“Bash” and “Tested”
I didn’t get to a column last week, so this one’s serving double duty. Which is actually helpful because these last few episodes are more closely tied to each other than Glee has generally ever been. I love that. I also love that Blaine knows how to cram Cheetos in his mouth like he’s a professional, that Sam’s an exceptional slut-shamer, and that Artie had the forethought to use last fall’s Lady Gaga contest for good rather than evil. Mostly, though, I’ve loved the music and the conversations these characters have always needed but are finally getting to have.
First, any foodie worth her salt knows that getting a cronut requires waiting in line outside the bakery for hours before the crack of dawn and hoping they don’t run out before it’s your turn. So I think Blaine’s ability to get multiple cronuts at multiple times of the day is further proof he has magical powers he’s only beginning to understand.
It’s been only a few episodes—though months in Glee time—since Blaine realized how strange it was that he gets handed so many things, so I understand his extreme response to having that newfound superpower threatened. He can charm the frozen hot chocolate out of a straw, but he can’t charm those pounds off his belly. Sidenote: I think Darren Criss has superpowers of his own because damn, that takes a lot of body contorting to get his little pouch to appear larger than the one I’m sporting. I was impressed by the gymnastics of it.
The problem, of course, is not that Blaine’s eating too much. That’s the symptom. So is the porn. And so are the horrible attempts he made to drag Kurt down with him, hoping that fattening up his fiancé wouldn’t make him feel so bad by comparison. Though I have to say, Kurt refusing to eat any of the extravagant meal Blaine was preparing was pretty harsh on its own. Do you know how much work is involved in making a gratin from scratch?
I digress. The point is that Blaine has realized his role in relation to Kurt has changed dramatically from how he envisioned it back at Dalton. He knew it last week, too, when he curled up next to a battered, unconscious Kurt and sang “Not While I’m Around,” a song that made me sad for the yearning sentiment and made my husband laugh out loud at the irony of it all the moment Blaine opened his mouth.
In Sweeny Todd, where that song hails from, it’s sung by a young boy to Mrs. Lovett. The young boy’s sincere wish to protect her is undermined by both his youth and the fact that Mrs. Lovett is a willing partner with the man from whom the boy wants to save her. To have Blaine sing it to a hurt, but triumphant Kurt, was as much about Blaine’s feelings of ineffectualness in that moment as it was about any true belief he could protect Kurt now.
Blaine makes a lot of realizations about himself this episode including that his fantasized role in the relationship has disappeared and that he’s harboring jealousy toward Kurt’s success and independence, both things he sincerely wants his fiancé to have but make him question what value he has to Kurt now. In Blaine’s mind, Kurt even did better at getting beat up than he did. Kurt’s being called a hero for it, while Blaine “ran away” from his school, if you recall. And you better believe that Blaine’s scowl when singing the single lyric fathers during “You Are Not Alone” was intentional.
I am going to be so crushed if we never get to see Blaine with his parents, because I think his copious insecurities stem from that relationship. It’s in Kurt and Blaine’s final scene that Blaine, and we, get down to the meat of this matter, a matter that has to be connected to his parents and leaving his first high school behind. Blaine, you see, is still unsure that Kurt will stay with him. He thinks he isn’t enough for Kurt, that Kurt will stop loving him, and anytime he gets to that point of fear, Blaine self-destructs. Binge-eating and watching porn are a lot better methods of doing that than hooking up with a random guy on Facebook—Blaine’s learned that much—but he’s still working on the core issue he’s had for most, or maybe all, his life.
And I can’t help but wonder how many more times Kurt has to assure Blaine he loves him before Kurt gives up on getting through his fiancé’s gel-helmet of a head. Which isn’t to say Kurt’s blameless. Kurt has grown into a self-assured, brave, and fiercely independent hottie. He’s had amazing character growth, and I loved the moment in the hospital when he proclaimed to his father that he was the man Burt had raised.
That moment gave me chills, it was so satisfying. But I think his own progress makes it difficult for him to pick up on Blaine’s struggles, and he needs to make more of an effort to do that. Blaine needs assurances, and Kurt needs to make an effort to ascertain his fiancé’s mental space. I don’t expect mind-reading, but it is no coincidence that Sam and Mercedes broke apart mid-make-out multiple times to talk in this episode alone and neither party resisted those conversations.
One of several of them.
They gave each other the space to pray and think deeply about their issues and whether or not they could be satisfied in a relationship without sex. By contrast, Kurt twice turned down Blaine’s requests to talk about their own problems, and it’s not the first time he’s done that since the move to NYC. Part of that is because Kurt takes their relationship for granted. He describes them as a unit all of the time; even when discussing getting tested due to Blaine’s infidelity, he said, “We haven’t been tested since the Eli C. debacle” and he’s supporting Blaine in eating healthier. But Kurt only stops to have the hard conversations after a blow-up. Two weeks ago, that came after Blaine rearranged the office space. This time, it happened during stage combat class.
“Love is a Battlefield” was a fantastic number. The choreography and blend of Blaine and Kurt’s voices were engrossing. I love that we’re delving into the dynamics of their relationship this deeply, and I certainly believe their love is strong enough to work out their issues, but I doubt Blaine’s ability to trust in that love and Kurt’s resolve to put in the hard work. I suppose that’s why the story isn’t over yet—we’ll just have to wait and see if they both have what it takes to get through the hard stuff now and in the future.
Speaking of character growth, I have to take a minute to praise Miss Mercedes Jones. I don’t think there is anyone on this show who knows themselves and their limits and dreams better than she does. Mercedes has always believed she’s as capable as Rachel Berry of casting a spell over her audience. In adulthood, she’s set out to prove that to great professional success thus far.
Her solos may be getting a little long for my audience-member attention span, but she crushes each one of them. More importantly, though, she crushes staying true to herself, even if that means losing a man she wants as much as Sam. She enjoys him, but she’s not willing to sell herself out for him, whatever form that may take. Last week, Sam made a lot of missteps that I’m sure Mercedes has corrected him on now—the whole scene with her back-up singers was so cringeworthy to watch—but she didn’t deny that she still wanted to date him regardless of his faux pas and racist remarks. The potential stigma of an interracial relationship momentarily got her off-track, but Mercedes Jones is not someone to let that derail her from what she wants for long. And what we learned she wants this week is Sam but not having sex with Sam, not now, maybe not ever if it’s outside of marriage.
Yes, Sam, there are many people who come to that decision. It was certainly how I was raised, and struggling with the question of sex was a huge part of my dating life. I really appreciate how well that issue is being covered with Mercedes, both from her spiritual and emotional perspectives. How great were her and Rachel’s conversations?
Let me answer that: pretty damn great! It’s rare to see Rachel Berry act without some sort of judgment, but she had nothing but excellent advice for Mercedes. As much as we saw her and Finn struggle over the years, dramatic ballad after dramatic ballad, they crafted something special together, and it was nice to see her share that experience with Mercedes. Just as nice as seeing what a powerful, thoughtful woman Mercedes has become.
Artie…well, Artie might have some more growth coming his way and not just on his little buddy.
Artie coming down with chlamydia was just as satisfying as the emotional arcs for the other characters. He’s been a womanizer for years, second only to Puck. And while Puck matured some while dating Lauren Zizes and Quinn nowadays, Artie hasn’t stopped viewing women as sexual objects who make him feel better about himself.
Using Robert Palmer’s iconic “Addicted to Love,” complete with the imagery of indistinctive women it has always had, was an excellent illustration of Artie’s headspace. And I was just as horrified by his not using condoms as were the other boys.
Especially, Sam. Methinks that boy has some projection issues with his slut-shaming. At least Sam always thinks he’s in love with the person he’s dating. But Artie dates to feel good about himself, not so much about the other person involved. He put other people at risk because buying condoms made him too uncomfortable—that’s about as selfish as a sexual partner can get, though I have trouble believing all his exes would have been okay with the lack of protection. I don’t have trouble believing he lost the girl he really wanted out of it, though. Artie couldn’t focus on anything but sex and his STD long enough to enjoy a date with her properly, and it makes me wonder if he’s ever been in it for the girl rather than what he might get from the girl, and I’m not talking STDs. I’d run too after being awkwardly subjected to an unexpected sing-along with my date’s friends, no matter how good all their voices are.
That’s the look of “They’re still singing, aren’t they?”
That’s way too much to launch on a girl at once, Artie. Maybe he’ll learn? At least he’ll probably use a banana wetsuit next time.
Rachel’s opening night is next week, and I think she’ll do well. I’m most excited to see how Sue, Will, and Tina will fit into the New York dynamic. I have hope that will feel as seamless as these last few episodes have been. In other words, this Glee viewer couldn’t be happier. Young adults figuring out life after Lima is a show I’m going to enjoy as long as I can.
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