Glee Season 2 Episode 7 “The Substitute” Gwyneth Paltrow made her much hyped guest appearance as substitute teacher Holly Holiday. Holly replaced Will as both Spanish teacher and glee club director, Sue became principal, and Terri returned, speaking in a baby voice that’s going to give me nightmares. It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but for the most part it all worked out.
After Will catches a virulent strain of the monkey flu and hallucinates a choir room full of mini-Gleeks (who all by the way looked totally cute!), Holly arrives as his substitute. She seemed pretty darn perfect at first—she spoke Spanish with a flawless accent, she did an impressive version of Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” bonded with the kids over Taco Bell and with Sue over Animal Hoarders and red wine, and she even cart-wheeled while performing “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” from Chicago with Rachel. She seemed like the coolest teacher ever… until she revealed she can’t commit to staying at one school for more than a month.
Let’s Talk about the Good and Bad seen shall we?
As the ultimate substitute, Paltrow’s casual sexy and fresh Holly Holliday brings a fresh perspective to glee club and a new dimension to the show. Holly describes herself as the “cure for the common class.” She is like a super permissive parent; she presents Lindsay Lohan as a topic for class discussion, suggests a trip to Taco Bell and nonchalantly drops a medical marijuana reference.
Glee functions as an excellent arbitor of pop culture and social commentary, and this episode provided a platform to discuss a multitude of relevant issues. When Schue confronts Holly about her laissez-faire teaching style, she makes a few excellent points about how education needs to adapt to the 21st century in order to reach students. Last week’s commentary on bullying continued this week, as the confrontation between Kurt and his tormentor escalated, resulting in a death threat that will likely be a major issue in coming episodes.”The Substitute” also weighed in the debate about nutrition in schools, via Principal Sue’s ‘war on junk food.’
Kurt embracing his more flamboyant side via his blossoming relationship with Blaine makes Mercedes feel left out. Kurt is not just her best friend; he also he fills the male presence void typically assigned to boyfriends, just with a little more flair. For Mercedes, being unable to connect with Kurt about a new dimension to his life is frustrating and saddening. This is a tale as old as time- straight girls with best gay friends the world over have felt this rejection when, suddenly, their BGF has someone else, who is theoretically better suited as a confidant. Exploring this dynamic will make for excellent conflict in future episodes.
On another note, Mr. Schue was a major presence this week, and mostly redeemed himself for the jealous weirdness and questionable decisions of episodes past. He really does care about his students; it is clear that losing leadership of glee club is more about losing this beautiful relationship with the students and not about a selfish need for control, like Sue. Terri returns, crazy eyes, baby voice and all, to bring out the worst in her ex-husband. She takes advantage of Will while he is sick, though he does bear some responsibility for sleeping with a woman who is clearly unstable; when she comes flying into his apartment in a jealous rage, it is hard to feel sorry for him.
So what did you think of Gwyneth on Glee? I thought she fit in well with the rest of the cast and held her own during the performances, which seemed rather elaborate in this episode. From Holly and Rachel’s Chicago number to Mike Chang and Mr. Schue’s version of “Make ‘Em Laugh” to the Umbrella/Singin’ in the Rain finale with everyone splashing around—I think they upped their budget for this episode. Gwyneth and the rest of the Gleeks seemed to be having a blast, so that made this a fun episode for me.
Now next Tuesday November 23 airs episode 8 of this season titled Furt, as glee club co-captains Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) move forward in their relationship, club member Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) faces a key decision in his life and commences preparations for his father Burt's (Mike O'Malley) impending marriage to Finn's mother Carole (Romy Rosemont). Wanting to compete, Sue also decides to be wed, which brings her Nazi hunter mother Doris (Carol Burnett) to Lima, Ohio for a surprise visit.