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TV Review: Glee – “Guilty Pleasures”

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FOX’s Glee explores “Guilty Pleasures” this week. We all have things that we are somewhat ashamed of liking. But because this applies to everyone, you should not feel embarrassed. And as the New Directions learn, if you are willing to share that hidden interest, you may just realize that others around you have the same love.

This is a feel-good story, to be sure, but also an incredibly cheesy one. If there’s one complaint I have about Glee overall is that every student in the club seems to know every song that ever comes up. This is incredibly unrealistic, but unfortunately also somewhat necessary to keep the story moving forward. It’s an element very apparent this week, as their songs are supposed to be more obscure, though they pick some awfully popular “obscure” pierces.

However, setting that aside, “Guilty Pleasures” is a fun episode with some nice character moments and a lot of fun musical numbers. There may be songs you don’t want to admit to enjoying, but they are enjoyed for a reason.

It all starts with Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Blaine (Darren Criss). They decide to give the club a project, since Will (Matthew Morrison) is taking the week off. Again. They pull out the guilty pleasure card, and it allows them to get some unspoken things out in the open.

After watching Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) harbor an unrequited crush for Blaine for months, we now see Blaine hold Sam in the same regard. Thankfully, Blaine is far less creepy than Tina, and Sam and Blaine’s friendship feels more natural than Blaine and Tina’s. I don’t know if the writers think they misfired with the Tina/Blaine story and decided to try it again with Sam, but for whatever reason it came about, I like seeing the two guys together.

At first, Blaine hems and haws, avoiding talking about his feelings towards Sam. But Sam coaxes them out into the open, letting Blaine know this changes nothing between them. It’s a message many high school guys should hear, that its OK to find another man’s attention flattering without risking your masculinity, and that there is still a path to friendship there.

As much as the Sam/Blaine thing works as a story, it also helps with Glee‘s continued themes of tolerance. Gay bullying has never been more of a problem, but as society begins shifting away from this prejudice, it’s nice to see such a positive portrayal of homosexual teens on television, not new for Glee, but in using Sam, someone who is very straight, rather than a girl or another gay man, it feels fresh. For this alone, “Guilty Pleasures” is a valuable episode, even as it manages to also be entertaining.

Plus, Blaine and Sam bring us “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” a beautifully staged and performed retro number by the whole glee club. I wish the same treatment would have been given to “Copacabana,” or better yet, see the story told in the song acted out. But both are good numbers as they are. And Blaine’s “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” also works.

While the boys work out their friendship, the girls rediscover the Spice Girls. I don’t know that today’s high schools are really familiar with the British girl group from quite awhile ago, but those of us older viewers certainly appreciate a dusting off of “Wannabe.” Any chance we can get a full Spice Girls episode at some point?

The Spice Girls segment also allows Kitty (Becca Tobin) to prove she is a member of the group and can play nice. She’s been a bit of an outsider, but has been trying to fit in. Cooperating with Unique (Alex Newell), Marley (Melissa Benoist), Brittany (Heather Morris), and Tina allows her to walk the walk, and hopefully puts her in a better place in the ensemble going forward. Every series needs an antagonist, of course, but redemption is also a satisfying tale.

Lastly at McKinley, Jake (Jacob Artist) gets major flak from the girls when he wants to sing a Chris Brown song, given Chris’s treatment of women. His eventual choice of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” gets a little bit better reception, perhaps because the memory of Bobby has started to fade, but Marley is still mad at him for doing it.

Jake argues that we need to separate art from the artist, which is a tough call to make, and one hotly debated in society. Can we appreciate a good song by a bad man? Some people have in the past, and will likely do so again, while others rail against such behavior. There isn’t an easy answer, as Jake learns, and I wish Glee would devote more time to the question. But at least they’ve raised it here.

In New York, Santana (Naya Rivera), Kurt (Chris Colfer), and Rachel (Lea Michele) bond as roommates after the truth about Brody (Dean Geyer) comes out. I do wonder when and how Santana moves back in, after she storms out in the previous episode. However, Santana is feisty and has a temper and it’s not surprising she’s back, even if the show skips showing us the resolution.

I really dig the chemistry between these three. Santana can be herself a lot easier in a small group, and gets to show her softer side more often. The three of them bond with arm pillows and movies, and I can’t wait to see what happens with them next. It’s kind of like the zany sitcom spin-off someone would suggest when viewing an earlier season, fully realized and integrated into the series.

It’s a shame that their “Mama Mia” is shared with the high school group as the episode’s closing number. Since it’s the only piece the New Yorkers get in “Guilty Pleasures,” it would have been great for them to really have a showcase, even if the end result is hard to complain about.

It’s also too bad that Rachel lets Brody off the hook, to an extent. She says they’re done, but she’s nicer to him than she should be, and I feel like this leaves the door open for a return of their pairing, albeit in secret from Rachel’s roommates, down the road. If she wants to be on the right path, she should ditch him altogether, but I guess everyone makes mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes, the Rachel / Brody duet of “Creep” is the one musical misstep in “Guilty Pleasures.” It’s certainly a different tone than the other songs, and I found it somewhat boring and out of sync with the rest of the hour.

Glee is going into re-run mode for the next two weeks, but will return Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX to finish out their fourth season.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Lucas

    Hi Jerome, again, you’re awesome in your reviews. What did you think about the arms pillows? It was scary for me at first.

  • http://www.jeromewetzel.com Jerome Wetzel

    Lucas – Thanks! I liked the arm pillows. I cuddle with pillows at night as it is, so they looked fun. But you can’t really flip them when one side gets warm, can you? So they’re not very practical.

  • Lucas

    Hahaha, it’s true. XD