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'Glee' tackles religion, swallows grilled cheese

Posted by Emily Yahr

[This blog post has been updated, with video below.]

"Glee" creator Ryan Murphy is through preaching about pop tarts who empower teens. Tuesday night, the near-death of a glee club member's dad sparks debate about the existence of God in an episode with a serious lack of sparkly costumes, which will henceforth be known as Most Depressing Episode. Ever.

Finn and his grilled cheese on "Glee." (FOX/Adam Rose)

Murphy, anticipating criticism of the show's week-to-week 180-degree turn, has show baddie Sue Sylvester announce that religion talk is a no-go at school, at which Tina snaps, "Last week we were too sexy, this week we're too religious -- we can't win."

Oh, snap!

It starts innocently enough when football team/glee club hottie Finn discovers the face of Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich -- "Grilled Cheesus." He's awestruck.

Then begins The Big Wind-up to Disaster:

Glee club sweetie Kurt criticizes his dad, Burt, about his unhealthy eating habits.

Kurt and Burt get into a fight about Kurt not wanting to spend enough time with his family.

You can see it coming a mile away. In the TV industry, this is called "not subtle writing."

Burt utters the phrase, "I'm real disappointed in you."

A few short scenes later, Burt is comatose in a hospital bed after a heart attack, likely due to his daily breakfast of Coke and two Slim Jims.

The now-somber glee club kids talk about their own faith and pray for Kurt's dad the best way they know how -- through pop songs. Kurt, an atheist, is furious, but is ultimately persuaded by his fellow glee club members, particularly Mercedes, to go to church. Kurt's apparently not much of an athiest. But, to be fair, Mercedes has promised Kurt he can wear a hat to church, plus he gets to hear a great gospel version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Then Kurt returns to the hospital, just in time to have Dad squeeze his hand -- a "Glee" miracle!

As for Finn and his Grilled Cheesus, Finn used his newfound "cheesy lord" -- his words --to pray for a football win, a chance to get to second base with his girlfriend, Rachel and to be named quarterback once again. Finn is dubious, but when all of his prayers come to pass, he becomes so concerned about the power of Grilled Cheesus, he decides to eat it. And he does.

Did Finn make the right call?

Soundbite of the week:
After being told they can't tackle religion in glee club -- one week after being told their performance numbers were too sexed up:

"Now I know what Miley feels like," Brittany says.

Best performance: Puck jamming on his guitar to "Only the Good Die Young" which was, not coincidentally, the episode's most "Glee"-like number.

Set list:
"Only the Good Die Young" -- Billy Joel
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?" -- Barbra Streisand
"I Look to You" -- Whitney Houston
"Losing My Religion" -- REM
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" -- The Beatles
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- Simon & Garfunkle
"What if God Was One of Us?" -- Joan Osborne

Puck takes on Billy Joel with "Only the Good Die Young":

Rachel Berry channels Barbra Streisand in "Yentl" with "Papa, Can You Hear Me?":

Mercedes and her gospel choir rock with "Bridge Over Troubled Water":

The whole club came together for "What If God Was One of Us":

Kurt puts his own spin on "I Want To Hold Your Hand":

By Lisa de Moraes  | October 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Glee  
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It was Tina, not Santana who made the comment about being too sexy one week, too religious the next.

Posted by: abeerwinkle | October 6, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse

The story doesn't matter and this season is rubbing our noses in that fact. The singing is what matters and most of the songs were fun. The Streisand number was a bore. Nice to see different folks get the spotlight.

Posted by: gyniahouse | October 6, 2010 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Depressing? No. Serious, definitely. Profound, perhaps.

You barely skimmed the surface of this episode, which took on the mighty task of trying to find common ground for believers and nonbelievers in the context of a public school, which stands in for our secular society. I think they pulled it off surprisingly well.

The show explored contrasting ideas of what is meant by "sacred". To the believers, it is community with god. To the nonbelievers like Kurt, his dad, and Sue it is community with their loved ones.

Ultimately, the common ground was expressed in the final song "What if God Was One of Us", which brought to my mind these lines from JFK's inaugural:

"With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

When Finn ate the grilled cheesus, it was a form of communion, and he internalized the need to take responsibility for his actions towards others.

By the way: Kurt's rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a tribute to his talent, the writers' imagination, and The Beatles seemingly unlimited ability to inspire as well as entertain.

Posted by: newtonwhale | October 6, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

The show: Glee. The blog: Glib. Glee's about so many things to so many kinds of people, there's really something in it for everyone - if you pay attention and suspend your disbelief for the hour.

Must every episode be like all the others? "Grilled Cheesus" showed a new dimension - and some much needed depth - to its characters, whether or not they believed in God. It's doubtful Ryan Murphy intended to depress his audience by going the extra mile with a little thought-provoking writing. But he did connect with some of us. I really loved it!

Posted by: ImJustSaying | October 6, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Spellcheck...atheist, not athiest.

Posted by: gotjingle | October 6, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Terrible write-up. Did you see the same episode that we did? Sheesh. The episode was profound. This show is able to approach hard-hitting and apropos societal issues through song and people seem to be paying attention. That is a winner..of course, ONLY if people really have a clue to the true message.

Newtonwhale is right on the money. Great episode.

Posted by: dasguptad | October 6, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

The autotune was too prevalent on Puck's song for me to enjoy it much.

The hair on the back of my neck rose when Kurt sang "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the kid they got to play young Kurt in the flashback/home movie montage was terrific.

Posted by: Fabrisse | October 6, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Most Depressing Episode Ever? I don't think so. It actually tried to tackle some really profound issues.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | October 6, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Well said, newtonwhale. I love that it was Sue who stood up for separation of church and state. Perfect choice of character to do this. On the music: Rachel's Streisand song was so very boring -- Streisand sung by Rachel (or anyone) should really be banned. I was waiting for Finn to sing "Your Own Personal Jesus."

Posted by: conchfc | October 6, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

So now Glee the show is actually taking itself more seriously than your blog about it?

I found it amusing it was on FOX.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | October 6, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Newtonwhale--thank you for so clearly articulating your thoughts about what the essence of the episode was all about. That was my take away, too.

Posted by: patty_1206 | October 6, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Glee is back!! And I mean Glee is back doing the great episodes that we love. I was so frustrated with the "Britney episode last week.. Dream sequence, give me a break!!! But now I feel I can go back and enjoy the Glee that I feel in love in the first place!! Gleekys out there.. There is hope!! Have a look at this article, written by a Tv Producer : Reasons to the Glee-ful

Posted by: Roggiep | October 6, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Agreed that the Billy Joel number suffered way too much from use of vocal tuning - really, is Puck that bad a singer that he can't handle getting close enough to the notes for a rock song? It was reminiscent of how badly Rachel did with Hit Me Baby One More Time - sometimes you don't want to be dead on the notes.

Losing My Religion is easily the best Glee song since the show's creation, though I wish they had done more to make it a Glee song rather than a straight cover.

Posted by: crashinghero | October 6, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad I no longer watch TV.

Posted by: dcc1968 | October 6, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't think any performance could touch Kurt's rendition of I Want to Hold Your Hand last night -- giving it a new dimension as a song sung from a child to a parent, esp. with all the touching flashback scenes, which were so in keeping with the Kurt and Burt relationship that had already been explored. I am sorry to see that relationship at an end though.

I don't think this show is newly deep -- it has tackled a lot of serious subjects. But it was super sad last night.

Posted by: msame | October 6, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

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