Glee At Last, Glee At Last, Thank God Almighty, We Have Glee At Last

It's been a long, show tune-less summer. There were probably times during the last few months when some of you lost hope, when you drew the covers around your head and despaired of ever seeing that lovable troupe of so-called "misfits" (that were mostly hotter than anybody you actually went to high school with) belt out Burt Bacharach, Journey and Lady Gaga songs as they continued on their seemingly endless quest to earn respect from their peers and acceptance from their elders.

Or maybe you just went and spent some time outdoors with your family. Weirdos.

I confess, when I saw the title of season 2's first episode was "Audition," I harbored a fleeting hope we'd get an homage to Takashi Miike's magnum opus of the same name. Perhaps with a gender bending twist, maybe Kurt as Asami and Finn as his ... guest.

Yeah, probably not. But while it's true tonight's episode lacked much in the way of dismemberment or vomit eating, it was refreshingly nasty. Something I, for one, hope continues throughout the second season.

If you recall from last spring, New Directions failed to even place at Regionals. As a result, they're getting their budget slashed by 10%. Not to be outdone, Sue Sylvester's Cheerios are rewarded for another championship with an identical cut. And why? Because there's a new football coach, and she thinks it's a tad ridiculous that the cheerleaders have a larger budget than the team they're supposed to support.

Yes, I said "she." Coach Beiste (get it?) has an impressive football pedigree, and is admittedly so mannish I had to check IMDb to make sure they weren't trying to sneak Coach Tanaka back in as a post-op transsexual. My bad, Dot Jones.

For Will, these cuts come at a particularly bad time. He's decided that in order to compete with the likes of Vocal Adrenaline, New Directions needs new voices. And since it's the beginning of the school year, what better way to kick off a recruiting drive than with a lunchtime rendition of the summer's biggest song, "Empire State of Mind?"

Yeah, I had to look it up too. I'm not a Jay-Z guy, sue me.

Their performance yields two likely candidates: "Sunshine" Corazon (Charice), a belter from the Philippines so short she makes Lea Michele look like Wilt Chamberlain, and Scott Evans (Chord Overstreet), a transfer student mocked by Puck for his "Bieber haircut." This unabashed cruelty is unwarranted, especially when he should actually be catching hell for singing Poison in the showers. "Every Rose Has It's Thorn"? Dude.

Meanwhile Will's uneasy alliance with Sue against Coach Beiste yields few results, aside from getting Finn kicked off the football team. He soon reconsiders, once again antagonizing the Cheerios coach. Rachel, for her part, is so threatened by Snooki Sunshine she sends her to a crack house to keep her from auditioning. This has the bonus effect of driving her to Vocal Adrenaline, while Scott decides there's too much baggage with New Directions and opportunistically takes over for Finn at quarterback.

In secondary character news, Quinn is now sans baby and finds herself locking horns with Santana, who's on Sue's shit list for getting fake boobs in the off season. Tina dumped Artie for Mike Chang, which I guess makes for a certain symmetry. And for those of you who didn't get her Coming Home reference, watch and understand:

At the end, things are pretty much back where they were for the club. No new members have been added, and New Directions is faced with the formidable task of getting to the finals in NYC with the same group that failed so miserably at Regionals. Gonna be a long season.

But personally, I like the darker tone struck in this episode. Glee is strongest when it remembers high school was often an unhappy time for most of us (even if most students didn't find themselves involved in false accusations of sexual abuse). If they keep up the unpleasantness, they'll do just fine.

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