‘Glee’ recap: ‘First Time’ jitters, but love conquers all
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Teen sex has factored into ‘Glee’ plot lines from the very first season, as the New Directions couples have combined and recombined -- Finn and Quinn, Quinn and Puck, Rachel and Finn, Rachel and Puck, Artie and Tina, Tina and Mike, Artie and Brittany, Kurt and Blaine, Santana and pretty much everyone, etc. -– to get it on or not, as the case may be. So it’s kind of odd -– though, of course, completely unsurprising -– that conservative watchdog group the Parents Television Council decided to gripe specifically about Tuesday night’s episode, ‘The First Time.’
Sure, the episode tackled the topic of teen sex in a very overt way: Artie, who has come into his own directing the school musical, ‘West Side Story,’ tells Rachel and Blaine that, as virgins, they are ill-equipped to tap into the emotions of their sexually awakening characters, Maria and Tony (which is of course ridiculous, but whatever) -- and so Rachel and Blaine are launched on a quest to unload said virginity before opening night. But really, ‘The First Time’ turned out to be far more nuanced, gentle-hearted and romantic than it sounds –- much more about love than about sex.
Factoring into ‘The First Time’s’ sweetness:
Artie’s new confidence: Artie’s growing and maturing before our very eyes, shepherding the student musical to greatness -– and helping Coach Beiste find love. For a moment, just before curtain time, his confidence seems to falter; he feels like a fraud. But then, surrounded by the support of his cast, he gives a wonderful speech about how they have helped him feel like a ‘grown man.’ Aww, Artie!
Coach Beiste’s romantic interest: Poor Coach Beiste. She’s got such a tender heart underneath that tough exterior -- and that heart beats particularly quickly around Ohio State recruiter Cooter Menkins. Turns out, Cooter likes Coach Beiste too, but she’s serially rebuffed his efforts to ask her out on a date because she cannot believe a guy like him, who could get ‘any girl,’ would be interested in someone like her. Cooter tells her he doesn’t date girls, but rather beautiful women like her. Aww, Coach Beiste!
Mike’s standoff with his dad, and moment with his mom: Mike Chang’s conflict with his dad comes back with a bang. Mr. Chang shows up to confront Mike: He wants him to quit the school musical, abandon his dreams of becoming a dancer, and work toward pursuing more conventional avenues of success. Mike refuses, and his father disowns him. But come opening night, who is in the audience? Mike’s adoring mother, face aglow with love for her son. Makes me tear up just thinking about it. Aww, Mike!
Tina’s take on love: When Rachel calls a meeting with the girls of New Directions to discuss her plan to have sex with Finn, things get off to an unpromising start: Quinn thinks Rachel should wait to have sex because it may open her up to a world of regret. Santana thinks Rachel should wait because Finn is crappy in bed. Then Tina speaks up, movingly. Her first time -– with Mike, this summer, after much consideration -- was wonderful: gentle, meaningful and loving. ‘It was right. It wasn’t rushed. It was amazing,’ she says, ‘He’s my first love, and I’ll always look back at that moment as absolutely perfect. No regrets.’ Aww, Tina!
Blaine’s commitment to Kurt (and Kurt’s to Blaine): Blaine and Kurt, so in love, are waiting for the right time to have sex. But now that Artie’s planted a bee in Blaine’s bonnet, he’s wondering if the right time might be now. Enter a worldly new Warbler, Sebastian, who has eyes for Blaine, inviting both Kurt and Blaine out to a nearby gay bar (where, by the way, bully-turned-'bear cub’ Dave Karofsky surfaces!). The night ends with Blaine, drunk, trying to deflower Kurt in the backseat of a car. When Kurt refuses, Blaine walks. But the adoring duo soon make up -– and decide (together) to take the next step physically. ‘You take my breath away,’ Kurt says, taking our breath away. We eventually see them lying together on a bed: nose to nose, knee to knee. Aww, guys!
Rachel and Finn’s big moment: When Rachel shows signs that she’s ready to have sex with Finn, whose folks are out of town, he takes pains to set the mood: cooking her dinner, buying a Sarah Lee pound cake, lighting a fire, procuring condoms (with no help from Puck). But because he cares about Rachel, who has previously said she was holding out until she’d won a Tony (great Rachel line: ‘A People’s Choice would have got you to third base’), Finn asks her why now. (He’d been saving up for a hotel room so that their first time would be really special.) Rachel lets slip that she wants to ‘get this done’ before ‘West Side Story’s’ opening night, and Finn recoils. Motivation and context are important to Finn, it turns out. But after Tina makes her case for love and with opening night behind her, Rachel returns to Finn, offering him comfort when he reveals his college football dreams have been crushed (another great Rachel line: ‘Your dreams are not dead; you’ve just grown out of them. We have to find new ones’). She tells him he’s special, because she’s going to give him something no one else will ever get. (OK, that Rachel line was not so great.) But then we see them -– juxtaposed with similar scenes of Blaine and Kurt -– knee to knee, eye to eye. Aww ...
So there we have it -- an episode, yes, about sex (teen sex, gay sex), but really about love, the kind that comes with flowers and thoughtfulness and music swelling in the background. And while ‘Glee’ doesn’t have to teach young watchers anything, if it teaches them that sex can be meaningful, and that the first time can be magical, well, that’s something not to protest, but to celebrate.
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-- Amy Reiter