Glee blog review Episode 6 Never Been Kissed: Pucker, man

Glee clubbers get a special assignment.

I admit: I was stoked in advance of this week’s Glee. Yet how could that be, given my carping about my favorite show’s stumbles out of Season 2’s gate?

Because, as I said then and say now, I believe in this show. Like that elusive first kiss of which Coach Beiste plaintively spoke, I see hope — in this case, hope for TV’s first and only true musical series, especially when it gets confrontational, as Kurt was urged to do by new pal Blaine.

In this case Glee confronted the very real problem of bullying and gay-bashing, as well as insensitivity and sexism toward hetero women, as embodied by manly but girlish-on-the-inside Coach Beiste.  That right there gave this episode heft.

But going in, I also knew it had heart and happiness, and why? Because I’d seen Teenage Dream in previews. More on that sensational performance later.

Back to Dot Jones’ Coach Beiste: Oh, how glad I was to see her again. She is this season’s best new character, and her vulnerability and humanity — offset by her gruff football toughness — make her far more interesting, if not as entertaining, as Sue’s relentlessly outrageous and callous egotist.

But as with most shows of late, this one focused on Kurt, who finally had enough of being slammed against lockers by a brute jock. (Didn’t Finn put an end to this when he stood up to his fellow jocks while dressed in drag?) Turns out the brute jock is a closet gay — and let this be a lesson to strident homophobes: You look like you’re overcompensating and a closet case yourself. Is that how you want to be perceived?

Yet “Never Been Kissed” was less about the all too true rigors of bullying than about Glee’s bigger mission: while entertaining us, not to preach, but definitely to show compassion and inclusiveness. And that started by giving Kurt a knight in prep school armor, Blaine, who looks and acts like just the ticket for Glee’s resident lonely boy. (And thanks, Will, for underscoring that Kurt’s been a self-pitying and put-offish boor lately.) I want to see Kurt happy, not just because I care about the character, but because I’m tired of him being glum and distant. Move on — open a new window. (Oops — that’s not until the Christmas album.)

But back to Blaine (Darren Criss). His lead vocal for his prep school glee club’s gleeful, exhilarating spin on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream was the best musical number of the new season — and one of Glee’s best ever. And it didn’t have a single core cast member. There’s a hopeful message there too: Glee can transcend its characters’ inevitable graduations.

Also riveting were Artie and Puckerman’s One Love mashed up with People Get Ready, a vibrant reggae mini flash mob for high schoolers who seemed to pay — er, donate — money for it more out of Puck’s intimidation than the performance’s quality, which short-changed the great performance. But I did enjoy Puck’s punching up his bad-assness with more flamboyance and flair than usual. He may seem like the same old bully in Gleek’s clothing to some, but they’ve tweaked the character — and Mark Salling sells it well.

In another boys vs. girls showdown comparable to last year’s, the girls’ fierce Livin’ on a Prayer mashed up with Start Me Up (the show’s first Stones song — it’s about time) had galvanizing giddyup, and the boys’ blue tuxedoed Stop in the Name of Love mashed up with Free Your Mind had its own odd sense of dapper abandonment.

So musically alone, count me in. This show was right up there with the great Grilled Cheesus. And storywise, it was almost as good. But “almost” is good enough when other episodes have been spotty and grandstanding instead of purposeful and character-driven. Meld meaning to the music and you’ve got the greatest show on TV. Neglect doing that and it’s just another diversion amid commercials.

Thanks, Glee. Even as the new season sagged,  I knew you had it in you. I wasn’t going to give up. And I’m glad I didn’t. This terrific episode puts New Directions back on track in a big way, whether everyone got kissed in the end or not.

After all, as Coach Beiste says: It’s not the kiss that’s all-important. It’s the hope that one signifies.

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