I loved when Santana said that Finn sings and dances "like a zombie who has to poop." It was all I could think about while watching him sing and dance during these episodes.
Jesse St. James has come on as a consultant to the glee club to help them beat Vocal Adrenaline. He tells them Vocal Adrenaline's stragety: find the best singer and highlight them. That was certainly clear last year. I was bothered by their "Bohemian Rhapsody" last year when it was 90% Jesse singing, and everyone else just dancing around. But Jesse is clear in this episode that's how they do things, and he wants to do the same here. And rather than just give the solo to Rachel (wouldn't that be suspicious?), they decide to hold auditions. Finn has been insulted enough and doesn't want to audition.
We finally meet Becky's mom in this episode. Becky wants to join the glee club because Sue has kicked her off the Cheerios. Mr. Shue turns her down as politely as he can because they are gearing up for competition. I was taken aback by this whole thing at first, but was at least glad that it meant the end of the exploitation of Becky as Sue's lackey. And then we learn why Becky was fired; Sue's sister has died, and Sue can't be reminded of it. Throughout this episode we are going to get a weird mix of cuddly Sue and mean Sue. Since last year's softening of her character, the writers have been walking this bizarre tightrope of how to maintain her demeanor. Is she warm and understanding, if distant, or is she horrible and belligerent? This episode manages to have an excuse to be both.
Remember when I didn't understand what the big problem was with April Rhodes a couple episodes ago? Remember I said that Will could just do the show during the summer? Well, he apparently took my advice because that's what he's planning to do. And it makes perfect sense. He hasn't told the kids yet, though.
The center of this episode is the auditioning for solos. I like that there was a sign-up sheet, and Rachel signed with a gold star, recalling the pilot. Auditions take place in an empty auditorium with just Mr. Shue and Jesse at a table. Jesse took a class in reality show judging before he flunked out of school, so he comes at this thinking he's Simon Cowell.
First up is Santana. She performs "Back to Black" and it's all right. I thought at times she sounded a little like Emiliana Torrini (the chick who does "Gollum's Song" at the end of The Two Towers). At least it wasn't another lesbian love song. Jesse doesn't think much of it.
Next up is Kurt, and as you would guess he's singing a showtune written for a female. In this case, a great song: "Some People" from Gypsy. I thought that the arrangement was too high for Kurt. It sounded slightly high to me as it is, and Kurt ends up having problems in his upper register during this song (not sure whether to belt or go falsetto). Having said that, he has some fun with his choreography, ending with a great slide at the end. Jesse is weirded out by him doing a girl song. I will say, Kurt shouldn't ALWAYS do girl songs (though they usually get the best ones in musical theater). He also says that if Kurt is going to take on a song like that which has been nailed by legends like Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone, he needs to really hit it out of the park, and he didn't. Mr. Shue thinks he did a great job (of course he does). Kurt is angry and offended by Jesse's comments. But he's right. He didn't nail the song. It was good, but was it good enough? It was a very Simon Cowell thing to say.
Next up is Mercedes. She comes on with a powerhouse performance of "Try a Little Tenderness". Mr. Shue is blown away, and lays the praise on thick ("Thank you so much for letting me hear that!"). Jesse calls her out for being lazy. There was no choreography, she just stood at the mic. He then asks whether she's willing to really work a song until it's perfect for nationals. She counters that her music is spontaneous and she just comes out and does her thing. Jesse argues that's not good enough. Again, he might be a little harsh here, but from what we've seen of Mercedes this season, IT'S TRUE. She is lazy. She thinks everyone should just bow down to her while she gets to the mic and does her thing. She needed some reality.
Finally, Rachel is up and she decides to sing the finale from Funny Girl. It's not bad. Jesse has no criticism for her. And therein lies the obvious bias. He is pulling for her and has been from the start. I agreed with his prior criticisms, but there must have been something in Rachel's performance to pick out. For me, it's that whenever she sings a Streisand song, she feels the need to effect a "Barbra" voice. She gets an accent and mimics. She shouldn't hide behind that; this isn't imitation, it's performance.
Finn wants to be nice to Sue, and he suggests the glee club plan the funeral. She agrees, only so that she doesn't have to do it. We learn that the sister's favorite movie was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, so it's a Wonka-themed funeral. There's even a chocolate fountain. ...Can I just ask, has anyone ever been to a themed funeral? I love it when she first walks in the door, and the music is the exact same bit of score (those first notes of "Pure Imagination") that are used in the movie when the door to the Chocolate Room opens.
The club performs "Pure Imagination" at the funeral. It's not bad, but it sounds like it's too high. Why raise the key? It leads to the guys having to strain out the upper notes. It's not a power ballad, they shouldn't have to shout the lyrics. I also am having a problem in general with the group singing simple songs as if they are modern day pop songs. Just trust your voices and the song; you don't have to sing like Boyz II Men.
I have in my notes "good break-up scene". I guess this must be Finn and Quinn in the car. I thought it was a good dramatic scene. And I also wondered whether Kurt and Blaine will end up getting a good break-up scene. After all, can we really expect them to be together forever? Wouldn't that overly mythologize the gay experience?
The auditions are tearing the group apart. There is jealousy and anger among all those who tried out. Mr. Shue has final say over who wins the solo. Jesse thinks it's in the bag for Rachel. But instead Mr. Shue fires Jesse and says to forget the solo thing. They will do original songs again and work together as a group. Then everyone magically hasn't a bad word to say to each other. What?
I'd also like to add that Nationals are VERY soon, and you have no idea what your set list will be? In real life, you'd be rehearsing the same songs over and over to get them right. This winging-it approach will not garner them a win, nor should it. Just like Mercedes, it's lazy. They should have at least ONE number locked down. But no, they are going to write another song? Why not just do "Loser Like Me" again? Nobody there will have heard it! It will be new to THEM. And this is a problem with the competitions in general. Glee doesn't want to repeat itself, so they never perform songs that we see them rehearsing. At least in the first season there were story reasons behind that. But the unreality is starting to catch up with this show.
Sue lets Becky back on the Cheerios and apologizes. That's nice. I hope Becky doesn't go back to being mindless lackey. Oh, and Sue says that she's pursuing her dream of running for the House of Representatives. Hey, that's a dream of mine too. Sometimes anyway.
And then the worst news of all... Terri is moving to Miami! NO! Terri, this show needs you!
Songs in tonight's episode:
Back to Black
Try a Little Tenderness
Next episode: The season finale with Nationals in New York. Will a new location make for a good episode? If you're reading this, you've probably already seen it and can answer that question.