Let’s cut to the chase: Kurt’s back! After these long, lonely weeks without him, seeing Monsieur Hummel pop up in McKinley High’s courtyard dressed like Edward Scissorhands-meets-Clockwork-Orange at the Royal Wedding was like seeing the first glitter-dusted robin of spring. Watching him dance to “Barbara Streisand” in the food court at the mall while dressed in his patriotic sweater vest was even better. It’s hard to believe he hasn’t been the center of our musical universe since he transferred, but I love any plot twist that lets Kurt go to Nationals despite having lost at Regionals.
How Kurt returned to his beloved New Directions is, of course, a longer, more complicated story. In a nutshell, Santana saw Karofsky checking out Sam’s butt, put two and two together to equal his true sexuality, then manipulated his need for a beard in order to boost her chances to be prom queen by wooing Kurt back. Actually, that wasn’t so complicated to explain. “It’s when a gay man and woman date each other to hide the fact that they’re gay, like the Roosevelts,” she explains to the shocked bully, explaining “The only straight I am is straight up bitch.” Karofsky agrees to the scheme and apologizes to Kurt in exchange for his silence. Kurt is thrilled to return, but only if Karofsky agrees to educate himself about how not terrible it is to be gay. So, ten bucks says Santana and Karofsky hook up at prom anyway, just because that’s how this show is.
Also in the running for queen of the dance are Quinn and Lauren Zizes. Quinn somehow gets it in her head that no one but a pair of creepy triplets will vote for Lauren as anything but a joke. Rule Number #1 about surviving high school: never, ever mess with a girl whose dad knows how to rig an election. “My dad’s college roommate was G. Gordon Liddy,” Lauren explains, right before she drops the bombshell that QUINN USED TO BE BUSTED. Known then as “Lucy Caboosey,” Quinn dropped 70 lbs and got a nose job before transferring to McKinley. Too bad Quinn’s tearful confession comes too late; Lauren has posted images of Quinn’s former self (pictured!) all over the school. Unfortunately for Lauren, it actually makes people like Quinn better.
The whole gang, in fact, is encouraged by Schue to embrace the things they don’t like about themselves, whether it be their hair, their intelligence or the fact that they’re, as Brittany labels Santana, Lebanese. After breaking her nose in dance practice, the worst doctor in the world convinces Rachel to get her classic Jewish nose carved down to a little shnoz. Luckily, the gang rallies around her and convinces her that’s she’s gorgeous just the way she is, hammering the point home with a rousing if somewhat plain rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Meanwhile, this has to be the first time in the entire series that I actually got the Emma character. The writers have been more than happy to riff on her OCD, but last night’s episode was the first time they had her approach it in a realistic way. After spending 48 minutes of her 50 therapy session cleaning her chair, Emma expressed her deepest fears: that she was mentally ill, that her compulsive behavior had limited her life trajectory, that she was somehow different because of her problem. Her therapist explained that yes, yes, and yes those things might be true, but that doesn’t mean she can’t take the first steps down the road to experiencing happiness within herself. I actually teared up when Emma mustered the courage to take her medication. May we never again have to watch the neat freak parody she has been up until now.
It seems like a pretty big misstep not to have Couch Bieste or Sue Sylvester give their two cents, as a butch woman doing her thing in a typically male profession or as an opponent to self-acceptance respectively (or so I would have written it). That being said, the last mournful shot of Santana, who carries on her sham relationship to gain prom votes even as she longs to be dating Brittany says it all: there’s only so long you can pretend before the true you makes an appearance. Hopefully also at prom.