Before the Gwyneth Paltrow edition of Glee, our favorite fictionalized variety show, I was ready to hate her and the episode. Then we watched it and Gwyneth was—I hate to admit it—good. God, she's such a bitch.
Making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow is just so easy! She has famous parents, an Oscar she barely deserves, a rock star husband, a silly lifestyle website, and the propensity to talk about crying over hurting her fingers trying to play guitar. Gwyneth Paltrow is patently ridiculous. Then she shows up on Glee, sings well, plays a daffy character, and makes us like her. There is a special place reserved for you in hell, Gwyneth Paltrow!
On the show she plays Holly Holiday (a name belonging to either a porn star or a drag queen) the coolest substitute teacher in school. Sue Motherfucking Sylvester hatched some ridiculous plot to get Principal Figgins sick so that she could take over the school and ruin Glee club. When Will confronts her about it, saying that they have been friends so far this season, she simply explains she got bored of that. Well, at least the writers addressed it! When Mr. Schue gets sick as well, the kids need someone to take his place, and Holly fits the bill. She won us over with this ditty.
What the "hip" substitute who is "down" with the kids is doing entertaining them with a song from the '70s educational cartoon Schoolhouse Rock I'm not sure, but "Conjunction Junction" has a place in many of our English-loving hearts. And a cabaret version too? Sold!
The song asks, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" and that has been the essential question that Glee has asked with all of these "stunt episodes." In my opinion, this is the first stunt or guest star the show has had that really, really worked. As much as we love Kristin Chenoweth's April Rhodes, the reason she was in school in the first place was a little suspect. But with Holly it makes sense why she was there (a school needs subs!) and she integrated herself into the action and dynamic of the club quite seamlessly. Way to go, Glee! Instead of making the whole episode about Gwyneth the way they did Madonna, Gaga, Britney, or Rocky Horror you let Holly connect the "words, phrases, and clauses" you already have and make them better. This is how to work a guest star!
Of course Holly wants to take over Glee and make it fun and fierce for everyone. Like any substitute, she only has a short period of time to get all the kids to like her. How does she do it? By figuring out one of the club's biggest problems, that Will never asks them what kind of songs they want to sing. That would be true if each week they didn't have an "assignment" where they got to, you know, select the song they wanted to sing. Or when they go to sectionals and he wasn't there so they had to pick their songs on their own. So, really, this makes no sense at all, but we get the point. Mr. Schue can be a bit of an asshole sometimes and Holly is out to prove that she's cool. It works.
Forget You" went viral this summer, and it really grew on me—much like Gwyneth on Glee. This really was a perfect song to use. Not only does she get to work her considerable vocal chops and boogie down with the kids, but the episode neatly revolved around rivalries, just like in the song.
Holly of course butts heads with Rachel Barry, who thinks she should be in control of Glee while Mr. Schue convalesces. Naturally everyone else in the club thinks this is a bad idea. When Rachel sees Holly and Principal Sue Motherfucking Sylvester bonding over red wine and Hoarders, she pleads with Will to come back, but when he does, Holly doesn't want to give up the post. Because Sue can control Holly, she tells Will that he's fired. Oh, Sue, haven't you seen Waiting for "Superman"? It's hard as hell to fire a teacher.
Mercedes isn't too happy that new gay studmuffin Blaine is riding around with the boy she loves, in this case, Babygay Kurt. He's so happy to finally have a gay person to talk about Vogue covers and the new Patti LuPone book with that he's been ignoring Mercedes. When they go out to dinner at Lima, Ohio's premiere gastronomic destination, Breadstix, to her their conversation just sounds like "gay, gay, gay, gay, gay." It was funny because it's true (Richard Lawson and I communicate the same way). BG Kurt does try to hook Mercedes up with a man of her own, but she's not interested in dating this super hot black football player. She thinks Kurt only wants them to date because they're two of the five black people in school. Who cares why, Mercedes? That dude was fucking smokin'. Get on that!
Instead of going on the date, Mercedes gets herself a powerful rival: Sue Motherfucking Sylvester. Sue has decided that fighting teenage obesity will be her big cause as principal, so she bans tater tots from the cafeteria. Because she's eating her feelings with the fried potato treat, Mercedes goes all Norma Rae and demands that they return the tots to the cafeteria.
My favorite rival of the evening though was Terri Schuester. Season two of the show has been a tad lackluster in my opinion and I finally figured out why: we haven't had delicious bitch Terri to amuse and infuriate us. When Will is sick she returns to take care of him, but she doesn't have another female rival. No, she's competing against the "old Terri." She says she's in therapy and on medication (stay crazy, girl!) and wants to reconcile with her ex husband. When she puts on Will's favorite movie, Singin' in the Rain, to make him feel better, we know that he's hooked.
What a fun number! I mean, it was great to see Will do a Glee-inflected version of the original scene from his favorite movie. But why? The routine made sense in the fever dream context, but did it add anything to the hour other than a fun dance break? Not really. Maybe I should shut up and start learning to love the bomb.
This song is really about how the season has been progressing so far. The plots have been concocted to "make us laugh," as nothing but a mere distraction. There is no guiding story arc other than the vague mentions of Sectionals once an episode. Then it occurred to me: New Directions has absolutely zero routines this year. All they've done each week is their "assignments." They haven't learned any new group numbers or choreography or performed in public or anything. They only have like three weeks before their next competition. I hate to be all Rachel Berry, but those bitches need to get to work!
Speaking of Rachel Barry, Holly Holiday does not liker her one bit and tells her that she needs to loosen up and have a little bit of fun. When she said that she was just like Rachel until she got punched in the face, I didn't really believe it, but I chuckled. With a little encouraging, Rachel lets loose and even gets Holly to join in on the fun.
Rachel and Holly's version of "Nowadays" is pretty faithful to both the Broadway version and the Oscar-winning film version from Chicago and it's a whole lot of fun. The harmonies between these two are enough to give us shivers. The lyrics don't really make sense though. It basically says, "Life is fun and dirty now, but in fifty years it's totally going to suck." If the loosening of social morals is what this song written in the '70s for a show set in the '20s is celebrating, then wouldn't they be even happier with how loose our morals are now? Maybe I need a punch in the face to just loosen up, cause it was a good performance.
Mercedes morals get a little bit looser when she stuffs a bunch of tots up the tailpipe of Sue's Le Car (please, great Glee gods, give us a shot of SMFS getting out of her Le Car) and is threatened with expulsion. We're not sure what her punishment is, we just know that later in the hour she's agreeing to go out with Kurt's hot wide receiver friend. Good for her.
Annoying for Kurt though. I love me a Babygay, but wasn't his whole scene with Mercedes a little bit obnoxious? It's like he's had a gay friend for a week and he's already an expert on making friends and having relationships and whatnot. It's like the guy who goes to the gym for three days and is already walking with his arms pumped out to the side like he's so bulky the can't rest naturally. Give it a rest, brother. Everyone on this show is a little bit unlikable, we guess now it's Kurt's turn.
Things nowadays are difficult for Kurt. His bully, who I have dubbed Fury, came back and said that if he tells anyone about their kiss, he's going to kill him. When did the plot about gay teen bullying go from After School Special to B-plot on Desperate Housewives? That's all a bit too much.
Things aren't improving nowadays for Terri Schuester. After seducing Will (ex sex is never a good idea, people!), she thinks that they're getting back together, but when she sees him having a beer with pretty Holly Holiday, she reverts back to her bitchy self. But the new Terri says that she should leave before something really bad happens. How mature of her! Will tells her not to ever come back, that he only slept with her because he was lonely and he doesn't want anything to do with her anymore. God, Will is such an incredible asshole. A really hot asshole, but still an asshole. Terri is nothing short of a monster, but she still has feelings. Now that her feelings have been hurt, the monster has been awoken, and boy am I excited.
For Holly things nowadays got real when she was in the principal's office with Mercedes. After taking Will's job, she realized that there are consequences to her actions and she can't remain friends with everyone. Life is full of tough decisions and the longer you stick around, the harder it gets. Because of her job, Holly has issues with commitment and she moves from class to class, town to town, man to man, without ever settling down. Like she told Rachel, she used to be uptight until she got punched in the face by a mean girl named Cameo. We thought she was joking, but she learned quickly that the sub has to keep the kids entertained and indulged if they want to get any respect whatsoever.
She decides that between the love the kids have for Will and the trouble she has sticking with one job, that she'll go back to her itinerant ways as a substitute. This is a great move because now Holly can always just pop up when they need her in subsequent seasons. After all, it make sense that the sub is just hanging around the scene. But before fading into the background, she has to teach everyone one last lesson.
What? I can't hear you. I just listened to that song and now my ears hurt, I'm deaf, and there is blood pouring out of the sides of my head. I think it has something to do with that insufferable mash-up (retch) of "Umbrella" and "Singin' in the Rain." I'm sorry, but hands down this is absolutely the worst song that has ever been on the show. Ever. These songs make no sense together, they were badly mixed, and the combination was vertigo-inducingly bad. I'd rather listen to three hours of radio static, car alarms, and Fran Drescher singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in a round with Roseanne Barr than have to listen to this song again. But next time you listen to it, close your eyes. Doesn't Gwyneth sound exactly like Chris Colfer's Kurt when singing? It's uncanny!
It was that bad, but the choreography was great and visually very interesting. Why did they have to go combining songs? If they wanted to show the classics that Mr. Schue likes with more modern fare that Holly championed, then why not just do "Umbrella" with a dance inspired by Singin' in the Rain? That would have been really rad. Instead they had to go and ruin two great songs with a fucking mash-up (retch). This better not be one of their numbers for sectionals.
With this performance, everything went back to normal. Holly is a sub, Will is the asshole in charge, Kurt is being a gay snob, Mercedes has her tots, Brittany is dumb and no longer terrorized by spears of broccoli, and everyone learned a valuable lesson. We learned that Gwyneth Paltrow isn't all that bad and Glee having a million guest stars isn't the series' death knell. Man, does that make us excited for Carol Burnett next week!