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The fourth season of Fox’s “Glee” has been a rollercoaster for fans — new (often unlikeable) characters have been introduced, old favorites have left (at least temporarily, it seems) and so for their episode “Thanksgiving,” which aired the week after the holiday, “Glee” attempted to rekindle some of the spark of its earlier seasons by bringing all the graduated seniors into the episode (though Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, and Rachel, played by Lea Michele) stayed in Manhattan). This, in theory, seemed like a good idea and led to a nostalgic opening number, but the episode on the whole felt forced and unfunny.

The episode begins with the return of Quinn (Dianna Agron) and the rest of the alumni (with the noticeable exception of Rachel and Kurt) singing “Homeward Bound/Home,” a Simon & Garfunkel/Phillip Phillips mash-up. The song was pretty, if a little flat energy-wise, and it was a nice, generically “Glee” way to show the old classmates’ reunion. One thing that definitely seemed off about the performance, however, were the costumes. Quinn was in her typical, late-season three garb, but Santana (Naya Rivera) was wearing a cocktail dress, and Finn (Cory Monteith) donned a Mr. Schuester-esque sweater. They’ve been out of high school less than a year — is it really plausible that they’re wearing anything but sweatpants on their first trip home?

Later, Finn (who has taken over the Glee club in Mr. Schue’s absence) introduces the alumni as heroes and icons, which felt incredibly condescending. Most of the members of the current Glee club were in last year’s Nationals-winning group — Artie (Kevin McHale) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) were original members. This story arc might have made sense in a year or two, but in this case it just felt odd.

Finn also paired up old members with current ones as mentors, which was strange — how much mentoring can they do in the three to five days they’re home for Thanksgiving? Either way, it brought out the best and the worst in the returning characters. Santana was partnered up with Marley (Melissa Benoist), and took on a sweet, mother-hen type of quality, while maintaining her typical brashness. Quinn, on the other hand, was paired with Kitty (Becca Tobin), whose unadulterated hero-worship of her head-bitch predecessor was so over the top that it was uncomfortable to watch — it also completely fools Quinn into thinking Kitty is a sweet girl, though she is in fact a terrible human being who has been encouraging Marley to develop an eating disorder.

This led to a fight between Quinn and Santana, in which Quinn returned to her first season, old-school bitch cheerleader persona, and Santana was, well, Santana. Santana accused Kitty of causing Marley’s eating disorder, and Quinn (in typical Quinn fashion) retorted with accusing Santana of being jealous of Quinn’s life at Yale. This was perhaps the oddest transition yet in “Glee,” a show not exactly known for its subtlety. Quinn is apparently in a secret society at Yale and dating a professor that smokes a pipe, to which Santana reacts the way probably most viewers did: with a big “whoop-de-do.”

“Wow, Twitter update! Quinn is all excited about another guy defining her life,” she said. “Did Professor Patches teach you that one in between quickies on his couch? Does he get so turned on by teen moms who barely visit their kid?” The slap that follows may have been deserved, but Quinn had been so obnoxious the entire episode, it was hard not to root for Santana in the blowout of the bitches.

As far as the new characters go, none of them were in particularly fine form this episode. Kitty was her normal awful self, apparently having given Marley laxatives in her latest attempt to ruin the girl’s self confidence and relationships. Jake (Jacob Artist) and Ryder (Blake Jenner) iron out their battle for Marley’s affections the good old fashioned way — by deciding which one is going to date her without ever consulting her on it. So really old fashioned, then.

Marley in general just felt like a plot device — she opened the rift between Quinn and Santana (indirectly), she was the cause of the rift between Jake and Ryder that was resolved in this episode and she passed out onstage because of her eating disorder (that was pretty much caused by Kitty constantly calling her fat and telling her how to correct it). She has very little agency in the show and very little personality past “nice girl who is always being picked on.” Overall, she’s a complete throwaway character at this point.

In the New York City storyline, things were much less exciting, if infinitely more adorable. Rachel and Kurt, who have decided not to return home for the holiday, decide to have an “orphan Thanksgiving,” with Brody (Dean Geyer), Rachel’s love interest, and Kurt’s boss Isabelle (Sarah Jessica Parker). Brody and Rachel engage in their usual sexual tension-filled interactions, and Isabelle sends over drag queens and other wonderfully entertaining people before she arrives. They performed “Let’s Have a Kiki/Turkey-Lurkey Time,” a Scissor Sisters/“Promises, Promises” mash-up, which was adorable, if not musically awe-inspiring. These scenes mostly seemed to be written in as a reminder that the New York storyline exists, although there was a short but sweetly sad phone call between Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) hinting at a reunion over Christmas.

The “Thanksgiving” episode was odd in that it might have been  good, had the writers not made almost every character in the Ohio storyline so implausibly unlikable. Though many were excited about the return of Quinn (the last of the old members to make an appearance), she has turned into a stuck-up, cruel shadow of her high school self after about half a semester in college, and might as well have just stayed away for all she contributed. Maybe the show will recover in the upcoming episodes, but if not, it might be time to say goodbye to “Glee.”

Howard is a member of  the class of 2013.


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