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'Glee' recap: Chewing on faith and divine grilled cheese

October 6, 2010 |  8:54 am

203GLEE_Ep203-Sc43_189Holy grilled cheese! The “Glee” writers sure sandwiched a lot into Tuesday night’s episode, giving viewers who complained that last week’s Britney Spears confection was overdone, tasteless and all empty calories a lot to chew on. The episode sank its teeth into the big questions: Is there a God? Should we believe? And, most importantly, if Jesus appeared to you on a grilled-cheese sandwich, and you maybe got three wishes, what would you wish for? (Please don’t say getting to second base with Rachel -- that wish has been taken.)

It was “Glee’s” faith episode, though George Michael was nowhere in sight. (Suggestions for other pop songs that would have suited the theme? Please share them in the comments section.) Then again, who could see anything through the blur of tears? Kurt wasn’t the only one who went through the episode with red, swollen eyes (Chris Colfer is a true master of the been-crying-for-days look) after his dad, Burt, collapsed of a heart attack in his garage while cracking lame (but sweet) self-deprecating jokes.

Kurt’s relationship with his dad is one of the show’s warmest and most nuanced, and to see it in danger, and to watch how Kurt responded to the possibility of losing his dad, well, let’s just say it was a major mood crash that was a far cry from last week’s laughing-gas-induced debauched delirium.

In many ways, it was a tough episode to get through, though it did present an opportunity for some transcendent (and admirably plot-advancing) numbers. Finn’s version of REM’s “Losing My Religion” was a highlight, as was Kurt’s emotionally piercing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which made me cry only a little less than he did. Puck’s “Only the Good Die Young” (the Billy Joel song was a continuation of his streak of doing only songs by Jewish artists, he noted) worked, too, but watching Rachel sing that "Yentl" song (“Papa, Can You Hear Me?”) in Kurt’s dad’s hospital room, reaching around the wires and beeping machines to fondle his bald head while calling him “Papa” and singing about missing his kiss goodnight, was more than a little discomfiting. I know Kurt later regretted kicking her (and Quinn and Mercedes and Finn and his mom) out of the room, but really, it seemed like justified irritation to me.

And Mercedes’ spirituals? Honestly, I was disappointed. Whether you’re a believer or a non-believer, it’s hard not to feel something lift and expand in your chest when someone belts out a big, heartfelt gospel number. Surely all of us “Glee” watchers believe in the miracle of good music, its ability to heal and uplift and move and delight. But both of Mercedes numbers -- in the chorus room and in church, with her well-turned-out congregation clapping and swaying along -- left me strangely unmoved. Mercedes sang admirably, beautifully even, but she didn’t seem truly transported by the music; so we weren’t.

Neither was Kurt. Or wait, was he? It’s hard to know whether to credit Mercedes’ song, a gospel take on “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” and introductory speech (about the necessity of believing in something beyond what we can detect with our senses) with helping Kurt to espouse his own true belief. He doesn’t believe in God, he told his comatose father, but he does believe in him, and in their relationship. That, to him, is sacred. (Cue Joan Osborne’s “One of Us.”) Kurt also seemed to come around to believing in the power of friendship, which is helpful when you’re a character in an ensemble show.

At turns silly and serious, the faith episode presented viewers with a nice smorgasbord of approaches to religion and belief: Some people find God, if only temporarily, in a wish-granting singed grilled-cheese sandwich. Others see it in living life to its fullest: “I see God every time I make out with a new chick,” says Puck.  For some, like Rachel, religion is a matter of culture and tradition. For others, like Mercedes and Quinn, faith is a way to get through life when things get rough. For some, religion is boring: “Whenever I pray I fall asleep,” Brittany says. And for others, it’s a form of oppression: “Asking someone to believe in a fantasy, however comforting, isn’t a moral thing to do. It’s cruel,” says Sue. “It’s as arrogant as telling someone how to believe in God and if they don’t accept it, no matter how open-hearted and honest their dissent, they’re going to hell.”

And for some, believing in God is pure self-delusion: “I think God is kind of like Santa Claus for adults,” Kurt says, channeling Bertrand Russell (Kurt-style) as he adds, “You can’t prove that there isn’t a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs, but it seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it?” 

But what do you think of the episode? Did you find the whole religion thing a little awkward and didactic (like Tina says, “Last week we were too sexy; this week we’re too religious. We can’t win!”) and not really what you look for in a show like “Glee”? Or did you relish the chance to chew on some big thoughts and see facets of the show’s characters we may not have seen before? Were you pleased with the song selections? And how old do you think that grilled-cheese sandwich was by the time Finn finally ate it?

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer and Naya Rivera in "Glee." Credit: Fox

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