McKinley students blur lines, Mr. Schue fights for the right to twerk, Marley rides a wrecking ball, and Kurt and Rachel get tattoos

By Marc Snetiker
November 15, 2013 at 06:00 AM EST
Adam Rose/FOX
S5 E5
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Are you ready, guys? Like, are you REALLY ready? Because Glee is getting Robin Thicke out of its system tonight — and perhaps, if we all really dream and believe and clap our hands together (stay with me, Tink, don’t you quit on me), this may mark the last time we’ll ever have to hear “Blurred Lines.” Ever.

If you survived the Summer of Thicke, then there’s one more trial, and that’s tonight’s episode of Glee, titled “The End of Twerk.” Commercials have touted the performance of “Blurred Lines,” so before we begin, it’s worth nothing that Robin Thicke is inarguably pop culture’s ninth best Robin, after (in no particular order) Robyn, Robin Roberts, Batman’s Robin, “Rockin’ Robin,” Real World/Road Rules Robin, Robin Scherbatsky, Robin Hood and my childhood friend named Robin who went to Stanford (Stanford!). Then there’s Robin Thicke, whose “Blurred Lines” was essentially the theme of tonight’s episode: the blurred lines between artistic and distasteful; between being edgy or rebellious; and, in a surprisingly deep plot, between genders.

Let’s start with the goings-on at McKinley (but skip ahead if you want to hear about this week’s installment of Rachel and Kurt’s Kooky Brooklyn Follies and the haircut from hell).

We open on Blaine gratuitously twerking in the choir room, which goes viral after Tina records it. Mr. Schuester says Blaine’s dancing is a revelation and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about (unlike Artie’s vest-shirt combo, which is repulsive). In fact, Mr. Schue decides that the word “twerk” will be this week’s whiteboard word/Glee club assignment/life lesson/motivation for Nationals. “We need to edge up our America’s sweetheart image a bit!” he says, wearing a pair of 1976 Levi’s. So obviously, let’s not take tips on hip-hop from this person.

Jake leads the club in a “twerk-torial,” explaining the origins of the word as Kitty demonstrates the move to her basic bitches (her words, not mine). Suddenly everyone’s shaking and popping and gyrating, except Dumb Ryder who’s weirdly wobbling like he’s skiing down a mountain with poles made of flan. Mr. Schue says Unique’s a natural (because he’s rude like that) and Kitty orders Tina and Ryder to twerk in the back. From the A/V room, Sue watches the twerk in progress, and she’s not pleased.

Sue still has a segment on the local news for some reason, so now we’re at Sue’s Corner. She gets in a reference to Bashar Al-Assad — likely the first time some younger Gleeks will hear the name aside from that one very special episode of Backyardigans — and compares him to “a far more insidious foe: Miley Cyrus.” Sue pledges to end the “genital-flapping dance known as twerking” at McKinley High, and submits a bill to Ohio State legislature to ban it.

Naturally, the Glee clubbers are livid that Sue has banned the dance they’ve been obsessed with for a whole day. Even Mr. Schue’s upset. “She’s deciding what’s acceptable and what’s not, and that’s just not gonna stand,” says the man who suspended a girl for not wearing a bikini last week. “Twerking is about blurring the lines,” he says, then reiterates, “Sue Sylvester wants to draw a line in the sand? Well we’re gonna blur it!”

NEXT: What song are they going to sing!? (Is it “Roar”?)

The “Blurred Lines” performance that nobody has been waiting for has arrived, and it’s just as ridiculous as you think it will be. Mr. Schue is playing the role of “Everybody get up!”, while Artie takes the lead on “Whoo!” and we never really see who gives the backup “Hey hey heys.” We get a great shot of Ryder doing nothing as Schue leads a parade of white-collar twerkers down the hallway, interrupting classes and rubbing gonads all over school property. The madness concludes in a sweaty dance party in the auditorium. My grade: Horrified. (B+ for vocals.)

Naturally, Sue is furious. She calls Mr. Schue into her office and scolds him for being a married 37-year-old singing a song about date rape with nine minors down the halls of a public high school. “It’s called the First Amendment,” says Mr. Schue, an idiot. “You’re fired,” says Sue, making her first good move as principal. Ever the sore loser, Mr. Schue says he’ll appeal to the school board.

The school board (led by Breaking Bad’s Ted Beneke) has a hearing in the auditorium, a venue change requested specifically by Mr. Schuester. He pleads his case about twerking with a presentation about the evolution of risqué dance: waltz (Sam and Tina, looking classy), the Charleston (Unique and Artie, looking awkward), rock ‘n’ roll (Ryder, just trying to be involved in the episode), the twist (Kitty and Blaine, looking perfect for the necessary Hairspray tribute), and the lambada (Jake and Marley, looking like two Sims dancing to salsa music). Mr. Schue says twerking will be thought of as a silly dance in 20 years and begs the board to favor the right side of musical history. And based on Ted Beneke’s smarmy nod, it looks like they just might.

Dealing with her own blurred lines, let’s move on to Unique, who is having trouble finding the right bathroom to use. She goes to use the ladies bathroom, but runs into Bree, who’s applying lip gloss on top of her lip gloss (as teenage girls apparently do on TV). “Stop right there, voice of Elmo,” says the spawn of Satan. Unique admits she’s afraid to use the boys’ bathroom and pleads with Bree to keep the secret, which brings us to something Unique calls The Great McKinley Bathroom Gender Riot of 2013. I’m not going to bother explaining this bizarre sequence since it has nothing to do with Bree, Unique or anything else in the episode, and largely just made me scratch my head and wonder why my high school never had a rave in the bathroom (we did have a luau in the cafeteria though because we be wild like that).

Anyway, back to Unique, who later tries the boys’ bathroom, dressed as a girl. The football players start harassing her and flush her wig down the toilet. She sings Beyonce’s “If I Were A Boy” alone in the bathroom, and it’s pretty heartbreaking. I’m surprised it’s taken this long since Unique’s introduction for us to get this song and this performance, actually. In a ridiculous episode, the song was particularly moving, and should serve as a reminder of Glee’s important position as a sociopolitical talking point for teens across the country. Plus, Alex Newell’s incredible vocals. Grade: A.

NEXT: Let’s go to New York!

The blurred lines are getting a little out of hand, so let’s take a break and check in on things in the big city.

We begin with Rachel at a hair salon, where she expresses that she wants a transformation to shed some old skin to look completely different. She arrives for Funny Girl rehearsal with a new haircut – THIS HAIRCUT. Let’s talk for a second about this haircut. If Drew Barrymore from Scream and Joan Cusack from Addams Family Values had a baby by way of Velma Dinkley and every news anchorwoman ever, even that baby would not want this awful bob haircut (which I’m naming The Rachel, By Patricia Heaton).

At rehearsal, Rupert the director (Carlisle Cullen from Twilight, playing a mortal, against type) hates the haircut and demands Rachel explain herself. “I’m not a prop,” says Rachel, who would be wearing a wig in the show anyway so everyone needs to just calm down. They decide to rehearse.

Ioan Gruffudd (better known as Mr. Fantastic) is playing Nick in Funny Girl, and we’re treated to a fairly well-done version of “You Are Woman, I Am Man,” a catchy song about chauvinism (ohhhh now I understand why it’s the Robin Thicke episode). The song works, and Rupert feels the need to interrupt the song to applaud Rachel’s haircut for elevating the material (meaning he’s really got to be a bad director). Finally, a win for Rachel! She’s so happy! Grade: B+ (for happiness).

But we’ve been duped! Rachel gets home and reveals to Kurt that her grisly coif was actually a wig! See, Rachel was being rebellious, she explains. Kurt is surprised that Rachel would lie to the director, and Rachel responds by calling him boring. “You go to class, and then you come home and you watch your stories and you eat all this food and you Skype with Blaine,” she says, describing my entire life. Poor Kurt! (He started a band! That counts, right?) Kurt suggests that Rachel’s rebelliousness has to do with Finn, and she doesn’t exactly deny it. The two decide to go do something crazy together.

They head to a trashy tattoo parlor called Anesthesia. Rachel busts out a bottle of limoncello. Naturally, the rest of the night is a (you guessed it) blur, and the next morning, Kurt wakes up with a shoulder tattoo that says “It’s Get Better,” a cringeworthy typo that’s forever printed on Kurt’s skin thanks to a royal screw-up by Anesthesia’s tattoo artist, Dustin Hoffman-from-Hook. Even worse than the typo: Rachel flaked out and didn’t get a tattoo, leaving Kurt inked and irritated with his supposedly edgy friend. (I’m not going to acknowledge that Kurt suddenly has abs and lats.)

Kurt storms back into the tattoo parlor, where Hook tells him that “It’s Get Better” is exactly what he asked for. Hook asks why Kurt is even getting a tattoo, and Kurt naturally opens up about his entire life to this stranger. Hook gives him a pep talk about finding “the juice of life” (which, it turns out, is not Jamba) and then invites him to really take a risk…

…and ta-da! Kurt returns to the loft with a tongue piercing, and an amended tattoo that says “It’s Got Bette Midler.” He accepts his rebelliousness and goes off to chastely Skype with Blaine. Rachel says she’s not sure if she loves anything enough to have a tattoo of it on her body for the next 50 years. And although Kurt now has a stupid tongue ring and Rachel pulled that stupid prank with the wig, I can forgive it all because Rachel goes into the bathroom and looks at her midriff tattoo, a simple cursive type that says “Finn.” And it’s f***king perfect.

NEXT: More Miley misery at McKinleyBack at McKinley, it’s time to check in on the Shakespearean tragedy that is the Marley-Jake drama. Last week, Marley, a Prude, fought with Jake, a Concupiscent, causing him to seek vaginal comfort from Bree, a Slut. Jake and Bree are still making out in the bathroom, so Jake is now a full-blown cheater, but Marley doesn’t know.

In the hall, Bree accosts Marley about her awful twerking and decides to spill the beans that she and Jake hooked up. Except Bree doesn’t just spill the beans — she cooks them, boils them to a scalding hot temperature and then tosses them in Marley’s porcelain face. Bree is truly a horrible human being, which is a shame because she shares the same name as one of TV’s greatest characters.

Inconsolable, Marley storms over to Jake and demands to see a mole on Jake’s hip, which Devilskank Bree described to her in perfect detail. Jake can’t deny the tryst, so Marley does what any self-respecting heartbroken teen would do: She goes to the auditorium to sing about it. Marley’s “Wrecking Ball” seems like it’ll be a nice character piece, until they put her on an actual wrecking ball and send her careening into a brick wall, which is not metaphorical. No, it’s actually a brick wall, and she kind of just lays there among the foam like she’s been stunned in laser tag. Grade: C+.

Meanwhile, Unique has asked Sue for a unisex bathroom, and she obliges by installing the most offensive Port-a-Potty ever in the middle of the choir room, bolted to the floor. When Unique has to actually use the bathroom, Kitty is not having it: “If Oprah’s going to drop the Cosby kids off at the pool, I am not going to be here for it.” Mr. Schue escorts Unique to the hallway, where he delivers a teacherly pep talk comparing gay rights to New Coke. He leads Unique to the faculty bathroom and unlocks it. “From now on, whenever nature calls I want you to find me, and I am going to open this up for you,” Mr. Shue says, meaning well but sounding disgusting. “No one needs to know how you identify yourself. They just need to know that you washed your hands after.” Ugh. Come on now.

Sue calls Mr. Schue into her office yet again, where he is halted by Becky the Suddenly Horrible Person (“Do you have an appointment? Then get out, bitch!”). Sue makes a deal with Mr. Schue — she’ll give Unique the key to the faculty bathroom if the Glee kids finally stop twerking. Schue passes on the deal and suddenly trashes Sue’s office, taking Becky along for his path of randomly motivated destruction.

But it turns out Mr. Schue DID take the deal, sacrificing twerking for Unique, which makes him a good guy after all (and still a horrible role model for teenagers). Suddenly, the kids aren’t even into twerking anymore now that it’s outlawed. They decide to move on by singing an upbeat, optimistic, “old-school Glee” song: The Royal Concept’s “On Our Way,” which is a great song that will probably do well on iTunes, which is good because the band is great. The Gleeks perform it on a random playground roundabout in the middle of the stage, and everything seems happy, except for Jake and Marley, who continue to exchange looks of betrayal. Grade: B (for betrayal).

That’s it for this week. So long, Robin Thicke! If I don’t hear “Blurred Lines” again for the next geologic era, it will be too soon.

Episode Recaps

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