Glee Season 3 Episode 5 Review/Recap ‘The First Time’: Like a virgin

GLEE: Rachel (Lea Michele, R) and Blaine (Darren Criss, L) perform in West Side Story in "The First Time" episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, Nov. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Adam Rose/FOX

An episode which was blasted by parent groups sight unseen has proven to be one of Glee’s most tender, sensitive and understanding hours. The First Time transitioned Kurt and Blaine and Rachel and Finn from virginity (well, almost for Finn) to sexuality with fitting false starts followed by a finessed finish.

It preached protection. It exalted gentleness. And it lavished love. What was the problem again?

This Glee also sang with some of the series’ best music — certainly the best so far for Season 3. In a season known for lightweight pop pleasantries and overly retro Broadway bents, The First Time delivered West Side Story on McKinley’s stage with exquisite musicality, including some of the finest singing Lea Michele has performed for Glee — and that’s saying an awful lot.

Though Tonight wasn’t the full-bore, fully orchestrated, fully realized Broadway-style production of the studio track issued prior to the show, One Hand, One Heart was so superbly melded to the pairs of lovers that it gave their trysts a touching dignity — even sweetness.

I’m sorry, but for Glee’s narrative to suggest Mercedes could have done these songs justice is sadly misguided. As they say, when it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Rachel’s (Lea Michele’s) delicate, pure, near-operatic performances for Maria’s West Side Story songs are How It Is Done.

Maria was Rachel’s — and Lea’s —  role to play. Deal with it.

But full-cast vibrancy also erupted, with the boisterous and dance-driven America from West Side Story and 1983 pop hit Uptown Girl for the hugely welcome return of the Dalton Academy Warblers, who barely missed a beat without an envious Blaine. (Younger Glee fans: You may know Uptown Girl is by Billy Joel — former husband of supermodel Christie Brinkley, right? — but he’s openly channeling those New Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons, circa early 1960s. Just sayin’.)

I also greatly appreciated Coach Beiste getting a beau in an Ohio State football recruiter — and appreciated him, too. I swear, I love Coach Beiste (Dot Marie Jones), who has one of Glee’s best storylines.

Sorry to hear Karofsky (Max Adler — thanks for tweeting me, Max!) was almost written out by transferring, but it was good to see him again at West Lima’s gay bar. As for newbie hottie Sebastian (Grant Gustin), his arrogant character struck me as sexually predatory and a jerk, but I’m straight — and fully bought into this episode’s contrasting good-guy tone. Maybe he’ll evolve.

I also savored Artie’s blossoming as a director — and the cast’s heartfelt kudos to him. Again, this episode showed a welcome and rare sensitivity in today’s popular culture.

So thanks, Ryan Murphy and the cast, crew and creators of Glee. You’ve again made this longtime show biz observer proud — proud of a sometimes flawed yet steadily inspired series which, in its finest moments, is better than anything I have ever seen.

You see? There’s a first time for everything.

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