We open this show at Dalton Academy, during a performance of "Misery". When the song is over, they all pat themselves on the back for a great song choice for regionals (which, by the way, they don't end up doing at regionals). Anyway, at the end of the song, Kurt says something that has been bothering me all season. He tells Blaine that Blaine gets all the solos in all the numbers, and that the Warblers are starting to feel like Blaine and the Pips. In fact, during this very number I was thinking to myself, "Why does Blaine get to sing everything?"
Rachel presents Finn with her next foray into songwriting. It's called "Only Child". Once again, it's terrible and once again it's not available on iTunes. Though there is a funny lyric about how she's the "only Berry on my family tree" (that's her last name, get it?).
Sue Sylvester has faked a letter from My Chemical Romance forbidding New Directions from using "Sing" as their anthem at regionals. So Rachel suggests doing original songs again, and this time Finn supports her. Curiously, so does Quinn. She has some ulterior motive, and I don't remember what it is anymore; maybe Finn asked her to be nice? But in the end, the group is okay with that, so they are all assigned to get working on original songs. Quinn and Rachel decide to work together.
Pavarotti, the canary mascot of the Warblers, has died. Kurt is upset, so he asks the group if he can sing a song in his honor. The song he sings is "Blackbird" by The Beatles. It seems a little obvious since it has bird in the title. And actually, the subtext of the song is about a girl ("bird" is English slang), and I'd like to see it that way in something some time. But in this case, the blackbird is also Kurt in a way. This song ends up being a kind of audition in Blaine's eyes, which will lead Blaine to choose Kurt for a duet for regionals. Also of note is that Kurt is dressed all in black for this scene. I do like when the Warblers come in singing back-up. It's a nice moment, and a very nice arrangement for a song that seems to be done a little too often.
Santana is the first person in New Directions to present an original song she wrote. It's an ode to her boyfriend, Sam... called "Trouty Mouth." It's a hilarious sultry jazz song about Sam's big mouth. Sam is embarrassed by it, and her song is cut off in the middle, as Mr. Shue points out it is not a song for them to sing at regionals. But it's pretty funny.
The next original song is even better. It's not quite as funny a gag, but it's still humorous and a very well-written novelty song. Puck wrote the song for Lauren to amend for the "Fat-Bottomed Girls" incident. It's called "Big Ass Heart", and words cannot describe it. Thankfully, all of these songs were made available on iTunes, though it's a shame they weren't included on the CD or on an EP. Again though, it is surely not a song for regionals.
Blaine tells the Warblers' council that he doesn't want to do all the solos for regionals, and suggests Kurt get to sing. They agree. Blaine chooses a duet he can sing with Kurt, and tells Kurt how much his "Blackbird" solo meant to him. Finally, Blaine admits his love for Kurt and how dumb he's been for not realizing it. Then they kiss. I wrote in my notes "somewhere Don Wildmon's head is exploding". The kiss was polarizing, offending some conservative viewers. Victoria Jackson (formerly of Saturday Night Live) tweeted her offense. Her thoughts were quickly branded "homophobic" by the media. As for me, I think they danced around it long enough that I was expecting the kiss. Could have done without two though.
Mercedes debuts her original song, a black anthem to refusal called "Hell to the No". The lyrics are laced with "let me do what I want" sorts of sentiment; very whiny teenager. It is more anthemic, but the sentiment gets annoying quickly. I also tire of the usleless filler slang "to the". Despite the fact that "hell no" is overused, it's more succinct than "hell to the no". Still, it's the sort of song that could be a Top 40 hit.
There's a very funny bit where Mr. Shue asks everyone what their favorite song is, and Brittany says hers is "My Headband." Of course, this leaves me wondering when she heard "My Headband"... Mr. Shue tells them to write a good song they need to write from pain. So they start talking about how Sue Sylvester harasses them; she had filled Santana and Brittany's locker with dirt, and has been throwing sticks at people. So they focus on a theme: being losers.
Rachel and Quinn find it difficult to work together on writing a song. Rachel still wants Finn, but so does Quinn. There is a scene between them that is fantastic, one of the best written and acted pieces this whole season. Quinn tells Rachel to get over Finn, and Rachel counters that Finn chose her over Quinn last year (which is true, and I kept waiting for that to come up). Quinn counters by painting a picture of a future where she and Finn settle down and stay there in town, but Rachel moves on to bigger things because she doesn't belong there, trying to smack her with some reality. Rachel leaves to write the song on her own. I enjoyed the scene because both girls had valid points and each was understandable in their frustration. That's good TV.
So now we come to the regional competition. Who are this year's judges? One, the TV anchor that Sue had a thing for. Two, a prostitute-turned-nun played by the wonderful Loretta Devine. Three, Kathy Griffin as a kind of nasty Sarah Palin caricature. She was the worst thing about the episode. It never felt like she was playing a character or even an interesting cartoon; just taking jabs at Tea Party-type people. Later on, they use her as a mouthpiece to say how she finds homosexuals repulsive (apparently she gathered that the leads in the Warblers are gay, though nothing in the performance overtly suggests this). It's like it was put there first for Kathy Griffin herself to get on a soapbox, and for Ryan Murphy to immediately answer the viewers who didn't like the kiss earlier. The response basically is "Too bad, and we're gonna make fun of you now." Satire is fine and cuts both ways, but Griffin's character wasn't satirical or funny, and hurt an otherwise strong episode.
Sue Sylvester has chosen her set list for Aural Intensity with a song catered to butter up the judges: "Jesus is a Friend of Mine." It doesn't work; the judges consider it pandering. But the performance is silly enough. It's part Sister Act 2, part Snoopy Come Home (sort of reminded me of that silly friendship song in that movie). I wonder how the students felt about it. Also, how long are the sets for each school? Because I can't believe that they only did this one song while the Warblers and New Directions both get two. ...And why only two anyway? I hope that there is more performance that we don't get to see. Otherwise, it seems like a big day for so little involved. And a lot of rehearsal too. If they only do two songs, why don't they pick them earlier and rehearse the heck out of them? The way these competitions are portrayed on this show is getting more and more unrealistic.
The Warblers take the stage next. They begin their set with Blaine and Kurt singing "Candles". I thought it was a very nice performance, and worthy of the original. There is this point where Kurt's falsetto goes really high and is a bit distracting, but otherwise solid. They follow that up with Blaine leading the group in P!nk's "Raise Your Glass". Now, I'm no fan of the song, but they do it as well as can be expected. It's better than "Hey Soul Sister" which they did at sectionals. But I hate any lyric that includes the word "deal-io", or quotes The Dark Knight for no reason. But the energy is great, with some nice bits of choreography. My favorite part is the little fake-out when Blaine joins the group then jumps out again. ...Though the nitpicker in me wants to point out that you can see people clapping in the audience, but never hear the claps.
Remember how they were all supposed to do anthems? What were the anthems here? I suppose "Raise Your Glass" can be considered anthemic. But I don't think "Jesus is a Friend of Mine" can.
Finally it's time for New Directions and thank God they don't pull the old "walk down the aisles" trick this time. It starts with Rachel performing her original song, called "Get It Right". It's a nice ballad. Unfortunately, the way it was shot was quite bothersome. It began with her at a microphone alone, with a steadicam circling around her. That's fine. But it goes around in one shot for the entire verse, which is three complete revolves. It was just too much, and should have had a cut in there somewhere as I was starting to get dizzy. But I did like when the lights came up and the girls came down to join her. Oh, and the band was onstage! Glad they get some recognition, plus I'm always wondering where the music comes from when they perform.
And bolstered by this first success, the group goes on with the song they wrote together, "Loser Like Me." This is definitely an anthem for losers everywhere. Remember how Glee doesn't have a theme song? Well, I think they just found one, and it wouldn't surprise me if they use it that way next season. They could have used some more showy dance choreography at this level. But the song was good and ebullient. My favorite part is the very end where they throw slushies in the face of the audience, and it's confetti! What a wonderfully brilliant move, and a great way to psych out Coach Sylvester.
I don't think I need to tell you who won this competition. It's pretty obvious that it was New Directions, and was always going to be. The season has at least five more episodes. Kurt is disappointed the Warblers lost, but Blaine says that in a way he did win because they are together now. I knew this was how they would justify it in the writing and I got it without them having to say that explicitly. I hate that he said, "You did win." Just leave it alone, guys. We get it. Don't get too cute about it.
Anyway, New Directions finally won regionals and are on to nationals in New York. They've got some fun new songs to sell on the internet. But now that the Warblers have outlived their usefulness, what's to become of Kurt on this show? Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
Songs in tonight's episode:
Hell to the No
Jesus is a Friend of Mine
Raise Your Glass
Get It Right
Loser Like Me
Next episode: The show returns from a brief hiatus with an episode focusing on neglected artists. ...At least that's what they claim, but as we know from past theme shows, the promise is greater than the product.