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"And with you in it, a wonderful life."

This is review post 1 of 3 I've been working on concurrently in the background without thinking about much of anything else. Think of this as a scheduled queue which auto-publishes when things are done instead of at a set time. I'm not really here.

Friendly reminder that I had even more opinions littered in my spoiler spec at the end of this post, if you skipped those before.

Glee 4x21, "Wonder-ful"
Before I say anything, I just want to remind you the episode started with Rachel calling up Mr. Schue so they could gush at each other about her inspiring talent and his unflinching support and pride in her. THAT IS A THING THAT HAPPENED. VICTORY DANCE!!! My happiness only inflated upon the rumors that this was initially going to be a Finchel call. WILL/RACHEL 1, FINN/RACHEL 0 (stats do not accurately reflect episodes prior to this one). I swear that's all I've ever wanted from them.

Now: this episode was so overwhelming in the Kurt-and/or-Blaine feature department that I think it'll be sometime next year before I am able to focus on any of the other characters' storylines at all. For now, all I got are quick-hit paragraphs:

Artie: Katey Sagal is always amazing, and that scene was really sweet once Lady Poison left it, but I still think "mama's boy scared to leave home" is the real reason, and that it's the first thing it's been scared of in a while so he covered with a lie about not wanting to look ungrateful. Between her and what we've heard of his dad, Artie just might have the best parental support system outside the Hudmel household.

Mercedes: There might have been some nice callbacks to early seasons, but I stopped caring about Kurt & Mercedes' friendship right around the time he traded up to Rachel. I did not at ALL enjoy her alternately bossy/condescending (even to the peasants) attitude and self-pitying boo-hoo routine. I don't feel like buying your outrage about double standards today when none of these people deserve any significant performance opportunities yet, even on condensed Glee time.

Mike: Was a pretty good friend to everyone, but a classic example of "stuff I'll concentrate on later."

Rachel: I thought we already had the "I'm mean because I believe in you" speech, but then she proceeded to be as hateful as ever. And yet it's somehow weirder for her to still be as mean as she was scheduling the midterm when she planned to be all sunshine and encouragement at episode's end. I mean, I LOVE the sunshine and encouragement, that was one of my favorite parts of the episode, but I also feel like Rachel just got Stockholm-Syndromed. Or like I need to watch the Kate Hudson scenes as if they are part of two different timelines.

Musically speaking: I learned that as suspected, Stevie Wonder is so incredibly bland not even Glee can fix his tunes. A quick rundown --

-Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Nope. Still don't enjoy Becca Tobin's voice.

+Superstition: The best of the batch, because "YAY BLAINE AND MARLEY! ...and Mercedes," was my initial reaction, but then it turned out Marley's skinny white chick voice trying to go grungy deep just sounds horrendous - there's a reason she doesn't go for it, Mercedes! She does NOT have the powerhouse vocals, that's why I like her more than you! It would have made an amazing Mercedes/Blaine duet because this is the sort of song she's made to kill, and of course Blaine sounds good on almost anything but is especially smooth here. Then again, I like the song and my sheer adoration of Marley's voice made me inclined to listen to it more than I otherwise would have, so now under the theory of brainwashing I like it a fair bit.

-You Are The Sunshine Of My Life: I enjoyed nothing about this except the concept behind the idea*. Boring melody, insipid lyrics, and little-kid dancing/expressions/gestures that were just excruciating to look at. (*also Kurt's latest trio of swans. And Kurt gesturing for help getting out of his awkwardly leg-locked bow at the end, followed by hugging and Blaine's expression of awww)

I Wish: did someone give Jake singing lessons? He almost sounds...good?? And this is kind of catchy! But not in a way where I'm inspired to listen to it outside of context, especially if Marley's gross line is in the studio version. (But I do like the dancing. Can't stop wondering how much I might actually like him by this point in the season if he weren't pawing all over my princess and ruining Ryder's life in the process.)

+Uptight: FINALLY!! A Cassie July song without obnoxious lyrics OR gross dancing! Just happy, cheerful celebration that makes me wanna dance.

-Higher Ground: Don't know this song. Bored.

-For Once In My Life: Don't know this song. Bored. Yay only for Kurt & Blaine sharing a microphone at one point.

Random Other Things:
- Cannot stop replaying everything about Tina's justified snit fit. Especially how innocent and wounded Kurt sounds on "my dad has cancer." BEST. (also her -.- face in response and Blaine's pleasant "Thanks Tina." Take note, everyone, he will be your best friend but he will always ditch you in a heartbeat if he needs to take Kurt's side.)

-Kitty's response to Brittany getting early-accepted to MIT: "That can't be true."

-Kitty's every response to Mercedes being here, but especially "Would you like friiiiiies with thaaaaaat?"

-Super delighted to see that the mutual disdain between Kitty & Kurt is still going strong.

-Remember what I said about callbacks? Kurt made a lot of really sweet, sad, distressed faces over Mercedes receiving unfair treatment. Compassionate!Kurt is my favorite variety. This in particular reminded me of seasons 1 and 2, when her problems related to being single and Forever Alone.

-Favorite part of "Superstition" is Blaine putting in his strut time with the girls and then his whole face lighting up as he chases after Kurt. It's like, forget all the heavy emotional stuff or their complicated history -- just having Kurt *here* makes him feel ten times lighter and more carefree. And with that, I segue!

KURT + BLAINE
I. Opening voiceover
'Scuse me while I break a little bit over "he was the only thing that got me through my mom dying."

But, dear fandom: we know there's a difference between OCD and irrational superstition, right? I don't understand why we think a lifelong condition of Kurt's has suddenly been revealed. When someone says "I'm getting a little OCD" in a casual tone like that, they are aware of their suddenly abnormal behavior and the false sense they're giving themselves that their actions offer them control over fate - they're not saying, "oh my, the stress is causing my actual psychiatric condition to flare up." I feel like that should be especially clear contrasted with Emma...? Regardless, I think it makes an interesting personality quirk for dealing with stress, something for Blaine to pick up in their cozy future of domestic bliss and learn how to soothe, if not try to correct. On a related note, have a future-fic rec featuring Kurt's anxiety as he approaches his first precautionary screening for prostate cancer:

Faulty Manufacturing - idoltina: Kurt is unhappy about turning thirty.
Alternate link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/801992?view_adult=true
(it does have an Endless List of Warnings, which tragically almost made me skip reading the fic, but most of them are barely present. I mean, pornwise you'll reach a flyover zone near the end of part 1, but you'll have gotten all the best stuff by then and part 2 is almost perfectly safe. Yes, I mostly am writing notes to Future Me)

II. The Coffee Shop Scene: is the most important one in the whole episode to me. Aside from Blaine's horrendous attempt at what I can only assume is scoring another bros-helping-bros hookup - he's so bad at flirting when he tries! Even Kurt is like 'ugh I don't have time for this shit' - he settles himself down real quick when he realizes Kurt is back in Christmastime mode. And OK, the first time I watched this, I wasn't impressed. To me, Kurt was just radiating waves of "I am uncomfortable" every time Blaine looked at him, while Blaine remained as blissfully unaware as ever, hearts and rainbows shining out of his borderline stalker eyes. But several repeats and a lot of convincing by fandom later (why bother fighting it?)...

I love how Blaine is the only one at the table taking notice of Kurt fidgeting with the sugar packets, and particularly love his face when he realizes Kurt isn't just playing, he's actively sorting them in very specific ways. He's like 'wait you don't do that. huh?' He looks up like he's expecting a reasonable explanation, but Kurt just keeps sorting even while actively engaging in other conversation, and that's when he gets really worried (and starts finding excuses to touch him and hold his hand and alsjfalsdfjsdf...)

Seriously though, I love how Blaine doesn't make the first physical overture, but as soon as Mercedes gives him an opening...well, let me just Deluxe Transcribe.

Mercedes interrupts to gossip about the Thing At The Wedding Which Totally Never Happened. Blaine's eyes widen in alarm. "We're not together. Um, but it's cool," he says, glancing at Kurt.
Mike's more interested in knowing "Why did I hear that Tina did something to you called the vapo...?"
"OK, is that really important right now?" Kurt snaps out of nowhere, suddenly flustered and angry. "This doesn't matter."
Aha, say Blaine's eyebrows. Got you now.
Mercedes takes his hand and gives it a squeeze, promising him that everything with his dad is going to be fine. His ruffled feathers slowly flatten and relax, but damned if Blaine is going to miss an opportunity to reach across the table and hold Kurt's other hand. Or to push his luck and lay a second hand over it at the end.

I still don't know if I love their expressions at the end - I think it's supposed to show Blaine being warm and "there for him" in whatever capacity he needs, hopefully with Kurt recognizing that, but honestly it just looks like Kurt is still super uncomfortable being this close and Blaine is staring into him all, "I want to know you. Like, know your soul." This is one case where MemoryShop might need to come into play.

Update: OR PHOTOSHOP, in a different way.



III. The Waiting Room: What with Kurt's season 4 persona of being a lot more guarded, composed, and closed off with his feelings, it's kind of a relief to see him all borderline-hysterical frayed edges and coming apart at the seams again (you'd do better with an achor. I'm just sayin'). It's even more impressive to see Burt snap the same way. I just really really really love stressful situations in my fiction, apparently.

SUPER HAPPY FAMILY HUG TIME: I stand by my happiness that Monteith's absence gained us a WIll/Rachel scene and spared us some Jessica Sanchez ones, even if I missed Finn's glaringly absent presence here. Let's be real, I did not miss it that much. Why waste time inserting Finn just for a surrogate father bit (since WIll already kinda serves that role) when you could cut him out and tighten up the bonding between husband and wife, or more importantly, stepmom and stepson?

Besides the epic amount of hug combinations, I really loved Kurt and Carole huddled on the sofa together, hands tightly clutched, and how they find each other again during the group hug. One of the greatest tragedies on Glee is the insufficient amount of screen time shared between these two. I feel like they have a wonderful relationship even if they don't spend a lot of time alone together, and I want to see that even more than I want Burt/Blaine scenes.

(and I laughed extra hard at the phrase "old people sex" because Burt used that exact line in an old fic once as a way of killing any mood Kurt might be in while reminding him curfew has hit.)

[mostly irrelevant sidebar for my opinions on the mention of grandbabies]Did cringe at the mention of grandbabies, because I am of the unpopular opinion that is really invested in Klaine never having kids. Blaine would make a great dad, and I see him as someone who really wants to be one, but it's hard to think of Kurt being one, even having learned from the best. Maybe that's even why -- you can't possibly be as good at it as your father was, you'll always feel too much like a kid yourself. That, and he just seems generally high maintenance with expensive tastes. I don't want to use the negative connotations of "selfish," but I feel like he's a person who would be more focused on career, personal comforts and small luxuries with his partner rather than putting all of that into raising a family. That's what I want him to want. And the saddest thing is I want Burt to be a grandpa as much as the next person, because he's probably even better at that than fatherhood and Kurt's kids would mean more than Finn's, but I just cannot work Kurt into the equation in my head.

(for the sake of my sanity, I usually compromise by assuming he would let Blaine talk him into it when they're around 30, with Blaine all the while accepting it might never happen and that would still be OK. But I'm always happiest in universes where they stay single and fabulous. I don't even need them to have pets, and I never think that. Just each other and their friends. Maybe their friends' kids.)

--------
IV. Marriage Talk (that's in this episode too)
The embarrassment levels were off the charts in this, and it was excruciating to sit through it the first time. But I suppose it does illustrate how very young and recklessly impulsive Mr. Anderson tends to be in the pursuit of love, particularly in his indignant and defensive YES OF COURSE WE ARE TRUE LOVE responses. I love how he beams like a slightly-nervous puppy after announcing his proposal, and how long it takes his face to completely fall. I appreciate Burt's tact in not outright saying "shut it down and give my son his space, stalker," which is a thing I might have said. He says a lot of really amazing things. Even after Blaine rolls his eyes with the petulant "how do you know that, though?"

My actual favorite thing about this convo is how it parallels that one scene in Scrubs ("My Therapeutic Month") where Carla lectures Keith and Elliot about commitment and communication. Allow me to paraphrase it for this situation, sadly without the aid of Photoshop because laziness:

Burt: Why is it that when it comes to relationships, people can't take advice from someone that's already been through it?
Blaine: We're different than Finn and Rachel.
Burt: You aren't.
Blaine: We're not going to go through the same stuff they did.
Burt: You are.
Blaine: OUR LOVE IS SPECIAL.
Burt: It isn't!*
*well technically in this case it is but I can't tell you that yet

Alas, I am already so bored by marriage equality talk I can't even write about it. Maybe in the future, when I return to this scene, I will feel more like we're actually talking about a relationship instead of a political idea. But that rainbow pin irked me because I would love to wear a pin like that -- you may have noticed from my username that I like rainbows a lot -- but I don't want anyone to assume anything about my views from it. It's rude to co-opt a pretty thing like that as a symbol, rude-rude-rude. (but adorable of Blaine to give it to him with that earnestly hopeful expression)

V. Final Scene: OK, maybe this is my actual favorite part because there's no more discomfort. I love Blaine boldly gathering all his courage, and then chickening out. The brief stutter was a nice touch. And Kurt practically batting his eyelashes -- be flirtier, kid. I love all the warmth and encouragement, whatever he was expecting Blaine to say (I don't know if I think he was necessarily expecting to be asked on a romantic date -- just more than a simple request for him to stay. It could have been anything from working on a duet for old times' sake to asking for a place to stay while he visited NYADA). Them walking arm in arm and Blaine humming "with you in it, a wonderful life" made me very, very, very happy. You know, until the finale shut the door in our face and served us with shunning papers.

BONUS FIC REC:
the-multicorn, "Days of Silence, Grow Strong": Kurt and Blaine were talking on the phone, and now they’re not.  [Bits of canon fill-in from “I Do” to “Wonder-ful.”] It does a really great job of explaining Kurt's relative on-screen absence from Blaine's life, how the crush on Sam came back to the forefront, and what happened with Adam.
~~~~~~~~~~~
In conclusion: there was an insane amount of stuff going on in that episode, and a HUGE focus on my favorites, and yet I still don't really feel like I...connected with it? I just felt overwhelmed and a degree or two removed from everything that was happening.

Up next: I keep forgetting I've still only watched like 60% of the finale; on First Listen Sunday I fell in love with two competition songs, then after it aired I started with the klaine-edits version and proceeded to spoil myself for the rest on Tumblr, and only started actually watching the rest of it yesterday.

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