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.
– 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.