They're back! The rejects of McKinley are back on our TV screens! I've missed them a lot--well, I not that much since I watched the first 13 episodes over and over obsessively since Sectionals aired in December.
I was very interested to see what might change with the show after the unusual hiatus of 4-month hiatus in the middle of the season. I may just be reading too much into this. But, it seems to me the characters are still the same, but the actors have a little more confidence playing them. There was a proverbial swagger that was evident last night. These episodes were filmed after the first 13 episodes aired, and Glee already had lots of rabid, screaming fans after the first episode aired in May. So, by the time December rolled around and the first 13 episodes aired, the Little Show that Could had become a phenomenon so maybe that came through in their performances. One obvious difference: the amount of music. It's amazing how much story was actually told during and between musical numbers. The only thing that seemed to be sacrificed is that Puck and Quinn had very few lines (two for Puck, one for Quinn by my count), but even then Brittany and Santana had about double their usually number of lines so I don't even know if anything was sacrificed. I thought it took some adjustment as a viewer, but in the end it was a flawless transition.
So, here's what you missed on Glee:
Well, the first slushie appeared in the teaser before the opening credits. Mercedes greets Rachel warmly and actually compliments her on her appearance. Rachel says she's feeling good to. Mercedes agrees because they're being treated better since winning Sectionals; Kurt joins them and dubs them "glitterati." Jacob Ben Israel ("JewFro") takes the opportunity to hit on Rachel again, and because she can now, she simply ignores him. Rachel launches into one of her patented speeches about how things are going to better, and how they're going to "rule this school," but as soon as those words are out of her mouth, blue icy, corn syrupy goo is flying at them in a triple-slushie attack.
Cut to Will in Principal Figgin's office incredulous at having to prove once again that Glee Club is a viable enterprise for the school. Figgins has reminded him that New Directions must place at Regionals or else the glee club will be cut. Besides, the Cheerios need the auditorium to practice now that it's cold outside, and Will argues that the Cheerios don't even have a coach. Ah! Well, you didn't think it would be long before Sue Sylvester was back, did you Will? Sue enters right on cue carrying two mochas, one for Figgins (her "maharishi") double whipped because after their "conciliatory dinner" she knows "there's nothing [Figgins] won't eat whipped cream off of." Figgins is looking appropriately disgusted with Sue and hiimself. Sue leans in and blows in Figgins' ear and stares at Will. "I would have gotten you one, Will, but, uh, I don't like you," Sue says casually, before one more suggestive look at Figgins and her exit. When Will confronts Figgins about this, Figgins coolly rationalizes that the point of suspension is reinstatement. But, Will doesn't buy, of course.
Another cut to the basketball court where Finn is supposed to be playing point guard for the McKinley High team, but he's a little distracted by Rachel in the bleachers in a "Team Finn" shirt. Rachel has somehow decided they're a couple now, and he doesn't seem to know how he feels about that or even when it happened. Rachel has made "his and her relationship calendars" so Finn won't miss their dates anymore--clueless Rachel is clueless. As Rachel is going over their dates for the next month (e.g., Phantom at the autistic children's center), Finn is again distracted. In the voice over, he says he's not over Quinn. Pan to Quinn and Puck. They're apparently together, even though she said she didn't want to be. We'll have to see how that happend, but in any case he's being typically insensitive asking her not to super-size because he "doesn't dig on fat chicks." Quinn is duly offended, but for some reason she's putting up with it. She is staring at Finn, though. So, apparently that's not completely over. Back to the basketball, Finn (in the voice over) laments the fact that he can't "pull a Jessica Simpson" and let himself like go like Ken Tanaka. He's off his game because of Rachel and Quinn, and as he has a lay up regected, and Rachel cheers proudly and brags to the fan next to her that he's her boyfriend. Will, on the other side of her, just looks worried.
After the title screen, Sue is being typically mean to the students, cutting off a male student's braided so he "no longer confused [her] with [his] she-male looks." Will catches up to her and asks her how she got back to McKinley so fast. She gives her version of her "conciliatory dinner" at which she supposedly apologized for her indiscretions and had a "frank and healing discussion" that led to Figgins seeing her "for the very first time." Of course, what she really did was drug Figgins' wine and staged a compromising position with pictures for the purpose of blackmailing him. Will, resigned to having her back, offered to "bury the hatchet," but Sue would have none of it. With the appropriate insults, Sue left.
Cut to the first practice room scene in which Will gives the gleeks an assignment to come up with songs with the word "hello" in the title--thus, the theme for the musical numbers in the episode. He wants them to stay focused for Regionals. Things haven't really changed for any of them so they readily agree.
Next, we find ourselves in Emma's office with Will and Emma staring at each other adoringly but also a little nervously. Will acknowledges the weirdness saying that now it's different because he can now kiss her if he wanted to. He starts to do just that when Emma stops him and pulls out an oral hygiene kit. When Will questions her about it reminding her that they kissed before without that, she says that was a "sneak attack" and this time she wants to be prepared. Emma's embarrassed, but Will reassures her that it's ok. He gives in and asks her on a proper date. They're gong to go to Will's place for dinner. Emma practically swoons as Will leans in and leaves just as he's about to kiss her.
Another cut...to Sue's office. Brittany and Santana are there taking a thrashing from Sue. See, they were supposed to help her sabotage the glee club, except they didn't. And, New Directions won Sectionals (did we mention that already?). I feel so inadequate to recount these scenes because Jane Lynch as Sue brings such depth to her unsubtle character, and her lines are so hilarious, I'll just list my favorites at the end. Suffice it to say that she berates Brittany and Santana then offers them a chance to redeem themselves (with the added incentive of Head Cheerio) by distracting Finn by asking him out. Of course, the real object is Rachel, but Sue thinks that if Finn is pulled from her, she'll crumble.
Yet another cut...to the auditorium. Will is giving Finn a pep talk. He's telling Finn to be himself...a rock star. Will tells him to pick a song that reasserts himself. He picks "Hello, How Are You?" by Jim Morrison and the Doors. As he's singing, the montage shows him getting his groove back. He's not caring about Quinn, he's letting Rachel be Rachel and pretty much ignoring her, he's flriting with every girl in sight who isn't Rachel or Quinn, and he's playing better. Consequently, he's wowing the other gleeks. As Rachel is cornering Will to tell him how to further do his job, Brittany and Santana corner him to pretty much tell him he's going to go on a date with them (both of them together, not individually as Sue may or may not have meant). My favorite line of the episode happened here: Santana compliments him on his dancing, and Finn says, confused as always, "Thanks! But my feet weren't really moving." Brittany says, innocently over-honest as always, "That was the best part."
Finally a commercial break...wow! they crammed a lot in 12 1/2 minutes.
When we return, Rachel is starting to notice that Finn is not wholly invested in their relationship. She acknowledges it's not easy dating her because she's not the prettiest (aside: I'm not so sure about that), or the most popular, but she's full of personality, exciting and "full of surprises," which is high-maintenance but...she pulls him aside...she'll always be honest with him, painfully so. She asks him to be honest with her in return, and so he is. He dumps her, and it's heartbreaking. I don't even really "ship" these two, but I have to say Lea Michele's acting here was impressive. Some haters will think it was over the top, but Rachel Berry is over the top. She accuses him of being too concerned with her reputation. He's freaked out because everything she says is right. She goes on to say he should accept her for who she is because she accepts him for himself.
In the practice room, Rachel volunteers to sing her song. It's "Gives You Hell" by All American Rejects. She knocks it out the park, of course, but the interesting thing to me here is Quinn's full participation in the dancing here. She actually seems to not hate Rachel here. The previews have hinted that maybe the rivalry between Quinn and Rachel had cooled, but it still was a little strange to actually see it. Quinn actually seemed to dance with Rachel at one point (this number was also sneak previewed online). In any case, the song was obviously directed at Finn. Will at first is eager to hear Rachel take the lead but soon becomes exasperated because obviously the teenage drama in New Directions is still not over. When it's over Rachel responds to Will's scolding "I'm sorry, I was just focusing on the first syllable," looking pointedly at Finn. Will is visibly upset accusing the gleeks of not taking Regionals and Vocal Adrenaline seriously. Rachel is duly chastised by Will, but Finn is duly chastised by Rachel.
Next, we have a scene that many gleeks (as in rabid fans of Glee) have been anticipating for months: the first appearance of Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele's best friend and former co-star in Spring Awakening. Rachel is in a music store, looking for another song to fill the assignment (eyeing Lionel Ritchie's "Hello." A handsome stranger appears behind the book, and brings it down so he can see her. It's Jesse St. James, lead singer of Vocal Adrenaline, and Rachel is immediately awe-struck. She's surprised to find out Jesse knows her name too. He tells her his "Don't Rain on My Parade" was flawed and lacked emotion but that she was talented. He regales her with his accomplishments, including a full ride to "a little school called the University of California Los Angeles," which is in Los Angeles. He moves to the piano inviting her to sing her song with him. They proceed to sing "Hello" (also a much anticipated performance). As they're singing, Rachel becomes obviously smitten (much like the earlier "Endless Love" with Will). Applause by the patrons of the music store..."We should do this more often...how's Friday night?" Jesse says sealing Rachel's crush...ding, ding, ding.
Second commercial break. We're not even halfway through.
Santana and Brittany are eating breakfast in a Denny's-style restaurant [ETA: Actually, I've realized now it's not breakfast at all. LOL]. Santana flags down a waitress and says, "Excuse me, we'd like to send these back." The waitress protests because, well, they've eaten almost all of they're food. Santana points out that she's the customer, and the waitress has to do whatever she wants. "There was a mouse in mine," Brittany adds...oh, Brittany. The waitress gives in.
What happens next is kind of strange.
Santana: "Ok, hottest guys in school. Go!"
Brittany: "Ok? Puck's super fine. Finn's super-cute, too."
Santana: "Yeah, but he's not hot, though."
Brittany: "He really isn't," sadness in her voice.
Santana: "And you know what, Britt? That dwarf girlfriend of his is dragging down his rep. I mean if were dating, say, popular pretty girls like us he would go from dumpy to smokin'"
Oh yeah, Finn is right there on the other side of the table. "Hello! Hey, I'm right here. Would you guys mind, like, including me in your conversations?" he says dumbly. Santana clues him in on the deal: he buys them dinner, they make out in front of him. "It's like the best deal ever."
Brittana (I'm going to use this from now on to keep this short) go back to their conversation berating Rachel on her clothes, once again.
Finn: Hey, come on guys, don't make fun of Rachel. She's...kinda cool.
Brittany: Finn...that's mean. (Brilliant!).
Cut to Will and Emma in his apartment, dancing to "Hello Again" by Neil Diamond. Will's singing along and talking quietly to Emma about how he loves the song. They move to the couch and start kissing. It gets hotter and heavier, and suddenly Emma stops them. Will starts to reassure her that everything is clean, but Emma tells him it's not that, it's just she hasn't been "intimate" with anyone in a long time...as in ever. She's afraid because of her issues, and Will tries hard not to be shocked. He collects himself and reassures her, again. He offers to just watch a movie. Because his DVD collection is sparse (Terri took all but Armageddon and Bad Boys because he like her Bruckheimer nights), they apparently decide on Armageddon.
So, now, apparently Finn has been scared straight because he approaches Rachel at her locker while she's staring adoringly at a picture of Jesse taped to its door. He apologizes and tells her that he wants to be her boyfriend after all. She tells him she's met someone else and who it is, and that they're "deep respect for each other's talent" will help them overcome the challenges of being on rival teams. Of course, he's suspicious of Jesse's intentions, and Rachel is predictably offended that Finn thinks no one would like her for her. She, of course, is right, but she's also jumping the gun saying "their love is real."
Cut to the practice room: Finn walks in and declares "Mr. Schu, we have a problem."
Another scene in Sue's office with Brittana doing sit-ups as punishment for screwing up. Their excuse was that Finn didn't fall for their tricks which included: Brittany didn't wear a bra and she "had them turn on the air conditioning." Sue berates them, comparing them unfavorably to a young Sarah Palin. They get another chance when they mention Jesse.
Cut to a typically-impressive performance by Vocal Adrenaline, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," complete with those huge torches you see at concerts and sporting events. At the end, we see their coach (Miss Corcoran), played by Idina Menzel (Broadway overload? I think not.). She looks like an older and wiser Rachel, but she acts like an only slightly kinder and gentler Sue Sylvester. She berates her students and holds Jesse up as an example for the rest to follow. Will is lurking in the background and now approaches her. He introduces himself, and she pretends not to know who he is. She insults him by saying she doesn't consider him the competion so it's ok that he's been watching them. He tells her about Rachel and Jesse's relationship, and she jumps to the conclusion that he's accusing them spying. He admits that he thinks they are, and she denies it. "Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants...sometimes there's just that little spark." And...they're making out on Will's couch. As she's talking shop and making out at the same time, Will is realizing this is a mistake. He stops them. "Are you gay?" "What, no." "'Cause most of the show choir directors I make out with are gay." Will doesn't know what to do with that. Neither do I. They settle for having coffee in the kitchen where they commiserate about how they have no life. She admits she did know who he was, and then she realizes he's more messed up than she is. She tells him to get himself together before he jumps into another relationship.
Back to the practice room...Rachel enters greeting Tina, Artie, Kurt, and Mercedes enthusiastically. They quickly get to the point. In a reversal of roles, they ask her to break up with Jesse for the good of the team. They point out that Jesse is probably dating Rachel to screw her up and spy on them. Rachel is, again, duly offended, but she acknowledges "this might not be "true love...but how many chances at this am I going to get?" They threaten to kick her out of glee if she doesn't end it with Jesse. "How could you do this to me." "How could you do this to us?...All you've wanted is for us to be great?..." etc. etc. Rachel cogitates.
Another Sue scene...this time in the practice room. Sue has asked Rachel to come to a meeting of the "McKinley Old Maids Club." Rachel looks around, horrified to see that there are girls apparently lower in the food chain than she is. Sue outwardly offers to help Rachel avoid the "Old Maids Club," with open insults thrown in of course. While the "old maids" tell their stories of romantic disasters, Rachel realizes she needs to do something.
Why is it that people keep following Sue's advice, even while they are repulsed by her? I can't put my finger on it, but I can't say I wouldn't be in the same boat as they are in the same situation.
Begin setup for next week...Emma has let herself into Will's apartment to set the table, meticulously, for their next date. Terri walks in, and they argue about Will. It's not completely a throw-away scene, because Terri does make Emma realize that Will is in danger of compromising himself for her crazy (repeating the pattern he established with Terri). After the commercial break, in Will's office, Emma breaks up with him, pointing out that he used "Hello Again" on her because, subconsciously he was trying to recapture the magic he had with Terri at their Junior Prom, where the two of them danced to that same song. They, very reluctantly, decide to take a break. Emma cries.
In the Vocal Adrenaline auditorium, Rachel is on the stage looking for Jesse. She confronts him and asks whether he is just using him to cheat or spy on New Directions. He calls her a drama queen, tells her he likes her for her, and hugs her. Rachel tells him, "No one can know.". He kisses her but really is looking across the stage to Miss Corcoran in the wings. She stares at him with a "don't screw this up" look.
After the Will/Emma break-up scene, Rachel approaches Finn at his locker. She tells Finn she ended it with Jesse so spread the word. Finn tries again to get her to date him exclusively because she's the only thing that matters to him anymore. "Look, I even circled some dates on your crazy calendar." She declines "in the spirt of being a team player." She tells him it would distract from Regionals, blah blah blah...we all know the real reason.
She turns to leave, and here he kind of surprised me. He stops her with, "Hey, whoa! I'm not just some guy you can blow that you met at the music store that you can just blow off. I don't give up that easy...see you in rehearsal." Rachel's conflicted.
Final number...New Directions performing the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye." Afterwards, Rachel looks like she's about to cry or vomit or both...she runs off...Finn looks panicked...cut to black.
As I've been writing this, I've been re-watching the episode. It was actually really good. Last night, I was too worried about taking it all in, but it was actually really funny. Rachel and Quinn were hot, too...on a personal note.
Favorite Sue lines
Holding the cut braid: I'm gonna donate this to the victims of Hurricane Kartrina. They can use it to plug the holes in their trailers.
Let me drop some knowledge on you... (no context needed)
To Brittana: Ladies, I misjudged you. You may be two of the stupidest teens I've ever encountered. And that's sayin' somethin'. I once taught a cheerleading seminar to a young Sarah Palin.
After hearing about Jesse: I am engorged with venom and triumph...now get the hell out of my office.
To Rachel: ...you're fellow glee-clubbers are so incensed with betrayal they barely have time to apply Freeze-Off to the clusters of warts between their knuckles.
At the Old Maids Club meeting: Well, Rachel, If I weren't ignoring what these ladies were saying out of an overwhelming sense of deep repulsion, I would probably hear them encouraging you to go for it with your Carmel High beaux, or you might end up like Dottie here who, while her father offered a sizeable dowry, which included livestock, still couldn't get a date to Homecoming.
Honorable Mention for Favorite Line
Sue: Oustanding...on to step two. Round up a bunch of mustache-sporting, teenage girls with glandular conditions. Anything else?
Brittany: Sometimes I forget my middle name. (I can see I'm probably going to have to add a section for Brittany quotes.)
"Hello, I Love You": Cory Monteith isn't the best singer, but she does pretty well with the right song. This is pretty good.
"Hello": OK, I fail at the holding back praise. Lea gives me goosebumps every time she opens her mouth to sing, but the harmony part she sings here is truly spectacular. Mr. Groff is not so bad either.
"Highway to Hell": Ok, it's Vocal Adrenaline, but this time with Jonathan Groff, who almost matches Lea Michele in talent.
"Hello Goodbye": I think the gleeks held back here a little, maybe because this was supposed to be thie first time they performed this song. It was good...but not great (except for Lea of course).