"You take my breath away."
And with that one line Kurt's character sums up what Glee does when it's at its best - it takes your breath away.
It goes from an episode like last week's, where everything was a bit hit and miss, where there was no real character development, where ridiculous plot lines took everything over...to this.
Last week I ranted about the lack of focus on something other than romantic relationships, so it perhaps comes as a surprise that I loved this week's episode, which was almost exclusively about two romantic relationships. The difference is, this week the relationships showed the development of key characters, showed the real challenges facing teenagers and were handled with gentleness, maturity and, thank goodness, a lack of absolutely crazy drama.
I know everyone's attention was on the "first times" shown (or not) that give this episode its name. I could go on and on about that particular aspect but much of it has been said already, so I'll try and focus on some of the other things we saw and the build-up. Before I get there though, I will say those final scenes were just right and they showed, that with Kurt and Blaine, and with Rachel and Finn, the first time was not about sex, it was about love.
This episode had a lovely, quiet feel. Even the drama was quiet, in the sense that it was real drama - the realisation someone else finds your boyfriend attractive or that your ambition has the ability to hurt people. It was a welcome change from plotting to steal back a baby or dealing with ginger supremacist parents.
In addition to the sex, there were plenty of other first times in this episode: the first time Mike stands up to his dad (thank goodness the writers haven't forgotten about this plot), the first time Finn realises his dreams may not come true, the first time Coach Bieste realises someone sees her as the "pretty" one.
We got to hear from Artie, who gave an emotional speech about being accepted and feeling good about himself, about feeling like a man for the first time. He is one of the many characters we're seeing mature this year, and it's lovely to watch.
Another character who we got to see a mature side of was Tina. For once, she got to say more than two words, and was separated from Mike for an entire scene. And the world didn't end. We got to see and hear Tina sound like she's growing up, and we heard about a side of her and Mike's relationship (the talking) that we usually don't (it's usually all about his abs).
Among the firsts was the chance to see Karofsky and Kurt interacting outside of the school environment, and as equals. In those brief minutes they spoke, they understood each other. Yes, Karofsky wasn't likeable in most of the previous episodes, but you have to remember he's a scared boy who feels like he doesn't fit in the world he lives in, and he can't handle that the way Kurt can. Seeing him relaxed was nice, and props to Max Adler for acting his socks off there.
Since we're at Scandals (what a horrid looking place that was), I loved Kurt's flounce over to Blaine, showing Sebastian just how powerful and gorgeous he is. And I thought the scene in the car park was handled brilliantly. I felt for both Kurt and Blaine. Yes, Blaine was in the wrong here. He was insensitive, and stupid, and really hurt Kurt. But more than that, he hurt himself just as much, if not more. It was heartbreaking to watch.
Which leads nicely onto the next Kurt and Blaine scene in the auditorium. So perfect. Blaine's pain was clear to see, and Kurt handled it beautifully, drawing Blaine out of himself and letting him know how proud he was. Kurt teasing Blaine about kissing Rachel was cute (see also the earlier scene with Blaine teasing Kurt about his layers), and just showed these boys get each other.
I now want to see some of Blaine's backstory. There seems to be a lot of pain hidden away, perhaps the hurt when Kurt shouted at him, the need to get a perfect dance move more perfect, and the emotion at being told Kurt was proud of him are signs of something in Blaine's family life? Or maybe I'm too caught up in fandom chat!
Rachel and Finn were also sweet together, although it seems there's less of a connection between them than there is Kurt and Blaine. Maybe that's just the acting?
I loved Finn this week though, I thought we saw a really well-rounded character, and one who's becoming more aware of himself and what's going on around him, instead of living in his sheltered world.
Rachel, too, matured in this episode, and was surprisingly not annoying. At all. This must be some kind of record.
One of the things I loved most was the juxtaposition of scenes in the characters' real lives with their rehearsals and performances for West Side Story.
The cleverest was Finn's fist hitting the shower wall before the cast of West Side Story set up for America. Those few seconds went unexplained until Finn told Rachel about failing to catch the scout's eye, and even then I confess I didn't remember it until later when I was rethinking the episode. Much as I love Glee it's rare that it has layers that go unnoticed in a first watch, but this episode had as many layers as Kurt's outfits.
Another of my favourite parts of this episode was that glimpse, just a few seconds, of Kurt running the fingers of one hand over the other after Blaine walked away in the hallway. A clever nod back to the sometimes "the touch of a fingertips is as sexy as it gets" scene from Sexy in season two.
Of course, in addition to the quiet moments there were some great "louder" scenes. First off, the Warblers. I love these guys. I want someone to create a spin-off set at Dalton Academy, mainly focusing on the Warblers dancing around the school, jumping on furniture and doing backflips. In fact, I may start a petition for this to happen. Who wants to sign it?
With the Warblers came new boy Sebastian Smythe, who was taught to flirt at the Joey Tribbiani School of Subtlety. But it was funny, it moved the plot forward, and he's a very interesting character. I look forward to seeing where his story goes, as he's clearly not coming between Kurt and Blaine anytime soon.
So, nearly every number was from West Side Story, which is truly a great musical. I did love America, and bringing the Jets in may have been a risky decision, but it worked.
My favourite of the West Side Story numbers was A Boy Like That, because Santana rocks.
The Warblers doing Uptown Girl was brilliant, because I love the Warblers. I will not hear a bad word said about them. Also, I love that so far the only teacher we've ever seen at Dalton is a very attractive librarian-like woman.
There was also some great uses of music not sung by the cast, including Don't Leave Me This Way in the club scene.
What Glee did well this week:
Everything. There are so many great moments I haven't mentioned: Blaine dancing around his room, all the scenes with Coach Bieste, Quinn and Santana's advice to Rachel, the Warblers going to see West Side Story in uniform (hilarious). The list could go on and on.
The two glee clubs do battle, there is a medley of Adele songs, and the return of the Puck/Shelby plot.