Seriously whoever wrote this episode must have been as stoned as we get to watch this episode and I mean that in all the best and worst ways possible. Basically the episode just flipped back and forth between “killer musical numbers with paradisiacal costumery/choreography” and “really profoundly inane/repetitive and sometimes racially insensitive conversations.” Oh and, a lot of this:
But just when you thought you couldn’t listen to someone tell someone else to be who they really are because who they are is beautiful ONE MORE TIME (AHEM Aesop Amnesia), someone fucking broke out in song and you wet your pants.
(Sidenote: I do not feel confident about the quality of this recap or my ability to make it better. Just close your eyes and remember how funny I USUALLY am.)
We open in Booty Camp.
Santana’s back in Glee Club, because, Duh, this is Glee.
Santana: “I’ve re-sworn my allegiance to the Glee Club. Without telling Coach Sue.”
Mercedes shows up late and promptly ralphs in the garbage. Usually when a woman throws up on a teevee show, it means she’s pregnant, but it seems more likely that Mercedes is just so full of passion for her music that there’s no room for a 6-inch party sub.
Satana: “Why are you babying her? She can’t do three steps without puking because she had a Quiznos before she showed up in this joint.”
Mercedes: “Mr. Schue, you have us scheduled to the second right now. With school, Glee Club and booty camp, when else am I supposed to eat?”
Santana: “When the rest of us do.”
Mercedes: “Oh, like you eat!”
Mercedes insists she’s doing her best but Mr.Shue reminds her that it only gets better if she gets better.
Will.i.am: “It’s not about doing your best anymore, it’s about doing better.”
Maybe Mercedes wouldn’t roll her eyes so much if Will.i.am didn’t talk like that.
There’s this pretty significant Will/Emma storyline this episode that I’m going to totally ignore. Except I would like to share this with you:
Mike and his Overbearing Asian Father summon a parent-teacher conference to discuss Mike’s apparent drug problem as evidenced by his A- on the chem test, for which OAF blames Mike’s girlfriend and other indoor sports.
Overbearing Asian Father: “My son got an A- on his chemistry test. An A- is an Asian F.”
Figgins is pretty sure Mike’s not hooked on Sudafed, but he agrees that Tina is bad news:
Figgins: “Tina Cohen-Chang and her vampire ways have no place in this school.”
Cut to Tina zooming around McKinley like a bloody bandersnatch out of hell, hypnotizing The Principal into excusing her from gym class.
But dancing is what Mike loves! Dancing is his heart, not Harvard! However if the career of Mike’s doppelganger Harry Shum Jr is any indication, Mike’s got a good shot at making a career of this ish, maybe even starring in a major prime-time television program despite a relative inability to express any kind of emotional range.
Overbearing Father has no time for such things. Only one thing is good enough for his Asian Son and that thing is The H-Bomb.
Fun fact: did you know that the practice of colleges judging applicants based on “character” started at Harvard in the 1920s because they needed to find a sneaky way to weed out the Jews? In order to assess said character, Harvard introduced The Academic Essay. Now everybody does it! It’s because of the Jews. Jews like me and Tina Cohen-Chang.
Beiste: “Listen up, ladies. I kicked a fire hydrant when I found out Ace of Cakes was canceled, so… the crutches. Number two, the entire wrestling team has come down with a flesh-eating staph infection so fellas, wash yourselves! and that includes your batcaves and your bramble patches.”
Cut to Mike, looking anxious and distracted because of his Overbearing Asian Father and Chemistry and how The Smash is always stealing the spotlight. Also because the entire football team is looking at him like a Christmas Turkey ’cause Beistie says they’ve gotta learn to dance by Wednesday, just like Chaz Bono.
Then big black guy jokes about how his Daddy didn’t raise him and I had to go throw up my Quiznos.
Cut to the lunchroom, where Mercedes and Shane are about to have a conversation about how Mercedes has to follow her heart and be her true superstar self and be recognized for her passionate feelings/talents re: music.
Shane’s giving Mercedes the stinkeye as she conspiratorially embraces Berry Bramble despite the fact that they’re competing for the same role. It’s like the Trojan War, but with music. Maria is the only part in the whole entire play and if Mercedes can’t be Maria then the world is a terrifically unfair place. It’s like No Exit, but with Music.
Shane: “You say you’re Beyoncé, but on the inside you feel like Effie White.”
This means that on the surface Mercedes is real, but on the inside she’s a fictional character based on the life of a real person as represented in the musical “Dreamgirls.”
Shane: “You’re better than Rachel Berry, babe.”
Mercedes: “I’ve been here for three years, nobody has ever said that to me.”
Swish over to Mercedes’ Big Musical Number, Orthodontist-office favorite “Spotlight” by J-Hud. At first she’s sitting on her chair at Glee Club with all her feelings like Adele while Brittany and Tina are behind her harmonizing like musical bobble-head-dolls of delight.
Cut to Mercedes’ audition for West Side Story. Brittany and Tina are still behind her doing step-touches and it all seems very thoughtfully put together in a way that makes me feel like maybe Glee is back, FINALLY.
She’s wearing this wrap-around black dress folded by seventeen magical elves of night who pinned and clipped and birthed that thing on her body as she stood there and on the seventh day they looked at their work and they said “damn, this looks good.”
By the time you’re like DAMN this girl does need more solos, we pan over to Wynken, Blynken and Nod, cheering wildly.
Mercedes: “I just want you guys to see me the way that I see myself now. As a leading lady.”
AHEM luckily there are lots of parts in West Side Story, although as the pithy cast list later reveals, they’re apparently doing a Readers Digest version which’ll employ five leads and a bunch of lords a’leapin’ in shoulder pads.
Cut to the lockers, where Tina and Mike are about to have a conversation about how Mike has to follow his heart and be his true superstar self and be recognized for his passionate feelings/talents re: music.
Tina’s super-stoked for Mike’s audition tomorrow and exposits the hell out of not only this scene but the entire plot of West Side Story as Mike stoically moves books around in his locker. Then Mike confesses his paltry Chemistry exam score and Tina winces, “You got an Asian F?” And I’m not talking about fellatio, that was in the Fondue for Two episode.
Mike injects the show with a tiny drop of executive realness by pointing out that on top of football, glee club, school, lunch, sleeping, and booty camp, there’s not much time to be a Jet all the way, but Tina lacks time management skills and disagrees. If he can bend his arm like that he can probably fuck with space/time, amirite?
Elsewhere in the haunted hallways of hoebag high, Kurt and Rachel come eyeballs-to-eyeballs with Brittany and Santana who are disappointed that Rachel’s already voting for Kurt, who moments ago was tactlessly gloating that despite his bowtie, nobody takes Brittany seriously.
Santana: “Did you know that after six years at this school we’ve only exclusively had male student council presidents? And yeah, Kurt looks like Jimmy Fallon’s butch daughter, but a vote for him would only empower yet another Frank and Beans.”
Brittany: “Yes, and where has that patriarchy gotten us? A double-digit inflation, economic free-fall, oil spills, war in Afghanistan…”
You guys. Brittany said “patriarchy.” Did you melt? I melted. Her lips, G-d’s ears.
Santana: “I tweeted about Brittany’s flash mob pep rally in the gym and we’re all showing up to support her with girl power.”
Brittany: “Yes, boys have made one hell of a mess in this school and there’s only one way to clean it up.”
This is maybe the last show in the world I expected to acknowledge, even if only by accident, that it’s often still harder out here for a woman than it is for a white man even if he’s gay.
And then “Who Runs the World (Girls)” begins, and everybody’s life changes forever:
The thrummy beats pound out of the school walls as Brittany thrusts her hips back and forth and swishes her head in circles like the air is her swimming pool. Her legs are long jockey reeds of playful power sheathed in gym socks and tall black hooker boots.
She’s like this cheerleader dominatrix with a face like bubblegum and as she struts fantastically through the halls of McKinley, she’s gradually joined by other, elastic-limbed girls in short skirts. She’s like the Pied Piper of Girl Power.
Her pseudo-girlfriend Santana is in tow fairly consistently with Kurt at her side, but it’s impossible to actually locate any other familiar faces in the kinetic rows of girls running the world.
But that’s how it’s supposed to be because this number isn’t really about each girl, who they really are, it’s about one girl who can be half-magnet, half-mascot, and then of course what we can all be together.
And when Santana breaks out of the bleachers with a surprisingly smoky, “You’ll do anything for me”? Hot damn.
Before long the entire female population of McKinley High floods onto the gym floor by the end of the number, high on girl power and hairspray.
Brittany may be dumb but she’s strong and open-minded and willing to learn and regardless of all that — when she dances it’s clear that yes, girls should run the world.
Brittany: “I’m Brittany S. Pierce and I’m your next Senior Class President!”
If only Hilary Clinton had hired Brittany to run her campaign.
The post-Brittany afterglow is slightly tainted when Stop, Drop and Roll call Mercedes and Rachel into The Office for another irritating conversation.
It’s just too close too call and because, as aforementioned, Maria is the one and only female part in the musical and everyone else may as well be a shrub, there’s no option but to stage a DIVA-OFF.
Mercedes is livid and Rachel continues being obsessed with I Feel Pretty. She wants to sing the fuck out of I Feel Pretty but the Three Musketeers have already selected a song for both of them to sing — “Out Here on My Own” from Fame.
Rachel: “I know it.”
Mercedes: “I lived it.”
Rachel offers Mercedes a hug and Mercedes says “hug me after I get the part.” Audition hasn’t even started and Mercedes is already stealing Rachel’s lines.
Then we’ve got this Black Swan meets The Karate Kid meets The Spelling Bee thing happening in the Fame room where Mike was detoured en route to The Chemistry Tutor because he saw that clean wooden floor and just had to writhe around on it and make noises.
Overbearing Asian Father, who really needs to have a little fun before he dies, pops up like Ghost Dad Ninja to tell Mike that dancing is for weddings and it’s just a hobby. Mike is just one injury away from becoming Jason Street! Doesn’t Mike want a prestigious Ivy League education so that one day he, too, can be part of the 99%?
Cut to Tina popping up to have a conversation about how Mike has to follow his heart and be his true self and be recognized for his passionate feelings/talents re: music/dancing. Mike and Tina’s relationship is of great interest to my shoes and just about nobody else. SHUT UP AND DANCE, KIDS!
This segues into Mike’s audition…
…he does “Be Cool” and his singing is fine, meh, but the dancing is big and jubilant and the alleged football players behind him are Jets all the way.
Back to the sordid hallways, where Kurt and Blaine are about to have a conversation about how Blaine has to follow his heart and be his true self and be recognized for his passionate feelings re: music.
Kurt is, per his attire, once again prepared for war. But he’s got flowers so it’d seem this time, he’s a soldier of love.
Kurt: “The cast list goes up on Friday. Are you nervous?”
Blaine: “A little. I try not to think about it.”
Kurt: “I wouldn’t be. My mole in the casting office says there’s only one actor they’re seriously considering for the role of Tony, and his initials are ‘BA.'”
Mhm. Saint Hummel’s had a little transformation, thank god, and I think it’s special that he can overcome his bitchiness to be happy for Blaine. And Blaine McPerfectface is all Extra Perfect about it and loves the flowers, which he’ll probably be able to carry around school for two seconds before getting slushied.
Blaine: “Kurt! They’re beautiful. What are they for?”
Kurt: “You killed your audition, Blaine. If anyone else got Tony, including me, the wrath of Sondheim would fall on William McKinley like a plague of Schubert Alley locusts. These are to celebrate — you.”
Blaine: “You always zig when I think you’re about to zag. I… I just… love that about you.”
Is that the nature of Kurt, or the nature of Kurt vis a vis Blaine? They look like they’re about to kiss but then they seemingly both remember that they’re gay and this is high school and with West Side Story and sectionals coming up, it looks like a bad day to die.
And back to booty camp where Will wants to teach a bunch of kids who can’t tango to do the “widowmaker,” not to be confused with K9: The Widowmaker a movie starring Schindler and also featuring a high school friend of mine who was accepted into Julliard’s acting program (the one Kurt and Rachel wanted to apply to but had their dreams dashed) and then promptly flunked out or dropped out around the same time K9 came out. Then K9 ended up flopping, actually, but somewhere around there he dumped his girlfriend unceremoniously for no real reason, which is the experience she drew upon when giving me the best break-up advice you’ll ever get, and now she’s married and just had a baby and I’m flying to New York City right this minute to poke that baby in the ear. So here we are. Full circle and far away. RIGHT. GLEE:
Quinn, sidenote, is prancing around in this scene like she spent lunchtime inhaling helium or she just learned how to put in a tampon and feels really free.
Mercedes cannot do the widowmaker and generally seems sick of the whole entire shitshow. It’s that thing where you’re just sort of okay with like, your girlfriend being possessive or your boss not giving you a raise and then your friend/significant other gives you a somewhat aggressive inspirational speech about how you’re too good for that shit and you suddenly become a giant barrel of largely fabricated self-righteousness. It’s usually necessary, but it’s rarely pretty.
You know, kinda like when Lauren Zieses inspired THE SAME EXACT CONVERSATION in A Night of Neglect. Anyhow!
So then we flash into a slightly lyrically altered “It’s All Over” from Dreamgirls. Santana and Brittany are in the back in glittery purple dresses with giant beehive hair. Brittany’s looks especially unruly, probably from eskimo-kissing Santana all afternoon. I’m out of adjectives, but it was good.
Effie, please, stop excusing yourself.
You’ve been late, you’ve been mean,
and getting fatter all the time.
You’re lyin’, you’re lyin’
I’ve never been so thin
You’re lyin’, you’re lyin’
cause you’re knockin’ off that piece
Who thinks she’s better than everybody
Runnin’ for president
She ain’t better than anybody
She ain’t nothin’ but common
Just to clarify, Mercedes isn’t referencing their knock-off gowns, but the fact that Santana is shtupping Brittany. So.
Now you listen to me, Miss. Blame-It-On-the-World,
See, I put up with you for much too long.
I have put up with your bitchin’
I put up with your naggin’
And all your screamin’ too!
When the song’s over, Mercedes snaps back into the present, and an empty auditorium, realizing it really is over: she’s out of Glee Club. Fuck all of y’all.
Back to the dance hall where Mike and Mama Chang are about to have a conversation about how Mike wants to follow his heart and be his true self and be recognized for his passionate feelings, re: music.
Mama Chang knows Mike ditched the Chem Tutor but then Mike does a little spin in the air and says that’s what he wants to do, he wants to be an artist who does spins in the air. Mama Chang subverts her Overbearing Asian Motherdom and tells him to follow his dreams, grasshopper.
Mom: “I let go of my dreams but I never want to do that. You hear me?”
Then I think Mike decides to teach his Mom to dance and everyone cried except for me, because I’m heartless and I was like “oh my god this is so corny.”
Now time for the Sing-Off and its opening coin toss. Alvin, Simon and Theodore have those obnoxious bright-eyed “we love to watch the children dance” faces on overdrive and the glee kids in the audience are amping up the significance of the event Chaiken-style — it’s THE CLASH OF THE TITANS! I also think Santana is fingerbanging Brittany under her cheerleader skirt, but maybe I’m projecting.
I mostly spent this time staring at my refrigerator wondering who ate my Phish Food but I think they both gave really stellar performances.
Rachel, who made her dress with a pattern from Jo-Ann Fabrics in 1989, is in crisis mode because Mercedes was so good and what if Rachel doesn’t get Maria? She’s decided instead to run for student body president because really, the field’s right open, and the contingency of students likely to vote for glee club members — that is, Glee Club itself — will now be split three ways which I think means 1.5 votes per candidate, plus all the boys Brittany slept with.
Of course the truth is that if she’s applying for a conservatory (BFA) program, which I believe she is, being student body president really won’t be of much consequence, though I find the possibility of her reign terrifyingly awesome. I’m imagining McKinley High draped in a giant Berry Banner, Christo-and-Jeanne-Claude style.
Kurt calls her out for this epic miscalculation:
Kurt: “In ten years, you’re not going to be thinking about the clubs you were in or the things you did, but the friends you had and the ones you tossed aside.”
One day we all have to grow up and realize just ’cause this or that behavior is a caustic quirk your peers have come to expect that doesn’t mean they’ll ever accept it. I don’t think she’ll run.
Ultimately, Huey, Duey and Louie are unable to pick between the two and pitch that they share the role.
But Mercedes doesn’t want to share it and she doesn’t want to to learn the Widowmaker and end up like my friend who went to Julliard. She wants to be carried on stage inside a motherfucking egg and she wants only blue m&ms and eternal tater tots.
Mercedes wants to know why nobody ever wants to hurt Rachel’s feelings, which makes about as much sense as a nursery rhyme.
Oh, so this whole time there’s been stuff going on with Will and Emma but as you know I only recap the children’s parts. So it leads to this scene where Will and Emma are kneeling at the bed praying because Emma’s parents are assholes and G-d knows it, and then Will breaks out into Coldplay’s “Fix You” and I feared it’d transform into a Skins S1/Magnolia situation with everyone looking like ghosts of themselves singing this song but totally butchering it, but instead it’s just Will and his pudding face and his Lady Blinkin’.
In some alternate time/space continuum, the cast list goes up and everyone gets what they wanted/expected. Everyone hugs their significant others — Kurt and Blaine, Tina and Mike, Santana and Brittany. Santana is gonna be Anita and it’s gonna be the BOMB.
Also there are a lot of clubs at this school:
The scene ends on the stage where the Saint Holy Choir of Coldplay is in full effect:
Then Mercedes goes to visit Elphaba to sign up for the Disaster Catastrophe Show Choir.
Hopefully Mercedes will sing loud enough to drown out Sugar. Their first show can be Dame Edna: The Royal Tour.
Oh, my intern has a feeling about Finn and that is “remember when Finn was a character and not just a facial expression”?