Glee recap: Same Song, New (York) Verse
Glee finally, finally moves full-time to New York and while the action is minimal, the songs are superb, and the tone is pleasant, making for a better episode than we've seen from this show in... well, it's been a while.
Welcome friends. If you’ve joined me here today, then you are the few, the proud. A quick perusal of the comments section, not just at EW, but on most Glee boards (OK, I don’t even know what Glee boards are, I just mean Twitter) would imply that it was just me and about three other people still watching Glee for the last half-season, and two of those three people planned to jump ship after last week’s episode. Knowing that it was just me and Debra from Ohio planning to tune in tonight for Glee New York, I have to assume many people might be coming to this recap without having watched last night’s inaugural New York episode. So, for those of you just curious about how the new format worked out, I’m here to tell you: I… I… genuinely enjoyed it. Sorry, it just feels weird to say it.
It really felt like watching a different show tonight. Or maybe more like watching the old show? Before everything got so convoluted; before we watched characters we didn’t really know share airtime with characters we were maybe too familiar with; before things just straight up went off the rails. It didn’t exactly feel like season 1 or 2 of Glee; more like a cousin to that classic version of Glee. A cool New York cousin who plays with lighting and films outside of a sound stage and only listens to old vinyl records of the classics. She also occasionally has one too many glasses of wine and can’t stop speaking in voiceover.
We’ve now arrived not only in New York, but in some sort of time warp where an undisclosed number of months have taken everyone straight from McKinley graduation to a point in winter when it is both snowing, and a new semester might be starting at NYADA. Space-time continuum — who needs it?! Not Rachel, who steps out of a Funny Girl rehearsal to find that her producer is gifting her a town car to take her anywhere she needs 24/7, as a thanks for her tireless out-of-town Funny Girl runs, because all Rachel does is win, win, win no matter what.
She hops in that sucker, firmly places a very shiny chip on her shoulder and starts singing “Downtown” as she heads in that very direction. Kurt joins in as he exits the subway (no town car for you, non-Broadway star peasant); Blaine solos while grabbing some coffee; Artie joins in with some pretty serious falsetto while Sam wheels him toward their new lives (or five-month-old lives, as it were). It’s a fun, classic performance, with everyone finally convening in Washington Square. A-. I mostly appreciate it because it’s the first time I’ve been 100% sure about who would be living in New York.
Rachel’s life isn’t the only thing that feels like a “high-end coffee commercial”; that’s kind of the feel of this whole episode. Lots of streaming light and mugs held with two hands. Blaine cooking Kurt breakfast is particularly Folgers-like, minus the incest, plus one teen marriage. They can’t believe they’re really doing it – living together, spending every day together, shopping with reusable grocery bags together. Kurt worries they’re becoming like an old married couple, but if they’re still watching Shahs of Sunset together, they should be safe, just ask my parents, who draw their reality TV line very firmly at The Voice (or Real Housewives of Atlanta under extreme duress).
Blaine goes for a more creative tactic to assure his fiancé they’re not old yet: “You Make Me Feel So Young” by Frank Sinatra. It’s slightly distracting that Blaine and Kurt are two 19 year-olds (?) ironically singing about being young, while Darren Criss is suddenly looking far more not-teenage than he ever did at McKinley. But who cares, there’s dancing, there are moon eyes, there’s actual proof that these two are a couple who seem to love and want to make out with each other. New York Glee, who are you?! B+
I felt like Artie was kind of kicked off to the side for a lot of this episode, but I really enjoyed his continued romanticism of the subway, even though it’s the most difficult mode of transportation for him. At any given time on the New York subway, someone is either trying to pee on you or sell you a soda or both, but there’s still something so wondrous about it. Unfortunately for poor romantic Artie, “the city beneath the city” still has hoodrats beneath the hoodrats, and a man on crutches wearing a very sensible V-neck sweater comes by and snatches his backpack where he has his laptop and most of his belongings, and he can’t do much to stop him.
NEXT: Saaaam don’t wanna work, Sam just wants ta play on the (roller coaster) drum all day!
Back at the Bushwick Hotel for Non-Rent Paying McKinley Graduates, Sam has been playing Roller Coaster Tycoon in the same spot on Kurt and Blaine’s couch for anywhere from two to eight months without booking a single modeling gig. He hates New York and thinks, “Sometimes it’s just easier if you stay inside.” While I have seconded that sentiment just about every Friday night and Sunday morning for the last three months of this hellacious winter (hey, I’ve got a
modeling job and a giant apartment and a 24/7 town car!), Blaine says Sam has to get it together, so he takes him exactly where you should take anyone feeling overwhelmed by the city: Times effing Square. It seems to work though; a little street performance was all Sam needed to feel better, and he’s joining Blaine on American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” in no time, although you never really hear his voice. B
After a hearty round of applause from the 12 people in Times Square (and not a single one of them in an off-brand Elmo costume), Blaine heads off to sneak up on Kurt in mime class, a particularly prime class for sneaking. While Kurt practices “a mime’s most heartbreaking expression — the pulling of the invisible rope,” Blaine tells him he’s managed to get into six of his eight classes — yay! And wouldn’t you know it, at the very moment all that togetherness they were once so excited about starts to feel stifling to Kurt, his mime professor traps him in a damn invisible box with his overbearing fiancé. Typical mimes.
Artie finally makes it back to Bushwick’s Biggest Industrial Sized Loft to explain how he was mugged by a Gap model on crutches while Blaine Soda Streams to Kurt’s annoyance. Rachel, flying high from her glamorous life of avoiding foot traffic, comes in demanding non-bubbling beverages and telling Artie she totally understands about feeling vulnerable, in a very Shoshanna-like fashion. You see, she once accidentally gave a homeless man $10 when she only meant to give him $1, and when she asked if he could make change, everyone booed and hissed at her. Artie, out a laptop and a screenplay, but never out of sass, tells Rachel she can shove her attitude and her limo right up her — “It’s not a limo, it’s a town car!”
Kurt meets up with Elliot for band practice — I guess it’s just the two of them now — in the guitar store that bonded them. You know what that means: time to rock and roll with Adam Lambert! After Kurt tells him he’s feeling stifled by Blaine, Elliot suggests not worrying too much, but setting some boundaries and, of course, singing A Great Big World’s “Rockstar” right then and there. In an episode that’s been pretty literal in its song choices so far, I’m not totally sure why they sing this song, but I do know I like it. Adam Lambert pop rocks the hell out of his last Glee performance and Kurt even gets in a little volunteer crowd surfing. A-.(Note: We will come to find that Kurt/Elliot is not an agenda Glee was pushing, but was that look not particularly lingering glance at the end of their performance??)
Over in Brooklyn, Blaine is not catching onto the overbearing vibes he’s putting out as he sections out part of the loft’s living room for a new workspace to surprise Kurt. Sam comes over and worries that the tape Blaine is laying down might actually be outlining dead bodies, but that’s proabably just because he can finally see past his hair again thanks to his fresh new One Direction haircut. It’s earned him his first modeling gig – “booty contouring underwear for men” – and he has Blaine to thank. Less thankful is Kurt, who arrives home and begins screaming at Blaine about messing with his interior design. I’ll be honest, the acting and writing take a bit of a weird turn when Elliot comes up: “We were talking!” “I bet you were talking.” “He’s my friend.” “I bet he’s your friend.” This is the best we could do, Murphy?
Hey remember when Blaine cheated on Kurt just for kicks? He doesn’t! He marches right over to poor Elliot’s apartment and accuses him of trying to break up their teen marriage. I really wish there was a web series of Elliot hanging out with his other friends, telling them about the insane group of people he’s met recently… “They all went to this high school that just, like, churns out professional entertainers, and, I swear, when they’re not trying to live with me, they all stay in one apartment that doesn’t even have any walls. Super weird, man.”
Starchild, saint that he is, thrusts an acoustic guitar in Blaine’s arms like a body pillow and tells him to calm the hell down. Kurt loves him, he talks about him all the time. But in a hustle and bustle place like New York, you’ve got to remember to take some time out to breathe and get some space. They do a little impromptu jamming (I’ve always been jealous that this is an actual thing that musical people do) and Blaine is on his way. So long Starchild, you really were a surprising voice of reason to lead us through the darkness. (Also, can I stay on your couch?)
NEXT: But really, don’t sleep on the subway. That is very dangerous…
After Artie served her such a fresh plate of realness, Rachel switches gears from Shoshanna to full Hannah Horvath, realizing that if she’s trapped inside her fancy car, she’s missing out on all the real life inspiration for her craft. She ditches the car and tells Artie to meet her at the subway. As she trained in Krav Maga at the Lima JCC, she is fully prepared to protect him on the subway on his daily commute, if he can just let her know every time she starts to get all Rachel-y. Artie and Rachel, fun friend pairing – who knew?! They break out into Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” which is both solid advice and a cute little duet, complete with backup dancers that look like they really were recruited right off a New York subway. B+
Blaine returns home to Kurt after six hours finally spent apart and the two sit down on Kurt’s uncomfortable furniture to have a mature and much needed discussion about the state of their relationship. Living together is a little too much pressure right now and while neither wants to move backward, they know they need to be smart about growing up and not apart. Which means, Blaine is free to move in with his favorite pal, Sam, who has recently moved in and out of his apartment for models (one of my greatest TV history regrets is that 8th & Ocean was canceled too soon) on account of lots o’ pillz.
Everyone arrives back at Kurt & Rachel’s Bushwick Flat (Available to Rent for Weddings and Bat Mitzvahs) and even though they were together in the beginning of the episode, it’s not until this scene that I realize that this is really it, our New York Glee cast: Rachel, Kurt, Blaine, Artie and Sam. And while I truly have enjoyed this episode, it feels a little like something is missing. That thing: Mercedes Jones, ladies and gentlemen! Her FOMO got to her, so she told her record company that she needed a little East Coast inspiration, and they got her a two bedroom apartment in the city that never sleeps. Clearly, Blaine and Sam will be moving in, and we will continue to not be concerned with where Artie is living. We can just rest easy that he got his laptop back from the now arrested V-neck sweater wearing asshole on crutches.
While the newly cemented gang moves Mercedes into her apartment and Sam tries and fails to reignite their sexual chemistry, Rachel gives us another Funny Girl glimpse with a just stellar performance of “People.” She moves from the stage, to a cozy dinner with her friends, to the crowded streets of New York. I loved that you couldn’t see her most of the time as the crowd ebbed and flowed down the sidewalk right along with her. She may be a Broadway star but, in the end, she’s still just a little girl in the big city like everyone else. A
In some ways, a lot happened in this episode to set the stage for New York Glee and the rest of the show’s run; in other ways it was kind of only about various modes of transportation and Sam getting a haircut. It seems a little simple, but let me tell you something, I did not miss the theme of the week, not one little bit. Make me work for my theme, please; make me work to see where this thing is going and if it will be any good. Logic points to yes, but trying to apply logic to Glee is kind of like trying to pull an invisible rope — you can do it, but it’s not going to get you anywhere (don’t tell Marcel Marceau’s illegitimate son Lane I said that!).
I had been predicting that New York Glee would be kind of like Smash: Season 1, but it’s looking like the final season and a half of the show might play out more like Friends meets Saved by the Bell: The College Years. What do you think? Is New York an appealing prospect to you? Did you watch tonight, or are you really sticking by being out for good? You can be honest… I’ll still be here no matter what.
Best Line: “…and we’re not friends on Facebook because I made it a point of waiting for YOU to friend ME, which you never did.” – Blaine, explaining a very real social power play to Elliot.