Welcome to the 22nd recap of the fourth season of Glee, a show about man-eating penguins, protein smoothies, lawnmowers and earnest teenagers hoping to become the next O-Town. This was the last episode of the season, praise Teen Jesus, so let’s jump right in to this giant vat of lard and secrets!
We open at “MIT,” where all the men dress like dapper butch queers and are intrigued by Brittany’s near-perfect SAT score despite her .02 Grade Point Average. They gave her a math test and she failed the math test.
Despite this failure, however, Brittany did manage to doodle a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper in crayon (does she just carry crayons with her everywhere?) (yes) during her test-taking period and these numbers turn out to be like the formula to the meaning of life or an equation for weapons of mass distraction or a mass calculator determining the likelihood that Kristen Stewart is gay or an exact algorithm of how to write something on the internet without getting yelled at. It’s called The Brittany Code and it’s “the most important scientific breakthrough of the 21st century.”
Thus the MIT guys would like to offer her “a unique proposition.” It’s probably an offer she can’t refuse.
We then type formulas into a giant machine that transports us all the way from the Old North Bridge back to good ol’ Lima, Ohio, home of my favorite Cracker Barrel restaurant in the entire g-damn world. Ryder’s all ryled up about katie_xoxo, STILL.
In the Glee Room, Mr. Shue tells the kids that Regionals will be hosted at McKinley because who cares, and therefore they’ve got a “home court advantage, YO!” (-Artie). Mr. Shue emotes that the children are in for “the time of their lives” and also it’s time to “get real.” Oh! One more thing: it’s their “moment.” Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this!
Then everybody is asked to take a moment of silence to think of all the people who died today from gun violence JUST KIDDING to think about Rachel’s audition for Funny Girl?
We then take a midnight train to Georgia and a noon-time plane to New York City, where Rachel’s auditioning for Funny Girl… with a Celine Dion song? Don’t Broadway people hate Celine Dion, like as a rule? Shouldn’t she be singing like… a funny song?
At the end of the number, Rachel is crying, probably because listening to Celine Dion can be an intensely painful experience.
We then abruptly hightail it back to Lima, Ohio, where Blaine and Sam are roaming the hallowed halls while Blaine talks crazy about proposing to Kurt, which Sam points out is crazy.
Blaine says that “people like him” have been hearing “it’s not time” for hundreds of years, so he has to marry Kurt. Unfortunately he doesn’t mean “people who are 17 fucking years old,” as he should, but “gay people.”
Cut to the Glee Club Room, where Sugar and Teen Jesus suddenly show up, to great acclaim and zero explanation, inspiring the children to erupt into orgasmic cheers!
Then Brittany shows up with her rolly suitcase and wants to know why they’re doing Marley’s song and not her song, “My Cup.”
Brittany’s got some bitchery to dole out:
Brittany: “Let me break it down: nobody in this musty choir room compares to my megawatt star power. Blaine, you’re shorter than your average lawn gnome, Joe, you look like a Yucatan spider monkey. Tina is… you know, she’s… Tina.”
Sam rushes to her aid frontstage, also requesting that she stop texting him because it’s rude, but she has some important texts to send:
Sam: “Did you just break up with me? By a text?”
Brittany: “Yeah. As fascinated as I am by your down-filled pillow-soft lips that are ten times too big for your face, I really miss my sweet sweet lady kisses.”
SWEET SWEET LADY KISSES? Ah yes, we miss those too. I love it when ladies become lesbians and then leave the show! Maybe Brit-Brit will go to that magic place in the sky with that lady from Law & Order. But first Brit-Brit has to light her Cheerios uniform on fire and coat the hallway with her crayon-drawn list of 95 reasons she’s quitting the Cheerios.
Cut to yet another scene in the Glee Club Room, where the children are sitting peacefully with their sheet music when Ryder Bieber-Strong flips his shit, yelling at the class about his Catfish Situation. Ryder screams a lot and kicks things violently until Marley stands up and says, “It’s me! I’m Catfish!”
But first the camera zooms in on Unique’s face of shock, thus revealing the true catfish to all of us here at home. At which point my stomach fell out of my body and splattered all over my shoes.
Marley-Kate: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
New Puck: “Look take it easy Ryder, okay? It was just a little joke and things got out of hand.”
Ryder tells everybody that they’re all fucked up. Valid.
Cut to the Lima Mall, where Blaine’s taken Tina along to help him pick out a ring with which to propose to Kurt.
Personally, I’d suggest this ring, because not only is it attractive, it tastes delicious!
Alternately, you can never go wrong with a Mood Ring:
If he wants the moment to be super-special though, there’s only one choice, amirite Tina? –
Anyhoosers, Blaine clearly has no taste, but luckily there’s a super-cute old lady working at the jewelry store and not just any cute old lady, but a LESBIAN who met her partner Liz at a Styx concert when they were 18!
Jan: “Doesn’t matter how young or old you are. True love is true love.”
Blaine: “My friends have been giving me so much flak.”
Jan: “If we all had listened, we wouldn’t be moments away from the Supreme Court telling us that we are just as crazy and awesome as anyone else!”
Then Sam busts into the shop, declaring that he’d like to help Blaine pick the ring. Jan asks if Sam is the boyfriend and Sam’s like, nah, Blaine wants to ride me bareback, but we’re just friends. It’s cute and evolved, just like this scene in general.
Jan asks if Blaine has anybody to advise him on this because you know, if not, she’d like to show him what’s possible when two people really love each other! She’s probably gonna show him their joint checking account or the couch they picked out at IKEA, this is gonna be good.
Cut to the McKinley High Office Room, where Mr. Shue and Sue have summoned Brittany to discuss the fact that they are worried about her, but she refuses to discuss anything anywhere besides Fondue For Two, duh. So, cut to Fondue for Two:
Brittany knows the true identity of Sue Sylvester’s baby’s father! It’s Michael Bolton and Sue Sylvester attests that he is a “fantastic lover.” Har.
We then galavant gayly back to the Bushwick Barbie Dreamhouse Loft, where Santana’s taking off her clothing and putting other clothing back on when Sam calls her to talk about Brit-Brit.
Unfortch, Santana’s about to jet to a hot date with a choreographer and I’d really like to see that entire situation played out on camera, ideally with both of them in sports bras, but alas:
Sam: “You also know that I’d help you if you ever asked me to. Something, something’s wrong. I’m asking you for help.”
We then jumprope our way back to Lima, Ohio, where Blaine & Kurt are dining at Breadsticks with Jan and Lizz. Blaine really lucked out because who better to convince his boy-toy that making a premature long-term commitment based on adolescent feelings is not only a good idea, but the best idea ever, than two lesbians?? We’re so good at this shit.
It’s adorable and special, these two on our screen: Jan, played by Patty Duke, and now Liz, played by actual gay lady Meredith Baxter. Liz tells Blaine and Kurt that when they first met, lesbians had to walk five miles in a snowstorm uphill both ways just to make out:
Liz: “It was different times then, you know. There were no gay clubs at school. You know, nobody talked about it, we had no representation.”
Jan: “AIDS. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Ellen. We’ve seen it all side by side. Remember when we couldn’t even do this in public, hold hands?”
Apparently Jan and Liz have been chowing down at Breadsticks for 30 years, which is pretty amazing because heart disease. Kurt says it’s really inspiring to hear their story. When she says that Blaine and Kurt are a sweet couple Kurt’s like, “oh we’re not a couple.” RED FLAG.
But then! Then Jan proposes to Liz right there at Breadsticks! They should’ve had the server bring out the ring on a piece of cheesecake.
Everybody is super excited about it:
You know what they say: when you’re here, you’re family.
You guys cute lesbian cougars on our television!!!!
Back in the hallowed halls of McKinley High, Marley tells Ryder Bieber-Strong that it’s not fair to ditch Regionals just ’cause she liked to cyber in the afternoon, but Ryder demands answers:
Ryder: “I need to know why. Okay, you say we’re a team but you’ve been lying to me and messing with my head, and I need some kind of explanation if I’m gonna go to regionals.”
A bizarre shaky-cam informs the viewer that Unique is hiding behind a wall, lurking on the conversation, and she then emerges from the shadows:
Unique: “Because I know I’m not your vision of beauty.”
Ryder: “Wait… it was–?
Unique: “Yes, I’m Unique aka Wade, aka katie, aka Catfish. Marley, I love you but you don’t have to cover for me anymore.”
We then starswipe to a flashback of Unique confessing to Marley that she’s Katie_xoxo and that it started out innocent but then she got in way too deep and “you have no idea how long it’s been since I felt this close to someone without all of this [gestures at her body] getting in the way.”
Unique says to Ryder:
Unique: “I know you’re probably going to punch me in the face, but the truth is, I reached out to you because I liked you. So I got a picture of a cute blonde to make you like me back. But all those stories, all the jokes, the connection that we had, that was all me, and that was all real. I’m sorry I stayed hidden, but I didn’t do it to hurt you. I just… I really don’t want to lose what we have.”
Ryder: “We don’t have anything. I’m not gonna punch you in the face. But I’m also not gonna talk to you ever again.”
When Unique stepped out of the shadows I started sobbing. Yes, it’s been a stressful week and it’s likely I’d actually cry over spilled milk at this point — but although television often makes my eyes water, it’s never before caused me to burst into full-on tears like it did on Thursday. Alone on my couch, with whiskey/regret, so sad for this trope being used.
Maybe I was the only Glee-watcher on earth who held out ’til the moment of revelation refusing to believe that Ryder’s “catfish” would be Unique. But I definitely wasn’t surprised that everybody had predicted it’d be Unique. I wasn’t surprised because it’s the only storyline we ever see for transgender characters — as described by Julia Serano: “Media depictions of trans women, whether they take the form of fictional characters or actual people, usually fall under one of two main archetypes: the “deceptive” transsexual or the “pathetic” transsexual.” This one seemed like a mix of both, with Ryder being the “innocent straight guy” Serano describes in the “deceptive” scenarios.
So I started skimming the Unique tag on tumblr and I found so many rants that confirmed my worst fears of how fans might digest this storyline…
…but I also found a lot of positive and empethetic commentary as well that made me wonder if my perspective hadn’t been tainted by internalized transphobia, the result of growing up in a world where only one transgender narrative existed. Maybe the problem was me, not Glee, maybe I was unable to see Unique’s story as its own, to divorce this situation from all the “deceptive” stories I’ve seen before and the trope in general. Because there were these heartwarming things from cis teenagers on tumblr:
I love Unique. Like I can’t put into words how happy I am that they kept her. And her saying she was Katie because she didn’t want Ryder to be put off by her body really hit me, because it’s so relatable. I for one know that feeling like you need to hide behind something because you’re scared about what someone might think and you don’t want it to get in the way of a relationship. Not to mention she’s hilarious.
I just want Rynique to happen so bad. It would be a beautiful storyline if done right, cause really, it’s just the inside that counts. Plus I don’t want Unique to go under the Mercedes treatment and just never get a love interest.
I called it and I knew the moment I called it that it had the potential to be one of the most powerful storylines Glee’s every touched on – and I hold to that. In my opinion, they’re off to a phenomenal start.
So that was nice.
No, no, no. No I can’t. No this isn’t okay.
There are some things I can’t get over.
The fact that Glee would have katie_xoxo use male pronouns and speak about Unique how she did — alternately inaccurate and invalidating — because kids at home don’t know, really, what’s okay to say and what isn’t, and having a transgender character use those terms, even while pretending to be somebody else, is confusing and irresponsible.
The fact that they had Unique crushing on a boy who bullied and misgendered her is sad. I don’t want something that sad for Unique.
The fact that Unique wasn’t just attempting to pass as cis, but also as thin and white, and the fact that Glee doesn’t, never has, and never will, have the writing chops to actually address the complexity of that issue.
The fact that regardless of her motivations and regardless of Ryder being an asshat, what Unique did to Ryder was wrong and there’s no way around that, and I don’t think we can afford to have TV’s first transgender teenage female character doing something so blatantly shitty.
The fact that violence was even mentioned in this context — “I know you’re probably going to punch me in the face,” says Unique, and Ryder, as if he’s doing her a favor, replies that he won’t punch her in the face — no. No, just no. You just cannot mention or invoke or suggest violence when a white cis dude and a transgender women of color are having a conflict. Just no. Would Glee have a cis female character say to a cis man, “you’re probably going to punch me in the face?” We saw Ryder get violently angry early in the episode, which is a dangerous emotion to summon in a story like this one. Kitty even said that the catfish should fear being murdered, based on Ryder’s emotional state, and no. No no no. You cannot do that with this.
The fact that this was the laziest way for this storyline to pan out — we already knew what her motivations and Ryder’s reaction would be before we saw them, but with a different character it would’ve been more of a twist/mystery. If this situation is indeed laying the seeds for a Rynique next season, then I’ll be pleased — but if not, then this is just another wasted moment on all sides.
The fact that Ryan Murphy would never do this to a gay character because he has stated again and again his dislike of the “predatory gay” trope.
And, finally this: the problem with the “deceptive transsexual” trope is that it reiterates the concept that transgender folks can only find love by tricking cis people into thinking they’re also cis. (This particular play-out is also reminiscent of a broader application of “deception is the only way to find love” used in film/television to marginalize all women who don’t fit standard conceptions of beauty, like Janeane Garafalo’s character in The Truth About Cats and Dogs.) That’s not accurate and it’s not kind and it’s not even interesting.
I want, and the world needs, a different story. A new story. A story of a teenage boy falling in love with a teenage girl where the boy is cis and the girl is trans and yeah, maybe that will involve some complicated conversations, but it won’t be the focus of the entire relationship. I don’t want “all this” to get in the way, as Unique told Marley, I want “all this” to be front and center and still be okay. I want them to tell that story. Degrassi is telling that story for Adam, why can’t Glee tell that story for Unique?
But as always, although I can bring my experience with media critique to bear upon this analysis, I remain cisgender, and hope our trans* readers share their perception of this storyline in the comments.
Cut to Brittany’s bedroom, where Santana, who Brittany describes as her “former lady-lover,” has been summoned for a Very Special Episode of Fondue for Two. Ideally this’ll be the episode where they dip each other in fondue, and then lick away.
But Santana’s totally over this Fondue for Two situation and is ready to get down to personal intimate business, because she’s the only one who can really break Brittany open. Once upon a time these were two best friends who loved each other so much that before long their bodies became part of that intimacy, these were two girls who were never seen apart.
Santana: “What the hell is going on with you? You’re acting like a completely different person, it’s making me sad.”
Brittany: “Well get over it, sadness is stupid.”
Santana: “Brit, I sill care about you as a person and as a friend, and this just isn’t you.”
Brittany: “What I’m about to tell you is going to change everything, Santana.”
We then cut, leaving us empty and unsatisfied, just like Santana’s vagina. What was Brittany gonna say? That she manufactures meth? That she murdered her abusive stepfather and was in the care of a federal air marshall when Oceanic 815 crashed? That she and Landry killed that guy who attacked Tara? That Dawn is the key? That she cheated on Tina with the carpenter? That she’s having an affair with Brody? We’ll never know.
After a rigorous commercial break, we return to Glee to find that despite it being merely 9:36 PM, Regionals are well underway. Is somebody gonna do a Michael Jackson tribute.
First up is a bunch of cater-waiters singing “The Rainbow Connection.”
Backstage Ryder surprises everybody by re-joining the Club, ’cause it wouldn’t be fair to punish the whole team when he’s only upset at one person. Everybody still thinks that person is Marley-Kate, but apparently nobody cares, maybe because they all think Ryder should’ve busted that fake pop stand the minute it turned out to be fake, because come on dude, get a hobby.
But Ryder will be leaving Glee after this year, he says, which is meaningless because people are always quitting and then re-joining Glee Club. It’s a thing.
Then the Hoosierdaddies take the stage, starring some girl who is apparently famous amongst our target market who I have never heard of (maybe I’m just too old for this show?), Jessica Sanchez. She’ll probably transfer next season.
Here they are doing “Clarity”:
And next up is “Wings”:
Because the breaks between songs in Glee-land Regionals Master Tournament are indefinite, the children have gathered backstage for Brittany to tell everybody a thing.
The big news is that Brittany got a full ride to MIT and they’d like her to leave for MIT immediately, because Glee. This news has empowered her to begin speaking like a normal person:
Brittany: My entire life, people have always told me that I was stupid. And after a while I started to believe them. And it wasn’t until I walked in this room and I joined this club that I started believing in myself. And as soon as I did that, as soon as, I started believing that maybe I was smart after all, I think the whole world did, too. And I’m really gonna miss you guys. Cause you guys are like my family.
Brittany: Mr. Shue is like our dad.
Brittany: And Mercedes and Tina and Sugar and Mercedes [ed note: she meant “unique”], you guys are all like my sisters.
Brittany: And Mike Chang and Blaine and Jim [“my name’s Joe”], you guys are all like my brothers.
Brittany: And Artie, you’re like the boy next door who builds robots in his basement and who I take his virginity.
Brittany: And Jake and Marley and Ryder and Kitty, you guys are like the foster kids who come to live with us when the orphanage closes and that who we don’t trust at first but we grow to love just like we do our pets.
Brittany: And there’s Sam. The cute boy from the wrong side of the tracks who does good impressions and who I fake marry. I love you so much Sam.
Sam: I love you too Brittany.
Brittany: I’m really gonna miss you.
Sam: I’m gonna miss you Brittany.
Obviously Brittany is saving the best for last.
Brittany: And there’s Santana.
Santana: Oh man, you don’t have to say anything, Brittany.
[My notes for this section: “UM YEAH YOU DO”]
The New Directions take the stage and I am of the unpopular opinion that their performance was pretty neat, mostly ’cause almost everybody had a moment to shine — although I would’ve liked way more Brittany and Unique.
New Puck opens “Hall of Fame” with a bouncy, dancey confidence, joined by his brothers-in-cardigans Ryder Bieber-Strong, Teen Jesus, Artie and Sam. They sing like cocky schoolboys while the girls dance demurely in the background, eventually joining the group front and center for the dramatic ending.
Here, for “I Love It,” Fake Quintana and Tina get to be sassy, singing like they’re smacking gum with their tits thrust into the air, alternately strutting around fashion-model style or pushing boys around like smart bitches. It’s super fun and sassy.
“All or Nothing,” Marley’s Original Song, is predictable and relatively uninspired, but whatever.
There’s a moment when Ryder glances at Unique with nearly a half-smile, too, and I cry, and a little tiny creature called hope pops up in my gut, hoping it’ll be time soon.
We all die of shock when the Cater-Waiters snag third, the Hoosierdaddies take second, and The New Directions win FIRST PLACE WORLD CHAMPION EVENT LEADER CAPTAIN GENERAL UNIVERSE CRUSHERS EVER!
Surprise! The Cater-Waiters snag third place, The Daddy-os get second place and New Directions manage to seal the first-place deal despite the fact that they just started practicing yesterday. Cue standard slo-mo piano music celebratory embrace.
The auditorium: a little bit later. Brittany is sitting alone. Santana shows up, like Brittany knew she would, and she takes Brittany’s hand, and they walk offstage like two peas in a pod.
This was nice. It was nice that she exited with the girl she came in with — that at least to Brittany, if not the writers, Brittana remains the realest thing.
Backstage in the Clubhouse, Mr. Shue congratulates his young charges, triumphantly declaring that “the present and the future is all about the New Directions”!
Then Emma shows up with a minister so Will and Emma can get married without “the pressure of a big wedding.” On a scale of one to ten I don’t really care, so.
The most important part of this scene is that Brittany and Santana show up slightly late to this hoo-ha because they were obviously going clamdiving in the bathroom stall.
Meanwhile, Blaine’s got a box with a ring on it in his hand behind his back… will he propose to Kurt? Will Rachel end up in Funny Girl? Did Santana reschedule her date with the hot choreographer? Is there a giant dildo in that bouquet of flowers? I’m sure we will get the answers to 10% of our questions when Season Five returns!