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Recap: 'Glee' - 'Big Brother'
A strong guest appearance by Matthew Bomer hides the show's usual problems
We’re back, “Glee” fans, for eight consecutive episodes to round out this third season. And with a fourth season confirmed this week, we don’t have to spend the next two months wondering if the show will be pushing towards its final Nationals or not. Instead, we can focus all of our attention on what we always do: trying to make sense of the here and now. And Lord knows that takes up enough mental energy in and of itself. “Big Brother” was pretty run-of-the-mill “Glee,” with only Matthew Bomer’s pretty fantastic guest appearance lifting this up as anything particularly memorable.
But before we get to Bomer, let’s talk some Quinn. After all, her texting-and-driving PSA ended the Winter run, leaving us with one singular question during the hiatus: “WTF?” The show had built up a bumpy yet semi-intriguing plot with Rachel and Finn getting married way too early, with everyone around them seemingly unable to stop the inevitable. Well, what stopped them from getting married was Quinn getting T-boned on the way to their quickie ceremony. Would the show kill Ms. Yale? Anything was possible, including the idea that the accident would somehow turn Quinn into a live-action version of a character from “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Instead, the show played it fairly safe, picking up a few weeks/months after the accident. Luckily, absolutely not one piece of glass managed to cut a single inch of Quinn’s porcelain skin, but she did suffer a compressed spine. I won’t given anything away to those who haven’t seen it yet, but I got quite a few “Downton Abbey” flashbacks while watching her cheerily explain her new condition to the group. Everyone seems to buy into Quinn’s sunny disposition, save two: Rachel is still feeling guilt over the accident, and Artie is simultaneously delighted to have someone on his (literal) level while afraid of the inevitable day when she can walk again. The Artie/Quinn material was quite ham-fisted at times, but that’s “Glee”: the word “subtle” isn’t in its dictionary. But while the script often let them down, I quite enjoyed Dianna Agron and Kevin McHale playing off each other. That’s not a pair the show has ever really explored, and it’s worlds better than throwing Artie into a random love triangle with Irish Guy and Rich Tonedeaf Girl. (Yes, they have names. No, I can’t be bothered to remember them.)
While those two paired off for most of the episode, the rest of New Directions falls under the spell of Cooper, Blaine’s older brother. It’s important to separate out the success of the performance versus the success of the storyline. The latter was pretty insulting, taking a dim and semi-offensive view of the Midwest as the land of people instantly dazzled by semi-celebrity and willing to eat up bad acting advice when it comes from a pretty face. “Glee” is often really smart about demonstrating just how smart and savvy these kids are, but also isn’t afraid to make them temporarily stupid in order to sell a joke or a storyline. Having said all that, Bomer’s over-the-top, egotistical Cooper was a delight from almost start to finish. I couldn’t believe that Rachel would earnestly take notes from a guy preaching that live theatre is dead, but I dug how much Cooper reveled in having people feed into a clearly starved ego.
The storyline between the two brothers didn’t really move me in the slightest, but it’s hard for any story on “Glee” to really shine when it’s desperately competing for screen time real estate. When Artie wasn’t taking Quinn to “Crip Skip,” Sue was learning news about her pregnancy. When that wasn’t happening, Puck was trying to create the version of “Cougar Town” that those not actually watching that ABC gem think happens on a weekly basis. When THAT wasn’t happening, Finn was contemplating a 180 from his previous desire to marry Rachel and think about their future apart. While all of this is going on, Mike Chang sits around dutifully and prays for the chance to dance. It’s all exhausting, guys.
In a weird way, this was the worst week to bring in Bomer’s character, because you could make the case that every other story line was about people realizing the next steps of their lives might not be as rosy as they thought. Quinn was inexplicably looking at a perfect life mere months after trying to plant evidence in Shelby’s apartment. But now, the likelihood of walking again is possible but not guaranteed. Sue has long been an independent woman, and her love for her sister has translated into a pretty sweet relationship with Becky. But the thought of raising a child with Down’s Syndrome gives her slight pause, pause that shocks her as much as Peggy’s racism shocked her in this week’s “Mad Men.” And Finn/Rachel: Well, even if Quinn’s accident didn’t knock them completely out of love, it knocked them off course enough to realize they have probably been driving down parallel yet rapidly diverging paths.
I’m not saying any of these plots would have been any better given extra time to breathe. But one could feel the notes coming down from FOX on the script: “MOAR BOMER PLEAZE KTHXBAI.” (LOLcats run FOX. In case you were curious.) If nothing else, we would have been spared Darren Criss’ performance of “Fighter,” which God help me was the funniest thing I think I’ll see in all of 2012. I like Criss in general, and think he’s generally misused on the show. (The same could be said for 90% of the cast, actually.) But God, the boxing…and the showering…and then a bizarre restaging of The Architect scene from “The Matrix Revolutions”…I just don’t know, guys. The idea of using the stage as a psychic space appeals to me. Too often, like in the final number “Somebody That I Used To Know,” there’s a band and light show just waiting for what’s ostensibly an impromptu performance. But in numbers like Season 2’s tango-slavored “Kiss” or “Fighter,” the stage turns into what’s ever in the performer’s head. But why oh why did he have to shadowbox that image? Poor Criss. Poor us.
Next week we are losing Matthew Bomer but gaining John Travolta…well, in the form of “Saturday Night Fever,” which will inspire the episode. I’m serious. No, I’m not making it up. Stop laughing. After that, we get a Whitney Houston tribute. Maybe there’s a way those two theme episodes take these characters down the paths hinted at tonight. Mostly I’m expecting bell-bottoms and Mercedes mad that she already performed “I Will Always Love You.” But hey, maybe the show will surprise me. Anything’s possible. Except Tina getting lines. Let’s be realistic, people.
What did you think of tonight’s “Glee”? Should the show pull off a “White Collar”-esque heist and steal Matthew Bomer full-time? Did the Quinn storyline play out satisfactorily, or did they just cheapen the cliffhanger? Sound off below!