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TV Review: Glee – “Naked”

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The latest installment of FOX’s Glee finds out many of our favorite characters getting “Naked.” At McKinley, the guys are putting together a shirtless calendar to raise money to pay for their bus to Regionals in Indiana, while in New York, Rachel (Lea Michele) considers doing a topless scene in a student film.

A few minutes into “Naked,” this episode is looking pretty bad, one of the worst we’ve seen all season. It begins with the Warblers being charged for steroid abuse, prompting the local news to report that McKinley is going to Regionals in their place.

First of all, it doesn’t look like the case has been settled yet. Isn’t it a little early to write off the Warblers? Second of all, the New Directions are disqualified at Sectionals, and another group isn’t, so what logic leads anyone to believe that McKinley is still in the game? Thirdly, while it may be local news-worthy to cover steroid abuse in a glee club, they certainly wouldn’t talk about McKinley at length, even if the New Directions are the defending national champions. And the entire thing is presented incredibly unrealistically, complete with a trumped-up version of an anchor rant.

For the record, I live in Columbus, Ohio, hours away from Lima and McKinley, which are actually hours away from each other, and our local news is not anything like Rod Remington (Bill A. Jones) and Andrea Carmichael’s (Earlene Davis) program, which appears to be Columbus-based. Even when Glee stretches reality for the sake of a joke, it does not do a service to Columbus to portray it so poorly.

Then we go to the choir room where Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) announces her calendar idea. Marley (Melissa Benoist) pops in with the musing that it is January so it is the perfect time to sell calendars. Wrong. January is a terrible time to sell, especially if they won’t be ready until late January or early February. Dumb.

Continuing on this trend of bad writing is a scene in Figgins’ (Iqbal Theba) office where he tells Brittany (Heather Morris) that she got an almost perfect score on the SAT, even though she just drew pictures in the dots. This is not possible, and for a girl who didn’t graduate high school in four years, a cruel plot twist. For Figgins to reveal this in front of Sam (Chord Overstreet), whom he then says has a very, very low score, is unprofessional, and should not happen even in a fictional education setting.

However, after these completely terrible first five or so minutes, “Naked” steadily grows better. Glee‘s episodes are often not of consistent quality from week to week, but usually the bad episodes are bad, the mediocre ones are mediocre, and the good episodes are good. “Naked” turns this old idea on its head by having on of the worst starts and best endings, with a pretty good middle.

I have to admit, even though it could be lumped into the opening chaos, I mostly enjoyed Marley’s guest spot on Fondue For Two. Brittany unthinkingly makes a joke out of Marley’s eating disorder, and it surprisingly works!

The only part that should have been left out of Fondue For Two is Lord Tubbington using the computer. It ventures too far into ridiculous territory.

The main story of “Naked” deals with body image issues. At McKinley, this centers around the guys. Artie (Kevin McHale) doesn’t want to take off his shirt, and not just because he’s in a wheel chair. He says that boys can have insecurities about their body, and he’s totally right. I like the message this sends out, and how even after Finn (Cory Monteith) and Sam cluelessly keep pushing the issue, they come around and not only tell Artie how brave he is, but find a way to include him while respecting his wishes.

A strong selling point of Glee has always been acceptance of who one is, and promoting helping others. “Naked” brings that mission to the forefront again in an intelligent way, without getting preachy.

The only regret here is Blaine’s (Darren Criss) continued attraction to Sam. It’s actually done very well in this episode, with Blaine being a really good friend, making a video to cheer Sam up when he’s feeling stupid. Blaine does not try to push the straight man into anything gay, and Sam stays in the dark about Blaine’s feelings.

What’s sad is that Blaine is being set up for a big slide down when this arc comes to a head, and Sam has to gently tell him it’s never going to happen. I hope Sam takes the news well, and finds a way to not shun Blaine for emotions that he can’t control.

I’m going to ignore Tina’s continued annoying habit of hitting on Blaine, since he already let her down, and girl still won’t leave him alone!

In New York, we also have the issue of nudity, couched in a plot about how Rachel is growing up. Lest we forget high school Rachel, the episode gives us college Rachel and her former persona side by side, singing a wonderful duet of “Torn.”

Rachel has changed a lot since going off to higher education, as many do, and “Naked” provides a chance for her to step back and evaluate her choices, deciding if she wants to stay on this path or not. She is getting in touch with who she is as a woman, and her sexuality, a fact made more obvious when we see the old sweaters, buttoned up so much higher.

Interesting that both Rachels have miniskits on, no? I guess the new-found sexiness isn’t coming out of nowhere.

Sort of weirdly, it’s Quinn (Dianna Agron) and Santana (Naya Rivera) that give Rachel her life raft. Rachel’s friendship with the Cheerios only begins to form just before she leaves McKinley, but it’s sweet that they remember their time together fondly enough to travel to the big city and give Rachel some advice at an important juncture. Plus, they are more experienced than Rachel when it comes to such adult matters, so they serve as appropriate advisers.

In the end, Rachel decides not to go through with going topless, a wise decision, and a sign that she won’t change who she is completely. It’s the support of her friends that provides her out, but it’s her own strong will that carries her through. As she leaves the set to sing “Love Song” with the girls, it’s a triumphant moment for Rachel Berry.

I am really intrigued by Santana’s comment that New York might be her kind of city. I like Rachel and Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) relocation this season, providing a way for Glee to grow, as their portions of the episodes tend to be the strongest. I really want to see more characters join them, and Santana is one of better developed on the show. She would greatly shake up Kurt and Rachel’s dynamic if she should move, and I would love her to get more screen time again. I hope the writers go this direction.

The music in “Naked” is some of the best in recent memory on Glee. As stated before, “Torn” is amazing, and “Love Song” is enjoyable, and not just for nostalgia’s sake. The New Directions’ mashup of “Centerfold” and “Hot in Here” is downright inspired, and very clever. “A Thousand Years, Pt. 2″ is sweet. Only “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” is mediocre, but that can be forgiven because of the part it plays in the story.

“Naked” ends with its best piece of the week, “This is the New Year.” It’s done in a very artistic style, with the twelve current members of the high school glee club coming together and just plain having fun. If ever an episode ended on a high note, it’s this one, letting them celebrate their victories and accomplishments in the hour in a cute and entertaining way that bears repeat viewings.

Another subplot in “Naked” involves Marley and Jake (Jacob Artist). Things between them have been brewing, but it suddenly turns serious. Jake admits to Ryder (Blake Jenner) that he loves Marley, and is disappointed when Marley can’t quite say that she loves him. Ryder encourages Jake to go first, and it’s the perfect decision to do so, leading to a mutual statement of attraction.

I know it’s early in the plot for Jake and Marley to get too close. Yet, it’s refreshing for a young pair to be so in love, without having to go through seasons of drama to get there. Their relationship might not last, but hopefully it will stick for a little bit, as these new characters are very likeable, and deserve some happiness. And yes, they do say the l-word too soon, but I’m sure plenty of real high schoolers who don’t actually understand love do, too.

In New York, we get just a taste of Kurt’s frustrations with having Brody (Dean Geyer) living with them. It was foolish and rude of Rachel to invite Brody in without consulting Kurt, and the arrangement is clearly not working out. There’s only a little bit of conflict shown this week, but it’s definitely brewing towards a larger confrontation. It is gratifying to see Kurt not dance around the issue, standing up for himself, and this probably means the thrown down will happen sooner, rather than later.

Lastly, Finn fights back against Sue’s (Jane Lynch) bullying, tricking her into admitting she once posed nude in a magazine. That in of itself ventures into hokey territory, especially when Sue thinks that she can destroy all the evidence in a digital age. Good thing for her, Finn doesn’t seem remember that the internet exists, either.

That being said, I get the impression that Sue is slyly pushing Finn into being a better teacher, not just being mean for no reason, and if that turns out to be the case, I’m glad she’s around for him. She won’t ever admit it, of course, but I sense that she’s starting to treat Finn as a colleague and worthy opponent, the same way she treats Will (Matthew Morrison). That’s a good sign.

“Naked” is not Glee‘s best outing, but if there was an award form Most Improved episode from beginning to end, it would win it. There are some important issues brought up, some great character moments, and some fantastic musical numbers. Overall, I’d give it a solid B+.

Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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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
  • CJ

    I can’t believe that in order for ND to win the make it so the warblers cheated, way not make it so another group cheated. The guys who play the warblers don’t get enough credit, this show really has gone down hill, now The Almighty Johnsons now that’s a brilliant show.

  • Lucas

    You’re right, I didn’t like when the episode started, it seemed so crazy and unbelievable. I really “hated” when Lord Tubbington was using the computer. It was so unreal. And yes, the epidose was better throught the hour.

  • http://sceneontv.tumblr.com darci

    So yeah that mash-up of “Hot In Herre” with “Angel is the Centerfold” was awesome. Perfectly ridiculous choreography to fit with this whacky mash-up but it turned out to be catchy too

    Maybe Pharrell should produce a new J. Geils Band track because seriously this mash up made for an awesome song.