Glee Review: Well, Cheesus Christ.
In “Grilled Cheesus,” Kurt’s dad, Burt, has a heart attack caused by an arrhythmia, and is in the hospital unconscious. Kurt, who doesn’t believe in God, is nevertheless gifted with prayers by Glee. Eventually, Mercedes takes him to her church, and he enjoys the music, but doesn’t really change his belief system or anything like that. And I understood him perfectly, cause it’s pretty much how I felt watching this episode; as I said last week, Glee‘s a fun show to watch, but I’m hard-pressed to find anything meaningful in the experience of watching it. Like Kurt in those pews, I can appreciate the show, but walk away unmoved.
The best parts of this episode were part of a reoccurring gag involving Finn and a grilled cheese sandwich bearing a Jesus-shaped burn on the crust. Yes, folks, meet “Cheesus.” Finn asks Cheesus to win his first football game, then to touch Rachel’s boobs, and then to become quarterback. He gets all three. But then Emma spoils it all by telling him it was all coincidence — Cheesus isn’t real. So Finn loses his religion. It’s almost affecting, because Finn sings it with the kind of disaffected tone that gives me early 90s flannel shirt flashbacks, which was a nice ambivalence that could have felt interesting as compared to Glee‘s usual, well, glee. Except it wasn’t really earned, because his faith wasn’t so much tested, as talked out of. Sort of felt like Murphy & Co. were in a rush to get this character from A to B, and Finn’s final number just didn’t carry enough emotional weight.
Rachel gets a number, of course. She and Mercedes and Quinn want to take turns praying at Burt’s side. She offers up “Papa Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl. And I can’t enjoy it because all I can think about is the episode of Will & Grace when Jack is looking for his biological father and keeps singing verses of “Papa Can You Hear Me,” or the movie In & Out when Kevin Kline’s character gets indignant when told that Barbra Streisand was too old for Yentl. Wow — I never quite realized until I wrote that sentence just how gay “Papa Can You Hear Me?” really is.
Sue’s role this week is to make a fuss that Will is letting them sing about Cheesus in Glee. Something about public school, no establishment of religion, blah blah blah, the country is not a monarchy, “trust me, I’ve tried,” says Sue. Sue poo-poos God because as a child she prayed for her sister, with no results. So Will puts an end to the God song theme, but after Puck does “Only the Good Die Young” and Mercedes sings “I Look To You.” Neither song has an impact on me — they both feel like set pieces. Further, isn’t “Only the Good Die Young” really about sex? Not seeing the connection to Cheesus, there.
Following a visit to Mercedes’ church (where “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is sung with a black gospel choir (and really, wasn’t it only a matter of time before we saw Mercedes sing with a black gospel choir?)), Kurt realizes that though he doesn’t believe in God, he believes in his Dad. He tells Burt this during a tearful, near-final scene in the episode, and his dad lies unconscious, but then squeezes his hand. Saved!
And our last song is “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. It’s another set piece, with Glee all in white on a big stage. Sue sees the performance, but won’t report it, because a conversation with her developmentally disabled sister allows her the belief that God doesn’t make any mistakes. Like Finn’s religious transition, this abrupt change of character also feels unearned.
Okay, Glee, I wanted you to get ideas, but I’m thinking I asked for too much. You tried to tackle a big, deep theme this week, and I was bored senseless. Stick with the silly; it looks better on you.
For another opinion on this episode, check out All hail the Grilled Cheesus by Stephanie Jaar.
Season 2, Episode 3: Grilled Cheesus (originally aired October 5, 2010)
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