Nearly two months after "A Very Glee Christmas," the show returned last night with a special Super Bowl episode, "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle." In an attempt to end the football team's bullying of the glee club, Mr. Schuester and Coach Bieste force their groups to unite for a week, while Sue conjures up drama (her schemes to "make things interesting again" involve wanting to shoot Brittany out of an oversize cannon). In the showdown between the Cheerios and the football/glee club, did the songs stand a chance?
In the opening number, blue-wigged Cheerios dance to the Katy Perry track while boys on bikes scale giant ramps with strategically placed flames. "I'm bored," Sue says. We'd have to agree — and we're not even sure if a Glee version of the track would have helped make the over-the-top choreography seem more inspired.
"Need You Now"
In the first joint meeting of the football team and glee club, Schuester asks Rachel to demonstrate what the New Directions do. "As offended as I am by their presence here, I won't let anything get in the way of a performance," she says, before pulling Puck up to perform Lady Antebellum's chart-topper (a duet orchestrated to make Finn jealous). Their vocals hit the mark — which means they're as sleepy as ever. It seems like Puck and Rachel are lulling the football team into appreciating them — until an all-out brawl breaks out. And somehow the line "I'm a little drunk" slipped by the Fox censors? Wonder what the parents crying outrage at Lea Michele's low-necklined Cosmo cover will think.
"She's Not There"
Sue is on the war path when Figgins nixes her cannon-shooting idea, and gets the cheerleading regionals moved to the same day as the football championship, leaving the game with no cheerleaders or half-time show. But it's Mr. Schuester (and Coach Bieste) to the rescue, with a plan to set up their newly formed supergroup as midgame entertainment.
Inspired by the decrease in violence experienced at a Filipino prison when the inmates rehearsed for their viral video of "Thriller" (obviously), the half-time show will pair the "Super Bowl of pop anthems" with "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' equally spooky single, 'Heads Will Roll,''' explains Schue.
Though Sue demands the Cheerio glee girls (Quinn, Santana and Brittany) pick cheerleading or glee — surprise! They pick cheerleading — the football team is coming around to the idea of performing. So much so that lead bully and Kurt-kisser Karovsky asks for a warm-up number. Cue a cleverly placed rendition of the Zombies' "She's Not There" with the boys in ... zombie gear. We approve. Finn's vocals are a perfect fit for the 1964 hit, and everyone else does jerky zombie dances, singing backup that at first seems odd but in the end makes the number more interesting.
"Bills, Bills, Bills"
Meanwhile, over at Dalton Academy, things are going swimmingly for the Warblers and their badass (if totally irrelevant) version of "Bills, Bills, Bills" as they rehearse for regionals in the common room. It's great to see Kurt channeling his diva into a song from Top 40 radio (as opposed to old-school Broadway), and Darren Criss continues to bring the frontman swagger as Blaine. It only fell short insofar as it had nothing to do with the rest of the show.
"Thriller/Heads Will Roll"
Follow us here: The football team can't handle the bullying they get from the mullet-sporting hockey team, so they ditch glee club, and Bieste kicks them off the team. Blaine informs the glee girls only four more players are needed to qualify for the championship, so the girls rally and get in the game. But at half-time they realize they don't stand a chance, so Finn and Puck convince the defected Cheerios and footballers to come back for their megasized show.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and King of Pop mash-up is something only dreamed up in the Glee factory. Santana wails on "Heads Will Roll," while Artie continues to prove he's a versatile pop singer in "Thriller" (actor Kevin McHale is a former boy-band member, which probably helps). Even though the vocals are more chipmunk-sounding in this version than either of the originals, add in impressive zombie get-up, smoke on the field and creepy choreography and the song proves infectious — so infectious we can block out Finn handling Vincent Price's iconic interlude. The post-show high of the school losers banding together to win over the crowd is just what the football team needs to win the game.
Bottom Line: They aimed for a "zombie double rainbow," as Brittany so aptly described the joined forces of glee club and the football team. But what we got boiled down to a standard Glee episode — mostly awesome parts, but somehow the sum felt a bit short. Sue is defeated once again, and Katie Couric interviews her as a loser of the year (beating out stiff competition from Wall Street to "Sparky Lohan, who is Dina Lohan's dog, and apparently also a loser.")
The show ends with a cliffhanger: Quinn kisses Finn! The suspense will be short-lived, because on Tuesday, romance will be in the air, as Rachel Berry sings Katy Perry while walking through a hallway and Glee tackles Valentine's Day in "Silly Love Songs."