Glee, “The Substitute”: She’s an XBox, and I’m more an Atari.

Last time on ‘Glee,’ the writers took a vacation and let a bunch of monkeys and/or kids try their hand at writing an episode, I got violently ill at the result and verbally vomited all over this blog, and Kurt got a boyfriend! And that’s what you missed on… Glee!

Fear shouldn’t be the feeling with which you approach a popular primetime television show… unless maybe it’s The Walking Dead, but when I sat down to watch this week’s episode of Glee, I was nervous. Because if I was subjected to another episode like last week’s, I was done with this show, and I didn’t want to break it off, but I knew it would be best or both of us in the long run.

I peeked through my hands during the opening, and I even smiled when Sue nonchalantly said that being allies with Schu had gotten boring. And THEN… the kids. Why were the Muppet babies funnier than the regular Muppets? I don’t know, but they were, and when little Santana told little Puckerman he was lookin’ good and had been eating his Wheaties, little Rachel talked about exploring the oeuvre of Bernadette Peters and little Mercedes said Schu looked green, I was confident that the Glee I used to know and love was back… I just hope it stays.

That scene with the kids just goes to show you – if done right, something silly and absurd can be different and clever enough to make it okay. So, Schu gets sick, and the Glee club gets a substitute – Dame Gwyneth Paltrow, aka Holly Holliday. She’s fun and cool and hip and all the kids love her because she’s breakin’ the rules, but we all knew that her carefree ways were bound to be proven unsustainable.

She shows them just how cool she is by singing a Cee Lo song with *giggle* cuss words!! *giggle* Who am I kidding, though? I freaking love that song, and even with the “F*ck you” changed to “Forget you,” it was still a fun performance.

In fact, this episode was filled with fun performances that were well-integrated into the plot, at least by Glee standards. We also had Schu’s dream sequence where he and Mike Chang sang and danced their way through a performance of “Make Them Laugh.” It was dumb, but it was cute… kind of like Finn, and it was good to see Mike Chang used a little more.

It was a running theme that the kids didn’t get to choose their own songs for performances, and that’s what fun sub Holly would let them do, so peppered throughout the episode were flashbacks to Schu’s talking about Journey songs. It was a sparsely used, and therefore effective, device.

With her new freedom, Rachel chose to do a Broadway classic. Strict show tunes aren’t really my thing… Holly and Rachel’s “All That Jazz” dance number was fine, but nothing extraordinary. Mostly, it just proved my point from a few weeks ago. Rachel doing duets is a good, good move. She’s too much on her own.

And the final number – a mash up of Singing in the Rain and Umbrella was really nice visually and above average musically, so it left the episode on a high note. It was good to see Glee back to where it should be. Which, of course, is where the battle between Holly Holliday and Will Schuester for the kids’ affections and the Glee club job ended as well – right back where it should be. Although it seems Sue Sylvester is the principal for the time being… that could be very, very interesting.

The only other storyline centered on Mercedes and Kurt. Mercedes is feeling left out of Kurt’s new relationship and takes up the cause of having tater tots returned to the school cafeteria. The tots piece of it was pretty throwaway – it really just gave us the plot turn to demonstrate Holly’s inadequacies as a teacher and mentor.

More significant was Kurt’s budding relationship with Blaine. It was GREAT to see Kurt happy – he is so much more fun as a character when he’s not being emo. It is perfectly reasonable for Mercedes to feel shut out and overwhelmed by Kurt’s “gay talk” with Blaine, but I’m giving Kurt a pass on it for awhile – he clearly needed that in his life, and it’s a great thing to watch.

That said… KURT! YOU GOT A DEATH THREAT FROM A STUDENT. For the love of all things, please, please, please tell me he’s going to report this. Ugh. I get that he’s the good guy for not telling everyone that his bully is closeted, but friend – if the recent rash of anti-gay bullying incidents has taught us anything, it’s that these situations can spiral out of control quickly and MUST be reported.

For a show that has done so much for the gay community, I have to agree with Kelly Kapoor that it’s irresponsible to show Kurt taking that kind of abuse and not doing or saying anything about it. That is NOT the message that needs to be sent… Ryan Murphy is essentially saying that you can’t do anything about the bullies, but find yourself a boyfriend, and you’ll feel better.

Oh, there was also Schu’s relationship with Terri. She came back into his life to take care of him when he was weak and vulnerable, and we saw flashes of what might have made the two of them fall in love and stay together for so long. It also reminded me of what a purely “good” character Will was back in the beginning… it seems the disillusionment and fallout from his divorce has had a bigger impact on him – in subtle ways – than one would’ve thought.

Closing thoughts – good episode. Not the best ever, but solidly good and miles above last week’s. Keep it up, Glee.

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