Glee takes a darker turn in this week’s episode, “Bash,” when Kurt (Chris Colfer) steps in to defend a gay man being beat up. The victim runs, abandoning his savior, and Kurt is kicked until he ends up in the hospital, exposing the seedy side of New York City, where hate crimes are on the rise. Kurt’s experiences affect all of his friends, and end up being a center piece for the entire hour, which is mostly a pretty good one.
It’s weird to think of New York as a place that isn’t tolerant, given the wide variety of people who live there, but I guess bigots are everywhere, and in a huge place where it’s easy for individuals to hide, some have begun to strike out. As Kurt says, they feel their way of life slipping away and it makes them angry, so they pummel the people they feel are responsible for it. It’s not rational, and it’s a truly ugly side of human behavior, but it is something we can understand. “Bash” does a good job in communicating this, and is emotionally moving.
The episode begins with Kurt, Blaine (Darren Criss), Rachel (Lea Michele), and Sam (Chord Overstreet) participating in a vigil for someone else who has been hurt. They sing a beautiful rendition of one of my favorite Sondheim pieces (this episode has a lot of Sondheim songs), “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods. It’s a sad occasion, one sure to be repeated when Kurt gets involved in a similar incident, making the show take an even more unexpected turn as Blaine sits by Kurt’s bedside and sings the weakest number of the week, “Not While I’m Around,” which is appropriately melancholy, but lacks the power one might hope for.
It isn’t long before Kurt’s father, Burt (Mike O’Malley), flies into town, furious at Kurt for getting involved. “Bash” provides O’Malley yet another opportunity for a moving performance. We see the pain in his eyes, reflecting his child’s physical ailments, but the pride still shines through, knowing that Kurt is a good man, no longer a kid, who stands up for what he believes in. It’s a complex situation, Burt’s range of emotions all understandable and warring to surface, but love is the one that shines through the bets, making a for a terrific father-son scene.
And, because Glee must always let its heroes triumph, “Bash” concludes with Kurt’s mid-term performance of “I’m Still Here.” It’s a wonderful moment, Kurt recovered from his ordeal (mostly), surrounded by his loved ones. He will not let others bring him down, and he will continue to do what he does best. It’s an amazing song, performed fantastically, and surely earns Kurt top marks from his smiling professor, Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg).
Rachel is deeply affected by what happens to Kurt. She’s getting a little too big for her britches, choosing a duet with Blaine, “Broadway Baby,” for her own mid-term. It’s a great number, but Carmen is upset with Rachel for ignoring the guidelines of the assignment. Rachel, high on tech week for Funny Girl, pretty much tells Carmen where to stick it, resulting in Rachel quitting school. When Kurt steps in to confront Rachel, trying to reason with her that she needs an education, she tells him he doesn’t take risks. Needless to say, she feels responsible for Kurt interfering in the bad situation later in the installment, and while she doesn’t apologize to Carmen, she does resolve to stick with her friends, telling Kurt that she’s sorry.
In a way, Rachel taking responsibility for Kurt’s actions only shows even more how self-involved Rachel has become. Why does she think a few words she says will cause Kurt to change his behavior? Kurt isn’t easily manipulated, and as his best friend, Rachel should know that. Kurt’s decision has nothing at all to do with the diva, and so it makes Rachel seem pathetic when she infers that it does, even as the scene in which the two make up is sweet.
Rachel’s story is the weakest in “Bash,” and not just because she’s being a jerk. She tells her boss, Sidney (Michael Lerner), that she simply has to have time off of tech week for her school work, and he objects. She insists it’s just this one time, ignoring the fact that she just took a full week off to go back to Ohio, not to mention how her waitressing job must be distracting her even if, as Carmen says, Rachel has let her studies slip. Sidney agrees to let Rachel have one break, then she promptly spends much of the rest of the episode off set, rushing to Kurt’s bedside and hanging out with her friends, without a hint of complaint from the production. I don’t know how the writers expect us to buy the lack of continuity in any of this because it just doesn’t make any sense at all.
Oh, and if anyone is wondering, Blaine does make up his project for Carmen during “Not While I’m Around,” so his spot at NYADA is safe.
The other subplot happening in “Bash” involves the reunion of Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Sam. They fall for one another over reruns of The Facts of Life, which Sam hopelessly misinterprets, and then Mercedes opens up with a nice “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” However, one lousy dinner with her backup singers (Dana Davis, Franklin & Bash, and Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Righteous Kill), and Mercedes dumps Sam out of fear of what racist people will think, and how that might hurt her career. Thankfully, Kurt’s bravery makes Mercedes come to her senses in an Amber Riley-original, “Colorblind,” and the couple reconciles.
I’ve always been a fan of the off-again, on-again pair. Not all Glee viewers root for Sam and Mercedes, but they fit together unexpectedly well. They may be different people, but they also like one another a great deal, offering support and advice without judgment. Their plot in “Bash” is a little hokey, but overall, I’m still holding out hope Riley will be re-signed as a series regular and stay in New York.
“Bash” isn’t the best episode of Glee ever, but it does continue the trend of a higher quality since the Ohio setting was ditched, and aside from Blaine’s song, which did its job, the musical sequences are much more even. The Kurt stuff doesn’t quite fit in the series, but it’s well handled. I think getting away from the cheesiness inherent in the high school story lines has been good for the show, and overall, it’s doing better.
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
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