UPDATE: There was a dizzying amount of anticipation and speculation around, “The First Time”–which might be my favorite Glee episode ever. How far would co-creator, Ryan Murphy, be willing to push the envelope? I was expecting some over the top moments, considering the episode was scheduled to air during a sweeps month.
But as it turns out, the episode was pretty tame, even by network TV standards. Instead of titillation, what we got instead was so much better–a beautifully rendered, moving and understated hour full of emotion and tenderness. Some might be disappointed that, with sex as a central theme, the love making wasn’t hotter. But, “The First Time” wasn’t about sex–it was about love, commitment, and treating the act like it’s something sacred.
The two couples Rachel/ Finn and Blaine/Kurt struggle with the decision to have sex for the first time, both pairs nearly diving in for the wrong reasons. In order to make her stage acting more believable, Rachel wants to have sex before she opens as Maria in the school musical, West Side Story. Blaine wants the thrill and excitement of spontaneous backseat-of-the car sex. In both situations, their partners wisely back off, both hurt by their potential lovers’ self-centered motivations.
When the couples finally come together in the end, it’s with mutual respect and love. We don’t see any actual love-making. But a montage of the couples lying in bed, faces pressed together, fingers entwined, are almost unbearably sweet. The montage is is set to Rachel and Blaine performing “One Hand One Heart” on stage. It’s the First Time that many want–and deserve. And that’s the point. “Don’t throw yourself around,” Kurt’s father told him during their Season 2 sex talk. Do it because it means something. Glee sends out a positive message for any teen who is having sex or contemplating becoming sexually active. The watchdog groups who are pissed off need to drink a giant cup of STFU.
Kurt and Blaine, one of the couples considering losing their virginity, are gay. I almost forgot to mention that, because it’s not important. Two young couples are in love–and that’s is all you need to know. Not making Kurt and Blaine’s gayness a big deal makes their presence in the storyline all the more powerful. Gay kids watching tonight can see a reflection of themselves treated as if their relationship is the most natural thing in the world.
Who to pick out in tonight’s episode for kudos? How about everybody. The cast came together to give some of their strongest performances of the last 3 seasons–both collectively and on their own. Naya Rivera is an absolute revelation playing the part of Anita in West Side Story. She’s one of the best actresses in this ensemble, both hot and hilarious, with a sultry soulful voice. She’s an electric presence on stage.
Harry Shum Jr. continues to emerge as a great actor in the small scenes he has. Keong Sim and Tamlyn Tomita are back, after debuting in episode 3, as Mike’s parents. Mike Chang has his own first, finally standing up to his dad who insists the aspiring artist quit the school musical. “I don’t want to be a doctor,” declares Mike Jr. “I want to be a professional dancer.” But dad, who we find out gave up a dream to play tennis, is having none of that. A look of pain and fear washes over Mike’s face when dad basically tells him “You’re dead to me”. When Mike sees that his mom has made it to his performance, their eyes lock in a very sweet moment.
Rachel is ready to back off her decision to sleep with Finn after she gets negative feedback from nearly all the New Directions girls, until Tina reveals that she and her boyfriend Mike had sex for the first time over the summer. The underutilized Jenna Ushkowitz finally gets her moment to shine as Tina, who converts that room full of cynics with a beautiful speech about her first time as a moment she’ll remember for the rest of her life.
Dot Marie Jones as Coach Beiste just broke my heart. As you watch her turn down and push away the Ohio State recruiter who is pursuing her, it becomes evident that it’s not the way she looks that has kept her solitary, but her refusal to let anyone into a fortress she’s built around her heart. I love that the writers are giving Beiste some layers. Dot-Marie is more than capable, as an actress, to handle them. Honorable mention goes to Eric Bruskotter who plays the sweet, affable recruiter who has the hots for Bieste.
The wheelchair bound Artie becomes drunk with power as director of the school play. And here’s where the writing becomes a little weird. He oversteps his bounds when he asks Rachel and Blaine if they ever did it before, but it was wholly inappropriate for him to quiz Coach Beiste about the state of her virginity. And that he makes it his business to hook her up with the recruiter is even weirder.
Still Artie’s questioning, awkward as it may be, sets the story line in motion. Both Rachel and Blaine worry that they won’t be able to portray a couple experiencing a sexual awakening if they haven’t had one themselves, but in the end, they realize that their experience of true love would be a richer well to draw from than simply having followed through with primal urges.
Kevin McHale is splendid–at once domineering and insecure as most despots are. In the end he grows through the experience, realizing his true power–that he can lead and be self-reliant, despite being confined to a wheelchair. It was another misty moment for me when the cast presents him with flowers, thanking him for being their “guiding light”.
The new kid, Sebastian, played by Grant Gustin definitely adds drama to the Kurt/Blaine relationship. Blaine stays staunchly loyal to his man, but it’s obvious he’s attracted to Sebastian. And Sebastian knowing this, will continue to pursue Blaine in the weeks to come. I’m hoping for a knock down drag out between Sebastian and Kurt, with the fashionable one kicking some major preppie ass, of course. Blaine may find Sebastian hot on some primal level, but with Sebastian, there’s no there there. He’s nothing more than a callow, spoiled preppie. How could this evil interloper even compare to the most interesting boy in all of Lima OH? Srsly.
The Warbler scene at Dalton felt a little out of place. I’m not feeling the group without Darren Criss’ lead and the Beelzebubs’ voices and arrangements. Sebastian pulling a shy Blaine into the room to join the group was supposed to be reminiscent of Blaine doing the same when he met Kurt for the 1st time but…nah. Magic happens only once.
The stars of this episode were the 2 couples. Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, is an extremely gifted young actor who has been given some great material to work with over the course of the show’s run. He always rises to the occasion, no matter what he’s given to do, and tonight was no exception. Blaine is very drunk as he and Kurt leave a gay bar. Kurt stands up for himself, thwarting Blaine’s attempts to have a quickie in the backseat. Chris plays the scene slightly hysterical, which is true to the emotional and flamboyant Kurt, but he never loses that connection to emotional truth. I really felt his sadness and frustration with Blaine and his determination not to give in.
Inside the bar, Kurt has a run-in with his old nemesis, Karovsky that is both sweet and sad. The ex-bully is still closeted, but at a point where he’s able to be honest with himself–which means hanging out at a dive gay bar, learning to connect to his inner bear. I laughed out loud when, Karovsky told Kurt the patrons considered him a “bear cub”and Kurt asked if it was because he looked like Yogi. Ha.
Kurt and Karovsky can finally be friendly–relating to each other as two gay men, which is nice to see after all the season 2 drama. Kurt has a wellspring of compassion for Karovsky, who in turn, probably always had a crush on Kurt. The exchange felt like closure. And while Chris and Ryan have hinted in interviews that something more could develop between the two–I think that once someone has physically and emotionally abused you, the way Karovsky did to Kurt, a line is crossed that can’t be reversed. Max Adler is a fine actor who played the hell out of that part, but I’d be OK with him never coming back.
I was also really impressed with Darren Criss as Blaine. Typically, I’m more enthralled with Darren as a stage performer, but maybe not so much as an actor. But from his adorable exchange with Kurt at the top of the show–dancing around to Roxy music as he oh-so-casually revealed how he deals with his urges (The M word!) to his heartfelt apology to Kurt in the auditorium after the West Side Story performance, Darren brought a depth to Blaine I hadn’t seen before. And it goes without saying that his performances as Tony were sexy, sensitive and charismatic.
Speaking of the apology scene in the auditorium–when Blaine asked Kurt to put his hand on his own heart, and then held it there while he apologized, I could literally feel my own heart melt. Then the kiss afterward was both so sweet, so hot and so touching…I had another teary moment. “You take my breath away,” says Kurt as he gently pulls away. “Not just now, but up there on that stage. I was so proud to be with you.” “I hope so,” says Blaine, his voice catching, “I want you to be.”
Finally, we come to Rachel and Finn. Ryan Murphy’s chronic and ongoing underuse of Cory Monteith makes me want to slap him upside the head. Chris deservedly gets a lot of attention for his stellar work, but he was practically the ONLY actor in Season 2 with a decent story line. Finn as written would come off as one dimensional in lesser hands. But Cory pushes the character beyond the dumb jock stereotype, giving Finn soul and complexity, even when the writing downright sucks, which it often has.
But when he gets the chance to sink his teeth into a good part, like he did tonight, it’s obvious what a talented actor Cory is. His scenes with Rachel, as he finally resists her manipulations, and his reaction to being turned down by the football recruiter, were filled with pathos–but you never feel pity for him, only compassion. And when Rachel finally decides to give up her virginity to him, it’s because she realizes what a gem of a guy she’s got.
Lea Michele plays Rachel as a girl with a depth of feeling, and the ability to love and connect to people–when her own self absorbed ambitions don’t get in the way. Lea plays Rachel as alternately selfish and selfless. And sometimes both at the same time. Rachel is another character that the writers don’t always serve well. I hope Season 3 finally finds Rachel on a clear path that allows her character to grow, instead of being jerked back and forth as if she never ever learns from her experiences. As always, Lea’s musical performances are powerful. Her ability to hit those soprano notes as Maria was a nice surprise.
And finally, the musical numbers. They were fantastic, particularly “America” (terrible Latin accents aside!) which brought the Jets and the Sharks together. The performances from West Side Story were simple and beautifully staged, cutting back and forth between the music and the characters experiences, giving the episode a sweet, lyrical quality that was almost ethereal. I half expected one of the characters to wake up in bed–all of it having been a surreal dream.
So yeah. Loved. Loved. Loved it. Random notes.
- Kurt’s bucket list was utterly charming. As is Kurt.
- Kurt cockblocking Sebastian? Totally awesome. I loved that little over-the-shoulder smirk he gave Sebastian as he took back his man. And. Dork Dancing!
- Kurt and Blaine? Still my favorite couple. Loves.
- Brittany’s first time was with “Alien invaders” Ha.
- Kurt is still hurting over Rachel’s decision to jump into the class president race. Gah, I hope that a fence that is mended soon and satisfactorily. I love those two together.
- Not surprised Finn wasn’t recruited to Ohio State. C’mon OHIO STATE. Only the best of the best. Finn could get recruited somewhere else. It would be a free college education at least.
The anticipation around tonight’s Glee, aptly titled “The First Time” has been so intense, it’s left me exhausted. The most hyped show of the season, it boasts a controversial plot line–two beloved couples, one straight and one gay, have sex for the first time. The virginity plot line, according to reporters who have seen the screeners, is depicted tastefully. It’s sweet and emotional rather than titillating and makes a point to put an emphasis on safe sex. The idea is that both couples–Blaine and Kurt (Darren Criss and Chris Colfer) and Rachel and Finn (Lea Michele and Corey Monteith)–are in solid, loving relationships and are ready for the next step.
But that that’s not stopping the usual suspects from coming out against the episode. “The fact that Glee intends to not only broadcast, but celebrate children having sex is reprehensible,” said PTC president Tim Winter. And the The Culture and Media Institute, which has a history of opposing gay marriage, wrote in an editorial that Glee has “waged a relentless campaign of liberal propaganda and pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable on broadcast TV…the show is now stepping up its campaign of homosexual promotion.”
High school kids are having sex regardless. It’s important to reflect their experience honestly, and in a responsible way, which is what I believe Glee is doing.
Also tonight, the school finally performs West Side Story for an audience. Four classic songs from the production will be performed, including “Tonight”, “America”, “A Boy Like That” and “One Hand One Heart”. Intriguingly, montages will be cut into the performances, reflecting what the kids are experiencing. I am VERY excited to watch the musical unfold on stage. West Side Story is one of my favorites! We also have the return of the Warblers, the introduction of a character, Sebastian (Grant Gustin), who threatens to come between Blaine and Kurt. And a side plot that involves Coach Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) who may have some firsts of her own to experience.
I’ll be back later with my recap of the episode.
Download Glee from iTunes:
- Uptown Girl – Warblers
- A Boy Like That – Lea Michele & Naya Rivera (West Side Story)
- Tonight – Lea Michele & Darren Criss (West Side Story)
- America – Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Dianna Agron (West Side Story)
- One Hand, One Heart – Lea Michele & Darren Criss (West Side Story)
Uptown Girl – Warblers
Kurt meets Sebastian
Glee – Episode 6 – Mash Off Promo