Before “The Break-Up” aired, critics and Glee creatives said it was the best episode the show has ever done, and while I’m not sure that’s true, it was certainly a showcase of the thing Glee does best. I’m not talking about the music or the acting or the gay PSAs. I’m talking about the way Glee balls up its fist and says, “I’m going to punch you in the feelings.” And you go, “Yeah, OK, TV show.” Because you’re gay, right? This ain’t your first rodeo. Gay cowboy beaten to death with a crowbar? You’ve seen it. Beloved lesbian witch shot in the chest? You’ve seen it. Gay girls turning straight and finding true love, straight guys coming out and getting kicked off their shows, alien attacks, sexless “love scenes,” lost limbs, deep closets, double standards, a rainstorm of bullets on a gay wedding day. You’ve seen it all. But so Glee does what it promised, it punches your heart in the face, and the weird thing is that you feel it.
For all of its missteps and flip-flops and bizarro misogyny, the one thing Glee has always done exceptionally well is hit us where it hurts. See, because this show isn’t really about what we experienced in our teenage lives; it’s a show about how we experienced our teenage lives. That raw innocence with which we approached love and our dreams and our place in the world. Earnestness is out of fashion, I know. Giving a fuck is so last season. Cynicism and snark and 140-character quips of contempt are the order of the day. But Glee remembers what it was like to drive down the road, arm out the window, hair askew, hollering Journey‘s “Don’t Stop Believin'” into the night like a person who meant it.
And that’s the heart Glee went after in “The Break Up.” Not the beaten, battered, patchwork quilt heart that has seen too much and cracked too hard a hundred times before. But the heart that only ever knew how to believe because it had never been broken.
And it worked. Four hours later and I’m still pawing at my eyeballs with a handkerchief, is how well it worked.
McKinley High lunch room. Jake and Marley are bonding over their tickets for free lunch. They look like the tickets you get at those carnivals that pop up in the mall parking lot sometimes, so probably they would work for ferris wheel rides as well. Brittany and Blaine stare forlornly at the burgeoning romance of their fellow glee club members and remember what it was like to be coupled up with the two hottest gay teenagers in the history of high school.
In New York, Kurt is preparing a frittata — or an “egg pie” as Jess called it this week on New Girl — but he abandons his loft to eat breakfast while watching Five-0 roll past the drug dealers in the park so Rachel and Finn can have some alone time. Rachel is curious about why he went dark for a month and then showed up at her apartment to lie in bed and stare creepily at the ceiling all night without saying a word. Turns out he got “semi-honorably discharged” from the Army 16 days into basic training for mishandling his firearm. “I was just trying to get the gun to talk about its feelings and it shot me in the leg,” he says. After the Army patched him up, he took a walk on the Appalachian Trail for a while until he started getting insecure about how his beard wasn’t as bushy as the other hikers’ beards, so he flew to New York so Rachel could reaffirm his manhood. Rachel says his new life plan can be to follow her around to all her classes at NYADA, which doesn’t sound creepy at all.
Santana(!) is folding laundry in Brittany’s bedroom and coming unglued about Kurt’s foray into Anna Wintour’s heart and home. Verbatim:
That’s like the most accurate description of Kurt’s wardrobe that I’ve ever heard. Brittany is yawning and yawning, and if you think Santana isn’t noticing, welcome to your first interaction with a lesbian. Brittany, it turns out, has been staying up all night to read the Left Behind books, the ninth of which is apparently called Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne, and is about the 2008 presidential election. Santana seems less shocked by the fact that Brittany is reading and more shocked by the fact that she’s traded in rainbows and unicorns for fire and brimstone. They kiss sweetly. (And then makeout on top of the laundry, I presume.)
Kurt and Blaine have scheduled a phone date for 8:30 a.m. and are shocked to find that the most opportune time to connect isn’t when Blaine is walking to homeroom and Kurt is fielding the frantic morning phone calls of Manhattan’s gossip bloggers. Blaine says that he misses Kurt’s face and Kurt’s cuddles and he also says, “I miss messing around with you” in the sweetest, shyest, most adorable way. It’s nice to see this show finally acknowledge that gay teenage boys have hormones that are stimulated by more than harmony. Kurt has to let him go, and accidentally drops his call a nanosecond too soon, so that Blaine ends up saying, “I love you” to the dialtone.