Glee: Season 1, Episode 8
Glee's continued quality shifts leave me pretty unsure what to expect walking in to any episode. On a good night I'll laugh hysterically for a full hour and find few plotting or story flaws to make my blood boil. On a bad one, I'll find myself so angry at the show's story choices its hard to crack a smile. "Mash up" was fortunately closer to the former than the latter, though that is not to say the show has reached perfection yet.

The episode focused mostly on the love triangle that has formed between Will, Emma and Ken. Emma and Ken are preparing for their upcoming nuptials, and as part of the process hope to recruit Will to mash up their two choices for song, "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady (or, in my mind, from The Birdcage) and Sisqo's "Thong Song." The very existence of this story point irked me from the get go, as I think the idea that Emma would agree to marry Ken, whom she clearly does not love or even particularly like, after dating him for a few weeks is insane. Also, I find it sweet that Ken loves Emma enough to put up with her indifference, but I don't think he's so desperate he would put up with a wedding ceremony in which the two are not in the same room. However, the fact that this plotline actually resulted in a confrontation between Will and Ken, and in Will's realization that he is improperly leading Emma on actually earned the show some points in my book.

The B-plot (or one of the many B-plots) is also to the show's credit, as it improbably paired Rachel and Puck, and then made it work as an interesting romantic pairing. Puck, motivated by his mother and a sex dream ("I knew it was a dream because there's no way Rachel could climb up the wall outside my window with no shoes on") decides to date Rachel, mostly because "We're a couple of good looking Jews!" However, he soon finds her kindness and her depth actually get to him, and he chooses Glee Club over football (in a plot point I'll address in a moment). The Rachel-Puck pairing actually seemed like a very interesting direction to take the show in. For one thing, it would put up a plausible, not overly contrived block between Rachel and Finn, which is exactly what this show needs. Additionally, the subtle tragedy of those two dating while they each knowingly pine after another could add some real emotional depth to the show.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and as has been a Glee tradition, they must be neatly tied off within 45 minutes. I don't mind if the show wants to take a largely stand-alone approach, it just seems to be squandering many potentially fascinating storylines that could deepen the show and help it reach its potential simply so that each episode can end exactly where it started. As I've said before, without any real, lasting character development, the show is just a procedural with songs.

Another very funny plotline that was thrown away is Sue's interest in local news anchor Rod, whose random non-sequiters made for some of the best moments of the night. Having markedly evil Sue Sylvester fall in love and soften up toward Will and Glee is an interesting (if a bit obvious) plotline, but this is another instance where the show made me wonder if this story wouldn't be better off thrown in somewhere down the road (say in a season or two). I consistently worry that at the rate this show burns through story, there will be nothing left to cover or care about by the end of its first season. (A further example of this trend is Emma and Will wedding dress shopping. I understand the scene was played to show that these two should be together, but all I could think was that when they are finally together the moment of her picking a wedding dressed will be cheapened by the fact that we've been here before. Also, as a rule, don't put a character in a wedding dress within your first ten episodes unless it's to quickly establish that she won't be getting married).

Back to the aforementioned choice between Glee Club and football, Ken's anger at Will manifests by him requiring his team to choose between the team and the club. This becomes a major conflict in the episode, but it already feels a little done. It seems as if every episode throws a roadblock in front of the success of the Glee Club, which prevents us from getting more character stories. If every episode forces a character to choose between Glee and something else, the show will feel rote very fast. Instead, I hope episodes begin focusing on character development again. When Finn left Glee tonight, there was no danger because this plot has already been done four or five times in the last eight episodes. We knew that he would be back in the club by the end of the episode, so watching him do it was actually a little boring. Instead of doing another story about someone leaving Glee, why not deepen some of the lesser seen members like Arty, who has been wheeling around uselessly as a background character for the whole series.

While on that point, I think the lack of depth in many of the characters makes a lot of the scenes with the whole club bonding feel a little cheesy and overdone. Their dancing during "Bust a move" exhibited the same problems I saw during their jam session last week"”it felt more like a bunch of high school stage actors pretending to have a good time and cheesily dancing around together than a group of people who are actually enjoying themselves. The moment at the end where the whole club threw slushies on Will also felt a bit fake, simply because the bonds this team claims to have don't feel real yet. That being said, Kurt's decision to slushy himself for Finn was a very sweet moment, and more of these will likely make the moments with the whole club feel more genuine.

At the end of the day, though, this episode of Glee was a step back in the right direction. For one thing, it had no Terri or fake pregnancy scenes, which automatically bumps an episode up in my mind (if the show decided to violently and inexplicably kill Terri and then never mention her again, I would actually go for it at this point). Also, it had a little bit of its dirtier edge back, which nicely subverts its cheesy musical sheen. Plus, it made me laugh more than last week's did, which considering the show is a comedy, is a very good thing. There are still major problems for the show to work out, but I hope someday soon I will write a review of it that doesn't quickly devolve into a rant about the show's shortcomings.

Grade: B


-The show should try an acoustic number every once in a while. Puck's "Sweet Caroline" was a nice moment, especially for the cut to Quinn, but had it not been as overproduced, it might have struck home more.

-I'm kind of sad we never got to hear the mash-up between "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "The Thong Song." After the successful ones of two episodes ago, I was kind of curious to hear what they would do with them. On the bright side, we finally heard Emma sing, and the show has been hiding her excellent voice all season. I see some awesome duets between her and Will in the future.

-"Don't you have a wife Rod?" "She drowned. Now I've got the condo all to myself."

-Did anyone else find Will's dancing with the cheerleaders during "Bust a Move" just a tad inappropriate?

-"I can't be caged in Sue. That's why I got my tiger tattoo."

-I loved the scene between Rachel and Puck on the bleachers. Why did they have to kill that coupling so fast?

-"I don't think one decision makes your life. Unless you accidentally invent some sort of zombie virus or something."

-Marrying an animal is ok, but bestiality is still uncool. Intimacy doesn't belong in a marriage. That is just to say that I continually love how Sue "C"s it.

-"Leaders can imagine a world that others don't. Like Thomas Jefferson or that kid in the Terminator movies."

-"If it is one minute late, I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night, I will steal away into your home and punch you in the face."
Tags: Glee
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