The good news is that last night Glee continued its trajectory of correcting the many ills of its second season. Yay! However, my pronouncement last week that the show was good again might have been premature. Better, yes, but it's still having some growing pains.
The best thing about last night's episode wasn't any specific joke or song or incident but that everything made sense. Sure, there was some disbelief to suspend, but when you're dealing with high school students that make Gabriel Carteris' Andrea look like a spring chicken, that's happening anyway. Yes, Glee seems to have listened to all the gripes we made last year about the stories and the guest stars not making any sense, about the shows being driven by the songs instead of the other way around, and the plot moving way, way too quickly. Yes, everything last night either made sense or was passingly explained, but just because the action made sense didn't mean there was the right motivation. Some of our favorite characters were behaving a bit suspiciously.
At the onset of the episode, Mr. Schue tells everyone he won't be directing the school's musical which, considering he didn't in the past isn't a huge surprise. He tapped Coach Bieste, Emma, and Artie to work as co-directors. Hey, if it means more Bieste and a storyline with Artie that has nothing to do with his handicap, then I'm on board. He also tells the crappy dancers in the squad that they have to learn how to dance. He starts a Bootie Camp for them to improve. And we see them dancing. The Glee Club is actually rehearsing and trying to get better. Hallelujah!
We also find out that Shelby, the former Vocal Adrenaline coach who is Rachel's birth mother and adopted Puck and Quinn's baby Beth, is back in town. Wow, guest star Idina Menzel just fits into the action seamlessly. This is new! Apparently Sugar Matta (the lousy singer from last week) got her rich father to hire Shelby and form another show choir at the school where Sugar can be the star. Shelby was happy to take the money and get a cushy job so she could make amends with her daughter and her baby's bio parents and, you know, not really work. And I'm sure the cost of Pampers in Lima, Ohio, is nothing compared to New York City.
But what happens when she turns up to help Rachel with her audition for West Side Story?
When Shelby shows up in the auditorium Rachel doesn't want anything to do with her since she feels like Shelby abandoned her twice—once as a child and once when she skipped town and moved to New York with a baby that wasn't her. But then West Side Story gets in the way. Shelby speaks Rachel's language and challenges her to sing "Somewhere" (the Barbra Streisand version, natch) the powerhouse song from the show that Tony and Maria sing to convince themselves that against all odds, their relationship will work. It was a perfect selection for this duo and it seems like their relationship is in a good place. Let's hope it continues to grow, because this is the only attention it was given, but it was a nice resolution.
Things aren't so easy with Quinn, who is still skanking it up all around school. She goes to meet Shelby and says she wants to see her daughter—a strange sentiment because Quinn was so adamant about giving her up in the first place, so I was a little sad to see her change her mind. It's so rare that you see a positive portrayal of a woman giving up her kid for adoption on TV. Then again, having a child is a crazy thing and I'm sure giving one up for adoption is something that a mother never gets over. Shelby certainly hasn't, which is why she wants Quinn and Puck in her baby's life. But she doesn't want a skanked out Quinn. No, she wants our fallen cheerleader to clean up her act and figure out who she is. Quinn seems to be somewhere in the middle of the Madonna she used to be and the whore she's pretending to be now and Shelby wants her to find that balance.
Puck drops in to Shelby's apartment and demands to see Beth (though sweetly) and she lets him. This is where the motivation was lacking. I understand the desire, but the docile and saccharine Puck isn't one we're used to seeing. Can't we get a few clues about why or how he feels this way before dropping the bomb. And he shows up with a picture for his kid? He draws now? Why didn't he, you know, sing a song for her? Wouldn't that have made a bit more sense? Still, it seems like there is going to be a place for Shelby in everyone's lives.
For Babygay Kurt's audition he asks Ms. Rachel Berry's permission to sing Barbra's "I'm the Greatest Star" from Funny Girl. OK, I love that he thanked the guys at his dad's tire shop for building his audition scaffolding (finally an explanation) but just what is he doing singing a lady's song to get a guy's part. And why is it from a different musical? Now, I love a queen, but can Kurt please stop singing lady songs? If he wants the male lead in the play, he should be singing a male song. And just because he's gay and loves a diva doesn't mean he wants to be be a woman.
BG Kurt seems to be butching it up in general. At the top of the show Brittany approaches him and wants him to run for class president (was it just me or was everyone mumbling this episode, especially Quinn and Brittany?) because he is a unicorn which, by Brittany's definition is someone who is different but shows courage in adversity. That's our Kurt. Desperate for extra curricular activities (that was established last week—look at them planning ahead!) Kurt decides to run. But he doesn't want Brittany's GAY GAY GAY posters of him riding a unicorn, he wants something a little more masculine and understated. Something...inspired by Judy Garland. Oh, Kurt is trying. I understand his impulse. After coming out and shoving his gay in everyone's faces (mostly Blaine's, ZING!) he wants to dial it back a bit and find out who he really is, especially if that means being the male lead in the play.
Of course when it comes to assigning roles, all the directors of the play decide that, yes, Kurt may be a little too fey for reformed gangster Tony, one of the machoest roles on the stage. And that's fair. He just doesn't have the chops for the role, especially since he tries to prove his masculinity by wielding Jennifer Garner's little swords from Electra and dressing up in a dandy costume with tights to be Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Potentially losing the part makes him all depressed, but he gets one of his father's patented pep talks who tells Kurt to keep being who he is and if the roles aren't out there for him to make some roles of his own. Sound if idealistic advice.
But not everyone is done auditioning.
Like a good boyfriend, Blaine, who is a junior, doesn't want to audition for the lead role of Tony because he doesn't want to hurt Kurt's feelings and ruin his dreams of drama school in New York. Oh, that's so sweet. Still he goes in and sings one of Tony's big songs, "Something's Coming," a song that is all about the millions of great possibilities that await out there in the universe. Tony is waiting for his opportunity (and his boots) to knock and is ready for whatever great thing might come along.
I'm just going to say this: I am sick of Darren Criss. There, it's out there. First of all, I was not really that impressed by his overly breathless rendition of this song. Secondly, he only has two dance moves: the bobble head wobble, and the pee-pee dance knee clang, where he pulls both his knees close together with his feet akimbo. It's like the "pull your knees in tight" step of the Time Warp. That's it. Those are his two moves. Well, there's a arm swinging snap thing, but that usually goes along with either the Head Wobble or the Pee Knees, so it's still like two moves. And he gets at least one song every damn week. Maybe that just pisses me off because he sells the most iTunes singles and the teen girls love him and so the show is just giving the people what they want. But I do not want him anymore. No, thank you. I don't want him at all. However, he did look bulgetastic in his pants at the audition. There's that.
Of course the directors think that Blaine is the right choice to be Tony and the episode ends with Kurt looking over his boyfriend from the balcony with his best Rachel Berry face on and Blaine not quite sure how to answer when they ask him if he wants the part. If he says yes, Kurt is pissed. If he says no, he misses out on his big chance to bobble head and pee-pee dance in front of the whole school! What's he gonna do? Still, this is the kind of interesting storyline that Glee should have been pushing all along, something that could only happen to a same-sex couple. Very interesting, guys.
There is something coming for a lot of these characters. Sue Motherfucking Sylvester's Congressional campaign continues apace (though with a ridiculous diversion into making some movie about Quinn that I'm going to gloss over entirely) and Will, Emma, and Bieste—the teacher triumvirate of good—is thinking of a way to foil her. Finn talked about how he doesn't want to move to New York to be with Rachel, so that will be a point of contention in the future.
With an assist from Sapphic sister Santana, Brittany realizes that she's better and smarter than she might think and she decides to run for class unicorn—no, class bicorn—no, class president. The Brittany v. BG Kurt debate will be one for the ages.
And then there is Quinn, who has dyed her hair back to blond and wore a nice white frock and joined up with Glee again. She's going to prove to Shelby that she's good enough to see her daughter. But not just that, she's going to reform and take total custody of her daughter and then go back to being the skank like she feels inside. Oh man, something's coming, something good! When Shelby told her to get in touch with the real Quinn, she found the one we always loved: the devious, duplicitous Quinn who will give you sunshine to your face and a knife in your back. Welcome back, Quinny-poo. We missed you so.
Yes, lots of things are coming up and they're all exciting. I'm so glad that things are going a bit more slowly this time around and we can bask in the details. Last year everyone would have auditioned for the musical, they would have staged it, Sue would have ruined it, Blaine and Kurt and Finn and Rachel would have broken up and gotten back together seven times and it all would have happened in one episode. While the show is still on a bit of shaky ground, but its improving, one episode at a time.