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Gleeview: Asian F
Spoiler Alert!

Episode 3 turned out to be the first "transition" episode of the season, episodes that are usually written by co-creator and executive producer Ian Brennan.  This was also written by Brennan, and although I liked other ones better (Bad Reputation from Season 1 and Blame it on the Alcohol from Season 2 among several others), that really wasn't because of the writing or the quality of the episode in general.  I enjoyed "Asian F" for its pure Gleefulness (yes, another pun...it's too obvious to ignore).  In this case, I mean the essence of the show and its mix of humor, drama, music and dancing.

My lack of enthusiasm had more to do with the characters involved in the main storyline.  Mike Chang and Mercedes Jones just aren't characters I've paid much attention to in the last 2 plus seasons except for the occasional comic relief, flashes of brilliance and their relationship with the other characters.  However, Mike especially was somewhat interesting in this episode.  Mercedes has been more interesting in past episodes, for instance when she was fighting issues of self esteem because of her weight in "Home."  Both main storylines involved outside pressure, and the rundown is this:

Mike's father wants him to go to Harvard, and he got an A- on a Chemistry test.  That, apparently, is the Asian equivalent of an F, hence the title of the episode.  His father, Mike Sr., wants him to quit dancing and singing (i.e., glee club) so he can focus on getting into Harvard.  Mr. Chang thinks football looks better, even to Harvard, on a high school transcript than glee club does, and performing is a "waste."  Mike struggles because Tina is encouraging him and he's always dreamed of dancing.  The tipping point for him is when his mother shows up while he's practicing/thinking, and she tells him that she gave up her dream because of family pressures.  She doesn't want Mike to do that, so she encourages him to stick with it.  I actually got a few goosebumps when he was dancing with his mother because that had been her dream, and he was going to teach her so she could recapture some of that joy.

For me, the most interesting part of the Mercedes storyline was its ramifications for New Directions as a whole and for Rachel Berry in particular.  In my last review, I mentioned that I liked the new, more focused Will Schuester.  Well, that hasn't really changed with this episode.  In fact, for me he has become a somewhat more compelling character.  He's flawed, in that he's got a bit of a volatile temper and he doesn't always read situations right with his students, but I do like it when he's more focused on what's best for his club rather than allowing himself to be completely distracted by his personal life.  How does that relate to Mercedes?  Well, he totally misread the situation with Mercedes.  Obviously, she was feeling stress from the outside pressure that Will and her boyfriend were placing on her, and it was making her physically ill.  It didn't appear to be more than stress, but it was definitely having an adverse physical effect.  Will should have realized this, and he didn't.

Mercedes wasn't completely faultless in this situation, though.  She didn't confide fully in her boyfriend that this was making her sick, and she got irrationally hurt and angry when she didn't get the role of Maria in West Side Story all by herself.  This brings me to the relationship with New Directions and Rachel.  Rachel and Mercedes seem to be set up to be the opposing stars of the rival singing groups at McKinley.  This should be interesting since Rachel's mother (who also seems to still have a little bit of a thing for Will), of course, is the director of the new "rogue" singing group at McKinley.  I like this concept, and I want to go on record with my support for Rachel Berry.  Sorry Mercedes fans.

Finally, as for the other side stories in this episode, I'm interested in how Rachel's new campaign for student council president will affect her relationships with her fellow glee clubbers and especially Finn.  I'm kind of hoping that it'll be a real problem for Finn, but I'm guessing Rachel will make it work somehow with him at least in the short term.  Her friendships may prove to be more problematic and, thus, interesting.  She's already at odds with Mercedes, though I think she can salvage that once Mercedes realizes Rachel still wants to be her friend (despite her occasional condescending attitude) if she can make amends with Kurt.  Kurt is the harder of the two and may complicate things with Mercedes further because they're friends.  It's interesting because all three of these characters are a lot alike, and that makes it harder for them to get along.

There are other interesting things coming in future episodes, but they weren't really dealt with in "Asian F."

Favorite Quote:
One of the best things, in my opinion, to come out of Season 2 was Coach Bieste.  So, in honor of my favorite fictional football coach, the quote block is dedicated to one Shannon Bieste.

Bieste:  I kicked a fire hydrant when I heard Ace of Cakes was canceled.  Hence, the crutches.

Bieste:  Ballet improves your coordination, it boosts your I.Q., and it gets half the NFL on Dancing with the Stars.  Booyah!

Bieste:  Singin's just musical talkin'

and just for the way it was delivered:

You bet your sweet bippy!

Musical Rundown:
This episode, more than any in a long time, used music to further the plot.  The first song appeared before the opening credits were over.  I don't remember the last time the plot wasn't fully set up before the first musical number.  I liked it!

"Spotlight" by Jennifer Hudson--This was a different Mercedes, though we have seen her sing quieter more emotional songs before, but for me it just didn't show as much emotional depth as, say, "Ain't No Way" in season two's "Night of Neglect."  For me, this is what's lacking with Amber Riley's (Mercedes) singing.  Sometimes, it's because of her character, but for me she's a technically proficient singer who lacks some subtle emotional depth.  This number reinforced that.

"Run the World (Girls)" by Beyoncé--Very sexy!  This was really fun...the Unholy Trinity (Brittany, Santana & Quinn) dancing?  Always fun to watch.  Their costumes for the number didn't hurt.  On a semi-serious note, it was good to see Dianna Agron (Quinn) get a couple of almost front-and-center dancing spots last night, even though she wasn't really the focal point of this number.

"Cool" from West Side Story--Mike can sing!  Who really thought he couldn't sing?  He's not the best singer, obviously, but he can carry a tune.  And, it highlights Harry Shum, Jr's skills as an actor that he can carry off both a scene in which he doesn't sing well and one he does.  I really liked this...I like the music itself, and the execution was worthy of it.

"It's All Over" from Dreamgirls--This was excellent.  It wasn't my favorite number of the episode, but that's because there were a couple of other really good ones.  But, as for fitting a musical number into the plot of the episode, this was almost perfectly done.  In a dream sequence of sorts, Mercedes and others sing a number that highlights the conflict Mercedes was having with Schue and the pressures she was facing.  It highlighted how there was blame to go around, and it was really well done.  Actually, this is the kind of number Amber Riley shines the most in, and she nailed it as usual.

"Out Here On My Own" from Fame--This rematch between Rachel and Mercedes didn't end as amicably as "Take Me or Leave Me," but it definitely showed off both their talents.  I think this was a case of highlighting Mercedes' talents over Rachel's and thus, again, the production of this number downplayed Rachel so that Mercedes would look better.  I'll be interested to hear the iTunes version of this because I'm guessing Lea Michele (Rachel) will come off better than she did on-screen.

"Fix You" by Coldplay--This was definitely a dramatic number, and Matthew Morrison (Will) is a seasoned professional singer.  He did a good job with this.  I am glad it didn't completely close out the episode, though, because it really wasn't that exciting.  The Will/Emma storyline in this episode was chuckle-worthy, but for me it's mostly some light comic relief rather than something I really care a lot about.

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