(Also posted on my Tumblr on 2/1/13)

Well, we are officially past the half-way mark of Season 4… and you know what? I didn’t not like the episode. In fact, I loved parts of it.

While I have not been super enthusiastic about this season of my former beloved show, I did like some of the plot points in “Naked” (I still have issues w/Rachel Berry) and I hope that this is not only a new year (2013) for the Glee kids, but a resurgence of what once made the show great (characters, songs and plot points you cared about).

So, spoilers and opinions ahead if you haven’t seen the episode.

The show opened on news footage of Hunter being interviewed by press about the Warblers Sectionals scandal. He attacked the press and it is officially revealed that the Dalton boys did, in fact, use performance enhancers and have been disqualified for Regionals. (If I had a font for sarcasm, I would use it for “surprise, surprise.”)

I did appreciate Andrea (the news anchor lady that Rod chose over Sue) flipped out and questioned why stupid stories are news (Warblers ‘Roid Rage, that stupid squirrel…).

After the “glee” title card (still one of my favorite bits of the show… I kid you not), Finn wrote “Regionals” on the board and I wished really hard that Mr. Schue would never come back. Although Finn is Schue 2.0, I much prefer him to the actual Mr. Schue. (Right?) He thanked Sam and Blaine for their hard work (way to acknowledge achievements of others, Finn) and then told the kids they needed to raise $ for the bus to Regionals (which is being held in Indiana… because Ryan Murphy is from there. Duh.).

Tina suggested a Men of McKinley calendar because the glee boys are cute (yep). When Artie questioned why girls would not be in the calendar, Kitty explained that girls are going to be buying it (I liked her take on how the Twilight series is “poop on paper” but girls turned it into a billion dollar industry. Four for you, Kitty.). It’s the truth though – younger women are cash cows that varying media outlets are desperate to cater to. They hold a lot of power (even though younger guys are still the main demographic that tent pole movies try to attract… riddle me that) and will pour lots of time and $ into material goods. How do you think our teenage walls were so covered in posters from teeny bopper magazines? “Oh, all of these magazines have posters of NSYNC?! I must have them…”

But I digress.

Finn had no qualms about the calendar and put Tina in charge and she immediately delegated Blaine as December… “Sexy Santa.” (As much as I was ready to ogle stare respectfully at shirtless Blaine, isn’t it a lot wrong for teenagers to make that kind of calendar? Some of those characters are minors… wouldn’t their parents have to sign some sort of permission slip?)

Regardless… after glee, Brittany asked Marley to hang out and we were blessed with another odd episode of “Fondue for 2.” Brit introduced Marley as the girl with the fat mom who ruined Sectionals. Tack on the “Marley is bulimic” lower third and this is a hot mess of utter rudeness. But, sadly the audience just goes along with it because Brit is dumb and “aw, that makes her adorable.” (Does it though? It kinda just really bothers me.)

Brit asked Marley if she’s in love with Jake and then says that since Jake is going to get naked for the calendar, that Marley should do the same. When Marley blanched, Brit explained that she meant being honest and vulnerable (i.e. not physically naked, but emotionally so…).

The next day, Brit and Sam were in the principal’s office and he told them they had the highest and lowest SAT scores. Brit got a 2340 (I have no idea how these scores work, as they only went to 1600 when I was in high school…) and Sam got a 340. Brit explained that she just filled in a bunch of letters in a row, and then made shapes. Poor Sam actually tried hard and failed (Remember back in Season 2 when we learned he had dyslexia? I wonder if that had anything to do with it. But since Ryder has dyslexia now, Sam’s learning disorder got shoved by the wayside in favor of awesome impressions and body issues. Alas.) Brit made things a little worse when she told Sam (her boyfriend, right?) that he didn’t have to go to college… that he could be a personal trainer. (Poor Sam :/)

Meanwhile, in NYC, Rachel was meeting with a (female) student filmmaker about a script. Her audition went well and she was asked to be in the movie (an allegory about the end of the world… classic film school crap… which I can say because I studied video/film in college and a lot of those clichés are true). However, there was a topless scene in the script, which made Rachel hesitate to answer right away.

Who better to help college Rachel figure out her current problem, but Old Rachel (i.e. headband and sweater-wearing high school Rachel)… They had a confrontation about whether Rachel should do the nudity or not. New Rachel said that all great actors do nudity, while Old Rachel said she should expose her soul not her flesh. Old Rachel also said New Rachel’s hair and makeup make her look like a porn star (Truth.). So, in true Rachel Berry Fashion, she had an emotional duet with herself. I liked how Old Rachel had a band with her during a few shots. The camera work was pretty good… I’m just so over Rachel solos that I found myself wishing the song would wrap up quickly so we could move to more pressing issues… like Sam and his awful SAT scores.

Back at McKinley, Tina approached Blaine at his locker (still lined with pictures of him and Kurt, btw) to ask him to go shopping with her at the mall (he said yes). But then Blaine was distracted by Sam walking into the building wearing only shorts and boots. (However, please note that Blaine did not ogle Sam’s naked torso or chest during his entrance… I’m thinking Blaine’s crush on Sam is mostly, if not completely, gone.)

Blaine asked Sam why he was dressed like that in January and then asked if he was trying to overcompensate for his low SAT scores (which everyone knew about already). Sam retorted that Blaine was jealous of his body (to which Blaine threw up his hands in surrender, much like he did when Karofsky cornered him in S2E6… Blaine is either confrontational [S2E17, S3E8, S3E11], or the exact opposite of it [S2E6, S2E20, S4E12], depending on the situation… I wish the writers would explore/explain this duality of his character). Before Blaine could really say anything, Tina butted in the conversation and defended Blaine’s body for him and made some comment about how his behind looks like it was baked to perfection by a master chef (or something along those lines…). Damn, Tina. Keep it in your pants girl.

Sam had some locker room training for the boys who were going to be in the calendar. (Um… did anyone ask Wade/Unique if he wanted to take part in this? Or did they just file him away to the girl’s team for this episode because he does not have abs and a six pack?) The glee guys do broga (bro-yoga), and Blaine looked awfully serene and adorable (or per usual). They do some manscaping when Sam told them to shave their chests and get rid of their nipple pubes (This at least explained why Blaine did not resemble Darren’s spread from Out Magazine… RIP Darren’s chest [and other areas’] hair). There was also a weird spray-tan bit and a bunch of pushups during their mashup of “Hot in Herre/Centerfold.” I actually laughed out loud at the couple seconds of the boys running up the auditorium stairs in those shiny outfits that athletes wear when they run to help them sweat… Blaine looked like the biggest dork (he was running completely upright and breathing in an oddly methodical fashion). But, what one was supposed to glean from this scene was that Artie felt left out and down on himself.

In the teacher’s lounge, Finn put more sugar than coffee in his coffee (I love that Finn can’t stand coffee…) and then tried to psyche himself up to drink it. Sue confronted him about the Men of McKinley calendar, but Finn countered with the fact that she posed for Penthouse and was therefore a hypocrite. He was determined to find proof so she would leave them alone regarding the calendar.

In NY, Kurt was eating breakfast when a naked Brody walked in and planted his ass on one of Kurt’s vintage chairs. (Ew.) When Kurt questioned Brody’s nakedness, Brody said he was doing it to support Rachel’s topless scene. Kurt is blatantly against her doing it (and referred to her as “slutty Barbie”) and called the movie a porno. Rachel defended herself and said she was growing up. (I’ll address the double standard of it all later…)

Back in Ohio, Marley and Jake were onstage in the auditorium. She had sent him a text, saying it was an emergency when really she just wanted to talk with him about music for Regionals (she felt she had to redeem herself from passing out at Sectionals). They sing “A Thousand Years” and I find myself not minding because their voices complimented each other well. But, then I remembered that I don’t ship Jarley (even though RIB is still forcing that down our throats) and how I wished Ryder would get more screen time (because if I had to, I would ship Ryley… or Marder. Whatever they’re called…). No sheet music was needed for the making of this sappy scene. And then they kissed. Of course.

When they pulled away from each other, Jake could tell Marley wanted to say something. I like that the writers have allowed Jake to be sensitive and in tune with Marley’s needs (i.e. taking it slow, etc.). Marley panicked, though, and said, “I love… this song. But it’s not right for Regionals.” (Of course it’s not right for Regionals. Sappy duets are not appropriate for competition. They are self-indulgent and do not show off the club as a whole. But I digress…)

After the commercial break, Finn had Artie meet him in the library to see if the bespectacled ND kid could track down Sue’s issue of Penthouse. Apparently looking through copious amount of vintage porn was right up Artie’s alley and he accepted the challenge. Artie then got serious for a moment and told Finn he didn’t want to pose for the calendar because his body is literally broken. Finn suggested some out-of-the chair poses, but that offended Artie, calling the ideas emasculating. Realizing his mistake and how what he said was actually offensive, Finn apologized and told Artie he was brave for saying no. (Okay, so Finn-turned-teacher was one thing, but Finn realizing his own shortcomings and ultimately respecting other people’s wants/needs… character growth?!)

In the locker room, Ryder and Jake are working out and talking about Jake and Marley. Though it’s a sore spot for Ryder (which Jake acknowledged and said he tried not to bring it up), Ryder was a good friend and encouraged Jake to talk about his feelings and even initiate saying the “L” word to Marley. (If Blam wasn’t already the best bromance ever, I would say that Rake/Jayder [?] was pretty great. But Blam… more on Blam in a bit!) They end up being goofy and having a pose-off when Tina and Kitty walked in to inform them which months they would be in the calendar.

(Okay – important question time… Are Tina and Blaine still Cheerios? Because neither of them walks around in their Cheerios uniforms… but Kitty, Brit and Becky do. I’m not complaining… I would miss Blaine’s bowties and sweaters. I tweeted this question to RM – doubt I’ll get a response, though.)

In glee club, Jake sang Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You” and all my “aw, Jake has an okay singing voice” thoughts from earlier flew right out the window. A friend on Twitter commented he sounded like Kermit – and I tend to agree. I thought this ever since he sang “Everybody Talks” with Kitty back in S4E5 :/ I do appreciate Jake’s vulnerability, though (oh, those Puckerman boys) and how he said the song was for Marley (who was almost in tears as she was so moved by the lyrics).

Back in NY, Rachel found Santana and Quinn at her apartment. “Lady Hummel” phoned them in for an intervention. Though Santana, Quinn and Rachel were never besties (Rachel’s bestie was Kurt, but he obviously wasn’t getting through to her, so maybe 2/3 of the Unholy Trinity would…), they immediately told her not to do the nude scene because she would regret it and it would follow her around forever. Quinn brought up the “2 2 2” scenario – how would Rachel feel about it in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years? Rachel admitted she would probably feel guilty and hoped that her kids would never see it. Santana did a sex tape and it followed her around, so she doesn’t want the same to happen to Rachel.

Meanwhile, in Men of McKinley calendar land, the boys are getting their pictures taken. Sam got pissy and said they should have just done a Sam Evans calendar. He stormed off and was followed by Blaine, who tells his BFF that he is out of control and that “you’re not [just] some body-obsessed musclehead.” Sam said that his body is all he has and that he has to “announce his presence with authority” (my FAVORITE line from one of my FAVORITE movies, Bull Durham). Defeated, Sam confessed that he’s not special because he’s only a body and no brains. Blaine, in a serious and sure tone, told Sam that he was special and not just because of his body. He told Sam to loosen up a bit – have a burger, eat some Cheetos, sleep in. Blaine tried to convince his friend that he doesn’t have to try so hard because he’s more than how he looked. “All of us will still love you. And we’ll laugh at your impressions.” (And then the scene ended on that… I felt like we missed out on additional conversation. Perhaps a segue into Blaine having a crush on Sam, and then Sam being like “What?” but them still being BFFs b/c Blam is the greatest thing to happen on Glee since Klaine. BUT, Sam and Blaine never had that conversation… I doubt they ever will.)

Finn confronted Sue in the teacher’s lounge again and presented her with a folder of his evidence. As she confessed to her posing in Penthouse, she opens the folder to see that Finn gave her a copy of Highlights (LOVED those magazines, dude!), but taped her confession to use against her if necessary. (Well played, Hudson. Well played.)

Later, Sam walked into Emma’s office to find Blaine sitting there. Blaine had asked Emma to look up colleges that didn’t need SAT scores to get in. Sam replied he wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway, but she pointed out that even in a recession, there were scholarships available. (I was having a lot of Blam feels in this scene, but I’ll save them for later b/c there were even more Blam feels by the end of the episode… *sigh*)

After the commercial, we found ourselves on the set of the student film Rachel was in. When she’s asked to drop her robe, she yelled “Cut!”. The director kept pressuring her to drop the robe, but Rachel kept stalling. (btw – I was super thankful they had a female director pressuring Rachel to do the nude scene. It would have taken a completely different turn/tone if it were a male director trying to coerce her into showing her breasts.) Rachel asked if the crew could take off their clothes too, so they take their shirts off. (Um… no.) After all that, Rachel decided she couldn’t do it. She said she was ready when she said yes, but in the moment, she realized she wasn’t ready. So, she’s asked to leave. She then meets up with Quinn and Santana on some stage and they sing “Love Song.” While I love this song, there really wasn’t any reason for it. I mean, I get that in this instance the “love song” in the lyrics was loosely a metaphor for Rachel’s body, in that she wasn’t going to show her boobs even though someone asked her too/needed it for the movie. But, this scene was more an excuse to give Rachel another song, and to let Quinn and Santana sing too and make it look like the three of them are the best of friends. Santana also quipped on the way out that she could get used to NY.

Okay… so, my thoughts on Rachel and her situation this episode: It’s her choice and her choice alone. She wasn’t ready to do nudity (so, yay for her for realizing that in the nick of time), but she’s of age and in charge of her own body and decisions. Brody was wrong to tell her she should do it because that’s how to get Oscars. Old Rachel, Kurt, Santana and Quinn were wrong to tell her not to do it because it was basically porn or a decision she would regret. Yeah – it probably would have been a bad move for her to do that for her first role in a non-high school entity. But, (as much as I hate Rachel Berry this season), it’s ultimately her decision (and if she makes a bad one, so be it). She shouldn’t do it or not do it because someone else said so… she should do it or not do it because it’s what’s best for her. If she were my friend, I would also try to convince her not to do it – but I wouldn’t say that she was a whore or doing porn to try and guilt her into not doing it. Just sayin’…

Back at McKinley, Blaine asked Sam if he’s ready to write his essay for his college applications. Sam wasn’t, so Blaine showed him a little video project he worked on – it was a collection of clips from past and present members of New Directions who Sam had helped in some regard. It was a really touching moment to see Sam break down while listening to/watching his friends say such nice things about him and how he encouraged them, or assisted them (or his family) in some life-altering way. Full of emotion, Sam got up from his chair and wrapped his arms around Blaine in a full-on man-hug. Though their hips were several inches away from each other, their top halves were pressed together in a Blam-filled hug of brotherly love.

I love Blam. Like, a lot. They have a give and take friendship that other ‘ships on this show could take a few pointers from. Each boy has pulled the other one up in a time of need and is able to use some tough love to get the point across. Earlier this season (E7) when Blaine was getting ready to flee back to Dalton, Sam was the one who made him realize that running from his problems weren’t going to solve anything. And in this episode, Blaine was able to communicate to Sam that he’s so much more than his body and that while his test grades might not be stellar, his character and ability to help others during their times of need was more than noteworthy. They bring out the best in each other when they themselves are feeling their worst. It helps that Darren and Chord seem to be good friends in real life, but Blam’s chemistry onscreen is really special to watch. I’m grateful for Blam and I’m hoping their friendship remains intact for the rest of the series.

During the last few minutes of the episode, Glee returned to form (oh how I wish it would stay like this forever…). Sam approached Artie and asked him to fill in the 2 remaining months of the calendar. When Artie hesitated, Sam told him he wouldn’t be the only one dressed in the calendar. So, as the glee kids sell their calendars, the audience got a quick peek at each month and Sam and Artie are both fully clothed in their months (and still look adorable). Sue called the calendar money “smut money,” but Finn just looked on with pride as his glee kids raised money for Regionals. Oh, also Jake wrote out a calendar just for Marley… it said “I love you.” She read it and said “I love you back.” (We get it – Jarley is a thing.)

Then, the New Directions launched into a beyond wonderful group number of “This is the New Year.” I had never heard this song before, but I’ve listened to the Glee version a bunch of times this week. I like group numbers, but I especially like group numbers where people sing contextually relevant lyrics.

This group number was magical for a lot of reasons. Group numbers in Season 4 have been extra awesome because they are truly group numbers. Yes, Blaine and/or Marley usually have more lines than others, but on a whole, it’s a very collaborative entity. These kids come together to make a wall of sound and it is literally music to my ears. The blend of voices is amazing this season… group numbers from earlier seasons were too saturated with divas (mostly Rachel, of course) to be wholly aurally pleasant. Though you can very much pick out certain people’s voices in this season’s group numbers (even when they sing en masse, I can hear Darren… and I am more than okay with that), the end result is often this big, warm sound.

So, this is a new year for the Glee kids… it’s 2013. They are in the back half of their school year, as well as Season 4. We now have 10 episodes left and I’m hoping this episode is the start of the momentum we’re going to need to take us through the rest of the season. I seriously hope the writers can maintain (but preferably exceed) the plot lines we got in this episode. There is a Kurt/Rachel diva-off next week (I hope they really hash out how she invited Brody to live with them w/o asking him), a Wemma wedding (and potential Klaine reunion?), Regionals, this year’s batch of seniors figuring out what their academic (or otherwise) futures hold…

I’m sure I will go back to really disliking this show several more times throughout the rest of this season. This episode was surprisingly good (thank you, Blam) and gives me a false sense of hope that the show can get itself back on track to the level it was at in prior seasons. This batch of New Directions kids is the best yet… please don’t write them into crappy story lines.

(Also… we need more Sugar. Just sayin’…)

Thoughts? Do you love Blam as much as I do?