February 8, 2012

Episode Review: GLEE, "The Spanish Teacher"

Usually, I can pick out the good moments that exist in an overall bad episode of Glee, but that was harder to do this time around. While "The Spanish Teacher" did have some redeemable moments, it was probably one of my least favorite installments on this show, and it posed some serious questions that the show runners have to address before it's too late.

Apparently, it's taco day at McKinley so Mr. Schue decided that this would be the perfect time for him and some of the glee boys to give his Spanish class their rendition of "La Cucaracha," but of course it did not go over well. In fact, it was so bad that a student complained about Will, so he had to get his hand slapped by Figgins. During their meeting, Figgy let Will know that a tenure spot opened up and that he would need to shape up if he wanted the job security that came along with the title.

The way Schue decided to improve was to actually learn Spanish, so he took night courses where he met David Martinez who told him that people can pick up a foreign language faster via song. This revelation led to the glee assignment of the week: everyone had to perform a song by a Latin artist, or contained Spanish, or was remixed to include Spanish, or something. It became clear that Will's motivations were out of panic, ego and not in the best interest of his students. After he butchered "A Little Less Conversation" in an authentic matador costume (with Mike and Brittany running around like bulls), Santana admitted that she complained about Will because he didn't bring the same passion to Spanish as he did to glee club. Will realized that he was teaching for all the wrong reasons, it was the only position available at the time, so he stepped aside and let David take over Spanish.

I still struggle with Will's character and how he has been treated through out the show's run. "The Spanish Teacher" once again brought out all of his worst qualities, and he was still not redeemed by episode's end. Sure, he apologized to Emma for being a jerk, and he did the "honorable" thing by letting David take over Spanish, but all of his actions felt insincere which contradicted the earnestness that the scenes required. What's unfortunate is the fact that these confusing actions have dominated every one of Will's story lines since Season 1.

Misguided motivations aside, what really confuses me about Will is his role on the show. He's supposed the entry point for the audience, and he's also supposed to be one of the more relatable characters on the show, which is why I find myself torn. On one hand, Will's supposed to be a well-meaning teacher who should always have his students' best interests at heart, but he's not supposed to be perfect, and he has the same insecurities and fears that we all have. He's supposed to a flawed man who's trying to grasp at what little happiness he has left, and when a man becomes desperate he will do desperate things, but these moments of hopelessness have come to define Will. The thing is, I don't need Will to be perfect, and he needs to mess up every once in a while, but he also has to be someone I root for, and that's something I haven't been able to do for some time now. If Glee wants to rotate the students in and out, and have the teachers be the focal point, then the writers need to fix Will fast.

Will was not the only adult with a questionable plotline during this episode. For some reason Sue thought that the one thing that was missing from her life was a child. After visiting the local sperm bank, she came to the conclusion that there were not any suitable donors, so she solicited some of the New Direction guys for samples. When that didn't work, she then asked Will for some of his little guys, but Emma stood up for her man's stuff. Not only was Sue after a baby, but she too wanted tenure, but someone also complained about her coaching style, which led to a bout with insecurity after the synchronized swimming coach made it known that she was after her job. Much like Will and Santana, the student who was not happy with Sue was Becky, but she did what she did out of love and concern because Sue has been distracted as of late.

While Sue's story started out in a much weirder and inappropriate place, I did not have as much of an issue with it like I did with Will's. Yes, her need for a baby felt like it came out of nowhere, and her asking teenage students for sperm samples was not OK, but her journey during "The Spanish Teacher" was more about how rudderless she's been since she's lost Nationals, and how she needs to refocus and make a comeback. Yes, Sue's plot was similar to Will's, but the biggest difference had to do with the fact that she's already a comically excessive character, so her missteps don't resonate as loudly as Will's.

The big question I had after watching "The Spanish Teacher" was whether or not the show still needs Will and Sue, and if the writers are laying to foundation to get rid of them at the end of the season. Having Will go from teaching Spanish to History will not solve any problems, but it was clear that he's obsolete at McKinley, and the same could be said about Sue. While I don't think the show could afford to make Ricky Martin and the Housewife lady regulars next season, I could see new people replacing Will and Sue while keeping Emma around since she now has tenure. Honestly, I think I'd be OK with that move.

The rest of the episode dealt with the teenagers and their crazy love lives. Mercedes still wasn't sure if she wants to be with Sam or Shane, so Ms. Pillsbury challenged them to cut off all  communication for a week to see if their feelings change. It looked like Mercedes was about to make her choice when her real boyfriend showed up to further complicate things. Also, Rachel told Mercedes and Kurt about Finn's proposal and how she said yes, which led to a decent brotherly moment between Kurt and Finn.

At first, I was indifferent about Samcedes, and then things changed when Chord Overstreet returned to the show. I think that they have the potential to be a cute couple, but this whole "will they, won't they" is starting to wear thin. She just needs to make up her mind already. As for the Finnchel proposal, it was almost an after thought during this episode because it was used as an excuse for Kurt to give Finn that pep talk in the locker room, which was the highlight of the episode. I know that Kurt has his share of haters, but it looks like he is his father's son.

On the Music Front: Yeah, the show really dropped the ball on this one. With all of the great songs with Latin flavor out in the world, most of this week's songs didn't make a lick of sense. Heck, I would've appreciated a Ricky Martin song, but I understand why they didn't use one since that could have been confusing for some. I think I'm just going to skip this section.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • I wanted to write more about Emma's story, but it was more of a by-product of Will's A-plot that I couldn't muster too many words. I was happy that she got tenure though because she's the only teacher in that entire school who truly cares about the students first and foremost.
  • As messed up as Will is, he does seem to be self-aware enough to recognize that he's a screw up ... he just doesn't do anything to change.
  • Now that I think about it, Ricky as the full-time glee club coach would be pretty sweet. Who needs Evita?
  • Emma's Pamphlets: "So You're a Two-Timin' Ho," "So You're Dating a Two-Timin' Ho," and "Taint Misbehavin'"
  • Chord singing in Spanish was kinda cool.
  • Sue's nicer moments would land better if it weren't for her completely insane ones.
  • I can't believe "spunk" got by the FOX censors. So much for this show being family friendly.
  • Santana's verbal smackdown was both fierce and heart-felt. A rare combination for this show.
  • So, I take it we'll never see another Spanish lesson again.
  • "You're a Spanish teacher, maybe you should try learning Spanish."
  • "Oh, I'm bilingual."
  • "Ladies I appreciate you spending time with me while Blaine recovers, but why are you being all weird and serious? Our periods don't come until the end of the month."
  • "Your time isn't up Finn, it's only just beginning."
  • "Why don't you just dress up like the Taco Bell chihuahua and bark the theme song to Dora the Explorer?"
  • "Huh, lift and scrub. Who knew it was so easy?"
"The Spanish Teacher" is going to be a hard episode to defend. Everything that's wrong with Glee was front and center during this one, and I didn't get the sense that the writers are ready to fix the problems which could finally derail this show once and for all. That being said, some of the smaller moments, like the one between Kurt and Finn, almost made up for the rest of the non-sense.


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