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TV Review: Glee – “Vitamin D”

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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.

Glee‘s sixth episode, “Vitamin D,” is light on music, but heavy in furthering the recurring arcs in the beginning of this season. With the New Directions growing complacent (after only six weeks as a group!), Will (Matthew Morrison) decides to evoke a competitive spirit by pitting the guys vs. the girls in a mashup contest. Finn (Cory Monteith) finds himself exhausted and unable to lead, but soon all the kids are flying high – on drugs. Meanwhile, Sue (Jane Lynch) decides to destroy the club through Will, so she gets Will’s wife, Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), a job as the school nurse. After seeing Will and Emma (Jayma Mays) together, Terri is not happy, to put it mildly.

Six weeks is all it takes the New Directions to get lazy? Seriously? Sure, their competition for Sectionals looks weak on paper, but they’ve barely become a group. Several of the students have only been a part of the New Directions for a month, having been recruited after the initial batch. The complacency plot comes far too early in the series, when the students have little reason to be overconfident. This story would work better later in season one, or especially in season two, as they get better and better. Not sure why the writers choose to go this route now, but it didn’t fully fit.

However, the results of the mashup contest are fantastic. The only two songs sung in “Vitamin D,” it’s nearly impossible to decide if the guys’ “It’s My Life / Confessions Part II” should beat the girls’ “Halo / Walking on Sunshine” or not. Both are high energy, excellent remixes of great songs. All the performers are top notch, and the lights and choreography only make the competition tougher. Luckily, viewers and judges alike are spared that horrendous choice by Finn and Rachel (Lea Michele) disqualifying both teams for using performance enhancing drugs.

Glee often goes the opposite of school appropriate in its plots, and because that’s a hallmark of the show, it would be folly to complain on that element alone. But as the series is supposed to be a positive role model, it is disappointing that the New Directions are so willing to use pseudoephedrine, and there really are no negative consequences for them. Yes, the characters talk about it being cheating, and agree to go off of it, but what is shown on screen is that the drug makes them all perform excellently, and their health does not suffer at all. While it is good that there is a moral stand against the practice, it would have been beneficial to show negative physical side effects, too, such as uneven heartbeat, severe dizziness, anxiety, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness, fever, chills, body aches, etc, which are all actual possible side effects.

This episode successfully dwells on the two central student characters, Rachel and Finn. Both show a morality and conviction that make them good leaders. They make mistakes, but they feel guilt, and take responsibility. Michele and Monteith are definitely sure in their footing as the duo, drawn together, but avoiding committing to it, for a variety of reasons. Rachel even tries to befriend Finn’s pregnant girlfriend, Quinn (Dianna Agron), cementing Rachel as likeable, despite her flaws. She also makes an effort to be a team player, something important in her growth. And wrong or not, Monteith is hilarious in “Vitamin D” when Finn takes the drugs.

It is a little frustrating that Glee continues to dump on the public school system. While Terri is the one who actually insults the establishment, saying she needs no training to be school nurse because of their low standards, the fact that McKinley High goes along with that backs up the negative, and largely inaccurate, stereotype. Certainly some public institutions have their flaws, and no system is perfect. But many public schools in this country, and in Ohio, are very good, and few would hire someone unqualified to be there. In most places, that would be illegal.

Which makes it a stretch that the only punishment shown to anyone involved at the school is that Sue will now be the co-director of the New Directions, to Will’s frustration. That’s an interesting plot, and one that will be explored further, but there are ways it could have been gotten to without going totally off into left field. Poor Howard Bamboo (Kent Avenido) is arrested, but assumedly he is let go once it is revealed he isn’t directly doing anything illegal, since he later appears in the show, seemingly unaffected by the experience. Though he is an accomplice to illicit activity. No idea why the police investigation doesn’t lead them to Terri, who does deserve jail time.

Also slightly offensive and unrealistic is that Sue would put a nurse in a coma as part of her plan. Sue is ruthless in many ways, but to show her causing severe physical harm is not funny, nor should it be acceptable on Glee. The fact that she completely gets away with it is even worse. Doesn’t this school have cameras in the hallways, as most do nowadays?

Once more, Terri is made a bit sympathetic in her marriage to Will. There is a commonly held belief that their entire fight seems one-sided in Will’s favor. But keep in mind, Will is having an emotional, if not physical, affair with Emma. When Terri sees them together, it hurts her deeply. To hose who might say that Emma is nicer to Will, Terri has a point when she says to Emma that it’s easy to be nice for a few hours a day to someone. No one really knows what goes on in a marriage besides the couple. Terri is surely not all to blame, as she has a well defined personality, which Will would have known before marrying her. She also stays loyal to her husband.

A far worse example of marriage is the one Emma is about to enter into with Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher). Among her demands are continuing to live on separate sides of town and not spending time together after school. Really, who is the worse wife in this scenario, Emma or Terri? If one stops and thinks about it, Terri may actually be a better human being at this point. Emma claims she doesn’t want to die alone, but she certainly isn’t willing to overcome any of her phobias to achieve the goal, and so it becomes impossible, and cruel to Ken for being an enabler. If one is a fan of Will, how can you wish them together?

Random Bits:

While not exactly clear, I assume the episode title “Vitamin D” is a reference to pseudoephedrine being used in Claritin D, which is what it appears the kids are taking, as well as Finn calling them his vitamins.

Hilarious that while Finn is complaining he doesn’t have enough time in his life to get everything done, he is sitting and playing video games. I have a suggestion for what he could cut back on.

Quinn is so evil at this point in the show! She is complicit in Terri’s scheme to pass off her baby as Terri’s. She admits to Rachel, were their positions reversed, she would not be nice to the other girl. She continues to lie to Finn about who the father of her baby is. Is any teenage girl, who isn’t criminally psychotic, really this mean? After watching the movie Mean Girls, sadly, I fear the answer is yes. Makes me glad to be a guy.

Sue says in her journal she is “almost 30.” It’s hard to come up with a reason why Sue would lie to her journal, so perhaps it’s true, though it doesn’t really gel with other details later revealed about Sue’s personal life, such as her rivalry with Olivia Newton John, nor the ages of her sister and mother.

Sue also reveals she ran for office twice. In season three, she will become politically involved again. Nice early seeds, and it makes sense for the character. But it does beg the question, what happened when Sue previously ran, and why did she stop being involved in politics?

Ken is pushed into proposing to Emma by Terri. Marriage is a huge life decision. Could one be so easily talked into it?

Check back tomorrow for another Glee season one review!

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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