Glee "Glee, Actually" Review: Have Yourself a Very Glee-ful Christmas

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Dec 14, 2012

Glee S04E10: “Glee, Actually”

In the name of full disclosure, I’ve never seen the film "Love, Actually" but I read the Wikipedia page and it actually helped make some sense out of the WTF-ery I was trying to sort through in my post-episode shellshock—as much sense as Glee manages to make these days, at least. There was also Sue’s blatant invocation of the chosen tribute, helpfully included in the beginning of the episode: “It’s where several separate storylines are sandwiched together between commercial breaks and then tied together at the end with a beautiful bow. Like that movie Love, Actually, which I don’t think anyone really cares for.” Thanks, Sue!

Story 1: It’s a Wonderful Life, Artie

Irish exchange student Rory—who'd been MIA since last season—returned to be the Clarence to Artie’s George Bailey when Artie fell down an icy ramp and wound up in the nurse’s office, dreaming his way through a perfect world in which he had the use of his legs.

Or not so perfect. Like George Bailey kept Bedford Falls from falling apart, Artie, we learned, was the glue that held the glee club together. Without him, Sue ruled the school, Emma married Ken Tanaka, and Schue drank away his resentment for Terri and their fake baby. Becky was preggers, all the males in the school appeared to be douchebag jocks, Kurt never graduated because he couldn’t handle the bullying, nor did he ever meet Blaine who, presumably, was still a Warbler. Rachel never got the lead in anything and, therefore, never embraced her insufferably obnoxious self (I thought this was supposed to be a bad alternate reality?) and Quinn died because, as Rory stated, “Quinn texts and drives in every timeline.” Also something about a broken heart.

I SEE what you were trying to do, Glee, but I think that some of the spectacular sloppiness from last week carried over to this homage-within-an-homage. After a failed attempt to motivate his peers through “Feliz Navidad,” Artie reclaimed his wheelchair having learned his lesson and resolving to accept his lot in life like a good little martyr. Don’t get me wrong—Artie coming to terms with his disability is a very positive thing, but the rationale behind it just seemed kind of unfair. If it’s any consolation, I have the same issue with the actual It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey and Artie are caring, and giving individuals, often at the cost of their own immediate gratification, and that’s totally admirable but that doesn’t mean that they can’t occasionally just want for the same breaks in life that they often enable others to experience.

Furthermore, we’ve already seen Artie take a pretty proactive approach to his wheelchair when he bonded with Quinn last season, an approach that was far more nuanced in its implications than this episode's apparent “the fate of the world rests upon your inability to walk” nonsense. Artie influenced Quinn’s life for the better in a way that no one else at that time could, and at the same time, he enjoyed the experience of spending time with her and showing her that there was still fun to be had, even in the chair. It was a mutually beneficial experience.

The idea that Artie HAS to be paralyzed for the good of everyone else just doesn’t sit right with me, but hey, that’s just me.

Story 2: Ice Ice Baby

With Rachel off to spend the holidays on a Rosie O’Donnell cruise with her dads, Kurt settled in for an artfully lonely Christmas on his own... until Mr. Hummel knocked on the door bearing a tree, a mysterious gift, and some generally terrible news—he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I’m sure this will be handled with all the tastefulness and sensitivity Glee is so known for.

Kurt’s secret present turned out to be Blaine, which definitely skirted the line between awesome and awkward, as far as presents go. Neither Kurt nor Blaine wanted to ditch their traditional Christmas duet over little things like infidelity and their barely repaired relationship BUT if Kurt’s rather restrained response to news of Blaine’s decision to audition at NYADA is anything to go on, Klaine is hardly about to kiss and make up.

Still, the cheesy choreographed song-and-ice-dancing routine was some sorely needed lightheartedness after the mixed messaging in It’s a Wonderful Artie and the generally morose undertones of pretty much every Blaine and Kurt interaction since their break-up. That’s the Christmas campiness I was waiting for!

Story 3: The Puckermen Take L.A.

Continuing the trend of unexpected reunions started by Papa Hummel, the Brothers Puckerman road-tripped to California, attempted to network at Paramount Pictures through the magic of song, got kicked out of the swanky McMansion that Puck Sr. was squatting in while the owners were on vacay, and decided to return to Lima to wallow in their mutual daddy issues.

They decided to create a bonafide Hanukkah miracle by taking their mortal-enemy moms to dinner. It initially went as well as you’d expect, with plenty of snarking and passive-agressive name-calling, but wise ol’ Puck Sr. pointed out that the women shouldn’t be mad at each other, they should be mad at the dude they slept with... and suddenly all of that resentment that built up over the years melted away.

Since his whole screenwriting/pool-cleaning schtick in L.A. was kind of a disaster, Puck Sr. decided to return to Lima on a full-time basis to look out for his Mini Me. Mazel tov with that, Puckerman.

Story 4: Apocalypse...Now?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Weird Glee is the best Glee. Always reliable to deliver said weird, Brittany started the Mayan Apocalypse Club with Sam, to prepare for the end of civilization. Brittany emptied her savings account to shower her friends with cars and watches and in the name of purifying herself, and she also decided to give them the gift of truth: Tina’s acting aspirations are a pipe dream and she should just stop and while Brittany has no opinion of Joe, Marley is “delightful.” When the rest of the gang left in disgust, Sam serenaded his blonde bestie, backed by a line of Cheerios dressed as reindeer. The goofy get-ups weren’t QUITE of Dinosaur Prom caliber... but they were close.

And then Sam proposed. Oh.


Well, end of the world and all. Beiste wed them, claiming to have been ordained through an online Mayan church website, and Bam went off to enjoy their brief time together before the giant crocodile carrying the earth on its back was destroyed. Three days later, they realized that they'd survived. Oops.

Of course, there are no online Mayan churches, so Beiste was never ordained to do anything, so the unholy union of Brittany and Sam wasn’t binding in any possible way THANK GOD, but with the meltdown of civilization averted, our two doomsday preppers were feeling a little bit empty inside. Beiste was there for the save, helpfully providing a new date for the Mayan apocalypse with a little help from Indiana Jones.

Story 5: Marley & Sue

In addition to ruining the glee club competition season, Marley and her magical bulimia also managed to ruin Christmas at the Rose household because Mom had to use their Christmas present money to hire a fancy-schmancy eating-disorder therapist for Marley. Wow, Glee. I mean, WOW. Just when I think that this storyline can’t get anymore amazingly horrible, you go the Christmas-is-canceled-due-to-Bulimia route, you beautiful disaster, you.

After that point was made clear and I determined that I was neither laughing NOR crying, but instead, had fallen off the sofa from the combined hysteria of doing BOTH at the SAME TIME, we learned that Sue had ended up with Marley’s mom in McKinley High's Secret Santa gift exchange. Initially irritated by her bad luck of the draw, Sue’s conniving mind was changed by a chance encounter with the Roses during their little “No Christmas until you eat a sandwich” pep-talk.

At least the issue is being addressed, right? Marley realized that she had a problem and took the steps to get help. Her mother was there with support, and even Sue, SUE of all people, finally took the freaking issue seriously and gifted Momma Rose with enough money to cover Marley’s treatment... in addition to breaking into the house to leave a tree and presents in the living room. Oh Sue, you grumpy ol’ softie. She’s like one of those coconut nougats—crunchy AND squishy.

Musical Notes

– My End-of-the-World Glee Holiday Playlist: Blaine and Kurt’s “White Christmas” on ice, the Puck Brothers’ “Oh, Hanukkah” duet, and the ensemble’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

– Brittany and Sam’s vows were sweetly honest in their shallowness, weren’t they?

Sam: “Brittany, I always thought you were super hot and really smart but what I didn’t know was that you were going to end up being my soulmate. Who knows what the future holds for us—probably tsunamis and horrible sea monsters—but now I’m not worried about that because I have you.”

Brittany: “ Sam, when you first joined the glee club I didn’t notice for a while. It wasn’t until you did a Rich Little impression and told me it was a Rich Little impression and then explained who Rich Little was that I knew you were special. I can’t tell you how excited I am to become your Mayan star wife.”

– Okay, fine, so Kurt using his late mother’s perfume bottle as a Christmas ornament made me sniffle a little. But JUST a little. I don’t want Glee getting the idea that I have, like, feelings or something.

– Puck moving back to Lima—awesome or not awesome? I’m holding out hope that if we see more of Original Recipe Puck, Mini-Puck will get the chance to become more than a flimsy copy of his predecessor.

– Did I hear “topless scene” in the promo for when the show returns in January? Please tell me I didn’t hear that. You can lie if you want. I won’t tell Santa.

  • Comments (34)
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  • Atlantida Dec 19, 2012

    MaryAnn Sleasman, you were neither good nor creative in your recaps (not as Tim, Price or Lily) but the fact that you REALLY didn't see Love, Actually just killed me. Who didn't see Love, Actually?! Ok, who admits it? It's LOVE, ACTUALLY mfg, it's CLASSIC, what's wrong w/u, u act like u're PROUD of it, are u allright?!

    Sorry, I spent a lot of time trying to LIKE u just a little bit, it'll be enough for me but u make it impossible. Maybe reviewing is not your piece of cake?

  • prowly Dec 16, 2012

    The alternate timeline idea would have been great for a reboot though. Artie is able to walk again, and becomes the new Finn after graduation. Sam, Kurt, Blaine, Finn, Rachel, Mercedes, Brittany, Santana, Puck, Mike, Tina, Unique, Emma, Will and everyone else I may be forgetting are completely written off the show, and Artie starts up a new Glee Club with just Kitty, Marley, Jake, Ryder, and 8 new cast members.

  • prowly Dec 16, 2012

    I think the It's a Wonderful Life segment is being taken a little too seriously. It was obviously meant as a Christmas-themed dream sequence for Artie, and nothing more. How else do you explain Mike Chang being there? Without the glee club taking up so much of his time, he probably wouldn't have even gotten that Asian F, so there's no way he wouldn't have graduated. And there's no way Beiste would have allowed Finn, Puck, and Mike to play and continue wearing their letter jackets had they flunked out. Sam and Mike were never bullies, and Finn only ever went along with it, and even then, he'd let Kurt prepare himself for the dumpster dumps. Puck would have been the only d-bag. Like I said, self-centered dream. As for Artie's backslide, do people with disabilities dream of themselves as they are? I don't have any disabilities, so this is a shallow example, but in my dreams, I still have a full head of hair, and still built like I was in college. I imagine if I ever lost a limb, my dream self would still be whole.

  • ben45tpy Dec 16, 2012

    As others have said last year's christmas special was most likely the worst episode of the entire series so this one had no issue with expectations. On the whole I thought it was a good episode but it was wildly uneven. The Artie story was the worst not because the message was wrong, just that the execution was poor and it was probably not the kind of story that can be done justice in 10 minutes. I won't hear anything bad about It's a Wonderful Life, that movie is flawless.
    Blaine's story was pretty good, Puckermans' was a bit meh for me, Brittany and Sam's was charming and I'm relieved they didn't really get married - they do fit well together despite how this pairing undermines her lesbianness, and Sue's fluctuated - the longer everyone treats Marley like crap for her disorder instead of murdering Kitty, the more frustrated I will get. The story picked up towards the end, though with some great comedic moments, the what do you give to a woman who's eaten everything, the recurring gag with the jumper, the Marley & Me joke, all good stuff
    One more thing that's irritating me about this season: we need the new characters to each have their voiceover episodes, that's been a pivotal part of Glee's success as it subtlely parodies the characters to balance out some of the overly-earnest goody two shoes treacle we get most of the time. So far it's been all earnestness from Marley, Puck Jr, and Ryder. This show is meant to be a comedy, if none of these characters have any self-effacing schtick the show will be weaker for it.

  • StephanieStra2 Dec 23, 2012

    Thank you; you said everything I perceived and said it almost exactly the same. Very nice :)

  • bejt10 Dec 15, 2012

    as always WEMMA was over looked- would it have killed them to put in short scene- of wemma home by their tree dancing or kissing?
    there was plenty of time to incorporate it in the last song
    Matt was already on set!- they just needed to get Jayma for couple of hours
    the fact that there is a wedding coming up (?) doesn't mean we don't need our wemma fix -especially on xmas!
    we could have lived without the Sam song- really it was not even good

  • zookpr Dec 15, 2012

    Honestly this episode could have been twice as bad and it would still have been a million times better than last season's one. I was very pleased to see Rory back though and loved the way he said "glue" in his cute Irish way :)

  • SagaNylund Dec 15, 2012

    Best song: The Puckerman bros' Hanukka song, loved it. And I still hate Bam, they make no sense. Sam, you have a sucky taste in women (except Mercedes. Btw, what happened to her and Sam? Did they ever break up? :(). A pretty solid episode, I really enjoyed getting to know more about Puck jr. And seeing Sue slowly falling for the holiday spirit. Less Bam would have made it better. Ugh

  • damnfo0l Dec 15, 2012

    Woah Puck Jr mum is Charley from friends and the shock that she has aged is probably because Friends is never off our screens!!

  • SagaNylund Dec 15, 2012

    Thanks, I thought I recognised her.

  • Mjuh Dec 15, 2012

    Glee should stop doing christmas episodes. Because of the whole mini-stories-coming-together/Love actually copying this episode seemed to be all over the place. The stories didn't even "tie together at the end with a beautiful bow." The just ended. Period.

    And I can't believe they managed to do an even more terrible christmas episode than last year. Seriously, how is that even possible?

    But about what actually happened without all the christmas.

    Suddenly Artie is the glue keeping the Glee club together? What about Finn? The whole show started with Schue trying to find somebody "cool" or leader or whatever he needed. That's what Finn was all about. That's what has been repeatedly told to us over the last few years. But hey, it's Glee. Forget everything that has ever happened. It's a new world!!

    Burt has prostate cancer. Can't they give the guy a break? And now Kurt should care about where Blaine goes after graduating? I wouldn't. But yeah, they're also best friends or whatever and Rachel isn't available so of course Kurt needs a friend at the moment. And friendship works both ways and the world moves on even though people get sick and so on and so forth...

    Brittany and Sam... No. They just keep getting dummer. Thank God for Beiste. Although imo she could have said the next calendar ends in 2kwhatever. Instead she gave them two years? But lucky for us it's Glee. This will not effect their lives in any way. Like I said earlier: Forget everything that has ever happened. It's a new world!! Or maybe we should just believe that Brittany and Sam are too stupid or blonde or something to even remember the whole world-ends-in-two-years-thingy the next day.

    Puck sr. annoys me. He always has. One day he's this awesome big brother giving advise and being a good person and the next he's the moron showing off and lying and acting like an idiot. And he always get's caught. It's nice that Jake has somebody though. Maybe Puck's not the best role model but at least he's family. And he's moving back so things are looking a bit better for Jake. Though hopefully we don't see more of Puck sr. The graduated students running around in their old school is just pathetic.

    And finally Marley - and Sue. The bulimia storyline is still not that convincing. Shouldn't Marley first deny the whole problem? How about telling somebody about Kitty? (Yeah, yeah, everybody makes their own decisions.) But no, I didn't think Glee went for the "Christmas-is-canceled-due-to-Bulimia route". It's just a fact. The Rose family is poor. A therapist is expensive. I mean Marley uses some sort of lunch tickets (no idea, I'm from a different country) at school beacause they don't have money. Lucky for us Sue happened to hear everything. And christmas is the time for Sue to get soft. She always does in the end.

    Parts of the episode were good, some made me laugh (Sue just makes me crack up everytime she opens her mouth.), some (almost) made me cry. As a whole I just didn't like it.

  • sodapopgirl721 Dec 16, 2012

    couldn't agree more, my problem with the artie thing was how incorrect it was. finn was the one who got them to do don;t stop believing when will almost and quit and got their numbers for sectionals, the only time artie did something even a little important was the wheelchair episode. it sounds mean but if artie could walk... it wouldn;t make that much of a difference.
    and it still pisses me off that kitty is still in the freaking club, she really just gets away with everything? that is NOT okay, even by glee standards. this is on the same level of wrong as if quinn had succeeded in getting beth back last year

  • prowly Dec 15, 2012

    Hey does anyone know what's going on with the guy who plays Puck? I didn't watch last season, but he's looked a little rough this season. Dark circles under his eyes, and he seems to have put on a little weight as well? Not saying he looks fat or anything... he's just not in the shape he was a couple of years ago. He even avoided being shirtless in this episode's pool scene while his brother didn't. Is he touring or something that's been cutting into his sleep and workout schedule?

  • zookpr Dec 15, 2012

    I think age is catching up with him, people in their 30's can't play highschool students forever! Even last season he looked waaaaaaay too old to be playing one :)

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