Glee: Season 1, Episode 17
Bad Reputation
I'm going to come right out and say it: "Bad Reputation" is easily the best episode Glee has done since it came back from its hiatus. I can't say that its a step in the right direction, since this show has been known to turn out a very good episode just a week before a total catastrophe (and the previews for next week were far from promising) but this did remind me that when the show hits its notes right, it can be very good.

First off, this is the first episode in a long time that used the characters in a way that was pretty consistent with how they have developed over the season. Kurt, Mercedes, Arty, and Tina were outsiders, Rachel was absolutely obsessed with her reputation, and with the love she coudln't make work, Will was a younger, hipper, more attractive Mr. Feeny, Emma was insecure and borderline insane, Sue was a megalomaniac with a hidden soft side, and Brittany was unbelievably stupid. You would think this would be expected of every episode of a television show, but when it comes to Glee any form of consistency is worth cheering about.

The episode centered on members of the Glee Club trying to increase their popularity by going "bad" in various ways. This plotline is a little hokey, sure, but it also makes sense that these outsiders who are obsessed with status and stardom would want to be popular, and the ways that they tried to do it also made sense for their characters. Rachel, who is generally unwanted, unliked, and perpetually single would try to seem like she had three attractive men vying for her affections, and all three of them would be alienated by that fact. Kurt, Mercedes, Arty, and Tina decided to do the worst possible thing they could imagine--sing "U Can't Touch This" in the library. This scheme seemed ridiculously innocent and cutesy, but also like exactly something these characters would come up with. And that it ended up getting them a possible gig at the librarian's church was just icing on the cake.

On the Sue Sylvester front, the show's ace in the hole was humiliated when a video of her dancing to "Let's get Physical" was posted on the internet. This lead, absurdly, to her co-starring in a music video remake with a self-obsessed, incredibly well-informed Olivia Newton John, and to her learning a lesson about cruelty, insensitivity, and confidence. Newton John was, oddly, a pleasure to see, playing a trumped up, statistics spouting version of herself who actually played off Jane Lynch's brusqueness very well. Sue's obsession with Olivia Newton John was handled exactly the way her Madonna obsession should have been handled weeks ago. It didn't overplay this new character trait that came out of nowhere, but instead weaved it into the story in a way that actually felt plausible. The return of Sue's sister felt, just like the first appearance by her, slightly exploitative and like lazy short hand for Sue's internal kindness and deep humanity, but for some reason that I can't explain, it worked.

In all, this episode didn't blow the doors off the place, but it did many things better than Glee has in quite a while. It used its characters well, the story made sense, the musical numbers were a lot of fun (especially Rachel's video for "Run Joey Run" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" at the end), and it brought back a little bit of the weird one liners that I have been missing dearly in the last several episodes. "Bad Reputation" isn't a game changer by any means, but it does indicate to me that the show hasn't totally lost sight of how to make a good episode, and it gave me a little faith (which I'm sure will be quashed in the next few weeks) that maybe, someday, Glee will figure out how to be the show it should be. And if it does, "Bad Reputation" will be seen as a clear step on its way to something great. For now, though, I can at least rejoice that for once the show didn't make me angry, and in fact, gave me a little bit of the warm, fuzzy feeling it seems to usually be going for, with just a little sadness mixed in for good measure.

Grade: B+


-"As soon as I figure out the difference between slander and libel I am filing a law suit."

-"No one is accusing anyone of anything. Puck, seriously, did you do it?"

-Nice return by Stephen Tobolowsky, appearing for long enough to shoot Rachel in her video with a gun that said "BANG!" Also, a nice appearance by Molly Shannon as a teacher who is clearly just as insane. I hope she returns.

-"I can't teach in Indiana anymore because I have some 'drug problems' that involved my 'students.'"

-"I'm ironically turned on by your bad boy persona, but I think we wshould keep this professional."

-"I don't know how to turn on a computer."

-"We have to do what we've been dreading. Something worse than Rachel's personality..."
Tags: Glee
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