Before I go on what will assuredly be a rambling tirade of anger and confusion, let me say that I’ve heard that this episode got switched with last week’s big GaGa episode for reasons unbeknownst to me (probably for ratings, as it was a much talked about episode, and it was following the American Idol finale), so a few scenes had to be cut to make this a possibility. At least that’s what I’ve heard. But even if this is the truth, it’s no excuse to spit in the face of continuity altogether.
The biggest, most obvious chunk of plot missing was whatever caused a rift in the Rachel and Jesse relationship. Last we saw Jesse St. James, he was telling Ms. Corcoran that he was starting to really like Rachel. Then, he was noticeably absent from the last episode, so clearly nothing happened there to cause the bad blood. But this episode starts out with him flaunting his Benedict Arnold-ness and bitterly saying that the New Directions kids treated him terribly and never listened to his opinions (which we never saw exemplified on-screen). He cruelly sets Rachel up to be egged by his Vocal Adrenaline cohorts in the McKinley parking lot, then takes a turn at it himself, saying, “I loved you.” LOVED, in the past-tense. SO WHAT IN THE NAME OF CELINE DION HAPPENED?!
Jesse, for all of his murky intentions, really did seem to like Rachel, and their personalities and dreams were so compatible. He did seem genuinely hurt in this episode, and conflicted, so all signs point to some mysterious falling out that got excised from either of these past two episodes. Now, the big question is, how could someone who has created this show, and has just been granted not only a second but a THIRD season, be so inept as to think that the audience wouldn’t pick up on this gaping plot hole? It angers me that Ryan Murphy and the other writers seem to underestimate their audience. True, Glee now has quite the fanbase of screaming tweens who fill their iPods with Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and wouldn’t know Sondheim from Shakira. But, as an older fan who was intrigued by the show from the very beginning, who has a love of musicals, who liked (and still likes) the cast, who was giddy at the high points of the show but all too aware of its shortcomings, I am feeling really shafted here.
Not only that, but I was at first so excited to see Jonathan Groff on the show, and now I feel like, aside from “Hello,” perhaps, he got zero good songs (and on half of them, like “Highway to Hell” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” it didn’t even sound like him singing). Also, his character was treated unfairly. What was probably an emotional, semi-sympathetic arc for his character got trimmed to make him look like a bipolar nutcase, and for what? For ratings, most likely, and because Ryan Murphy didn’t think we’d notice.
I’ve also been a bit disappointed with the songs they’ve presented in these back nine episodes. Last week the prospect of Lady GaGa got me excited, and while “Bad Romance” was fun visually, it was little more than a copy of the original. ”Poker Face” was a great cover (although that arrangement is also one of GaGa’s creations), but the whole presentation was so awkward that I couldn’t get into it (I don’t want to see someone singing, “I’m just bluffin’ with my muffin” to their child ever again). Aside from the Madonna episode (and I have played the songs from that episode constantly in my car), nothing has given off that moment of, well, glee that came with earlier performances like “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Bust Your Windows,” or the “Halo/Walkin’ on Sunshine” and “It’s My Life/Confessions” mash-ups.
I do feel like they tried tonight, they really did, and it was nice to hear a wider variety of music presented. While nothing was super exciting, at least Mr. Schuester didn’t rap, and I was too busy laughing at Sue’s barely restrained angry lust during “Tell Me Something Good” to complain about that number. I actually liked the (very odd and unexpected) cover of Beck’s “Loser” in the Sheets’n'Things store (and kudos for playing it again during that moment with Will in the choir room). Also, as much as I hate Finn and his “singing,” I’ll concede that perhaps he might have something of a talent for rapping (or rhythmic talking, rather). He’s bearable as long as his goofiness is a part of the schtick, a la “Good Vibrations.” Quinn singing “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” sounded good (although I’m seemingly one of the few people who thinks so), but the whole thing with the pregnant back-up dancers was way too cringeworthy to overlook. I’m kind of glad Quinn got a moment in the spotlight, though, because she brings some variety to the vocals presented on the show. When they find a good song for Dianna Agron’s voice, it works well (see: ”Papa Don’t Preach”). She’s not a belty Broadway star like Rachel or a bust the windows diva like Mercedes, but the raspier sound to her voice makes a jazzy number a good fit. Boo for those shaky moments of “racial understanding” between Mercedes and Quinn, though. Glee badly needs to fold their hand full of race cards and redraw.
Plot-wise, the episode (once again) tried to cram in way too much for one hourlong period. I could’ve done without the “seduction of Sue Sylvester” bit, though I’d hate to lose all the fantastic moments it gave Jane Lynch. Clearly the “Finn and Puck get a job” plot was excisable, but then I wonder if they’ll do something more with the delightfully inappropriate flirtation between Terri and Finn later on. No lie, I was a bit pleased to see Terri back, and anything that could delay the vomit-inducing presence of the Rachel and Finn romance is fine by me. I did enjoy the overall plot of the episode, the one that encapsulated the theme. The idea that New Directions has funk and soul and emotion is something I can buy, and if anything will have them winning over Vocal Adrenaline, that’d be it. That idea is realistic and totally on the money.
If one thing can be said for this episode, it would be that Glee seems to be getting a better handle on its characters. I’m clearly not speaking of the abomination that is the Jesse St. James storyline, but it was nice to see that the club has accepted Rachel and wanted to protect her (and didn’t say, “I told you so”), that Mercedes and Quinn’s friendship has progressed (fairly) naturally, and that Finn and Puck are maybe-sorta-kinda friends again (and they never had to have a mushy, anti-macho heart-to-heart). So, congrats Glee writers. You now seem to have a grasp on basic human relationships. Perhaps try your hand at continuity and restraint next.