Listen, I have no idea what happened on last night’s Glee except for the fact that “Choke” was an appropriate name for the episode. Somehow, it made sense to combine story lines about trying to graduate, trying to audition for your dream college and trying to cope with the consequences of domestic abuse into one nothing-to-really-do-with-anything hour where two of the three arcs were centered around characters who had faded into the background. Needless to say, this didn’t go well.
Well, if anyone was going to Glee-ify Alice Cooper, I guess Puck makes the most sense. After his plot to seduce his European Geography teacher into passing him doesn’t work, Puck declares he’s finished with school forever. Just like that! He tears through the school with a V guitar, rides a motorcycle out to the football field and proceeds to don Cooper-inspired eye make-up for his finale. But the whole Cheerios-sporting-Cooper-eye-make-up thing is just a little beyond. Is this real life? Or is this just fantasy? Because the song finishes with everyone staring at Puck in stunned silence in the choir room, at which point he storms out. Forever.
“Cell Block Tango”
Santana, Brittany, Sugar, Mercedes and Tina are standing in front of their lockers when Coach Bieste walks by with a black eye. Santana cracks a joke about Cooter going all Chris Brown on Bieste, which Olympic medalist/swim coach Roz Washington doesn’t take too lightly. Back in the teachers’ cafeteria, Roz and Sue tell Schue his girls aren’t taking the threat of domestic violence seriously. But never fear: (in the words of Sue) John Goodman, Black Sue and Original Recipe Sue are here to handle the problem. And their solution is using Sue’s recent re-commandeering of the glee club to call a special all-girls (minus Rachel, who is prepping for NYADA, and Quinn, who is once again inexplicably absent) session.
“The only way to get anything into your thick dopey heads is to force you to sing about it,” Sue says, telling the girls the way they’ll truly understand the consequences of domestic abuse is by turning one of the many songs about men abusing women into a song about women’s empowerment. Yes. And then we have to suffer through the most watered-down version of the Chicago song I have ever heard. I am only thankful it was cut down to a third of its length. Sue puts it best: “Well, you completely butchered one of my favorite Kander and Ebb tunes,” she says, “And you completely missed the point.” It seems like the song did accomplish an unintended goal: Bieste admits her black eye is actually from Cooter, and not a gym accident. “Sweetheart, you’re as big as a house. Why didn’t you turn around and kick his ass?,” Roz wonders aloud. This would all be fine and dandy and another one of Glee‘s gravitas episodes, except for the fact that it follows Puck doing his best Alice Cooper impression and so it’s hard take anything seriously right now.
“Not the Boy Next Door”
Exactly where are we on the roller coaster of emotions? Stalled between anticipation and dread before another dip to endless tears, also known as “It’s Time for Rachel and Kurt to Audition for NYADA!” Whoopi Goldberg guests as Carmen Tibideaux, NYADA’S “most famous and infamous alum,” who has come to judge their auditions. Kurt’s initial plan was to use every candelabra in Lima to stage Phantom of the Opera‘s “The Music of the Night.” Then that was too boring and predictable, so he veered towards “Not the Boy Next Door” from the Peter Allen bio The Boy From Oz (which Hugh Jackman won a Tony for). But Rachel quickly talked him out of that (she’s naturally singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” because it’s Barbra. And she’s been belting it since she was two. And it’s Barbra.).
Carmen’s immediate boredom over his Phantom song choice leads him to guess she’s heard it a lot. “That, and ‘Impossible Dream’ from La Mancha and ‘Being Alive’ from Company,” she says without emotion. It’s 11th hour decision time! The Boy From Oz it is – something Kurt admits is more his natural speed. Luckily, the glee club ladies are on hand in gold dresses to back him up. This is miles better than last week’s Whitney Houston number, complete with shimmying and booty shaking and a fine vocal that almost regrettably ends in a predictable high note. Here’s hoping for a Hugh Jackman/Chris Colfer duet on this at this year’s Tonys telecast. “I congratulate you for taking such a risk today,” Carmen says, telling Kurt she’s impressed.
“The Rain in Spain”
After Puck’s disappearing act, uber concerned Finn decrees that the boys have to go all Black Hawk Down on their missing amigo. But just as they’re fine-tuning their rescue plan, a shaken Puck shows up in the choir room. Turns out his MIA dad showed up to ask for rent money, which Puck gave him so his dad would resume being MIA. But losing most of his L.A. seed money also gave him an epiphany: he doesn’t want to be that guy, asking his kid for rent money (where is baby Beth these days, anyway?). All of this happens at breakneck speed, so the only natural conclusion is that Puck needs to pass his European Geography final and so the glee guys pull an all-nighter to help him cram… which obviously means it’s time for punk rock My Fair Lady. Look kids, you, too, can learn geography through song! It’s truly unclear whether this or “Cell Block Tango” was the bigger musical theater mishap on tonight’s episode.
“Shake It Out”
Santana, Brittany, Tina, Mercedes and Sugar apologize to Bieste through song. Well, to be more accurate, Santana, Tina and Mercedes apologize through song while Sugar and Brittany look on from their perches on either side of the trio. The song in question is a lovely acoustic version of Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials single, which is sung while Bieste breaks down in tears as she flashes back to Cooter begging for a second chance.
Oh, remember what I said about musical theater mishaps? The biggest one of them all was Rachel’s NYADA audition, though that wasn’t at the hands of Glee‘s musical arrangers. Her “Don’t Rain on My Parade” was every bit as magical this go around as it was the first time, marching down the aisle at Sectionals two years ago (two years!). Until Rachel chokes on the words and starts over, that is. Then she chokes again, at which point Carmen gives Rachel a lesson she knows all too well, for she has been preparing for the stage since she was an embryo: “Do you know what happens when you forget the words on Broadway? They give the job to your understudy.” Carmen declares the audition over, leaving Rachel to sob on the stage as the lights fade to black. Kurt’s attempts to console her are useless, Finn tells the guys Rachel’s dads are “doing something called ‘sitting shiva'” and Rachel can do nothing except try and make peace with her fate through song. She does a pretty great Kelly Clarkson impersonation, and avoids oversinging the big notes while all the while doing an equally great ugly cry. Elsewhere in the department of ugly crying, Puck finds out he failed his final, thus managing to tie together tonight’s disparate plots in with a lyric-filled bow. It’s a cruel twist of fate that those lyrics include the phrase “is it over yet?”
And now for something new, and long overdue: The best number of the night was “Cry” (and not just because Rachel should win something), followed closely by “Shake It Out,” then “Not the Boy Next Door” and “School’s Out” – which was actually a decent rendition of the tune that suffered from an unfortunate Glee performance. And then somewhere far, far, below these are “Cell Block Tango” and “The Rain in Spain,” which are just utter embarrassments to the Glee canon.
I was so preoccupied by the jumbled mess that was tonight’s ep that I couldn’t even muster accurate empathy for the (alleged) death of Rachel’s life-long dream, which should tell you all you need to know.
Previously: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye