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TV Review: Glee “Grilled Cheesus”

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Another week, another Glee. But this week’s offering was far from ordinary. I dare say it might have been the most emotional, and philosophical, episode of the series to date. Titled “Grilled Cheesus” after the (appropriately) cheesiest plot in the episode, this week was about all thing’s faith, whether or not you believe in a higher power. Each Glee kid looked to their own ideas, and although the episode was vague on what those might be, the most important plots were sound.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) was the star, as his father, Burt (Mike O’Malley), took ill and would not awaken. Kurt is an atheist, and didn’t appreciate his classmates’ prayers. Each of them wanted to support him, but frequently brought God into the discussion. Thankfully, Glee did not take the atheism bad route. Yes, Kurt accompanied Mercedes (Amber Riley) to her church, and appeared move at their outpouring of song. But even after that, sitting by his father’s hospital bed, he proclaimed that what he believed in was his father, not God. It’s refreshing to see television not be so pushy about Jesus, and to have an actual atheist, who won’t be swayed into a conversion, represented. In our nation, it’s actually pretty rare.

Accordingly, Kurt did finally get a great solo this week. He sang the most weepy version of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” that I’ve ever heard. The song was interspersed with scenes of Burt playing with a young Kurt (Adam Kolkin, a spitting image). Burt helped him learn to ride a bike, and even had a tea party. As a single parent, who is pretty much a picture of blue collar stereotypical masculinity, raising an out and proud gay son, Burt has struggled to show Kurt how much he cares. However, the characters has always been supportive, and again, it’s nice to see such a character as Burt on the air.

Other cast members who hadn’t had any big ballads yet this season also got to stretch their vocal chords. Mercedes belted out on not one, but two songs. Puck (Mark Salling) rocked Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young”. Even Tina opened the awesome group number “What If God Was One Of Us” with some pretty fantastic vocals. Finn (Cory Monteith), whom I often am underwhelmed by, got to show off a bit more with “Losing My Religion”. And Rachel (Lea Michele) introduced middle America to Yentl.

The title refers to Finn’s subplot, where he makes a grilled cheese sandwich and thinks he sees Jesus on it. Being the bonehead he is, he cuts the half without the savior on it and eats it, then saves and prays to the Christ image. His prayers are shallow, wishing to win a football game or touch Rachel’s boobs, but they come true, giving him faith. When his belief in the sandwich is shaken later in the episode, not because a prayer doesn’t come true, but just because the guidance counselor tells him he’s wrong, it’s a bit weird. This was definitely the weakest part of the episode, and it illustrates perfectly why I find Finn one of the lesser characters.

Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is one of the best, though. This week we got real Sue emotion, a rarity. Her older sister, Jean (Robin Trocki), who has Down Syndrome, was revisited, and Sue’s lack of faith in God was explained eloquently. I was disappointed that her disbelief was shaken so easily, but I’m not sure she ever was a true atheist. Rather, she may just have been mad at a God that would allow her family the suffering they went through. Her taking up Kurt’s case, protesting Will (Matthew Morrison) allowing religion into his classroom, seemed sincere, rather than with the malice she usually attacks her nemesis. Lynch is a fine actress, and her Emmy for the part this year was well deserved. It’s always an honor to see her take Sue to a new level.

The only real surprise was a lack of Quinn (Dianna Agron) plot, as religion has been an important part of her story. With her teenage pregnancy and lac of supportive parents, we’ve seen Quinn turn to Jesus before. The episode was already full, but would it have been nice to allow her a chance to revisit that arc.

Taking the whole episode into account, even with the Finn distraction, this will surely be one of the better episodes of Glee this season, if not in the series as a whole. It was the first truly weepy episode. And the actors involved, especially Lynch and Colfer, proved they can handle the challenge that comes with depth. Kudos.

Glee airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.
  • avaa

    how is secularization represented in this episode

  • Joe – I don’t think the show was dismissive or rude to the Christians. As Kurt says, you are free to believe whatever you want, but don’t push it on me. We are a Christian nation, and far too often, those of us who do look towards atheism are made to feel there’s something wrong with us, or we’re lacking. It’s not arrogant to not believe in god. I was thrilled to see a show where believers and non-believers can exist side by side, and in the end, Kurt’s friend’s tried to understand him, even though he was treated like he should believe, and they don’t understand him for his lack of faith.

  • After two disappointing episodes, I thought this one was just wonderful. I cried, between giggles, all the way through.

    And I hope the two commenters who “hate” Kurt aren’t just venting some pent-up homophobia. He’s supposed to be annoying. Colfer is brilliant at balancing the sweet and the caustic, the smart and the self-indulgent, in Kurt.

  • joe

    I really hate this episode. It proved to be ignorant, offensive and biased. It completely sides with atheism as Kurt and the coach rail on religion and the others don’t say a word in its defense. It essentially made all the religious characters look ignorant or stupid, and the resolution seemed to be that Kurt allowed himself to “put up with them”. The theme of exposing the hypocrisy of religion has been prevalent in Glee, but never so blatant. If you are even mildly educated in Christianity or religious philosophy it will be clear that these characters and writers aren’t. This country is full of complacent Christians and arrogant atheists and the last thing I wanted to see on Glee was more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rejective of people’s personal choices, but in an episode where kids say it’s worse to be a Christian than to be gay (a statement that is offensive on so many levels) and finding Jesus on toast is played for laughs, I don’t know how anybody could not be offended.

  • Jojo

    I thought the episode tackled this complex topic fabulously. Nothing short of brilliant.

  • Missie1014

    Reading about the director, Ryan Murphy, I think he uses the Kurt character to relive his high school years, especially concerning his own Dad and religion in this case. Ryan would have loved it if he own Dad had accept him as Kurt’s Dad does in the series. Also, Murphy was raised Catholic and his family always invited different clergy away on vacations with them, holidays, etc. How difficult that is to grow up surround by something you don’t believe in, and as Kurt says in the opening, damns him for being born gay. In Murphy’s mind, what kind of loving God would do that? He finds the answer-but I find it all a bit contribed.

  • I apologize if you were offended. None was intended. I, too, am from middle America, having lived my entire life in Ohio, until last year when I moved to Kentucky.

  • Tess

    “And Finn’s part was comedic relief in yet another of Kurt after school special episodes.

    While the Kurt/Burt storylines are always well acted it is too much drama for a comedy with music and kind of have an agenda feel to them.

    Plus they never give these to anyone except Ryan Murphy’s pet Chris Colfer”

    I have to agree with this, Thank God..or Thank Cheesus for Finn’s part in this episode becasue I have had enough of weepy Kurt to last a liftime. I get that everyone seems to love this Kid but he is the worst character to me.

    I hated most of this episode and I really hope it doesn’t continue this way.

  • Frank

    Please try not to insult middle America, I am from Missouri and I am well aware of Yentl. And Lea Michele sang it beautifully as usual.

    And Finn’s part was comedic relief in yet another of Kurt after school special episodes.

    While the Kurt/Burt storylines are always well acted it is too much drama for a comedy with music and kind of have an agenda feel to them.

    Plus they never give these to anyone except Ryan Murphy’s pet Chris Colfer.

    While I doubt Dianna Agron’s Quinn could handle to much heavy drama her character is the one who has reportly religious and she gets very little. Lea Michele’s Rachel, who can handle the drama is Jewish but is used as comedic relief and shown as a prude Jewish Princess.

    While acted nicely and so worth it will be a 50/50 on who liked it and not just like the other after school special episodes.