Glee, “Blame It on the Alcohol”

I’ve already gone back and forth on “Blame It on the Alcohol” a few times since it finished airing here almost four hours ago. While I was watching it, I kind of liked it. Then afterwards, I kind of hated it. Then I went back and forth a few more times before just decided to write this review and see where my fingers actually took me.

I think I figured out where most of my problems lie and where the positive aspects of this episode shine through despite those issues. On a macro level, I have issues with whatever the hell this episode was trying to do with the “message” in reference to alcohol. There were moments where it felt like a normal, preachy episode of Glee with a certain message about right and wrong and then there were other times where it felt like the episode was trying to poke fun at those after school special-like efforts. Throw in the completely confusing final song choice by the glee club and the school’s subsequent reaction and it just didn’t come together, either as an after school special or a mediocre parody of after school special.

More specifically: I understood the episode’s attempts to make teen drinking both more serious and less serious of an issue than it actually is. Clearly, people should not break the law and a school system should never promote an atmosphere that makes the students think they should carry on like that. If there were viewers at home who wanted to read this episode as anti-teen drinking literature, they can point to the horrible state both the kids found himself in after binge drinking as evidence of what’s right and what’s wrong and Will’s sobriety pledge as a confirmation of those ideals. And if were viewers at home who thought the episode was toying with those obvious conventions of an anti-drinking episode, they can point to the ridiculously stupid conclusion to this episode — wherein the students and Will avoid any harsh consequences for their actions — or the fairly intelligent conversations Will and Beiste had about the differences between adult and teen drinking. This episode played both sides and in concept, I can appreciate that approach. The less fifth grade term paper versions of Glee episodes, the better.

And yet, I still don’t really know what the hell where this episode comes down on, which is probably only frustrating because most of the time Glee makes sure to hammer home the point of that week’s “issue” until you want to go out and do that thing just to piss off Ryan Murphy (except homophobic bullying, that’s not cool). This is particularly true for me because of the Ke$ha performance. Not the performance itself, but the context surrounding it. I am fully confused as to why Will ultimately decided this was a good song choice and more importantly, why Figgins and other members of the faculty assumed that it was an okay choice as well. Sure, it ultimately worked out for the club after Brittany and Santana’s hilarious/disgusting puking and Sue’s announcement of Will’s drunk dialing of Emma, but what about before that? Is this one of those instances where the charm of the performance is just supposed to overwhelm the people in the audience for really no reason but to suggest how wonderful the performers are? That initial reaction from Figgins, after he had been pushing for a certain type of song previously, completely took the overall discussion of teen-drinking one toggle past whatever maneuvering the episode was trying to do between after school special and parody.

Therefore, in terms of the bigger themes of the episode, I don’t really think “Blame It” holds up. It tried to get too cutesy and clever with its execution of a topic that absolutely deserves that treatment. Unfortunately, Glee is neither as cute or as clever as it think it is and that is especially true for the concept in this story.

However, when I think about the episode on a character level and how the actual effects of alcohol influence the characters, I think this one is actually great. If you recall some of my earlier reviews of the second season, I wasn’t too kind to the series’ portrayal of Will and for good reason: He is, at this point, a freaking mess of a human being. In the early going of the series, he was a mess, but more of a sad, yet optimistic mess who at least had the glee club to keep him hopeful. However, some of the earlier episodes this season tried to scoot past the miserable life Will lived while still continuing to have him act even worse as a human being, which made any of the emotional connection people had to him probably fade away. Not only did his life suck, but he was actively making other people’s lives suck so that he could maybe feel better for a few minutes.

But ever since “The Substitute,” the season has been doing a slightly better job of either pushing Will to the side or refusing to let him actively destroy someone else’s happiness. I think the season could have made fairly substantial strides in the holiday episode by having him come home along, but even though that didn’t happen, “Blame It on the Alcohol” does an effective job of reiterating that Will’s life flat-out sucks. Although it’s unfortunate that the only way the series can hit these points is to have Sue point it out, but it is true, Will has nothing really to live for anymore. His divorce is finally sitting in, the charms of the single life are over and he’s theoretically already destroyed any chances he has with Emma. Glee club is, again, the only thing he has and the pressure is on to succeed now more than ever.*

*Of course, this isn’t really true. But let’s just pretend the glee club could really go away for a second.

So I really enjoyed seeing Will get hammered and recognize that doing so is one of the only ways he doesn’t suck. The season has done a fairly decent job at building up his friendship with Beiste, so their little jokes and even the friendly kiss seemed to play pretty well. And perhaps the public humiliation that Sue gives him will strike a chord with Will and help him start to turn his life around. It’s endemic in how the season has used him this year, but it even feels like he’s not really invested in New Directions even though that’s all he really has. Now he’s vowed not to drink anymore and hell, Emma seemed charmed about his drunk voicemail that the rest of the school also happened to hear. This is another example of the series going back to a story we’ve already seen done in the short time Glee has been on the air, but I guess it’s something of a development to be proud of.

And although I wish the whole episode would have taken place at Rachel’s party, the few moments we did get there were pretty fun and it served as a fairly substantial catalyst for decent Rachel and Blaine/Kurt stories. Much like Will, I feel as if the writers have slowly figured out how to write Rachel less as a psychotic diva and just a driven, kind-of crazy diva. There’s a big difference between her actions here and what she did in the premiere with the crack house.

In any event, Rachel’s attempts to get drunk so that she could actually live a little in hopes of writing a good song make total sense in Rachel Berry logic. Perhaps that’s the sort of logic detached from the real world, but I’m never too concerned about Glee staying completely down to earth. And I mean if the series is okay having its lead character send another character to a crack house so that she doesn’t make an audition, it’s a major step up having her only meddle with her own life (for the most part) in hopes of improving her music career.

Of course, Rachel’s drinking and Blaine’s drinking led to a moment I’d been moderately dreading since I heard about it a few weeks ago. Ryan Murphy made so many of the characters on Nip/Tuck bi-sexual, even just for a bit, because he apparently ran out of better ideas near the end, so when I heard that’s what was coming for Blaine, I shuddered just a bit. Thankfully though, I thought Blaine’s minor identity was handled pretty darn well. He was so confident in his identity when we and Kurt first met him and the last few episodes have done a nice job of cracking that armor a little bit. I presume that it’s much easier to be fully confident in who you are when no one really challenges it, and one could argue that attending Tolerance Narnia has actually shielded Blaine from some of the realities of being a gay teen. So as he’s stepped outside that comfort zone lately, it’s been a confusing time, one that makes a decent amount of sense.

Blaine’s decision to take Rachel out on a date also provided us a few solid Kurt scenes, including one with Burt who hasn’t had anything to do since he got married a half-dozen episodes ago. Their relationship is still the strongest on the series and I love how both of them always seem to side the other’s side without really giving in fully to what they believe. Burt’s upset that Kurt has Blaine sleeping over — and rightfully so, in my opinion — and Kurt reacts negatively because he’s upset about Blaine, which also feels natural. Watching Blaine, Kurt’s crush and makeshift hero, change his mind after all the preaching and calls for confidence, openness, etc. has to be debilitating.

And although the conclusion to the story was a bit quick, it was effective nonetheless. Rachel ends up getting exactly what she wanted — more material for a good song not about her headband — and Kurt presumably gets what he wants in having Blaine realize that he is in fact fully gay. For a C story that only took up a few minutes of the episode, this little makeshift love triangle was handled really well. It loosely connected to the episode’s overall themes about how alcohol makes me people do weird things and then have to deal with the consequences afterwards and also felt fairly realistic for all three characters involved. Good stuff.

“Blame It on the Alcohol” isn’t a particularly fantastic episode of Glee in its overall narrative, but there are a number of solid character stories here that work on a small-scale and suggest more quality beats in the future. I can deal with that.

Other thoughts:

  • This was a great episode for Heather Morris and Heather Morris’ body. Good lord.
  • Darren Criss is such an obvious “new toy,” he’s totally pushed a number of the original ND’ers out of the story. I’m okay with this, I think.
  • I thought it was cute that neither Kurt or Finn drank. Burt taught them right!
  • Rachel’s party dress was terrifying. I have no idea where someone would eve get something like that.
  • Finn’s quick round-up of the female drunks was short, but effective.

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