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TV Review: Glee – “The First Time”

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This week’s episode of FOX’s Glee finds Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss) contemplating sex for “The First Time” in order to better their acting chops. Kurt (Chris Colfer) shoots Blaine down under less than romantic circumstances, and Finn (Cory Monteith) just doesn’t want to be used. However, once Rachel and Blaine stop trying so hard and enjoy being in their respective relationships, sex does happen for each. Could Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) be next, now that Cooter Menkins (Eric Bruskotter, Six Feet Under, Starship Troopers) has set his sights on her?

There is no Will (Matthew Morrison) plot in this episode, and yet, somehow he isn’t really missed.

Love is in the air on Glee, again. “The First Time” isn’t the first time that the series focuses on the sex life of the central teenagers, and it probably won’t be the last. Smartly, the characters reference other episodes that relate to this plot, such as Rachel bringing up the Madonna week. Still, doesn’t it seem strange that the two main couples both decide to do the dirty for the very first time on the same night? This could be chalked up to the life circumstances of Blaine and Rachel, with West Side Story being the catalyst, however, it just isn’t all that likely. Also, why should teen sex be glamorized on TV? Perhaps this makes me sound like an old fogey, but just wait under you’re older!

That being said, the sexual encounters themselves are handled in a very classy way. No skin is shown, of course, and romance is the prime factor, rather than hormones. Plus, both couples’ intercourse is interspersed with “One Hand, One Heart,” proving a perfect mix of music and scene. Glee doesn’t always get this right, but this sequence is pretty nifty.

The reason Rachel and Blaine are so desperate for sex is because of something Artie (Kevin McHale) says to them. But Artie admits to himself in narration that he doesn’t know what he is doing as a director. Is this just self-doubt, or is he really not sure? The production of West Side Story seems to come off without a hitch, so things point to the former. However, if Artie really doesn’t know that he’s making good decisions, it could be just dumb luck, or the influence of the adult mentors. Either way, Artie’s entire plot is a yawn, and drags the episode down. He’s just not an interesting character, and his limited acting abilities make this fall flat.

A much better side character is Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.). Picking up from an earlier episode, apparently Mike and his mom (Tamlyn Tomita) have never told his father (Keong Sim) that Mike will continue to dance. Mike Sr. shows up and is furious that his son is still working on his passion. The Mike Changs end up disowning each other in an emotionally charged scene. It is pretty cool thought that mom still shows up to see young Mike in West Side Story. Why not give this story more attention? It deserves it!

Somehow, Coach Beiste remains a virgin, too. She says she has never met the right guy. Hearts go out to this teary-eyed woman who is so damaged by rejection and poor self-image that she thinks Cooter asking her out is a joke. Beiste is a fantastic character, and any guy would be lucky to have her. One can’t help but hope that Cooter is the man of her dreams, as he appears to be. After all, he recognizes what she has to offer, and is smart enough to pursue it. Not only that, but he says the right things to make her feel good about herself. Home run!

Less of a home run this week is Glee bringing in someone to stir things up between Blaine and Kurt. Sebastian (Grant Gustin) goes after Blaine quite aggressively, and is even willing to sleep with Blaine and not tell Kurt. He is a slimy character right from the get go. While it is kind of interesting to see Kurt get jealous and fight for his man, at times in “The First Time,” it almost seems like Blaine would rather be with Sebastian. This should not be the case. Even if Sebastian is attractive, Blaine knows that Kurt is a much better person, and that should count for a lot. Poor execution of a dumb story.

There is a bloom of something wonderful within the Sebastian plot, however, when Kurt visits the gay bar and encounters Karofsky (Max Adler), whose presence is sorely missed on Glee. Karofsky tells Kurt that, although he wants to be seen as straight with no doubts in his new high school, he feels comfortable and accepted at the bar. Kurt is happy for Karofsky’s baby steps, and the two find peace after years of torment. Kurt is right that people need to take things at their own speed, and Karofsky seems to be coming to terms with who he is, and stopping to hate himself for it. This is truly a happy ending to a tragic story.

“The First Time” is a mixed bag when examined closely, as one might see from the preceding paragraphs. The music in the episode is fairly strong, though. “Tonight,” “A Boy Like That,” and “I Have a Love” showcase some of the best of West Side Story, and let Santana (Naya Rivera) shine. “America” is a fantastic big number, even if some of the accents are completely wrong (cough, Mark Salling’s Puck, cough). It’s a high school production, though, so that can be forgiven. Viewers will be left wanting to see more from the show, but this likely won’t be the case.

“Uptown Girl” may be the weak spot because, although it is great to see the Dalton Warblers, whom many have missed, without Blaine, their sound quality has gone down considerably. No wonder they beg for him to come back.

My overall impression is that “The First Time” comes off as pretty great, especially when going with the romance mentioned above, and because the issues with it tend to be small. But there are a number of these small things that just don’t make sense, and together, they add up. These include Rachel calling that particular group of girls back together for the sex talk. Or Rory (Damian McGinty) getting into West Side Story, even though he comes to the school after the complicated musical is well into production. Or Rachel and Blaine still singing from sheet music days before opening night. Or Finn thinking he can play quarterback for OSU, one of the best teams in college football, despite the fact that he comes from a terrible team in a small town. Even with Coach Beiste, things cannot have turned around that much so quickly. At one point near the beginning, viewers can even see clearly that Rachel is standing on a box to have a close scene with Finn, as she is suddenly taller, and appears to step down as she walks away!

So a back and forth week for Glee. Not the end of the world, and mostly satisfying, even with the nagging problems. One can hope that maybe next week will be better. Watch Glee Tuesday at 8 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
  • Marlene

    Why is this suddenly the Blaine and Rachel show? And why does it seem as though the show is always trying to put them together? It’s as though Glee can’t decide whether it wants Blaine to be with Kurt or with Rachel. Blaine and Rachel are the two most annoying characters on the show and yet they get the most screen time. At least Lea can act.