As I watched "Prom-asaurus" last night, I kind of felt like Rachel did at the top of the show. "My dreams are smaller now. Maybe more real," she reflected. Except that Rachel was referring to the aftermath of choking at her NYADA audition, while I was thinking about my (perhaps completely unfounded) optimism that there's a shred of enjoyment left in watching Glee. It's hard to buy into anything the show puts before us these days, especially with its mysterious promise to set up season four so cleverly in the remaining three episodes of this season. Will Rachel miraculously get into NYADA? Probably. Will Puck magically graduate? Probably. Will I continue to hope for a plot twist that ties it all together with some over-the-top pop numbers and leaves me, pardon the pun, gleeful over a single episode? Probably. But my dreams are more real now.
"Big Girls Don't Cry"
If Rachel is to be believed, the death of the dream she had since she was a wee diva is not the actual reason for her unrest. No, what actually shatters her calm exterior is the realization that Finn and Quinn (nominated for prom court along with Brittany, Santana, Missy Gunderson and Rick "The Stick" Nelson) are campaigning together; Rachel just can't handle the image of her fiancé and his ex-girlfriend sharing a dance at prom. So she channels her inner Fergie and fumbles her way through the sort-of belt-y ballad, before Kurt joins her in an uncomfortably high voice for the chorus and Blaine balances things out with complementary harmonies.
Let's back up a second: Before Rachel got to singing, Figgins reminded Brittany that she had done precisely nothing as student body president – and, unless she pulls it together for prom, he will eliminate the position after her term is over. So, she goes all out...with a dinosaur-themed dance. In addition, hair gel is banned at the event; refreshments will be berries, meat and rainwater; and Santana and Quinn will count the ballots and hopefully keep each other honest.
Back in the auditorium, Kurt laments the possibility of being chosen prom queen via write-in ballots (flashback to last year), while Blaine bemoans Brittany's hair gel ban. I wish their complaining was done facetiously – that would be entertaining. But no, it's completely serious (though Rachel and Kurt crack a smile when Blaine predicts his hair will look like Medusa's). And so, a plan is hatched: They'll throw an anti-prom at the Red Rooster Express, Lima's classiest overnight joint. Santana questions the ulterior motives of Rachel and "the two gay Winkelvi twins" (the first time I was amused all episode), but Rachel says all underclassmen are invited, dress code is black tie optional and the shindig will last all night, so it's totally legit. Santana's not convinced and calls it like it is: Rachel Berry isn't getting her way, so she's punishing everyone else. "Stop acting like you're fine, and start dealing with your crap," she demands in the most astute observation in recent Glee history.
Ok, fine. Brittany doing her best "K-Dollar-Sign-Ha" (that's Ke$ha for anyone who isn't Figgins) impersonation is, dare I say, a small victory in this episode. The performance is full of Brittany-isms, the back-up Cheerios wearing dinosaur heads add flair, and the degree of Auto-Tuning is mercifully low, since the song is mostly spoken.
As Brittany crawls around in cavewoman gear, Finn goes off to make sure Quinn is OK with washing her hands in the restroom. Newly Mature Quinn, he will soon find out, has lapsed back into Queen Bee Quinn – in a PT session with Joe (the untrained-but-totally-qualified physical therapist), Quinn took her first baby steps. But rather than proudly show off how she accomplished her goal to be walking again by prom, Quinn opts to use her wheelchair status to secure sympathy votes, noting how great it'll feel when she takes her first steps on stage after winning. Finn, who is somehow the only person that has it together in this episode, rages on Quinn for her act and how it made him choose her over his fiancé.
"Love You Like a Love Song"
Santana does a convincing Selena Gomez (though not as entertaining as James Franco), while Sam and Mercedes reflect on their first dance together at last year's prom. Dare we say it, this song is so unchanged it's almost boring – until Finn refuses to finish out the mandatory prom court nominee dance with Quinn unless she stands up. Push comes to shove, literally, when Joe pops up to defend Quinn and Finn gets physical, opting to leave before Sue kicks him out.
Meanwhile, over at anti-prom, Rachel, Kurt and Blaine are joined by Puck, who is done failing and Becky, who is determined to create a consolation party of one over not getting a prom queen nomination. Finn shows up just as Rachel emerges from the bathroom in a gorgeous, pale-pink mermaid prom dress. "What are you doing here?" she asks. "Well, I'll keep it simple. I love you, you're beautiful, prom sucks without you." The boring couple is boring again! I can't figure out why they didn't sing Gomez's song to each other, as per their usual method of communication. Finn channels his inner quarterback and convinces Blaine and Kurt to accompany the future Hudsons back to real prom, leaving a dejected Puck to fend off Becky's strip-poker advances.
"What Makes You Beautiful"
Jar Jar Binks (Sue's new nickname for Joe) recruits Rory, Mike, Sam and Artie to set hearts afire with their best boy-band impersonation. While One Direction's original manages to pack a pop punch, Glee's take kind of hits the mark. (Literally. The Glee boys prance across the stage in the same path as the U.K. heartthrobs.) The best part of the song, and the night, is Sue giving in to the need to shimmy. Animated .gif, anyone?
Ironically, this is followed by a strip-poker update: Becky is beating Puck's ass (cue the gratuitous shot of a boxers-and-socks-clad Puck), and confesses she can't break her winning streak because she's still too angry. To appease her, Puck calls up his tender side and creates anti-prom king-and-queen crowns out of what appear to be beer boxes, a move that inspires the unlikely duo to head to prom. They make a grand entrance that her inner, Helen Mirren-voiced monologue deems a success: "You're at senior prom with a crown on your head and a hot piece of booty on your arm." She distracts Sue while Puck finally completes his high school mission to spike the punch bowl, so everyone is happy.
"Take My Breath Away"
En route to counting the ballots, Quinn is stopped by Rachel, who apologizes for being angry over Quinn's campaign with Finn. Quinn is focused on the crown at hand and is somewhat of an ice queen as she admits to not knowing anything of how Rachel felt. Rachel admits that she still sees Quinn as old Queen Bee Quinn, not Newly Mature Quinn (how little she knows). Rachel adds that she still marvels over how they were able to become friends and says it's one of her fondest high school memories. This prompts Quinn to shed her temporary Queen Bee skin and rig the votes so Rachel wins the crown through write-in ballots.
As Prom Queen Rachel and Prom King Finn (they're like a Barbie duo!) take the floor for their first dance, Quinn and Santana begin Berlin's tune from the Top Gun soundtrack. I unabashedly love this song and pretty much adore Quinn and Santana's faithful rendition, complete with keytar. It turns into a bittersweet video scrapbook, with dino prop photos from prom intermingled with mushy love exchanges between Finn and Rachel, Mike and Tina and Blaine and Kurt, the latter of whom has encouraged his "bushy-haired boyfriend" to embrace his natural 'do, despite Brittany lifting the gel ban – and then Newly Mature Quinn stands up. She did it, you guys!
"Dinosaur" wins for overall entertainment value, followed, in order, by "Take My Breath Away," "Love You Like a Love Song," "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." Except for "Big Girls," nothing was truly awful – but nothing was really spectacular in vocals or performance, either.
I've said this a few times, like with Blaine's out-of-nowhere anger at Kurt, but all of these mega-emotional moments would actually be mega-emotional if there were some kind of build-up to them. It's hard to believe that prom can come out of nowhere when Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals exist for weeks on end prior to their actual performances. All I want in next week's back-to-back episodes is to be entertained.
Previously: Is It Over Yet?