In warfare, having the psychological advantage is often more important than having a tactical edge. That's the lesson we learned when everyone on Glee worked through their depression by destroying each other. And singing! It was glorious.
Yes, last night's episode was bellicose as the hellions from Vocal Adrenaline showed up to psych out our merry band of musical misfits from New Directions, Will waged war on Sue Motherfucking Sylvester, and Terri found herself a new ally in Finn. Everything was about doing battle, but the focus of the episode was funk. God, how many times can you hear that word in one hour? Funk, funk, funk, funk, funk, funk, fuuuunnnkkk. They used it as a euphemism for sadness and stinkiness and also for the musical genre pioneered by George Clinton and the other soulful musicians of the '70s. We were into the funk. Heck, we were really into this whole episode. Lets have a look at the tunes, shall we.
"Another One Bites the Dust": This Queen anthem was the perfect choice for Jesse St. James and his blue knights from Vocal Adrenaline to use to intimidated the McKinley Squad. Not only is it about conquering, but it is also about being conquered when a lover leaves.
"How do you think I'm going to get along, without you, when you're gone?" the lyrics ask. It might as well be Rachel singing that now that Jesse's gone. Jesse is singing about kicking Rachel to the curb, and you know that has to be a giant blow to her already fragile ego.The reason he broke up with her is a little bit mysterious. There seemed to be no one event (at least in last night's episode) that would precipitated the end of their affair. Yes, he's right, the glee club at McKinley was never very nice to him, but that doesn't seem to warrant the vindictive performance in their own "quaint" auditorium.
This number was great, though, and if I were a rag-tag group of losers, I'd be scared too, because this is everything that a dazzling show choir should be. No wonder they keep winning. But they have a weakness. After a run-in with drug-dealing vocal coach Sandy (where has he been?!), Will discovers that his rival club has never successfully done a funk number. When everyone is so depressed—the glee kids because of the drive by shooting VA delivered and Will because of his divorce—he says they need to focus on the funk to win the competition.
Also biting the dust was Terri and Will, who made their divorce final (was their lawyer Tina Cohen-Chang's father, since he was an Asian who said "Mazel Tov" when they signed the papers?). Will seems a bit sad but relieved. Terri is genuinely effected, and it's so telling that she says she still sees Will as the 16-year-old boy she first fell in love with. If she can't let her relationship grow as the two of them do, she doesn't have a fake pregnancy's chance in hell of growing old together.
"Tell Me Something Good": This sultry Rufus and Chaka Khan mid-tempo jam is all about sexy seduction, and that is just what Will needs. When Rachel tells Mr. Schue that Jesse's plan all along was to make her fall in love with him only to break her heart before the big game, Will thinks that's a stroke of genius. He's going to use all his manly charms, and this song, to lure Sue Motherfucking Sylvester and her steel-trap coochie into his bed.
Sue has been especially cruel to Will and threatens that if they lose regionals she's going to turn his chorus room into her trophy storage closet. Will is sick of dealing with her and wants to make sure she doesn't have a new giant hunk of burnished plastic to taunt him with. So he puts on his tightest, whitest T-shirt (and really, that man does things for an undershirt that haven't been seen since Marlon Brando bellowed, "Stella!" on screen) and rubs his manbits all up in Sue's face. And it works! She's smitten.
We've seen this before, SMFS is hard to her very soul, but when she gets the attention of a man, she just melts. Men are like her funk number. When it comes time for their big dinner date—Sue even dresses up a track suit with a double strand of demur pearls—Will stands her up, hoping the depression will cause her to lose her national competition later that week. So, so devious and so, so wrong.
After slashing the tires of all the Vocal Adrenaline squad's SUVs, Puck and Finn have to pay for the damages, so they get jobs making less than immigrants at Linens & Things under the very watchful eye of damaged cougar Terri Schuester. The whole point of this song is to illustrate how horrible their lives and the lives of everyone in this suburban wasteland is. In terms of visual representations, this is one of the best and most transformative clips we've seen on the show. Finn stocking the shelves as they are emptied by soulless robots, all the denizens of the store casting their eyes to heaven and proclaiming their depression, Puck shuffling through the stacks of meaningless items in his uniform (oh that uniform!). They were all telling moments that impart so much more than the silly lyrics. The only thing that was off is this '90s standard is more about slackerness. The lyrics have no real meaning at all, so the only thing to give them any import is the delivery. When spit out with the anger of the disenfranchised big box store worker, it takes on a whole different edge I wasn't necessarily buying. Beck and Rage Against the Machine might have been on the radio at the same time, but they are far from the same band.
At the end of the song, Terri thinks that Finn is Will, an obvious comparison, and decides to take the young boy under her wing. Does she want to sleep with him or does she really want to use him to make her life better? She probably wants to use him as the unwitting pawn in some grand revenge scheme against her ex-husband, which would be sad but awesome. I really hope they find a way to keep Terri around on the show, because next to Sue MF Sylvester, there is no dastardly dame who is so much fun to watch.
"It's a Man's Man's Man's World": What a brilliant way for Quinn to get funky! When Mr. Schue tells his squad that funk is a way about expressing anger with creativity, this pregnant cheerleader tells the room that she is ready for the funk. He rage and desperation have been building all season and they finally bubbled over in one heck of a performance. In another of Glee's wonderful subversions, they take this James Brown song, which is about how a man wouldn't be anywhere with women, and turn it into something about oppression and empowerment. As this golden girl with the bun in the over enumerates the things that men do in the world, it sounds more like a litany of the things she will never achieve. But really she has the real power. She has the power to give birth and to bring men to their knees. They are nothing without her, and by the time they realize that, she will have ripped the skin off their bones. It was a deep and powerful rendition by Quinn set off by the hilarity of her backup belly dancers. It's all about pregnant dancers for comic relief from now on.
To illustrate just how a man can ruin ladies' lives, we see the damage that Will did by toying with Sue. Her squad is bereft that she is so depressed about getting stood up that she called off their competition. Girls will lose their scholarships and others just need some sort of activity for validation. Brittany couldn't even figure out how to dress herself the right way! And a man with a huge ego and an ax to grind has taken it away from them. Way to turn into the enemy, Will.
"Good Vibrations": I saw Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch at Riverside Amusement Park in Agawam, Massachusetts in 1992 with my best girlfriend. He stripped down to his Calvins and shook it all over the stage and a little boy was made even gayer on that day. So I know a thing or two about funk and this is not it. Also, I'm glad Will rolled his eyes when Puck called it old-school (sorry, I'm not ready to be O.G. just yet!). Artie explains they confused this hip-hop track with funk because they're so depressed. Whatever, that is just lame. If they're going to continue with the "lesson of the week" format and this week's lesson is funk, they better stick to funking funk! Don't just throw in another song and then come up with a lame excuse why it was shoehorned in. I call foul. Still to see Mercedes tear up the chorus was well worth it.
This was Mercedes revenge on Quinn to show her a black lady really knows how to get funky, but she didn't get funky at all. Instead, she was sending off good vibrations to make everyone happier. After Quinn's number, Mercedes, a luxury sedan of pure class, rolled up to Quinn. She rolled down the driver's side rear window and popped her head out and said, "Hey sister, want a ride?" And Quinn waddled around to the other side and got in, and they talked and talked about being oppressed and different and shunned just for their appearance. Like Bill Clinton before her, Quinn was one white lady that knew what it was like to be black, and her sister accepted her for it. They both knew about the struggle. Mercedes swaddled Quinn's head to her bosom and said, "There, there. It's alright. You're going to come live with me now. We don't need a man. We have each other. We are strong. We are invincible. We are woman. Pass the Cheetos." It was something like that. I liked it.
Will was also determined to make things better with his own good vibrations. He showed up at Sue's award-strewn den and found her trapped in bed and unable to get up, drink protein shakes, or share her revisionist histories about Abraham Lincoln. But he told her that people were counting on her and that she had to stop being selfish and even though no one loves her, she has the fear and admiration of her students and that had to be enough. Thanks to a pep talk and a 14-minute Celine Dion medley courtesy of our very own Babygay Kurt, they won!
New Directions wasn't faring so well. Vocal Adrenaline showed up to egg Rachel Barry. Well, she is a vegan, so she probably deserves it. Still, when her ex boyfriend Jesse St. James jammed that unborn chick onto her face, it was just about the saddest thing we ever did see. Conversely, the way all the boys in her club reacted and rushed to her defense was very sweet. Even BG Kurt was ready to fight! But Will behaved like an adult for a change and stopped them. He was going to create some good vibrations by showing up the other side.
"Give up the Funk": If you're really nice to me, one day I'll tell you a great story about George Clinton, but until then, you'll have to regale yourself with this wonderful rendition of his band Parliament's righteous funk number. This was a great arrangement, and we loved the false ending that lead into this great dance break at the end (Brittany killed it doing the flips in her What's Happening getup). Yes, it was fun and it showed Vocal Adrenaline that New Directions could master the one style they couldn't, but, sorry, it wasn't as good as their competitor's "Another One Bites the Dust." The singing was great and the dancing was OK, but it was a bit of an unorganized mess. They have spirit, but they don't have the rigor of their arch-nemeses, and that will be their downfall. But like Puck says at the end, they'll see them at regionals, with their confidence intact and the psychological edge.
Sue MF Sylvester did her own bit of intimidation when she showed up at Will's house with her giant new trophy. She told him that it was going to stay in her house or...and for a minute we thought that she was going to say, "I'll take it back when you win regionals," giving him a bit of fear-based motivation to get his squad together in a nice turn around for how he helped her out of bed. But that didn't happen. She said, "or you can kiss me on the lips." I wouldn't dare because I would hate to catch her hourly flareups of contagious, herpes-like talent. But he went to do it, to bend to her will, and she scorned him in disgust. And she took her trophy and had it installed in his choir room. It was the ultimate insult, but Will deserves to have that reminder in his room, to show him how low he can sink when looking for revenge and to motivate him into showing Sue she isn't the only one who can win. The war is on, and we can't wait for the carnage.