We love us some holiday TV specials. So do the Glee writers, because the majority of last night's episode was a fabulous send-up to the multi-camera studio specials of yore. Sure, this episode had nothing to do with any prior plots whatsoever, but in the spirit of charity, we'll try not to harp on that. Too much.
The episode opens (apropos of nothing) with everyone's holiday pop favorite: "All I Want For Christmas," performed by the always impressive Mercedes while she trims the Glee tree. (Does every classroom get one of these?) We loved Blaine's deep red velvet blazer, we were upset by Rachel's short, braided milkmaid updo, but mostly we were grateful that Justin Bieber didn't make an appearance.
Meanwhile, in the boys' locker room, everyone's broing out and trying to decipher what a girl might want for Christmas. Someone suggests socks. It sounds like Rory thinks "soil" is a gift, but we hope we misheard. Blaine seconds the socks idea, but we don't fault him, because if Blaine gifts socks, it would be a set of seven, in cashmere, with kicky argyle, polka dot and striped patterns.
Sue Sylvester asks that Glee club volunteer time to sing for children in a homeless shelter. The track-suited wonder explains that it's her first Christmas without her sister, and she wants to stay occupied. She adds, "I was going to shoot reindeer from a helicopter with Sarah Palin, but she cancelled." Villainnesses should really stick together, you know?
Meanwhile, Rory the Irishman is spending his first Christmas alone here in America, so he performs a heartfelt rendition of "Blue Christmas." This was well-done in a suave Michael Buble style, along with jazzy piano accompaniment. Do all Irishman lose their accents when they sing? The group thinks it was a great song, but too much of a downer for the holiday. This year's buzzword is "upbeat."
Mr Schue arrives with fabulous and inexplicable news: the local cable station has conscripted the New Directions to perform a holiday special. Artie, fresh from his West Side Story success, will be in the director's wheelchair. He makes two demands: that Chewbacca be involved, as an homage to the great Star Wars Christmas special, and that the entire program be shot in black and white, in honor of Judy Garland's holiday spectacular. "Some say she was high on pills and booze. I say she was high on the baby Jesus," Artie deadpans. Sometimes you have to sugarcoat to make it play in Lima, Ohio.
Cut to Rachel Berry sitting on a stool and singing Joni Mitchell's "River." Apparently, this song is also way too sad. Artie isn't having it - the Christmas special has to be all fun, all the time. It will conclude with Rory delivering a "reboot" of Frosty the Snowman, in which he doesn't melt. Only Sam seems to realize this is insane, and he storms out of the auditorium. Which makes us nervous: he only reappeared in the last episode. Will we ever see him again?
In the choir room Blaine and Rachel sing "Extraordinary Merry Christmas," which is upbeat, that's about all we can say about it. It's an original song, and we're guessing this was added to beef up their iTunes Christmas album a bit. Where does Blaine get his blazers? Gray Glen plaid with red elbow patches? If only we'd had that on hand at the Out holiday party.
Sue Sylvester asks if the kids can still sing for the homeless, but surprise, they're booked to do the Christmas special at the exact same time. Artie asks about rescheduling, and Sue replies, "I promised these kids." Promised them what? That you would never reschedule anything? In the end, the Glee kids forsake the homeless for public access television fame.
And now for the fun part: the Glee Holiday Spectacular!
We open in monochrome, with Blaine and Kurt breaking into a swingin' rendition of "Let It Snow." They should never stop dating, because their voices mix like vodka and cranberry. The boys run around their gorgeously appointed Mid-Century Modern house, tap-dancing and kicking, scat singing, syncopating and more. The sound stage is a near exact replica of the one Judy had in 1963. This was like a gay utopia for us.
Following that fantasia, they come to the front door and invite the cameras inside. Kurt introduces himself, and then says, "This is my, um, best friend and holiday roommate, Blaine Anderson!" [Canned laughter.] Blaine then welcomes the TV audience to "their bachelor chalet," which prompts more canned laughter, and the tongue-in-cheek gay references start flying hard and heavy after this, including a running gag about Kurt desperately wanting Elizabeth Taylor's jewels for Christmas.
Mercedes and Rachel show up with gifts: Liz's jewels for Kurt ("It's a Christmas miracle!" he says. "It's a Christmas knock-off," Mercedes replies) and a bowtie for Blaine - has the man ever worn a straight tie? Does he even know they're out there? Rachel does her best Judy Garland for this bit, and the foursome dive into "My Favorite Things." It's schlocky and fun, though Mercedes seems a bit out of place, since she can't really wail or riff with music like this.
Finn and Puck show up as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, then sing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." This did nothing for us. More importantly: where is Chewie?!
Then the Cheerios and Mike Chang arrive for a little choreography and ribbon dancing while they sing The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping." This song is completely foreign to us, but we did like the sexy Santa costumes, which sent us into reveries of Lindsay Lohan's brighter days in the Mean Girls talent show.
Rory shows up, and everyone's eager to hear the Frosty reboot, but instead he reads from the Gospel of Luke (leave it to the Irishman). You know the bit: "And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great job, for unto you is born this day..." We got goosebumps. It totally worked, maybe because we all needed a palate cleanser after 25 minutes of manufactured holiday glee and canned laughter. The camera zooms out. We feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Things only get fuzzier when we next see the Glee kids arrive en masse at the homeless shelter with a huge purple tree (because Christmas wasn't gay enough yet). They offer a whole turkey to the kids and then sing Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" We fail to see the correlation between people in Africa, and these American homeless children who certainly know it's Christmas. For God's sake there's a giant purple tree behind them. This scene felt pretty tacked on, though Sue seemed to appreciate it.
(And if you go online and order the single, all the proceeds support ONE Campaign's work against famine in Africa, so maybe you want to buy it, after all.)
Rachel, who has been dogging Finn for some fabulous Christmas presents all this time, finally relents after he gives her a sow pig, a star, and a pair of earrings. "It's too much," she says, "it's time I start giving back." So she goes and sells his gifts! And donates the proceeds to the Salvation Army! This is like a horrible thoughtless Gifts of the Magi. Poor Finn, watching all his money drop into the donation bucket.
The episode ends as Finn and Rachel join Sam and Rory ringing bells and asking for SA donations. As the camera pans out into the night sky, with the sound of bells ringing and "Merry Christmases," we finally hear Rachel say "Happy Hannukah." We know Hannukah hasn't produced a trove of holiday songs, but this is the only nod to any other faith in the whole episode, which we found a little bizarre. Glee may be pushing "the gay agenda," but they sure aren't waging a war on Christmas.
Not that we minded, especially - there was plenty of campy goodness to go around this week, and even if the feel-good conclusion sprung out of nowhere in particular, that's not exactly unusual for this show.