So this analysis comes to you in response to a question for Anonymous, who Asks:
“I’m not sure whether you’ve already discussed this previously, but I was wondering what your analysis of the party scene in ‘Blame It On The Alcohol’ would be? Specifically, when they’re playing Spin the Bottle and Santana doesn’t participate in the game. I found it odd that everyone else was part of the circle to play and Santana chose instead to stay on the sidelines. Just wondering your thoughts on this. Thanks :)”
1. Because she has nothing to gain from playing the game socially.
2. Because she wants to avoid revealing the true nature of her attraction to and feelings for Brittany through intimate gesture.
3. Because the whole party situation stresses her and when Santana feels particularly stressed, she tends to withdraw.
Long-ass answer? Under the cut.
So there are two primary levels on which we must parse Santana’s behavior during the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravaganza Spin the Bottle scene: the public and the private.
Let’s take the first one first, shall we?
“Who wants to play Spin the Bottle?”: On Santana, Social Climbing, and Public Displays of Sensuality
As Roch explains here, Santana tends to only make public displays of “affection”—or perhaps “sensuality,” in Santana’s case—for social climbing purposes, either to stake her claim on a popular boy to directly improve her own social standing, such as when she macks on Sam at the party in question, or to tear apart “enemy” couples in order to eliminate social competition, such as when she kisses Finn at his booth in order to break up Quam.
Because Santana isn’t attracted to boys, she doesn’t tend to engage in public acts of sensuality with them unless it is for social climbing purposes. (As Roch posits, it seems unlikely that Santana spends much time with Sam outside of school and at parties, for instance.)
Moreover, Santana will only engage in public acts of sensuality with girls—or Brittany in particular, seeing as we have no evidence that Santana engages in public displays of sensuality with girls outside of Brittany (see here)—when she feels that it will help her reputation to do so or that doing so will allow her to achieve a social goal, such as when Brittana offer to make out in front of Finn if he will sit quietly and pay for their meal in order to fulfill Sue’s objective of breaking up Finchel.
Moreover, prior to 2x15, Santana will only engage in public displays of sensuality with Brittany in situations where she feels she has the social latitude to do so—i.e., in situations where she can pretend that kissing Brittany doesn’t mean anything, where it is “socially acceptable” for two hot cheerleaders to make out with one another, where no one will guess that she’s really in love with Brittany based on the affectionate nature of their behavior towards one another, etc.
Santana will not willingly “pair” herself with Brittany in situations where pairing with Brittany would insinuate Brittana as a romantic couple, as per Santana refusing to sing a romantic duet with Brittany in 2x04; she will only pair with Brittany in situations where others would not pick up on her behavior as being indicative of deeper feelings between them, as per her taking body shots—which are sexual, but not “romantic”—off of Brittany’s abs at the Trainwreck Extravaganza.
In summary, Santana will only make out in public if she feels that doing so will help her reputation and she will not engage in public displays of sensuality in situations where someone might construe her behavior as being indicative of deep feelings or her lesbian sexuality.
According to this typical modus operandi, then, one probable reason why Santana abstains from playing Spin the Bottle with her friends is because she stands to make no social gains by doing so.
At the time that this episode takes place, Santana is already dating the most popular boy available to her—i.e., Sam Evans—as Finn has already rejected her on numerous occasions (see 1x15, 2x08, 2x12, etc.) and Puck no longer has an interest in continuing the sexual relationship he and Santana maintained through Season One and early Season Two (“Okay, first of all, I’m not your man”). Accordingly, Santana has no opportunity to “upgrade” her arm candy by playing the kissing game.
Being that she has already successfully broken up both Quam and Finchel by this point, Santana also has no opportunity to break up an “enemy” couple through the kissing game. Indeed, being that none of the other couples present—i.e., Tike, Bartie, not quite Luck, and not yet Klaine—can compete with Samtana in terms of social “heat,” the couples present actually don’t even qualify as “enemies” as Santana sees things, at least in terms of social rivalry.
(Bartie, of course, is another story, on another level.)
So, as Roch says, “[Spin the Bottle is] a fun social event among the Gleeks, but considering [Santana’s] tendency to partake in PDA as a popularity transaction, she has nothing to gain from it.”
“I’m not making out with you because I’m in love with you”: On Santana, Brittany, and the Obfuscation of Feelings
Santana’s second reason for not wanting to join in the Spin the Bottle game is both public and private in nature.
As Roch writes elsewhere, at least prior to 2x15, Santana really has no problem broadcasting the fact that she will willingly make out with girls—or at least make out with Brittany—to the free world, as it is “socially acceptable” for two hot cheerleaders who also happen to be best friends to make out in public as long as they do so for purposes of “experimentation” and “titillation” and their peers understand that there are no real feelings extant between them when it happens.
As Roch frames it: “Being pegged as somebody who likes to make out with girls is not something that concerns [Santana] at this point, because on a social level, it’s an issue of promiscuity. She’s the lizard to Puck’s sex shark. Just as ‘sex is not dating,’ making out with somebody doesn’t mean she’s in love with them.”
Except, of course, that Santana is in love with Brittany—like, really deeply in love with her, to the point where Santana can’t even function properly now that Brittany is with Artie—so when she makes out with Brittany, it is because she’s in love with her.
Now, as I say above, Santana doesn’t really have a problem with people thinking that she’s sexually fluid, as long as her peers understand that she only makes out with girls—i.e., with Brittany—for kicks and in order to make football players hot and bothered, no feelings attached. What Santana does have a problem with is feelings, and, specifically, people knowing that she has feelings for Brittany, as she’s “afraid of dealing with the consequences.”
Though we never see it onscreen, Brittana themselves profess that they will sometimes make out in public for the purpose of titillating men (“You buy us dinner and we make out in front of you. It’s like the best deal ever”). Being that there are certain circumstances under which Santana will make out with Brittany in public, we must therefore ask ourselves what makes 2x14 any different—i.e., why Santana won’t risk making out with Brittany at the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravanganza when the glee club plays Spin the Bottle—then.
As I conjecture elsewhere, I tend to believe that Brittana commence cheating with each other behind Artie’s back somewhere between episodes 2x11 and 2x13. My best guess is that they start sleeping together following the events of “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” likely due to the guilt Santana feels for not protecting Brittany from Sue, the relief both girls feel that Brittany isn’t dead after Sue’s cannon stunt, Brittany’s concern for Santana’s emotional wellbeing, and the sheer strain of having stayed apart prior to that point for at least several months, which is probably the longest they’ve ever gone without sleeping together since the start of the their sexual relationship.
In any case, regardless of when Brittana start sleeping together again following 2x08, I believe that by the events of 2x14, Brittana have resumed a fairly regular sexual relationship, with Santana and Brittany sleeping together at least as often as Brittany sleeps with Artie, if not even more so.
And, the way I see it, the fact that Brittana have resumed a regular sexual relationship by the time the events of 2x14 take place makes all the difference in the world, in terms of Santana’s behavior during Spin the Bottle.
Because, frankly, Santana couldn’t care less about the possibility that she might have to kiss Tina, Rachel, Quinn, Lauren, or Mercedes if she plays the game; that wouldn’t matter, because it would be a “just for fun,” badass sort of thing, and it would be socially acceptable for her to do so anyway, given the situation.
What Santana cares about here is the possibility that, if she plays the game, she might have to kiss Brittany.
But why would she care about that now, when she never has before?
Frankly, because, for the first time, Santana realizes that she wants more from Brittany than just some random hookup at a party—i.e., that what they do together isn’t just about meaningless sex, but about love.
We should not underestimate the fact that the events of the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravanganza take place directly prior to the events of “Sexy.” We should also not underestimate the fact that the events of the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravanganza take place after several long months of Brittany dating Artie and Santana utterly flailing without her.
Just as we can suppose that Brittana stopped having sex together for a time when Bartie first got together, we can also suppose that they stopped making out with each other at parties when Bartie got together, too.
And that, my friends, is significant.
Because it means that, if Santana were to play Spin the Bottle and her spin just so happened to land on Brittany, it would represent the first time that Brittana would have occasion to make out in public subsequent to the formation of the Bartie relationship.
And why would that matter?
Because, frankly, the very facts that Brittany has a boyfriend and that she’s cheating on said boyfriend with Santana change the stakes of everything.
The previous Brittana dynamic no longer works (see here): they can no longer pretend that what they do together doesn’t matter, either in public or in private. Though they have yet to say it, and won’t until 2x15, the fact is that, by this point, both Santana and Brittany realize that things have changed for them.
Primarily, in terms of attachment level.
Borrowing terms from Bowlby’s attachment theory (see here), we can say that Santana tends to have a “fearful” attachment type in general, meaning that she feels uncomfortable getting close to others, but nevertheless desires close relationships. She finds it difficult to trust others or depend on them, as she worries that, if she makes herself vulnerable, she will get hurt (see here and here).
Nevertheless, her basic fearful attachment type notwithstanding, I would argue that Santana enjoys what we would call a “secure attachment” to Brittany (see here), at least prior to 2x08, insofar as she has shares warm and responsive interactions with Brittany, of whom Santana has a positive view and who views Santana positively, and to and with whom Santana feels both adjusted and satisfied, sexually, emotionally, socially, etc., in general terms of speaking.
[Note: Of course, the Brittana relationship prior to 2x15 has its fair share of problems. Santana isn’t anywhere near honest about the depth of her feelings for Brittany, neither is she ready to admit that the bond she feels with Brittany is romantic rather than just platonically friendly. Consequently, Santana ends up hurting Brittany with some frequency between the start of their sexual relationship and the events of 2x15, as we see during the Sweet Lady Kisses scene of 2x04, as she continually refuses to acknowledge the feelings behind their physicality. In many ways, then, neither Santana nor Brittany feels totally satisfied with the nature of the Brittana relationship prior to 2x15.
All the same, I would still call their bond “secure,” these communicative and emotional problems notwithstanding, as both girls do ultimately feel an extreme level of commitment to one another and value their relationship, ill-defined though it is, above all their other romantic relationships. In this case, the “best friendship” element of Brittana is what makes it secure, as opposed to the sexual element—at least until after 2x15, or, perhaps more accurately, after the events of 2x22.]
Santana feels comfortable being intimate with Brittany, at least on a physical level. Though I cannot say so for certain, being that I don’t know what sort of relationship Santana has with her parents, I would guess that the Brittana relationship is the most solid, dependable, and comfortable relationship in Santana’s life, prior to 2x08.
But after 2x08? All of that changes.
Once Brittany subverts the previous Brittana dynamic by pairing with Artie, who is in all likelihood her first serious boyfriend to date, Santana can no longer feel “secure” in her attachment to Brittany (see here).
Whereas prior to 2x08, Santana feels certain that she and Brittany are one another’s top priority and that Brittany will always choose her and stick to their familiar patterns together, once Brittany starts dating Artie in 2x08, Santana no longer knows where she stands with Brittany—i.e., she doesn’t know how to “just” be Brittany’s best friend, once they [temporarily] stop sleeping together.
Accordingly, Santana probably questions all her previous assumptions about the strength of her bond with Brittany upon the formation of Bartie: i.e., “Did this always mean more to me than it did to her? Did she ever really care about me at all? Did I break our relationship permanently by refusing to sing that duet? Will she ever come back to me? Does she even want me anymore? Did she ever want me? Why can she be happy with a boy when I can’t? Is there something wrong with me? Is that why she left? Why does this hurt so much? Doesn’t she know that this is killing me? Does she even care? Should I just let her go?”
We can perhaps say, then, that Santana’s attachment to Brittany shifts from being “secure” to insecure or “preoccupied,” meaning that she still wants to be emotionally intimate with Brittany—indeed, I would argue that she craves emotional intimacy with Brittany more than perhaps ever before, which is part of why Santana tries to “substitute” her relationship with Sam for the one she wishes she could have with Brittany (see here)—but seems to think that Brittany feels reluctant to get as close as Santana might like.
(The way Santana sees things, if Brittany needed her as much as she needs Brittany, then Brittany wouldn’t have started dating Artie in the first place, right?)
Consequently, Santana chooses to maintain a close relationship with Brittany while nevertheless simultaneously distrusting the depth of the relationship itself.
This is perhaps why when Brittany tells Santana that “with feelings, it’s better” during 2x15, Santana immediately goes on the defensive: because she already feels that Brittany prefers Bartie to Brittana, and feels hurt that the relationship that means the most in her life might in some way be “inferior” to Brittany’s other relationship.
In view of that fluctuation in Santana’s attachment levels, what we see during the events of the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravaganza is this:
Before the events of 2x08, or even 2x04, Santana could make out with Brittany at parties and not have to worry about what it meant that they did so. They could just be them—friends who occasionally fucked each other—without Santana having to wonder about feelings and futures.
But after 2x08, when Brittany gets a boyfriend?
Santana does have to wonder and she does have to worry about what public kisses between them mean. Yes, Brittana have a private sexual relationship going again by the time 2x14 rolls around, but “dancing in the dark” is one thing, whereas putting their interactions with one another on display in front of a crowd is something else entirely. Whereas before, Santana knew the exact meaning of Brittana making out in public—i.e., that it was a social gesture which functioned to accrue them social capital—now she has no way to categorize such an interaction.
While Santana feels comfortable taking body shots off Brittany’s abs in this situation, she doesn’t feel comfortable with the prospect of kissing her, being that she can feel certain that body shots are a purely sexual thing—and, moreover, an action that will titillate the crowd—whereas a kiss would mean something more, and, moreover, something more infinitely unmeasurable.
You know: “with feelings, it’s better.”
Perhaps ironically, when Santana felt assured that her sexual relationship with Brittany did mean something but wasn’t yet ready to admit as much, she could pretend it meant nothing. But now that Santana isn’t sure what her sexual relationship with Brittany means, and stands on the verge of finally admitting that she wants it to mean something, she durst not pretend that it means nothing, for fear that that might actually be true, in Brittany’s case.
During Season One and early Season Two, prior to the formation of the Bartie relationship, Santana feels secure in her attachment to Brittany, and because Santana feels secure in her attachment to Brittany, she doesn’t feel the need to question the Brittana dynamic, which means that, essentially, Santana feels comfortable fooling around with Brittany in public because she can pretend that it doesn’t mean anything to her to do so and actually, to some extent, convince both herself and Brittany that that is true.
In the past, Santana always maintained that their best friendship and their sexual relationship were two completely separate things, and that neither one of them had anything to do with romantic love (“I’m not making out with you because I’m in love with you and want to sing about making lady babies”); however, the fact that Santana could not maintain a basic friendship with Brittany once Brittany started dating Artie speaks to the fact that, for Santana, a link exists between sex and friendship with Brittany—essentially, at this point, she cannot have one without the other.
And the fact that this link exists insinuates that Brittana are not simply best friends, neither are they just fuck buddies; they’re in love, even though Santana can’t say it. Otherwise, Santana would be able to let Brittany be with Artie without it absolutely ruining her to see it happen.
The fact is, then, that even if Santana could get away with kissing Brittany for the sake of the game without any of their friends thinking anything of it, Santana herself would think something of it—and so would Brittany; they would both know.
… which brings us to the last reason why Santana refuses to play Spin the Bottle in 2x14.
“Santana, the weepy, hysterical drunk”: On Santana, Repression, and the Long Road to the Hurt Locker
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, Santana Lopez is nothing if not a fascinating study in repression issues. That girl is so afraid of the consequences of her emotions that she blocks them off from everyone, including her peers, Brittany, and, ultimately, herself. Unfortunately for Santana, she’s not always successful in holding back all her feelings—and especially not all her feelings for Brittany—which means that, in certain situations, and particularly under the influence of alcohol, Santana tends to reveal her emotions, oftentimes in unexpected ways.
“By 2x14, Santana is an utter wreck, crying at the drop of a hat both at and in the wake of the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravaganza, not so much because she fits a certain drunk girl stereotype, as Finn would assert, but because everything in her life seems to have fallen to ruin, being that
* Santana is no longer on top as part of the Cheerios, as her humiliating beatdown at the hands of Lauren Zizes in 2x12 well proves;
* Santana feels ‘stuck’ in a situation where she must either confess her feelings to Brittany OR face losing Brittany altogether to Artie OR debase her relationship with Brittany by making it into nothing more than common cheating (see here), none of which options appeal to her in the least;
* Santana feels worried that she’ll wind up alone forever, and particularly if Brittany goes off with Artie to live happily ever after;
* Santana knows that she’s different from the Quinns and Rachels of the world and she hates herself for it (see here);
* Santana feels ostracized by her main peer group, trapped in a hopeless cycle wherein she fears their rejection and so rejects them preemptively, only to have them, of course, reject her in turn, thereby ‘confirming’ her fears (see here);
* Santana loses the security of her bearding arrangement with Puck at the same time she knows that her bearding arrangement with Sam is unstable, to say the least;
* she sees happy couples all around her, but while she knows her own relationship with Sam is a farce, she cannot bring herself to admit that what she really wants is a relationship with Brittany;
* she doesn’t even have the full comfort of her best friendship with Brittany to fall back on, seeing as, at this point, their relationship exists in a state of duress, due to the existence of Bartie, Santana’s continued refusal to acknowledge the depth of their bond, and the Brittana cheating behavior itself.”
The third reason why Santana abstains from playing the kissing game, then?
Because she knows she just couldn’t take it.
Back in Season One, making out with Brittany in social situations was something fun that Santana did to boost her rep, get attention, and feel the thrill of doing something she normally wouldn’t be “allowed” to do without threat of social repercussions. But now? Santana can’t be so devil-may-care about her interactions with Brittany.
Santana has to know what kind of drunk she is—i.e., “weepy” and “hysterical,” as Finn puts it, but also, and more especially, the type who allows her true emotions to manifest while she’s inebriated, whereas when sober she represses them almost to the point where it ruins her to do so.
The way I see it, Santana has already allowed herself to get a little sloppy at this party—likely because all her feelings for Brittany run close to the surface, at this point, on account of their long separation and the recent renewal of their sexual relationship—displaying blatantly sexual behavior towards her and even acting a little clingy towards her, without, you know, actually clinging.
As I say elsewhere:
“For the past several months, [Santana] has watched Brittany date and dote upon Artie while Santana herself remains on the sidelines, trapped by her own fears, proclivities, and suffocating rules. She feels estranged not only from the girl she loves, but also from her best friend.
Moreover, [Santana] has recently lost her social protection, having quit Cheerios in 2x11 and suffered a falling out with Puck in 2x12, so she’s more vulnerable than ever before. Also, as I speculate elsewhere, Brittana have probably recently resumed sleeping with one another sometime between 2x11 and 2x14, meaning that Santana probably has Brittany on the brain more than usual, even.
It is therefore entirely plausible, as I see it, that Santana would ‘slip’ and drunkenly insert her feelings for Brittany into her hysterical ranting to Sam.
So when Santana cries, ‘You like [Quinn] more than me! She’s blonde and awesome and so smart! Admit it! Just admit it! No, kiss me!,’ what she really means is, ‘I like [Brittany] more than [you]! She’s blonde and awesome and so smart! Why can’t I admit it?! I want her to kiss me.’
It’s totally significant [sic]—and particularly since it happens just episode prior to Santana’s Hurt Locker confession (i.e., the point when Santana finally admits to all the feelings she finds she can no longer successfully bottle).”
So, being that Santana has already “slipped” and revealed something of her feelings for Brittany through her drunken behavior, she has to be extra careful not to further indicate herself during the evening—i.e., she has to refrain from doing anything that would make it obvious to her glee peers, to Brittany, or to Artie that she’s desperate to have Brittany as more than just a friend.
The third reason why Santana refrains from participating in Spin the Bottle, then, is because she feels stressed about her whole situation, and when Santana gets stressed, she either tends to explode (“Mira! Escucha! Soy de Lima Heights Adjacent! Yo tengo orgullo! Sabes lo que pasa en Lima Heights Adjacent? Cosas malas!”) or to withdraw (“Still waiting for the question”).
And in this situation?
Santana withdraws, choosing to observe the game from the sidelines, rather than running the risk of getting too close to Brittany and having her true feelings show through.
Obviously, this is just conjecture and largely influenced by Jeune’s stories, but I can’t help but suppose that nature of Brittana’s sexual interactions shifts once they start sleeping together following 2x08. I tend to think that Santana probably acts needier and more tender in bed with Brittany than she ever has before, once they start cheating together, allowing her feelings to eke out through her actions when she cannot yet verbalize them, on account of her finally realizing, if not consciously, then at least on some sort of subconscious level, that she needs Brittany and cannot stand to go without her.
While we cannot know the timeline for certain, we can suppose that the events of 2x14 and 2x15 take place within a few weeks of each other. That being the case, we oughtn’t underestimate the significance of the Rachel Berry House Party Trainwreck Extravanganza, as what goes on their serves as prelude to the events of the bedroom scene, Sacred Sexy Sharing Circle, “Landslide,” and Hurt Locker scenes of 2x15.
The Santana who stands outside the Spin the Bottle circle, chewing her straw and freaking out not because her boyfriend is kissing her best friend, but because she feels like she’s lost the girl she loves before she ever even really got the chance to have her, is the Santana who, in just a few days time, will finally feel ready to admit that she wants something more than she’s ever allowed herself to have. It’s the Santana who, with just a little nudge from Brittany, will decide that she’s finally ready to make the change she’s been too afraid to consider before.
Santana Lopez has plenty of good reasons to not want to play Spin the Bottle in 2x14, but, ultimately, the biggest reason—or at least the root reason of them all—is this: she’s not ready for “that type of public announcement” yet, because, frankly, she doesn’t know what the hell is going on between her and Brittany in private.
Brittana gets super angsty following the Hurt Locker, of course, but they’re pretty damn angsty between 2x11 and 2x15, too. Santana knows she wants Brittany, and not just as a friend or fuck buddy, but completely, but she’s not yet emotionally prepared to admit her want or to qualify exactly what it is that she wants to have happen between them. She’s confused as hell about everything at this point. And when Santana gets confused about the one thing that’s supposed to feel secure in her life, she gets scared. And when Santana gets scared, she retreats and flails.
Really, it’s no wonder that Santana spends a large portion of this episode in tears, falling onto Brittany’s shoulder and clinging to her for support. Santana craves something stable at this point. She craves a change.
Anyway, I’m rambling now. Suffice it to say that Santana has a lot on her mind at this party and that her behavior prefigures the events of 2x15.
Thanks for writing in, Anon! I appreciate the question.
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