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.