Twitter went and had a collective aneurism during the final five minutes of tonight’s “Glee.” No one could seemingly process what they just witnessed. Here’s my insta-theory as to why that was the case: the last five minutes were solidly crafted, emotionally crippling minutes of television that pulled every layer of crap off the show and demonstrated its powerful, beating heart. It would be like going to see The Wiggles perform in concert, only to have them end the show with a crushing version of “Tears in Heaven.” I mean, how could a normal brain process such a shock to the system?
 
“Glee” really isn’t interested in the types of musical combinations on display in tonight’s episode. “Mash Off” may have been the title, but “Smash Up” would be a more accurate one to describe what the show attempts on a weekly basis. Over on FX, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are simply taking this approach to its logical extreme with “American Horror Story.” But honestly, swap out Rory for Gimp Suit Guy and see if anything makes less sense than half of what goes on in a typical hour of this show…
 
…and yet, Lord, those final five minutes were perfect. When the show deals with the complicated issue of teenage sexuality, it should be at its weakest. And yet, it finds discipline in the thorniest of issues, ostensibly because everything else is window dressing to this central issue. This wouldn’t be a problem, if “Glee” were just about Kurt and Santana with the other breeders along for the ride. I’d watch the hell out of that show, because at least then I’d be watching a program that had emotional investments in its character’s arcs. Contrast the Adele mash up with the Hall & Oates mash up, and you have everything right and wrong with the show in a nutshell. The latter was played for out-of-context laughs. The former went for the jugular and slit your damn throat…
 
…and yet, Lord, those first fifty-five minutes were BRUTAL. It ping-ponged between the Puck/Shelby/Quinn debacle, the Congressional race, the student council contest, the chasm between Rachel/Kurt, and the link between dodgeball and stoning. While I admire those final five minutes, which featured the backlash of Sue’s dirty campaign on Santana’s innocent head, no time spent on this plotline has made a lick of sense. Sue can operate in her own world of weird within the walls of McKinley High and largely get away with it: she’s a big fish in a small pond. But extrapolating that to a state-wide election that views her antics as thought-provoking stretches things too far. It doesn’t help things that Will is apparently Burt’s campaign manager now. What? Does Will map out Burt’s strategy each week by writing “PATRIOTISM” on a white board? I have such a headache…
 
…and yet, I didn’t need aspirin watching Santana connect deeply with “Someone Like You.” Adele is so ubiquitous a presence on the radio right now that it’s hard to feel there’s anything intimate about her music. Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” poked fun about the way in which her music seemingly makes everyone cry, but it’s almost as if we’ve collectively decided Adele is the pathway towards crocodile tears. Thus, emotional response to her music is almost Pavlovian at this point, rather than truly earned. Still, what Nya Rivera did in her half of the mash up was revelatory, combining with the show’s arrangement of the song to truly make the song feel fresh again. Until now, Season 1’s “Somebody to Love” might have been my favorite performance in the show’s history. But this made a strong case to dethrone the champ, even if it involved Troubletones that seemingly multiply like Gremlins between each scene…
 
….and yet, there I go again, dwelling on the simple things that “Glee” refuses to do in order to produce an episode that at least pretends to fit together as a cohesive whole. Were I to give the show any type of benefit of the doubt, I’d throw together a defense of the show as a modern-day example of Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre. Brecht said of this style that it should primarily avoid a staple of most theatre, “the engendering of illusion." Brecht came up with this approach as a revolt against naturalism in theatre, which he felt produced complacency in the audience. Epic theatre was confrontational, alienating, and called attention to its artifice in order to wake the audience up from its stupor in order to convey the importance of what was being presented. Brecht went so far as to tell a director of one of his plays that, “Each scene, and each section within a scene, must be perfected and played as rigorously and with as much discipline as if it were a short play, complete in itself.” That’s freakin’ “Glee” in a nutshell, people, with its rigorous resistance to any form of connective tissue between one scene and the next, constantly calling attention to its existence as a pre-produced product being beamed through your television…
 
…and yet, the most powerful moments in the show push past that and work their way into our hearts all the same. Quinn calling Shelby a “cash whore” was the show at its worst, but Puck’s horny yet earnest pleas to be part of Beth’s life worked. While Quinn’s actions seemed intended to shock, Puck’s actions seemed like those of a clumsy man- child tiptoeing towards maturity. Santana’s riff on Finn’s weight smacked both of body dysmorphic disorder and grand larceny (since she lifted the monologue wholesale from Sue, seemingly), but it all stems from a defense mechanism surrounding her sexuality. Finn’s retort seems like an attack to her, but it functions from his perspective like a wake-up call. “Glee” gets really focused when it feels like doing so, and manages to produce complex emotions from unlikely sources as a result…
 
…and yet, it’s clear that the show only does so when it’s interested in the character in question. The show has handled Rachel reasonably well this season, making her naked ambition something it admonishes as much as adores. But her dropping out of the student council race marks the second time already this season she’s stepped aside in order to make way for someone who may or may not have earned the slot she vacated. In the case of “West Side Story,” the issue is admittedly more complicated. While in real life the competition between Lea Michele and Amber Riley would be a landslide, in “Glee” world they represent equally strong yet wildly different performing styles. But her decision to cede the student council race to Kurt bespeaks not friendship but straight up condescension. Now, Lord knows “Glee” would show us as much of the student council race as it would the rehearsals for the school musical, but still, “Mash Off” packed in pretty much the entire race into one episode. It introduced some jock into the mix, told us Brittany hates tornadoes (but loves Topless Tuesdays), and that Kurt ran the only honest campaign. Had the Hummels’ attempts at running a clean campaign been the focus of the hour, with both led into temptation to appeal to their darker sides, maybe this would have been a worthy plot. But it was thrown in because the show couldn’t wait to unburden itself from another long-running storyline. And rather than have Kurt madder than ever at Rachel for another selfish move that insulted him, the two are once again besties on the potential way to NYC in the Fall…
 
…and yet, should I care? Other than briefly worrying about Kurt’s health when he first appeared wearing a hat that wouldn’t have been out of place on Campbell Scott’s head in “Dying Young,” I didn’t feel anything for Kurt this episode. Last week’s episode ended on what should have been a monumental moment for him with Blaine. And yet neither that pair nor Rachel/Finn seemed to acknowledge it happened. Maybe that’s a bold statement meant to convey that life after sex simply moves on, but I’m chalking this up to what I’ll subsequently call Epic (Fail) Theatre henceforth. I didn’t need the four spooning all episode to make the point, but all Blaine did this hour was get passed over by Finn for a solo after using a mic stand as a phallic symbol in “Hot for Teacher.” The only character I currently care about is Santana, because that’s the only character the show currently cares about. Everyone else is an iTunes delivery system, and little else…
 
…and yet, I’ll keep watching, because what happened in those five minutes happen enough in the course of “Glee” that even if this weren’t my gig to cover each week here at HitFix, I keep hoping those that produce the show actually watch their own episodes occasionally and see how freakin’ good this show could be if they stopped trying to be epic and started trying to be intimate. I want them to see Mike Chang dancing alone. I want them to see Santana’s naked emotion in tonight’s finale. I want them to fulfill the promise inherent in this show’s premise. And until this show goes off the air, I’ll be waiting for them to fufill it.
 
What did you think of “Mash Off”? Did those final five minutes floor you or bore you? Is the show burning through story too quickly or is story something that doesn’t concern you? Will Sue’s contrition last or will the congressional storyline continue? Sound off below!