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Episode 2×14: “Blame It On The Alcohol”

DIRECTOR: Eric Stoltz

WRITER: Ian Brennan

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: February 22, 2011

GUEST STARS: Chord Overstreet, Darren Criss, Dot-Marie Jones, Ashley Fink

REVIEW:

Blame It On The Alcohol is a bit of a mess, with everyone acting like a slightly skewed alternate dimension version of themselves, but despite some out-of-character behavior (though you can “blame it on the alcohol”…see what I did there?  har, har) and a bit of a muddled central message, it’s also a pretty, well gleeful episode.  Give returning director Eric Stoltz (who previously helmed the also solid Duets earlier this season) and a game cast credit for making “A Very Special Episode” about alcohol awareness a lot less preachy than it could have been, and a lot more fun.

There are essentially three plotlines.  Plot #1- Principal Figgins, worried about an outbreak of public drunkeness at McKinley High and underage drinking encouraged by pop stars like Ke$ha (which he hilariously pronounces as “Key Dollar Sign Ha”), recruits Will and New Directions to perform a song in honor of Alcohol Awareness Week. 

Plot #2- With her dads out of town and Puck stressing over Sectionals (“Regionals.”  “Whatever.”), the Puckzilla tries to talk Rachel into letting the gang throw a party at her house.  Rachel insists her dads left her in charge because they trust her not to misbehave, but after her first attempt at original songwriting (an ode to her headband titled “My Headband”) is a miserable (and hilarious) flop, she becomes convinced she doesn’t know how to write songs because she hasn’t lived enough.  Thus the Rachel Berry House Party Train Wreck Extravaganza is born.  All of New Directions piles into the Berry basement, along with Kurt and Blaine, who invited themselves because Kurt has been blackmailing Finn since finding his browser history, something which goes unexplained but I’d really like to know more about.  One thing leads to another, which leads to a game of spin the bottle, which leads to Rachel getting her mack on…with Blaine.  Even more shockingly, Blaine enjoys this immensely, and accepts when a starstruck Rachel asks him out the next day.  Kurt does not like this.

Plot #3- Will lets Shannon Beiste take him out on the town for some stress relief of their own, where they hit up a honky tonk bar called Roasalita’s Roadhouse where they drink, Will rides an electric bull, they sing country songs, and drink some more.  Then Will stumbles home, grades some papers without reading them, and drunk dials….someone.  He thinks it’s Emma.  Will Schuester, Murphy (of Murphy’s Law, not Ryan Murphy) has your number.

The Bad: Blaine is bi…kinda.  Sorta.  Not really. 

A lot of viewers took issue with the Blaine bisexuality plotline for two reasons.  A) They felt it fundamentally undercut a character who both Ryan Murphy and Darren Criss had heavily talked up as a confident, self-assured gay teen, a refreshing counter to the usual angst-ridden, insecure gay high school character, by having a drunken lip lock with a girl while playing spin the bottle make him question his entire sexuality, and B) they felt it trivialized bisexuality and sexual confusion by resolving it in the end with a “yep, I’m gay!” quip. 

I can understand both arguments, and agree with them both, to a point.  Glee loves setting up conflicts and then resolving them too neatly and easily.  Certainly, Blaine being bi-curious and possibly romantically interested in Rachel could have been a character arc/love triangle that lasted several episodes, but the writers had another sexual crisis lined up (namely Santana’s, which would rear its head next episode) that they had clearly given priority as the primary “sexual confusion/bisexual/sexual realization” storyline.  So Blaine, probably also given lower priority for his recurring guest star v. regular status, was given the short end of the stick.  Personally, I also suspect there were three other motives for this plotline. 

1) Integrate Blaine into New Directions.  I, and many other viewers, have strongly suspected since his introduction that Blaine will end up in New Directions sooner or later, and I suspect having him at the party and singing a duet with Rachel was a testing of those waters.

2) Give the fangirls a thrill.  It’s no secret that Darren Criss is Glee’s breakout heartthrob, and he has at least as many straight female admirers as he does gay male ones.  Having him be gay, but conveniently question his sexuality just long enough to make out with the show’s female lead, is a way for the writers to have their cake and eat it too by tossing both demographics a bone.

3) Stall Klaine.  I don’t care how many times Ryan Murphy pleads ignorance about the show he oversees the writing of and insists he doesn’t know if Kurt and Blaine are going to get together.  He has reaffirmed repeatedly that Kurt is getting a boyfriend this season, and thus far Blaine is the only viable option.  That coupled with Darren Criss’ popularity and  the size of the Klaine fanbase makes it very difficult for me to believe Kurt is going to end up with anyone else at this point, especially considering we’re heading into Episode 15 out of a 22 episode season with no other gay boy in sight (except Karofsky, and I would really like to think the writers wouldn’t go there).  But Murphy likes milking the “will they or won’t they” suspense, and I strongly suspect Raine is just a side detour on the way to Klaine a la Jeremiah.

All that said, I’m a little torn on the Blainchel storyline.  Certainly teen sexual confusion and bisexuality is a serious issue worth exploring in a substantive plotline (as they would do with Santana and Brittany).  But the confident, self-assured Blaine some accused this episode of undermining had already been retconned by Silly Love Songs two episodes earlier, in which Blaine delivered a virtual monologue that boiled down to the admission that his confidence is a front and a persona he adopts to cover his insecurities.  The Blaine who committed the epic fail of The Gap Attack and admitted to not knowing what he’s doing is believable to me as the same Blaine confused over a kiss with a girl in Blame It On The Alcohol.  My biggest issue with the storyline is actually the way too much of it takes place offscreen.  I would have liked to have seen Blaine and Rachel’s date (especially after Rachel’s description of them going to a revival of Love Story dressed as the characters and mouthing all the dialogue).  But the characters are clearly prioritized, and Blaine remains firmly, and frustratingly, seen only from Kurt’s POV. 

The Good

But this is really the only point of controversy for what is otherwise a pretty solid episode, divided pretty evenly between drunken frivolity and “serious messages”.  Eric Stoltz and Ian Brennan manage to strike the right balance to inject humor whenever things tiptoe right up to the line of getting too heavy-handed.  Take for example the conversation between a post Rosalita’s Roadhouse Will and Beiste, where Beiste gives what sounds like a PSA about how adults can’t stop kids from drinking, they can only educate them and hope they’re smart enough to make the right decisions.  It’s all very solemn…and then she cracks up laughing.  It’s the perfect escape from Seriousville, and a transition Stoltz and Brennan (and Matthew Morrison and Dot Jones) handle deftly. 

Speaking of, Beiste and Mr. Schue are actually a lot of fun this episode.  Becoming friends with Shannon is the best thing that’s happened to Will in a long time, and it’s great to see them further into BFF territory.  Watching a smashed Will grading papers and marking A+ on all of them no matter how many questions they missed (“I don’t even know who you are!” he slurs to one) is the most fun I’ve had with his character since…I don’t even know when.  Ever?  Then there’s the drunk dial he meant to leave for Emma but actually left for Sue, calling her a “sexy lady” and inviting her over for a “roll in the hay” and including the glowing compliment “I rode a bull and I was thinking of you”.  Sue being Sue, she of course publicly humiliates him by broadcasting this over the school PA system.  It’s highly entertaining, but when he gushes over the way Emma’s gloves crinkle and make “the cutest sound I’ve ever heard”, he sounds so pitifully smitten that it’s also a dash of poignancy.  Again, it’s a deftness of tone that Glee doesn’t always have. 

But the comedic high point of the episode is Rachel’s party.  I like that they returned to the split-screen phone conversations, including between characters (Santana and Brittany) who are walking right next to each other.  I like how Mercedes dubs it The Rachel Berry House Party Train Wreck Extravaganza.  I like finally seeing Blaine in regular clothes instead of his Dalton Academy uniform.  There’s a certain extra entertainment in seeing someone as perfectly put-together as Blaine come undone, with his bushy curls breaking free from their gelled prison and him ending the night stumbling around draping himself over Finn babbling about how tall he is.  I especially enjoyed Finn breaking down to Rachel the “archetypes” (there’s a word I wouldn’t have thought Finn knew) people fall into when they’re drunk (Santana is the “weepy drunk”, Mercedes and Tina are “happy girl drunks”, Quinn and Lauren are “angry drunks”).  Lea Michele is so much fun when she’s allowed to fully embrace Rachel’s craziness that one is tempted to forgive Miss Berry just about anything, especially when she does things like scream “IT TASTES LIKE PINK!!!” into a bejeweled pink microphone.  I like her “playful show biz cocktail” containing what’s left of the wine, crumbled-up Oreos, and cough syrup.  In fact, the only disappointing part of her party is when it ends after five delirious minutes.  And Rachel stepping, perfectly framed, in front of the painting of herself on the wall, wearing the exact same gown?  Epic.

But Glee always injects a dash of seriousness amidst the cracky fun, and we get three rather strong character scenes.  First comes when Blaine accepts a date with Rachel in Kurt’s presence, and Kurt throws a hissy fit.  Neither comes out spotless in their spat, with Kurt snapping that “bisexuality is a term that gay guys tell themselves in high school when  they want to hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change”, and Blaine retorting  by comparing Kurt’s intolerance to Karofsky’s bullying (ouch.  low blow, Anderson).  By the end of the argument, each boy has clearly hurt the other, and they don’t clearly make up by the end of the episode.

Second is when Kurt oh so helpefully drops by oh so coincidentally after Rachel’s date night with Blaine to get the scoop.  Rachel gushes about the lovely date, but admits she was expecting a snog but apparently the timing wasn’t quite right (to which Kurt deadpans “or the blood alcohol level”).  I’ve always liked Rachel best when she bonds with Kurt, and their friendship is clear here even when he’s sniping at her.  She admits she knows Kurt has feelings for Blaine, but insists if Blaine turns out to not be gay, she’ll actually be doing him a favor, to which he responds “and I’m going to do you a favor by telling you that Blaine is the first in a long line of conflicted men that you will date, who will later turn out to be only the most flaming of homosexuals”.  Undeterred, Rachel vows to kiss Blaine sober on the next date and prove him wrong.  Alas, when that moment comes, Mr. Anderson stares at Rachel for one dumbstruck moment and then LOLtastically declares “Yep.  I’m gay!  100% gay.”  Rachel  takes this development well, excitedly gushing to Kurt that having a relationship with a man who turned out to be gay is “songwriting gold” and running off to start composing, leaving Kurt with the WTF face only Chris Colfer can do. 

Third is when Burt discovers a hungover Blaine sleeping in Kurt’s bed and later wants Kurt to promise not to be “inappropriate” in his house.  Kurt implies that Burt is still uncomfortable with him being gay, but Burt insists, jutstifiably, that he would say the same to Finn about having a girl spend the night in his bed.  It’s nice that, as much emphasis as they put on the trials Kurt goes through, the writers also aren’t afraid to show him in the wrong on occasion, with him unfairly playing the victim card when Burt disapproves of something he’s done.   

The other climax point comes when New Directions performs Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”, with Brittany on lead, for the assembly, but Rachel’s ill-advised cocktail leads Brittany and Santana to blow chunks before the end.  Into the stunned silence, Brittany deadpans as only Heather Morris can: “Everyone drink responsibly”.  Lucky for them, Figgins is dim enough to believe the vomit was a special effect, but Will knows better and has them all sign a pledge not to drink until after Nationals.  But in a nice touch of realism, he knows this isn’t necessarily going to happen and includes his home phone number at the top of their sheet, with a promise to give them a ride home at any hour of day or night, no questions asked.  It’s a nice moment of reaffirming Will as a teacher who, for all his faults, genuinely cares about his students, but a teacher giving his students his home phone number and also offering to come give them a ride while they’re drunk will no doubt have the makers of the Pedo!Will memes busy churning out the latest edition. 

Favorite Musical Number:

Blaine & Rachel- “Don’t You Want Me” (The Human League)- Darren Criss and Lea Michele inject considerably more energy than the original artists, whipping their hair back and forth and bouncing up and down.  Michele has called this one of the most fun numbers she’s ever done on the show, and it’s easy to see why.

Least Favorite:

Will Schuester and Shannon Beiste- “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” (George Thourogood)- There’s nothing wrong with Matthew Morrison’s singing- or, somewhat more surprisingy, Dot Jones’- but I’m not a country fan.

Funniest Moment(s)- 1. Figgins telling Will that there have been five suspensions for public drunkeness, before he is interrupted by a student shouting “YOU ROCK!” while plastering his exposed belly against the glass.  Figgins turns back to Will and updates: “six suspensions“.  2. Figgins pronouncing Ke$ha “Key Dollar Sign Ha”, and calling “Tik Tok” “Tik and also Tok“.  3. Figgins announcing the police chief’s visit to show a “grisly slide show” of auto accidents.  4.  Kurt insisting he’s still trying to impress Blaine and can’t get too sloppy.  Cut to Blaine dancing wildly in a corner.  Cut back to Kurt: “clearly he doesn’t have the same concern“.  5. “My Headband”  6. Will grading papers.  7. Will’s drunk dial.

Episode MVP– Shannon Beiste.  For her continuing awesomeness and for making Will Schuester fun again.

Best acting– Points to Matthew Morrison, Dot Jones, Lea Michele, Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, and Jane Lynch, all of whom were a lot of fun this episode, with an extra shout-out to that underrated comedic gem Iqbal Theba, who says some of the funniest lines of the episode (Key Dollar Sign Ha!).  And get another Emmy nomination for Lea Michele just for making it through My Headband with a straight face.

Choice Lines

“You’re going right?”- Brittany.  “Only if there’s alcohol, because a Rachel party is not something I can do sober.”- Santana.  “But it’s Alcohol Awareness Week.”- Brittany.  “Exactly, and I am aware of how much fun alcohol is.”- Santana

A reminder?  I own that guppy mouth.  Those trouty Aerosmith lips belong to me.”- Santana

Hey honeys?  It’s not a Big Red commercial.  No me gusta!“- Santana

Blaine Warbler, I’m gonna rock your world.”- Rachel

Your face tastes awesome.”- Rachel

“Students.  Faculty.  Indeed all who understand the Queen’s English.  I know we’re all still quaking in terror from the events of yesterday.  My nose is still burning with the acrid smell of teen vomit.  And we have one person to blame for it…the alcoholic teen vomit fetishist, Will Schuester.”- Sue

Is this song about your headband?”- Finn.  “Yes.  It’s called My Headband.”- Rachel

“It tastes like pink.  IT TASTES LIKE PINK!”- Rachel

“Hey, it is so cool that you and Kurt are brothers.  BROTHERS!  Wow!  You’re so….tall.”- Blaine

I don’t doubt that you and Blaine would have a jolly good time shopping at Burberry, or arguing over who would make the better Rum Tum Tugger.  I don’t dispute that.  But there is one thing that you and Blaine will never have, and that’s chemistry.”- Kurt

I’m really sorry if this hurts your feelings, or your pride, or whatever, but however confusing this might be for you, it’s actually a lot more confusing for me.”- Blaine 

“I am searching, okay?  I’m honestly just trying to figure out who I am.  And for you of all people to get down on me for that?  I didn’t think that’s who you were.”- Blaine

Random Thoughts

  • A bonus point to the writers for Quinn’s “I can’t believe what you did to my body, I used to have abs!” rant at Puck during the party.  It’s a throwaway moment, but it proves the writers remember they had a baby, which I haven’t been sure about for most of this season.
  • Seeing Blaine’s full bushy curls break free at the party, and then seeing his hair reformed into the gelled helmet a scene later, reaffirms my opinion that Darren Criss au natural is more attractive than Blaine.  Although it’s a relief to see that, unlike Sue’s track suits, Blaine’s Dalton blazer isn’t the only thing in his closet.
  • Matthew Morrison is great fun playing drunk.
  • The Berry home has a painting of Rachel on the wall, and a stage in the basement for “impromptu performances” for the neighbors?  Of course it does.
  • I can’t shake the sneaking feeling that Blaine is too “straight” (no pun intended) and stuffy a character for someone with as flamboyant a personality as Darren Criss.  If the party proves one thing, it’s that Darren has comedic potential he should be allowed to show more often.

Overall grade- B

 

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