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'Glee' recap: Making alcohol awareness sing!


Leave it to "Glee" to tackle a potentially joyless, didactic topic like teenage drinking and somehow manage to entertain and surprise and get its important life lessons across. Tuesday night's episode was as funny, startling -- and yes, at times cringe-inducing -- as a certain curly-haired choir director's slurry drunk dial. Perhaps its message will be heard as widely and resonate as strongly.

You could be forgiven for being a little scared at the prospect of Alcohol Awareness Week at McKinley High. But all it took was Principal Figgins to mull over the influence of the singer "Ke – dollar sign – ha" to remind us that we weren't in the land of the afterschool special. And so we got twisty-turny reminders about responsible drinking -- designated drivers, taxis home, hydrating, letting friends spend the night when they're too drunk to sally forth, the dangers of taking a few nips for courage (especially before a performance), the perils of viewing potential mates through beer goggles, how alcohol poisoning "kills about 400 people a year" -- along with useful tips about deflecting parents who are curious about your day-after dry heaves by telling them you're practicing bird calls (Santana) or drinking a traditional tea made of panda hair (Mike Chang).

We found out that it's a bad idea to grade papers drunk (A+ for you and you and you! But you? "I don't even know who you are," wails Will) or to dial up your romantic interest if you list him or her under "work contacts" on your cellphone, especially after a night out riding a bull and singing lubricated country duets. We learned that it's probably not a good idea to break into your two gay dads' liquor cabinet in their Oscar-viewing room while they are away on a Rosie O'Donnell cruise and then play spin the bottle while wearing a dress that looks (I'm embarrassed to confess) almost exactly like the one I wore to my eighth-grade graduation, only mintier. Or to drink too many pink wine coolers in rapid succession and then hang all over your ex-boyfriend. (Did Rachel say "It tastes like pee?" or "It tastes like pink?") As Finn said -- after hilariously reviewing the female drinking archetypes -- the lovey-needy drinking response is (poor Rachel) "not cool." 

Or maybe all those things -- like kissing a boy who turns out to be gay -- really are good ideas, writing gold.

They certainly inspired the "Glee" writers to turn in one of the more unpredictable episodes of the season. Even the predictable moments were unpredictable. We knew Brittany -- who owned that rendition of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" -- was going to get sick onstage as soon as she mentioned an upset stomach, but we hadn't predicted that she'd hurl a huge splat of bright purple right in Rachel's face. ("Being thrown up on, it just does something to a person," she later observed.) And maybe we should have seen it coming, but we were also surprised when Figgins congratulated the glee clubbers on their stellar performance -- "Those special effects really paid off! The kids at this school are scared straight!" -- and handed out frozen yogurt coupons.

The show also featured some choice lines:

"Wrapped right around my melon. You're a product like Magellan." (From Rachel's musical tribute to her headband)

"No wonder I never got past second base." (Finn, after Rachel confesses she's never even had a drink)

"That guppy mouth belongs to me." (Santana, of Sam)

“Blaine is the first in a long line of conflicted men that you will date that will later turn out to be only the most flaming of homosexuals.” (Kurt to Rachel)

"I sat through that whole 'Brokeback Mountain.' From what I gather, something went down in the tent." (Kurt's dad)

"That is so racist." (Brittany, after Quinn mentioned the pot calling the kettle black.)

And that's just to name a few, but while "Blame It on the Alcohol" hit a lot of high notes, it also hit a couple that rang false:

1) Sue throwing Aural Intensity's "chipper homosexual" choir director down the stairs, twice: Sue's verbal abuse is purely divine, but when she gets physically abusive, it's hard not to feel uncomfortable. And this cruel flashback (were we to laugh harder at the abuse because he was a "chipper homosexual"?) was particularly difficult to take.

2) Blaine's sudden confusion over his sexual orientation: We're with Kurt: So much of Blaine's charm has been his certainty about who he is. The Blaine and Rachel storyline ("Your face tastes awesome!") was fun -- and their song together, Human League's "Don't You Want Me" was a musical highlight -- but Blaine's overwrought speech in the coffee shop after Rachel asks him out just felt off-key. Saying "bye" to the Blaine sexual-confusion storyline wouldn't make us angry at all.

And you? What did you think? Did you think the episode managed to get its messages about the dangers of alcohol across while maintaining a sense of fun, or do you think it dealt too lightly with a serious issue? Do you think the depictions of Sue's physical bullying have gone too far or do you enjoy them? And what about Blaine's sudden bi confusion? Credible? Oh, and also, should Rachel write more songs or what?


-- Amy Reiter

Photo: The glee club performs in the "Blame It on the Alcohol" episode of "Glee." Credit: Adam Rose / FOX

Comments () | Archives (24)

I adore Glee (being a former show biz person) but I thought this week's episode was kind of weird and was really just a filler. It doesn't help that my b/f, who I have been trying to get to watch, finally sat down with me. I kept trying to tell him this wasn't a typical episode but I don't think he will be watching again anytime soon. There were def. some funny one liners. When Britney said the thats so racist line I cracked up. I also loved her in the keisha number and think she should have more solos. I agree, the confused Blaine story line I could have done without. What was the deal with Kurt asking his dad to learn about gay sex so he can ask him questions? I didn't understand that. In regards to the message about alcohol, I thought it did not come across right. They were right about drinking being glorified in the media and were on the right track. But in the end, the message I got was don't drink cough syrup mixes and don't drink till after regionals. I would have much rather seen them push that drinking is not the only way you can have fun and if you choose not to it does not mean total social alienation.(PS- Rachel said the wine coolers tasted like pink)

I did NOT think the message got across. I think teens got these messages instead:
1. parties are dull without alcohol, so get some from your parents' liquor cabinets
2. you might feel hungover and maybe throw up, but other than that it's no big deal
3. drinking is inevitable when you're a teen - just make good decisions
4. adults have a lot of fun when they get drunk and let off steam, even if they just told you they don't get drunk
5. it's all quite funny and cool

The judgment centers of teens' brains are only about halfway through developing. They will NOT make good decisions when drunk. We need to stop conveying the message that it's understandable and inevitable, and start conveying the message that we do expect them to refrain until they are of legal age.

Kurt's "request" of his father was meant to hurt the father and a simultaneous plea for understanding that it's not easy to be the gay kid in a straight household.

I enjoyed this episode. I loved all the Kurt, Blaine scenes and I loved the scenes between Kurt and his dad. They are golden together. I was glad that the Will and Coach Beiste scenes ended in solidifying their friendship and nothing more (I was a bit worried after the kiss earlier in the season.) Will needs a friend.

Blaine is the ultimate flirt. I think Kurt originally mistook Blaine's flirting for attraction. He will constantly get his heart broken by Blaine, I think. Kurt needs to find someone else and we need to see how Blaine reacts. (Glee should reform Karofsky.)

I thought the message about both alcohol and sexuality were well presented. Thoughtful yet funny.

lol this is sooo funny. i luved it. itz just a tv show. n britany did get the message. lol i just luv gleeeeee. :)

Glee writers definitely gave a fascinating attempt to tackle one of the key issues in high school -- drink, don't drink, how dangerous or fun is it? It wasn't perfect, and they made some mistakes, but the intent was to show some of the negatives and not all of the negatives.

But here are a few complaints, on the warning side: two wine coolers will get any casual high schooler drunk. Breaking into Rachel's parents liquor cabinet should have a down side from the parents. Physical harm (accidents, violence and unprotected sex) are always likely results in underage drinking. Teachers who know kids are drinking should immediately be reporting, not helping the Glee club cover it up. And the major failure of the show? They could not find a single pop song that is critical of underage alcohol use -- because Big Alcohol pays pop musician to mention their product names. The Key of Awsome's YouTube Ke$ha parody accomplished just as much as the entire Glee star machine.

I just loved Coach Beiste. Taking Will to the honky-tonk bar and doing all the honky-tonk things one does at a honky-tonk bar was sooooo enjoyable. I'm also personally getting tired of Sue. Yes, she is funny. But she has become a cartoon character. She is not human at all anymore. There are no redeeming qualities to her. It's not fun when they are just a caricature. Something (other than just her sister) needs to happen to Sue to make her more real. Otherwise you could just fire Jane Lynch and have Pixar make it official by fully computer-generating her image.

I think this episode discouraged no one from drinking- -it did just the opposite- -it showed all of the teens walking away from their drinking without a blemish- -no alcohol poisoning, no unwanted pregnancies, no fights, no automobile accidents, no stds passed around- -just a little hang-over.

Coach summed up the feeling of the whole night, taking alcohol awareness back about 20 years -- they are going to do it anyway, so just let them know what can happen- -how lame is that and how irresponsible of the adults writing and directing this show. Perhaps they should have researched the evidence based programs that do work- -they honestly wrote this from about a 1980s perspective on the part of the adults. Anyone in prevention knows that this is the wrong approach to underage drinking prevention- -and I guess that it why this wasn't called prevention week, but awareness week. We are now aware of how complacent adults can be about this subject.

There are programs for underage drinking and information about the right thing to tell teens- -too bad the writers of this episode haven't done their research, but insist on maintaining the good 'ol boy attitude of "they are all going to drinking anyway" --yes they will, if they tell them it is just what we expect of them--which is just what you did.

Rather than blame a tv show intended to entertain, why don't parents take their role seriously in the lives of their children and quit blaming the tv for it. If you don't want your children to be breaking into your liquor cabinet, try not having it in the house. If they break into it, it's not GLEE's fault. It's yours, for drinking it and having it around.

Straight from my teens mouth" wow all I learned from that is that drinking is a lot of fun, its not only ok but almost encouraged unless you add cough syrup to it, there are no REAL consequences and teachers will not only cover up your drinking from your principal and parents but be your designated driver. Cool" I love Glee and I know that they want to come across as cool to teens but this episode was just very irresponsible.

I thought I was the only one offended by Sue becoming choir director by pushing a person down the stairs twice (thank you Amy Reiter for writing about this). Then an attempt at a joke by saying Sue got the joke because the person she pushed down the stairs is no longer the choir director because he has a swollen brain???? That's funny? This from a show that has discussed time and again bullying?
What do you call someone who takes another person's job by throwing them down stairs to disable them? Answer: a bully (or in this case you can call them Sue since they appear to mean the same thing).
Just because Sue is a lesbian in real life or a woman does not mean what she did isn't being a bully (pushing a gay man, or a straight man or a woman now that I think about it). Bullies come in all sizes shapes, sexes and sexualities, and they are NOT nice people.
I wish "Glee" would find a funny way to portray Sue. A bully that gets her way is not what I want to see. It's getting tired and old. Make her character funny and make her pay more often for her misdeeds.
Anyone that throws a person down stairs and causes brain damage belongs in jail, not being hired for a job.

this was definitely one of my favorite episodes of glee ever. it was incredible accurate. im in high school and i know that this is exactly what would happen. And though it may not get the message some want from an alcohol awareness episode of a show, this was at least true. nothing was sugar coated. i mean no one died or had to go to the hospitol. It simply had the most common effects of teen drinking; making a fool of ourself, drunk dialing, puking, etc. like i said accurate

Glee has been going downhill since the beginning of the season. The high notes of this episode were truly fewer and farther between than you say they were. The song selection has become overwrought and while I do agree that Rachel and Blaine's performance was the highlight of the episode, it was one of only two highlights in the episode.

The other of which was the entire "Bro" slash Honkey Tonk friendship that Beast and Will have beginning. That storyline is actually interesting and needs to be worked on more than the complete whining of everyone else in the episode. Glee needs to get back on track with what drew us all in last year and get rid of the cliches, the tribute episodes and the name dropping of the popular artists. If I had to hear Ke$ha's name be dropped again in the episode I would scream.

Ep was awesome.

I actually found Blaine's sexual orientation spiel more realistic if anything. Not everyone is like Kurt and knows with ONE HUNDRED PERCENT certainty that they only until the day they die will ever find one gender intimatrly attractive no matter what. I think people get to caught up in what is "gay" and what is "straight". And I always find it interesting when it's gay people who are more conservative in that train of thought than most, like Kurt. It's great if the world is black & white for you, but it isn't b&w for everyone. I thought Blaine was right in at least thinking he deserved a chance to be sure if what he wants is what he wants. Kurt took it as an act of betrayal. It annoyed me.

This Glee episode is a filler, I must agree. While it had it's high points I felt the message was muddled and indirect. To me, being a college student and having been to some crazy parties. It made me want to go party and listen to pop music and do body shots. It really reminded me of all the fun, the consequences were displayed well in this episode but to me as a young adult I think I'm invincible and those things can't hurt me.

So as far as saying DON'T drink. It failed. But I don't think that was the message. I did get that I SHOULD have a DD and a back up person to call in a worse case scenario.

But as they even say in the episode "Don't you think that's kind of unrealistic?"... and yes, it is. But the least we can do as guardians of people we care about is offer our help for when they do get into trouble like giving them their phone number and make sure that they are comfortable enough to call us if they are in that situation. So that I think is the more important message for both teens and parents. And yes, it did get across.

Yup I love all Glee episodes, even some of their "filler" episodes although they better bring the same hype as last season, I pretty much could watch season 1 a 1oo0 x's "over exaggerated". I love this cast and their chemistry, I love the one liners, their look backs, also listening to their thoughts, and I love their music especially their 90's-80's music, this show is funny, but sometimes you expect too much watching the "promo's" still the best show, I will hate the day when all shows will have musicals intimating Glee, originals are always the best.
P.S, I wish the show would focus on specific characters each episode it seems like they start with a story and then cut it off (example: Rachel and Blaine's date we never saw what they did) . I love each character, they all deserve screen time, I just wish we can see more on their personal lives, like Kurt I love his story, but sometimes it seems thats all the show is about.

This episode in no way discouraged teen drinking or made it seem like an activity with negative consequences. WHO CARES. Seriously, this is not freaking 7th Heaven, this is a TV show at the 9:00PM slot that is geared towards young adults and adults. The same audience as Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. That's why we have 25 year olds playing high schoolers, because it's NOT real life, and it's NOT an after-school special, and it's not the Disney Channel! Anyone who watched this episode expecting to see a hard-hitting message about the dangers of underage drinking has obviously never seen TV post-5PM news slot. This is entertainment, not the Learning Center. Most kids that watch this show aren't even aware of the scenes that go on between songs (not least because they make entirely zero sense), and this week's drinking "theme" was just an umbrella to make the song choices seem cohesive and not random. If you're disappointed about not finding meaning in this week's episode of Glee, it's probably because you are looking in the wrong freakin' place. I would HOPE that parents and teachers don't actually rely on shows like Glee to teach their kids about life.

That said, I LOLed in excess at this episode; def cocked an eyebrow at Sue pushing the chipper homosexual down the stairs multiple times, but getting hung up on questionable character behavior in this show will take us down a very long path. Also, I think Rachel should be drunk all the time. And she should share Darren Criss's phone number with me.

Do people really expect a comedy to tackle issues seriously? The show is wildly inconsistent with its messages but it is a comedy and if you set aside the crazy notion that it can deal comprehensively with complex social issues then you have set the stage for enjoying the wackiness of Glee. I love it because it gets the issues out there and talked about - that is where real learning and real change takes place. I loved the epidode (well, except for Sue shoving the guy down the stairs) and I pretty much adore anything that Darren Criss does. Have you heard him in Life of Leopold yet - very funny (but not alot of social redemption there either)

@ O-Town - you are so right. The show is meant to entertain us. It was trying to send a simple message about teen age drinking and showcased some of the common effects of drinking. Glee is a comedy series at the end of the day, it's not a drama. I felt it was very realistic and got across the message. The ultimate way to stop teen drinking is again for parents be involved with their kids. Have conversations and make sure to play an active role in what they are doing.

Glee on the other hand is just amazing! I love seeing Blaine interact with the McKinley kids. And him wondering if maybe he was bi-sexual seemed very natural to me. I mean, it's not like it's some big "OH MY GOD" for him to just have some questions. It was a really good episode that was jammed back with humor

-I'm pretty sure Rachel said "It tastes like PIG"...erm, well she's Jewish so i guess pig = freedom in the form of alcohol

-thank you glee for finally showcasing Heather Morris / Brittany ...excellent cover, even better dancing and to cap off the performance an excellent one liner: "everybody, drink responsibly." pure genius.

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