Oh Glee. I don’t know why I had my hopes up, to be honest. You’ve disappointed me so many times, and yet I keep coming back for more. Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked how you’ve handled Kurt and Blaine’s relationship in the past, or maybe it’s because I love West Side Story. Who knows? But for some reason, I went into last night’s episode with hopes that were far too high.
Now, I didn’t hate “The First Time”, so I’ll start with what I didn’t like so we can move on to the positives.
First of all, what’s with Artie peer pressuring his actors into cashing in their V-chips? I’m sorry, but I found Artie to be incredibly unlikable this episode. Artie and I have always had ups and downs. He’s had some great storylines, usually revolving (ha! wheelchair pun?) around his being paralyzed, but I’ve often had problems with how he treats people. This week, those problems definitely resurfaced.
Telling Rachel and Blaine that their performances didn’t seem genuine enough and basically demanding that they have sex so they can bring more passion to the stage? Really? What the hell? And Emma and Bieste are really so uncomfortable with sex that they just left the auditorium when the conversation arose? Are you kidding me? Someone needs to be supervising this, obviously! Or else teenagers get peer pressured into losing their virginity for the sake of “art”! Come on Artie, it’s called “acting”. In West Side Story both Bernardo and Tony commit murder, did Artie request that Puck and Blaine experience that in real life as well?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Artie’s conversation with Bieste about her own sexual experience was wildly, wildly inappropriate. Disgustingly so. She’s an educator! A figure of authority! It’s none of his business! Sure, it was kind of cute that he got her a date with the football recruiter she liked, but that would have been a much better task for Will Schuester, or you know, anyone who isn’t 17 years old.
OK, my second problem with the episode was Blaine’s behavior. He was a total jerk to Kurt, and then the next day they’re having sex? Kurt’s better than that, and I’m not sure Blaine apologized enough.
OK, third and final major problem: no talk of safe sex? Look, I’m not one of those crazy anti-TV anti-everything parental watchdog groups. I have no problem seeing teens on TV having sex. But it would have been nice to see Rachel, Finn, Kurt or Blaine even mention a condom. Sure, there was a passing reference to Quinn’s unwanted pregnancy. But it’s about a lot more than that, and it just might have been nice to see it highlighted a little more.
OK, that said, I don’t see why this was such a controversial episode. I don’t know why the aforementioned parental watchdog groups got so up in arms. Over what? Some fireside making out and a whole lot of fingers interlocking? Teen sex has been on TV for a long time at this point. It’s nothing new. Glee was not really pushing the envelope here, and the show has definitely had racier scenes in the past. If you ignore the stuff about Artie and Blaine’s unlikable behavior, it was all very sweet.
Failure to Launch
OK, now let’s talk about the actual episode. Artie has found his passion as a director, which is great. I’ve already told you how I feel about the way he handled that role, but I did like seeing him blossom under the new responsibility. When he freaked out a little before the show and then was presented flowers as a thank you from the cast, it was a really nice moment.
So thanks to Artie’s obnoxious, misguided remarks, both Rachel and Blaine left rehearsal thinking they needed to have sex before the show debuted. Finn, naturally, was thrilled that Rachel was suddenly ready for a step she’d previously had reserved for after she’d won a Tony. First, she sought advice from Brittany, Santana, Tina and Quinn – for the second time, since she’d also gone to them two years ago when she was thinking about having sex with Jesse St. James. Quinn, Santana and Brittany all advised Rachel to wait because of pregnancy, regret, Finn’s lack of skills in the sack and, from what I could gather, alien invasion. But Tina’s description her perfect first time with Mike, who she loved, was all Rachel needed to make up her mind.
Once she was at Finn’s house, though, things didn’t go smoothly. Finn was angry and freaked out when he realized the only reason Rachel wanted to have sex was because of her performance, not because of her feelings for him.
Blaine wasn’t quite so obvious with Kurt – he mostly talked about wanting to be adventurous and spontaneous. When Blaine paid a visit to Dalton to give the Warblers tickets to the show, he met a new Warbler named Sebastian. Sebastian was a total douche, to put it delicately. He was flirty and condescending and had no problem hitting on Blaine even after being introduced to Kurt. He suggested getting the guys some fake IDs so they all went to a gay bar in West Lima, and Kurt went along with it to try and play along with Blaine’s desire to be adventurous.
At the bar, Kurt ran into Karofsky. Apparently Karofsky still isn’t comfortable enough with his sexuality to be out of the closet at his school, but is OK visiting a gay bar in what I thought was a pretty small town, where he is greeted with affection because of his status as a bear. Great. Has Karofsky not thought that maybe someone would see him there? Kurt did. Anyone could. Lots of people like gay bars. That said, the conversation between Kurt and Karofsky was well done and it was nice to at least get a little resolution to that storyline.
Blaine got drunk off one beer and danced with Sebastian for half the night while Kurt sipped on the Shirley Temple Sebastian had condescendingly ordered for him because of his status as permanent designated driver. Kurt eventually joined Blaine on the dance floor, but when they left the bar Blaine was obnoxious and gross and tried to get Kurt to have sex in the back of his SUV. Klassy. Kurt got mad, Blaine got mad, and Blaine ended up walking home.
I heard a lot of mixed reviews about Glee‘s version of West Side Story, and now that I’ve seen it I have to say I think they did a good job. I liked how the songs were scattered throughout the episode, and I kind of hope we get to see more of them as DVD extras.
Glee has a pretty multicultural cast, probably more diverse than an actual small town Ohio school would be. That made it easier for them to decide who’d be a Jet and who’d be a Shark – I’ve seen at least one awkward all-white version of West Side Story, and I think Glee did a pretty damn good job. Santana as Anita? Yes, please. I loved her singing “America”.
I read the Monkeysee blog by Linda Holmes over at NPR quite regularly, and usually I agree with what she says. But I have to disagree with her complains (mostly via Twitter) that Lea Michele wasn’t a good Maria simply because she’s not a soprano. So what? I thought she sounded great. And honestly, who should have been playing Maria instead? I knew girls like Rachel Berry in high school, and they always got the lead. Tina couldn’t play Maria – in season one she tried to sing “Tonight” and couldn’t hit the high note. I’m sorry, but she’s just not as talented a singer as Rachel. And could Mercedes have hit all those high notes? She has a strong, powerful voice but I’m not sure she has the range that Rachel does. Rachel might not be the ideal Maria, but out of the students at McKinley High, she was.
In general, I think it’s a little unfair to criticize Glee doing West Side Story because it wasn’t a fantasy sequence or a regular performance, it was a school musical. And I thought it came across as just that. The accents were decent and so was the acting – probably on a par with or better than most high school musicals. I’m no fan of this new Irish kid, but I did laugh when he painfully tried to pull off whatever accent he was supposed to be doing. If West Side Story had been 100% flawless, I think we would be complaining that it wasn’t realistic.
Rachel and Blaine both had to go on stage virgins, but they realized they didn’t need to have sex to convey Maria and Tony’s passion for each other. They both have people in their lives who they love. After the performance, Blaine apologized to Kurt for his jackass-y behavior the night before. They made up and went to Blaine’s house. There was kissing, hand-holding and other sweet things that imply what really happen.
Likewise, Rachel went over to Finn’s house after the performance. He’d sent flowers to her backstage, but didn’t stick around for Artie’s after-party at Breadstix (um, anyone who’s ever been in a high school musical knows that you wait until closing night for the wrap party…). Finn had his hopes set on impressing the football recruiter from Ohio State at Friday night’s game, but he was told he wasn’t good enough. He’s not a good enough quarterback to get a football scholarship and he’s not a good enough singer to go to New York with Rachel. Basically, he’s terrified that he peaked in high school. Rachel told him he’d just outgrown his dreams and could come up with a new plan, and then she told him she knows he’s special because she’s going to give him something that no one else will ever get. (Spoiler alert: It was her virginity.) And everyone at home hoped that she wasn’t losing her virginity with pity sex.
Because the school musical coincided with two main couples having sex for the first time, it didn’t leave a lot of room to explore Mike’s storyline. We knew his dad wasn’t on board with his dreams to dance, but I thought his mom was going to help him break that news to his dad. When Daddy Chang showed up at school and basically disowned Mike, it felt too harsh and out of place. I get that the writers had to address that storyline before the musical debuted, but I think that should have been more heavily explored in last week’s episode. If we’d already been aware of Daddy Chang’s intense disapproval, the heartache on Mike’s face as he saw his dad’s empty seat in the auditorium on opening night would have been more poignant.
Because of the subject matter and the musical, this episode felt like a stand-alone episode. We got little tidbits of character and plot development, like Finn’s concerns about life after high school and the progression of a few relationships, but other story arcs got sidelined. I know an upcoming episode will focus more on Santana’s home life and her relationship with Brittany, so I’m looking forward to that. The show also needs to resolve the Puck/Quinn/Shelby storyline and the dueling glee clubs sooner rather than later. Right now neither show choir at McKinley has enough members to compete at Sectionals, and I need to see that rectified. Also, McKinley is going through what appears to be the longest student election campaign in the history of American high schools, so I’d really like to see them just pick a senior class president already.
OK, now it’s your turn – what did you guys think of the episode? Was the talk about S-E-X handled well, or were you too skeezed out by it’s origin (Artie’s peer pressure) to appreciate it? Did you like seeing the kids do West Side Story or do you think they ruined it? Now, check out my favorite quotes and moments from “The First Time”:
- The Warblers’ performance of “Uptown Girl” was really fun, and although likely included to make sure that something from this episode sold on iTunes, was also a good way to keep the episode from being too West Side Story heavy.
- Rachel remarking that the meat substitute Finn served her tasted so real…because he totally forgot she’s a vegan.
- “Should I go make dessert? I have pound cake, it’s Sara Lee.” – Finn
- Was Rachel wearing knee socks to lose her virginity? Come on, Rachel! No!
- “I’ve never felt less like being intimate with someone. And it’s either you can’t tell or you just don’t care.” – Kurt (You tell him, Kurt!)
- Santana deserves a second shout-out for her performance as Anita. Seriously, I loved that version of “America”.