Glee was back on track in a big way with this week's "Mash Off" after two horrible episodes that followed a three-week hiatus. While there were some glaring issues (though we're glad it was the case, it was as if last week's losing-my-virginity and school play plot lines never even happened), we are willing to look past them in honor of Glee celebrating its 300th musical performance with an hour full of strong songs. We've said it before and we'll say it again: we like our Glee with just enough ridiculousness, and this week had it.
"Hot For Teacher"
Puck confirms that he's in love with Shelby and doesn't care that she works at McKinley. ("I get that student/teacher relationships are tricky, but aren't all relationships?") She's subbing for one of his classes, and he spends the whole period fantasizing about her. Cue "Hot for Teacher," a number that's ideal for both Puck's plot line and his vocal skills. It kicks off with a full-on '80s takeover in Puck's fantasy classroom as everyone's hair gets bigger and their clothes get wilder. It's also another chance for Puck to grab his guitar, which he does as Finn hops on drums and Blaine and Mike take on backing vocals. You can tell they're all having fun and it's a high-energy performance with the right amount of absurdity. Though Rachel questions how appropriate the song is, Puck chalks it up to being a Van Halen fan – his secret is safe (for now).
"You and I/You and I"
Shelby approaches Schue in the teacher's lounge to figure out a way to engage their rival glee clubs in a little pre-Sectionals friendly competition. Their plan? A mash-up competition, the first annual McKinley Mash Off. We'll forget for a moment that Schue has given this exact assignment to the New Directions a few times already because the mash-ups in this episode pretty much blow their predecessors out of the water (though we do have a special fondness for the over-caffeinated "Halo/Walking on Sunshine" and "It's My Life/Confessions Part II"). To get in the spirit this time around, Schue and Shelby perform a mash up of Lady Gaga's 2011 single with Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle's 1982 hit. Shelby outshines Schue by once again proving she can kill a Gaga ballad but he complements her nicely. While we're not sure what Brittany means when she says, "Is this what having a stroke feels like? 'Cause I like it," we'll agree with the overall sentiment.
"Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way or Another":
Santana and Brittany get into a hallway insult match with Finn and Rory (Santana: "Orca." Finn: "You look like an ass-less J. Lo") that Finn decrees can only be resolved one way: New Directions vs. Troubletones in a dodgeball game after school. Should we be so lucky that it will include another well-executed song that actually has something to do with the plot? Turns out, we should.
The Eighties soundtrack a fierce match: Finn kicks off with Pat Benatar while Santana comes in with Blondie, and the mash-up is a well-crafted blend of the two hits. The match doesn't fare nearly as well: even after Santana tags Finn out and the Troubletones win, the glee-club-on-glee-club hatred doesn't stop. Though Santana ultimately promises the Troubletones that she'll be nicer, her brand of niceness involves apologizing to Finn in advance for the Troubletones winning because he and the New Directions suck. After her tongue-twisting diatribe, Finn theorizes that the reason she tears everyone else up is because she's torn up inside – and outs her in the McKinley hallway.
"I Can't Go for That/You Make My Dreams Come True":
Finn has finally figured out how to be a good leader, and he pushes the New Directions to cover a group that's stuck together for the long haul – like Hall & Oates – to inspire group unity. For their Mash-Off performance, half the New Directions dress like Hall while the other half dress like John Oates. It's a spirited move. Rory steps up to a solo with the support of Blaine and Finn and it's an infectious performance – a peppy Lite FM mash-up, if you will – with fine vocals.
"Rumour Has It/Someone Like You"
In another moment of leadership, Mercedes suggests the Troubletones take on Adele for their mash-up and everyone is on board. (Brittany: "She sounds like what banana creme pie sounds like when it sings.") Glee already conquered labelmate Adele in 2011 with a raw, a cappella take on "Rolling in the Deep" and the less successful "Turning Tables," but "Rumour Has It/Someone Like You" might just be one of the greatest things the show has done, period. It's right up there with "Don't Stop Believin'" from the pilot and last fall's "Teenage Dream" – both of which were also excellent introductions to new glee clubs (the New Directions and the Warblers, respectively). For this introduction to the Troubletones (we'll forget "Candyman" for a moment), the girls' glee club hones in on the three F's they define themselves with ("Fierce, Femme, Fenomenal"). Mercedes and Santana nail their vocals and the song combines great tracks from one of the year's biggest albums while capturing both the sass and sadness of the Troubletones at this particular moment.
Meanwhile... In a sad twist, Sue, Burt and Schue tell Santana that someone in a rival congressional campaign overheard her recent exchange with Finn and is using Santana's sexuality in a smear campaign against Sue's platform of family values. Santana, who hasn't even told her family yet, runs out in tears to the Mash-Off and winds up slapping Finn on the cheek after her performance for outting her. It is also time for McKinley's school president speeches. Each of the four contenders (Brittany, Kurt, Rachel and a mulleted hockey player) speak on equally weird platforms and ultimately Rachel withdraws her candidacy in favor of Kurt and the two of them repairing their friendship. Rachel asks Shelby to sign her recommendation letter for NYADA applications (more for her pedigree than her mothering) and Shelby confesses how proud she is of her biological daughter. Quinn and Shelby have a showdown after Puck confesses Quinn's plan to get back baby Beth from Shelby.
Bottom Line: "Mash-Off" was an example of what's becoming a rarity in Glee: a thoroughly entertaining episode with plot and emotion. Unlike last week, it was easy to feel hurt, happy or shocked because it was a natural response – not a forced reaction. Plus, we approve of the focus on the kids with adult action placed on the periphery: While Sue has become somewhat of a repetitive wild card, her campaign plot line puts a fresh twist on her biting remarks. We're also OK with less Schue – we don't actually care about his love life and are totally fine with him staying in the role of enthusiastic teacher. Unless Holly Holliday returns – then we'll talk. But with two weeks until the next episode, we can only wonder what the next Glee will bring.