‘Glee’ Recap: The Substitute

Gwyneth GleeS2:E7 I think the Glee we’ve been missing is back. Just maybe. This season hasn’t been altogether awful, but it’s definitely a step down from the inaugural run. Adding Gwyneth Paltrow in for an episode as the fun substitute Glee adviser seems to have worked the same magic for the show itself as it did for the fictional club it follows. We definitely needed to hit the refresh button and it looks like it’s finally happened.

The episode starts when Will runs into Sue in the hall, where she introduces herself as Principal Sue. Something akin to Swine Flu is running rampant in town and Sue made sure that Principal Figgins was exposed to a sneeze from someone infected with the virus, therefore instating her as the de facto principal. Schue walks right into the sneeze path of the same infected girl, and sure enough, he’s dunzo.

After a disturbing vision of the glee club as toddlers, Schue takes his sick leave and finds the club a sub. It turns out that Will’s neighbor called Terry to come take care of him and she’s kind of doing a good job (until she tries this weird “Sick Baby” game with him). She lets him know that she still loves him and that she’s been working on herself – going to therapy and “medicating.” She also insists they watch Singing in the Rain together because she remembers that it makes him feel better when he’s sick.

Kurt ditches Mercedes to hang out with Blaine, and she’s prying about whether or not they are more than friends. Kurt is keeping his lips sealed. For some reason, Mercedes can’t manage to listen for too long, because she’s mesmerized by a tray of tater tots (I guess I can relate, they are like little balls of crispy, potatoey heaven).

In Schue’s absence, Rachel’s trying to take over the glee club, and startes (well-deserved) riots. Kurt’s plan is to get the new substitute Spanish teacher to take over for Schue. Enter Gwyneth Paltrow as Miss Holly Holiday, the fabled “fun substitute.” And apparently, she also takes over Schue’s voiceover duty. After cleverly avoiding Puck’s buttered floor prank, Holly kicks her glee club plan into gear; she watched their set from regionals last year and noticed that all they did was old music – cut to clip of Schue saying there’s got to be another Journey song they haven’t covered. Puck wants to cover Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” (changed to “Forget You” for national television). Gwynny gets down with the first song of the episode, and she can actually carry a tune and the change from “fuck you “to “forget you” actually works musically. This is probably the first truly enjoyable cover all season.

With her newfound power, Sue disbands the football team. But Bieste isn’t taking it easily, she quips back that the cheerios won’t have anyone to cheer for. Her new plan: ban tater tots. Oh that’s just insanity, Sue. Mercedes is going to have a fit! Did you see the happiness on her face when they came out? How can high school kids go on without those little golden nuggets?

In his sick sleepy stupor, Schue imagines that he and Mike Chang perform “Make Him Laugh” from Singing in the Rain and even though this is the opposite of what Holly was saying the gleeks should perform, it was actually the first time in a while that I enjoyed something Schue has performed. May I propose a new Glee rule? No more rapping Schue; replace all instances with classic musical Schue.

A visit from Rachel wakes him out of his stupor. Clad in a medical mask, she informs him that Holly is buddying up with Principal Sue and she’s afraid that Sue will bump Schue for Holly Holiday.

Merecedes is confronted with the totmageddon (and Kurt blows her off again) and she storms into Sue’s office demanding tots, but maybe Sue has a point. She holds up a piece of broccoli and asks Mercedes what it is, to which she replies, “A toilet brush?” (Brittany thought it was an elf tree.) Sue’s plan to bring nutrition back to campus may not be the worst thing ever after all.

Then comes something completely awesome. Rachel approaches Holly and tells her she’s going on record with the school nurse over a post-Cee Lo bruise on her bottom to which Holly retorts, “You suck.” Yes, she really said it, and yes it was glorious. She convinces Rachel that she needs to have more fun, and maybe do songs just because they’re fun. Rachel does have in idea – cut to Schue rejecting it because OMG he found a Journey song they haven’t covered. They decide to partner up for the song, and maybe Rachel will lighten up (without the punch to the face that apparently knocked some fun into Holly). They perform “Nowadays” from Chicago and once again, Gwyneth Paltrow shows that she’s got more talent than she’s been letting on and Rachel shows that she seriously cannot dance. The girl’s got like zero coordination.

With a quick look back at Schue’s infirmary, Terry is on her game. She’s taking excellent care of her ex-husband and moves in for the kill. He pushes her away saying he’s too sick, but she doesn’t care and boom, former marriage, rekindled…well at least the sex part, anyway.

Back at school, Kurt feels bad about ditching Mercedes but he thinks it’s because she doesn’t have a boyfriend so he sets her up on a date with a very attractive black football player. Apparently Mercedes doesn’t appreciate Kurt assuming that she wants to date a black guy. (She’s totally right, but I mean, honey do you really want a guy that cute to go to waste? Go on a date!) She simultaneously pushes her Sue approved “Bird food” around her plate and pulls a “TOTS” sign out of nowhere, suddenly standing up and creating a pro-tot riot. Consider this war, Sue Sylvester.

Schue tries to come back to campus, but Sue tells him the gleeks like Holly better (and so does she). It turns out that her nutrition plan put her over the top – Figgins was fired and she was hired. With that, she fires Schue and hires Holly. (But I mean, really? Gwyneth’s not the new cast member, she’s a guest star. Don’t worry Schuester fans.)

Sans hot guy, Mercedes hangs with Kurt and Blaine at Breadstix and promptly loses concentration on their conversation, which centers on all gay issues. Not that she’s not supportive, she just can’t relate and soon falls into a stupor where all she hears is “Gay, gay gay gay…” and a little purse falls out of Kurt’s mouth. No I didn’t make that last part up. Finally, Blaine picks up a convo about college football and Mercedes is engaged again, waking up long enough to order a plate of tots. The waitress isn’t surprised, apparently Sue’s plan is only making kids healthy on campus, they’re finding their tots elsewhere.

Schue marches to the choir room, ready to tell Holly what’s what. He catches her overseeing a few students painting the room a sunny hue and he’s not pleased. They engage in a full on debate about how to teach kids in this generation. (Kind of a big topic to tackle, guys.)  Holly’s got a hold on how to keep their attention, Tweeting praises and feeding their good humor by letting them choose their own paths. Even though in reality, she seems a little too fun for their own good, her little speech is actually something Schue really needs to hear.

Back in Principal Sue’s office (that sounds oddly normal), Sue asks Holly to suggest a punishment for Mercedes’ decision to stuff tater tots in the tailpipe of Sue’s LeCar (it’s very rare, you wouldn’t understand). Holly just jokes about it, but Sue says she’s going to sue Mercedes and Holly for damages pausing to ask Holly if she has any idea what she’s doing. Nope, she doesn’t. See, Schue will be back, stop worrying.

She goes to Schue’s apartment to ask for help. She doesn’t know how to deal with serious issues and she needs his help, she needs him to take his job back. We finally get a rundown of the punch that broke Holly’s uptight spirit before Holly reveals to Will that she’s resigning. Just then, Terry comes back to check on Will and angrily introduces herself as his wife. (Delirious or not, Will, you should have known better than to sleep with her. She lied about being pregnant, she’s probably lying about the whole therapy thing too.) Will finally acts like an adult and tells her that their hook up was a mistake and he tells her never to come back. She growls a pretty angry threat at him, but he just goes back to beers with Holly.

Finally, Kurt weaves Mercedes’ tot problems together with his budding relationship. She’s been using Kurt as a substitute boyfriend and when that fell through, she replaced a relationship with tots. It actually makes a lot of sense. She agrees and trots off to talk to that cute football player. That was uncharacteristically easy. But just as she leaves, Karofsky drops by long enough to tell Kurt that if he tells anyone about the kiss, he’ll kill him. Whoa, it just got real again.

Schue goes to Sue to grovel for his job back, and though he irritates “the underflaps” of her breasts (I’m a woman and I still don’t quite know what that means), she says the gleeks rang his praises to get him reinstated. He returns to applause, but they still miss Holly’s brand of fun. They’re a little disappointed when he suggests “Singing in The Rain” but he asks Holly to help him make it a little more modern. They combine the song with Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” Though that song is a few years old and a little stale, the mash-up and rain-soaked choreography brings a new life to the song and to the sophomore season of the show (even if it did involve more rapping from Artie).