We don’t know outright, because the narrative has yet to explain it to us. All we know is that something is wrong, and we feel bad for him, even though we don’t know why we do. But perhaps we can draw some conclusions based off of some of the clues this episode has left us with.
Bear with me as I talk about three things that really intrigued me about this episode. (This will be mostly out of order, but I’ll try to follow at least the basic structure of the episode.)
PART 1: I RISE ABOVE OR SINK BELOW (or, BLAINE’S ISOLATION)
Blaine told Sam that he feels “really, really alone” last episode, and tonight only confirmed and heightened that. Blaine is almost constantly framed by himself in this episode.
So, we start the episode with Blaine and Brittany sitting side by side, just far enough away that no part of their bodies or their food trays are touching. There is no one else at their table, and they are surrounded by emptyness (as opposed to more table). They’re talking, but they’re not facing each other. They never touch, and they never look at each other. They may as well be sitting by themselves. They are both alone together (which is different than being together in loneliness). And this is the start of what’s become a new visual language through which they’ve begun to frame Blaine.
Let’s talk about Barely Breathing. Throughout the song, we never see Blaine talk or interact with a real person. We don’t even get a face for Eli—just a name and a few facebook messages. Blaine walks down the halls, and no one stops to even so much as look at him. He sits in an empty auditorium, looking up at an empty chair. He sits in an empty choir room, with no one else around.
The empty chair is interesting, because Blaine never sits in it. And the one time Kurt inhabits the chair, Blaine is facing the other way. He feels someone looking at him and he spins around—but by the time he’s facing the chair, it’s empty again. The same goes for when he sees Kurt sitting in the audience. Blaine isn’t looking for him, and does a double-take when he catches a quick glimpse of him in the audience. Kurt never smiles at him; he isn’t there for comfort, and he isn’t there to interact with Blaine. He’s there to watch, intent and stone-faced. Kurt is almost a threatening presence in this scene, a phantom to be scared of. (And note that this is before Blaine decides to go over to Eli’s house. Also, more on what Kurt’s wearing later.)
The next time we see Blaine, he’s got a huge bouquet of roses in front of his face. It not only separates him from the others in the scene, it serves as a commentary on how much he’s hiding from the rest of them (and how much he’s hiding from Kurt). The sad thing is that this is the only time in the episode anyone actually touches Blaine. This is the last time he’ll be seen physically interacting with anyone this episode.
Now let’s talk Teenage Dream. Throughout the lead-up to the song, Blaine is staring into space, physically and emotionally detached from the rest of the group (and from Kurt). When he goes up to sing, he decides to play, too. Blaine playing the piano for this song means there’s a huge, heavy object between him and the rest of the bar. The shots get increasingly claustrophobic when they’re on him, to the point where by the end of the song, his face is literally filling the entire frame, and we can’t even see the bar anymore. Meanwhile, Kurt, Finn, Rachel, and Brody are all sitting together, in the same shot, watching him.
And then there’s Don’t Speak—where Blaine is literally a distant figure in the frame during his solo line, an entirely empty street surrounding him. Kurt, Rachel, and Finn are all in the same shot together as they run to the fountain, and Blaine is seen out-of-focus following them. In order for the camera to focus on him, the others have to blur out of the frame. Which is exactly what happens. In the first few minutes of the song, it is literally impossible for Blaine to be in the same shot as another person. And for the rest of the song, Blaine and Kurt never look at each other.
Also note that besides that one scene in Kurt and Rachel’s apartment, no one touches him for the rest of the episode. And he doesn’t touch anyone after that scene, either—and we know Blaine Anderson is a touchy-feely guy. Instead, he curls into himself, and hides his hands in his pockets.
The last time we see him before The Scientist, he’s sitting in the back of the choir room, by himself.
What does all of this tell us about Blaine?
Blaine Anderson is, quite literally, isolated from the rest of the world. He is, both emotionally and in his physical space, alone. He “rises above or sinks below”, but he’s never on the same level or even in the same space as anyone else.
So when he tells Kurt “I was lonely”, he’s not talking about the kind of lonely that Kurt is talking about.
Kurt has Rachel in New York, and he has Vogue.com (a space where he is finally appreciated and needed). He has a dad who loves him unconditionally and a home to go back to if he fails. When he says, “You don’t think that I’ve been lonely, too?” he is referring to the kind of loneliness that means needing sex, love, and affection; the kinds of things you can only get from a boyfriend. That’s a very strong kind of loneliness, but that’s not the loneliness that Blaine is talking about.
When Blaine says he’s lonely, he is referring to his very literal isolation. Which is why it doesn’t matter who he hooked up with, and why it didn’t mean anything. Not because he wanted sex, not because he wanted attention, but because he wanted company. He hooked up with Eli to stop feeling so lonely—and it ultimately meant nothing because it didn’t help with that. He was lonely before he left for Eli’s. He was lonely when he was with Eli. He’s still lonely now. The only thing hooking up with Eli did was make him hate himself.
Which is what he means when he says: “It doesn’t matter who it was with, what matters is that I was by myself.”
And his next words lead us into Part Two…
PART 2: DON’T SPEAK (or, GAGGING BLAINE)
Last episode, Blaine was interrupted by Kurt every time he talked in the Skype scene, and his phone call was declined at the end of the episode. He’s literally unable to speak. This episode, this metaphorical gagging of Blaine’s speech continues.
There are several times Blaine tries to tell someone what’s wrong in this episode—and he’s almost always stopped by something. He starts with Brittany: don’t you remember when we were filled with hope and love and everything was awesome? he asks her, implying via his phrasing that he is no longer filled with hope and love and everything is not awesome. But Brittany has her own problems, and her response isn’t “what is it that is making everything not awesome for you, Blaine Warbler?” It’s “Shouldn’t it still be like that?” Ultimately, Brittany is the only one in the episode who Blaine can really talk to about this, because she’s experiencing something similar with Santana. Which is probably why her response derails him. Instead of using it as an opportunity to vent about his problems, Blaine thinks about her question (because Blaine is the King of Internalization), and that is ultimately what leads Blaine into a thought process that begins with ‘maybe Kurt and I shouldn’t be together’ and ends with going to Eli’s.
The second time Blaine tries to talk, he’s talking on the phone with Kurt. And for the first time since DWS, Blaine is actually talking about what’s wrong: “I really miss you. A lot.” He means more than what he’s saying, but Kurt doesn’t quite get what Blaine’s trying to say, and offers up the fact that they’ll see each other in two weeks. Blaine asks, “What am I supposed to do until then, just hold my breath?” And this is the core of the talk. This is the seque into “this is getting too hard for me to handle”, because Blaine is implying in that question that waiting for two weeks isn’t good enough. And had Kurt not taken the other call, this would have been the discussion they’ve been sorely avoiding since last season. But Kurt doesn’t reply, and they don’t have the discussion, because they’re interrupted by a phone call Kurt needs to take. And this is the first time Blaine is gagged.
The second time is when Blaine starts to apologize for cheating. He starts to finally say what he’s been trying to say since last episode: I’m alone, I need you. But it’s overshadowed by the fact that he just admitted to cheating, and Kurt is (understandably) devastated. So, instead of talking, Kurt runs from him. And Kurt doesn’t speak to him for the rest of the episode. And so, once again, Blaine is restricted from saying what he needs to say.
The last time is when he’s talking to Finn. Finn’s been Blaine—Finn has cheated, both emotionally and physically, on Quinn with Rachel, and then coerced Quinn into cheating with him on Sam—so it’s no surprise that Finn is the only person in the episode who asks him “Why?” Blaine doesn’t know why. Or rather, he knows what he was feeling at the time he made the decision, but that’s not what Finn’s asking for. Finn’s asking him for an excuse for why he cheated, and Blaine knows there is no excuse, so he can’t provide one. However, he can talk to Finn about what he’s feeling, and he begins to, when he’s interrupted by Sam and the rest of the Glee club. Finn never tries to talk to Blaine again.
And Blaine doesn’t talk for the rest of the episode. Not even when everyone in Glee club was giving their input about musicals.
Okay, so what does all of this mean about Blaine’s headspace?
It means that Blaine is actively seeking help. He spent the majority of the episode either trying to talk and being interrupted, or trying to talk and not being able to find the right words. He’s reaching out, but no one gets it. And, by the end of the episode, no one is listening.
When he tells Kurt, “I needed you and you weren’t there”, he’s referring not only to Kurt ignoring him last episode, and to his loneliness—he’s also referring to the fact that he tried to ask for help, and no one (not even Kurt) was able to hear what he was trying to say.
Ironically, Kurt only hears “I need help” when Blaine sings to him.
PART 3: OH, TAKE ME BACK TO THE START (or, BLAINE’S COMPLICATED DALTON FEELS)
And finally, let’s talk about how Dalton is referenced in this episode.
When we see the Kurt in Blaine’s head during Barely Breathing, the one that’s watching him perform so intently, he’s dressed in the same outfit he wore when Blaine first met him on the stairway at Dalton. He’s not Kurt, Blaine’s boyfriend; he’s Kurt, the gay stranger who was being bullied in school.
Blaine sings Teenage Dream, the first song he ever sang to Kurt, and not Somewhere Only We Know, the first song he sang to Kurt. It’s a song he sang with the Warblers, back when he was still Warbler Blaine, singing to a stranger whose eyes told a story Blaine could identify with.
And finally, the image they show of Blaine and Kurt going back to the start is the both of holding hands while running down the Dalton hallway.
What does all of this mean?
Blaine needed Kurt on the most basic, human level. Not as his boyfriend—but as the boy he met on the stairs one random day. He needs the boy who was bullied for being gay. Whose mere presence meant that, in the deepest, most important way, Blaine was no longer alone.
Teenage Dream wasn’t just an apology, and it wasn’t just a lament—it was an attempt to conjure back that moment of absolute, unquestioned kinship he had when first talking to Kurt over coffee in Never Been Kissed. It probably would have worked, too, had he not hooked up with Eli. Instead, it only served to reinforce how utterly alone he felt. And that’s probably what broke him in that scene. Because even now that he’s finally with Kurt—even now that Kurt is obviously very happy to see him and clearly hasn’t moved on from Blaine like Blaine had thought he had—Blaine still feels isolated from him.
At the end of the episode, he literally is cut off from Kurt. So even the hope that Kurt might eventually talk with him and help him ask for help is lost to him now.
That’s what this episode told us without actually telling us anything. Blaine is lost, he’s drowning, and his attempts to reach the surface of the water have only served to drag him down deeper. He’s depressed. And he can’t figure out how to get someone to help him, and no one is around to listen to him try.
The cheating isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of the problem.
Whether the problem will ever be addressed directly, or if it will instead be brushed aside in favor of curing the symptom, is anyone’s guess.
I sincerely hope it’s the former.