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'Glee' recap: Making alcohol awareness sing!

February 23, 2011 |  9:28 am

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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

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