Episode 5.20: “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

This is how the fifth season ends, not with a bang but a blugh.

Blaine’s lie to Kurt, which should have been a major turning point in their relationship because of how symptomatic it is of how messed up Blaine is, is casually brushed aside, with Kurt almost assuming blame for it. Sam and Mercedes’s relationship, established and strengthened over the course of just the past few episodes, is unceremoniously and with little emotion brought to an end. And the development of Rachel’s TV show is treated as a joke that I don’t feel like I’m supposed to get.

First up we have Rachel’s TV show. The network has sent writer Mary Halloran to hang out with her in order to get to know her and develop the script. Mary is eccentric to the point of being bizarre, doing things such as interviewing people while lying under their desk, putting a doughnut in her bra during another interview, and picking the chocolate glaze off another doughnut despite being offered a plain one because she “prefers the misery of doing it this way.” I guess all this is supposed to be funny, but it’s mainly awkward and weird. Meanwhile, her contributions to the concept for Rachel’s show include upgrading her two gay dads to “two gay NASA dads,” and changing her friend’s names to such anonymous monikers as Slaine, Jam, Cert, and Blartie. When she finishes the actual script and gives it to Rachel and company to read over, it’s a bizarre mixture of teenage text acronyms and hashtags (“Hashtag hashtag hashtag hashtag hashtag…”), nihilistic musings, sex/art gallery foundings, and speeches about what characters are like. When Rachel confronts Mary about her script sucking, Mary insists, “People want antiheroes. They want chubby girls who can’t keep men and men who kill people,” which doesn’t make much sense as justification since her script has none of that. Eventually Rachel convinces her of her ideas with the power of song, and Mary agrees to try writing s script that might make someone happy.

This is what I mean about a joke that I don’t think I’m meant to understand. I mean, I guess I get that TV has gotten darker and edgier in recent years, but what the hell was the original script supposed to be parodying, and what was up with Mary Halloran? I somehow get the idea that this is all very funny to people who were around when Glee was being pitched, which I think is an example of the kind of inside joke we can look forward to for the entirety of this plot arc. I understand the idea that Glee is a show that is different from anything else on television, and that part of that is its enduring optimism, but I’m not sure what other point this bit is trying to make. I’m afraid it makes Glee sound a lot more revolutionary than it is. Plus, they seem to have forgotten how dark Glee was in season one.

Also, as I may have mentioned before, if season six ends up being all about the meta-creation of Glee within Glee, I quit. For real.

Probably not really.

Anyway, Rachel and the gang are pleased with Mary’s new happy script, she sends it to the network, and by the end of the episode Rachel has gotten the call that the network has ordered a pilot. So much for Fanny Brice, I guess. I can’t wait to see the scene where she tells Sidney about this.

Meanwhile, Blaine decides to cut off this multi-episode arc about him lying to Kurt about June wanting him in her showcase by suddenly blurting out the truth. Kurt is understandably hurt, and walks out. Then later, he comes back and not only forgives Blaine, but tells him that he’s not even angry. Then they go have sex. The biggest problem with this resolution is that it does not address the deeper problems with Blaine and Kurt’s relationship. Blaine cheated on Kurt in season four, he became wildly jealous of Elliot in season five to the point that he confronted Elliot in his own home in “New New York“, he lied to Kurt about the cheating in “The Break-Up” and about being able to go to Kurt’s band’s opening night in “Puppet Master,” he became unbearably clingy to the point that they both have to back off in “New New York,” and he displayed crippling insecurity and an eating disorder brought on by his issues with his and Kurt’s relationship in “Tested.” And now there’s this. Blaine again lies to Kurt, and shows that he is having major issues maintaining a healthy relationship, and it’s again just shrugged off. Given the multi-episode nature of this story, it felt like this should have been some kind of tipping point. Instead, it was just a big anticlimax.

Anyway, Blaine invites Kurt onstage during the showcase anyway, against June’s wishes, and they are such a big hit that June has to admit that Blaine was right to do it and forgive him. Once again, Glee gets to have its cake and eat it too.

Then there’s Sam and Mercedes. Mercedes is about to go on tour and Sam is starting a gig working with a very attractive female photographer. Mercedes is not worried that Sam will crack and cheat on her, but, oddly enough, Sam is. He eventually has a moment of weakness and kisses the photographer when she comes onto him, after which he immediately leaves and goes to confess to Mercedes. She forgives him, which is more believable in this case than in Kurt and Blaine’s case because Sam confessed immediately, because he wasn’t the instigator of the kiss, and because he left the situation as soon as he could. This leads into Sam and Mercedes mutually breaking up, as they are about to be apart for a long time and Mercedes doesn’t think it’s fair to keep asking Sam to wait.

Suddenly, all that time they spent selling “Samcedes” the past few episodes seems kinda pointless. They just can’t not break up, apparently. It’s like they have on-and-off-again breakups instead of a relationship.

In the end, Sam successfully completes his photoshoot somehow, and ends up nearly naked on the side of a bus, at long last achieving his lifelong dream. With that, he decides to go back home to Ohio, because NYC apparently just isn’t his style. How long has he been there, a year at most? Probably not longer than a few months. Seems like he’s writing himself out of the show.

Speaking of which, Santana is conspicuously absent from this episode. It’s explained that she is in Iowa shooting a commercial, which is weird because that’s not the direction it looked like she was going back in “Old Dogs New Tricks.” There are a lot of rumors going around about why Naya Rivera was excluded from the finale, and I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. I’ll refrain from commenting on that (as I usually do regarding offscreen drama), but Santana’s absence is pretty awkward, especially since Brittany is back. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Santana and Brittany in the same room at the same time. Maybe they’re actually the same person.

All in all, this was not a terrible season finale, but it was underwhelming. And, as usual, I have no idea what the fuck is going to happen next season.

Musically, things were not bad, though there may have been a song or two too many. Original song “Shakin’ My Head” had a nice beat but ludicrous lyrics. It was fun, though, and I can believe it coming from Mercedes. And it was nice seeing Brittany dancing again. Heather Morris apparently told all that baby weight to go fuck itself. Blaine’s “All of Me” was good, and a decent lead-in to his confession to Kurt. “Girls on Film” worked as a way of showing the temptations of Sam’s new career. “Glitter in the Air” was good, but it was a little much to ask us to believe that it melted Mary’s black cynical heart. “No Time at All” was quite good. I could stand to see more of Shirley MacLaine next season, if only for performances like this. “American Boy” was so good that it almost made me believe June’s sudden turnaround on the subject of Kurt. “Pompeii,” loath as I am to admit it (because I don’t like the way this episode ended in general) was the highlight. It sold the characters’ feelings about how things keep changing, yet how things are still, well… pretty okay.

Other thoughts:

Brittany has apparently been stuck in the airport “Like Tom Hanks in that movie.” “Cast Away?” “Big?” “The Money Pit?” “Okay, it was Cast Away.

I hate the stereotype that all “serious” writers use a typewriter, and not just because I’m typing this on a brand-new MacBook Air.

Rachel and the gang make a pact to meet back in NYC in six months, no matter what happens. I hope that that vow lasts longer than the one she made to remain in the City for two years with Kurt and Santana.

Uh… did Sam go back to high school?

Hopefully I’ll be back shortly with my season overview.

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Episode 5.19: “Old Dog New Tricks”

(Spoiler lurk below.)

This episode was written by Chis Colfer, who inspired the creation of the character of Kurt and has declared himself to be Lea Michele’s biggest fan. Maybe that’s why “Old Dogs New Tricks” feels like a bad fanfic. I’d be the last to deny Colfer’s skills at acting: he’s arguably Glee‘s greatest asset in that regard. But as a writer, I’m afraid he’s a flop. The plot is by the numbers, the guest characters are cardboard, and Kurt, already often accused of being a Mary Sue for Ryan Murphy, seems like a Mary Sue for Colfer himself. Kurt manages to come across not only as the hero in his own story, but as the hero of Rachel’s story and the hero of several tertiary characters’ stories. Sam and Mercedes manage to escape his gravity well, but their story, while easily the best of the lot, is not all that strong either.

We start with Rachel trying to find some way of repairing her reputation, as the rumor that she is considering leaving Broadway for Hollywood has somehow gotten out. What she comes up with is sponsoring a dog rescue, a plan that she gets help with from Santana, who decides for some reason to act as Rachel’s publicist. Despite the fact that the genesis of this plotline is Rachel’s possible TV career, it feels oddly disconnected from the story arc that began in the prior episode. We don’t hear anything about her pilot at all after the first scene, and nothing in that plotline advances. In the second-to-last episode of the season, we’re suddenly just largely fucking around instead of advancing the story. I get the feeling this would have been better placed beforeBack-Up Plan.” That way, the last two episodes of the season could drive the story all the way to the end.

Anyway, there are some funny shenanigans involving Rachel walking six dogs for a photo op and getting dragged a few blocks, and then Rachel refuses to allow a kid to adopt a three-legged dog because she needs it to pose with in order to give her reputation the biggest possible boost, and finally she learns not to be so self centered and to be more Kurt-centered, as she supports Kurt by going to his show. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers Rachel story, and doesn’t offer anything that we haven’t seen a dozen times before.

Arguably more interesting is Santana’s story, as she seems to find her niche working as Rachel’s publicist, something she really seems to enjoy. I say “arguably” because, while the story is good, Santana herself feels… off. She comes across as mechanical and lifeless, like she’s just reciting lines, doing her best to pretend to be Santana but not quite succeeding. I don’t feel any subtext in Rachel and Santana’s relationship, despite their long and interesting past. I don’t get any sense of satisfaction from Santana for getting a lead on a career after so much wandering. She seems to exist just to serve Rachel, her reward being the one bizarre moment when Rachel gives publicity to her publicist while giving an interview to a TV reporter.

Again, these are elements of a bad fanfic.

Kurt, meanwhile, decides to throw himself a pity party since nobody likes him and everybody hates him and he guesses he’ll go eat worms. Actually never mind the worms. He just gets himself an old lady for a friend just like Blaine did. Maggie, from a “home for retired performers,” wanders into the diner one day, and Kurt ends up telling her everything about his life, then later drops into her retirement home to watch them rehearse their production of Peter Pan. When their Peter loses the part due to missing her cue and also dying, Kurt volunteers to fill in for some reason, and also expects his friends to be excited for him for some reason. This whole plotline, top to bottom, feels engineered to make Kurt seem both pitiful and honorable. Pitiful because none of his friends care about what he’s doing, honorable because he’s helping old people. Kurt sure is a saint, you guys. And on top of all that, he even reunites Maggie with her daughter Clara, by showing up at Clara’s office and telling her about how much Maggie misses her, and about how Kurt lost his own mother when he was eight, and shouldn’t Clara be glad that she even has a mother? Clara tells the typical story about how Maggie used to forget her birthdays and neglect her, but she still shows up at the play just in time for maximum dramatic effect. Speaking of which, all Kurt’s friends show up for the play too. And after the play, Rachel invites all the old people to perform at her dog rescue event.

There’s so much feel-good in this story, it makes me ill.

Meanwhile, Sam adopts a dog and proceeds to allow it to run wild all over the house and chew up Mercedes’s shoes and hair. He adopts the dog, which he names McConaughey, because Mercedes mocked the idea of getting a pet because she has her hands full taking care of Sam. He wants to prove that he can take care of a dog, as part of his attempt to prove himself husband material to Mercedes. It doesn’t go so well at first, obviously, but he finally buckles down and trains the dog via the magic of a musical montage. Mercedes then tells Sam that she’s impressed, but that keeping a dog wouldn’t be fair to the dog, as she is about to go on tour and Sam works odd hours. I liked Sam’s explanation of how he wants to prove that he can be responsible and he doesn’t want to be seen as a joke. It almost comes across as Sam rebelling against his status as the resident idiot, a role not thrust upon him until season four. He even references season three, when he took care of his family after his dad lost his job (hey, whatever happened to his family anyway?). Sam and Mercedes’s conversation also felt like a real, adult conversation, and it definitely helped sell their relationship as a real one with ups and downs.

If nothing else, the tail end of this season has done more with “Samcedes” than the entire rest of the series has.

To sum up: Mercedes and Sam’s plotline was decent, but everything else was cloying, clichéd, predictable, and melodramatic, with characters that rang false and, to be blunt, writing that is amateurish in the extreme. Sorry, Chris.

Musically, things were decent. “I Melt With You” suffered from a really artificial setup, and I think it undermined the harsh realities of running a dog shelter a bit (for instance, not all the animals are liable to be nearly that friendly), but it was okay. “Memory” I’m going to call the highlight of the episode mainly because I actually really missed Kurt’s high-falsetto “girly” singing voice, and this was a good use of it. In context, it was pretty ridiculous though. “Werewolves of London” was quite good, but I’m really not sure what it had to do with training a dog. Except that werewolves are like wolves, and wolves are like dogs, I guess. It’s as if they picked the song by playing word association. “Lucky Star” was awful: painfully faux-cool and “modern,” so hip it felt like I was in the 90’s again. It actually would have been about 50% better without the shades, a cliché so painful I can only imagine the entire crew needed ibuprofen during shooting just to get through it. “Take Me Home Tonight” was nice, and actually a good choice for a dog adoption event.

Other thoughts:

What the fuck happened to Santana’s hair?

“Pillsbury” was an odd choice of a nickname for Kurt, considering it’s already the last name of another major character.

Good thing that the rest of Kurt’s band left town so that he was free to throw his pity party.

What did that doggie obstacle course have to do with keeping McConaughey from chewing on shoes and pooping on the rug?

What was with the nurse at the retirement home just telling Kurt all Maggie’s business?

How did a freshman at a film school get the school to lend him a bus?

Despite Rachel learning a lesson from the kid and mom’s reaction when she doesn’t let them adopt the three-legged dog, she still poses with the same dog at her event.

Rachel and Santana probably should have researched marketability before they chose the name “Broadway Bitches” for their rescue.

Episode 5.18: “Back-Up Plan”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

Last time, I pondered what the show was going to do with Rachel now that she has achieved her dream. Well, they didn’t take long to answer. In “Back-Up Plan,” Rachel has become disillusioned with working in the same show night after night, despite having only been with it for a month or so. She has everything she ever wanted, but now she has to live happily ever after… and she’s not satisfied. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Here, Rachel experiences exactly what is meant by that. Meanwhile, Blaine forges a friendship with a woman who is a Broadway powerhouse and wants to make Blaine a star (but who doesn’t give a rip about Kurt), and Mercedes gets some help from Santana finding a single for her album, and tries to get Santana to record with her for the actual release, against the advice of her producer and even Santana.

There are a couple of themes running through this episode. One is that of goals and what one is willing to do to achieve them, as well as what happens after they are achieved. Rachel barely barely gets what she wants before she already wants something else. Blaine and Kurt have an agreement that wherever the other one goes and whatever the other one gets, they will share in it… but what if that’s not possible? Can one of them let go of their dream just because they can’t take the other one with them? Mercedes has to face getting help to achieve her goal, after which helping the person who helped her becomes part of her goal.

Another theme running throughout is that of friendship and relationships and what they mean to us and our goals, and what we mean to them and theirs. Rachel makes a very stupid decision, and her career and reputation are only narrowly saved when Santana, of all people, steps up to help her without expecting anything in return. Santana was trying to destroy Rachel only a few months ago, but it seems she has changed (again). Blaine faces the question of what to do when he’s offered a chance to, essentially, leave his fiancé behind in exchange for the stardom that they both want. He doesn’t say no, but he can’t bring himself to tell Kurt about it either. And Mercedes rekindles what friendship she has with Santana to aid her singing career, and shows that she means what she says by taking Santana with her into the recording booth, possibly to the detriment of her own career… because that’s what friends do. This even teaches Santana something, which brings us back around to Santana and Rachel.

In case you couldn’t guess, I liked this episode quite a bit. This is the first unqualified success of the new Glee.

I mentioned when Rachel quit NYADA that Carmen Tibideaux’s warning about Rachel’s roughness and inexperience loomed large. Despite it not being overtly mentioned here, we are definitely seeing its effects. Rachel is bored with being a star after only a month, and wants to parlay her stale 15 minutes of fame into a TV or movie career. Her agent tells her that she “has a face for radio,” that the best she can hope for is to play Fanny Brice to 10 or 15 years. She’s kinda resigned to this until the dean from Community… er, I mean Lee Paulblatt from the Fox network, shows up and offers her an audition for a new show called Song of Solomon in LA. It’s a testament to Rachel’s inexperience and naïveté that she asks absolutely no questions about the show or the part she would be auditioning for: she just accepts and calls in sick to Sidney, her producer, in order to fly to LA and audition. Said audition is an absolute disaster: she starts with a song, but is then told that the show is not a musical, and then she stumbles through a reading using a script she’d never seen before and which she clearly doesn’t understand or like. She immediately regrets the whole thing and calls Sidney to reaffirm her commitment to the show… only to be told that her understudy has hurt herself and Rachel needs to get to the theater ASAP, flu or no. Too bad she’s still in LA.

Santana pulls her fat out of the fire by showing up and acting as the understudy’s understudy. The truth comes out about what Rachel did, of course, but at least the show goes on. Rachel’s scene with Sidney chewing her out was a great companion piece to her earlier confrontation with Carmen. Here, she’s screwed up in exactly the way that Carmen would have predicted. Sidney calls her an “ambitious, irresponsible child,” and it’s not far from the truth. He comes within a hair’s breadth of firing her. He gives her another chance, but promises that if she ever does anything remotely similar to that again, he will fire her and torpedo her reputation, making sure she never works onstage again.

And Rachel immediately proves to have learned nothing when she receives a call from Paulblatt, right outside Sidney’s office, and accepts an offer for a TV show to be developed around her… with no details even extant yet. One can almost see Carmen sadly shaking her head in the background.

Meanwhile, Kurt gets a gig performing at a NYADA event for well-known socialite and donor June Dolloway. He insists on having Blaine perform with him, because they’ve promised to always share in each other’s success. The performance goes well, and June takes an immediate liking to Blaine. They pal around and become friends, and June finally tells Blaine that she wants to develop a project for him and make him a star. Despite Blaine’s recommendation, she has no interest in bringing Kurt onboard. When he says that he can’t do the show in that case, June tells him that she doesn’t even think that Blaine should be engaged to Kurt. One’s first love is just practice, she says. She doesn’t deny that their love is real, just that it’s forever. Blaine and Kurt are basically kids, and there are plenty more chances to fall in love.

Blaine’s reaction is interesting. He agrees to do the project, but he can’t bring himself to tell Kurt about it. When Kurt finally wheedles it out of him, Blaine lies and says that there is a part in it guaranteed for Kurt.

This will apparently be resolved in another episode, but Blaine has really cooked his own goose. Kurt is going to end up angry not because Blaine is doing a show without him (I’m pretty sure he could have accepted that), but because Blaine didn’t trust him enough to tell him the truth. Blaine’s trust issues have popped up several times before, most notably in regards to Elliot. He has also lied to Kurt before, when he failed to tell Kurt that he couldn’t attend his show in “Puppet Master.” Both of these could have some relationship to when Blaine cheated on Kurt (“The Break-Up“): the unfaithful are always the most jealous, and he would naturally fear Kurt’s ability to trust him about betraying him like that.

One almost gets the idea that their engagement was a mistake.

And finally, Mercedes is having trouble finding a single for her album. She manages to get inspiration from Santana, and, to thank her, tries to convince her producer to turn the single into a duet with her and Santana. The producer comes across as a very reasonable guy, telling her exactly why it’s a bad idea. Mercedes is still trying to find real fame, and her single needs to be all about her. Bringing Santana onboard can’t possibly help her. If she really wants to do a duet, he’s willing to find a big star to sing with her so that she might be able to ride some coattails. He offers to let Santana sing backup, but not co-headline. He even convinces Santana that Mercedes is making a mistake by trying to add Santana to the album.

Despite all that, Mercedes shows up at Santana’s job with a contract for her to sign. She doesn’t care if will help her or even hurt her: she thinks of Santana as a friend and she owes her for the help, so she’s not going to leave her behind if she can help it. She does what Blaine can’t, as she has just enough clout to go against her producer’s advice. And she inspires Santana to help Rachel.

Santana’s scene with Rachel was very welcome, as we needed the additional closure on Santana and Rachel’s earlier feud. And it was good to see Santana admitting that she needs to work on her relationship skills.

This was a solid episode, and it gives me some hope for the future of NYC-era Glee.

Musically, we were also on solid ground. “Wake Me Up” was a brilliant illustration of Rachel’s feelings of being trapped. The use of repeated images, especially the stagehand taking and dropping off the wig, really sold the idea of living the same thing over and over again. More than anything else in the episode, this made me understand why Rachel would act like such an idiot. This was easily the highlight of the episode. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” was quite good, and, as Mercedes points out, Mercedes and Santana together are always magic. “Story of My Life” was very good. In retrospect, it’s actually possible to see why June might have seen something in Blaine, but not Kurt, though they both did fine. Blaine was more natural, while Kurt might have been trying a little too hard. “Piece of My Heart” was a lot of fun. Shirley MacLaine’s singing didn’t exactly blow me away, but her enthusiasm more than made up for it, and she did a solid enough job. “The Rose” was good on its own merits, but considering that it meant nothing in the context of the episode, it’s hard to argue that it needed to be included. In some ways, it was a parody of an overly-dramatic Rachel Berry showstopper.

Other thoughts:

It seems kinda gauche to make it rain with donated cash at a charity event.

I at first thought that the show was going to drag out Rachel’s Three’s Company shenanigans a lot longer, but she kept up the deception about as long as was realistic.

I’m not sure what they’re going to do with the show that Paulblatt is going to develop for Rachel, but if they do some kind of meta Seinfeld-type thing where they create Glee, I quit.

With that I’m caught up with my reviews… except that an episode aired tonight. I’m gonna try to get back on track here soon.

Episode 5.17: “Opening Night”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

In many ways, this episode represents the end of Glee‘s journey, insofar as Glee is a show about Rachel Berry. She began the series as a wannabe star who posted videos of herself singing on MySpace, to universal scorn. Now, she’s starring in a Broadway show on opening night, playing her dream role. People go go their whole lives without accomplishing as much as Rachel has managed to accomplish barely a year out of high school.

Is it too soon? Was it too easy? Characters are supposed to earn their happy endings, and, while Rachel has paid a lot of dues over the years, it’s hard to argue that she’s earned the position of “Broadway star.” It wasn’t all that long ago that her method of dealing with competition was to send them to a crackhouse.

Early on in this episode, Rachel forces herself to deal with all the negative press that the previews have generated, finding every bad thing said about her in print or on the Internet and drowning herself in it, everything from professional criticism to YouTube comments. This leads to all her friends (including visiting Tina) trying to cheer her up and build up her confidence, and ends with a lovely scene between Rachel and Santana, whose line “You suck at so many things, but not this” sounds perfect coming from her. This plotline works as far as it goes, but what’s annoying about it is that it sets Rachel up as a victim without having to establish a villain, and she gets to be built up without actually doing anything wrong. The show essentially throws a pity party for Rachel and we’re all invited. It’s a lazy way to give a character confidence.

One could also argue that Rachel’s confidence is one of her defining characteristics and that it seems wrong for her to suddenly fear that she actually sucks. “Choke” suggests that maybe she had reason to worry, but even there she never doubted to talent. I tend to be more forgiving of the character change here what with the major move to Broadway, but they didn’t sell it all that well, and it probably should have come up at least a few episodes ago.

Santana’s speech almost makes this plotline worth it, and Lea Michele sells the whole thing for all its worth. I also have to admit to enjoying the whole thing, from beginning to end, since I’m a sucker and all. But, objectively, it rings false because of how it’s structured.

Worse than Rachel’s faux breakdown was the fact that she ended up getting rave reviews. I kept waiting for some note about her greenness, some criticism of her unpolished performance, a suggestion that a veteran actress might have done better. But no, apparently she’s a superstar right out of the box. Again, I admit to enjoying this. Rachel has worked her ass off her entire life to get to this point, but… if she’s achieved her dream at age 19, where does she go from here? Her story can’t be done, there’s another season and some change of this show left to go.

Actually more enjoyable than the beginning or end of this story was the middle: the performance itself and the celebration. I particularly loved Rachel being recognized at the club. It was also nice seeing everyone having fun together, much more fun than seeing them all trying to cheer Rachel up.

I guess that brings us to… *sigh*… the half of the episode with Sue in it. What the hell were they thinking here? Sue insults New York City on TV, her Ohioan viewers care for some reason, so she goes to NYC to prove her point and instead finds love… What? No seriously, what. This feels like something they came up with just to work Sue into the episode somehow, as if she had any reason to be there. It was somewhat satisfying seeing Rachel stand up to her, but it’s not something that we’ve never seen before. Mario was a complete waste of space, an almost totally generic character. Their relationship was simply boring and pointless. The whole subplot dragged the episode down. Way down. I don’t know what even made them think that this belonged here.

Also appearing in this episode: Will. Despite the implication in “New Directions” that he was being let go from the school, apparently he wasn’t. He’s still there, and he travels to NYC to be at Rachel’s opening night (with Sue, because… who cares), only to immediately travel back to Lima when Emma goes into labor. That’s pretty much his whole story. His scene with Rachel was quite nice, but otherwise they didn’t give him much to do.

Overall, this episode was all over the map. There was a lot to like, but there were just as many tragic missteps and moments that made me wonder what the hell they were thinking.

Musically, this episode was on much more solid ground. “Lovefool” was an absolute blast, and, aside from being extremely trippy, was a nice way of selling Rachel’s anxiety: as a residual of her struggles back in high school. “NYC” was a great performance, and I loved the stage-style dream sequence… but it had no place in the episode. It brought the plot to a grinding halt. “I’m the Greatest Star” was wonderful: it was good to see Rachel owning the stage. Despite how questionable it was, from a story perspective, to give Rachel so much success so fast, this was the highlight of the episode. “Who Are You Now,” on the other hand, was on track to be the highlight of the episode until it shoehorned Sue into the number. I mean… really? We’re going to invite comparisons between Rachel’s relationship with Finn and Sue’s one-episode relationship with Generic New Yorker #188? That’s unforgivable. It utterly destroys my ability to enjoy what is objectively a very good number. “Pumpin’ Blood” was a ton of fun, just pure joy.

Other thoughts:

Why was Shakespeare on drums?

Rachel’s producer seems awfully good at saying exactly the wrong thing to his star.

Apparently Sue’s marriage to herself didn’t work out and she ended up divorcing herself. … Thanks for reminding me of that mess.

The running gag about Tina’s relationships all being with gay men was kinda tiresome, but I did find it kinda funny that she failed to realize the DJ at a gay dance club was gay.

The newsstand guy’s response to a bunch of teens showing up at dawn to buy a copy of the New York Times: “They’re gonna email you the New York Times in three minutes.”

Will’s son’s name: Daniel Finn Schuester.

In case you forgot (because I did): Sue has a daughter.