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 5.13: “New Directions”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

This is it, the final farewell to the high school half of the show. And a truly good riddance it is, right? Despite the fact that they have done some good things with it in latter days, it’s mostly been a monkey on their back since season four began, struggling as it did with half-baked carbon-copy characters that no one cared about and the far more interesting goings-on with our better-loved friends in New York. We’re well-rid of it, really. And yet… it’s still sad to see it go. Glee was built on this. The thing that fascinated me most about this show, way back in “Pilot” and beyond, was that it allowed for ambiguity in the social status of high school students. Going against the grain, it suggested that maybe you could be captain of the football team and a member of a show choir, that the head cheerleader could be friends with a nobody who just showed her a little kindness, while still fighting to maintain her social status, that, overall, people were complex enough to serve more than one master. And now high school, that handy analogy for life as a whole, is exiting the show. We’re saying goodbye to where we began, and moving into the unknown future. It’s a graduation, in a way: something that the writers do not miss.

Things are changing all over the show. At long last, our fourth/fifth season seniors are graduating. Santana breaks away from her old life, quitting the musical, making up with Rachel, and deciding to run away with Brittany (because Dani was far too underdeveloped a character to make a good girlfriend anyway). And Will faces the end of his career at WMHS, as Sue tells him that he was a “terrible history teacher and a worse Spanish teacher.” On the one had, this is odd because we hadn’t seen any prior evidence that Will was being fired from his regular job, but on the other hand, he probably really did suck at it, so fuck him.

My Podcast co-host, J. (who does not watch Glee but enjoys reading these reviews for some reason), retweeted a comment about this show, which I saw before watching it, that said something along the lines of “A tribute to Will Schuester, history’s greatest monster.” I thought that that was pretty funny, and I started a series of tweets celebrating #SchueFacts, things our hero had done that don’t seem particularly heroic, like suspending a bulimic girl for refusing to wear revealing clothing and belittling his mentally-ill girlfriend’s attempts to get better. As I’ve mentioned on several other occasions, Will is kind of a dick. But I honestly don’t think that that fact demeans the power of the tribute the kids put on for him, or the magical performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” that saw Will finally get a chance to join in. The fact is that Will is a deeply flawed man, but that he has also managed to accomplish amazing things. That Will has built a national powerhouse show choir out of nothing, inspired so many of his students, and did it all fairly and honestly (mostly) despite being, in many ways, a self-centered douchebag, is actually testament to the ability to overcome one’s handicaps. He may not be the saint that he’s sometimes portrayed as, but neither is he literally “history’s greatest monster.” He’s simply a flawed man who has managed to accomplish a lot despite his shortcomings.

In the end, Sue tells Will that she got him an interview to be the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, the New Directions’ former arch-nemesis that has apparently fallen on hard times ever since Shelby left them. As Sue points out, it would give him the chance to head a real program with support and a budget, and one could see him thrive there. He may have been a bad Spanish and history teacher, but when it comes to music, he often does amazing things.

It was good to see Rachel being the one to extend the olive branch to Santana as, despite Santana’s recent foray back into evilness, Rachel was originally the one in the wrong in their feud. Her offer of 10 shows to Santana was a remarkable peace offering, and a good sign that Rachel has finally remembered how to share the spotlight, something that she has been learning over and over again since way back in the third episode of season one (“Acafellas”). That Santana refuses it, and, in fact, quits the show entirely and runs away with Brittany is… weird. Santana’s arc since she dropped out of college in season four has been one of trying to find herself, and, since she went back to serious dancing in “Lights Out,” she has seemed pretty satisfied with the goal of becoming a star on Broadway. It would be one thing if she had finally discovered her passion, but she seems as directionless as ever. Again, I won’t say I didn’t like it… Brittany and Santana are probably Glee‘s most entertaining couple, and they have a lot of competition. But the storyline didn’t seem that well thought out.

Tina’s plotline, in which she agonizes over whether or not to go to New York without a plan up until the decision is made for her when she finds out she got into Brown, was pretty much a waste except for the spot-on Friends parody. Didn’t I make that joke already? I do wish they’d gotten the rights to the actual theme song. That would have sold it so much better. But it was still pretty funny.

But anyway, Tina has finally been written off the show. I’d miss her, except she never did anything.

Holly and April’s ridiculous plan to save the glee club by integrating with some unrelated club was just dumb, and not all that funny either. They could have at least made it look like they were trying to make some kind of real connection with these other clubs. What exactly did the song “Party all the Time” have to do with animal husbandry? It also sure exited reality quickly, what with the imaginary dance club. Anyway, their plans fail miserably, and Will has to tell Holly that he’s ready to let the glee club die. Lesson learned: give up.

Enough with the plot, since it wasn’t really the point. Let’s talk about the music. As with every other episode to feature the number, first there’s Don’t Stop Believin’,” and then there’s everything else. This is the third time that Glee has reprised this iconic number, and the second time in two seasons, but would you believe that this is the first time that Will has actually participated? That added a new wrinkle to the emotionality, as Will took part in the number that originally pulled him into the glee club. As he says goodbye to the club and goodbye to one important phase of his career, there’s still a lot of hope. This is still essentially an optimistic show. The way this number was directed and choreographed was brilliant. Starting with Rachel, the star and the one who began in “Pilot,” moving on to Kurt, honoring but not mimicking Finn’s performance, allowing the rest of the original five to come in, turning then to the rest of the crew from season one, then the season two crew and newbies walking in… and then Will takes it. The performance is full of visual references to the original number, other performances of it, and even a few other numbers. It’s an amazing tribute to the end of an era, and by far the highlight of the episode. I don’t think, by a longshot, that this is the last we’ve seen of this number. I continue to believe that it will be present at the end of the series, just as it was here at the end of the series’s childhood.

I am Changing” was a decent number, and a nice reminder that Mercedes and Kurt were, like, best friends way back in season one, but I don’t think that it had the emotion that Rachel seemed to imbue it with. Party all the Time” was disappointing: generic and devoid of context. “Loser Like Me,” the only other reprise in the episode, was so good it almost made me feel an emotion for Tina. And hey, since it’s an original song, Glee finally can’t be accused of stealing the slower, sadder arrangement… right? “Be Okay” was nice, and a decent way to mend fences between Santana and Rachel. “Just Give Me a Reason” was 100% worth it if only because it allowed Quinn to sing the lyric “I let you see the parts of me that weren’t all that pretty,” because damn… she’s been through hell, and it’s nice to see that she’s okay now. Seeing as how she has a propensity to backslide, hopefully Puck can keep an eye on her.

This was a good episode, and I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish with this part of the show excised.

Other thoughts:

So much for the newbies, I guess.

Blaine got into NYADA. We never saw his audition, nor saw him agonizing or even talking about waiting for a response to his application. Drama, that’s how it works.

I just want to reiterate how fantastic that Friends parody was. Check it out here starting about 3:20.

According to Brittany, lilies are the “lesbian of flowers.”

Quinn and Puck establish in this episode that they never actually officially dated before. Well, that answers the biggest question I had regarding the Glee relationship master list that I attempted to maintain once… You can try to find that if you want. I’m not linking to it, since I stopped updating it in season two.

What is the portmanteau couple name for Quinn and Puck anyway? Quuck?

The nicest thing said about Will during the tribute, by Sue: “No matter how talentless, misshapen, ugly, miserable, or sexually ambiguous you are, he will still love you unconditionally.”

Close second: “Sand dollar.”

Episode 5.12: “100”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

One hundred episodes of Glee. Wow. Say what you want about the quality of the show and whether or not it’s gotten worse or better, but for a television musical to last this long is amazing and wonderful. “100” is a celebration of that, as well as a love letter to the foundation this show was built on. Glee has been doing reprises more and more as it ages, and now we have a two-part episode that is almost entirely dedicated to them. Part one works, and then some. “100” is short on plot, but the story is really just an excuse for the musical numbers (as in many of the best episodes of Glee), and the musical numbers here carry a ton of weight, both from a narrative and an emotional standpoint. It helps that all our old friends are back (including the much-missed Dianna Agron), but that’s not the only reason that “100” feels like vintage season one Glee at its best: this is an episode that is all heart and no brain, but the heart is so strong that it’s more than enough.

Speaking of vintage Glee, the producers’ choices about what to reprise and what to reference say a lot about when Glee‘s golden age was. Returning guest characters are April Rhodes and Holly Holliday, both last seen in season two, and the songs reprised are all from either season one or season two. It’s almost as if they’re admitting that it’s been all downhill ince then, as they look back with nostalgia to when this show was capable of producing entertaining programming most of the time.

There are a melange of subplots here, mainly serving as excuses to get into musical numbers. Everyone is back in town to honor the glee club as it shuts down forever, despite, as Brittany points out, some of them having two full time jobs and being enrolled full time in school (Rachel). April and Holly are also back (they know each other through “a Facebook page for people who were guests of glee club”), and they’re determined to save the club. Quinn has come into town with her asshole boyfriend Biff, whom Puck does not like. Brittany is suffering from burnout after having nothing to do but math at MIT and not dancing anymore, which Santana is concerned about. Mercedes and Rachel finally decide to carry on their rivalry last seen in season three and decide who is (was) the best singer in the glee club by having a diva-off, because apparently high school never ends (no they didn’t do that song, but I wish they had).

Biff is the perfect example of a Glee villain in the classic style: he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities and is only there because Quinn is lying to him and to herself. He thinks it’s interesting to see how poor people live, he spends the entirety of Brittany, Santana, and Quinn’s performance of “Toxic” (in cheerleading outfits) texting, which also brings up uncomfortable questions about his sexuality, and he calls Quinn a slut when she finally comes clean about her troubled past, telling him about her baby and the nosedive spiral her life took that she clawed her way back out of. He offers no understanding, no remorse, not even a cogent argument. He barely has a personality. He’s there for Puck to punch in the face and toss in the dumpster, so that Quinn can realize that she was fooling herself with Biff and that she should really be with Puck. And damned if it isn’t effective. I didn’t feel anything about Puck and Quinn’s relationship when it suddenly appeared in season three’s “Goodbye,” but that was largely because it came out of nowhere and I didn’t understand Quinn’s assertion that Puck was a good person at heart. But Puck has grown a lot since then, we’ve had a season and a half or so to mull over the idea of Quinn and Puck as soulmates, and Puck’s concern for Quinn’s denial of her past seems very real.

In a rare show of subtlety, the episode never comes right out and overtly draws a connection between Finn’s death and Quinn’s desire to rewrite her past, but it’s there. It’s underscored in Puck’s performance of “Keep Holding On,” a song that was originally sung largely for Quinn, right after Finn assured her that everything was going to be okay when it came out that Quinn was pregnant. Quinn claims that she doesn’t want to remember the past (“Until you sang that song, I had actually forgotten about it … I’d rather look forward”), and it’s not hard to infer that not wanting to face dealing with Finn’s death is in play for her. It even connects with Quinn’s non-appearance in “The Quarterback.” Her acceptance of Puck, and by extension her past, constitutes an acceptance of Finn’s death, especially considering how important Finn was to Puck. Quinn and Puck’s one direct discussion of Finn is also quite good, as Puck wonders if Finn ever forgave them, and Quinn assures him that he did a long time ago.

The plotline worked very well. Damn, I’ve missed Quinn.

Mercedes and Rachel’s renewed rivalry felt pointless for a large portion of the episode, but then came Santana’s scathing rant at Rachel, and Mercedes deciding to mend fences and comfort Rachel. Santana was in the right at some point in this rivalry, but since then she’s morphed back into the bully she was in high school, and Mercedes knows how much that can hurt. That the “diva-off” ends in a tie was predictable, but it really isn’t the point. Mercedes and Rachel’s rivalry is in the past, Santana and Rachel’s struggle with each other is in the future. Some people can move forward, and some cannot.

Brittany’s struggle with being a math genius was pretty silly, but, again, the plot wasn’t the point as much as the characters were. Santana gets Brittany to dance again, and Brittany admits that she still feels something for Santana. Their kiss was legitimately surprising (though I’m sure it shouldn’t have been), and it puts Santana in a pretty awkward situation. She says that she spent a lot of time getting over Brittany, and we know that it’s true — one remembers Santana’s sad relationship rants as Mrs. Claus in “Previously Unaired Christmas.” She also has a girlfriend now, and asking her to choose between Dani and the love of her life is inherently unfair. I honestly don’t know what she’ll do, but I hope that she remembers why she broke up with Brittany in the first place way back in “The Break-Up.”

Meanwhile, Will and April try to save the club by pointing out that April funded the auditorium, and as such the club should still be able to meet there. However, Sue finds out that the funds that April left for the auditorium have all been used up (thanks to Will’s extravagant musical numbers), and that April is under indictment with her assets frozen. Oops. Holly shows up and sings a song, but other than that she becomes fast friends with April, and the two decide that they are going to save the glee club (after they finish their wine). This will apparently be resolved in part two.

Will’s scene with the kids in the auditorium in front of the pictures of Finn and Lillian Adler was legitimately emotional, and I could feel the power behind what Will was saying. This was something on the level of what we got in season one’s “Journey to Regionals,” and which I said was missing from “City of Angels.” One only has to remember season one to recall how much this club means to Will, and we’re reminded every episode of how much it means to the kids.

But enough of that. The plotlines and characters worked pretty well, but what really made this episode fantastic was the music. Glee has never screwed up a reprise before, and they certainly don’t start now.

Raise Your Glass,” a Warblers rather than New Directions number as Blaine points out, had a ton of energy and was a lot of fun. With the atmosphere of an impending end and everyone dancing in the choir room, coupled with the natural nostalgia of the episode, it reminded me more of season one’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” than the actual original from season two’s “Original Song.” This was a great number, if an unusual choice to reprise. The Unholy Trinity’s “Toxic,” reprising the only non-imaginary Spears number from season two’s “Britney/Brittany,” was very good, and a nice way of getting Brittany, Quinn, and Santana back together again, but there wasn’t anything all that special about it. I thought it was hurt by the cutaways to the imaginary version where they were in more elaborate costumes. It was about the three of them reuniting, and it should have been kept simple. Mercedes, Kurt, and Rachel’s “Defying Gravity” (original here) was remarkably emotional, considering that I didn’t really feel the importance of Rachel and Mercedes’s rivalry at this point. This is a perfect example of this episode’s ability to pull deep musical numbers out of shallow plots: there is so much going on between Rachel and Mercedes here (though I’m not sure how Kurt snuck in). Santana’s “Valerie,” reprising her own number from season two’s “Special Education,” was a great choice, as the original was one of the best showcases for Brittany’s dancing skills. It was also fantastic seeing Mike, Brittany, and Jake all on stage at the same time. It’s almost amazing-dancer overload. The highlight of a strong bunch, however, is by far Puck’s “Keep Holding on,” reprising the original, sung when Quinn was in a very low place. My reaction was the same as Quinn’s: this number brought tears to my eyes. Very masterfully chosen, and very well performed. Holly’s “Happy,” the only non-reprise of the episode, was quite good, but it didn’t have the weight of the other numbers in the episode.

Other thoughts:

Alluding to some of the super bizarre weirdness of season one, Tina mentions that April taught her how to “shoplift meat in [her] vagina.”

In a similar allusion, Santana refers to Will’s questionable rapping skills.

I guess April’s auditorium funds fully explain the club’s budget over the years?

The biggest laugh of the episode for me was when Holly thanked April for buttering the floor for her after she made her sliding entrance.

Other members of the “guests of glee club” Facebook group: Blaine’s brother, Rachel’s mom, and “that Mexican guy.”

I wonder what Brittany would think if she found out that Quinn and Santana hooked up in “I Do.”

Episode 5.10: “Trio”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

What do I even say about this mess? Combined with last week’s “Frenemies,” and with nationals suddenly only a week away, Glee since the hiatus feels like it’s trying to just waste time until it can dispense with the Ohio half of the show gracefully. “Trio” gives us the last hurrah of inseparable threesome (?) Tina, Blaine, and Sam; Will and Emma trying to have a baby (a plot point that carries little weight when you remember that Jayma Mays and Matthew Morrison are leaving the series at the end of the season); and Rachel and Santana attempting to fast forward their relationship with Elliot, since the show forgot to develop it. This is an episode comprised of relationships and plotlines pulled completely out of the writer’s ass: nothing follows from anything else. Add to that a side of shit no one cares about, and you have what has become the essence of season five: something that wanders, wastes time, and fails to make a point. Glee has become a series that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do.

To be fair to the Sam/Blaine/Tina plotline, the three of them do have connections. Sam and Blaine became friends in season four (most obviously in “Dynamic Duets“) and Blaine and Tina also had a kind of awkward friendship, which introduced the world to the term “vapor rape.” As for Sam and Tina, Sam agreed to be Tina’s prom date earlier in season five, only to be unceremoniously dumped when Tina thought she could improve her chances of being elected prom queen. So to say that their friendship comes out of nowhere isn’t entirely accurate. However, it is mostly accurate. So, we established that they were friends(ish), but they’ve never come across as the inseparable BFFs forever that “Trio” portrays them as. They just made that up for this episode. It’s particularly egregious as this apes the emotions that the graduates of season three had to deal with, but, with no friendships with anywhere near the strength of Puck/Finn, Rachel/Kurt, or even Santana/Quinn, it just rings hollow. Add to it the distractions of Sam and Tina making out (for no reason, apparently, as they seem to have no desire to follow up on it), Blaine losing his shit over it for no good reason, and Becky crashing their party (which, when you remember that she once brought a gun to school, becomes much more frightening than awkward), and you get a plotline that just isn’t entertaining and doesn’t accomplish anything.

They’ll miss each other. Big deal. You’ve got to give me something more than that, since that’s not exactly an interesting or deep observation about people graduating from high school.

Glee also really needs to reconsider how it’s using Becky. As I alluded to earlier, she is becoming an almost sinister character. Her crashing of the Blaine, Tina, and Sam’s lock-in has a hostage-situation feel to it, not helped by Becky’s prior history as a gun-toter and (let’s face it) a sexual predator.

Santana and Rachel’s feud seems stuck in stasis. Elliot has had very little to do with characters other than Kurt prior to this episode, and now suddenly Rachel is living with him and Santana is calling him a traitor for letting her (though even Elliot lampshades this by pointing out that he “barely knows” Santana). Kurt would have been a much better fit for the role of a friend caught in the middle: placing Elliot there was a strange choice, especially as it doesn’t really seem to establish much if anything about his character. He allows himself to be used as a doormat by Rachel and Santana with apparent goodwill until the very end, when he finally blows up at them. Kurt’s decision to break up the band was a better story decision than anything involving Elliot (especially as it included a character who felt like he ought to be there). Rachel and Santana’s brief scene watching Dani, Elliot, and Kurt singing in harmony and having fun together was one of the two best scenes in the episode, alongside Santana and Rachel’s confrontation when Rachel came back to the apartment for her scented candle. The reason these scenes worked so well is that they featured Rachel and Santana, which was something remarkably rare in a plotline supposedly about Rachel and Santana.

We learn here that Santana has moved past simply being ambitious and catty to actually wanting to destroy Rachel to take her part, and justifies her stance by claiming that Rachel would do the same in her position. Well, maybe she would. Post-Broadway Rachel is a Rachel who has regressed terribly, and is not the person I remember from seasons three and four. Now Santana is regressing right along with her, ditching the personal growth she achieved thanks to Brittany and the glee club in order to become the calculating manipulator we remember from seasons one and two. I don’t think that this is unrealistic in the least, I think they’ve sold it well, and it’s a very tragic turn for both characters.

I just wish they’d focus on it more.

Speaking of stuff they’re focussing on that I don’t care about, Will and Emma are trying to conceive, as we find out when Becky catches them fucking in the faculty bathroom (here’s a tip: if you’re ever having sex in a public or semi-public restroom, lock the door). There was nothing of any value in this subplot. Will and Emma haven’t been interesting since season four’s “I Do,” and babies on TV shows have never been interesting. Part of me thinks that this is meant to be used as a way of saying goodbye to Will and Emma, a way of suggesting that they’re living happily ever after. If so, I’ll suspend judgment on that and wait to see what they do with it. Here, though, it didn’t work.

The music was, once again, okay. “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” might have carried more weight if I had given a shit about the trio of Blaine, Sam, and Tina. But it wasn’t bad. “Barracuda,” aside from giving me Guitar Hero III flashbacks, was okay, but again suffered from a lack of context, since the Rachel/Elliot friendship wasn’t really previously established. “Don’t You Forget About Me” was a number that I had a hard time believing that Glee had never done in the previous four seasons. I just wished they had used it in a better context. Still, it was good. “Danny’s Song” tried to sell the emotion of Will and Emma’s married relationship, but it just didn’t work, since nothing had been done to previously establish it. Songs can’t do the work of narrative. “Gloria,” which on its merits purely as a musical number (and I don’t have a lot more to go on here) was the highlight of the episode, was quite good, but, once again, suffered from a lack of background among Santana, Rachel, and Elliot. Still, it was good to see Santana and Rachel competing at this level, anyway. By that metric, Elliot just got in the way. “The Happening” was good, and at least the second best number of the episode. It was better more for Rachel and Santana’s reactions than for the number itself, mainly because of who were the main characters of the story. “Hold On” was a decent way to end things… and at least they finally included Artie. I actually liked the switches among the various singers here.

Other thoughts:

Really, what the hell was up with all the hate for Artie? “You don’t fit in this episode, begone!”

Boobs. That’s apparently what’s important about Tina.

Santana implies that Rachel was fat during her sophomore year. Um… what?

Why did the cheerios have a female cheerleader uniform that fit Sam, for God’s sake?

Will says that they’re all ready for nationals, but do they even have their songs picked out?

Remember when there were newbies? Me neither.

Episode 5.09: “Frenemies”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

Well Glee is finally back and, just as the prophets fortold, so am I. You’d think that after a two-month hiatus Glee would be able to come back with something truly Earth-shattering, but you’d be wrong. “Frenemies” is okay, but nothing to write home about. Like “Feud,” this episode manufactures conflict between a few pairs of characters and expects us to buy it as plot. Unlike “Feud,” there is one conflict with good history behind it that stands at the forefront and drives the show. Unfortunately, the remaining conflicts, like the ones in “Feud,” no one really cares about.

The driving force in this episode, of course, was the conflict between Santana and Rachel. As the opening scene unartfully reminds us, Santana and Rachel have been friends for a while, despite having been mortal enemies in the past. Santana even admits to having been Rachel’s main antagonist among the “unholy trinity” of Santana, Brittany, and Quinn, that she only pretended that Quinn was in charge. I’m not sure I believe that, given the size of Santana’s ego, but the fact that she says it does say something about the depth of hatred that used to exist between them.

The current state of their friendship, however, is not stable. As Santana claims later in the episode, Rachel is glad to have Santana there as someone to lord her success over, and when Santana threatens to have success as well, it upends things. At the same time, Santana really is jealous of Rachel’s success. While Rachel has dreamed of Broadway since she was capable of having dreams, Santana has always violently desired success as well: recall Kurt’s description of Santana’s unbridled hatred of Rachel when she thought she cost them a nationals win in “New York.” Santana has also always thought she was just as good as Rachel, being relegated to the back just because of Rachel’s whining and complaining (something Mercedes called her on in season three, though that plot thread was never resolved). So when Rachel and Santana have a falling out, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. Far from it: it is built on four seasons of history. Sometimes burying the hatchet isn’t as easy as singing a song together.

Rachel and Santana’s breaking moment comes when Santana auditions to be Rachel’s understudy in Funny Girl, without telling Rachel about it, by singing “Don’t Rain on my Parade” (about which more below). The fight that they have afterwords speaks volumes about the things that they have both been holding in, Rachel even making it racial at one point by claiming that Puerto Rican Santana is not right to play Jewish Fanny Brice (Juan Epstein would probably be offended). Kurt refuses to take sides, but it’s pretty obvious that Rachel is in the wrong here. The Rachel we see in “Frenemies” is a self-absorbed shrew who would rather tear down everyone around her than share the spotlight, something we see in her attitude towards having an understudy even before Santana tries out for it. This is the Rachel I remember from season two’s “Audition,” in which it already felt out of character. Here, though… and I’m not sure I’m not reading too much into the intentions of the writers, because this is very subtle, and “subtle” is not something that the Glee writers tend to do well… but this kinda feels like a real reaction to Finn’s death. I found myself thinking, while Kurt was unsuccessfully attempting to mediate between Santana and Rachel, that I wished Finn were there. Rachel would listen to him. To a large degree, without him Rachel has lost her anchor, the thing kept her grounded. Without him, she’s free to go crazy, and she is doing so. She’s turning her back on her friends and embracing the idea that stardom is what life is all about. She has regressed to the Rachel of season one, without anyone to save her from the spiral.

Anyway, that was the good part of this episode. The rest ranged from pointless to dumb.

On the pointless end of the spectrum, we have Kurt’s concern that Elliot may be planning to take over the band, leading to him spending a lot of time with Elliot just so he can keep an eye on him. We already did this in “A Katy or a Gaga,” and, though it makes sense that Kurt might still not have a ton of self-esteem, the idea that he’s still concerned that Elliot is targeting him feels like a rehash of a previous plot point — especially since Elliot hasn’t shown the slightest hint of any kind of ruthless ambition or animosity. It’s just Kurt being insecure. There was a certain enjoyment in seeing Kurt and Elliot hanging out together, but I wish it had been separated from the plot thread of Kurt’s insecurity. After several scenes of Kurt trying to suss out the traitor in Elliot, Elliot finally says that he has no designs on Kurt’s status as the leader of the band, and they become friends… again.

Meanwhile, in the dumb part of the episode, Tina and Artie have a subplot. I kinda liked Artie and Tina’s initial scene together, because it gave Tina a chance to be something other than whiny and bitchy for the first time since season three… then we had the meeting with Sue, and Tina went right back to being whiny and bitchy. To be fair, there is some history between Artie and Tina, but that history exists, for the most part, in season one for its entirety. Tina and Artie have had virtually nothing to do with each other onscreen since then, so trying to sell this “Tuesday lunch” thing between them just does not work. The ensuing fight for valedictorian (that’s not how valedictorian works, by the way) did not show Tina in a good light, as she acted like a total jackass, including pushing Artie out of his chair, in her quest to get what she wanted. When Tina’s valedictorian campaign speech turned out to be in favor of Artie, it was believable because of course Tina might be feeling some guilt for what she did to him… but what was up with Artie deciding to campaign for Tina in his speech? What did Tina do to deserve that? She’s been nothing but a huge bitch for a season and some change now, and in this episode she pushed Artie out of his chair. It feels like there was a scene missing where they made up.

All in all, Glee is back with more of a “meh” than a “bang.” Still, this is a relative high point for season five.

Regarding the music, the first thing we have to talk about is Santana’s “Don’t Rain on my Parade.” Glee has used reprises a few time in the past couple of seasons, and it’s always been pretty effective. This is no exception, as Santana apes Rachel’s classic performance of the same number from season one’s “Sectionals,” not to mock Rachel but to make the point that Santana is on her level, not just an underling meant to strive and fail so that Rachel can look down on her from a position of stardom. The unfortunate thing about this number, however, is that, in inviting comparisons with Rachel’s earlier performance, the fact that Lea Michele is a much better singer than Naya Rivera is put in stark relief. I kinda feel rotten saying that, because Rivera is great, but Michele is simply in a class by herself. Rivera has talent, Michele has power. Rivera entertains, Michele astounds. To be fair, I think that part of what we’re meant to take away from this is that Santana is not as good a singer as Rachel either, and the point stands that Santana is Rachel’s equal, not her poor stepsister who never gets invited to the ball, but the mental comparison robs the moment of some of its power. This is the musical highlight of the episode, but more for the excellent choice in song and choreography than for the performance, which pales in comparison to the original.

The rest of the music was, for the most part, good. “Whenever I Call You Friend” was nice, but without any previously established strong relationship between Artie and Tina, it didn’t carry the weight that it wanted to. Still, it was a solid number. Santana and Rachel’s “Brave” was a decent way of bidding farewell to their friendliness with each other, as Santana allows herself to play second banana to Rachel for the last time. Artie and Tina’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” was quite good, but again it suffered from Tina and Artie’s poorly developed relationship. Kurt and Elliot’s “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” was good, but a bizarre choice for the situation. What did that have to do with guitar shopping? Rachel and Santana’s “Every Breath You Take” was another good song but bizarre choice. I get the idea that they want to keep an eye on each other, but as a duet it sounds like a song about two obsessed lovers, not mortal enemies. Some clever editing might have helped. Still, it was a good performance and the choreography was great. “Breakaway” was a good way to end: it hit all the right notes for Rachel’s departure from their apartment. I liked the contrast between the hopeful nature of the song and Rachel’s hardline stance against making up with Santana.

Other thoughts:

Artie refers to it being “a couple more Tuesdays” until graduation. Hang tight people, we’re almost home free.

Speaking of which, the newbies had nothing to do in this episode. Preparing to cut them loose?

Sue continues to lean on the fourth wall, referring to glee club members who “come and go with no explanation.” Anyone seen Sugar or Joe lately?

Why didn’t Sue appoint an odd number of judges to stave off the possibility of a tie?

This director sure likes having people talk at the camera. It got pretty weird after a while.

Episode 5.03: “The Quarterback”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

Glee has never felt the need to adhere strictly to the rules of television writing. On several occasions, they’re produced episodes that were little more than long music videos. They’ve done episodes that contained large amounts of experimentation, dropping a parody video into the middle or telling a series of unrelated stories. This week, they’ve eschewed story in order to present a 45-minute memorial to both Cory Monteith and Finn Hudson… and boy, did it work. This was a sweet, meaningful, well-crafted tribute that did almost everything right, in its own Glee kinda way.

“The Quarterback” moves effortlessly throughout its running time from character to character and back again, exploring their reactions to the death of Finn and how they’re moving forward. The manner of Finn’s death is never addressed: Kurt’s voiceover nips this in the bud early by saying that it doesn’t matter how he died, but only how he lived. And that’s what this episode is about: a celebration of Finn’s life and a mourning of the holes he left behind in the hearts of everyone he interacted with. They come close to whitewashing Finn a few times, but in the end they’re not afraid to present him as the flawed person he was, not as a saint. Mercedes even alludes to Finn’s demons when she obliquely mentions the season one baby drama among Finn, Quinn, and Puck. And then there’s the quote on Finn’s newly christened plaque in the choir room, handpicked by Rachel: “The show must go… all over the place… or something.” It’s an inspired choice of words to remember Finn by. He was not very smart or very charismatic, but he had heart and plenty of feeling for everyone around him.

Kurt’s grief is presented as a kind of subdued numbness. He doesn’t have a lot of facial expressions or reactions throughout the episode, but it’s obvious that he’s deeply in pain. At one point in the initial voiceover, he says “This isn’t real. I’m not going home for this. He’s going to be there.” That denial lasts only a second, but it’s a powerful flash of how Finn’s death has affected Kurt. The entire voiceover is delivered in a flat monotone, the words of a man who just doesn’t know how to express what he’s feeling or, as Kurt puts it, who doesn’t even know what he’s feeling. “What can you say about a 19-year-old who dies?”

Later, Kurt helps his father Burt and stepmother (Finn’s mother) Carole sort through Finn’s things. This includes a reference to the “faggy” lamp from season one’s “Theatricality.” Finn threw a fit in that episode and said some things he didn’t mean. I like that they bring it up because, again, it allows us to see the entire Finn, not a saint. He was someone who made mistakes, but who could learn from them. Carole opines that Finn kept the lamp to “prove a point to Burt.” Burt himself has a great monologue about how he thinks he should have hugged Finn more, in a great performance of barely-under-the-surface utter grief by Mike O’Malley. Carole holds it together for a while, but then it all hits her all over again, and she starts sobbing. “You have to keep on being a parent, even though you don’t have a child anymore.”

Puck’s grief is characterized, very appropriately, by anger and rebellion. Puck doesn’t feel that he’s “sad” so much as he’s just so pissed off that his friend has left him alone. He steals the memorial tree planted by Kurt, and he tries to talk Kurt into giving him Finn’s letterman jacket. Puck is so consumed by his own feelings that he just doesn’t know what to do. He finally connects with Shannon, who gets him to tell her that he doesn’t want to cry because he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to stop. He finally does break down, and Shannon is there for him. This is the scene in the episode that comes the closest to being over the top, but it’s fairly easy to forgive. Puck is a larger-than-life character, and his reactions make sense. Shannon and Puck replant the memorial tree together, near the end of the episode. This is a much nicer scene than the first one, a more subtle approach to what they’re going through. “It was a garbage tree, though. It wasn’t big enough.” “They grow, you know.”

Santana’s grief is also angry, in a more explosive way. She gets into a screaming match with Sue over Sue ordering than Finn’s memorial at his locker be taken down. This leads, later, to a nice scene between the two in which they just talk about Finn. There’s no big makeup between the two of them: they maintain physical and emotional distance throughout the scene. But Sue is able to express that she is grieving for Finn as well, and that she regrets the way she treated him, and, in her own way, she’s dealing with that. By being a bitch, of course. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t really feel something. “There’s no lesson here, there’s no happy ending, there’s just nothing.”

Santana’s own memorial to Finn is a performance of “If I Die Young,” introduced by her with a typically Santana series of loving insults towards Finn. Santana can’t manage to finish the song, and runs crying from the room when people try to comfort her. She later tells Kurt that she’s mad at herself because she meant to actually say nice things about Finn, but couldn’t do it, even though she wrote down what she wanted to say. She can’t even read them to Kurt privately, initially, saying “It’s too embarrassing. They’re, like, really nice.” Kurt follows up with “Do you really think one day, on your deathbed, you’re gonna think ‘Good, no one knew I was kind.'” This gets her to open up a bit, and this is a very touching scene, suggesting that Santana not only learned from Finn, but continues to do so. “He was a much better person than I am.”

An inspired choice by the episode is to leave Rachel out of the proceedings entirely until the fourth act. Her grief is clearly the most powerful, the most meaningful, and by leaving it until near the end it is able to have a tremendous impact, and it doesn’t get in the way of everyone else. Rachel is lost and confused; she no longer has that anchor in her life that has been there for years. We’ve seen in prior seasons that, when having feelings like this, Rachel and Finn had a tendency to drift towards each other, regardless of the state of their relationship or anything else that may have been going on: they were always instinctively just there for each other. But now, Rachel feels like she has nowhere to turn. It’s clear that there is a lot of Lea Michele in this performance, and a lot of her feelings for Cory Monteith are entangled in Rachel’s feelings for Finn. I can’t even imagine how hard this was for her to perform, and I can’t compliment her enough on it. “I talk to him a lot. I can still see his face and I can hear his voice so clearly.”

The episode ends with Will, who has been holding it together for the sake of the kids, walking into his house, sitting down on his couch, taking out Finn’s letter jacket, and just sobbing into it. Emma, who had promised to be with him when he finally fully expressed his grief, comes in and just sits beside him and holds him.

This was a very heavy episode, but thankfully it did have its moments of comic relief, most of which worked. Kurt explaining the memorial tree: “All I did was drive down to Home Depot and buy a tree for 20 dollars.” The quick visual reference to the “Single Ladies” dance from season one’s “Preggers.” Figgins saying “New Santana Lopez is right, Old Santana Lopez!” in reference to Bree. Santana’s reference to taking a “grief siesta.” Puck stealing the tree with his motorcycle. Tina going to Emma for counseling because she’s tired of wearing black (okay, this one didn’t work as well).

The biggest thing missing from the episode is Quinn. She was a big part of Finn’s life for two years, and Mercedes even made reference to their baby drama when she sang “I’ll Stand by You.” The only explanation was Kurt saying that the people going back to Lima consisted of “everyone who can.” I hope they’re able to do something with her later. In not… I guess we can all imagine what Quinn is going through.

Overall, an absolutely fantastic episode and a fitting memorial for both the actor and the character. Glee by nature goes for powerful emotions and big effects, but they didn’t even have to manufacture anything this time. The emotion was all there, intrinsically, from the beginning. This episode just… lets it out. It allows the characters, the actors, and the audience to grieve, together.

The music was wonderful, every single piece. “Seasons of Love” kicked off the episode, asking us to measure his life in love, something that was not lacking for either actor or character. It was staged simply and beautifully, with the newbies starting out alone, and then Finn’s old friends coming in. Mercedes’s “I’ll Stand by You” was the only reprise of a song that Finn sang, and it was a good choice, in more ways than one. Standing on its own, it’s an expression of support for other grieving people. As a reference to Finn having sung it, it calls to mind how devoted he was to his baby (when he thought it was his), how he himself always stood by his friends no matter what, and shit he went through with the ensuing drama: in season one’s “Ballad,” Finn’s mother caught him looking at the sonogram just as this song ended. Artie and Sam’s “Fire and Rain” was a nice expression of loss: “I always thought that I’d see you again.” Santana’s “If I Die Young” was great, and I love that song. I’ve always thought that the image of the “sharp knife of a short life” is powerful, and it works well in this context. Puck’s “No Surrender” was the perfect choice for him, very fitting and full of emotion, if unusual on the surface. “No retreat, no surrender” suggests how Puck thinks they need to move forward, refusing to give in to defeat from sorrow. Rachel’s “Make You Feel my Love” was a lovely way for her to say goodbye, and one of Rachel’s/Lea’s most heartfelt performances ever.

I can’t pick a single musical highlight. They’re all wonderful tributes. I’d feel like I was judging obituaries. Maybe by the end of the season I’ll be able to put them in some kind of order, but not right now.

Other thoughts:

Rachel is wearing a necklace with a pendant that reads “Finn.” Lea Michele has been seen wearing a nearly identical pendant that reads “Cory.” That is a really nice bit of detail.

Glee is officially off the air until November 7, but I have something planned during the hiatus that I promise will be fun and lighthearted. After this, I think we all need it. Stay tuned.

Episode 5.02: “Tina in the Sky with Diamonds”

(Spoilers lurk below.)

First of all, this episode does not contain a performance of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which I’m afraid I can only count against it.

Aside from that, this was another… decent… episode. It had a clearer A and B plot than its predecessor, with Tina and her prom queen expectations manning the main stage, Rachel and her struggles with not hearing about her audition off in ring two, and Sam and his crush on the school nurse bringing up the rear.

The problem with Tina’s plotline is the same one that Tina has had since the beginning of season four: it’s hard to sympathize with her. She acts like an entitled bitch for most of the episode, until she has her “Carrie” moment (with red slushie standing in for pig’s blood), at which point she becomes weepy and depressed. On a meta level, this storyline speaks to how underused Jenna Ushkowitz has been throughout four seasons and some change, which I guess I can appreciate. On a more literal level, it’s just not a very good story. We saw the “joke candidate proudly rolls with it” win in season two’s “Prom Queen” with Kurt, and the “underdog surprisingly wins (complete with shenanigans)” in season three’s “Prom-asaurus” with Rachel. What Tina goes through here comes across as a pale imitation, and I’m not sure what it gains her character. Ever since season two, it seems like Tina has been nothing more than a gag. Tina’s propensity to never finish a solo, which began in season two, is referenced in “Tina in the Sky with Diamonds” when the bell rings just as she starts “Revolution.”

Something like a resolution with her “personal assistant” Dottie, who was turned off enough by Tina’s actions to betray her, would have helped rehabilitate Tina here.

Tina’s sworn enemies, the cheerios led by Bree, seem like another Quinn. Kitty, season four’s Quinn, seems to have retired from being evil, so Bree is now our designated Quinn. Why do we always need a bitchy alpha female cheerleader on this show? What if, you know, we… didn’t? Anyway, Principal Sue punishes Bree’s immoral and illegal act of bullying by telling her to be even harder on those assholes in the glee club (because… nationals?), despite the fact that the Principal Sue of season two resigned her post before she allowed a cruel bully to run loose in the school. I guess it’s okay as long as the gay kids aren’t being bullied? I don’t know what’s going on.

Tina’s best episodes have been ones in which she played a supporting role: “Asian F” and “Props.” She just can’t seem to come into her own as a leading character. Most of that has to do with the writing: her starring roles end up being all about the fact that she never gets a starring role (cf “Props” “Sadie Hawkins” and the episode currently under discussion). Ushkowitz is a fine actress, and Tina has plenty of potential but, as always, she is not allowed to have any real dignity or power over her own story. She succumbs to vanity and ego in the first half of her story here, even dumping Sam because she thought that going stag would better her chances of winning prom queen. In the second half, she has to be saved by the caring of the rest of the glee club (Blaine is an old hand at this, after “Prom Queen”), including Kitty lending Tina her dress. Despite the fact that Kitty is about a head shorter and noticeably lighter than Tina, her dress fits her perfectly. The miracle of television! Tina accepts her award and all is well.

Where were the adults during this whole thing, anyway? Maybe they were in hiding just in case Tina did turn out to have latent psychic powers.

What worked better in this episode was Santana’s unbearably cute flirtation with Dani. When Santana realizes that Dani is coming on to her, she gets more flustered than we’ve ever seen her, as even Rachel points out by saying “I’ve never seen you scared before.” And then there was Santana’s “I’m gonna go get the salt… the salt shakers… shakers.” Dani didn’t have a lot of characterization really, but Demi Lovato and Naya Rivera had a lot of chemistry together (despite neither one of them being actually gay), and I hope to see a lot of more of their relationship.

One has to admit, however, that this was another thing that season five appears to have made a little too easy. Within one episode, Dani is introduced, established as being a lesbian, crushed on by Santana, kissed by Santana, and just like that the two of them are a couple. This seems like the kind of thing they’d normally draw out for a few episodes. Well, maybe it will give them time to do more interesting things with them dating, rather than just play the whole flirtation tease game again.

Also happening in this episode: Sue mandates that all WMHS students have to receive polio vaccines (because the wheelchair kid makes her nervous), with new “intern” nurse and college sophomore Penny being the one to administer them. Sam, fresh off being dumped by Tina (who is “not hot” anyway, according to him), quickly develops a crush on the clumsy, incompetent, and well-meaning Penny, even going so far as to try to prevent her from getting fired by allowing her to administer him a shot in his ass. And that considering that the first time Penny tried to give Sam a shot, it was with a bent syringe that she had just stuck in a sausage (don’t ask). This concludes with Penny, who is there as a chaperone, dancing with Sam at the prom.

Penny, or “Nurse Bumble McQuirkyboots” as Sue calls her, comes across as a younger Emma with less OCD. They’re going to have to do quite a bit more with her character before I warm up to her. I’m also unclear on the consequences of her possible relationship with Sam. As a sophomore in college, she’s probably only about two years older than Sam, but she’s also an official at the school. This conflict wasn’t even touched upon in the episode, despite Sue pretty much knowing that Sam was crushing on her.

This episode concludes with Rachel getting the news that she was cast as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, despite her having managed to let go of hope. I’ll admit to completely buying into the emotion of this scene, even though on a intellectual level I think that Rachel really needs to pay more dues before having this kind of success. Oh well. Let’s see where they’re going with this.

All in all, another “okay” episode.

The music was not as good as it was in “Love Love Love,” as it feels like the Beatles tribute kinda started to run out of steam. The song that sounded the best out of the gate, ironically, was Tina’s aborted “Revolution.” In some alternate universe where this was an episode that allowed Tina to have dignity and agency, this was the highlight of the episode. Rachel and Kurt’s “Get Back,” backed only by multiple pianos, was great fun, and a nice way of Kurt trying to tell Rachel to get over it. Sam’s “Something” was okay, but they needed to use some better tools to establish some kind of relationship between Sam and Penny before going with the imaginary song… unless this relationship is intended to all be in Sam’s head, in which case I like this. Santana and Dani’s “Here Comes the Sun” was good, if a bit… literal… in its setup. In retrospect, I do kinda like that they ended up not actually watching the sunrise, preferring to gaze into each other’s eyes. On a less literal level, this song carries undertones of Santana continuing her happy recovery onto a life path, which started in season four’s “Lights Out.” The performance itself of “ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” while entertaining, wasn’t half as good as those fantastic costumes. “Hey Jude” was good, but a bit too obvious of a choice to make Tina feel better. The underlying action was better than the song. The highlight of the episode, however, was the oddly-happy “Let it Be,” which allowed the whole episode to end with optimism… although we all know what’s coming next week.

Other thoughts:

The neckbrace cheerio’s name: Jordan Stern. There you go.

I didn’t quite get the cheerios’ collective obsession with making Kitty win prom queen, considering that she didn’t want to and two other cheerios were nominated.

I like the way they’re doing Lea Michele’s makeup this season compared to the last. It’s a bit less overdone.

Kitty, on realizing why no one believed her: “Oh right, the habitual lying.”

The drummer kid, who last season rolled his eyes during “Wannabe,” seems a lot happier to be playing the Beatles.

I like that it just goes without saying that the glee club performs at prom now. Traditions!

Sue: “Congratulations New Directions for doing the impossible: you’ve made me hate the Beatles.”

Rachel: “This is so great I feel like I’m on Smash season one!” Maybe a response to Smash referencing Lea Michele in season two.

Kurt, Santana, and Rachel make a pact to stay together in NYC at least two years, no matter what happens. In two years, it’ll be about the end of season six… at which point this series will probably end.