Episode 6.4: “The Hurt Locker - Part One”
We open on Matthew Morrison’s smiling face. We’re in in the McKinley teachers’ lounge, where Sue (Jane Lynch) is having lunch with...Will! Is he back to coach the New New Directions? Nah, he just swung by for lunch, and remarks how strange it is that he and Sue have finally become friends. But in voiceover, Sue blasts her former “mortal enemy”: “Sure, the sound of Will’s voice is like listening to Brian Boitano figure skate across a chalkboard while rubbing together the styrofoam his Tom of Finland ball gag came packaged in.” Whoah, Fox Network. Don’t waste any time, there, do ya?
Will chatters happily about his son, to whom Will sings "Don’t Stop Believin'" to every night. Sue continues in voiceover: “Clearly he has some sort of disorder that gives him the emotional depth of a 12-year-old girl. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t have any adult friends. Oh, Will Schuester, you poor, maudlin imbecile. I don’t hate you...I pity you.”
Will gets up to go and leaves behind an unused green plastic fork on the table. This sets Sue off in a rage because (of course) we need some reason for her to be enraged this episode, and she literally has everything else she could want, so a green plastic fork will have to do. “Who do you think I am?” she rants in voiceover. “Your maid? This is an outrage, and it will not stand! Will Schuester, you have crossed me for the last time!” Sigh. Whatever.
A Le Car drives up to a garage, and Sue and Becky (Lauren Potter) get out. (So...Becky hasn’t gone back to college yet? Well, why would she? No one else on this show goes to college.) Sue confesses to Becky that she was considering retirement. “I got a sweet deal on some marshland down in southern Iraq.” Heh. Cute. “But now I realize I can’t rest until I tie up some loose ends.” She opens one of the storage units, telling Becky that this is where she stores her hatred, and where she will prepare her “final act of revenge. I call it my Hurt Locker.” Oh, good, we got the episode title in before the first commercial break. Inside the locker, we see a voodoo-esque set-up of mannequins and dolls with characters’ names assigned to them, including Will, Rachel, Jimmy Carter and Al Roker. Again, heh. “Some people would find multiple vendettas exhausting,” she voiceovers. “But for Sue Sylvester, it’s pure exhilaration.” She vows to “annihilate” Will (pinning a baggie containing the green plastic fork to his picture) and Rachel (pinning a baggie with hair extensions to hers). Sue sends Becky out to the car, and once alone, plays a chord on an old organ. A wall goes up to a secret room within the unit, revealing a collection of pictures of Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) kissing and in wedding poses.
“Klaine!” the voiceover gasps breathlessly. “I’ve been quietly shipping them since they first met! Apart they’re so shrill, so whiny. But together, a symphony of self-congratulatory sodomy. I believed their tender man-love was for the ages.” Sure, Sue, we all did. What could possibly go wrong with a couple getting engaged at 18 in this day and age?
“I hereby pledge to do whatever it takes to do whatever it takes to get them back together,” Sue’s voiceover continues as she lays a hand on her heart, “and achieve my ultimate goal of being flower girl at their fabulous gay wedding. Just hang on, Porcelain. Help is on the way.” Oh, good God, where did this come from? Have we had any hints in any previous episodes that Sue was so gung-ho on Kurt and Blaine and their relationship, or did episode writer Ian Brennan just decide he needed some crazy interference in their diverging storyline? Sigh. Whatever. Next scene.
In Sue’s office, Kurt sits down as Sue calls him her “sweet, shrill, fragile gelfling.” Meh, she’s not entirely off, there. Sue says that she wants to help Kurt get Blaine back, and will help get rid of Karofsky, who she (quite rightly) despises. “Since when have you cared about me and Blaine?” Kurt asks, speaking for most of the audience. “Since, like, forever!” she lies, going off on some tangent about how Kurt and Blaine are “blouses” and I can’t even be bothered to recap her explanation for the term because it makes no sense and is rather offensive and I’m kind of amazed Ryan Murphy let this into the show. Moving on. Kurt denies that he does not want to get back together with Blaine, but Sue ignores this and tells him to get to the auditorium. She has arranged an “invitational” informal competition with the New New Directions, Vocal Adrenaline and the Warblers that, she says, will “destroy the Glee Club once and for all.” Pause. “I said that out loud, didn’t I?” Heh.
Auditorium, where Vocal Adrenaline (and Will) and the Warblers (and Blaine) are prepping for the Invitational. Rachel (Lea Michele) and Will talk about the invitational and reminisce about the first ep of the show, when Will showed them how good a high school Glee Club could be with a trip to hear Vocal Adrenaline sing. As Sue spies via a drone, Will asks Rachel what her long-term plan is, noting that she can’t go to Sectionals with only four singers. Rachel begins broadly hinting that the four New New Directions kids need a win to boost their confidence and attract new members. Will bluntly asks Rachel if she wants him to throw the competition, and she points out that if she can’t get the New New Directions off the ground, McKinley’s Glee Club will die again. “This place changed your life, and you’re reminded of that every night you go home to your wife and your beautiful baby,” she says. “Consider paying it back for everything it’s done for you.”
Backstage, Will looks at Finn’s picture on the wall and decides to give in to Rachel’s request. He goes tells Vocal Adrenaline that they’ll sing some new songs that they haven’t had time to rehearse properly yet. The drone, that no one has managed to notice yet in spite of it being, you know, a low-flying drone, hovers over the auditorium seats for a moment before flying down the school hallways, where it suddenly becomes visible. Kids run out of its way in terror as it flies into Sue’s office and lands on her desk. “Good dragon,” Sue coos to the drone. “Your Khaleesi loves you.” And that, folks, is the one funny moment in tonight’s episode of pain. Enjoy the smile while it lasts. We’ve got 35 minutes to go.
In the boys locker room, Sue asks Sam (Chord Overstreet) how susceptible to suggestion he is. He has no idea. Has he seen The Manchurian Candidate, Sue asks? He has no idea. (Sigh.) Sue then uses a pocket watch to hypnotize Sam, and I can’t believe I just typed those words. “When I snap my fingers, you’ll be totally hypnotized,” she says, and snaps her fingers. “Oh, my God, I’m totally hypnotized,” Sam deadpans. Okay, as stupid as this storyline is, at least Overstreet gets to be a dryly funny as Sam’s brain (or whatever Sam has that passes for one) is taken over. Cheers to Overstreet for getting some smiles in this awful mess.
Anyway. Sue plants three phrases in Sam’s brain (or...whatever) that will “overwhelm” him with love for Rachel: Piano, Flatbed Truck and “Let’s do a song.” “You will kiss her,” Sue tells him, “and the instant you do, you will wake up and not remember anything.” Wait...so, is this, like, sexual assault on both Rachel and Sam? She’s controlling his mind and forcing him to force himself on Rachel, and oh, my God, Ian Brennan, what the what? That’s not funny. Not even a little bit. Ugh, whatever. Next scene.
Auditorium. Rachel, Blaine and Kurt discuss the invitational and Blaine asks (not particularly nicely) about how many members the New New Directions has. Rachel asks Blaine if the Warblers will “take it easy on us,” but he refuses, telling them that if they’re afraid of competition, they should drop out. Right on, Blaine. His phone buzzes and he answers it: Karofsky says there’s an intruder in their apartment! They all run over to find Karofsky standing on the sofa holding a chair up as defense (nice foreshadowing) and screaming that Blaine shouldn’t go into their bedroom. Blaine, Rachel and Kurt walk into the rainbow-decorated room (that finally got a bed in spite of Brittany’s efforts) to find a bear cub relaxing among the pillows. Aww! Kurt thinks he knows what’s going on. Always a sharp one, that Kurt. Isn’t he the only character on this show who’s still technically in college in spirit if not in body?
Breadstix! “You can’t get real Italian food like in New York,” Sam says as he wolfs down spaghetti. Rachel, for the first time in the entire series, keeps her mouth shut about something and changes the subject. Good for you, Rach! She says that she’s having trouble adjusting to Ohio life again. In her free time, she watches videos of Patti LuPone teaching on YouTube and cries. (Don’t we all?) Sam says that he’s taken up glassblowing. “Wait, what, really?” Rachel says, speaking for all of us. (Again, when did we ever get a hint of this in a previous episode.) Seeking out a new interest of her own, Rachel says that she wants to learn to play piano. Re-hypnotized by one of the buzzwords, Sam says that he wants to learn to play piano, too. He’ll get Blaine to teach them. (“He owes me for all those times I shaved his back in New York.”) Anyway, the two both note that they haven’t been dating since they returned to Lima, and the scene ends with a tense, sad, awkward moment between the two friends.
In Sue’s office, the McKinley principal says that she had it on good authority that Karofsky was attracted to bears. Kurt explains what a “bear” means in the gay community, and says that thinking Karofsky was attracted to literal bears is “insane.” “My tenure at this school has expanded my horizons on what is or isn’t considered insane,” Sue says with a shrug. “Will Schuester once submerged a Lucite platform into the McKinley swimming pool so he could literally walk on water to propose to his girlfriend. That’s pretty insane.” She’s not entirely wrong there. Kurt insists that Sue’s interference has to stop, and that he doesn’t want to get back together with Blaine. In fact, he has an upcoming date with a man he met online. Sue says that this guy is clearly a cannibal. “You are exceptionally well-marbled. If I were on a deserted island with everybody I knew, I would absolutely eat you first. It doesn’t even have to be a deserted island, there could be any number of casual dining establishments and I would still opt to eat you, a mouth-watering, delicious, corn-fed Porcelain rump roast.” Kurt announces that he’s leaving, and rather than wave him off with a “Bye, Felicia,” Sue begins wailing that she wants to attend his “fabulous, over-the-top gay wedding! I already told Becky she could be the celebrant! When else am I ever going to get to Provincetown?”
Auditorium. Blaine plays what I’m fairly sure is the end of Beethoven’s "Fifth Symphony" on the piano. (Whatever it is, it’s not a showtune.) Rachel thanks him for taking time out from his schedule to teach them to play piano, and they mention that they would have asked “Brad the piano player” to be their teacher, but he has a creepy scrapbook of women’s feet. And hey, finally! There’s Brad Ellis—and his character’s name is Brad! I love it. Welcome back, Brad. Rachel sits down at the piano and mentions that she took some lessons once, but got bored and quit. “That’s so unlike you,” Blaine snarks to his former roommate. He starts to explain the positioning of the keys, but they’re interrupted by Sue and Becky. Rachel snaps that Sue has no business being in the auditorium (in spite of Sue being principal, so she kind of has business being anywhere on school grounds), and Sue points out that she could say the same to Rachel. “I thought I was rid of you two years ago.” We all did, Sue. We all did. Taking advantage of her mind-control over Sam, Sue gets him to agree that they should reschedule the piano lesson, and the graduates all leave—except for Becky, who calls her mentor a “bad-ass, crazy super-bitch.” Sue agrees, and launches into Meredith Brooks' “Bitch.” Jane Lynch’s voice has just gotten better and better since her first song on this show, which is really the only good thing about this scene.
We see clips of Sue singing in Rachel’s desk drawer, Jane’s locker, rearranging Emma’s desk (where is Emma, anyway?) and playing baseball with model planets in an astronomy classroom. (In the hallway, she walks under a sign announcing ISIS Awareness Week. Cute.) But as she walks down the hallway, she starts physically assaulting students, throwing them into lockers and shoving them out of her way. I know that’s been a tradition of the character since Season One, but it wasn’t funny then and it isn’t funny now. We can only hope that these are her fantasies and she’s not actually hitting students or pulling the kind of crap that would get a principal fired and banned from all schools for life. Anyway, whatever. Next scene.
A nice restaurant that may or may not be Breadstix. (Does "Glee’s" version of Lima have more than one nice restaurant?) Blaine and Karofsky sit and reminisce about their high school years (...in other words, last year), and Karofsky expresses some remorse for his bullying.
“I don’t recognize that dude at all,” Karofsky says of his former self. Aww, nice. Have you apologized to all the students you beat up during those years, Dave? Whatever. A guy Karofsky once dated sees the couple and says hello. But wait! There’s another burly dude! And another! It seems that Sue got all of Karofsky’s former partners together in one restaurant (...where she somehow knew Dave and Blaine would be on a date?) so that Blaine could see how much Karofsky got around. Sue (who has appeared) also has a genealogy chart and claims that the couple are actually third cousins. “Have a good evening, and just remember you’re about to have sex with a family member,” says the woman who once married herself.
Choir room: Rachel practices piano and bewails her lack of skill, but Sam has her practice on his hands with her eyes closed, noting how many great piano players are (and were) blind. As she plays silent chords on his fingers, Sam tickles Rachel’s hand and it’s awkward and not very cute and he’s being brainwashed so there is definitely no informed consent from both parties here. Ugh. Next scene, please!
Sue goes to Will’s school to tell his new principal about the choir director’s willingness to throw the Invitational (which...apparently hasn’t happened yet, even though the students keep gathering in the McKinley auditorium for some reason.) But when she walks into the principal’s office, she’s shocked to see Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba)! In a dress! But, no, this is actually Figgins’ sister, Abigail Figgins Gunderson. “Principal and I are one year apart,” she says. Wait, so that’s his first name? Yes, it seems the new McKinley janitor’s first name is Principal because he’s the firstborn in the family. Of course. Sue gets down to business and shows her drone-captured video of Will agreeing to throw the invitational competition. She tells Figgins-Gunderson to have a “frank talk” with Will. “You need to determine where his true loyalties lie.”
McKinley choir room! Rachel announces that they have the first two songs for their invitational, but Roderick (Noah Guthrie) notes that they still need more club members. It’s okay, Kurt assures them—this is just an informal competition and four members will be fine. “More stage time for us!” Madison (Laura Dreyfuss) whispers to Mason (Billy Lewis, Jr.) in her only line of the episode. (Hey, it's more lines than Jane gets!) The twins high-five. “Twinning!” they whisper in unison.
Rachel plays the piano—awfully—and the reactions are adorable. She tries to motivate them by telling them how good their competition is and how far they can go. “So we’re screwed?” Roderick confirms. “We’re screwed,” Kurt agrees with a pained smile.
Will storms into Sue’s office to yell about her going to his principal, and Sue berates him for the fork nonsense. The fork “broke the camel’s back,” she continues, declaring that she will now get “real honest” with him. (Because she’s been politely lying for the past five seasons?) But she then launches into a tirade that is so utterly hateful and awful it must be reproduced in full:
“You remember that Christmas when you foolishly let me into your apartment for some reason? The primary ingredient of that fruitcake I watched you enjoy was actually three years of plaque that Brad the piano player had scraped off his teeth and collected into a small jar.” (Hey, that’s two shout-outs for Brad Ellis in one episode! Long overdue. But they’re both gross, so...um.) “And you never should’ve let me use your bathroom because the minoxidil that you’ve been rubbing into your scalp twice daily for the last three years is actually just my pee. Why would I stoop to such puerile acts? Because I hate you, Will Schuester, and I will stop at nothing until I see you homeless in the streets, drinking gutter runoff and allowing passersby to perform lewd acts on your butt-chin for money. You are a fatuous, dim-witted borderline pederast who tears up faster than a gay jihadi in a sandstorm. You have befouled the profession of teaching by accepting not only one, but two Teacher of the Year awards despite not speaking a word of the foreign language you purport to teach.” (Apparently, Brennan forgot that Will gave up teaching Spanish years ago. Whatever.) “Like the storied predators of yesteryear, Will, you pick only the most vulnerable students to favor while actively neglecting the others, like that gross kid with the dreadlocks or that poor Irish idiot Rory. Or the black dancer whose name none of us remember because you rode his back to a win at Sectionals and then promptly ignored him into oblivion.” (Nice that some of the previous kids get a shout-out. Also, his name was Matt Rutherford, Sue.) “You positively worship a student if they can so much as carry a tune, and yet you don’t know a single name of the only true musical geniuses in that choir room: the band, who have demonstrated time and again that they can, at the drop of a hat, play literally any song you can name.” She...kind of has a point there. Hey, at least Brad Ellis finally has a character name! “And still, you treat them like so much nameless human garbage!” Is this the show being meta again? Was Ian Brennan one of the nameless musicians in the background for one episode? “Your bizarre, psychosexual obsession with that Glee Club was disturbing from the first moment you stalked a nude student in the showers,” she continues, and again, she has a point. “I’m honestly surprised you didn’t reenact what was clearly the formative event of your own teenage years and Sandusky the poor kid right there and then.” Wait, WHAT? Oh, hell, no. We’ll get back to that in a second. Going on: “And I think those absorbent sweater vests actually hide the fact that you lactate every time you give one of your excruciatingly condescending pep talks. Your charms wore off a long time ago, William...somewhere around Bieber Week. So why don’t you take your washboard abs and your washboard forehead and get the hell out of my office.” She continues with some flatulence-related “humor,” but whatever. You get the point.
This is...just not funny. This is actually really, really disturbing. And cracking jokes about Jerry Sandusky is really, really not funny. I mean, what the hell, Ian Brennan? There’s a fine line between satire and being sadistically cruel, and this scene didn’t just cross it, it left the line in the dust. "Glee" always had its dark streaks and mean streaks, but it was never this full of pure bile. What happened? Ugh, anyway…
Will tells Sue that he knows she’s considering retirement (Becky apparently announced the news on Twitter), and Will swears to make sure the Glee Club is a permanent fixture at the school long after Sue is gone, and exits. Finally, the painful, awful scene is over, and I pour a strong shot of scotch.
Auditorium. Kurt complains to Janitor Principal Figgins about the gum under the seats as Figgins tries to clean them. Blaine swings by looking for Sam and Rachel, but they’re in the courtyard, sharing a pretzel. “I predict another sexy tempestuous Glee Club romance!” Janitor Principal Figgins declares. Oh, God, no. Not another one. Will they be engaged by the end of the episode? Figgins exits and Blaine sinks down into a gum-covered seat, complaining about Karofsky’s dating history and their own consanguinity (which Kurt doubts is true, because Kurt is no fool). Kurt tells Blaine about his new Internet date, and Darren Criss once again nails the moment, expressing surprise and hurt while trying to keep his face totally blank and saying all the polite things exes are supposed to say to one another. They hug (awkwardly) and part ways amicably.
Rachel practices piano in the choir room and Sam praises her growing skills. Sam plays the opening notes of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” and, of course, the duo begin to play and recreate the popular video from 2002, riding through the streets of Lima on a flatbed truck (a-ha! There’s that last buzzword!) as they play piano together. At song’s end, Sam leans in and kisses Rachel, and she kisses him back, and I go take a shower to feel clean again.
scrubbing my eyeballs
commercial! Sam is in the hallway chatting with the football players when Rachel walks up to talk about the kiss, which he doesn’t remember and which she wants to pretend never happened. But she still wants to get coffee with Sam, but he rejects the idea because, he says, he’s still in love with Mercedes. So Sue really is violating Sam with her mind control and making him do things he would never do normally. Ugh, show.
In the locker room, in front of other football players (leaving witnesses), Sue uses her watch to hypnotize Sam again. “That was so fast,” he deadpans. Sue is commencing Phase Two of her plan, which will involve Sam stealing bills from Will’s mailbox.
Breadstix. Again. Kurt is dressed nicely for his date, and when an older, distinguished gentleman walks up, he assumes the man is a waiter. But, nope, this is Walter (Harry Hamlin), Kurt’s internet date. “You look just like your photo!” Walter says. “And your photo definitely looks like you at some point in time,” Kurt says, stunned. Walter, it seems is “fifty *mumble* years old,” but still feels 30, so he uses a photo of himself at that age for the dating website. In fact, he was married to a woman for 33 years and has kids Kurt’s age. “I didn’t come out of the closet until last year,” he confesses. Walter swears that he’s not “deluded” or “some sort of psycho,” but the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Of course, considering Kurt’s affinity for older people, this may not be the unhealthiest relationship on the show. We’ll see. They agree to try being friends with no expectations.
Will arrives home to see Sam stealing his (Will’s) bills from the mailbox. When Will asks what is going on, Sam claims that Rachel asked him to steal the bills so that Will would have to fight with collection agencies and would not focus on Vocal Adrenaline. Will is surprised, since he and Rachel are on friendly enough terms for her to ask him to throw a competition and for him to agree to it. Sam says that Rachel blames Will for her failed career, and also for the time she broke her nose, the time she sang "Run Joey Run" and also for Boko Haram. “I don’t even know what the last one is,” Sam adds before leaving. Will looks mad, and I wonder what happened to the funny, satirical show I used to love so dearly. When did it get so mean? Come on, Ian Brennan. Why are you making the characters do such awful things to one another?
Okay, final scene. Let’s get through this. Vocal Adrenaline and the Warblers (who seem to have spent the last week in the McKinley auditorium) are gathered again to finally, finally perform at the Invitational. Will, changing his mind from earlier in the episode, tries to inspire his students to greatness and victory again, acknowledging that his loyalty had been “tempted” by his former students. “Vocal Adrenaline has always been the team to topple,” he declares, and tries to give the kind of pep talk he used to give the Old New Directions back in the day. But the VA kids refuse to circle up or show him any support. “We don’t like you,” one kid explains.
Sue begins the proceedings: “Please direct your blank stares to the curtain behind me. Soon it will open and there will be blood sport. Happy Hunger Games. May the odds be ever in your favor.”
And the Vocal Adrenaline students launch into the B-52s' “Rock Lobster” in full 1960s style, which is really more about dancing than singing, but whatever, it’s a fun number. The New New Directions watch in horror. Sue and Becky watch via drone-cam in Sue’s office. Becky is in a lobster costume—shout out to Patrick Stewart? I’m gonna say yes, because Patrick Stewart has been on Broadway a bunch of times and that (and the Patti LuPone reference) is as close as we’re getting to a Broadway reference in this awful mess of an episode. Vocal Adrenaline segues immediately into Devo’s “Whip It,” and Will grins at Rachel and Kurt as they realize that Vocal Adrenaline isn’t going to cut them any slack in this competition. Will even mimes cracking a whip as he looks at Rachel.
And before we get to hear the Warblers sing, the episode finally, mercifully ends, letting us all go drown our sorrows at the nearest piano bar. So this makes three episodes in a row with no showtunes. Hey, remember when Kurt and Rachel wanted to make it on Broadway and they sang lots of Broadway songs? Man, those were the good old days. I miss that show. I miss the show that knew how to be absurdist without being stupid, satirical without being mean and instructive without being preachy. I miss the fun characters. I miss the witty banter. I miss what "Glee" could have been if it didn’t get too big too fast, and if the creative team still felt like they had something to prove.
Up next on “Glee”: “The Hurt Locker—Part Two.” (Air date: Jan. 30, 2015)
“The Hurt Locker” (Air date: Jan. 23, 2015)
Brad Ellis as Brad, the Genius Pianist
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks (Jane Lynch)
“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton (Lea Michele and Chord Overstreet)
“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s (Vocal Adrenaline)
“Whip It” by Devo (Vocal Adrenaline)