The Ballad of Gay Kurt
Open on Will Schuester scrawling the word "Ballad" across a white board. He explains to the class that ballads are stories set to music, "the perfect storm of self expression." Unsurprisingly, the judges at sectionals now require each school to perform a ballad, so they will be working on a new number as well. Their homework is to sing a ballad to another member of Glee, with the pairings to be determined by fate. With Matt out this week due to a bad case of a spider infestation (in his BRAIN!), Mr. Schuester adds his name to the hat. Puck is teamed up with Mercedes, Artie with Quinn, Finn with Kurt, Tina with Mike, and Santana with Britney, leaving Will to be paired with Rachel. To demonstrate, they sing "My Endless Love" for the entire class.
The mix of Will's dorky charm and the sappy '80s love ballad has an effect on Rachel, and she chases Will around the piano like Chihuahua in heat chasing a pleated pant leg. A fun duet between two very talented performers is the perfect beginning to another episode of...
Back at the Fabray residence, Quinn's mother, who appears highly medicated, helps her daughter into a pure white formal dress for the upcoming Chastity Ball. With one hand clutching a highball and the other zipping up Quinn's dress, she mentions that it's a tight fit. Her inquiries into Quinn's recent bizarre behavior are cut short when Quinn's father staggers in, wildly exclaiming that Glenn Beck is on. Drink in hand, check. Emotionally repressed wife, check. Fox News aficionado, check. As I might have guessed, her parents are insanely strict with a large gun collection.
At school the next day, Rachel visits Mr. Schuester to remind him of their after-school rehearsal together. Unfortunately for Schue, spider extraction must be a week long procedure; Matt won't be back to take his spot. Rachel also has a gift for Will, a blue silk tie laden with gold stars and a staff symbol. The stars represent his nurturing of Rachel's talent; the fact that there are four must represent the number of years in jail he could get for statutory rape.
Understandably worried about Rachel's advancements, Will confides to Emma that this has happened before, two years ago in his Spanish class. Suzy Pepper, who takes her name a little too literally, follows the same pattern of a high school crush: obsessive behavior, novelty gifts, and late night anonymous phone calls. Facing the problem head on, he bluntly told Suzy that it would never work between them. Devastated (and listening to Extreme's popular love ballad "More Than Words"), Suzy chose death by irony and bit into the worlds spiciest pepper, conveniently located in the front of her locker. Fearing a possible repeat of events (death by berries?), a direct approach is out of the question. Emma has a solution; Will should vocalize his feelings through song.
Meanwhile in the school's auditorium, Kurt and Finn meet to rehearse their ballad together. The pressures of school as well as financing a secret pregnancy finally cause Finn to snap and he lashes out at Kurt. Kurt is understanding and suggests that Finn should express himself through song, particularly "I'll Stand by You" by The Pretenders.
In perhaps one of the most bizarre montages this season yet, Finn winds up in his bedroom singing to a playback of his (Puck's) daughter's sonogram on his laptop. It's bad enough his performances are starting to be so heavily auto-tuned that he sounds like a Speak N' Spell, but the awkward sonogram touching just makes him seem bizarre. He should also know that mothers never knock; they always deliver a basket of laundry at the worst moments. He breaks down and his mother comforts him, finally knowing the truth.
The next day at school Quinn finds out Finn told his mother, and she is pissed. Kurt takes notice and swoops in to offer Finn some support. Kurt's not just trying to be a good friend, he has ulterior motives. In his inner monologue he reveals how he has been madly in love with Finn since they first met. He has a plan; the worse Finn is hurt by women, the better Kurt's chances with him will be.
Later at Rachel and Will's 4 o'clock practice, Will decides to tackle the crush indirectly. He creates a mash-up of "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap with The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me."
Will is always a charming performer, so he should have realized he's just throwing grease on the fire. Emma herself looks like she's going to pop. The message is completely lost on Rachel, and she runs out feeling elated, passing by a psychotic-looking Suzy Pepper.
Poor Finn needs to have everything spelled out to him. Months of befriending Kurt and he still doesn't realize his true intentions. And Finn's not exactly discouraging it either. I've never played dress up with my guy friends, except maybe that one time in college. It is touching how they both bond over the loss of a parent. Kurt also gives his love interest some helpful advice; don't go to Quinn's family dinner empty-handed. A gun, however, would have been the better option.
After coming home after a hard day's work, Mr. Schuester is greeted by none other than Rachel Berry. God knows what he must be thinking, but I'm sure by now he's used to attracting psychotic women. The explanation is that there is no limit to Terri's manipulation, as she's talked a love-sick Rachel into helping cook and clean the house. Terri's insecurities, however, are really starting to show through. Most likely stemming from the tension of the two not being intimate for the last couple of months.
The car ride home between Will and Rachel isn't much more comfortable, made even worse by Rachel performing part of her ballad, "Crush" by Jennifer Paige. After the Emma incident, I'm surprised Terri even went along with this. Rachel wants someone who can keep up with her creatively and intellectually, and she's setting her sites high.
With the distractions of "baby gate," Mercedes and the rest of Glee are having too much trouble keeping focused on their own lives to rehearse in pairs. At rehearsal, Mercedes tells Puck that they all agreed on a group performance for Finn and Quinn to show their support. Puck is irritated by this and finally reveals the truth about Quinn's pregnancy; he is the father. In perhaps the worst advice since Puck last visited his barber, Mercedes tells Puck to back off and let Quinn decide what's best. Is this school so busy teaching abstinence that they've neglected any proper parental advice?
That night at chateau Fabray, Quinn, her parents, and Finn sit down to a family meal of alcohol and home-cured meats. Finn is not a deceptive person, and being privy to the Fabray's sham of a family is too much for him to handle. He quickly excuses himself to call the one person he relies on for support -- Kurt. Over the phone, he reminds Finn of the power of the ballad. Finn returns to the table with new found courage and a boom-box. In front of Quinn, her parents, and the home cured meats he sings "Having My Baby" by Paul Anka.
Finn's voice fits this song perfectly, and if anything his message at least reaches Quinn. The performance itself, however, is almost as awkward as the sonogram love song, but this time it ends with a confrontation with a very drunk and angry Quinn's father.
At a sit down talk in the Fabray's living room, Finn finally admits that they've never had sex. It falls on deaf ears, however; her parents don't even take him seriously. I'm not sure why her father recounts a sob story about how Quinn slept through a Cleveland Indians game while she was five. The only moral I gathered from this is that baseball is boring. Even Quinn's mother sides with her father, despite the fact that she's realized the truth all along. Mr. Fabray throws them out, denying that she is his daughter. As if Finn's mother needed more laundry to do, she allows Quinn to live with her and Finn indefinitely.
Emerging from a bathroom stall, Suzy Pepper confronts Rachel Berry. Being both mildly attractive and extremely grating, they share something in common besides having loved the same man. Suzy recants the dangers of falling for an older man, and Rachel seems to understand. No one wants to end up like her.
Taking Suzy's advice, Rachel arrives to their next practice with a vase of flowers and a card with the message "Sorry I've been acting crazy." Something tells me the local Hallmark keeps those readily in stock. She and Will discuss the problem directly and honestly; Will really does care for his students. They walk out in favor of ditching practice, with voices that sound to be dubbed over poorly.
Kurt and Finn discuss Finn's recent discourse, admitting that it probably wasn't the best idea. Kurt also admits his love for Finn, which he has misinterpreted as the title of a song. Mercedes then arrives and they go back to Mr. Schuester's class where the rest of Glee (sans Matt) await. The group performs "Lean on Me":
By far the best performance this episode, if only because it's nice when the entire group gets to harmonize together. They also get to showcase their personalities in the performance, and their voices as well as characters shine through. Story set to music, check. Self expression through song, check. Definitely fits Will's definition of a ballad.
In all, a fun episode. I'm glad Quinn and Finn's parents finally know the truth about the pregnancy; there were too many bad decisions being made over the future of their (her) child. Their parents' involvement adds a little realism to some of the more outlandish aspects that this pregnancy has gone through this season. Puck probably won't be too far behind with the truth, too. Next week, Matt gets trapped in a snow lodge until he returns for the finale, slightly taller and Icelandic.
Andrew J. Stride lives in Omaha, somewhere in middle America. You can email him or leave a comment below.