“Glee” has a tendency to be either really good or really bad.
After weeks of “bad,” they’ve finally given us something really, really good.
The theme of this week’s episode, “Never Been Kissed,” seems to be “let’s shake things up.”
First off, there’s Kurt. The writers of “Glee” have been so determined to use the gay character to make points about gay rights, they’ve often neglected to fully flesh out his character. Yes, we do see glimpses of a deeper Kurt, often in his interaction with his father, but even these more heartfelt moments are often included as a second thought to a moral message.
The tables turned in this episode. While there was a hint of a gay rights message (Kurt stands up to a jock bully and learns that gays need to stand up for themselves) the episode shed a ton of insight into Kurt’s character. He starts out depressed, feeling lonely (as he’s the only openly gay student in school) and tells Mr. Schuester he doesn’t feel challenged after the teacher pits the girls against the boys and insists Kurt join the boy’s team.
But Mr. Schuester accepts the challenge and shakes things up when he assigns the boys to sing songs traditionally sung by women and the girls to sing songs traditionally sung by men.
In the meantime, Kurt ends up spying on the Dalton Academy Warblers, the glee club’s competitors in the upcoming sectionals. But instead of properly spying, Kurt is taken in by the environment. The academy’s glee club is actually considered cool, and Kurt learns that their lead singer, Blaine, is gay but completely accepted by his academic peers.
Suddenly, Kurt doesn’t feel so lonely. And when the next time his bully, Dave Karofsky, slams up against a locker, Kurt confronts him, only to have the jock kiss him.
Kurt is confused, borderline horrified, and we suddenly see him (not to mention Karofsky) in a whole new light. Kurt is still the only openly gay student at William McKinley High, but he’s not the only gay student.
Kurt understand now why Karofsky’s singled him out; Kurt has had the courage to embrace who he is as Karofsky is forced to hide who he is, to wear a mask every day. Jealousy, admiration, self-loathing, and even attraction are all swimming around inside him, pulling him in conflicting directions. But the kiss has disturbed Kurt for another reason, too: he reveals to Blaine that before that moment, he had never been kissed. Who would want their first kiss to be the result of an angry confrontation rather than a tender, loving moment?
But Kurt wasn’t the only one at William McKinley that had never been kissed. When Coach Beiste quits after learning that Glee club students were picturing her to “cool off” while they made out with their girlfriends, she admitted to Mr. Schuester that she had never been kissed. Mr. Schuester leans in and kisses her, giving her a boost of confidence.
This seems like it’s leading somewhere bad. It seems unlikely that Schuester would actually be romantically interested in Beistie, yet the kiss may have led her on. On the other hand, it certainly would be interesting if Mr. Schuester found himself genuinely attracted to her and continued pursuing her. Realistic? Not really. But while men are notorious for focusing on women’s outer beauty, it’s not unheard of for them to look past it to beauty that lies beneath the skin.
Another unlikely pairing took place in the form of Artie and Puck. While Puck initially starts hanging out with Artie because he believes it qualifies as public service for his parole from juvenile detention, the two seem to have struck up a friendship. Again, this unlikely pairing is refreshing. While real high schools are often broken up into cliques, as students mature those cliques are breached all the time. Changing things this way is just what Glee needs to keep itself fresh.
Whereas sometimes when the “Glee” story soars, the music suffers, and vice versa, this episode proved to be a pleasant exception. Every performance was inspired, catchy, and added something to the story, from Puck and Artie teaming up to perform Bob Marley’s “One Love,” to the Warbler’s badass, a cappella cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenager Dream.” The music stalled just a little when the girls performed their mash-up of the Rolling Stone’s “Start Me Up” mixed with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The song selection was solid, but the performance was mediocre. But the guys shone in the closing number, a tribute to Coach Beiste combining The Supreme’s “Stop! In the Name of Love” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind.”