I can’t wait until I’ve caught up to season two in my reviews before reviewing the newest, so I’m going to do 2.06 now, then do 2.01 – 2.05 and then continue season 1 while keeping up with season 2. Season two is turning out so incredibly awesome!
Last night’s episode marks the start of an arc with increased focus on bullying, it had a couple very good turns and an awesome twist that I did not see coming. Taking this thing storyline by storyline, since there’s three running concurrently in the episode.
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Kurt and Homophobia
The bullying that Kurt has to endure at school is intensifying. Besides the verbal abuse and the dumpster tosses, he’s getting more physical abuse as well, specifically from Karofsky. He goes out of his way to hurt Kurt, pushing him into lockers, hard, and threatening violence. Kurt, who’s been getting more depressed lately, what with all the crap happening to him, plus not feeling challenged enough at school, is not taking this well.
Mr. Schue has the list with the Glee club competition for sectionals, one of them are the Warblers from the all-boys private school in Westerville, Dalton Academy. Santana immediately has a head full of gay jokes, and Kurt just has an exasperated look. This kind of pervasive homophobia (because that’s what it really is) is the big undercurrent all over school. Even if a lot of the kids don’t realise that they’re continuing this undercurrent by these small remarks. It all adds up.
Will catches the last of Karofsky shoving Kurt into the lockers again and takes Kurt to his office for some water and a chat. The look on Kurt’s face as he looks at the cup that Will offers him says it all. Contempt for the amount of support he’s been getting, and, as he accepts the water, resignation that it won’t change. It is only now that Schue asks if he can do something. The bullying has been going on forever, but only now does it really register. Kurt waves the offer away, claiming it his hill to climb alone. He knows that even if he were to ask for help, he won’t get it. And more evidence that Schue really doesn’t know Kurt. He says: “I think it’s getting to you. Usually this stuff rolls right off your back.”
Oh, he couldn’t be further from the truth. Kurt’s scathing look as Schue says this… Every single thing Kurt has to go through builds up on him. He might try to let it roll off him, but he can’t. Every time he gets abuse, it adds another brick to the wall he’s building around himself. He tries to be strong, but at some point he will break. Schue then continues and, instead of offering any kind of support, actually lays a blame on Kurt, saying that lately he’s been getting belligerent and angry and pushing people away… Well surprise there Mr. Schue, that’s what happens when you get no support at all and have to face the daily crap alone like Kurt has to. Plus, pushing people away has been Kurt’s standard mode of operating since the start really. It’s only lately that he’s not taking it anymore and getting vocal about it.
Kurt remains polite, though. As is usual for him, he talks to adults as if he’s an equal, and I love him for that. He calls Schue on how much the school has let homophobia slide. And gets in a jab about the boring and repetitive lessons he’s been giving. “To answer your question, yes, I’m unhappy. And yes, being the only out gay kid at this school gets me down. But most of all, I’m not challenged in the least here.” And of course he’s challenged, challenged to just live, but not challenged academically in the least.
This gets Will thinking so he adds a twist to the challenge: the boys must sing songs from girl groups and the girls must sing songs from boy groups. As if this really makes it more challenging…
Kurt is a little happier though and shows his idea to the group: feather boas and animal prints. Artie gets a point in here by bringing up that it’s supposed to be opposites, and that Kurt in a dress and feather boas is something they would expect. There’s a bit of validity in his point, but he simultaneously ruins it by mentioning a dress. Kurt even says so: “who said anything about a gown?”
Score: 2 for undercurrent homophobia.
Then Puck pipes in, and basically asks Kurt to leave. He suggests checking out the ‘garblers’ to see what they’re up to, he’d fit right in with his feathers and boas… Score: 3 for undercurrent homophobia. It’s so saddening and maddening to know that, after being in Glee club for so long, he remains the outsider even there. He is never really included.
Kurt is speechless for a moment, too tired to fight. He takes his board and leaves. Mike and Finn shared a confused look, that Kurt would actually leave. Something is stirring in their heads, I hope. Let’s also hope it sticks.
Kurt manages to get in at Dalton Academy to spy on the Warblers. And there he finds the place in a frenzy as kids are running to get somewhere. He asks a random kid, who introduces himself as Blaine (Yay! Blaine!) what is going on. Blaine explains that the Warblers throw impromptu performances sometimes, and now is such a performance. Kurt is surprised, the Glee Club here is cool? Like rockstars, Blaine says. He drags Kurt along on a short cut (although really, the slow-mo, and piano music as they run… come on!), and surprise, surprise, there it turns out Blaine is one of the Warblers. They sing Teenage Dream, and it is Awesome! Kurt agrees, at first apprehensive, his smile grows bigger and bigger. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my boy that happy 🙂
And also, in this short little bit, Blaine has touched Kurt three times, first by shaking his hand, then by taking him by the hand leading him to the performance, and then by straightening his jacket. And it lights up his face that another boy would so easily touch him without any form of fear or apprehension or expectations. Because at McKinley, Kurt doesn’t get touched, unless it’s to hurt him. And if someone does touch him in a (somewhat) positive manner it’s a girl.
Blaine and his friends, Wes and David, have figured out Kurt’s a spy, and are buying him a coffee after the performance. Kurt’s flabbergasted at how nice they are and really just waiting for them to beat him up. And then it’s like heaven has opened up as he asks if they’re all gay and the boys explain they’re not (well, Blaine is) and how there’s a zero-tolerance for bullying, “everyone get’s treated the same, no matter who they are.”
Kurt can scarcely believe it and is close to tears by this. Blaine asks Wes and David to excuse them so he can talk with Kurt. Kurt explains about his life at McKinley, and Blaine gets it. He really, truly gets it. Because his life was the same, and all he got from his school was, sorry, you’re gay, you’re life is just basically gonna suck. So he transferred to Dalton when he couldn’t take it anymore. Even though I want to know more about the kind of bullying he got, as he phrases it as taunting, and I’m not sure if it was of the level that Kurt is going through now.
He tells Kurt he has two options: come to Dalton, but since tuition and all that at Dalton is kinda steep that’s not an easy option, or refuse to be the victim. Stand up and try to teach them, since prejudice is born from ignorance. Blaine regrets letting the bullies at his school chase him away, and encourages Kurt to pick option two. A bit simplistic advice, Kurt is already standing up, and what with the violence of late, standing up could have dire consequences, but Kurt is inspired, he has a support now.
Back at McKinley, Kurt gets a text from Blaine, just one word: Courage. As he re-reads it, you can tell from how he smiles, how he walks, that he feels the weight on his shoulders get lighter. He has someone now who knows what’s he’s going through, someone he can turn to for help and advice and friendship. And right through that, Karofsky barges in, slaps the phone away and slams Kurt against the lockers, again. And as he stands there, trying to regain his breath and internally assessing if he’s badly hurt, he decides he can’t take it anymore. He runs after Karofsky and barges into the boys’ locker room where Karofsky went.
Kurt: Hey! I’m talking to you!
Karofsky: The girls’ locker room is next door.
Kurt: What is your problem?
Karofsky: Excuse me?
Kurt: What are you so scared of?
Karofsky: Besides you sneaking in here to peek at my junk?
Kurt: Oh yeah, every straight guy’s nightmare, that all gays are secretly out to molest and convert you! Well, guess what, Hamhock, you’re not my type!
Karofsky: That right?
Kurt: Yeah, I don’t dig on chubby boys who sweat too much and’re gonna be bald by the time they’re thirty.
Karofsky: Do no push me, Hummel!
Kurt: You’re gonna hit me? Do it!
Karofsky: Don’t push me!
Kurt: Hit me, ’cause it’s not gonna change who I am. You can’t punch the gay out of me anymore than I can punch the ignoramus out of you.
Karofsky: Get outta my face!
Kurt: You’re nothing but a scared little boy who can’t handle how extraordinarily ordinary you are.
Karofsky is silent for a second, and then he kisses Kurt.
That was the second awesomest moment of the episode, and I didn’t even see it coming, even though it’s really rather classic. The bully who bullies those that are like him, because he can’t face himself. Kurt is completely thrown off, too. He didn’t expect this. Karofsky goes to kiss him again, but now Kurt pushes him away. He’s shocked, and disguested and violated. Karofsky punches the lockers and runs out.
Kurt asks Blaine to come and help him in talking to Karofsky about his sexuality and kissing Kurt. Karofsky doesn’t want to though, and he shoves Blaine against the fence. Kurt pushes him off and tells him that he needs to stop this. Karofsky runs off, confusion all over his face. Blaine takes it pretty easy with a “well, he’s not coming out anytime soon.” Kurt, however, is more shaken and drops down on the stairs. Blaine sits with him and asks why he’s so upset. “Because up until yesterday, I had never been kissed,” Kurt answers. And now the experience of his first kiss will always be the memory of something violent, something unwanted, something clad in homophobia and anger and fear.
I like that they’re not making Kurt instantly smitten with Blaine, and that it’s really a friendship growing. I think I’d prefer if it stays this way. I’d approve if they grew it slowly and it might get into romance near the end of season, but I’m definitely favouring friendship.
The next day, Kurt has made up his mind. He’s taped COURAGE to the door of his locker, underneath a picture of Blaine. He’s wearing bright colours (which he rarely does) and is happy. And then Karofsky comes by and shoves him into the lockers again, much harder than before. Kurt falls to the ground and for a second they just look at each other. Nothing’s gonna change, at least not anytime soon. It might even get worse, because Kurt is much more of a threat to Karofsky now. Kurt pulls himself together a bit and just sits there, resigned, for now.
Afterwards, it’s time for the boys’ performance. Kurt and Mike are by far the best dancers of the group, and Kurt seems to actually enjoy himself. He’s smiling, and even dancing interactive with Mercedes as the song ends. And then the guys hug with Coach Beiste, and Kurt is excluded. He just stands there and does not get a hug, does not get that touch that he craves, the touch that tells him he’s accepted and seen.
– – –
Coach Beiste and Reverse Objectification
Finn and Sam are bonding over them not getting any, and methods of ‘cooling off’. Finn has his trusty almost-killing-the-mailman-with-the-car scene, but Sam has nothing. So Finn directs his attention to Coach Beiste and suggests he use her as a turn off. Sam agrees.
I get that they need something to keep from exploding, but to use a specific person for that, and degrading her just because she does not conform to society’s standards of what is ‘hot’, even if only in your mind, for your own benefit, is all sorts of wrong.
I expect Finn to suggest that, after all, he has been showing a marked disregard for things that aren’t directly related to him, but I thought Sam would be different. It’s okay for him to not find her attractive, after all, we all have different tastes, but to go so far as to actively use her, abuse her really, no, not what I was expecting of him…
Sam tries his new cool off during his next make out session with Quinn. It works, though he gets Quinn suspicious by saying ‘Beiste’ when Quinn wants him to say her name. Quinn goes to Sue for help. Not the best way they could’ve thought of to get Sue in the storyline. Sue wants Quinn to get Sam to confess to liking Beiste, in public.
Sam has been talking about the new method to ‘cool off’. Mike discusses it with Tina, who finds it funny and wants to try it out. And again, another person I would not have expected it from runs with it. She, too, says Beiste’s name while making out with Mike. I do like that they show it’s not just boys who do this kind of behaviour. This is a visual that gets mirrored in the Puck storyline, where they role reversal as well.
(Although, side note, the mind sequences with Beiste in the cheerleader and ballet uniform are done very well by Dot-Marie Jones, I really like her!)
Quinn starts a fight with Sam, per Sue’s instructions, in the hallway. From there it goes from bad to worse as Coach Beiste overhears her name and gets a clue about what’s happening. First with Quinn proclaiming the quarrel she’s having with Sam is her fault, and then Mike barging in telling her to stay away from his woman. Beiste is confused, and so is Will, who walks in on this.
Will drills Mike and Sam until he gets the story, and then chews them out for doing this. I think the chat he had with Kurt is giving him at least some insights (let’s hope they stick) and he’s saying mostly all the right stuff. And then he tries to keep it a secret…
Coach Beiste knows something is going on, so she comes to talk to Will to find out what it is. He doesn’t want to tell her, but when she tells him that he is the only one at the school she actually trusts, he knows he has to tell her. Except he goes about it the wrong way, he starts of with defending the Glee kids and asking her not to take it personally before he spills the beans. Very clear where, in the end, his priorities lie. Not with Beiste and her being bullied (which it really is) but with keeping his Glee club, correction, keeping the more or less normative kids of his Glee club, out of trouble.
Beiste, who really has never been anything but bullied and harassed her entire life, has had enough. She quits.
For mash-up, the Girls sing Start Me Up & Living on a Prayer, dressed in leather outfits and rock star hair. Nice performance, not that special. After they finish, Becky runs in with a note from Sue, she wants to meet Will in the auditorium.
There Sue stands on the stage, with two confetti cannons. They got what she wanted, Beiste quit, and their budget has been restored, so she got her two cannons. Cue full on villainous laugh. Best of all, she says, in the end it wasn’t even her who got rid of Beiste, it was Will’s kids, they got over that whole shiny happy people thing and just got mean. And she’s right.
Will is chewing out the Glee kids over basically says the wrong things about how it was wrong because she’s an outcast. It isn’t wrong because of that, it’s wrong because she’s a human being, period. He orders them to come up with something to apologise.
Will goes to talk to Beiste, but she interrupts him, saying screw this. She’ll find her bliss somewhere else, maybe as a cooler in a Honky Tonk bar, or as a trucker. Will gets angry and tells her stop it, he gets it. Everyone is scarred by their High School experience, and people like them are then even crazy enough to come back to it as adults to relive that every day.
But Will really doesn’t get it. This isn’t about High School scarring, this is about something Beiste gets everywhere, always. Inside that tough and occasionally intimidating exterior, she’s a regular woman, who wants to be loved for who she is. And instead she gets ridicule all the time. Will tries to fix it the superficial way, he tries to offer to help her get a date… Really, Will, that’s all you can come up with.
Beiste just shakes her head, she knows it’s not gonna work. And she has resigned herself to that, because even something so small as being kissed has never happened for her. I knew then that Will was gonna kiss her. And I was going all noooooooo, don’t. So Will barges in with another of his patented surface solutions and he kisses her. Seriously Will, “and now you’ve been kissed.” You really think that’s gonna solve anything? The issue is bigger than that. Plus, you’ve just robbed her from having a true meaningful first kiss. Her memory of her first kiss is going to be clad in pity.
Then it’s time for the boys do to their Mash-up. All suited up they’ll perform for the girls, and Coach Beiste. Finn almost ruins it because he talks too much, but when they start singing their In The Name of Love & Free Your Mind mash-up, it’s fun. They suck at dancing though. At the end, Coach smiles, she liked it, and they hug. But they hug because Artie instigates, Beiste goes along with it, but it doesn’t come from her. I think I’d like to see some Beiste-Kurt connecting going on, that would be interesting.
– – –
Puck and Artie and Being Bad Ass
Yay! Puck’s back! Although I must say, the Puck story line in this episode, while it has some good bits going on, doesn’t really interest me.
Puck’s out of juvie, on probation on the condition that he do community service. Puck got his probation officer to agree to him “helping out a crip” instead of picking trash. So Puck corners Artie and makes him his project. Artie, from experience, expects Puck to push him down the stairs when he grabs the chair and starts wheeling him away. We don’t see Artie being bullied on screen as much as we’ve seen Kurt, but these little nuggets make it clear that he gets a good amount of crap as well.
Puck’s also desperately projecting his tough guy image, acting out even more so than before, because he doesn’t dare admit that juvie scared the crap out of him and he never wants to go back. So he puts on his tough face and goes back to being the school bully.
Puck wants money, so he uses Artie, and his disability, to go busking at the school grounds. Singing One Love, they bully their classmates out of money and make a good $300. Artie confesses he likes Brittany and kinda wants her back. Puck wants Santana back, so he suggests taking them to Breadsticks.
Puck and Artie barge in as the girls prep their costumes. It’s a bit of a role reversal here. They’re being all tough which prompts the girls to want to take them out, which they refuse. Puck then tells them to be at Breadsticks the next day, and if they don’t find cute girls tonight, they might meet them there. Santana is aware of what the boys are playing, but goes along with it anyway. She doesn’t really have a lot of sense of self
At Breadsticks, during dinner, the guys keep playing hard to get, and it works. Puck is also telling tall tales about his time in juvie. At the end of dinner, Puck suggests skipping without paying. He and the girls leave, but Artie can’t do it, so he pays. He’s been trying to become more bad ass, but when it is about to hurt someone completely unrelated to them, he can’t do it, he sees the humanity. Now for that attitude to cross over to his personal life so he can actually start to see Brittany as a person as well. Puck is disappointed in Artie paying and abandons him there.
Figgins barges in during rehearsal wanting to see both Will and Puck in his office. Puck’s probation officer is there. She was under the impression Puck was working to rehabilitate a Crip, not a cripple, and is not okay. He has 24 hours to come up with a better idea or it’s back to juvie. Puck makes a scene, but it feels off, it’s not as bad ass as you’d expect, giving his reputation. The adults don’t pick up on this, they just see the trouble maker.
Puck and Artie talk, and Puck comes clean about what really drives him. Juvie scared the crap out of him, he thought he was bad ass, but the guys in there are much worse. He doesn’t want to go back. Artie makes a deal: do the trash pick up and I’ll tutor you in geometry, because really you’re a smart guy and there’s no reason you shouldn’t ace that. By offering a true solution, and in a way that preserves his dignity, Artie has done more for Puck in five minutes than the adults have all through this situation. Puck agrees.