GLEE, I have to say it: I enjoyed your “Duets” episode at least twice as much as last week’s “Grilled Cheesus” show about faith, or even the previous week’s Britney Spears spectacular. The premise was simple: Everyone pairs off to perform duets. What was complicated was who paired with whom, and why. The prize was a dinner for two at Breadstix, and from the way the kids went crazy, one might assume Wolfgang Puck – or at least Gordon Ramsey – had take over the kitchen.
“Great duets are like a marriage,” Will (Matthew Morrison) suggested, and in this case, it made for some strange bedfellows. I mean, Artie (Kevin McHale) and…Brittany (Heather Morris)? Santana (Naya Rivera) and…Mercedes (Amber Riley)? Quinn (Dianna Agron) and…Sam (Chord Overstreet)? And what happened to Mark Salling that necessitated sending Puck to juvie? Perhaps it was just a stunt to get Sam into the glee club?
No matter why quarterback Sam became a gleek, Kurt (Chris Colfer) was certain that Sam plays for his team – and that he dyes his hair. Kurt was determined to duet with Sam, but Finn (Cory Monteith) argued against it, suggesting that Sam would be humiliated into quitting. In a weird way, Finn was kind of right, but he was being overly politically correct; overcompensating by worrying that others will attack Sam for singing with gay dude. He was sort of insulting Kurt for implying Sam would be tarred by association, and also insulting straight folks for assuming they would torment Sam. But then Finn perceptively pointed out that Kurt is overly aggressive when flirting, and has a problem accepting that “’No’ means ‘no.’” Burt (Mike O’Malley) amplified the point by suggesting that Kurt is using his self-righteousness to push people around and intimidate Sam. Kurt pointed out that he is frustrated because he’s the only “out” boy at school. Burt countered that Kurt just has to deal with it. If Kurt is going to be who he is, he has to allow others to be who they are (i.e. not gay).
Even though he did not team up with Kurt, Sam did suffer abuse: He got slushied by the football bullies. Strangely, this led to bonding Quinn, who helped him clean up, when they discovered a mutual love for Avatar. In fact, he speaks Na’vi. Fluently. Quinn could understand how much it hurts to get shunned by the popular folks she used to lead. No dummy, Sam used duet as an opportunity to flirt with Quinn – which, ironically, is exactly what Curt wanted to do to him. Quinn backpedaled, worried about falling in love, but eventually came around for “Lucky,” the Jason Mraz/Colbie Caillat song (which Santana called, “So frickin’ charming.”)
Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Mike Chang’s (Harry Shum Jr.) “Asian fusion” was not so harmonious: She wanted to go on a date that did not feature Asian food. When a wounded Mike suggested they go to “Asian couples therapy,” Tina wailed, “Why does couples’ therapy have to be ‘Asian’?” They worked up a cute version of “Sing!” from A Chorus Line.
Far from cute was the treatment of Brittany. She approached Artie (whom she used to think was a robot), and asked to pair up because she wanted to beat Santana for choosing Mercedes over her. She plied him with sex. Once Santana pointed out that Brittany will do it with anybody, Artie was offended that she used sex to manipulate him. Sex means nothing to her, but it meant everything to him. When did Brittany become a Mean Girl? She supposed to be a Dumb Girl. But this week, in addition to being cruel, she actually made a sophisticated joke instead of a dumb remark. Preparing to have sex with Artie, she said, “Before we duet, we’re gonna do it.” That’s a legitimately funny line, but it’s not a Brittany line. Not in a million years. This whole subplot was nothing short of character assassination of Brittany. After the “Brittany/Britney” episode built her up and showcased Morris’ talent, this episode tore her back down again. (Morris was not even allowed to sing or dance!) The Brittany we know and love would never use sex as a weapon; she’s not cosmopolitan enough to realize that is even possible. And, just to add insult to injury, poor Morris was forced to roll a meatball around a plate of spaghetti with her nose. Morris was game for the Lady and the Tramp parody, but c’mon: Talk about humiliating!
Even though my favorite performance (of the second season so far) was Santana and Mercedes’ butt-kickin’ version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Wide Mountain High” (Who knew Naya could match Amber note-for-note?), Quinn and Sam won the completion. While redeeming their prize at Breadstix, Sam revealed his quirky side. (Um, who does Matthew McConaughey impressions?) But Quinn succumbed to his charm. She filed away Mr. Schue’s coupon and told Sam to pay for their dinner – because she was turning it into a date. What will Puck think when he gets out of juvenile hall?