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Whenever I Pray, I Fall Asleep

By Katelyn Ann | TV | October 7, 2010 |

By Katelyn Ann | TV | October 7, 2010 |

Eventually, there comes a time in any show’s life where it has to answer the big questions: Is there a God? What’s truly sacred? And does the savior manifest itself in sandwich form? This week’s episode of “Glee,” “Grilled Cheesus,” started off funny, had a few high moments, but took a bland approach to the religion issue. The same show that decided to have students sing “Push It” as a response to the snooty abstinence club, put on its kid gloves for God.

Starting off with a George Foreman grill created Cheesus was a bold move that seemed to set a satirical tone for the whole episode. Finn, awestruck by his lactose god, decides to begin asking his Cheesus for favors. After an answered prayer for a football win, Finn decides to share his newly invigorated faith with his Glee clubbers. He name drops the new man in his life, Jesus, and his declaration is led to mixed responses. Puck gets to say something funny and a solo based on his decision to only sing songs by Jewish artists. But when someone sings, “Only the Good Die Young,” within the first ten minutes of anything, there has to be a fatal or near-fatal incident. These are the commandments of foreshadowing y’all.

For the accident, we get Bert. It’s obvious it will be Bert because there was another whiff of foreshadowing in an exchange between Bert and Kurt. All last season Kurt begged and pleaded with his father, Bert, to make more of an effort to spend time together so that they can get to know one another and then Kurt completely ditches their preexisting Friday night dinner. Kurt’s choice to head to a sing-along painted him to seem selfish and Bert to seem like the victim in their discussion. Of course this leads Bert to beg Kurt to recognize what’s sacred only to be rebuffed, which means Bert will soon be felled by some tragedy. Quick as a gas station sausage causes indigestion, Bert has a heart attack and the conflict for the episode begins.

Kurt, despite my frustration with him for being less understanding about his dad’s wants than would seem fair, handled the religious barrage that followed Bert’s heart attack extremely well. Since his father was in the hospital, the Glee kids decided to use their new found religious zeal to try to cheer the guy up, but then Kurt drops a bombshell: He doesn’t believe in God. His reasons are justifiable and heartbreaking. How can a god who claimed to make everything and Kurt gay send his followers to hate? In light of the recent suicides from teens and young adults in the GLBT community, the line held heavier meaning than the writers may have originally intended, but it was a vulnerable moment that needed to be shared. Unfortunately, Kurt’s lack of faith in a god was only slightly explored; instead we got to see a smattering of what different people believe.

Most of the character’s faiths were only lightly touched upon. Generally, a show dealing with religion does a better job when a character’s religious beliefs get a full explanation. Instead, we get a few broad generalizations, Mercedes and Quinn are Christian, Rachel and Puck are Jewish and Finn is praying to Jesus through a magical sandwich (Brittany, Santana, Tina, Artie, and Mike are ignored for some reason). It seemed, however, that the show was trying to be less about religion and more about what’s sacred to people. Sure, the “you’re what’s sacred to me” line followed by the dramatic healing, was a little schmaltzy, but Chris Colfer sold it. Colfer and Mike O’Malley had some of the most sentimental moments last season and this season they continue to bring the emotion.

Another emotional moment belonged to Jane Lynch and Robin Trocki. Sue, compelled by her loss of faith, decided to rally against the teens singing about spirituality. The fact that we got to see her humanized again was enough to make me forget about some of the weaker moments in the show. After a line of questioning from Emma, Sue reveals that she lost her faith because her sister, Jean, was never made better. But after watching the students share their own beliefs, Sue goes to her sister. Jean shared a counter point to her disability, expressing her own faith in God’s design and her own life, in another touching display between Lynch and Trocki. Sue could have just been a bitch, but instead she’s developed and complex, constantly evolving.

But the other characters? They’re pretty much staying stagnant. Finn decided to abandon the god he discovered at the beginning of the week when he realized that his sandwich didn’t have mystical powers and everyone else kept their previously held religious beliefs. Kurt, at least, was reminded of what was important to him. Even though he’d already had no less than three conversations with his father about how their relationship was important to him last season. At least Kurt and Bert are sticking to what works.

What works isn’t always the musical choices, though. Puck’s “Only the Good Die Young,” was fun and upbeat and a perfectly fine rendition, but there wasn’t much to the song. It was almost exactly like the Neil Diamond song he did last season (same wink to Quinn and all). Mercedes voice is incredible and I’m so glad she got two songs. “I Look to You,” was chilling and showed off her incredible range. The choir version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” was great. But to be fair, I’m not completely unbiased; I unabashedly love choir songs sung with passion and praise. I also like people who wear matching bird feather hats. But I also appreciated the fact that Kurt wasn’t there because he was looking for God, but he went because his friend was trying to support him the only way she knew how. Those two have a wonderfully mature relationship for some high school kids, so it was nice to see them share with each other without being over-bearing.

Lea has a great showtune voice, so “Papa, Can You Hear Me,” was fitting for her vocals. But the song should have stopped at the lake. When Rachel and Finn were praying together, it was sweet and a great way for the two of them to support each other; when Rachel sang “Papa, can you hear me?” and stroked Bert’s head, it was confusing. Does Rachel even know Bert? Why did she, Quinn and Mercedes think that was appropriate when Kurt specifically asked them not to pray? It’s one thing to show support, it’s another to force your support on someone unwilling.

Cory Monteith, I take back what I said about your voice improving. “Losing My Religion,” was cringe-inducing and I see you’ve taken a page from the Artie book of creeper watching. Please go back to not doing things that make me want to burn my cable box. And then the Glee club did “What if God Was One of Us?” It was OK, but completely unnecessary. Is that song required to be in every show that has a religion message? It’s way too over-used as the go-to ballad for the confused believer and needs to be retired.

Grilled cheese was a good place to find religion for “Glee.” It’s often a source of comfort and mostly bland and doesn’t sit well with those who have an intolerance to it. Religion episodes are usually better with a little pepper or at least something that has a bite, but “Grilled Cheesus” didn’t have much crunch. Like the childhood classic it used, this episode was enjoyable for a moment, but underwhelming in the end.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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