S3E11: To be fair, we sort of asked for this. Critics have harped on Glee for toying with reality too often. Suddenly, they’d be singing for no apparent reason, and they’d be onstage, with a team of dancers and a bevy of cellists. Sometimes there were even bedazzled football jerseys. It was outlandish, but honestly, that was not what bothered me. It was the tendency for the show to allow the songs to stand in place of real dialog instead of using them to punctuate the story. Who needs to tell a story when an All American Rejects song can do it for us? Nope, this will not stand. And it seems, that with this episode, Glee is attempting to make up for its past sudden musical shifts but explaining absolutely everything. The result is dialog that makes us want to watch the series on mute until the songs start because once those darned kids start singing, we’re able to forget momentarily that the plot is pretty dismal. They’re just so talented! How could I not be enjoying this? Then Mercedes says, “Look, we love being back in New Directions but we hate that we missed our one chance this year to do Michael.” (What’s with the sob story? Did they forget that they all angrily defected and then lost at sectionals?) And boom: we’ve got an excuse for a theme episode. It sounds like an after school special in which the dialog is awkwardly positioned so the powers that be can make their point – only instead of an argument, the point is a set of Michael Jackson songs.
”Alright, twink, I think it’s time I showed you a little Lima Heights hospitality.” –Santana
After Mercedes whines, Schue happens to walk by and say he’s conveniently planned for them to do Michael Jackson for regionals too. It’s so obnoxiously convenient it’s rendered me momentarily snarkless, which is good because I really enjoyed the glorious return of Blaine as a lead singer during “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”Moving on, while half of the club is acting all chummy at the Lima Bean, Sebastian shows up to ruin everything. Blaine talked to him that morning and told him about Michael, so Sebastian stole their set list and since Warblers perform first, New Directions are screwed. What is he, a musical theater-loving James Bond villain? NEVER GIVE AWAY YOUR EVIL PLAN.
Schue’s solution is WWMJD (What Would Michael Jackson Do), which I’m sure is going to upset a church group somewhere. Apparently, if Michael was an entire glee club, he would meet the Warblers in an empty parking garage and ambush them with a performance of “Bad.” And when performances like this one really get going, we almost forget that the storyline is weak. The Glee strategy seems to be: waffle through the story then lull the audience into complacency with a really fantastic musical number. I just wish my friends who made that uninformed realization three years ago weren’t being proved correct now. At the end of the song, the united front of blazer enthusiasts respond by hitting Blaine with a slushie, but he reacts as if Sebastian threw battery acid on him. It’s not battery acid, but rock salt and Blaine has to have surgery. The adults aren’t really doing much and Schue says to let the system take care of it, but if we’ve learned anything from movies, the system never works. Artie is so pissed, he even uses the word “damn, and his speech about being an underdog is a sudden, out of place attempt to recreate Season One sweet spot. But we’ve been trained and are only listening to Artie’s compilation of invisible floating letters until the next song starts, which was pretty fantastic. Artie’s imagination allows him to perform “Scream” with Mike Chang, because he’s the best dancer. It’s the MJ answer to Sue’s “Vogue” video from the Madonna tribute and it gives Kevin McHale a chance to actually dance – which he can do really well! If only Brittany’s robot legs from last season were real and could help him do this every episode! (No, please don’t do that for real, writers.)
“If you want everything you’ve ever dreamed of, you’re going to have to break up with him.” –Quinn
Finn approaches Rachel about that whole unanswered proposal and she says everything everyone else is thinking: she’s way too young to make this decision, living in New York doesn’t mean they’ll break up, a ring isn’t necessary, they’re so young, etc. Finn continues his psychobabble and makes it clear that he wasn’t listening at all when he says he’ll give her a few more days to decide. Where is Miss Pillsbury with her perky wisdom and mandatory counseling sessions? For some reason, Rachel tells Quinn about the proposal, and Quinn tells her to break it off. Her reasoning stems from her Yale acceptance letter and the fact that she’s sure she’ll forget all her old boyfriends. Invoking the “new women” stay single forever argument, she launches into “Never Can Say Goodbye” with her parade of ex-boyfriends all starting at her adoringly – which are some mixed signals – and we’re reminded that Quinn’s got a cute voice, but not much power. She ends by giving a generic speech about being the only one standing her way, letting go of the past to start the future, and all of this, of course, is directed at Rachel. Apparently, in life you only get to choose one purpose: feelings or success.
“Sam Evans, you are crazy.” –Mercedes
“Crazy about you.” –Sam
It’s not the most genius bit, it was cheesy, and it’s not all that important, but the moment between Sam and Mercedes is a tiny bright spot in the middle of an overgrown plot. After putting her name in lights (aww) because he says she’ll be famous someday (double aww), he asks her to sing “Human Nature” with him and then he’ll leave her to be with Shane. He starts playing and she can’t resist singing. This is really sweet and simple (even with the crazy lights in the background). They kiss and it’s adorable (we’re just going to ignore the part where she’s cheating on her boyfriend). It’s cute and I liked it. Honestly, I’ve got no snark for Samcedes.
“Kurt, this isn’t violent, it was clever. I taped it to my underboob.” –Santana
Despite Santana’s brilliant idea to drug Sebastian and get him a tramp stamp, she and Kurt decide the high road is better. And while that doesn’t entail violence, spying and sabotage are apparently trucking along up there. We learn that it is a Warbler tradition to engage in an unwinnable duel in which the head Warbler (Sebastian) duets with his opponent, preferably in a Johnny Depp-approved hat (Santana). Once again, the performance – this time of “Smooth Criminal” – is fantastic, but it doesn’t solve anything. They both think they’re the winner. Still, because of the whole Bond villain syndrome, Sebastian admits to putting rock salt in the slushie (which he says was meant for Kurt), but not without throwing an icy red treat in Santana’s face.
Still, she has a recorder taped to her underboob and gets Sebastian’s confession on tape. See? Oversharers never prosper. Kurt insists they take the high road again – and thankfully Puck makes a long overdue joke about how in his slow little mind he thought the high road was a marijuana reference and Santana whips out this gem, “If Kurt would have taped this to his junk, we would have never heard the end of it. We would have had a whole week of songs about it.” (Thank you. It seems the series has only mostly lost its marbles.)
Kurt’s big plan is a performance of “Black or White” to show the Warlbers that they should all support each other and even though that song is about race, not one school’s superiority over the other – wait, I’m still not sure why Dalton and Vocal Adrenaline beat them. Is their advantage that they pay the judges? They must; they’re not actually better. Anyway, it’s a good performance, but the recreation of the end of the “Black or White” music video was a little indulgent. Everyone but Sebastian joins in before he delivers his evil villain speech – the whole “you’re all weak” racket. Santana says she’s got him on tape admitting his guilt, but they going to take the high road (there it is again) and plan to beat him without turning him in. But they will shame him in front of his team.
"No plans, no college, nowhere to go." –Rachel
Burt pulls Kurt out of class to read his NYADA letter – because now that arts education is back, who needs Spanish? He’s a finalist – and they had us fooled with that tiny envelope because everyone who’s applied to college knows acceptance letters come in fat envelopes. Though there hasn’t been a significant amount of development in this storyline this season, Mike O’Malley (Burt) always manages to bring these scenes home. Unfortunately, this is overshadowed when Rachel doesn’t get a letter. And Lea Michele turns in a real, vulnerable performance that doesn’t involve a Barbra Streisand song when she equates her lack of a letter as her lack of a future. This only gets harder when she and Finn visit Blaine, who’s toasting Kurt’s letter with Diet Coke – which has to be bad luck. “Luckily,” they stop this realistic, awkward situation with another song from MJ’s catalog. “You’ve Got a Friend” is sweet, but it detracts from the giant, gurgling green-eyed monster that is surely struggling in Rachel’s self-important heart.
“I always feel like you hear me better when I’m not talking.” –Finn
If this quote is true, why do you want to marry Rachel, Finn? Anyway, Finn pulls Rachel aside because he “forgot” one part his proposal – the part where they skip ahead to Michael Jackson week and sing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” After she outshines him, she delivers the saddest proposal acceptance a 17 year old ever uttered: “I can’t have it all but at least I can have you.” At age 35, that’s a perfectionist realizing she needs to chill out a bit and go with the flow, but at age 17, it’s sad. She’s not supposed to be ready to accept that she can’t have everything; you’re supposed to want everything as a teen so you aim impossibly high and hit a level that will keep your parents off your back as long as you start paying your own rent by age 22.
After she seals her fate, it changes. Rachel gets her letter late and she’s a finalist, but when Kurt asks if she told Finn yet she reacts as if the power of Michael made her forget she just got engaged. But clearly now that her dreams are coming true, she has to dump her Lima loser boyfriend, right? Right? Because it’s like the rules of feminism, or something. And yes, this is the big cliffhanger at the end of the episode.
What did you think of the episode? Are you more on board with Samcedes than Finchel? (I am.) Do you think they could have picked better MJ songs for his TRIBUTE episode? Let me know in the comments or find me on Twitter. @KelseaStahler