Prom-night drama ensues as Jesse St. James returns and Kurt turns a possibly humiliating event into a statement.

By Sandra Gonzalez
May 11, 2011 at 10:16 AM EDT
Adam Rose/Fox
S2 E20
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I unfortunately knew who was going to win prom king and queen tonight. (Thanks a lot, spoiler-tweeting Glee extra.) But in retrospect, the election of Kurt and Karofsky to prom court (queen and king, respectively) was really the least important of the surprises and developments on last night’s Glee. So let’s get with the recapping, lest all of our grannies drown in a punch bowl of impatience.

We started this week with a meeting between Figgins, Sue (in a dashing hot pink track suit!), and Mr. Schuester, with the principal breaking the news that Air Supply had canceled on William McKinley and would no longer be performing at their prom. (Was anyone else genuinely disappointed by this revelation?) So he enlisted the help of Schu and his Gleeks, who would serve as prom entertainment and earn themselves a generous payment. This was, thankfully, one of the few times we’d see Schu in the episode, and I gather that’s because he wanted some alone time with the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Sue gave him. We know he has a thing for substitutes, after all.

Elsewhere, prom fever was rampant — except among the poor, the dateless, and the desperate. Luckily, Sam, Mercedes, and Rachel banded together to make a Sister Wives-esque arrangement: Sam would take them both to prom! It was honestly the best idea Rachel had had since she decided to stop wearing farm animals on her sweaters. (Unless I missed a stray pony cardigan somewhere…) Their arrangement turned into more of a double date, however, upon the reappearance of Jesse St. James. [Insert gleeful squeals here.] I should note, however, that while I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Groff, I do not in any way like Jesse St. James. I like the Jesse effect — because he brings out a rather testosterone-filled Finn — but I don’t like Jesse. (We’ll get back to him in a minute.)

Meanwhile, Blaine Warbler (I love that they brought this name up again) was also suffering from some prom blues — and for good reason. He revealed to Kurt, who had been disappointed by Blaine’s lack of excitement at the idea of accompanying him to prom, that he had previously attempted to go to a Sadie Hawkins dance with a boy at his old school. But he and his date ended up getting beaten up by bully bigots. I know this was meant to be a sad story, but it mostly made my blood boil in anger. Eventually, Blaine agreed to go to prom after Kurt convinced him that he needed to stand up to his past.

There was a neat — albeit slightly deceiving — parallel going on here. While Kurt was encouraging Blaine to move on, he found himself face-to-face with a piece of his own dark past during his interaction with Karofsky, who with Santana was escorting Kurt to and from classes as part of the Bully Whips — and Santana’s Eva Perón-inspired prom-queen platform. A few episodes back we saw a less-than-sincere apology from Karofsky for harassing Kurt, but this week we watched him truly realize the gravity of the torture he’d put Kurt through. And there were tears involved, people. Real ones. In my mind (since, as I mentioned before, I knew the outcome of the prom voting), I had set up this great situation resulting from such an important moment: They’d both win, Kurt would own the moment, they’d have a nice, peaceful resolution, etc. Happy, happy, happy. The show’s named Glee after all, right? Wrong!

 NEXT: Save the drama for your prom-a

Over in Brittany-land (yes, it’s often a territory all its own), she was more than okay with the idea of going to prom alone after her breakup with Artie last week. In fact, she turned down a few invites from him, explaining that she wanted to go alone. As much as I would have enjoyed seeing both of them boogie at the prom, I rather liked her approach and what she stood for. I’m glad she held her ground and, shockingly, communicated her reasoning quite eloquently. Brittany S. Pierce, you never fail to surprise me. Her rejection, however, sent Artie into an “I have nothing to live for” tailspin. (Teenagers…) So he teamed up with Puck to execute Operation Punch and Judy — a.k.a. the classic punch-spiking. (Artie ended up spiking it with lemonade, but still got caught by Sue and was put through her interrogation, which was terrifying.)

The show took the Gossip Girl approach to storytelling, with everything coming to a head at a big end-of-the-episode party. In this case, prom, obviously.

Getting back to the Jesse Effect, his presence thrust Rachel and Finn’s already confusing relationship into otherworldly orbits. This is a relationship obviously brought to us by the same network that’s home to Fringe, because I can’t make any sense of it. First there was Finn’s adorable, longing gaze at Quinn as she descended the stairs when he picked her up from her house pre-prom. A truly cute moment, complete with an almost-kiss. Then Finn saw Rachel at Breadsticks with Jesse, who we learned is quite a stale breadstick himself, and his bitch claws came out. But I didn’t take his dislike for Jesse as a romantic gesture so much as a friend looking out for another friend — or even a brother watching out for his sister. (That “I still care about you” moment in the hallway earlier in the episode also struck me as having a platonic tone.) Jump to prom, where FH stared at RB during her solo in a decidedly unbrotherly way and picked a fight with JSJ in an OMG moment filled with AAAS (annoyingly addictive acronym speak). I’ll go on record and admit that I was really hoping their fight would come to real blows or at least that somebody would end up with a ripped shirt. Maybe next time. More important, though, I wish there had been a little closure on the issue. After Finn was kicked out of prom, we didn’t see him again. (Perhaps he was taken to Sue Sylvester, DDS?)

Quinn had certainly drawn her own conclusions, and she communicated that to Rachel with a swift slap to her face. Rachel surprisingly took the rude gesture with grace (and humor), saying she appreciated “the drama of it.” I’m sure we’ll get some closure on this next week, but until then, we’re left to wonder where it will go from here.

Another wound that was left open to fester was the issue of Karofsky and his intention to stay in the closet. Let me back up. After learning Kurt would win prom queen, I had imagined that when his name was called, he’d own the moment. “Kurt will stick it to the haters by going up on stage and being fabulous,” I thought. But collected as he may be, he’s also a teenage boy. So the tears and drama of it all came as a surprise. It was an even bigger surprise when he went back on stage and invited Karofsky to dance with him. In the heat of Kurt’s emotional turmoil (which was very difficult to watch), I hadn’t really thought that Karofsky would be in an awkward predicament that would also serve as a prime opportunity to come out. It didn’t happen, though — and it didn’t. Sigh.

The episode could have ended on those somber notes, but true to form, the tug of a few heartstrings (Blaine/Kurt dance!) turned the tone from morose to merry just in time to put a perfect bookend on one of my favorite prom episodes ever. It’s definitely a top 10 contender.

NEXT: Grading the performances and the week’s best lines

THE PERFORMANCES

“Rolling in the Deep”

If I had never heard the Adele version, this would have gotten an A. Unfortunately, I have. B-

“Isn’t She Lovely”

Yes, she is. Especially when she reacts with this level of adorableness to a prom proposal. But am I the only one who thought that some of the reactions were more Heather Morris than Brittany? On that note, I need to slowly step away from the Glee cast behind-the-scenes videos… A

“Friday”

I hate myself so much right now that I’m considering using a bejeweled microphone to bludgeon myself for giving this horrendously addictive version of a horrendous song a B.

“Jar of Hearts”

Ballad? I’m there. Ballad with a terribly sweet prom dream come true for Mercedes and a cute Finchel moment stuck in the middle? I’m there with a bag of chips and a box of tissues. A

“I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”

I’m usually such a Warbler fan that I was surprised I wasn’t totally in love with this song. In this case, I think I really missed the backing of Blaine’s Warbler cohorts. B

“Dancing Queen”

After the awkwardness of Kurt’s crowning, I was shocked that Figgins would proceed with the dance portion. I highly doubt that would happen in real life, but I’ll forgive the oversight (sort of) because the song was a fun choice for the end of prom. A-

QUOTABLES

(As always, if you think I missed some, nominate them in the comments. I’ll comb through later and pick a few to add here. Thanks, guys!)

Puck: “Our campaign strategy is to close the gap by using a combination of intimidation and fear.”

Jacob: “Awesome and classy.”

“Where does Lauren keep your balls?” –Jacob

“William, I’m devastated — positively horny with grief.” –Sue

“Each year I honor the prom with a bowl of my family’s secret punch recipe, made all the more meaningful to me because it’s made in the punch bowl my grandmother drowned in.” –Sue

“William, I have in my Spanx at all times a list of the worst songs ever performed by the glee club. And I would appreciate it if you would not reprise any of the following songs: No. 1, ‘Run Joey Run.’ You should literally apologize to America for that one.” –Sue, channeling my thoughts exactly

“I’ve been to Ann Taylor Loft, Filene’s Basement, and, like, six Forever 21s and I cannot find a dress that fits.” –Lauren, keeping it budget-friendly

“Please tell me we’re not singing songs about prom.” –Sam, winning my vote to succeed Schu when he goes to Broadway (positive thinking)

Sam: “Is this a surprise party or something? Because my birthday was last week.”

Rachel: “It was?”

Lauren: “I think I look like a lemon meringue pie.”

Brittany: “I think you look delicious.”

“Go with God, Satan — Santana.” –Kurt

“I just assumed it would be like at Carmel, where the school would find some Asian kid to take math, English, and scientific for me.” –Jesse

“Okay, that’s really confusing because this is a baby chicken’s house.” –Brittany

Burt: “I looked like Tony Orlando.”

Blaine: “Was that a designer?”

“Dude, that rocks. It’s like gay Braveheart!” –Finn

“You can be, like, the show-choir whisperer.” –Rachel, losing some of my respect

“Tora, Tora, Tora!” –Puck

“John McCain is rolling over in his grave!” –Sue re: the very much alive politician

“As soon as we get to New York, I’m moving to a lesbian colony…or Tribeca.” –Santana

“Eat your heart out, Kate Middleton.” –Kurt

UPDATE: READER PICKS!!

“Oh, hey Jesse! What did you order, scrambled eggs? I know you usually like them served on people’s heads.” –Finn to Jesse

(Suggested by Perfect Episode Is Perfect)

“What about prom, Blaine?!” — Kurt

(Suggested by Rachel, Sarah B, and L)

“Just because I hate everyone doesn’t mean they need to hate me too” — Santana

(Suggested by Mark, David, and Gabriel)

“Teen gay, you may now proceed to the next checkpoint without fear of violence” — Santana

(Suggested by Kay)

“Let’s do ‘Run, Joey, Run!'” — Rachel

(Suggested by Katherine4254 and Bill)

“Tell me if I was brilliant or simply outstanding” — Rachel

(Suggested by Kate and Maria)

“I know that making foie gras would be a little morose, but I would at least like to graduate high school knowing how to make some kind of pate.” — Kurt

(Suggested by JayK)

“Do people think I’m a lesbian? Do I smell like a golf course or something!?” — Santans

(Suggested by vanessalovesglee, Jules, tg, Up to Par, Alex, and Caroline)

Puck: Shut up, or I’ll beat your ***!

Jacob: I’m not scared, I’ve been hit by a girl before.

(Suggested by Martin)

Time for talking points: What did you think of the episode? Did the absence of Schu increase your love for this episode exponentially? Do you have more respect for Sam now that you know he can pull off a bolo tie? Do you wish his prom budget/loan from Mercedes and Rachel had been $25 so he could have gotten himself a haircut? Did you want to inexplicably punch the kid wearing the Bluetooth at the prom? Do you, like me, want an exact replica of Brittany’s awesome prom dress and adorable tiny hat posthaste?

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @EWSandraG

Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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