After Mercedes' excellent and unintentionally-timed tribute to Whitney Houston back in February, it was hard not to groan at the concept of Glee doing an all-Whitney episode surrounding the New Directions' getting so emotional over their impending graduation. How were they not going to mess this up? The answer: Well, it was better than "Brittany/Britney," not as good as "Michael" and made slightly more sense than last week's "Saturday Night Glee-ver."
"How Will I Know"
Mercedes, Santana, Rachel and Kurt's pitch-perfect a cappella rendition of Houston's hit kicks off the show and reaches the levels previously achieved by the Adele mash-up – still the season's high point (remember the Troubletones?). It's both understated and emotional, and ends with an empty spotlight shining in honor of Houston.
The impromptu song session also prompts Schue to tell Emma he can't understand why the Glee club can't shake their mourning of Whitney Houston. "I got this," Emma says, handing him a pamphlet entitled "Princes Di: I Can't Stop Mourning" and explaining how Princess Di's death at the beginning of her senior year of high school served as the physical representation of her emotions over graduating. "Diana dying represented the loss of my childhood," she reflects. Schue gets it. "So, Whitney is their Diana," he sighs, realizing his mission: make this week "Whitney Week." He emphasizes it's about honoring her legacy – and using her music to reflect on these last weeks of high school. The glee kids are stoked on his assignment, but tell him his theory is misguided and incorrect.
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody"
While Brittany's pick is perfectly titled for her, we can't get past her heavily Auto-Tuned vocals that push the song into weird Ke$ha territory. As a performance, though, it's the best of the night, paying tribute to Houston's dance music with an army of Cheerios as back-up dancers. As a final touch, Brittany and Santana sport riffs on the grey dress and bow headband ensemble that Houston wore in the video.
"Saving All My Loving"
Back after her unaddressed absence last week, Quinn confesses to Joe that she's not improving in physical therapy, and it's understandably depressing her. He says he wants to come with her – to him, Christianity is not about talk; it's about action. We'll look past the obvious (since when is Joe a licensed physical therapist?) in favor of the pair's blossoming chemistry, first seen in the Houston duet they worked on while at PT that's full of sweet harmonies and is the most animated Joe's ever been in the spotlight.
Santana and Rachel sing a warp-speed rendition of the tune that's so fierce and frenzied that we're out of breath watching it. Afterwards, they have a come-to-Jesus moment over how much their three years of hatred blocked them from making a "truckload of awesome" with additional glee club duets. Then Rachel points out they only have 42 days left, half of which will be Nationals prep. "Oh crap," Santana says. "I think I just realized I'm going to miss you. Oh God, say something irritating so I can get the taste of this out of my head." Instead, Rachel hugs her and asks Santana to put a pic of her up in her locker. They have 42 days left to be friends, after all!
"It's Not Right but It's OK"
Kurt seeks Blaine's input on the right Houston tune, but Blaine is lacking in enthusiasm. Kurt finds a more simpatico soul while perusing sheet music who compliments Kurt's hippo head broach, is auditioning for NYU's musical theater program – and casually asks for Kurt's number. This leads to a nonstop text marathon of flirty banter (Sample: "Are you an astronaut? Because your smile is out of this world"), which Blaine discovers. He accuses Kurt of cheating, but Kurt is adamant that it's all innocent; it just gives him the attention Blaine hasn't – and gives Blaine the ammo for his song choice.
"This song is for anyone that's ever been cheated on," Blaine proclaims to the glee club, and everyone looks at Kurt in shock and discomfort, which lasts through another warp-speed tribute. While the song is a perfect message for Blaine to send to Kurt, it's also the perfect example of everything wrong with Glee: a plot line contrived for the specific episode, when the emotional punch would have actually been there had Kurt and Blaine's distance and unhappiness been mounting for at least a few weeks.
"I Have Nothing"
Burt walks in on Kurt sticker-coding his room in preparation for moving to New York. "Pink is for save, blue is for go, red is for trash and green is for humidity-controlled storage to keep in mint condition to sell as memorabilia," Kurt explains. When Burt asks why a framed photo of Kurt and Blaine isn't going in the "save" pile, Kurt explains they're on the rocks. And when Burt asks for a token of his own, Kurt is ruthless. "You and me, we've been doing this dance for a decade. Starsky and Gay Hutch," Burt says, admitting he doesn't want his son to move away. Burt is great as always, even more so with his fear of empty nest syndrome: "I am so happy for you. I am so happy, and so proud. You and me, we made each other men. Just sometimes, I want my sweet little boy back. I'm going to miss you Kurt, I'm going to miss you a lot." Kurt shares the sentiment: "I'm going to miss you too, Dad." This exchange puts all of Kurt's emotions in perspective and leads to his song of the week.
While Kurt's performance packs all of the emotion Blaine's was lacking (both as a direct message to Blaine and an indirect love note to his dad), he loses this week's "I Have Nothing" battle to Cheesa's powerhouse version on Monday's episode of the Voice. It does serve as a catalyst for Kurt and Blaine to seek couple's therapy from the admittedly underqualified Emma, who encourages brutal honesty. It turns into a nitpick of everything Blaine has issues with, and then the truth comes out: the fact that every conversation ends with NYADA or New York talk signals to Blaine that Kurt can't wait to leave Lima. "How's that supposed to make me feel? ...You're right. I have been distant and I'm sorry. But I've been trying to practice what life will be like without you." Kurt reassures him that they won't lose each other.
"My Love Is Your Love"
While everything else felt sped up, this feels slowed down. Helmed by Mercedes and Artie in the auditorium, everyone else trickles in after realizing their other schemes and plans are less important than a precious few glee sessions left. Much like that first, now-iconic "Don't Stop Believin'" the kids sing amongst themselves while Schue watches from the sidelines.
Why Didn't They Sing About This?
Schue books Northwestern Ohio's premier wedding planner to help move his and Emma's wedding up from Christmas to May. She agrees, but his frustration mounts when no available venues have a spot big enough for a stage for the glee club to perform on. The wedding planner is out, and Schue proposes a camping ground. "I have OCD," she reminds him. "You think I'm going to get married on a camp ground?" Turns out Schue has issues of his own: the real reasons behind his desire to push the big day up is fear that the glee kids won't come back to perform at a November wedding. We end at an impasse, but it looks like November sweeps will bring a very Glee wedding. I also liked Puck's token of appreciation for his glee club bros: "personalized" shot glasses stolen from his pool cleaning clients.
Bottom Line: Overall, the episode was a mixed bag of meh. With the sole exception of the raw emotion of "How Will I Know," the music missed the mark: it was overproduced to the point of blurring any actual vocal skills held by the New Directions or called for vocals out of the glee kids' range. Thanks for the reminder of the many gems in Houston's catalog, though!
Previously: Put On Your Boogie Shoes