This summer, I’ll be going back to review the season one episodes of FOX’s Glee. These are fresh reviews, not reposts, and I hope you will enjoy reliving the first season with me.
“The Rhodes Not Taken” introduces recurring character April Rhodes (Kristin Chenoweth, The West Wing, Pushing Daisies). April was a senior when Will (Matthew Morrison) was a freshman in glee club, and he always admired her. After Rachel (Lea Michele) quits the New Directions, Will discovers April never officially graduated, and convinces her to take Rachel’s place. April jumps at the chance, having been squatting in an empty house, imbibing heavily, and presumably sleeping with many men. April has a fantastic voice, but she’s an irresponsible alcoholic, and that does not mesh well with the high school kids. Finn (Cory Monteith) sways Rachel into returning, and April heads off to try to fix her life.
Chenoweth is amazing, of course, both musically, and with comedy chops. She is the perfect actress for Glee, so it’s no wonder she’s been asked back twice more since “The Rhodes Not Taken.” I would never say a word against Chenoweth’s personal contributions to the series, or the talent she wields with such grace and charisma. Chenoweth’s presence will always be welcome, and something to look forward to, and I hope she returns to the halls of McKinley many, many more times. In fact, should Morrison ever decide to leave the series, she would make a perfect glee club director.
That being said, the character of April is far from appropriate in a school setting. In a twisted variation on Never Been Kissed, April recaptures her high school glory by giving Kurt (Chris Colfer) alcohol and showering, and likely sleeping, with the football players, including Puck (Mark Salling). Emma (Jayma Mays) comments on the bad behavior to Will, disapprovingly telling him that April’s backpack is always “clinking with empties.” If Emma notices, surely other teachers do, too, and they do not share Emma’s loyalty to Will. Glee sometimes goes down outlandish paths, but this is one of the most unrealistic. April would never get away with acting like this in high school, especially with the extra scrutiny that she surely faces, being an adult in a typical childish setting.
But the inappropriateness does not end with April. I remember being shocked that a high school would allow Will to stage a production of The Rocky Horror Show in season two. Not only is Sandy (Stephen Tobolowsky) doing Cabaret, which has at least as much adult content as Rocky Horror, but he speaks of putting on Equus, including the full nudity aspect. Even if Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) gives his staff a very loose leash, none of this would ever happen. Figgins would likely lose his job, and so would all of the teachers that went along with the schemes. Suspending disbelief only goes so far.
“The Rhodes Not Taken,” like a handful of other episodes of Glee, is particularly sex obsessed. Besides April sleeping with students, Jacob Ben Israel (Josh Sussman) tries to trade a good review in return for seeing Rachel without her shirt on, and Finn plays on Rachel’s sexual attraction to him to get her to rejoin the New Directions. This is not a complaint. At times, Glee can actually seem a little chaste, since it follows the “good” kids at McKinley High, and has an innocent, crackerjack quality to many of its musical numbers. I applaud the inclusion of an adult topic, when kept between students, as sex truly does rule many high school minds and bodies.
Well, that, and gossip. At this point, none of the non-jocks are friends with Quinn, or very close to Finn, so it’s forgivable that they take such delight in the pregnancy scandal. Luckily Glee will soon correct that, and many students will face the realities of such an occurrence, not just scoff about it.
Unfortunately, it’s really unfair of Finn to play on Rachel’s attraction. Finn is many things, but his devious side is not one that comes out all that often, and hurts his character when it does. He was not raised to act like this, and even though it’s in service of the glee club, it’s hard to forgive Finn for hurting Rachel in this way. Rachel is willing to set aside a lot of her own interests for Finn, and if he cares about her at all, he shouldn’t ask her to, let alone trick her.