Glee recap: CLAP On, CLAP Off
Cronuts, chlamydia, porn — ah, yes, the gang’s all here! Where might all of those things come together in one weird little package? You know where. Here’s what you missed on…Glee!
This episode of Glee may have just been the least sexy Very Special Sex Episode of any show ever. There was no sexy “first time” montage à la “Like A Virgin,” no giving-it-up-for-your-art like in McKinley’s production of West Side Story. No, this episode was about the other side of sex…the chlamydia side of sex. And, also, the porn side, and the jealousy side, and the abstinence side. These kids, ahem, young adults are growing up and so are their problems and relationships. Now, sex isn’t just doing it or not doing it, committed to your West Side Story character or not committed to your West Side Story character (says Artie); it’s “intimacy issues,” it’s relationship-defining, it has consequences. And if you’re Artie and having lots of random, no-condom sex, those consequences are chlamydia. So much chlamydia.
It’s still a little odd to settle into this new Glee, that’s kind of like Original Recipe Glee, but also entirely different than anything the show has done before. It’s calmer, more pleasant, less absurd; the stakes are higher, the laugh count is lower, the songs are more mature. One brand spankin’ new addition seems to be little vignettes that are tied to the story, but not at all a part of the plot, as in, no need to contrive a hallucinogenic dentist’s visit. Tonight we’re given an odd little wartime film featuring the gentlemen of Glee – Sam, Blaine, Artie and Kurt: a handsome idiot, a debonair homosexual, a hapless invalid and a strapping male soprano, respectively. The message of the vintage black and white PSA opener is pretty clear: “Get tested for S.T.D. or America will end up R.I.P.” Straight up.
Writing this now, I can hardly recall it, but Blaine began this episode flitting around New York, talking about how much he loved the city’s culinary offerings in voiceover. My, how things spiraled. One second he’s getting all the no-line-queuing-necessary Cronuts he can stuff in his slightly softer than normal cheeks, and the next, his pants won’t button and he’s glaring at Kurt being admired by other men in their shared Stage Combat class while stuffing cheese curls in his face like that gross kid you went to camp with.
While Blaine has been gaining the Freshman 15, Kurt has been packing on a healthy lifestyle and Blaine suddenly realizes his fiancé is the new hotshot in town. Let’s just say, he does not handle it gracefully. He gives an extended narrated bit that’s supposed to imply that he understands why everyone wants to jump Kurt’s bones now, but mostly ends up sounding condescending regarding Kurt’s newfound popularity. (“Kind Of Condescending” could be Blaine’s next superhero name…and you better believe there will be a next superhero.) He of the Cheese Powered Mustache says he’s not comfortable with people seeing his fiancé as a sexual object, but what he really means is that he’s jealous of the sexual object his fiancé has become.
Speaking of sexual objectification, Artie is rolling around his film school halls like he’s God’s gift to sweater vests, and, well, he kind of is according to many of his fellow students who find his particular brand of wheelchair nerd, pleated khaki and Ohio charm sexy. It quickly becomes clear why Artie was never popular at McKinley: because popularity turns Artie into someone who says things like, “I’m the Pied Piper of coed trim” and brags about his many trips to bed with Vanessa the French New Wave girl and Jess the Cronenberg fanatic.
Unfortunately, his new talent roster doesn’t leave much room for the girl he actually likes, Julie, who’s narrating his student film, “Bags in the Wind.” She makes lines like, “When a plastic bag gets caught in the wind, does it feel sadness or hope?” slightly provoking, so he better hold on to her. Artie says his newfound confidence as a film school playboy has made asking out Julie a cinch. (He somehow didn’t get any boost from dating a bevy of McKinley’s finest Cheerios…speaking of, RIP Kitty, I guess). It also inspires a rousing performance “Addicted to Love” with Vanessa, Jess and Julie playing his band and backup singers. I love a good Artie solo, and he sounded great here, but I wish the girls had actually been singing backup instead of just pretending to—the repetitive lyrics could have used some female accompaniment to keep things interesting. B
NEXT: Hold the phone. Am I…enjoying…Samcedes?
Addicted to a less physical kind of love are Sam and Mercedes, who have gone from maybe-dating-maybe-racists to just a couple of kids in love. Mercedes comes up for a breather from a couch make out sesh to tell Sam that she’s excited about how serious things have gotten but also, things haven’t ever “gotten too serious” for her with anyone. Sex, Sam…she’s never had sex with anyone. Sam’s inability to pick up on subtleties doesn’t keep him from handling the situation well, telling Mercedes they can take things as slow or as fast as she wants.
The boys – you may have noticed, it’s an unofficial boys night, with nary a perfect note from Rachel to call our own – meet up at Serendipity to fill each other in on their sex lives, as young local New York boys are wont to do. Blaine is having a frozen hot chocolate and peer pressures Kurt into having one too because his solution to being jealous of Kurt’s new physique is apparently just to soften him back up like that witch in Hansel and Gretel. Despite some clear trouble in paradise, Sam suggests a little buddy-bonding trip to get tested for STDs (which I think this was actually the plot of the Girls pilot). It’s a good thing too, because, as previously mentioned, the doctor tells Artie privately that he has contracted chlamydia. He’s embarrassed and can’t keep the news to himself, so he goes back to tell his bros who all have hilariously different reactions. We get this little gem of an exchange from Blaine:
Blaine: How is that possible?!
Artie: I don’t know how!
Blaine: Well, do you wear condoms?
Blaine: That would be how.
Sam is highly unimpressed with Artie’s unprotected sex and thinks he needs to be thoroughly slut shamed, which means repeatedly screaming “SLUT. SHAMED!” The two girls he’s been sleeping with also handle it with varying degrees of understanding: Vanessa is furious and tells him his films suck, and Jess just says she’ll go get tested too, and for all she knows, she could have given it to him (um, I think she gave it to him). It’s right about this time that his One True Crush, Julie, hops over to tell him she’s thought about his offer and she’d love to go out with him. Timing!
Mercedes is needing some guidance on her decision to have sex with Sam, so she heads to church to seek some answers from God. Sam joins her and deems it the best time to present his clean bill of health. Mercedes says she loves him but she’s concerned he’s focusing on the wrong things in regard to her decision. The sudden turn to love and God is abrupt, but the transition from teens to 20 is a weird time, and if it means getting a little gospel-singing from Mercedes, I wouldn’t care if she suddenly announced she was having a Virgin Mary baby. That is not what happens. She is called up by the pastor to sing, but instead of “Move On Up A Little Higher” we get “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. It’s a weird fit, and I have to assume everyone in the church was all, “Huh?” but it sure did sound good, and they gospel-ed it up with the choir accompaniment. It also brought out a grittier sound in Amber Riley’s lower register that I would like to hear 1000x more. A-
NEXT: Always clear your browser history. Always.
Over with everyone’s two favorite hopeful child grooms, Blaine is making Kurt a dinner consisting of only cream-based dishes, either because he’s still trying to level the chubby playing field, or because he’s just craving some potatoes au gratin. Trying to begin getting Blaine back on track physically and mentally — but after Blaine has already cooked everything — Kurt tells him they can’t eat all that and they should walk to their movie and grab salad on the way instead. The thing about Kurt these days is, while he frequently still says he loves Blaine and wants to be with him, he doesn’t really seem to have all that much fun with him anymore. He has even less fun when he opens Blaine’s computer to look up movie times and finds Frat Boi Physicals staring him in the face, when they haven’t been physical themselves in over a week. That is what we call an abrupt adult transition.
Kurt leaves in a fury of fitness and hurt, but the two still have to be together the next day in Stage Combat class, where all the craziest sh-t goes down. With a very angry face, Kurt whispers that he’s not still angry about the porn site while the teacher tells them they’ll be doing some hand-to-had combat today. Blaine tells him they need to talk about it and Kurt, bless him, levels him with a stare and says, “Sometimes, I think we talk too much.” Cue “Love is a Battlefield” with bow staffs! We haven’t had a fully structured choreographed number like this since Cassandra July, and I will happily accept the Game of Thrones prop additions. I thought Darren Criss and Chris Colfer’s voices harmonized perfectly here, in addition to some on point lyrcis: “We are young” – that’s true! “No promises, no demands” – that is less true! A
I was flying high on adrenaline until the two were asked to fence and really went after each other. I thought it was Kurt getting aggressive with Blaine, but later, Kurt confronts Blaine about why he came at him so hard in class. Then, things take a really foreboding turn. Blaine basically says that for the first time in his life he feels like he’s losing, and with Kurt being so much stronger and in command of his own life now, he feels like the power dynamic in their relationship has shifted. He liked when they first met and he had to protect Kurt and now he feels like he doesn’t need him anymore.
Kurt takes all this in – the idea that Blaine only ever liked him because he was weaker than him, and a pretty strong implication that he has only recently begun to notice that he’s a physically attractive man – and tells Blaine that maybe it is a contest. Maybe that’s how it has to be with two guys. But he wants them to always be equals in the race and he needs to know when Blaine is feeling insecure. Blaine is scared that Kurt will keep getting stronger (red flag!!!) and realize he doesn’t need him anymore. Kurt assures him that will never be the case and they sweetly hug it out in their stylish sweaters. I mean, I guess, but that all felt like a REAL base-level irreconcilable difference.
RACHEL SIGHTING Rachel and Mercedes are having some girl time in Rachel’s apartment, thank goodness. They’re both thankful to have a girlfriend to confide in, and Mercedes is in real need right about now. She asks Rachel about her first time, because she says doesn’t need hers to be a big deal, but she does think it should be special. Prepare your heartbreaking mechanisms: “My first time was at his house…it was with him and I loved him and he loved me.” She doesn’t have to say Finn’s name; the simultaneous happiness and sadness on her face at the memory say it all. Mercedes still doesn’t know if she’s ready, but Rachel assures her she may never know when she’s ready, but she’ll know when she’s found the right person.
Both Sam and Artie have brought their hopefully right people, Mercedes and Julie, to the Spotlight Diner. Sam is doing his best to treat Mercedes to a nice date, while Artie is so freaked out by his own STD that he’s hearing everything Julie and Kurt the Waiter are saying as a venereal disease: “Would you recommend the wart burger with grilled scabies or the fettuccini in chlamydia sauce?” Tough call on that one. I believe Artie finally orders the pus-filled Reuben, but he wants to keep things on the up and up with Julie, so he tells her maybe they should wait 7 – 10 days before they consider having sex. She’s all, Bro, I don’t know who you’ve been dating, but we’ve been going out for about an hour, so your junk hadn’t really crossed my mind yet.
That should really ease his mind, and yet he takes her out to the river walk to sing Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile” to her while Mercedes also serenades Sam. It’s super weird because neither Julie nor Same have really been saying let’s NOT wait awhile, but Julie being totally freaked out the whole time really sells it for me. Poor girl…she’s probably not even used to singing groups of friends, let alone those friends getting together to sing in a horizontal line after separate dates. B
NEXT: But for real, let’s wait a very specific amount of “awhile”…
Back at their house, Sam and Mercedes are doing a little macking, but it’s time for her to address all this thinking she’s been doing. Mercedes has decided that she wants to wait to have sex. And not until she feels like she’s ready, or until the timing is right, but until marriage. Curveball, Glee. Sam can’t quite understand what the difference between doing that and just being really good friends would be, but she says she needs to know that the man she gives herself to in that way will be with her forever in marriage. He asks for some time to think about it; I also take some real time to think about this storyline, and that is the first time I’ve been inspired to do any such thing in the middle of a Glee episode in a long while.
Artie finds Julie in school to apologize for being super weird and telling her they should wait to have sex before they had even talked about not waiting to have sex. And then he says the worst words: “I need to be honest…” I don’t know, man. You’ve already lost her, not to mention, this is a curable ailment. Maybe wait to be honest until after your next couple of check-ins, and see if you can keep this friendship first. But what do I know? Artie tells Julie that he has chlamydia and he had to tell Vanessa and Jess and that’s why he was acting so weird. Julie doesn’t care that he was sleeping with two girls, but she does care that the girls he was sleeping with are idiots who film themselves eating dirt and send it to Sundance. “Honesty makes you see who everybody really is and…you’re a creeper, Artie.” I’m a fan of Julie’s (Stephanie Hunt, who you may remember as a Landry-loving member of Crucifictorious in Friday Night Lights).
You know who’s simple and kind of dumb but not a creeper and a really solid binge TV watcher? Sam. Mercedes picks up a call from Sam thinking that he’s calling to break up with her, only to open her apartment door and find 500 lit candles (don’t worry, he has a fire extinguisher). I liked that it looked like how a 19-year-old guy might set the mood to have sex with a girl for the first time, but really, Sam was telling Mercedes that he was willing to wait for her, if that’s what she needs. “I can live without sex, but I can’t live without you.” It all came on a little fast, but for now, they are sweet, they are mature, and it seems they are both sexually attracted to each other, so they’ve got that going for them. Or against them, as it were.
The episode ends on a lovely note with Mercedes going to see Rachel again and conceding that she’s happy to be a prude. She doesn’t care because she knows she’s made the right decision with Sam. Rachel tells Mercedes there was actually one moment where she thought she might have a little something with Sam (oh boy, did we dodge that bullet), and Mercedes asks if she’s having any moments with any other men. Rachel says she’s closed for business. She wasn’t dating Finn when he died but they both knew they were endgame. “There’s a line between your past and your future,” and she’ll draw it when she’s ready. Maybe some time, but not right now. Just some really lovely work from Lea Michele and Amber Riley this week — I’ll take quality over quantity any day. Mercedes tells Rachel it’s great to have a girlfriend to talk to. “It really is.” It really is!
What did you think of Glee tonight? Does Blaine and Kurt’s future look dim, or was this just a stumble? Are Sam and Mercedes as serious as they seem? And what in the world is going on with Artie?
Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.