Thursday, December 2, 2010

A "Special Education"

GLEE Episode 9 “Special Education” – New Directions grabbed their magic combs and Cadbury eggs and headed to Sectionals on tonight’s episode of Glee. They faced off against The Warblers and The Hipsters and came out on top—well, sort of. But I liked last night’s episode of Glee, a lot actually, and yet somehow I expected more.  I think perhaps it’s because I was expecting New Directions to perform “Dog Days Are Over” at Sectionals, and I really wish they’d had. It’s an awesome song, and I’ve Had the Time of My Life/Valerie just didn’t dazzle me the way the previous Sectionals and Regionals performances have. 

I’ll tell you what I did really love about the episode, though – the emphasis on celebrating talent in New Directions other than Rachel and Finn’s. I don’t usually like shows that are too self-aware, but the theme felt like it had just the right amount of poignancy when it came to the storyline and real life criticisms of the show. There is a lot of talent on Glee, and it is fun to hear everyone sing – not just a Rachel ballad and then a classic rock song that ends with Mercedes belting out a big note. Emma knew that formula was tired and so did the audience, and the way the incorporated the change in song structure into the script was artfully done. (Had Mr. Schu just randomly given Sam, Quinn and Santana solos for Sectionals, it would have seemed pretty odd.)

Not only was Mr. Schu battling the fact that his underdog team had become stale frontrunners, he was also battling the fact that everyone in New Directions was, well, battling. Before we even got to the first commercial break, Santana dropped the bomb that she’d slept with Finn and demolished his relationship with Rachel. Plus everyone had a serious case of me-itis, and only cared about what they would do at Sectionals and what solo they would get. 

This episode was really effective in making Rachel likable again. I know after the first season everyone had kind of had enough of her, and even early in this season I was getting bored with the fact that every single episode seemed to include a Rachel solo ballad. She did “What I Did For Love” in the first episode. Then she did “Baby One More Time” – not a ballad, but another solo. Then she did “Papa Can You hear Me?”, which was excellent but another solo ballad. Then in the fourth episode, “Duets”, things seemed to take a turn. Rachel and Finn  threw the competition, and she later performed a killer duet with Kurt. I love hearing those two sing together. After that she seemed to really take a backseat in the show, and it’s been a nice break. 

This week she shone singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” with Kurt (a song she plans to have at her funeral to illustrate how everyone realized how great she was just a little too late), but we also got to see the often hidden likable side to her personality. She had some really adorable moments with Kurt, especially when she told him to smile from the audience during his Sectionals performance and initiated a standing ovation. 

I have to give props to Lea Michele this week, because I think her acting was some of the best we’ve seen. She looked truly crushed when she found out about Finn and Santana, and even more crushed when she told Finn about her brief encounter with Puck. (Which, incidentally, I thought Finn overreacted to a little. It did kind of even them up.)

Onto the Warblers’ arena - When I watched the video of the Warbler’s performance of “Hey Soul Sister” last week (OK, I watched it twice) I wondered why Blaine was doing all the singing, and also assumed that Kurt looked rather glum considering he’s now attending his dream school. (I’d also wondered this with Vocal Adrenaline, who relied entirely on Jesse St. James in their performances.) It turns out that Dalton Academy is rather rigid, likeUtopia. Sure, Kurt is accepted. But he isn’t celebrated. The words “fitting in” are thrown around, but anyone who knows Kurt’s character knows he’s not the kind of kid who wants to fit in. I loved that he had Rachel help him with his audition song (you have to audition for solos there, in front of a panel) and then he was told he’d tried too hard. Perhaps if he’d known they didn’t like that style he wouldn’t have gone to the girl who bursts into tears during every performance for coaching. 

The fact that Kurt probably isn’t going to get a solo or select a song anytime soon suggests that his time with the Warblers will be rather short. But how will he get back to McKinley? What will become of Karofsky? That’s probably a question for the second half of the season, but I’d be shocked if Kurt wasn’t back with New Directions in time for Regionals. How can they go to Nationals in NYC without him?

Here’s a question about Blaine, though – how good are his intentions with Kurt? He told Kurt he needed to be more of a team player, but he’s the only guy in the Warblers that we’ve heard so far. Does he really buy into all this teamwork crap, or is he just trying to keep his own position as apparently the only soloist safe?

Now for one of the bombshells of the episode – Emma and Carl went to Vegas and got hitched. Gah! What the hell? Not only do they have trouble getting together, they keep going and marrying other people! Wrong, wrong, wrong!

How do you guys feel about Emma’s news? Is it just another twist in the series, or are you sick of seeing Will tortured so? Should he continue to pine for her or move on to someone else? (Hello, Idina Menzel and Gwyneth Paltrow.)

To the Sectionals - It was pretty funny to see Puck on the wrong side of a port-a-potty when he tried to recruit a new member for New Directions. He ended up getting Laura, on the condition that he’d give her some out-of-season Cadbury eggs and seven minutes in heaven that allegedly rocked his world. Personally, I’m not a fan of Laura. I find her hostile, and not in a funny way like Santana. 
I was happy to see Mr. Schu yell at the glee kids for a change, since they were all acting like selfish brats. Like I said, though, the Sectionals performances fell a little flat for me. (The two songs not performed for the competition were my favorites from the episode.)

“The Living Years” by The Hipsters was great just because everyone had a walker or cane and the name “The Hipsters” cracks me up. I’d already seen “Hey Soul Sister”, and the song is a little overexposed, but it was a decent performance. 

I didn’t like how Quinn and Sam entered to do “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” the same way Rachel and Finn did for “Faithfully”. They have different voices than Rachel and Finn and I think a different vibe (either more intimate or more fun) would have suited them better. Naya rocked an awesome hat during “Valerie”, but it wasn’t the bombastic closing performance I had expected. I loved the dancing, though.

“The Dog Days” was by far my favorite performance from my night, and possibly one of my favorite Glee covers from this year. It was great to see Tina sing something that didn’t bore me to tears as well, though I might have liked it better if everyone had gotten a line to sing or something. It was nice to see all the kids let loose and have fun.

Thus, on the whole this episode didn’t just focus on one character, so it felt nicely balanced. I still don’t think it quite lived up to last year’s Sectionals episode, though. With Rachel and Finn apart and Will heartbroken, it lacked the joy of last year’s episode. 

Onto next week the last episode of the year "A Very Glee Christmas".


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