November 2022

Episode 2×15: “Sexy”


DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy

WRITER: Brad Falchuk

ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 8, 2011

GUEST STARS: Gwyneth Paltrow, John Stamos, Chord Overstreet, Darren Criss, Ashley Fink, Dot-Marie Jones


While it’s neither as much wild fun as its predecessor, Blame It On The Alcohol, nor as epic as its successor, Original Song, “Sexy” is a pretty good episode that, like BIOTA, addresses a social issue (albeit in a somewhat muddled fashion) while throwing in enough levity not to feel overbearingly like A Very Special Episode, brings back my personal favorite Glee guest star, and shines the spotlight on a new sexuality plotline that would become a significant recurring story through the rest of Season 2 and on into Season 3.

As is generally the case with Glee, there are various plot strands, and I’ve attempted to divide them up into what I consider the main ones:

Plot #1- Wacky-but-sexy substitute Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns to teach sex ed, and Will brings her to talk to glee club when he realizes his kids are lacking in their understanding of the “intricacies of adult relationships”, which she seeks to rectify by launching into a wildly inappropriate–and smokin’ hot–rendition of “Do You Wanna Touch Me (There)”.  Later she gets Will even more hot and bothered with a tango duet of Prince’s “Kiss” as the attraction between them grows.  Meanwhile, Emma’s jealousy is sparked, despite her marriage to Carl (John Stamos), which is about to reveal its own problems.

Plot #2- Sue sees the “Sexy” Will has written on the blackboard in the choir room, misinterprets it to mean New Directions is trying to be sexy for Regionals, and oh-so-happens to run into Kurt and Blaine at the Lima Bean to share her “top secret intel”.  This in turn convinces Blaine the Warblers need to try to be sexier, but when Kurt turns out to, by his own description, have the “sexual appeal and knowledge of a baby penguin”, Blaine makes it his duty to help his friend learn more about sex, first with an awkward scene in Kurt’s bedroom (!), then by even more awkwardly dropping in on Burt at the shop and shoving him into giving his overly sheltered and innocent son the talk about the Birds and the Bees (or in Kurt’s case, the Bees and….the Bees?).  Burt is in no hurry to talk to his boy about man-lovin’, but as Hummels do, he grits his teeth, straightens his baseball cap, and forges onward with grim determination.

Plot #3- Despite Santana assuring her that their continuing makeout sessions aren’t cheating because “the plumbing’s different”, Brittany prefers Artie because they talk about feelings, while Santana refuses to.  A talk with the liberally-minded Miss Holliday and a cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” loosens Santana’s grip on her emotions–and her closet door handle–and she makes a startlingly poignant and vulnerable confession to Brittany that is by far her most emotional moment ever and the heart of the episode.

Plot #1: The Return of Holly Holliday

A fair number of viewers criticized Gwyneth Paltrow’s first stint in The Substitute, feeling she hogged the entire episode, and while I enjoyed her immensely, I could understand their argument, and here I feel she is better-integrated into the plot.  Not only is she not the only thing going on in the episode, but she actually serves a valid plot purpose by acting as a catalyst for a couple meaningful developments, like the death knell of the ill-advised Emma-Carl union and the Brittana love confession.  Also, if anything, Gwyneth Paltrow is even more sexy and saucy than she was in The Substitute, strutting around in leather while belting out “Do You Wanna Touch Me”, and tossing out kooky lines with a blithe cheer, from complimenting Will’s “fine man butt”, to teaching sex ed by demonstrating how to put a condom on a cucumber.  Both I and one of my Glee viewing compatriots felt Paltrow and Matthew Morrison had chemistry the first time they shared the screen, and it only made sense to me that they expand on it in their reunion and have things head in a romantic direction, though my belief that the long-suffering Wemma is endgame, along with Emma’s collapsing marriage and the simple fact that a major movie star like Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn’t have the time to commit to a regularly recurring status on a weekly television series like Glee, gives me doubts their fling will be anything more than that.  In any case, the ending of this episode leaves the door wide open for Paltrow to drop by at least once more.

And now we come to Holly’s opposite in virtually every conceivable way…poor, poor, hapless Emma Pillsbury.  Emma is the tragicomic gem of this episode, flustered totally out of sorts by Holly’s jarringly frank talk about sex and made jealous, whether she admits it or not, by her flirting with Will, who tells Emma and her celibacy club (which consists of Rachel and Quinn and whose meetings are either spent counting the minutes from the last meeting, or Quinn dodging Rachel’s interrogations about Finn) that, if she’s so mortified by Holly teaching the kids about sex so blatantly, she and her club should do their own song as a counterargument.  Thus comes the comedic high point of the episode, as Emma and her celibacy club (which picks up unlikely newcomer Puck after Holly scares him and Lauren away from their planned sex tape by warning them that underage kids making and owning a sex tape could be charged with child pornography), with Carl lending a helping hand, performs “Afternoon Delight” in front of a very confused New Directions (and a hysterically giggling Holly).  This scene is a real gem–in fact, it might be the funniest musical number Glee has ever done.  All of it–Emma’s blithe obliviousness to the song’s real meaning, the sheer innocent cheer with which she and the others sing, and the whole overall ’70s folk band vibe of it–combines to have us losing it almost as hard as Holly…who of course, the second it’s over, says what everyone else is thinking by pointing out to Emma that the song is about sex.  The look of crushed confusion on Emma’s face, as if her entire belief system has just been shattered, both makes us laugh and kind of want to give her a hug (but she’s germaphobic and OCD, so that would probably freak her out even more).  Carl decides enough is enough, and schedules a counseling session with Holly (who he keeps incorrectly calling “Dr”), where it turns out he and Emma have yet to do the deed in their four months of marriage.  Ever the blunt woman, Holly essentially corners Emma into admitting that she’s still in love with Will Schuester.  Cue the awkward silence into which, were a pin to drop, it would surely be heard.  Carl walks out, and Emma is left looking even more pitiful and doe-eyed than usual.

Plot #2- Kurt/Blaine/Burt

Through much of this season, I have felt that Sue Sylvester, once easily one of the highlights of the show, has shrunk into an ineffectual and tiresomely repetitive nuisance, and it was with some genuine regret that I realized I could not defend her (as was my knee-jerk instinct to do) against another reviewer’s comment that the best episodes this season are the ones where she is either MIA altogether, or plays a small role.  Her walk-on bit in “Sexy”, where she both has a small role and actually uses it to serve as a catalyst for a genuine, meaningful plotline, backs that up.  I continue to stand by the belief that Jane Lynch does the very best she’s able to with her lackluster material.  The funniest things about her coffee shop encounter with Kurt and Blaine is A) the weird random things she’s doing to her coffee while talking, like tearing the sugar packets and then dumping the packets into her coffee, and B) the expressions of confused incomprehension Blaine is making at her the entire scene.  Kurt, for his part, long-accustomed to the mysterious ways of Miss Sylvester, just goes with it.  “This is just sort of how she talks”, he reassures Blaine at one point.  Anyway, Sue’s “top secret intel” about ND getting sexy convinces Blaine that “the Warblers need to do something sexified”, whereupon, in this veritable three-way contest of hilarious throwaway mannerisms and reaction shots, Colfer earns a point with his look of dismay, no doubt remembering the last couple times Blaine got a Big Idea (the twin fiascos of The Gap Attack and Date With Rachel, for those with fuzzy recollections). 

Blaine promptly, for some reason, assembles both the Warblers and girls from Dalton’s “sister school” in what looks like an abandoned warehouse (?), where he warns them to “hang onto your bobby socks” before launching into a cover of Neon Trees’ “Animal” while a cannon shoots foam everywhere and beach balls suddenly appear from…somewhere.  Blaine gets distracted by Kurt’s really, really weird gyrating dance moves and contorted, snarling facial expressions, looking like a cross between some sort of zombie Elvis and a Velociraptor defending itself against another predator.  When Blaine gives Kurt the cruel truth that his “sexy faces” looked like he was having gas pains, Kurt despairs that they can’t sell sexiness to the Regionals judges.  Blaine’s light bulb has another flickering crackle of electricity, and it’s off to Kurt’s bedroom for the weirdest scene in the episode.  Kurt and Blaine sit in front of a mirror, where Blaine tells Kurt to “give me sultry”, and Kurt’s face keeps twisting into contorted sneers before he frustratedly vents that he doesn’t know how to be sexy because he doesn’t know anything about sex.  Blaine rather flirtatiously notes that Kurt is blushing, as Kurt goes on a breathless ramble about how he tried watching porn once but it didn’t do it for him, and he likes Broadway musicals, because “the touch of the fingertips is as sexy as it gets”.  Blaine offers to “tell you know what I know” (ooh la la), but Kurt gets even more flustered and tells him to leave. 

There’s a lot of oddness in this scene, and I wish we had some commentary from the writers, because, as with several other Klaine scenes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on here (though maybe that’s the point).  While Klaine would appear to have been quite friend-zoned in “Silly Love Songs” and even more in “Blame It On The Alcohol”, it’s hard not to feel like there’s some sexual tension hanging in the room here.  Then there’s how teasing and flirty Blaine sounds when he notes Kurt’s blush, the reaction shot of him looking a little too interested when Kurt mentions watching porn, and his strange offer to tell Kurt what he knows about sex.  I’m not sure if Blaine was subconsciously using this as some weird, convoluted attempt to get into Kurt’s pants, but given how Kurt freaked out and banished him from his room, that may have been Kurt’s impression.  That, and this whole scene reveals Kurt as possibly having an almost Emma-level terror of the very thought of sex.

For the part of Kurt’s likely boyfriend-in-waiting, it seems that when he got knocked off his princely pedastal in “Silly Love Songs”, Blaine might have hit his head a little hard on the way down, because his string of inexplicable behavior that began with dating Rachel for five minutes now continues into badgering his friend’s dad into teaching his son about S-E-X.  It’s worth pointing out that this scene is the first time that we have ever seen Blaine without Kurt.  If I had any lingering doubts about Blaine ending up as Kurt’s boyfriend, the fact that they threw in a scene of one-on-one interaction between he and Burt solidified my belief.  There is no simply no reason for giving us a Burt-Blaine scene, not to mention all the other screentime they’re spending on this storyline, for it not to be going somewhere (eventually, through lots of aimless, ambiguous meandering).  Blaine’s indeterminate motivations and Schuester-level problems with recognizing appropriate lines in relationships aside, this scene has a couple very nice moments.  When Burt asks (challenges?) Blaine to hand him a carburetor, not expecting the scarf and peacoat-wearing, slick-haired private school boy to know what that is, Blaine instead hands it over right away, explaining that he and his own dad rebuilt a ’59 Chevy two summers ago.  However, a later comment about Blaine being “blown away” by Kurt and Burt’s relationship comes with an actually rather sad postscript that he doesn’t think his dad did this with him because he loves cars, but because “he thought getting my hands dirty might make me straight”.    Along with Silly Love Songs‘ “I don’t know what I’m doing” speech, this is by far the most revealing thing he has ever said about himself, and should the writers pursue it, could be a huge piece of the puzzle of his personality (some might say “or lack thereof”).  Of course, it’s always anyone’s guess what avenues the writers will choose to explore and what ones they won’t, but when a character is as much of a blank slate as Blaine, it’s noteworthy when we find out anything new about him.

In any case, however strange, random, and inappropriate Burt might have found this visit, it clearly makes some impression (coupled with Kurt’s comments last episode about Burt educating himself–yay for continuity between episodes!), because soon he tosses some pamphlets (the title of which I was able to make out as “When Boys Love Boys”) on the table and declares it time for “The Talk”.  Between both Hummel men’s expressions of terror and grim foreboding, the talk is had, and a fine one it is.  Many other reviewers have called this one of the best father-son sex talks, or father-son conversations period, ever seen on television,  while my mother criticized Burt’s gender stereotyping with his associating men with viewing sex as just sex, and women with knowing it means something emotionally.  I agree with both.  While Burt Hummel has consistently been portrayed as a fiercely supportive Papa Bear who would walk through Hell and back for the good of his boy, he has never been portrayed as knowing everything or having all the answers (in fact, he’s made jabs at his own lack of intelligence on various occasions), and it’s in character for his speech to be as fumbling, imperfect, and sincere as it is.  However much Burt might flounder out into Gender Stereotypeland in the middle with all his overgeneralizations about how men and women view sex, he manages to bring it all together when he gets to the end with, “Don’t throw yourself around, like you don’t matter.  Because you matter, Kurt.”  The simple directness of the line, and the sincerity Burt (and Mike O’Malley) gives it would be enough to make this the heart of the episode, it it weren’t for the other scene on the way…

Plot #3- Santana’s “Landslide”

Who knew we would get to this point when Brittany made her throwaway reference to she and Santana’s sexytimes in Season 1, or we saw them casually fooling around in Duets?  Did the writers?  Glee is slap-dash enough at the best of times for me to be reluctant to give them credit for having some Brittana masterplan all along, but in any case, the culmination of this seemingly minor plot element is startling and all the more powerful because of it.  Who knew Santana was actually in love with Brittany?  Who knew a Glee episode could make you feel so sorry for Santana?  Who knew Naya Rivera could act on par with Colfer?  Even after “Landslide”, as Santana comes unexpectedly to the verge of tears, I still wasn’t prepared for the forcefulness of her love confession to Brittany at her locker.  It blows previous contender the Burt-Kurt sex talk away as the heart of the episode.  In fact, it might be one of the most startlingly emotional moments of the season.  We simply do not expect to see Santana so open and vulnerable, and, like the revelation of Sue’s sister, it makes all the more impression because of it.  In one or two scenes, I think Santana has gone from a fairly minor and one-note side character to one of the most three-dimensional and complex characters on the show.  Brava.  Brava.

Santana’s confession to Brittany alone would make this episode worthwhile, but I have only a couple fairly minor nitpicks with it.  Kurt and Blaine being on the verge of scratching each other’s eyes out in BIOTA, then being instantly back to BFFs here with no resolution shown in between, is yet another example of Glee loving to create conflicts, then waving its magic wand and resolving them offscreen.  The writers need to decide exactly how dumb Brittany is and stick to it with some degree of consistency.  I get that, along with Sue, Brittany is the Glee character who exists the most in her own plane of reality, but her belief that she is pregnant after seeing a stork build a nest on her roof, like her inability in A Very Glee Christmas to recognize Sue in green facepaint or Beiste with a Santa beard hanging down on her chin, is an example of them taking her vacancy overboard, especially if they expect us to treat her relationship with Santana with a newfound level of seriousness (and honestly, if Brittany is really dumb enough to not be able to recognize Sue in facepaint, it raises some uncomfortable questions about her ability to function equally in an adult relationship with someone of average intelligence).  Some reviewers also criticized the episode for the same “have its cake and eat it too” muddle messaging that they ascribed to Blame It On The Alcohol–glorifying drunken frivolity and sexiness and then trying in half-hearted, perfunctory fashion to hand down some “lesson” about being responsible about drinking and sex, but I thought Burt’s talk with Kurt handled the “other side” well enough.  Anyway, someone who watches Glee to glean important life lessons, except perhaps for the admirable awareness it raises of homophobic bullying, is probably looking in the wrong place. 

I’m sure some Glee and Brittany fans will say I’m being too overanalytical and taking this too seriously, and maybe they’re right.  After all, one’s enjoyment of Glee requires a fair amount of “just go with it” suspension of disbelief.  Fortunately, this episode, like those immediately before and after it, isn’t one that makes that an overly difficult task. 

Favorite Musical Number:

Holly Holliday- “Do You Wanna Touch Me”“Afternoon Delight” is hilarious onscreen, but this one was more catchy as a song.  Incidentally, this song choice drew controversy because it is originally by Gary Glitter, who has been convicted of possession of child pornography and child sexual abuse, and some felt it was in poor taste to perform a Gary Glitter song in the context of a school setting (although Paltrow’s cover is itself based on a cover by Joan Jett, not Glitter’s original).  In any case, while Glee’s sense of good taste has often been called into question (sometimes more justifiably than others), Paltrow’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me” has a spot on my iTunes.

Least Favorite:

Blaine, Kurt, and the Warblers- “Animal” (Neon Trees)- There’s nothing really wrong with this number, it’s just not anything special, and probably one of the more forgettable Warbler numbers (although it’s better in its full length CD version, where one isn’t distracted from the song by Kurt’s “sexy faces”). 

Funniest Moments: “Afternoon Delight”.  Kurt’s “sexy” moves.  Sue confusing Blaine.  Emma referring to a penis as “the hose monster”, which might be the funniest thing Emma has ever said.

Episode MVP: Holly for saying what everyone is thinking and forcing some people to face the truth whether they want to or not (Emma, Santana).  Also Burt Hummel for once again proving he is the greatest dad on television.  And Santana, just because….my creys.

Best acting: Gwyneth Paltrow is as much fun in her second appearance as she was in her first.  The underrated Jayma Mays takes a character like Emma who could easily be a ridiculous caricature, and plays her with such tender-eyed sincerity that she is both hilarious and heart-tuggingly pitiable, sometimes nearly simultaneously.  Likewise, Chris Colfer proves yet again that he is unafraid of making himself look utterly ridiculous (“Animal”), while handling serious dramatic moments with equal skill.  And a big point to Mike O’Malley for so clearly bringing across Burt’s mix of awkwardness and determination.  But the best acting in the episode belongs to Naya Rivera, who swoops in like a stealth thespian to give us an emotional bitch-slap to rival Colfer’s best tear-ups.  I’ll definitely be paying more attention to her from now on. 

Choice Lines:

(telling Puck and Lauren not to do a sex tape)  “Guys, these things just never work out.  My sex tape with J.D. Salinger was a disaster.”- Holly Holliday

(after finding out Will is single)  “That’s a waste of some fine man butt.”- Holly Holliday

“Sex is like hugging, only wetter.”- Holly Holliday

(Emma asks Holly not to tell Will about her feelings for him)  “Oh, definitely.  Definitely.  My lips are sealed…just like your legs.”- Holly Holliday

“How are we going to get onstage at Regionals and sell sexy to the judges when I have as much sexual appeal and knowledge as a baby penguin?”- Kurt

I’ve tried watching those movies but i just get horribly depressed and think about how they were all kids once and they all have mothers and God, what would their mothers think, and why would you get that tattoo there?”- Kurt

“Kurt is the most moral, compassionate person I’ve ever met.  And I’m blown away by your relationship.  You think my dad built a car with me because he loves cars?  I think he did it because he thought getting my hands dirty might make me straight.”- Blaine

“I don’t have the relationship with my dad that you have with Kurt.  I just think it would be really cool if you took advantage of that.”- Blaine

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t have sex.”- Kurt.  “I think on your thirtieth birthday, it is a great gift to yourself.”- Burt

“Don’t throw yourself around, like you don’t matter.  Because you matter, Kurt.”- Burt

“Why am I such a bitch all the time?  I’m a bitch because I’m angry.  Because I have all these feelings…feelings for you…that I’m afraid to act on, because I’m afraid of dealing with the consequences.”- Santana

“I want to be with you.  And I don’t want Sam, or Finn, or any other stupid guys.  I just want you.”- Santana


Random Thoughts

  • Steve Nicks dropped by the set while Paltrow, Rivera, and Morris were filming the “Landslide” scene.  They commented that they had to just not dwell on it, because her being there watching was so nerve-wracking.  For her part, Nicks said she approved of the cover because she hoped it would bring Fleetwood Mac to a new generation, and said Paltrow “sang it beautifully”.
  • Both Paltrow’s singing and guitar-playing is the real deal.  She learned to play “Landslide” on the guitar after a short amount of practice in her trailer after Ryan Murphy asked her if she could play it.
  • Darren Criss and the Tufts Beelzebubs (the real-life glee club that provides the Warbler backup vocals) recorded a cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do You Think I’m Sexy” that was considered for inclusion in this episode, but the powers-that-be ended up going with “Animal” instead, and “Do You Think I’m Sexy” ended up as a bonus track on the Warblers CD.  For the record, I think it would have suited the “sexy” theme that Blaine was going for–and the theme of the episode itself–better than “Animal”.
  • Santana’s comment about she and Brittany needing Holly’s help to sing “Landslide” makes no real sense, considering Santana in particular is a perfectly good singer on her own, and feels like an excuse for Paltrow to sing again. 
  • Am I the only one who now really wants interaction between Burt and Blaine’s father?  Considering how many things the Glee writers say and never follow up on, or flat-out forget about and contradict later, I’m not holding my breath, but they’ve just tossed out a very obvious way to bring a little-developed character much more depth, and I hope they realize it.
  • Glee’s cover of “Kiss” is the first time Prince has ever given anyone the rights to his music.
  • We all know Matthew Morrison can dance, but did anyone else feel like they cut to the fantasy sequence and did lots of waist-up shots and cuts to other dancing couples to cover up Gwyneth Paltrow’s lack of tango ability?  Paltrow herself admitted finding it difficult and intimidating in interviews.
  • While Holly is sexy, Paltrow looks a little bony in skimpier outfits.  She’d be more attractive if she actually gained a few pounds instead of lost them.

Overall Grade- B