Glee Recap: S03E12: The Spanish Teacher
The Fight for Tenure
The history teacher at McKinley High has some memory problems; she has forgotten that Germany did not win World War II. This leads to an interesting opportunity: Figgins can now offer one of our favorite teachers tenure. The only problem is that both Mr. Schuester and Sue have had complaints lodged against them, so they have to improve in order to earn the raise.
Will vs. The Spanish Language
Mr. Schue needs to brush up on his Spanish to improve his teaching skills. Apparently, despite his ability to speak passable Spanish in the pilot episode of Glee, he has lost all ability to speak or understand the language he teaches. So he enrolls in a night class at the school where he meets David Martinez (played by the ageless Ricky Martin), a former tooth model turned night Spanish teacher. David needed to find meaning in his life, prompting the occupation change: “One day I realized that I was spending so much time flossing I was missing my life,” he explains over coffee. Mr. Schue then has the brilliant idea to bring David with him to Glee class, where David can help teach the kids Spanish through music. While the kids seem responsive to his idea (Sugar and Kurt in particular are impressed by David’s… credentials), it also seems to prove the point that Mr. Schue is out of touch. Mr. Martinez has duende, a passion, a soulfulness when he teaches that Mr. Schue does not reach except in Glee class.
Sue vs. Booty Shaking
Meanwhile, Sue assumes tenure will come to her, so she has the freedom for her mind to be elsewhere: on getting pregnant. Mr. Schue walks in on her encouraging the glee boys to go to a sperm bank and donate for her use. Except for Artie and Kurt, as she urges, “Porcelain, let the strangeness end with you.” Her magnanimousness extends to Will as well. She wants him to donate to ensure her baby has a full head of hair upon birth.
Given her preoccupation, she finds it incredibly surprising when Figgins tells her that a complaint has been lodged against her as well. Apparently, someone believes that Sue has lost her competitive edge. The Cheerios need new choreography, and if Sue is not up to the task, then the swim coach (and Olympian) Coach Roz will step up to the plate. She serves up some new moves that seem to impress the Cheerios but leave Sue feeling threatened and her tenured position in jeopardy.
Emma vs. The Love Triangle
While Will and Sue struggle to prove the complaints against them wrong, it is Emma who is quietly going about her job, and succeeding more than usual. She has to counsel Sam and Mercedes after their shared kiss in the last episode.
Mercedes realized she needs help while watching Twilight with Kurt and Rachel. Mercedes seems to connect too closely to Bella’s two man dilemma, and Kurt notices her somber mood, asking, “Why are you being so weird and serious? Our periods don’t come until the end of the month.” Rachel tells them about the engagement, and Mercedes needs to know how she can be so sure that Finn is the one. “I know I have the right person,” Rachel answers, “The scary part was just choosing to know it.”
This brings Mercedes and Sam to Emma’s office, where Emma showcases some new pamphlets:
“So you’re a two-timing ho”
“So you’re dating a two-timing ho”
Mercedes objects to this title, claiming she never thought she would be one to cheat. Sam, meanwhile, keeps trying to impress his ex-girlfriend.
“Sam just tweeted that I smell good.”
“And I won’t stop until it’s trending…”
Mercedes laments not knowing how to proceed, claiming, “I’m just trying to listen to my heart, and it’s like I can’t hear what it’s trying to tell me.” It is Emma who correctly identifies that the ease of communication through twitter and Facebook makes it harder to understand the true meaning behind it. She suggests that Sam and Mercedes do not speak to each other for a week so as to better listen to their own hearts.
Emma confronts Sue about her proposition to Will by presenting her with another new pamphlet: “Please don’t hog my fiancé’s nog.” In return, Sue comes clean about why she would possibly want Schue as the father of her baby: “Well, in case you haven’t noticed, Tina, I have a little bit of a mean streak. I’m cunning. I’m vindictive. I spend a large portion of every day vibrating with a palpable sense of wild, irrational rage. I don’t ever want my kid to feel that.” Essentially, Sue wants Will for his kindness. And with worries like those, it is no wonder that Sue’s heart may not be in the race for tenure.
In other news, having learned of Rachel and Finn’s impending nuptials, Kurt confronts his brother about his reasons for proposing. As viewers know, Finn felt he had nothing in his life beyond Rachel, and Kurt wants to make sure that Finn realizes how untrue this is. Kurt does some college research for Finn and begs him to consider his options (and in true Finn fashion, he will consider his options, but not until the least inopportune time). “You’re a star, Finn. Just as bright as Rachel. You just don’t believe in yourself.” Only time will tell if Kurt’s message derails the wedding, but hopefully Finn will at least realize that he can be more than Rachel’s husband.
And on the opposite end of the scale, Same and Mercedes find they are unable to confront each other given the task that Emma set before them. Although Sam and Mercedes are not speaking, however, they can pour their emotions into their songs. Their musical choices make it seem clear that their relationship is far from over. And when the week ends, both eagerly await the time when the ban on speaking is lifted.
And a Full Out Battle
Mr. Schuester may have brought David Martinez in to inspire the kids and make it seem like he was in touch with Spanish culture, but he ended up putting himself in a negative light. By introducing the kids to the charismatic David, Mr. Schue set up an easy comparison between himself and the handsome night school teacher, and Mr. Schue comes up short. It is Santana who points this out to the glee club teacher, telling Mr. Schue that he will have to defend his Spanish teacher-ness.
Being misguided as he is, Will decides that he will win the Spanish teacher battle by preparing an epic Spanglish song and dance number. But the pressure gets to him, and he takes it out on poor Emma, who only tries to raise his spirits with her pamphlets (“How to give yourself stitches” is her answer to their not having insurance). In the end, Mr. Schue’s quest for tenure could end up alienating his students and his fiancé.
When the club meets in the auditorium to see the musical numbers both teachers have prepared, the contrast could not be more striking. David and Santana salsa amidst a full light show while singing Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita.” Mr. Schue, on the other hand, comes on stage in a full matador costume with Mike and Brittany dancing back up as his bulls. And the song he chose? Elvis’ hit “A Little Less Conversation,” which did not easily lend itself to Spanglish translation.
The glee kids seem to appreciate his performance, but it angers Santana, who claims that his display just showcased his ignorance. She admits to having lodged the complaint against him and asks astutely why he even decided to be a Spanish teacher in the first place. Apparently it was the only open teaching position when Mr. Schue was applying.
While Santana thinks Mr. Schue is a terrible Spanish teacher, she shows him that his passion for music is inspirational: “I want to remind you of something an amazing teacher once taught me, ‘without passion, you can’t succeed.’”
And the winner is...
In the battle between Mr. Schue and David Martinez, the night teacher clearly won. But Will did take away an important lesson about passion, which he clearly does not have for the Spanish language. In an act of kindness, Will convinces Principal Figgins to hire David as the new Spanish teacher. Mr. Schue will simply move to the open history position.
In the battle between Will and Sue for the tenured position, both come away with nothing. When Becky is giving Sue her hormone injections, it comes out the Becky was the one to lodge the complaint. As co-captain, Becky felt it was necessary to look out for the team’s best interest, which meant that they needed new choreography. Luckily, Sue understands, and their relationship is undamaged.
So if both Sue and Schue failed to receive tenure, who did? Figgin’s gave the position to the quiet hero of the episode: Emma. The pamphlets that Will maligned actually ended up saving lives! Her educational pamphlet about the importance of washing jockstraps (cutely entitled “Taint Misbehavin’”) was such a success that Cooter decided to order them for Ohio State. To celebrate her success and apologize for his stupidity, Will produces two pamphlets of his own: “So you were a jerk to your fiancé” and “Congratulations, I love you!”
Emma’s pamphlets may have been a hit, but her advice to Sam and Mercedes fell short. Despite the emotions that became clear throughout the week, Sam and Mercedes were unable to connect once their self-imposed speaking ban was lifted; poor timing leads Shane to Mercedes before she can speak her heart to Sam. Despite Emma’s best efforts, this love triangle remains unsolved.
Grading the Songs
Despite the appearance of Ricky Martin, the music in this episode fell a bit flat. The mixture of Spanish and English benefited some songs while handicapping others, and everything came out a bit forced. Worst of all, the last song featured, usually one of the best so as to close on an uplifting musical note, is a performance meant to be mediocre at best and embarrassing at worst.
Sexy and I Know It - B
This party anthem by LMFAO is one of those songs that you are embarrassed to say you like. It is infectious, but once you listen to the lyrics, you wonder why. Given the original’s stupidity, it is surprising how much I enjoy the Glee cover. The Spanish additions seem odd, but Ricky Martin as David Martinez sells vocally and visually in this fun little number.
Buy it on iTunes
Don’t Wanna Lose You - B+
Of all the Spanglish songs covered, this one provides the most natural transition between English and Spanish. The lovely Amber Riley kills the delivery and masters the Spanish lyrics with ease. The only downside of this song is that is seems a bit boring despite the flawless vocal. It is beautiful but does not really go anywhere beyond that.
Bamboleo / Hero - B
“Bamboleo” by the legendary band Santana and “Hero” by the hunky Enrique Iglesias are good songs in their own right. Why they were the two songs chosen for a mash-up is beyond my comprehension, however. I expected the transitions to be more clunky than they were, but the combination still left something to be desired. Overstreet sounds excellent on both parts, but again, why? I can say, however, that the mash-up grows on you with repeat listenings.
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La Isla Bonita - B-
Let me start by saying that I very much enjoy the original “La Isla Bonita,” which is featured on my favorite Madonna album True Blue (it brings back oh so many wonderful childhood memories). The Spanglish version, like the other songs in this episode, feels a little forced. Naya Rivera and Ricky Martin sing it well, but the whole spectacle seems empty. Not as caliente as I was expecting, despite Santana’s claims otherwise.
A Little Less Conversation - D
As I mentioned earlier, “A Little Less Conversation” might be the last song I expected would be translated into Spanish. Being that the performance is supposed to be an embarrassing display of Mr. Schue’s tendency to rely on Spanish stereotypes in his teaching, it should come as no surprise that it ends up being just that: an embarrassment. Matthew Morrison’s performance should be able to save it, but even his delightful voice does not seem to fit this classic song sung by The King himself, even when he is singing in English. While the performance was necessary for the plot, could not a better number have closed the show?