Glee, Actually was a combination of completely bonkers moments alongside stunningly touching ones, and it totally worked for me.
Five different narratives (all with the thread of love running through them) took us around the characters, before coming together on Christmas Eve.
First up was Artie, and it was good to see him as the centre of attention for once. Watching him wheel himself down the hallway at McKinley with a massive graze on his face and bruised knuckles broke my heart, and for a moment I thought we were back in season one and some bullies had chucked him in a dumpster. Instead, Artie had injured himself falling out of his chair on the ice, leading to bitter feelings about being in a wheelchair.
Falling asleep, he went into an alternate universe where he was never in a wheelchair and Rory (hey, where have you been?) acted as his guide. With Artie no longer in a wheelchair the whole of McKinley had changed. There was no glee club, Kurt hadn’t graduated because he spent so much time off school because of bullying, Finn, Puck, Mike et al were all doing the bullying, Tina still had a stutter and so on. The highlights were Will Schuester, who was a drunk and still married to Terri, who was parading around a plastic doll and pretending it was a baby (welcome back Terri, I missed your brand of crazy); and Kurt’s “Who’s Blaine?” when Artie asked him where Blaine was. The crash of music after that question showed us that everyone’s a fan of Kurt and Blaine.
In a bid to bring everyone together Artie sang Feliz Navidad, which didn’t work (no big surprise there). Heading back into the hallway at McKinley Artie spotted an empty wheelchair, which Rory told him belonged to Quinn, who died of a broken heart. While I don’t quite understand this, it was enough for Artie to get back in the chair in his dream world, and wake up in the real world realising life is not so bad.
Kurt’s storyline was easily the most touching and compelling, and full of so many different emotions. In New York for Christmas, he was surprised by his dad, who seemingly came to just spend time with him, but also to say he had prostate cancer. Burt having cancer came out of nowhere for me, but I thought it was perfectly handled. The telling, the reactions, the underlying expression on Kurt’s face during the rest of the scenes we saw him in were all very realistic.
Burt continues to prove himself the perfect father. Turning up in New York he first brought the thing to help make Kurt’s Christmas Christmassy – a real tree. And then he brought the things that make a Hummel Christmas – Kurt’s mother’s decorations, the traditions that father and son share like drinking hot chocolate and exchanging one present on Christmas Eve. And then, after telling Kurt that he had cancer, Burt brought out the one thing he knows will help Kurt through this time – Blaine. Is there a father on television who knows his son better that Burt knows Kurt?
Kurt and Blaine’s interactions were perfectly nuanced, and it’s a tribute to Chris Colfer and Darren Criss that they can say so much with their facial expressions.
Both showed that uncertainty at seeing each other for the first time since they reconnected. On Kurt’s side there was the fact that he still hasn’t completely forgiven Blaine, although he is well on his way. However, Kurt is still caught in that dilemma of loving Blaine and being incredibly hurt by Blaine, and he doesn’t know what to do with it. We could see it in every interaction the two had – the guilt Kurt feels for being happy to see Blaine when he’s still not forgiven him, the move towards a kissing position during White Christmas (the whole song was super cute and full of feels), the cautiousness with which Kurt treated Blaine, the mix of happiness and something else that Kurt greeted Blaine’s announcement about NYADA. Kurt is still working out where he and Blaine go from here.
On the other hand, Blaine knows exactly what he wants, even though he’s nervous about how Kurt will treat him (“You are happy to see me, right?”). Every look he threw Kurt’s way was full of love (all the awards for Best Puppydog expression go to Criss), but also the knowledge that he and Kurt will never go back to how they were before. Even if they get back together, it won’t be the same (Blaine may not know this yet but it will be better since they’ll both have grown up and be more self-aware). For the moment, Blaine’s plan is to just be there for Kurt, and it’s a good plan. He’s determined to make himself a part of Kurt’s life, although he won’t force himself into the role, evidenced when he asked for Kurt’s permission to apply to NYADA. I believe that Blaine just wants to be there so he can be in Kurt’s life in any way he can, even if it is just friends. Still, Blaine continues to look at Kurt like he’s the best thing he’s ever seen, and Kurt just has to decide what to do with those looks.
While Blaine, Kurt and Burt were negotiating their own little New York Christmas, Puck was back at McKinley to persuade brother Jake to go on a road trip to LA with him to see his fabulous life. After trekking it all the way out there and singing Oh Hannukah (at least Puck remembers he‘s Jewish even if Rachel never does) around the Paramount lot, Jake discovered Puck wasn’t living the life and persuaded him to come back to Ohio. There, the two took their mums to Breadstix and after some initial sniping the two women, thanks to their sons, realised it was the boys’ father who was to blame for their woes. Cue happy extended family coming together.
In the most bonkers storyline of all, Sam and Brittany decided to get married because the Mayan calendar said the world was ending. Bieste carried out the ceremony, and Sam and Brittany decided to tell everyone what they really thought of them before they died. After December 21 passed with the world still existing, the pair discovered they weren’t really married (Bieste is so cunning), but felt bereft because now they had nothing to aim for. In a great moment in a wacky storyline, Bieste made a buzzing sound and told Brittany and Sam she’d had a Google alert about the world ending in 2014, giving them two more years to continue being honest with everyone. Here’s a challenge for Glee’s continuity department – if the show is still going in 2014, will the writers revisit this plot?
And finally, we saw Marley and her mum, who were facing a minimalist Christmas because all their money would be going on getting Marley a therapist to help with her eating disorder (even though it was Marley’s mum who put her on a diet a few episodes ago). Cue Sue, who having got Marley’s mum in the staff secret Santa, decides to do something good by breaking into their house and leaving a tree and presents and cash.
As a thank you, Marley and the glee club sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to Sue, intercut with scenes of Jake and Puck, Sam and Brittany, and Kurt and Blaine all singing the song in their little corners of Ohio/New York.
And so, it was a very, very, merry, merry Christmas for all.
Burt for dad of the year – enough said.