Every Time We're Ready to Quit Glee, It Pulls Us Back In

The thing about Glee is, every time you’re ready to write the show off completely, it sneaks in an episode that reels you right back in again. On the rare occasion, it takes your breath away completely—and last night's would qualify as one of those episodes. “The First Time” was a return to the “very special” themed episodes of Season 2, and while I approached it with the kind of trepidation typically reserved for a root canal, by the end I found myself utterly absorbed. The majority of the credit here must go to writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a playwright and Marvel Comics writer who was recently hired to save the disastrously received Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Aguirre-Sacasa has a gift not just for snappy dialogue—and the script had plenty—but for building quiet, powerful, and wholly plausible moments between people with clear motivations, something Glee has been in dire need of.

Take for example the scenes at Scandals, a gay bar visited by Kurt and Blaine at the suggestion of Sebastian, a handsome and debonair Dalton Academy student with designs on Blaine. There was a lot going on, but all of it was skillfully played. Sebastian could have been written as a caricature, but instead, he was actually an intriguing character study: the natural seducer, neither good nor bad, simply living for the moment. As he and Blaine got down on the dance floor (to the strains of ‘80s synth group ABC, no less), Kurt stumbled into Dave Karofsky, his closeted former bully, who lingered beneath a baseball cap, home at last. Their exchange had the ring of truth to it—Karofsky, barely apologetic but now feeling comfortable in his own skin; Kurt, not savoring his victory but simply accepting it as an inevitability. But it was the scene in the bar’s parking lot that was really a tour de force, where Blaine drunkenly tried to force himself on Kurt in the back seat of Kurt's car, and Kurt lashed out angrily out of jealousy and disappointment in his boyfriend. Both of them were sympathetic in an alcohol-fueled fight that felt perfectly natural to me.

There were countless moments like that in “The First Time,” which eschewed auto-tuned pop for faithfully staged selections from West Side Story, probably one of the best musical theater scores ever written. If you’re going to have a song strengthen the themes of a dramatic scene, it helps to choose one written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim; and so classics like “A Boy Like That” were woven into Blaine’s first conversation with Sebastian (“He give you trouble!”), “I Have a Love” played over Tina’s sweepingly romantic retelling of her first time with Mike Chang, and, most movingly, Blaine reconciled with Kurt by placing Kurt’s hand on his chest and pledging his love to him, under “One Hand, One Heart,” one of the most romantic songs ever written.

The episode was also enhanced by what wasn’t there: Mr. Schue and Emma were relegated to the cheering section, and Sue, whose shtick has worn thin, was a complete no-show. That allowed room for some of the more compelling supporting characters like Coach Bieste and Artie to have moments to move us. And they did: Bieste in a disarmingly touching exchange with a college recruiter whose romantic overtures she found suspect; Artie, the episode’s narrator and West Side Story's director, in what amounted to a coming-of-age speech in which he expressed gratitude to his cast for finally allowing him to feel like a complete, autonomous, and useful man.

In the end, Kurt and Blaine and Rachel and Finn would end up “doing it,” and each in their own time and for the right reasons. We barely got a glimpse of the act, and hallelujah for that, but what we needed to see—the emotion and psychology behind it—was on full-frontal display. With episodes like these, it’s no wonder kids around the world watch Glee and think to themselves, “I want to live in America.”


What did you think of the episode?

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Nov 13, 2011
I also think it was the first good episode this season, so far. It wasn't as awesome as some episodes from season 1 but it still makes me want to continue watching the show. I enjoyed seeing the Warblers again (their song was amazing) and the songs from West Side Story were a delight. Only regret: not seeing Damian! Anyways, keep on the good right Mr Murphy! You're on the right track!
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Nov 11, 2011
it's no wonder kids around the world watch Kurt and think to themselves, "After 2 years of living like shit in high school , just for one good night with his boyfriend,life sucks everywhere even in America" :P
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Nov 11, 2011
Yes, instead of "auto-tuned pop" we got auto-tuned "faithfully staged selections from West Side Story". It hurts my ears every time to listen to them sing-it's so bland, expressionless, and fake.



Thank god no Sue-worst character. She's such a caricature, it's ridiculous. Also, so good we didn't get the kids to Schuester or Emma for sex advice.



And is it wrong that I was laughing my ass off when Finn was crying about his life being over because he wasn't recruited by Ohio State? Of course you're not good enough! And yeah, you suck at singing too. But Rachel's right: there are other colleges. Try a Division III school. That or just apply to a college regularly, then walk-on to the team.



I suppose I'm just over this show, which is good-I get an hour back each week. If I could watch this episode, which I admit is about as good as Glee will ever get, and not be particularly impressed I can no longer carry that shame of still watching Glee.
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Nov 11, 2011
Really, that last phrase was really pathetic.
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Nov 11, 2011
Why would you want to live in America? The school they depict is horrible; having kids picking on Irish people!
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Nov 11, 2011
Meh, it felt I was watching something made by disney.
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Nov 11, 2011
This is the first episode in a long time that there wasn't a single unlikable character. FINALLY. Being a villain is one thing, but being unlikable is another. I had real problems with last week's episode when I wanted to punch every single character in the face for being so ridiculous, and finally there was some real depth and thematic resonance to what took place. If "Glee" was like this every week, I'd find it actually worthwhile.
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Nov 11, 2011
I watched it with bated breath out of fear that Mr. Ryan Murphy would do something outrageous and go too far, and I'm surprised that he showed restraint for a change. Kudos to him. It was a rather fascinating episode because while I didn't love it...I didn't hate it either, I was strangely mesmerized by how the entire episode unfolded onscreen and by the end I didn't know what to say about it. I still missed my campy Glee fun and wit but..this was along the lines of Grilled Cheesus...and yet in a realm of it's own.
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Nov 11, 2011
This was the first episode this season which I was able to watch in one sitting, without stopping it every once in a while because of boredom. It had a nicer flow to it, and the music fit better to the overall story line. It also had very few cringeworthy moments, something that previous episodes have suffered from heavily.
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Nov 10, 2011
I see from the comments that I did a good thing when I stopped watching Glee.
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Nov 10, 2011
Most people here are saying it was a great episode. What are you even talking about?
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Nov 10, 2011
And that episode is why i love glee!!!!!! Santana KILLED "In America". OMG!!! She was awesome!!!! ONE OF THE BEST VOICES ON THE SHOW(right along side Mercedes)
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Nov 10, 2011
Gave up on this a long time ago!
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Nov 10, 2011
I like uptown girl by the warbler minus blaine.
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Nov 10, 2011
I was disappointed Rachel decided to go back on her word of waiting to take the next step with Finn. However, I will say she did it for the right reasons in the end and it was tastfully done. I enjoyed the storyline in the episode. Still it would be nice to see a character on tv that actually sticks with her word to wait until graduating high school or college or marriage.
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Nov 10, 2011
Cooter (the recruiter) was the guy the football player who farted in the car on Can't Buy Me Love!!!!
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Nov 10, 2011
Who is the actress that plays the french teacher when the Warblers sing "Uptown Girl"?
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Nov 10, 2011
Sorry, it just didnt get me!

Glee has morphed into, I dont know what!

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Nov 10, 2011
it's exactly how it felt... just when i was ready to quit glee, this episode pull me back in...



last episode, the only thing that scored to me was 'candyman'... but with this episode, I can't even decide which act ranks first. Everything was awesome, the acting, the storyline, the songs, everything...



i turned off the TV in the middle of the episode because i'm sick and there's too much things happening.. too much emotions for my aching head to handle. what's with rachel full on seducing finn?



downloaded it and boy this episode was the best... and santana, she was at her 'bestest' on this one!
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Nov 10, 2011
It was an OK episode. I liked the story with coach Beiste and the scene with Karofsky in the bar, but overall I wasn't drawn in a lot.
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Nov 10, 2011
This episode didn't pull me back in, it actually pushed me away...
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Nov 10, 2011
I really liked Coach Biest's (sp?) storyline. Dot Jones played it flawlessly.
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Nov 10, 2011
I was blown away by that episode! While I found last week's ep kind of "mehhh" this one just made my jaw drop to the floor. The acting was amazing, and everything was done beautifully. I was very impressed with how they handled the "sex" scenes. For me, it was Glee's best episode yet. One Hand, One Heart nearly made me cry, and Santana totally killed her songs.



We need more episodes like this one! Can Aguirre-Sacasa write every episode from now on, please? xP
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Nov 10, 2011
Glee has always tried to include everybody and not just force modern covers, classic rock, or musicals down everybody's throat, they did all of everything.but this episode was boring for me because I only knew Uptown Girl, and even then barely, seeing as how I've never been a fan of musicals. I was glad Sue and Mr. Schue weren't there, Will brings nothing to the plot anymore and Sue just yells the same stuff all the time now. it was an good episode, storywise, but I hope they don't keep making episodes on things like one specific musical
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Nov 10, 2011
that's sad you are not a fan of musicals, I love West Side Story and 'Tonight' and 'In America' are great and I was glad to hear them on this episode. I was also glad Sue and Schue were (almost) no-shows. I love when it's about 1 musical, well, a musical I know. :)
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Nov 10, 2011
the fact that Matt Morrison did appear at the end PROVES there CANNOT be an ep WITHOUT HIM .

There are tons of WEMMA fans- engout dissing them here all the time.

For many ppl THEY are the reason they watch glee!!!
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Nov 10, 2011
I loved this episode except for Artie. I didn't find it plausible that he would just blurt out some of the things he did to the other characters in most of his scenes. I mean, is a student really gonna go up to a teacher and ask her if she's a virgin and then actively try to get her on a date? It just seemed like he was no longer playing Artie and was instead just a plot device.



Other than that, I thought this episode was near perfect.
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Nov 11, 2011
You've never taught adolescents have you?
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Nov 10, 2011
This was a terrible episode, missing too many characters I'm more interested in. No good songs either. Season 3 is also the worst.
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Nov 10, 2011
i was worried going into this episode because of the talk about sex ahead of time but the show handled it perfectly. the choice to not actually show the characters having sex was smart. by the end of the episode i found myself getting emotional since the writers made me invested in the characters. one of the best episodes of glee!
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Nov 10, 2011
I think this might have been the best episode of glee or at least one of the best in a long time!! I have only one complant and that is mike's storyline. I wish they gave it more time or just not at all. All the klaine and finchel moments were amazing!!! The actual "love scene" was the best of the night cause it wasn't over the top and it was just the icing on the cake!!!
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Nov 10, 2011
i was blown away by this episode of glee. the difference between this episode and the last half of season 2 were those episodes just shoved the message down our throats, whether it made sense with the characters or not. This episode actually has less tawdry stuff in it than the "sexy" episode, even though rachel and finn and kurt and blaine do the deed. But it totally makes sense that Rachel would want to have sex to improve her acting. This episode not only made sense but was full of amazing moments. The Beiste-recruiter scene was really sweet and it was a breath of fresh air to not have Sue around because she doesn;t have much to do anymore. And while the popular girls tell Rachel to wait, Tina tells her that her first time was perfect because she and Mike love each other. Even Puck, only had five minutes in this episode was awesome, first not wanting Finn to cheat on Rachel, then adding, "I always thought it;d be me, but secretly hoped it;d be you." This has been the best episode of Glee in a while
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Nov 10, 2011
Loved this episode too!

didn't even think of Sue until you mentioned her here...

Sebastien was so hot, I was almost rooting for Blaine to get it on with him!! (that could just be the bored housewife in me talking, I do love Kurt, but that was some serious competition!!)

too bad they're going back to the puck and rachel's mom gross storyline next week, train wreck waiting to happen
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Nov 10, 2011
Wow so what Glee is a reality show documentary?? With episodes like these, it's no wonder kids around the world watch Glee and think to themselves, "I want to live in America." I think you are deluding yourself man....... Awful show, but I respect if people want to watch it, but that scmaltzy last paragraph is a reason some of us are quite happy in our own countries thanks.
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Nov 10, 2011
It was shmaltzy, I'll admit.
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Nov 10, 2011
I bet Pacino never thought a semblance of his most famous words spoken in The Godfather would be used to describe Glee.
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