that Glee never, ever, not ever, follows up on its issue-of-the-week, thus deflating its purpose before we give it a chance to blow up in the first place. Which isn’t realistic. Because issues don’t start and end in 42 minutes. Generally they consume season-long arcs, like the very-well-done bullying story with Kurt. Anyhow, onward with this long recap!
We open in the Glee room, where Ryder’s sexting with a 52-year-old retired conveyer belt salesman named katie_xoxo who’s been watching King of Queens on Netflix for three straight days. Ryder’s like, “when are we gonna meet?” and she’s all like, “IDK,” and Fake Quinn’s all like “ew.”
Mr. Shue bounds in to announce that he’s been spying on their Regionals competition, the Hoosierdaddies (har) and that said Hoosierdaddies have a powerhouse singer who sits at pianos belting the national anthem for funsies. Therefore this week’s theme will be “Stadium Songs.”
But then the lights go out in the school and thus Mr. Shue must re-configure his master plan. Fuck Stadium Songs, these kids will now be tackling “Unplugged Week”!
Cut to the Hallowed Hallways of McKinley High, which currently resemble a coal mine, where Ryder’s complaining to New Puck that katie_xoxo still won’t meet up with him. New Puck says he should cut this shit out, but Ryder insists katie_xoxo knows his deepest/darkest secrets, like secrets even New Puck doesn’t know, maybe even secrets the writers didn’t know about before writing this episode. New Puck advises Ryder Bieber-Strong to share his deep dark secrets with people he already knows.
We then lace up our flower-print Doc Martens, hop aboard a runaway train and slingshot cross-country to the Barbie Dreamhouse Bushwick Loft in New York, New York, where Lady Hummel and The New Rachel have summoned Santana to sit in a chair so they can unleash a can of judgement upon her divine existence.
Lady Hummel and The New Rachel, suddenly epic prudes, think Santana’s throwing her life away and sorely disapprove of Santana’s job at Coyote Ugly, using super sex-negative talk like “it’s bad enough that you let horny tourists grope you for tips” and scolding her for being a bouncer at a lesbian beer garden and a cage dancer at a girlbar, which’s ludicrous because at least half their classmates at Fake Julliard are doing the same goddamn thing, ladies gotta eat, welcome to the universe, little children of Ohio!
Also — and I say this as a person who’s been on Santana’s side of this conversation, but with slightly different context — this kind of judgery always gets my goat because it implies that jobs wherein sexual contact/sexuality are explicitly part of the job are somehow more demeaning or disempowering to women than jobs wherein sexual contact/sexuality isn’t explicitly part of the job. Sexism is an intrinsic element of most jobs, and I felt more violated by the insidious sexual harassment and blatant sexism of my pervy restaurant managers and I felt more disempowered by the boy’s club of publishing than I ever did in a job where the sexual element was out on the table from the get-go and priced accordingly.
Also being a cage dancer at a lesbian club is an awesome job! That’s where Whitney Mixter finds most of her girlfriends.
Kurt and The New Rachel steamroll Santana’s valid point that she needs to work to make money to live, unlike them apparently, suggesting that she pursue her talents of singing and dancing. Even though she has three jobs. Two of which. Involve. Dancing. ANYHOO!
The New Rachel and Santana thus read a teleplay from Girls out loud to each other, with both ladies channeling Hannah in both mannerisms and speech:
Santana: “Well maybe I don’t wanna be in Funny Girl, okay? Or be a singing waiter at the Fires Island Pancake Shack. So why don’t you just stop trying to force all of your creaky old-time Broadway dreams onto my amazingly awesome dream.”
Rachel: “And what’s that.”
Santana: “I am trying to figure that out.”
Girls-channeling aside, it’s a vulnerable and authentic moment for Santana, who so rarely likes to admit that she’s not ten steps ahead of everybody else, including herself. It was easier in high school to seem that way, but the whole “post-high-school plans” thing has been eroding her steely exterior for over a year now. Which is part of growing up, I guess.
Rachel and Kurt holler at Santana to remove the chair she found on the sidewalk, to which she probably responds:
We then wrap our feet in moleskin and our bodies in full-body Spanx and our heads in elephant condoms and fly back to Lima, Ohio, home to 97 law enforcement officials, where Mr. Shue’s lighting up my life with kerosene lamps. Sam performs “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers, which coincidentally is my new name for Kurt and Rachel’s new judgey attitude.
Everybody sings along and has lots of feelings. Then it’s Artie’s turn, but Artie freaks about performing without his synth, but Sam points out Artie’s class privilege because Sam had to entertain Tiny Tim with two sticks and a bongo drum when his parents couldn’t pay the power bill. Also, Sam’s pissed that Artie was texting during his song.
Sam: “Everybody is so focused on being plugged in to the Twitterverse and the blogosphere that we don’t appreciate what’s actually right in front of us. And I think that’s just sad and lame.”
(as is using the word “lame”) (to artie, especially)
We then shift into wolves and run rapidly through the forests and streams all the way to New York, New York, where it appears Kurt is still employed at Vogue, although he seemingly hasn’t spoken to his boss since Christmas and has been “making his own schedule” all this time.
Sarah Jessica Parker asks how Burt’s doing, because she remembered the cancer thing (I didn’t), and he says his Dad’s doing fine. She then asks Kurt if he’d like to sub in as Celebrity Wranger for the New York City Ballet Educational Programs Superdance Danceshow Gala which is The Social Event of The Year. She says his friends can help out, because Glee.
We then hop in our convertibles and zippity-zoom back to Lima, Ohio, where Sue Sylvester’s leading a sex riot aerobics class at 23 Hour Fitness.
Her class is chock-full of lithe professional dancers in coordinated outfits…
…and also Blaine! Who Sue mistook for an Israeli Lesbian.
Also, this girl:
After class, Blaine tells Sue that Roz wants the Cheerios to remove their ribs and that everybody at school’s still shaken up from the gun the gun the gun and they need Sue back at McKinley.
We then teleport back to the Barbie Bushwick Dreamhouse Loft, where Kurt proudly announces that they’re going to the New York City Ballet Superdance Tutu Gala as a family, inspiring sweet ballet-related memories and corresponding flashbacks from The New Rachel & Kurt.
Santana’s not wooed by the trip down memory lane:
Santana: “And I skipped all that crap to study the timeless art of crunk.”
Kurt quickly convinces Santana to tag along to the gala by promising a fancy gown from the Vogue archival closets.
Back in The Glee Room, everybody’s got too many feelings, especially Ryder Bieber-Strong. He’s gonna sing Everybody Hurts, an R.E.M song that brings me back to my bathroom circa 1994, where I’d listen to this song on repeat while making lists of all the reasons I hated myself. It was awesome.
Ryder’s unplugged emotions are spliced in with slow-mo flashbacks of various Glee kids getting slushied, a hammy-handed editorial decision so typical of Glee in the worst way.
At the song’s conclusion, Ryder Bieber-Strong admits his true intention has been to “unplug his feelings” and let them all know a thing before katie_xoxo spills his beans all over school. Here goes!
Ryder: “When I was 11, I was molested by my baby-sitter. She just walked in on me in the shower and she touched me.”
Sam: “Wait hold on did you just say “she”?”
Artie: “Like, as in a girl, Like a teenage girl?”
Ryder: “Yeah, she was like, 17, 18.”
Sam: “Dude, you were 11 and some hot 18-year-old plays with your junk, I would’ve killed for that.”
Artie: “Why are you ashamed of this?”
Oh, I don’t know. Probably because of shitty people like you saying shitty things like what you just said! That being said — this is out of character for Sam and Artie. I don’t believe they’d actually act like this. I get that this is commentary on the “double standard,” but commentary only works if you comment on it. Instead, it’s just thrown out there and never put into its appropriate context.
Ryder: “I don’t know, it kinda messed me up a bit. Like I have trouble trusting girls because of it, I think.”
Mr. Shue: “Guys, this is not something to high-five about. Ryder, I’m sorry but I’m obligated to report it.”
Ryder: “Whatever, she already got locked up, she was caught doing it to some other kid.”
Okay WHAT. What. Really. That’s all Mr. Shue’s got to offer the conversation? “This is not something to high-five about.” Why not, Mr. Shue? I think the children in this classroom would love for their teacher to explain why Sam and Artie’s comments are horrifically out of line. Furthermore, I get that he says the thing about reportage so we can get the exposition about Ryder’s sitter in the clanker, but that seems like a conversation best had after class. The conversation best had in class might be about why your Glee kids are all dicknails. Maybe before “I’m sorry but I’m obligated to report it” he could say “I’m sorry that that happened to you and I’m here if you need emotional support.” Anything? I’m going to throw a Rock Salt Slushie at Mr.Shue by the end of this season for real.
Sam: “I’m sorry but why is that a crime? I mean it’s every teenage boy’s fantasy, I mean there’s like 50 80’s movies about it —”
Tina: “Guys, this is so uncool.”
Marley: “His truth is his truth, not yours.”
Can somebody let the Glee writers know that being sexually molested or being transgender is not actually an example of a person’s “truth” but rather an example of a fact about that person? Thanks.
Ryder: “You know know what it’s cool. Uh, the guys are right. I don’t know what I was thinking. Um, I’m like the luckiest guy in here so… you know, yeah.”
Artie: “I mean, kid clearly has superior game.”
Fake Quinn, who’s been making compassionate faces in Ryder’s direction all episode, looks serious and removed and maybe even touched. But she doesn’t look surprised.
This scene is a Glee double-header, ’cause not only does the show treat the issue with complete disrespect, the characters do. Generally the characters exhibit everyday disregard and disrespect of their classmates and then summon giant wells of empathy and sentimentality for the issue-of-the-week but not today!
We then cut to Breadsticks, home of the $12.95 Buy One Take One dinner special, where Fake Quinn’s taking Ryder on a not-date. She’s broken up with Old Puck.
Fake Quinn: “I don’t know why I have such terrible luck with guys, it’s probably because I come on really strong and pretend to be all slutty and then I freeze up right away and get distant and drop weird hints that my vagina has teeth.”
But Fake Quinn’s not here for Little Vadge of Horrors, she’s here to tell Ryder that he’s not alone —
Fake Quinn: “It may have seemed like no one else in that room understood what you went through but I did.”
Fake Quinn says when she was in 6th grade she was molested by her friend Julie’s older brother after a sleepover, and when she told her parents, they called Julie’s parents, and Julie told everybody to stop taking to Fake Quinn and so she switched schools. Stories like this always hit twice as hard when they come from a girl who’s typically so impenetrable and mean, and by that I mean I teared up. It was touching and I hope they follow up on this.
Fake Quinn: “I understand what it feels like to have something like that happen to you and to feel like nobody understands. I guess I just wanted you to know that I do.”
[Ryder takes her hand]
We then cut jarringly to a Stompified rendition of ‘We Will Rock You,” which involves garbage cans and lamps and New Puck tap-dancing on a deflated silver balloon. Is the power still off at this school? What’s going on.
Meanwhile at McKinley’s football stadium, Becky begs Sue to return to McKinley but Sue says she’s totes over it, even though Becky’s got some gnarly Coach Roz stories.
Sue’s over all the “knocked-up sluts” and “lipstick lesbians” of Lima because they’re all little girls, like in the song “Little Girls” that Sue’s about to sing.
At the song’s conclusion, Sue affirms to Becky that she’s got no regrets about leaving McKinley. This leaves Becky patently heartbroken, but Sue doesn’t seem to notice Becky’s little heart breaking into tiny pieces. I don’t buy that. Sue’s always aware of Becky’s emotional state. Sue sacrificed her reputation to save Becky and now she won’t even look her in the eye?
Two episodes ago Becky was so upset about her future that she brought a gun to school, and Sue won’t even give her a hug? What the fuck?
We traverse the endless jacuzzi of mid-America until landing at the New York City Superdanceshow, where celebrity wranglers Kurt, Rachel and Santana are hard at work. SJP asks Santana how she feels about Cherry Jones and Santana’s like, “whatever,” when she should be like “YES PLEASE HOOK ME UP WITH NYC POWER LESBIANS I NEED IN THAT SCENE” because duh.
SJP invites them to watch from the wings with her but Kurt says Santana’s not interested, she’s only there for the gown and the swag bag. SJP “dosen’t buy it.” She says all little girls wanted to be ballerinas one day.
Santana’s face shifts into that look she gets when she’s about to be serious and speak from her true heart, when vulnerability transforms her traditional confidence into something reluctant and real.
Santana: “I actually did take ballet classes. My abuela put me in them when I was little, because I was such a tomboy and it really pissed my Dad off. I only took a few lessons, but it helped me uh, escape a little, you know? It was the first time I danced. I felt safe there and not different. Part of something. Beautiful.”
This bit segues us into a really beautiful and blessedly long performance of “At the Ballet” with Sarah Jessica Parker, The New Rachel, Lady Hummel and Santana Lopez, which is really the only part of this entire fucking episode I really needed to see.
Santana says that she loves dancing but doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She should go to college, then she’ll really have no idea what to do with her life.
Back in the dark murky depths of McKinley High School, Roz marches Becky to Figgins’ office to turn her in for making fart noises. When Roz dashes, Becky admits the false flatulence was merely a ploy to get escorted to the office. I guess this means she’s gonna confess about the gun now.
At last, after what must be at least three days without power — which is 1.5 days longer than I went without power during The Great Blackout of 2003, a situation which undoubtedly posed a greater challenge to the power company than the mylar balloon causing McKinley’s blackout but whatever, it’s Glee — the lights are on!
The Glee Clubbers assemble in the auditorium and New Puck’s eager to ditch the unplugs in favor of plugging in some shit and rocking out with the help of electricity, but Mr. Shue wants to drive home “the power of singing a capella” because at the end of the day our voices are the only instruments that truly matter.
Cut to The William McKinley George W Bush Memorial Library, where Ryder’s chatting it up with his main squeeze katie_xoxo, who wants to know why Ryder’s even still talking to her.
Ryder: “This thing we are doing, whatever it is, it’s working for me.”
katie_xoxo: “I get it. It’s working for me too.”
After katie_xoxo promises to “ping” Ryder back in a minute, Fake Quinn strolls by to invite him on a date to Subway for some phallic sandwiches, but he turns her down in favor of…
Fake Quinn disapproves:
Fake Quinn: “She’s a projection. She’s whatever you want her to be. Why do you think you think you get along so well. You have no real intimacy with this person. Stop embarrassing yourself and come have lunch with me.”
Ryder says maybe they can go out after he figures out who katie_xoxo is. Except katie_xoxo is obviously Fake Quinn, so he should just get off his ass and stuff some meatballs and bacon and homogenized avocado product in his facehole.
We then board Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons and fly all the way back to New York, New York, where Santana’s decided to add a little more dancing into her life by enrolling at Fake Julliard Adjacent. She shows up late and sasses off to the teacher, who announces that this class won’t help any of them get into Fake Julliard. The only way to get into Fake Julliard is to ambush Whoopi Goldberg or perform a moving ballad at the Winter Showcase, DUH.
Santana snaps that she doesn’t need a $30k/year education to teach her something she already rocks at so the dance teacher wants to know what she’s doing there at all:
Santana: “I love to dance. I’m an artist, but I sort of lost touch with that part of myself lately and so I’m here to do some reintroducing.”
Then Little Baby Santana shows up and asks Santana never to forget her again and they hug.
This all makes sense, truly it does, because your first year out of high school is that time when you must assemble and analyze all of your interests in hopes of pinpointing the one thing that is truly you, that is absolutely your calling, and so often that means trying to remember what we liked to do as children. Because when you get older, “what we liked to do” is so often shadowed by “what we think other people want us to do” and you’re not sure if you can trust that or not.
We end as we always do these days: in the auditorium for a rousing group number, throughout which Fake Quinn gives Ryder Bieber-Strong some really intense looks of love/longing. I’m into it. What’s the shipper name? I’ll totally board.
The most important part of this scene is that we get almost half a second of lesbian action:
Anyhow, all my complaining aside, I do think this episode gamely executed a broad and emotionally consistent theme and did a surprisingly adept job at making the Ohio and New York stories work together without overlapping. The New York parts were good. There were some touching scenes this week and only a few jarring tonal shifts. So, there’s that. I guess. (But of course it’s all relative.)
Next week on Glee, everybody wears yellow!