The first season Glee episode “Laryngitis” actually reaches a little far with the title. Rachel (Lea Michele) does, indeed, have laryngitis, that is, when she’s not calling it tonsillitis. And for some reason, she can talk fine; her singing is just out of tune. So somehow that thin excuse justifies titling the episode “Laryngitis,” but don’t ask me to explain how.
Now, of course, Rachel goes into full fledged panic. Why wouldn’t she? Singing is the talent she prides herself on the most. It’s her life, and the key to her planned future. Which is why Finn (Cory Monteith), in an effort to calm her down, introduces Rachel to his friend, Sean (Zack Weinstein), who used to be a football player, but is now paralyzed. Sean now enjoys singing instead, though he is justifiably angry about his condition. Somehow Sean’s massive life change is supposed to help Rachel realize she still has value as a person even if she loses the thing she is best at, and all her dreams go down in flames.
Considering the severity of difference between Rachel and Sean’s problems, this should be incredibly insulting to him. Yet, his character takes it very well, and tries to offer Rachel emotional support. Rachel, in turn, has the gall to go back and offer singing lessons to him when her voice returns. Rub it in that you’re all better, why don’tcha?
Also, if Finn is such a good friend of Sean’s, and Rachel is now visiting him every week, why is he never seen or mentioned again in Glee? Because the whole titular concept this week is incredibly weak, that’s why.
The one good thing that does come out of this plot is that viewers do not have to listen to very much of Rachel singing Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb.” Plus, we’re distracted by the horrific vocals from the New Directions’ star singer, so even part of what is heard, is ignored. To Michele’s credit, it must be incredibly hard to sing that badly with a talent as awesome as hers.
This plot also gives us “One,” the big closer in “Laryngitis.” It’s not particularly memorable, even though it stops to end on Rachel with a teary face, and is supposed to be impacting. But it serves the purpose of ending the episode, so that’s something, I guess.
Now that I’m done picking on the titular theme, let’s get down to the good parts of “Laryngitis.” Oh, yes. The whole episode is not as horrible as the initial paragraphs of this review lead you to believe. Kurt (Chris Colfer) gets a great story, and Puck (Mark Salling) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) share a decent amount of screen time, too. That’s why “Laryngitis” isn’t a wasted episode.
Kurt is growing ever more jealous of his father, Burt’s (Mike O’Malley), relationship with Finn after the two attend a Cincinnati Reds game together. Before we can examine Kurt’s plot, it must be said that Cincinnati is quite far from Lima or McKinley High, wherever the story takes place, as they are separate locations, and both those places are north, albeit hours apart. Cincinnati is in the southwestern corner of the state. Yet, Burt plans on taking Finn back for some hoagies they win just a few days later.
It’s also unacceptable that Burt bashes the Reds. They may have had a few bad years lately, but they have five World Series titles and a storied history. Burt’s snide comment may be chalked up to the fact that Northern Ohioans roots for the Cleveland Indians, a rival of the Reds. But then, why doesn’t Burt take Finn to an Indians’ game? It would be vastly more convenient, distance wise.
But I digress. Kurt feels left out, and wants to change to get his father’s acceptance. His path to doing so involves wearing flannel, dating a girl, Brittany (Heather Morris), and singing John Mellencamp. Kurt actually does “Pink Houses” fairly well, but everyone is confused by Kurt’s strange behavior, so it’s hard to notice that. Then, in a fit of frustration, old Kurt re-emerges and slays “Rose’s Turn” in a powerful, emotional performance. Certainly one of Kurt’s best songs in the series.
Through it all, Burt makes no judgment, and lets Kurt do his thing. He seems to understand that Kurt needs to act out a bit, and this is part of finding his identity. Burt makes sure he gives Kurt time and attention, and tells his son that he is loved for whomever he is. Combined with the wonderful climatic song, this comes across as a solid, fantastic Glee plot. Definitely the best part of “Laryngitis.”
Besides Burt, Sue (Jane Lynch) also offers some encouragement to Kurt. She tells him not to allow himself to be pigeonholed. “So you like show tunes? Doesn’t mean you’re gay. Just means you’re awful,” are just some of the semi-comforting words Sue offers before tuning out and walking away. Still, the fact that she stops and speaks with him, and encourages him to be comfortable with his flamboyant self, is a nice touch for a character who has been pretty uneven these past few of episodes.
Then there is Puck’s pursuit of Mercedes. It’s a little like how he eventually goes after Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink). Both are girls with curves who reject him, and then he sings an insulting song to win their hearts. Mercedes joins in, as “The Lady Is a Tramp” isn’t all that offensive, and it’s a good tune. And she’s OK with being used by him, because she’s sort of using Puck, too. Until she dumps him and quits the Cheerios because popularity is overrated. As such, their relationship is never as real as the one Puck has with Zizes later. Perhaps the writers like this idea, and decide to revisit it with different results next year?
What is really strange is that Puck claims, in a voice over, to not know Mercedes’ name. They’ve been in a glee club together all year; a small group. No matter how lazy he is, he would pick it up before now.
But that aside, it’s nice to see Puck interested in a girl of substance, even if he has ulterior motives. He puts his heart into the effort, becoming obsessed with all things he feels might be part of “black” culture. Maybe it’s because his Mohawk is gone, but Puck seems sweeter and softer in “Laryngitis” than in other Glee episodes, and it’s a nice change to see this side of him. Salling can play friendly as well as bad ass.
The other weird part of this plot comes when Santana (Naya Rivera) gets jealous of Mercedes and Puck, even though she never has been, at least not overtly, of Quinn (Dianna Agron). Or, maybe she is too afraid to confront Quinn, who is carrying Puck’s child, because of Quinn’s previous reputation. But fear doesn’t seem like something that would stop Santana. And when did Puck and Santana ever establish themselves as a couple anyway? They both play the field.
Even Santana’s singing shown down with Mercedes, “The Boy is Mine,” feels forced because of both the hokey beginning with the phones, and because the two end up singing it together for glee club, even though they are furious at each other. Who sings with their enemy? Performing requires practice. Did they maintain that anger through rehearsals and their presentation?
Lastly, Finn’s performance of “Jessie’s Girl” is quite fun. It’s a wonderful number that gets everyone excited. But should it? The lyrics are a little on the nose, other than Jesse (Jonathan Groff) not being a good friend of Finn’s. Shouldn’t the glee club be staring at him awkwardly? No matter how awesome the song is, and it is great, the reactions do not match what should be happening in reality should such a blatant, rude declaration happen. Not to mention, Jesse isn’t even there to defend himself. Bad form!
- Catching his son making out with a girl, Burt shrugs and leaves Kurt alone with Brittany, just telling them to use protection. In season two, when Blaine (Darren Criss) sleeps over, Burt has a much more severe reaction, but says it would be the same whether it was a guy or girl whom Kurt is into. Does this mean Burt knows Kurt isn’t actually going to do anything with Brittany, and is just waiting for his son to open up to him? Or does the normally fair Burt have a double standard?
- When Burt instructs Kurt and Brittany to use protection, Brittany doesn’t seem to know what that is. Considering her reputation for sleeping around, how is she not badly diseased and pregnant? This is scary, not funny. There’s dumb, and then there’s dumb.
- Speaking of dumb, great line from Burt: “I’m dumb, but I’m not stupid.” And what exactly does that mean?
- As awesome as Kurt’s “Rose’s Turn” is, it doesn’t make sense that he name drops Rachel in this particular episode. All of his anger is towards Burt, and Rachel is not involved at all.
- Rachel has Zizes bug the choir room to find out who isn’t really singing in glee club. Finn has an excuse, and Puck I get, but why are the Cheerios slacking? Glee is all that Quinn has left, and Santana and Brittany would have quit already if they didn’t love it, as they say they do. Also, since Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) is established in season two to not be a good singer, shouldn’t he be on the list?
- Rachel’s doctor, or the one of six that is actually shown, anyway, is played by Rizwan Manji, who last year starred in NBC’s Outsourced. He also appears in the films Transformers and Charlie Wilson’s War, among others.
- Why did Jesse get to go on spring break when McKinley is still in session? Oh, wait; I remember! Groff wasn’t available / asked to be in this episode.
- When did Quinn move in with Puck? Are we to assume that happened when Finn dumped her? Because it is not established before “Laryngitis.”
- So Mercedes is now one of the most popular girls in school? I’m sorry, but this doesn’t make sense. Kurt isn’t popular for being on the Cheerios. The other Cheerios and football players’ reputations suffer when they join glee. So why does her status go up so much? I could see a slight improvement, but not to the level that is implied in “Laryngitis.”
Check back for another season one Glee episode soon! Only four left, and all will be posted before the season three premiere next Tuesday on FOX!