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TV Review: Glee – “Yes/No”

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FOX’s Glee returns from Christmas break with “Yes/No.” After seeing Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) has eloped, Emma (Jayma Mays) grows anxious for a proposal from Will (Matthew Morrison), who asks the New Directions to help him craft one. But a conversation with Emma’s parents (Don Most and Valerie Mahaffey) leaves him doubting whether or not Emma is ready for marriage and a family. Love is in the air for the kids, too, as Becky (Lauren Potter) sets her sights on Artie (Kevin McHale), Mercedes (Amber Riley) tries to pick a guy, and Finn (Cory Monteith) thinks about his future with Rachel (Lea Michele).

Many did not expect Will to actually pop the question to Emma in “Yes/No.” First of all, talking to her parents is a colossal mistake, which he should realize, considering their disastrous first meeting. The fact that he would listen to such mean, spiteful people, and take their words to heart, is completely unacceptable. After two and a half seasons of dancing around each other, fans would have been justifiably upset if Will or the writers had used this as an excuse to delay the union any longer. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. And Will’s ability to quickly see the truth of the matter, and deliver his wonderfully elaborate proposal, should prove that they are meant to be together, and will last as a couple.

The feelings between Will and Emma are always there, even when Will is trapped in a horrible marriage. Once freed from those bonds, Glee takes a detour. Which, since this is television, after all, that’s not only acceptable, it’s expected. What is unexpected, and more than acceptable, is allowing the pair to culminate that romance into something permanent so quickly! After all, Glee is only midway through season three, and many shows keep these things going on for years past that. So it’s a joy that Glee goes another way.

As for the attraction between Will and Emma, and Will’s doubts, those are legitimate. Emma does have a debilitating condition that cannot be ignored. Perhaps she will be OK with mess once she has her own kids, but there’s no guarantee of that; she might even grow worse. As such, they are definitely not ready to start a family, and it’s great that Glee allows them to have a real conversation about it. But Will appears prepared to wait, and committed to helping Emma, who by her own right, is working on her problem. Progress will be slow, and any serious talk of kids before late season five is premature. However, “Yes/No” begins things on the right path.

This little story leads to a wonderful musical number. Emma sings “Wedding Bell Blues,” with Coach Beiste and Sue (Jane Lynch) backing her up. Emma only gets about one song per season, and this is her best yet. It’s relevant, fun, and a good vocal showcase. Also, seeing Beiste and Sue in bridesmaid dresses, and making it appear that Emma has adult female friends, is wonderful. Perhaps Sue really wouldn’t back Emma up in this way, but Sue does offer moral support, so that’s cool.

Other songs are done by the kids as they attempt to help Will stage his proposal. The “Moves Like Jagger/Jumping Jack Flash” mash up is OK, if a bit of fluff. It is more memorable for its choreography than melody. “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” is much sweeter, though admittedly sappy. However, it also gives some insight into other characters, including Santana’s (Naya Rivera) deep love of Brittany (Heather Morris). And, of course, the one Will uses for the actual question, “We Found Love,” is spectacular both aurally and visually, with a big synchronized swimming sequence. Excellent!

It must be noted that while Coach Beiste may move a little fast in her relationship, already getting married to a character just introduced a handful of episodes ago, it is instant attraction between the two of them. Not to mention, Beiste has been waiting a long time for her man, and this one seems worthy. Viewers will surely only hope for the best between the pair, and have reason to be optimistic about the union.

Will is not the only man to ask the big question in “Yes/No.” Finn asks Rachel to marry him in a moment that seems pretty perfect. The girlfriend is shocked, and this episode does not reveal her answer. There are a number of things Rachel must consider. For one, she still has dreams of a Broadway career, and worries throughout Glee whether she can accomplish that while being with Finn. For another, they are still in school, and not even to college yet! Surely, that’s too young! Her soulful “Without You” reveals that she has strong affection for him, but marriage is a huge step.

It doesn’t help that Finn is going through something that really doesn’t have anything to do with Rachel. Finn tells Will that he is considering enlisting in the army, to follow in the footsteps of his war hero dad. But Will clues Emma, Burt (Mike O’Malley), and of course, Finn’s mom Carole (Romy Rosemont), into the decision, and the adults confront Finn for a frank discussion. Carole admits that Finn’s dad wasn’t a hero, and struggled with addiction after a bad experience in the service, eventually dying from the condition. It’s a shocker, but one a mother understandably keeps from her son while he’s growing up. Finn is devastated.

So is Finn’s marriage proposal just his way of trying to give his future some meaning? Robbed of following daddy’s path, might he just be clinging to something else? Or, perhaps not. Finn has to really look inside himself, searching for the thing that makes him special, and he feels that Rachel is that thing. Which is certainly endearing. Perhaps they are too young, but Finn’s desire to be with Rachel comes from a genuine place, and is sincere. As to whether Rachel is ready to commit to him in that way, well, that remains to be seen. But since this is television, and there is at least one more season left for the pair, she’ll probably say no.

Glee doesn’t seem to disparage military service in “Yes/No,” but it does discourage it for the character of Finn. It’s certainly not a decision to be taken lightly, and one that isn’t right for most people. Hopefully no one will be offended by this scene of talking the young man out of enlisting. No offense seems intended, nor warranted.Instead, it calls attention to the harsh truth, less often spoken of, about our troops. Which is something worth exploring.

Mercedes also struggles with her romantic notions in “Yes/No.” Pursued by Sam (Chord Overstreet), Mercedes insists that what she has with him is just a summer fling, and she is over him, happy now with Shane (Lamarcus Tinker). But in “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” her thoughts go to Sam, not Shane. Does this mean that Sam is the one that she wants (hehe)? Probably, since Sam is a more central character, and unfortunately, despite Tinker’s other respectable credits (Cougar Town and Friday Night Lights) before coming to Glee, he has been used practically not at all. Mercedes may choose Sam, but the real crime here is Tinker being wasted on Glee.

If you didn’t understand the “hehe” in the preceding paragraph, think of the lyrics in Grease. This is made a more obvious link by the rendition of “Summer Nights” Sam and Mercedes perform in “Yes/No.” One wishes Glee took more liberties with the words to apply the number to the couple’s actual doings. What is present, instead, is a version extremely true to the movie it comes from, with camera shots echoing the original. It’s cool, and a well done homage, but it doesn’t really give fans any insight into what actually happens between the two off screen, and that is something many long to see.

A quick question, though. Since Sam has a letter jacket previously in Glee, why does he need to join the swim team to get another one? He is shown wearing it in season two, presumably because of his football stint. Even if he no longer owns the jacket, he could just buy another, right, without having to re-qualify for it? Sure, it gives a good excuse to bring in NeNe Leakes as Coach Roz Washington, an amusing, if unnecessary, bit part. But the logic behind this plot doesn’t make sense. And surely Sam knows Mercedes well enough by now to realize that she doesn’t care about something so trivial. Also, the Sam from season two would never be this superficial. It feels out of character. Though it does feel like Grease, which may be the point.

During “Summer Nights,” Kurt (Chris Colfer) is seen with the girls, while Blaine (Darren Criss) is singing with the boys. Yes, this seems logical. But Kurt complains to Blaine in a prior episode that Blaine considers him the girl in their relationship. Mightn’t this be part of the reason? And really, what’s so wrong with it?

The final couple in “Yes/No” to get some meaty plot is Becky and Artie. Becky searches for the perfect man, aided by an awesome, overconfident inner narration spoken by none other than Oscar winner Helen Mirren! This is explained by Becky stating that she can sound like whatever she wants to in her head, a true statement, and done wonderfully by the great actress. There can be no complaint about Mirren’s role, and one is happily surprised that she enthusiastically took the part.

Back to the central issue, though, Becky wants a guy. She chooses Artie because he is handicapable, like her, and cute. Artie goes along with it at first, because he finds he likes spending time with Becky, and he doesn’t want to be rude. But he does eventually tell her that he just isn’t interested in anything more. With typical swagger, Becky walks away from him, leaving Artie feeling bad, and Glee viewers with a broken heart. Not that anyone expects or wants Artie to be with Becky. But the poor girl deserves to be happy!

The thing that is cool about the character of Becky is how she is treated as such an average student by Glee. Name one other television series that lets someone with Downs act like anyone else, sharing the same hopes and dreams, and almost never makes the character’s story about her condition? Becky not only soars as an individual, she’s an inspiration and role model for millions of people who share her ailment. She doesn’t let it define her life. Yes, it’s ridiculous to heap accolades for this fact in 2012, as it should be done everywhere, and it’s almost criminal that Glee is the only series to truly tackle the issue in a realistic way.This is one of the reasons that Glee deserves respect, even if one does not care for cheesy musical numbers. Not to mention, actress Potter is fantastic in the part.

What’s more, the character of Sue is probably at her best written in “Yes/No.” Besides her involvement in the Emma situation, she also offers support to Becky. Sue confronts Artie, but in a caring way, not a bully way. She advises Becky. Sue is also there to comfort Becky in the end. Glee has opened Sue up before, especially around her deceased sister and Becky, as she has a soft spot for them. However, this is probably the most sincere and well developed Sue episode yet, and despite playing only a small role in “Yes/No,” it’s a wonderful bit of story. More Sue like this, please!

Also, more Glee episodes like this, please! “Yes/No” mostly stays away from the familiar tropes, and the things that don’t work. It allows for serious conversation, and stories that feel real and relatable. The characters have a level of authenticity that they don’t always exhibit. The songs are pretty good, and accent the story, rather than distract from it. In all, “Yes/No” will stand as a shining example of what Glee can, and should, be.

It does not appear that Glee will be releasing its third season in two seperate DVD sets this year, unlike the first two seasons. That’s OK. It’s really been unnecessary,

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
  • Danica

    This has been the best episode this season so far and it was written by Brad Falchuk, one of the original writers/creators/producers. I wish they would get rid of the new writers and just have Falchuk write the show all the time. The music propelled the story and the balance of characters was really good. Without You was stellar.

  • Lorraine

    I think that Yes/No worked so well because it centred around the lead characters of Finn/Rachel and Will with just hints of others. It’s the relationships between these three, plus Kurt, that really make the show worth watching. And as above, Brad really knows how to write for these leads.