Friday, 18 November 2011

Glee 3.6 'Mash Off'

“You’re skinny, like all the crops failed on your family’s farm” - Rory


Mash Off managed to showcase both everything that is wrong with Glee and everything that is right with the show in one overloaded, disjointed episode.

The aforementioned good is that the episode focussed most of its attention on the best characters, Puck, Santana, Brittany and Sue all got to reel off some great one-liners with some even getting the sort of attention usually only reserved for Kurt and Rachel.

The bad however was that the episode felt like every currently running storyline had been thrown into a centrifuge and amalgamated in to one overblown mash-up, as the show itself would no doubt label it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to complain when one week a storyline that was heavily focussed on the previous week is dropped completely and not even referenced – like Puck and Shelby’s kiss was last week – but there is a balance to find between continuing to address all of the ongoing threads each week without giving each so much attention in one turbo-charged week that you don’t know where to look.

Mash Off also marked a return to the ridiculous Mash ups that the show seems obsessed with. Although I don’t see the need for merging two songs together in this way other than to no doubt flog a load more downloads, I did kind of enjoy the cheesy element to the Hall and Oates mash up and the girls did give a rousing rendition of Adele’s ‘Rumour Has It’ and ‘Someone Like You’ to close the show.

After a strong build, at least by Glee standards, Santana’s outing felt kind of thrown out there though unfortunately, especially when compared with the way Kurt’s own coming out was handled so delicately way back when.

Sure they’d built her up prior to Finn outing her as being even meaner than usual, so it would almost kind of justify what Finn did, but he still came over as being way out of line for his reaction when compared to what she had actually been saying to him and his new protégé Rory.

However, as much as I like Santana she was being nothing more than a bully to Finn and Rory, yet by having Finn out her and the way it all subsequently played out the sympathy immediately shifted to Santana in spite of all her previous indiscretions.

That’s always been a problem I’ve had with Glee, as much good as its portrayal of gay relationships and issues must do, the way in which the gay characters almost get away scott free with bad behaviour just because they’re gay is pretty shocking and to me almost undoes all the good the show does by sending out such a negative message.

They did it with Kurt back when he manipulated all around him to get Finn close to him as he had a crush on him, and then they turned Finn into a villain when he had the outburst in which he used the term “faggy”, and now I feel they’re going down the same route here, making Finn look like a bad guy when he had been pushed as far as someone can be pushed before snapping, admittedly in an unpleasant way – but everyone has their limits.

Sure it was wrong for him to do what he did, and in they way he did it, but Santana is hardly blameless in all this, yet by the end of the episode you felt nothing but Santana’s pain and all the pain she’s caused others in the past was practically forgotten.

All that said however, Naya Rivera sold the hell out of Santana’s torment, first when it seemed that world stood still around her when Finn said what he said, even though no one really heard – or so it seemed. Then her breakdown when she was shown she’s been used in a smear campaign against Sue by one of her opponents and finally the pain on her face as she performed that Adele number all the while looking longingly at Brittany.

And of course there was the show closing slap which played up Santana’s own inner insecurities spectacularly. I personally thought that slapping Finn was a bit of an under-reaction given that Finn basically outed Santana to the world, but the way in which everyone reacted and the fact it was used as the cliff hanging moment would seem to indicate the slap was a bigger deal in the world of Glee than it probably should be. Knowing Glee we’ll probably have Santana being charged with assault next week or something as equally inexplicable.

It is great though how far the show has brought along former supporting players like Santana and Brittany because they are far more interesting than obnoxious featured players like Kurt and Rachel. When asked to shine these often underused actors certainly do, it’s just a shame that after a sterling effort like this by a Naya Rivera or a Mark Salling that next week they’ll no doubt be ignored in favour of more Rachel guff.

In addition to the Santana storyline and the mash offs the main focus of this episode was the belated follow up to Puck and Shelby’s kiss.

As the episode began it looked as though they were going to play the whole incident off as a bit of a joke and have Puck just lusting after Shelby in some sort of school-boy crush. First we had him perform Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’ which whilst extremely corny was one of the more enjoyable performances on the show for a while. Then we had him flirting outrageously with Shelby which whilst planting the seeds for a potential relationship between the two that just can’t happen in my mind, as much as I’d kind of like to see it, also came across as played for laughs.

Later though we got to see the two of them together with Beth and it was quite a sweet, albeit dysfunctional, family dynamic. Although given how almost forceful Puck had been earlier it seemed odd that a) Shelby would even allow him back into her apartment and b) that there was no further tease of sexual tension between them.

As with Naya Rivera, Mark Salling has been so criminally underused on Glee up until now that it really is quite satisfying to see him really thriving given a greater share of the spotlight and hopefully he’ll continue to be featured on a more regular basis in to the future.

Other noteworthy moments in Mash Off included Rachel withdrawing from the student president election, supposedly for Kurt’s benefit but surely she could have done it in a way that put less focus on her self. At least she did have the self-awareness that she was a drama Queen to the end, it still makes her no less an appalling human being though.

Speaking of Kurt’s campaign, he bizarrely decided to run on a platform of banning dodgeball which he likened to the modern equivalent of “stoning” and associated the sport with bullying because of course Kurt is ever the victim.

Finally, the episode was frequently broken up by Sue’s ridiculously slanderous ad campaigns accusing Burt of having a baboon heart and marrying a donkey amongst other outlandish claims.

I’ve already discussed how this came back to bite her in the ass in a way as Santana became the unwitting focus of a rival ad but these ads, whilst funny in a non-sequitar Glee sort of way, just felt too out there to even be taken seriously.

Given the current Republican nomination race going on in the US, I’d guess that this was Glee’s attempt at lampooning the ludicrous and at times out and out nasty campaign ads and videos that one increasingly comes across in modern politics. That sentiment is fine and Glee deserves praise for trying it, but the execution was way off in my book, in spite of the throwaway comment that polls showed certain Lima residents believed some of Sue’s blatant lies about Burt, are we really supposed to believe anyone is stupid enough to buy in to Burt marrying a donkey, no matter how much a of a backwards place they paint Lima.

Much like the majority of the songs performed in the episode Mash Off ultimately became a mash up of the two sides of Glee and although the good was quite pleasing the bad was too much of an obstacle to overcome and ultimately left Mash Off feeling like one of the unchecked clusterfuck episodes that populated season two.

As much as I loathe how the groundswell of characters introduced to the show has bloated Glee to levels that make it almost impossible to give each character a fair crack of the whip each week, when they attempt to do just that, like they did here with Mash Off, it just all becomes structurally corrupt and damn near impossible to watch like one would a regular TV show.

At times like this Glee becomes akin to a child with attention deficit disorder –jumping around from play thing to play thing without ever really exploring each in enough detail to appreciate what they actually have with each unique individual element.

A Hail of Bullets:

- I’d certainly vote for Rick the Stick.

- The political ads were all ridiculous but I did find it funny that the Reggie ‘The Sauce’ Salazar’s ad which made Santana collateral damage had the number for his pizza joint and ‘free delivery’ written in the bottom corner. Nice to see where his priorities lie.

- Speaking of the campaigns, does anyone else find it odd that Burt couldn’t find anyone more qualified than Will to be his campaign manager? I fail to believe that a high school Spanish teacher is really the best option to run a political campaign.

- The ‘Hot For Teacher’ performance offered us a chance to see that rare Glee sighting – the kids in an actual lesson. It’s good to know that even though they might be imagining having sex with the teacher that the kids at McKinley High actually do attend lessons from time to time and don’t just do glee and the school musical.

- We get it, Rory’s Irish. Enough already.

- Since when has dodgeball been used to settle arguments?

- I might’ve known Rachel Berry would still be on Myspace.

- ‘Hot For Teacher’ was great but I can’t help but feel they missed a trick here by not having Puck perform the Busted, ahem, ‘classic’ ‘What I Go To School For’, the video for which, if you cast your mind back, featured perhaps the most unappealing teacher ever as the object of Charlie Simpson et al’s affections.

- Puck in the Hall and Oates wig was a nice sight gag, and of course any excuse to embed this video…


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