For an episode with such a funny name, "Glee" wasn't taking things lightly this week when they tackled one of the trickiest topics in the world—religion. No matter what your beliefs (and, in the case of some of the characters, lack thereof), Ryan Murphy and co. (Brad Falchuk wrote the ep) covered both sides of controversial debate with grace, humor, and most importantly, respect. It was an episode about faith gained and faith lost and life’s unanswerable questions. It was no easy feat, but they pulled it off.
So how did religion make its way to a public school like McKinley High? Well, it all started with Finn and a grilled cheese sandwich. While making the delicious sammy, Finn discovered a burn mark on it that resembled, well, the big JC. Finn dubbed it "Grilled Cheesus" and suddenly became quite religious. He even began praying to his "Cheesy Lord" for pretty trivial things (i.e. winning Artie’s first football game, getting to feel up Rachel, becoming captain of the team again), all of which, came to fruition. But, when Finn's prayer to become football captain came at a cost (Sam dislocated his shoulder), and he confides in Emma about his guilt, he soon realizes the events occurred likely by happenstance, not by an act of God. Poor Finn’s faith was shattered, perhaps never to be restored again (we’ll talk about his rendition of R.E.M.’s apropos "Losing My Religion," as well as the episode’s other tunes a little later).
Finn wasn’t the only one with a divine dilemma. In the most powerful and tear-jerking storyline last night, Kurt must suddenly deal with tragedy when his father Burt suffers a heart attack (not long after the two had an argument about having dinner together, no less.) In his darkest hour, Kurt sticks to his skepticism about religion, having a difficult time allowing those close to him to pray as a coping mechanism. And while Kurt stands by his reasons, he also stays by his ailing father’s side. No matter what your creed, you’d have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the scene in which Kurt pleads with his comatose dad to squeeze his hand. It’s especially poignant when we learn that at his mother’s funeral, when faith couldn’t comfort him and words failed him, his father took him by the hand and he knew everything would be okay. Have you stopped crying yet? Yeah, us neither.
It was a series of events that rattled everyone, including the unflappable Sue Sylvester. Sue, much like Kurt, didn’t want religion in the classroom and was turned off by the idea of singing about God in glee club. Sue once again wanted to bring down Will, but her reasons weren’t petty. Demanding the separation of church and state in a public school, Sue had her own issues with religion. In a surprising moment, Sue wore her heart on her sleeve and explained that her prayers that her mentally challenged sister get better fell on deaf ears. Sue saw using religion to help people as "cruel," but after a heart-to-heart with her sister, who assured her "God never makes mistakes," the Cheerios coach (who, thankfully, still managed to bring levity to the episode and get in a few zingers, like telling Emma she was allergic to her "ginger mane") suddenly saw things in a different light.
But, perhaps even as powerful as the message of the episode itself, were a lot of the songs featured. Here’s a rundown of last night’s tunes:
“Only The Good Die Young”: Puck kept his promise of continuing his "streak of doing only songs by Jewish artists" when he took on the classic Billy Joel ditty. It stayed pretty true to the original tune, though it wasn’t a terribly memorable number. (Plus, I spent most of the time worried this would be some sort of terrible premonition about Burt Hummel.)
"I Look To You": Mercedes couldn’t find the right words for her friend, so she turned to Whitney Houston for a little guidance. This, IMHO, was the weakest song of the night, especially considering she turned out a much more powerful number later.
"Papa, Can You Hear Me?": It’s not the first time Rachel has channeled Barbra Streisand (who could forget "Don’t Rain On My Parade"?), but this time she used the power of Babs as a plea to God. It was, as Lea Michele always manages to make them, a showstopper.
"I Want To Hold Your Hand": Kurt’s stirring rendition of The Beatles’ classic took on a whole new meaning and pretty much broke our hearts into a million pieces. It was, far and away, the best number of the night and pretty much locked down Chris Colfer for an Emmy next year.
"Losing My Religion": I’d argue this is one of the toughest songs they’ve ever had to tackle on the show. It’s a pop rock classic sung by one of the most unique voices in the biz, Michael Stipe. It was a risky move to have Cory Monteith sing it, but he sang it with gusto and he gets an "A" for effort.
"Bridge Over Troubled Water": Gleeks, I’ll be honest, this is one of my favorite songs of all-time, so I had insanely high expectations. While I still don’t think Amber Riley’s choir cover matches the quiet power of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, I still got goose bumps.
"One Of Us": The obligatory final group sing-a-long was Joan Osborne's '90s smash "One Of Us," that raised the question “What if God was one of us?” It was a perfect song to end a nearly-perfect episode.
Don't forget to check out Jim Cantiello's musical "Glee"-cap!
What did you think of this rather controversial episode, Gleeks? Were you touched or turned off by it? Let us know!