“Glee” recap 4.16: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Rage Breasts

Previously on Glee, Santana, Kurt, Rachel, and Adam’s British apples got snowed into the Hummelberry Bushwick loft, and it was just as magical as it sounds. Kurt used the downtime to daydream himself onto a wildly romantic rooftop duet with Blaine, while Santana confessed to rifling through everyone’s actual shit while rifling through their emotional shit. Also: Drug pantomime. At McKinley, Finn confessed to laying a pre-wedding snog on Emma after helping Will re-woo her, and Ryder and Jake took an erotic turn at a pottery wheel.

LIMA, OH

New Directions has decided to stage an intervention with Will and Finn. Is it because neither of them have any sense of personal or professional boundaries? Is it because their great straight white male heroism is insufferable on their best days and downright offensive on their worst? Is it because they are grown men who need to have their egos propped up by teenagers on the regular? Oooh, is it some kind of self-folding wormhole intervention calling them out for needing an intervention … from their students? Sadly, none of those things. New Directions wants to get back to Nationals and they can’t concentrate on the competition because Will keeps throwing hot lattes in Finn’s face and ridiculing his commitment to proper sweater vest care.

The assignment this week is: FEUDS! Everyone who is mad at anyone will mash-up some songs by real-life feuding musicians.

Finn, who has, I confess, been growing on me this season — in large part because the writers have stopped tying their female leads to train tracks and having Finn swoop in and save the day — wonders if maybe they should just talk this thing out the way he’s heard adults do sometimes. But no! Will says the actual words: “You broke the code of a brother, Finn!” along with a whole lot of other petulant and awful stuff about how he gave Finn the glee club because he felt sorry for him for shooting himself in the face at Army. Which: Not how I remember it, Schuester. I seem to recall you blowing off your responsibility to New Directions because you were bored and uninspired. Will says they’re going to do the damn thing right, and so Finn chooses an *N Sync/Backstreet Boys mash-up because Mr. Schue trying to channel JT is the most humiliating thing he can think of.

And he is correct! For starters, he gets Mr. Schue to say, “In the 1990s, the media pitted two of America’s hottest music groups against each other in an epic clash for pop-culture supremacy!” And for seconders, well:

After the “Bye, Bye, Bye”/”I Want it that Way” mash-up, Finn suggests they hug it out, but Will just can’t forgive his 19-year-old best friend for acting like a 19-year-old. HE BROKE THE CODE OF A BROTHER.

McKinley’s second Feud of the week is some manufactured hostility between Ryder and Unique. It starts when Unique accosts Ryder in the hallway to tell him to stay away from her girl Marley, and Jake takes it to 11 with the most transphobic bullshit he can think of. He calls Unique a dude, refuses to use the correct pronoun when referring to her, mocks her for dressing like a boy one day and a girl the next, and has a real hearty laugh about, “Which bathroom do you even use?” My initial hope for Unique’s story was that the writers were going to drive home a message of inclusiveness and acceptance by simply having Unique be included and accepted, exactly as she is. Partly because it would have been refreshing and revolutionary to see a young transgender woman who is allowed to embrace the woman inside of her without any peer stigma. Sometimes making a non-issue out of things in stories is the best way to comment on the stupidity of bigotry outside of stories. Mostly, though, I didn’t trust the writers to handle a transgender PSa with any kind of grace. But they actually surprised me here.

For one thing, Ryder is clearly portrayed as the jackass in this situation. None of his friends laugh at his little jokes or offer him any kind of sympathy or back-patting. They align themselves with Unique, just as the audience is meant to align themselves with Unique. And for another thing, Ryder’s transphobia doesn’t cause Unique to have an identity crisis, it doesn’t cause her to quit glee club or capitulate to gender norms, and it doesn’t require Finn or Will swooping in to save the day and teach everyone a Very Important Lesson. Glee lets Unique stand on her own two feet, and she does it beautifully. Her mashup with Ryder is Elton John‘s “The Bitch Is Back” and Madonna‘s “Dress You Up,” and it’s really good. The arrangement is kick-ass and so is the harmony and energy.

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