I’m only just beginning the look back at Glee‘s first season, but I am confident that “Showmance” will number among the better episodes. It has many laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some fantastic musical numbers. Sue (Jane Lynch) is at the top of her game, trying to sabotage the New Directions and handing out zingers. The story stays solidly in the Emma (Jayma Mays)/Will (Matthew Morrison)/Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig)/Ken (Patrick Gallagher) love web, as well as the triangle between Rachel (Lea Michele), Finn (Cory Monteith), and Quinn (Dianna Agron). As theorized in the review for “Pilot,” these are likely the stories worked up ahead of production, and thus, keeps with where the writers are strongest while beginning the series.
First, a look at the music. The episode features “Le Freak” very early on, but this is a terrible rendition. Vocally, it isn’t too bad, but the awkward choreography and visible uncomfortableness of the glee club kids with the song makes it a little painful to watch. I do not believe this is a mistake, but rather, a demonstration of how modern students do not always relate to older material, especially when said material is not fresh or hip at the time it is being performed, or arranged to be such. Instead, the actors wonderfully portray just how bad an idea it is for them to perform this number.
Also excruciating is “Push It.” I am less convinced this is intentional. The New Directions, led by Rachel, decide to circumvent Will’s wishes and do a sexy bit. While Emma and Figgins (Iqbal Theba) bounce along to the ditty, Sue’s reaction is much more authentic of an educator. What is going on onstage is an orgy simulation done by a number of clearly not sexually confident teenage kids. It’s disturbing, creepy, not at all attractive, and I do not believe it would lead to the eruption of cheering, no matter how hormonally crazy the student body may be. Not at all an effective number.
These two misfires (one an artistic choice, and one a mistake) are balanced, however, by some really home-run efforts. “Gold Digger” is the first, with Will leading the kids in a soulful rendition of the piece. From Mercedes’s (Amber Riley) sassy “Oh, I got this!” to the vocal runs done by both Mercedes and Artie (Kevin McHale), this song works on so many levels. Will’s leadership in it might seem like he is trying to recapture his youth and own glee club experience, save for the fact that he actually is teaching while credibly singing. It’s a perfect scene with the cast doing what they do best. Even when there are only a handful of kids, they can deliver.
The second song that slays is “I Say a Little Prayer,” which serves as the audition piece for Quinn, Santana (Naya Rivera), and Brittany (Heather Morris), who is first seen in this episode, but gets none of her trademark one-liners, or any dialogue at all, for that matter. The three evoke an image of a well tuned, albeit evil, machine. At this point, the Cheerios members do not want to sing or help the group, but have ulterior motives. The cold stares and glares, especially from Quinn, throughout an otherwise sweet song make this apparent to the viewer, if not Will. Fantastic execution.
Finally, Rachel’s “Take a Bow” leaves quite an impression. It’s one of the highlights of the complete season one soundtrack, still easy to recall almost two years after it first airs. Michele expresses all the emotions Rachel is feeling with a soaring voice and expressive face. The power of the music sets it apart from many other Rachel solos, and she is truly experiencing the lyrics, not just going through the motions. Kudos, Ms. Berry. And to you, Ms. Michele.
On to the juicy shipper stuff! In “Showmance,” Rachel joins the celibacy club to get closer to Finn, though Quinn is quick to try to sabotage those efforts, and in fact, joins New Directions because she actually starts to see Rachel as a threat after Rachel’s speech about celibacy not working. Up to this point, Quinn is counting on Rachel’s geek status to repel Finn. But now, not only is Rachel sharing Quinn’s boyfriend’s newly exposed passion, she is making known she can connect with him in other ways, too. It may not be proper, though Rachel claims to not be trying to break up the relationship, and maybe in her mind she isn’t. But Quinn gets the message, and is spurred to fight back.
Two awesome Quinn lines in the celibacy club scenes that must be remembered: “It’s all about the teasing, and not about the pleasing” and “If the balloon pops, the noise makes the angels cry.”
Rachel is correct on her stance about sex ed, and articulately expresses the truth that many intelligent adults know: celibacy just does not work for teenagers. Contraception is a more effective teaching tool. By putting herself out there as a sexually viable candidate, Rachel is offering something to Finn that Quinn is not giving him. Taking into account his racing hormones, it is no wonder that Finn goes for it. Their kiss probably should not happen. Not every teenager lets his or her biological need overrule morality and sense. But in the charged situation that Rachel sets up, it is not surprising that a kiss occurs. Rachel is ruthless in getting what she wants. At this point, while Rachel and Finn’s growing attraction is nice to watch, if Quinn were not such a witch, viewers would be rooting for her.
A memorable Finn line, highlighting Glee‘s trademark tongue in cheek humor, comes after Finn decides he needs a break to feed his hunger while rehearsing with Rachel. She has a picnic spread already set up just feet away from them and offers him food, and he says, “Wow, I was wondering what that was all about.” Observant much?
Keeping with the theme of aggressively trying to offer men stuck in a bad situation a “better” option, Emma makes a play for Will. Her staying and helping him clean during his part time janitorial job can not be mistaken for anything else. The difference is, soon after Ken is there to offer Emma sane, sound advice, and she is in her right mind enough to take it. While Ken may not be the man for Emma, she should move on and give someone else a shot. Will is not available, and as long as he’s been with Terri, she doesn’t want to be the rebound, should he leave his wife, anyway.
Terri is actually sympathetic in “Showmance.” She learns her pregnancy is hysterical, not real, and she decides to tell Will. She cooks him a special dinner and waits up, lighting candles and being as caring as possible to try to soften the blow. The decision to lie comes quickly, and is clearly seen in Terri’s eyes. Will is too excited about the baby for her to dash his hopes. It’s a moment that shows how much she cares for her husband, and proves how great Gilsig is as an actress. Terri almost immediately regrets not telling the truth, as he hugs her to him. In a rare glimpse, we see that Terri does love Will, and their romance is real. Her mistake, then, is not the initial lie, which is told from a place of love, but carrying on the charade for months afterwards.
I do want to know, do the Glee writers consider a guy touching a girl’s face tenderly the height of romantic action? Both Will and Finn do so to Emma and Rachel in “Showmance.”
And now some random continuity notes:
This episode is the first appearance of Jacob Ben Israel (Josh Sussman). Throughout season one, he will become one of the most oft-seen recurring characters. He still occasionally pops up in season two, but much less frequently.
All of the recurring football players are still not shown in “Showmance,” despite multiple shots of the football team together. Granted, it is unlikely the dozen or so players in the episode comprise the entire team. But it is still disappointing that all four major supporting actors are not present again.
The origin of Emma’s issues are revealed in this episode, never to be spoken of again (so far). Her brother pushed her into a runoff lagoon at a dairy farm when she was eight years old. This adequately explains why she is so germophobic. The second claim, that she doesn’t eat dairy, I cannot verify at this time. Can anyone remember ever seeing her eat a piece of cheese? Something to try to keep in mind going forward.
How wrong is it that Emma tells Rachel that not having a gag reflex will be a good thing later in life? I mean, perhaps the quip isn’t entirely out of character, but it is far from appropriate. Besides, Emma surely doesn’t have any first hand experience, given her condition.
Quin expresses her vibrant desire to be prom queen, berating Finn for screwing up her chances by joining the New Directions. This is an arc that will culminate in the late season two episode “Prom Queen,” so it’s nice to see the beginnings come so early of such a long running plot point.
Sue claims to have euthanized her mother during one of her rants. We know this is not true, as Carol Burnett later guest stars as said mom. Sue sometimes does speak in exaggerations, and says shocking things for effect, so this isn’t a problem, per se, just something that catches my attention.
How does “99 Luftballoons” belong on a song list that is all about God and circuses? It’s a wonderful example of parents not understanding the things they approve and disapprove of on lists pertaining to school. See also, banned classic books in libraries, and grownups who think reading Harry Potter will lead to anti-Christian ideas, even though the series is all about love triumphing over evil.
Tulipalooza is in Michigan, not Ohio.
I welcome all of your musings and insights in the comments section below. The review of Glee #1.03 “Acafellas” will be posted sometime during this week, so please check back!