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TV Review: Glee – “The Spanish Teacher”

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This week’s installment of FOX’s Glee is called “The Spanish Teacher.” Figgins (Iqbal Theba) tells Will (Matthew Morrison) that he is up for tenure, but that he should probably learn some Spanish if he wants to be considered for the position. Will is, after all, a Spanish teacher. Enrolling in a night class taught by David Martinez (singer Ricky Martin), Will realizes just how little he knows, but tries to correct that by bringing a Latino flair to glee club, as well as his normal teaching duties. In the end, remembering what passion is all about, Will opts for a transfer to the history department, leaving his old job open for David. Emma (Jayma Mays), who is already comfortable in her position, is chosen for the tenured position over Will.

While Glee has never shied away from camp, exposing Will as a fraud of a Spanish teacher crosses the line. Will says that Spanish was the only teaching position open at the time he was seeking employment, so he took the subject. And that was how many teachers settled into their jobs decades ago. However, such hiring practices have not been realistic in Ohio, or almost any other state, in quite some time. There is no way that Will would be hired to teach a foreign language without majoring in it in college and passing tests. The educational process in Ohio is pretty strict, and he could not teach a subject he knows nothing about. As such, the entire thing is completely ridiculous.

And that’s not even getting into the outdated system of tenure shown in this episode.

Does McKinley not have a choir director position? It is understood that glee club is an extracurricular, but most high schools of any size have a teacher devoted just to vocal music. McKinley certainly qualifies as such. If there is a teacher already holding that position, why haven’t they been seen on the show before? It would make sense, given the musical focus. And if there is not, why aren’t Will and the club lobbying for a levy to pass to restore their music program to normal, basic standards? Certainly this is something that they could get people in the community behind.

Those involved in the educational system have plenty of reason to be offended by “The Spanish Teacher,” but those of Latin descent may have even more beef. Will and the guys massacre “La Cucaracha” in a silly performance. Later, Will’s “A Little Less Conversation,” an Elvis number by the way, is not any better. Both have mediocre vocals and unacceptable costumes. Adding bulls into the dance in the latter song is terrible.

But “The Spanish Teacher” does have a handful of redeeming qualities. For one, Santana (Naya Rivera) is as angry at the racism and the injustice as any viewer, and she shows it. She puts Will in his place, and tells him just how wrong what he’s doing is. In this, she serves as the voice of the audience. Thank goodness Glee chooses to include this position.

Also, most of the Latin music is actually quite good, owing mainly to the fact that Rivera and Martin perform it. Their “La Isla Bonita” is exciting, and Martin’s “Sexy and I Know It” lives up to its title. By showing an alternative to the bad performances, Glee somewhat salvages the plot, even though it can’t save the character of Will this week.

Martin does pretty well in his acting gig. There really is nothing to complain about in his character of David, nor the way he plays the role. While it is regrettable that David did not sing any Ricky Martin songs in “The Spanish Teacher,” perhaps this can be corrected in a future appearance. And if David starts dating Holly Holiday (Gwyneth Paltrow), it could be a perfect match up!

Other plots in “The Spanish Teacher” come out better than the A story. Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) go to Emma for advice, and after giving them some very funny pamphlets, Emma advises them not to talk to each other for a week. They sort of break this rule when Mercedes sings “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” and Sam comes back with “Bamboleo / Hero.” If there is anything Glee delivers as a recurring message, it’s that music can speak louder than words. But the pair does not have any actual conversation for seven days.

The problem is in the way this story ends. After a week, both appear anxious to talk to one another. But then Mercedes leaves with Shane (Lamarcus Tinker). Based on every physical and stated clue in “The Spanish Teacher,” one would assume that Mercedes would dump her boyfriend to be with Sam. And maybe she still will. But she certainly doesn’t tell the devastated Sam that as she walks away. It’s an interesting story that drops the ball at the last moment.

Will and Emma’s romance is given a happier ending. Will gets annoyed with Emma’s pamphlets when he is stressed out by the tenure issue. Seeing that he is wrong to criticize, and that the pamphlets are a wonderful achievement, he apologizes. It’s pretty inexcusable that Will treats Emma so meanly, but at least he understands that he is in the wrong and tries to make up for it. And Emma getting the tenure, totally justifying her career performance, overshadows her boyfriend’s bad behavior.

Rachel (Lea Michele) tells Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Mercedes about her engagement to Finn (Cory Monteith). Kurt is supportive when Rachel asks him to think about his relationship with Blaine (Darren Criss, taking a short break from Glee to do Broadway), but later, Kurt confronts Finn. Kurt tells Finn that he is getting married for all the wrong reasons and selling himself short. It gives Finn something to think about, and Kurt is completely correct in his assertions. The question is, can Rachel and Finn survive as a couple after calling off their engagement? And how much have things been set into motion for the nuptials already? If next week’s preview is any indication, the marriage plans have hit the ground running.

Finally, Sue (Jane Lynch) has the strangest scenes this week. For some, her character is extremely erratic, first chewing out Santana for reporting her misbehavior to Figgins, then saying to Becky (Lauren Potter) that Sue understands why Becky turned her in. So Becky is the culprit, and because Sue likes Becky, Sue is willing to consider motivation behind the act. However, is that any excuse for the drastically different reactions Sue has towards the two students? Or for her misbehavior in the first place, which involves asking high school boys for their sperm?

Yet, there is a really sweet bit between Sue and Emma where Sue explains why she is asking for Will’s swimmers. Sue’s words are sincere and heartfelt. While Emma is still not comfortable with the arrangement, suddenly fans can get on board with a Sue/Will baby. Then the plot is abandoned without explanation, when Sue says that she has found another donor. She gave up so easily? Who’s the new daddy? So, again, erratic, and strange.

If the writers can decide which version of Sue they’d like to right for, please let us know. It would be nice to have a consistent character. There is a difference between have a layered persona, and acting contrary to established behavior patterns, and “The Spanish Teacher” definitely achieves the latter.

Which means between the music, Sue’s story, Will’s character, Mercedes’s decision, and everything else going on, “The Spanish Teacher” comes across as a garbled mess. Not one of Glee‘s best efforts, unfortunately, though it contains a handful of solid moments.

Watch Glee Tuesdays 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
  • pbandjamr

    What is going on with Tina she wasn’t in half of the Michael episode and she was in the Spanish teacher ep. Tina is a main character but oddly shes really like a minor character.
    Also I don’t like how pucks Mohawk is being grown and the there like combing it over either keep it short and up like in season 1-2 or just have it long and spike it up

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

    You’re right about Tina, but she’s always kind of been like that. And I don’t mind it, because I don’t really care for her.

  • Franklin

    I agree with all your points, however, I actually wanted more Spanish music and/or by Spanish artists. I did think La Isla Bonita and Sexy And I Know It were good performances but I would have perfered songs by Spanish singers, anyone from Celia Cruz, Selena, Marc Anthony, hell, even Jennifer Lopez or Christina Aguelira. I appreciate that The Spanish Teacher had Gloria Estefan and Enrique Igelsas and Gipsy Kings mash up in the episode, but this episode lacked one main thing: Spanish.

  • Franklin

    Preferred**** dumb auto correct.