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TV Review: Glee – “Mattress”

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One episode of FOX’s Glee that seems pretty bizarre is “Mattress.” That’s likely because there’s a lot of sadness and anger in the episode, not your typical Glee fare. As such, it’s a little unclear whether it fits in appropriately with the series overall, or if it’s a stand alone oddity. Pathos are fine on Glee, and often done well. But when the whole episode revolves around depressing material, it tends to almost seem out of tone.

“Mattress” aired just before winter break, so a lot of it builds up to a mid-season finale. Will (Matthew Morrison) discovers Terri’s (Jessalyn Gilsig) treachery, and considers leaving her. Emma (Jayma Mays) is forced to choose between attending the glee club’s Sectionals, or her own wedding to Ken (Patrick Gallagher) when he purposely schedules the latter event on the same day as the former. Quinn (Dianna Agron) stands up to Sue (Jane Lynch) once and for all. And all of the New Directions worry what might happen to their year book photo, if they even take one.

The plot between Will and Terri is a long time coming, and not exactly unwelcome. While Terri’s intentions are originally good, as Emma admits she sees to Will, the lies are carried too far. There is no happy ending possible for the couple, and years of resentment and anger erupt. It’s startling to see Will get so mad, but at the same, it’s the only logical way to act after being betrayed so deeply. A root cause of the problem is, as Terri says, “This marriage works because you don’t feel good about yourself.” But Will has found purpose with the glee club, and that has ruined their status quo, even if that status quo isn’t exactly great in the first place. Thus, without Will acting like that, they are disrupted.

A quick note about Will’s heroic self-sacrifice at the end, removing himself from the glee club so that the group can still compete at Sectionals. This is how a hero acts, and what he does is very noble. Great use of a lead character, and it redeems him after the ugly fight scene with Terri earlier.

The larger implication of a Will/Terri dissolution is how it may effect Emma. Emma is in love with Will, and is only marrying Ken to try to move on, deciding that Will will never be available. Now that idea is turned on its head, and while Will says he isn’t yet sure if divorce is in the cards, it seems likely Will may be single again soon. With that tempting prospect, should Emma go ahead and marry a man who has, as she states, “Seventy-four flaws, as of yesterday?” Truthfully, she should not be marrying him in the first place if she feels this way, so the wedding has a very good chance of not happening.

This melancholy tone is reflected in much of how “Mattress” plays out, and, of course, in the music chosen for the episode, even though the titles of the songs sound happy. “When You’re Smiling” is sad as Rachel (Lea Michele) tries to gain the courage to take a smiling photo. The Charlie Chaplin version of “Smile,” which ends the episode, is even more blue, not least of which because it plays over footage of Dave Karofsky (Max Adler) defacing the New Directions year book photo with his laughing friends around him. What a depressing final shot!

The Lily Allen version of “Smile” is just plain weird. It is an atypical choice for a Rachel and Finn (Cory Monteith) number, and neither looks entirely comfortable singing and dancing it. The piano player bobbing along with that odd look on his face is actually, by far, the best part of the song. While not sad, this “Smile” doesn’t do anything to make the episode better. It just doesn’t work too well at all.

Strangely enough, among the episode’s many sad moments, there is the joyful, stand-out performance of “Jump.” More than anything else, “Jump” is what “Mattress” will be remembered for. Not quite fitting in with everything else, it is still one of the best choreographed performances in all of season one, and is incredibly fun to watch. Good thing the mattress store just happens to have big mattress trampolines laying around for the kids to use! Oops, being too critical again.

Quinn really shines in “Mattress.” Up until now, there are occasional hints of a good person, but Quinn is kind of one of the main villains of Glee. Yet, she completely makes up for her bad behavior when she stands up to Sue. Not only does she get the glee kids one of Sue’s six (six!) cheerleading pages in the yearbook, but she also puts Sue in her place. Quinn admits that glee teaches her more than the Cheerios does, and it’s a superior club. Bravo, young lady! Way to go!

Random Bits:

The news program in which Sue does a segment appears to be filmed in Columbus, Ohio. Though it’s not a cityscape view usually used, a couple of the buildings look like this is so. This is especially odd, as Glee takes place hours from Columbus. Maybe. Read my full rant about the inconsistency of Ohio layout in another Glee review.

Great Brittany (Heather Morris) line! When Rachel says that maybe the glee club photo won’t be defaced in this year’s yearbook, Brittany replies “Yes it will. I’ll be the one doing it.” At least she’s honest!

Why does Rachel go through the charade of picking a co-captain through a process? She approaches Mercedes (Amber Riley), Artie (Kevin McHale), and Brittany before asking Finn. Not only do none of these three options make any sense for Rachel to choose, but it’s completely obvious to viewers that Finn will, and should, be the co-captain. It feels forced that Rachel would even consider anyone else.

How did Quinn get to be Cheerio captain as a freshman? That’s almost unheard of in high school! Yet, she is clearly the captain in the 2008 yearbook, and she will not be graduating until the end of season three, the 2011-2012 school year. So this must be so.

Which leads me to ask, why is there a yearbook being put out in the fall with the fall semester’s year anyway? Isn’t that unusual? Don’t year books come out in the spring, with the calendar year that ends the school year on the cover?

Isn’t it unethical for a school to leave a club out of a yearbook? Is that even allowed? Any yearbook I’ve ever come into contact with includes ALL school clubs, no matter how minor. Charging a teacher to get their club into the yearbook defeats the whole purpose of a yearbook, and is probably illegal, or at least against state guidelines, since the other clubs aren’t charged similarly.

John Ross Bowie appears in “Mattress” as the photographer/commercial director. This very funny actor currently has recurring parts on both The Big Bang Theory and Childrens Hospital.

Check back soon for another season one Glee review. Next up: “Sectionals”!

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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
  • Jim

    This episode did not air right before winter break. Sectionals was the last episode to air before their long hiatus first season. These reviews are so disjointed.

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    Jim – If you read my article carefully, you will see I said this was the last episode before the last episode, and so sets up the mid-season finale. What is disjointed?

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    Jim – Ah, I see. I guess that sentence I wrote was a mouth full, so it was edited to say just before winter break. Which it was – a week before.