December 13, 2011

Episode Review: GLEE, "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"

I wasn't sure if I should review "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" because it was pretty much an hour-long commercial for the cast's second Christmas album and it wasn't all that great of an episode, but it did offer enough laughs to keep me engaged for most of the run-time.

Since New Directions did so well at Sectionals (or was it Regionals? What are Regionals anyway?) their act was in high demand. Schue informed the glee clubbers that the local public access channel lost its rights to air the yule log, and it was interested in hiring them to put on a Christmas special which of course everyone was on board with except for Artie (who was asked to direct) because he felt television was selling out. Thankfully, Chewbacca visted him in a dream and convinced him to do the special as long as it paid tribute to The Star Wars Holiday Special and to Judy Garland.

Now that Artie had control over the special, he wanted to make sure that only happy Christmas songs (thanks to last year's downer Christmas) made it on air, so he vetoed Rachel's version on Joni Mitchell's "River" because it was too depressing. The newly returned Sam had issue with Artie's vision because sadness also plays a role in the holiday season, and he decided to ditch the special altogether to help Sue at a homeless shelter.

Oh yeah, for some reason Sue wanted to hire New Directions to perform while she volunteered at a homeless shelter because it was her first Christmas without her sister, but the glitz and glamour of public television was too much for the gleeks to ignore. They ended up cancelling on her in favor of the special, but Sam and Quinn decided that helping the less fortunate would put their own issues into perspective.

Honestly, my biggest gripe with "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" had to do with these two conflicting performances that New Directions committed to. First off, the idea of having a television special was a blatant attempt to squeeze as many songs into the episode as possible with the least amount of plot. Now, I wouldn't have minded this approach if they just focused on the television show instead of trying to make us care about other things that were going on, but more on that later. Had this episode been a 30-minute fake Christmas spectacular with 10 minutes of set-up and resolution, it would've played better than a 15-minute version with 30 minutes of other stuff all crammed in. That being said, there were some funny line and moments because of this storyline.

Sue's attempt at bringing holiday cheer to to the homeless confused me. Now, I know that Glee's always tried to humanize Sue, and I appreciated the effort in the past, but at this point her character's beyond redemption that her actions felt false which made them ineffective. It's just getting harder to buy that someone who would do and say such horrible things would also care about anyone else besides herself now that her sister is gone. Maybe Sue can be saved, but it'll be hard to do that if she's wasting time hatching another asinine plan to take over the world or some junk.

The other plot lines that this episode tried to introduce were hit and miss. Rory's mom was supposed to be coming to the States to visit him, but she wasn't able to because of the high price of plane tickets. Sam could relate since his folks were in Kentucky, and he volunteered to be Rory's Christmas sponsor to help him feel more at home. The new bromance was short-lived when Rory sided with Artie's vision, but he made amends by pulling off his best Linus impression instead of reciting Artie's rebooted version of "Frosty" at the end of the special.

Rory's bout with homesickness felt genuine, and I was happy that Damian McGinty had something to do. I even liked the idea of Sam and Rory bonding because of their similar situations, but I would've liked it more if the episode spent more time on these two instead of forcing "Christmas Wrapping" down our throats.

The other "storyline" had to do with Finn and Rachel. Since the holidays is the season of giving, Rachel wanted to make sure that Finn gave her the perfect Christmas present (not Hanukkah mind you,) so she put together a list of possible presents that he could pick five from. Since money's tight, and Finn realized that extravagant gifts are not a symbol of love, he decided to donate to a charity that fattened up pigs for hungry people in Africa in her honor. Of course, this didn't initially go over well, but Rachel finally learned her lesson after their trip to the homeless shelter, and she ended up being happy with her pig and the star that Finn bought for her. He even went the extra mile and got her earrings, but she felt that it was better to return them and donate the money to the Salvation Army. It's a Christmas miracle.

Usually, I can tolerate almost any flavor of Rachel that the writers need to use, but for some reason her high maintenance attitude just rubbed me the wrong way. The fact that she wanted fancy gifts from Finn didn't bother me, but the fact that we've never really seen this side of her before was jarring and upsetting. Rachel's always been a selfish person, but that fault has always sprang from her ambition, and the fact that this time around it was because she was being materialistic didn't sit well with me.

On the Music Front: I'm not going to go too much into the songs this week because they weren't anything special (although I did like Rory's "Blue Christmas,") and I couldn't get over how out of place some were, but that's what happens when you turn an episode into a commercial. Also, I cannot understand for the life of me how they could leave out Santana's "Santa Baby" yet put in "Christmas Wrapping."

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Sue's Nicknames for Blaine: "Other Gay" and "Young Burt Reynolds"
  • I loved it that Blaine actually liked "Young Burt Reynolds."
  • Man, they really had a lot of callbacks this time around. Screw you people who doubt Glee's continuity!
  • Rachel seriously said, "Brav-ho ho ho." Someone needs to be fired for that one.
  • I'm starting to care more about the fake gay couples (like Rory/Sam and Finn/Blaine) than the real straight ones. What has this show done to me?!?!
  • Man, Darren Criss and Lea Michele have crazy chemistry.
  • The Glee Holiday Spectacular was actually pretty good except "My Favorite Things" brought everything to a grinding halt, and I still cannot get over "Christmas Wrapping."
  • "Holy crap. I'm dating Kim Kardashian."
  • Rory: "I'd like to cheer myself up by dedicating this song to them, and to the King."
    Kurt: "Jesus?"
  • "Britt and her family are going on a trip to see a gay Santa. Something about Santa Fe."
  • "You gave me a dead pig for Christmas...I'm a vegan."
  • "Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang. No relation."
  • "Would it be weird if I made myself a plate?"
  • Rachel: "You named a star after me?"
    Finn: "Well, no. I thought about that, but I named it 'Finn Hudson' because there's already a star named Rachel Berry. She's right here on Earth, and she's brighter than any of those stars up there. So, I just wanted to make sure whenever she feels lonely, she can look up in the sky, and no matter where I am she can know that I'm looking down on her. When it's night time."
Again, "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" was not a particularly strong outing for Glee, but most holiday episodes tend to be the weakest of the bunch (except for Community's), so I might be willing to give it a pass. Now, on to 2012 with hopes that Season 3 can recapture the magic that made this show special to begin with. That's all I want for Christmas...and an iPhone 4S.


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