There is much to be thankful for in this week’s episode of FOX’s Glee, “Thanskgiving,” even if it aired a week late. (I can gripe about that because Glee, unlike most shows, actually aired an episode on Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t this one.) In the episode, most of the recent McKinley alumni return home to assist Finn (Cory Monteith) in getting the New Directions ready for Sectionals. They work with the newer students, helping to ease the transition.
It’s easy to complain about the frequent appearances by recent grads on the show this year. As I’ve said before, the writing has allowed Finn an unbelievable reason for sticking around, but at least it serves a purpose and furthers the character. The others, on the other hand, just seem unwilling to move on with their lives, refusing to let go of their high school glory. However, in “Thanksgiving,” because it is a holiday, and because they are there to help their friend Finn with an important milestone, it doesn’t feel as forced.
The episode opens with Puck (Mark Salling), Mercedes (Amber Riley), Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), Santana (Naya Rivera), and Quinn (Dianna Agron) returning to the McKinley stage (and Finn) with a performance of “Homeward Bound” / “Home.” Musically, it’s pretty good, and in terms of staging, it works very well. The number is pleasant, and gives a satisfying reintroduction, especially for Quinn, who is the sole graduate no longer in the main cast, and “Thanksgiving” marks her first return this season.
It still bothers me that Artie (Kevin McHale) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) are not part of this, though. Without having specific dialogue on hand to prove it, I am pretty sure that it was established that Artie was in the same grade as the others, and I know that Sam returned from Kentucky for his senior year. Plus, how could Sam, as a junior in high school, work as a stripper? It’s this little inconsistency that eats away week after week.
And Brittany (Heather Morris), who has a valid reason to still be in school, should be included in the reunion. These are her friends, too, and she was in their grade for thirteen years. Does that not matter?
But what is most strange is the way that the alumni act like they are so much better than the current students. Finn declares his classmates heroes, and the glee club cheers adoringly. Isn’t this beyond patronizing? Most of the current members were in the group during the Nationals win, too. Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Artie were two of the first members of the New Directions. This arc should really have been held back a couple of years, though one wonders if Glee will still be on in that much time.
Taking the leap and setting aside these complaints, we next get to see Quinn, Santana, and Brittany reunited for “Come See About Me.” It’s a great number for them, and it does feel like other pieces that they have done in the past. It may not be necessary to school the students with it, but it’s enjoyable for the audience. I also like when the cracks do show between Quinn and Santana, not sweeping any drama under the rug, and acknowledging that, although they are friends, their relationship isn’t perfect.
Kitty’s (Becca Tobin) obsession with Quinn is weird and creepy. Weren’t they in school together? Surely, Kitty isn’t a freshman this year, given her social and cheerleading standing. Her character comes out of nowhere enough as it is, as it would have been better to set her up at least a year earlier, but her fawning over Quinn seems completely out of character. Kitty is a confident, manipulative girl. She shouldn’t be defining her life based on someone else.
Thankfully, everything else set at the high school goes pretty smoothly. We get some more nice Jake (Jacob Artist) / Ryder (Blake Jenner) bonding, and a callback Brittany joke about Unique (Alex Newell) and Mercedes. Then it’s time for Sectionals!
The Warblers are back in peak form with “Whistle” and “Live While We’re Young.” During their recent attempt to recruit Blaine (Darren Criss), the music falls flat, but “Thanksgiving” proves that they still have it.
This is what the group is known for, and why fans of Glee worship them. Fantastic performance!
And then there’s the other group, The Rosedale Mennonites. Their “Over the River and Through the Wood” / “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” is entertaining and fun, but the whole thing smacks a bit of bigotry. Glee often tosses in goofy, cartoonish characters, but for some reason, this time it feels more wrong and mean spirited than previous efforts.
The Sectionals section of the episode ends with the New Directions taking the stage for their first number, “Gangnam Style.” Setting aside what a silly song it is for the group to do, because it is currently a viral sensation, and it does seem like something Finn would pick, practically everything about it is awkward. From the Ryder / Jake / Marley (Melissa Benoist) lead up, to the camera editing that seems to cheat the big dance moves, it just doesn’t quite work. The vocals are decent, and Tina actually ends up being a good choice for the opening solo, but it things don’t come together as we would normally expect from these kids.
“Thanksgiving” ends immediately after “Gangnam Style,” leaving the other two songs in their set for next week’s episode. This is the first time that Glee has ever split a competition performance, and it makes for good dramatic effect. Marley’s collapse, something pretty predictably set up, occurs at the end of a song, so it might be possible for them to go on without her and still win.
But it will likely throw everyone off of their game, seeing Marley like this, and considering that she has a solo coming up, it would be pretty far-fetched for the New Directions to cement a victory this year, especially after the weak-ish opening.
That being said, it would be a shame to see them lose Sectionals, and there are a couple of ways to salvage this. One, Dalton Academy could win and later be disqualified. They’ve become villains since Blaine left them, so it’s conceivable that they could step out of line enough to warrant such a punishment. The Mennonites might not be able to travel all the way to Regionals, because of their religious beliefs preventing use of vehicles required for long distance travel (ignoring the stage lights they used earlier). That would leave the New Directions to compete by default. It would, indeed, be a hollow victory, but at least it would get them to Regionals.
One last complaint about “Thanksgiving:” a high school show choir Sectionals competition would never, ever, ever be held on Thanksgiving Day. Parents would throw huge fits. To expect us to buy that bit of scheduling is preposterous.
Besides the Sectionals story, “Thanksgiving” also has some action in New York. Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) stay in the city, rather than face their exes back in Ohio (because if they returned, for some reason, they couldn’t just stay at home with their families?). They plan to eat by themselves, but each invite a party crasher. Rachel’s addition, Brody (Dean Geyer), cooks for them, while Kurt’s, Isabelle (Sarah Jessica Parker),
turns a quiet dinner into a huge bash, complete with fashionable dance moves and drag queens.
Isabelle is a fantastic addition to the Glee cast. She brings Rachel and Kurt exactly what they need, and embodies the type of life they’d hope to find in the Big Apple. The song she leads them in this week, “Let’s Have a Kiki,” mixes beautifully with Rachel’s “Turkey Lurkey Time,” creating the most energetic, memorable Glee number in quite some time. Hopefully, she won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
In the midst of this, Rachel and Brody seem to be making up. She is hurt because he slept with her enemy. He points out that he had no reason not to, but he won’t do it again to avoid hurting her. This is an adult attitude, and seeing this helps Rachel transition into a different world, maturing.
Kurt is also struggling to grow up, taking Isabelle’s advice and trying to forgive Blaine. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get back together (though Glee fans might seriously revolt if they don’t), but it does mean that he is going to try to see past Blaine’s indiscretion, and maybe they can repair their relationship. Obviously, there is still plenty of love present between the pair.
Once more, though, I am annoyed that all the blame for what happened is placed on Blaine. Some objected to my assertion in an earlier review that Kurt deserves a huge share of responsibility because he was ignoring Blaine. I admit, Kurt’s behavior doesn’t justify cheating, but he gives Blaine plenty of reason to be unhappy prior to Blaine’s mistake. This has to be taken into account, and it’s unfortunate that this isn’t addressed more.
The New York stuff in “Thanksgiving” is fantastic, overall, but it still feels likely a completely different series. The more Glee jumps back and forth in an episode between McKinley and the city, the more jarring these jumps become. It would be very nice if a way could be worked out by next year to separate the two, either sacrificing one completely, or by splitting them into different series.
Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.