We pick up in the hangover of “Part One,” as Vocal Adrenaline shuffles offstage and Sue announces new rules for the rest of her sham Invitationals. “You can’t change the rules after one team has already performed,” somebody protests. It doesn’t matter who. Nothing matters. Sue replies, “Sure, I can,” and that’s that. “The Hurt Locker, Part Two” can’t even be bothered to catch the baton.
Here’s how arbitrary this is. The goal for the glee clubs is to win, even though Invitationals is really just a practice competition that has no bearing on the actual tiered tournament and is in fact a remarkably unfair test that according to “Part One” weighs heavily on the fragile little egos of the McKinley students. When Sue changes the rules, Kurt says they should boycott, to which Sue threatens to kidnap him. That’s enough for these idiots. Okay, they’ll compete. The competition is now taking place over three days, so that the timing of all the subplots works out. Good planning, Sue! Rachel’s concerned about having enough members, which is how you know this is self-parody; that’s even the plot of the Glee cold open in the Emmys. That leads to Kitty joining the team, and Kitty comes with access to Sue’s password-protected playlist of songs that make her (Sue) emotionally vulnerable. So that was a freebie. Those songs become the New Directions set list, and they make Sue cry. She in turn honors that response by awarding the New Directions first place, even though this was all a sham to destroy them and the only judge is Sue and the only rubric is whatever Sue wants at any given moment.
And remember how this whole thing started? Sue’s “once and for all” talk started when Will forgot to throw away an unused plastic fork. Well, at the end Sue tells us the songs that made her emotionally vulnerable purged her of anger, and in the next breath she threatens to destroy Will if he ever litters again. Even playing by rules of the Christopher-Nolan-style emotions-as-an-engineering-problem script, “The Hurt Locker, Part Two” ultimately just does whatever the fuck it wants.
For example, Sue hypnotizes Sam repeatedly. Now he’s into Rachel maybe? Who knows if that will continue past this episode. Everyone forgot about Sam’s programming. Sue’s actual plan for now was just to thaw the ice between Kurt and Blaine. So she locks them in an elevator for at least a day. The other parts of her big plan in “Part One” are to destroy Will and break Rachel’s heart. Whether or not she considers giving Vocal Adrenaline second place “destroying Will” is an open question, but “Part Two” doesn’t even remember that there were two other parts to the plan to begin with. When she hypnotizes Sam again, it’s to deliver a terrible set list to Rachel. Sue’s only—and please brace yourselves because we’ve never tested this word under so little weight—real goal is to reunite Klaine. So she crashes a date between Kurt and Walter. Yes, they’re dating. Even though last week they agreed to be just friends. And on the other side, Sue’s already revealed that Blaine and Karofsky are third cousins. No judgments, but can we all at least acknowledge that that revelation happened? That it has some bearing on the world of Glee, even if it’s just that Blaine and Karofsky don’t care? Better yet, what if Glee gave us a single reason to think Blaine would be interested in Karofsky beyond Stockholm syndrome?
The aggressive dissonance might be fascinating if the episodes weren’t so boring. The whole time you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not in the sense of Sue revealing that she hasn’t actually changed; we never even knew her as a faux changed individual. No, I’m talking about a deeper feeling, the sense that all this is happening at face value on a show that lives for irony. You spend the episode wondering what the catch is. Is this really happening? Did the New Directions really give the first song to Johnny-come-latelies Kitty and Spencer? (I’m tired of calling him Postmodern Gay, and I’m still not positive they’ve ever said his name on the show and have no desire to investigate, but it’s Spencer.) Are Kurt and Blaine really stuck on an elevator? Did I just hear, “I’m a senior. This matters to me,” come out of the mouth of a man who is clearly older than Will?
“The Hurt Locker” is Glee flaying off its skin and showing us its bones. Every time Sue insists that Kurt and Blaine are endgame, that’s the kind of self-conscious shock that makes you think about what’s going on here. Kurt and Blaine are clearly meant to be in the context of the show. But now that Sue’s the one pulling the strings, are we still rooting for them to wind up together? Is this laying the groundwork for a surprisingly mature ending where high school romance is not the end-all, be-all of one’s dating life and in fact human existence? By the end of the episode, the answer is you’re overthinking it.
Why does Rachel care about this bullshit contest? Why won’t Kurt and Blaine just fake a kiss already? Why doesn’t Sue lie about which team she preferred? Why did the chicken cross the road? Because that’s what a writer wrote.
- There is one thing I loved. On the elevator with a bathroom that Kurt and Blaine spend the episode in, there’s a Saw puppet dressed like Sue that comes out on a tricycle and speaks in that scary robot voice. Every time it speaks, I laughed. The best moment is at the end, when Kurt and Blaine agree to do a stage kiss just so Sue will release them. They decide to count down, and suddenly the puppet, who we didn’t even know was there yet, starts counting. Good joke. That, or a starving man’ll eat anything.
- Here’s Rachel on Kitty and the New Mutants: “I never even learned her name. Or any of their names. There was Puck’s brother, and then there was cross-dressing Mercedes, and the one with the fat mom, and, whatever, Raider.” So for those counting, “cross-dressing Mercedes” is acceptable for a laugh just two weeks after that heartfelt scene in which Beiste comes out as transgender. I’m starting to think there is a method here: to embody all the worst things Glee’s critics have said about it. A last-ditch double bird from each of the writers.
- Walter: “When you’re as handsome as I am, very little bothers you.”
- Remember how Spencer was a postmodern gay, and nobody on the team gave a shit that he was gay? Guess who’s changed his tune. “If they smell just a little bit of gay on me, I’m not their teammate anymore. I’m just another homo.” I don’t think I ever truly understood the lyric in “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” where she sings, “I say, ‘I hate you,’ we break up, you call me, ‘I love you,’” until now. I’m with Taylor. This is exhausting.
- Speaking of gayness, could the Warblers be any less interesting? I’ve never understood why the Warbler choreography isn’t flamboyantly homoerotic. At least then they’d have my attention. Even Sue agrees, and remember, Sue is suddenly obliged to give her honest critiques here. “In third place, and just not doing a very good job at all, ladies and gentlemen, from Dalton Academy, the Warblers.”
- “Becky, this space feels more like somebody’s memory of a storage unit, and that memory is fading.” Okay I laughed at that too.