This week's Glee was a solid, packed little episode about second choices and settling for what you think you want, and it also used its musical performances as opportunities to push the plot or reflect the emotions of the characters. Everything tied together: Emma and Ken want Will to mash up "Thong Song" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" (yep) and teach them to dance, but Will and Emma's time together just drives home the choices they've had to make. Ken, driven by jealousy, reschedules football practice to force his team to choose the game or the glee club. Puck decides to date Rachel, but she can't stand being with him because she just wants to be with Finn. Puck, however, still has feelings for Quinn, while Quinn begins to see Puck in a new light even though she's still on the arm of Finn. So there's a whole love rhombus happening in the midst of all these larger character orbits, and then you toss in some sing-alongs, and you've got yourself some good Glee.
(Sidebar: The first half of the episode aired correctly -- letterboxed for standard TVs --but the latter half had the sides cropped off. Email Fox 26 and complain! FOR ME.)
The episode's title is "Mash-Up," and writer Ian Brennan and director Elodie Keene really drove home the run-together nature of the relationships. Finn is on the outs with the football team for singing in what they dub "Homo Explosion," a gay slur that's probably stunningly close to the stupid shit high schoolers actually say. In the glee room, Will picks everyone up by challenging them to find a mash-up match for "Bust a Move," which he promptly begins singing. Granted, watching Matthew Morrison jump around to Young MC was the whitest thing a white guy has ever whited in his white whiteness of a white life. But it worked because Glee, at its heart, is a drunken night at a karaoke bar come to life, full of bad choices and wistful glances and the songs from yesterday that everyone knows. There has to be a certain self-aware kitsch value to the songs, no matter their narrative relevance, and when Glee hits that balance, like it did this week, it's excellent.
But seriously: Finn plays drums, Artie's on bass? Can everyone automatically play an instrument? This is like Zack Attack.
So Finn and Quinn spend the hour figuring out how to stay cool, while Puck puts the moves on Rachel thanks to his mom's exhortation that he date a nice Jewish girl. He even tries to allay her fears: "We're a couple of good-looking Jews. It's natural." In actually having to chase a girl, Puck gets to be legitimately charming instead of just a rogue. Plus he performs a full-band version of maybe the greatest karaoke song ever, "Sweet Caroline." The whole club sang along and did the bah-bah-bahs on the chorus!
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And man oh man, the Will and Emma stuff was as strong and sad as ever. They clearly need to be together, and the show is toying with the momentum of just how far to let them go. The dance lessons he gives her are adorable, whether he's whitely belting out "Thong Song" (which brought back awful, awful memories of my prom) or she's trying on wedding dresses and singing "I Could Have Danced All Night," twirling happily in the arms of the right man she can't have.
Plus holy hell, was Jane Lynch on point. Sue enjoyed a brief romance with a local news anchor but was (of course) soon relegated to second place, and her bitterness at being rejected led to a wonderful attack on Will: "I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night, I will steal away into your home and punch you in the face."
But in the end, everyone dealt with the often bitter consequences of being second choice: Puck blew off Rachel to avoid looking too hurt, and Ken gave the okay to football players being in glee, and Will and Emma had to tacitly acknowledge that they can't be together. For now.
Line of the night: Puck, relaying his dream about Rachel: "When I woke up, I knew it was more than a dream. It was a message from God. Rachel was a hot Jew, and the good Lord wanted me to get into her pants."