The Gleecap: “Choke”

By Jon Erik Christianson • May 2, 2012 at 10:00 am


The Gleecap is a column dedicated to a recap and review of the zany antics that occur in each episode of the television show Glee. Blog posts will be released each Wednesday following an episode. Beware, there will be spoilers.

Maybe you were just lounging around, having way too much of a nice day. The sun was shining, your classes have just ended, and you managed to get a booth during lunch at the George Sherman Union.

Suddenly, you though “Dagnabbit, I’m in way too much of a good mood. I wish I could somehow fix this and be more miserable.”

Fear not, my friends, for this week’s episode of Glee will make you feel like you did in high school: depressed, confused, and really uncomfortable.

Overall Story

There’s no way to discuss this week’s themes without getting too depressing, so let’s just dive right into the individual story lines.

Thanks to popular demand, Puck has finally received another plot line! This time around, his story revolved around him, amidst singing popular rock songs, trying to uncomfortably seduce a teacher for his own ulterior motives! Wait, that sounds an awful like his lost story line that dropped completely off of the face of the Earth.

In this slightly modified version of this story, Puck needs to pass his European Geography in order to graduate high school. At first, he’s unmotivated because he’s Puck. Then he gets motivated because his dead-beat father comes around looking for money.

After hours of studying with the New Directions dudes, he fails the test.

On a brighter note, NYADA auditions have rolled into town for Kurt and Rachel. Rachel chooses to sing her go-to song “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and Kurt initially elects to sing “Music of the Night.” That is until Whoopi Goldberg (really) gives him a staredown and he decides to rip off his pants and sing a completely different song. This impresses Whoopi.

Then Rachel tanks her song and ruins her chances at attending NYADA. I lied about that “on a brighter note” bit.

The final, and by far most impressionable, story is that of Coach Beiste and the New Directions girls. After Santana makes a domestic abuse crack about Coach Beiste’s shiner, Sue and “Black Sue” punish the girls by making them sing empowering songs. After the ladies’ performance of “Cell Block Tango,” Beiste storms out of the auditorium, revealing that she actually was the victim of domestic violence.

In response, Sue orders Beiste to get out of the house, live with her, and break away from Cooter (her husband). The girls serenade Beiste. Despite everything, it is revealed (through montage) that Beiste has taken Cooter back.

Just gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling.

We wish you the best, Coach Beiste. | Photo courtesy of FOX TV

How to Abuse a Character Respectfully

The “Character” section this week has been eschewed in favor of an educational tutorial intended to guide novice writers, both professional and amateur, on “How to Abuse a Character Respectfully.”

A strong writer has to be an absolute monster to his or her characters. They will be bruised, beaten, dumped, disabled, psychologically tortured, killed, and even intentionally be put in bad wardrobe. It comes with the territory of quality writing.

Being a literary sadist, however, is not the key to writing effectively. It’s about treating your characters and their stories with dignity, all while being a literary sadist.

Coach Beiste is the perfect example of when this is not handled well.

Her only major story line this season has been her relationship with Cooter. Over the course of three episodes, she meets the guy, gets dumped by the guy for Sue, and gets married to the guy. In season two, there’s an entire episode dedicated towards teaching the audience not to make fun of people for their appearances by making the audience laugh at Beiste’s appearance.

Then, after many months of story hiatus, the Glee writers haul Beiste back out to get emotionally and physical knocked around.

Giving a character nothing but fleeting and shallow story lines over the course of two years does not justify pulling her out of character purgatory to use her as a prop for another episode’s themed PSA.

If carried out effectively, the domestic abuse segment would not come off as rushed. Over the course of 17 other episodes, there has been nothing to indicate that this was going to happen. There has been no discussion of domestic abuse before, there has been little time dedicated to Beiste, and there has been no screen time given to her actual marriage before this episode. A topic as serious as domestic abuse should have been thought of long in advance. Glee’s quick turnaround with a Whitney Houston-themed episode shows how little advance planning there is.

Case and point, the Real Housewife of Atlanta has gotten more screen time this season than Coach Beiste has.

That being said, Dot Jones did a stellar job acting in a very difficult part.

Songs

“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper: Segueing from a student aggressively hitting on a teacher to an upbeat rock song is, and was, clunky and strange. Opening aside, the song was pretty decent. The non-challenging vocals were handled well by Puck, and the visual performance was moderately entertaining. That’s about all.

“Cell Block Tango” from Chicago: Watching “high school” students dance around in their underwear and quite visibly doing the “spread eagle” (I’m looking at you, Tina) is pretty darn awkward. The vocals were strong, but they were unfortunately not quite as powerful or nuanced as those in either the original Broadway version or the movie version. Tina’s voice acting was mediocre, as was the general performance.

“Not the Boy Next Door” from The Boy From Oz: “Then the underage boy ripped off his pants to reveal his gold, sparking, skin-tight trousers. Performing for an audience that included his teacher and brother, he proceeded to gyrate those hips like he’s never gyrated before” should NEVER accurately describe any high school performance. Ever. That being said, the vocals were impressive and well-suited for his voice.

“The Rain in Spain” from My Fair Lady: My Gleecap notes summarize this well enough (picture them in all caps): “What is going on? Where am I? Drugs? Are these what drugs feel like? This is like Schoolhouse Rock, but on crack. Who will buy this song? Help me. I’m in an alternate dimesion.”

“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine: This is, by far, the most impressive song of the episode. Both Santana and Tina’s voices carry the song beautifully, each carrying their own version of soul and sweetness. The Beiste montage was terrifying, yet touching.

“Cry” by Kelly Clarkson: The show needs to give up on the “Rachel Singing a Solo While Sobbing” bit. They’ve done it a thousand times and it’s the same story each time. Her voice is impressive, she makes a particular crying face, and there’s little variation.

One-Liners

“Sure I might not graduate, but gowns are for ladies and tassels are for strippers.” – Noah “Puck” Puckerman

“And yes, I have fantasized about slapping each and every one of you across the face with a sturdy, wet fish.” – Sue Sylvester

“You girls are cray cray. You were supposed to pick a song that gave women the self-esteem and courage to get the hell out of an abusive situation, but oh no, you pick a song about crazy women, in their panties, killing their men for chewing gum!” – Coach Roz Washington

Overall Score

Take the always-uncomfortable Puck story line, mix it with a wonky handling of domestic abuse and a bunch of mediocre songs and strange performances to get an ultimately disappointing episode. Credit is deserved, however, for “Shake It Out,” Dot Jones’ acting performance, and Rachel Berry’s hysterical opening facial expression montage.

“Choke:” C+


Jon Christianson (COM/CAS '14) is the zany, misunderstood cousin of The Quad family. His superpowers include talking at the speed of light, tripping over walls, and defying ComiQuad deadlines with the greatest of ease. His lovely copyeditors don't appreciate that last one. If for some reason you hunger for more of his nonsense, follow him at @HonestlyJon on Twitter or contact him at jchristianson@buquad.com!



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