At long last, Absurd Pregnancy Plotline No. 1 has resolved itself! Well, sort of. It’s somehow appropriate that Will would find Terri’s fake baby bump while searching for a pocket square — being wrapped up in his own doofiness was bound to get him somewhere eventually. This week’s episode was one of self-discovery and mega-sadness, and not only for Mr. Schue. Quinn finds her mojo and tells Sue off (of course, not until after Sue has contemplated a “justifiable homicide” involving her innocently killing Mr. Schue); Finn stands up for the club and Rachel (then backs down); and Rachel scales another step in her seemingly never-ending journey toward learning it’s lonely at the top. Plot moved forward, which of course meant less music than usual. Can two ultraliteral song choices be canceled out by one awesome Van Halen cover?
Lily Allen, “Smile”
It’s yearbook-photo time, a day we remember as much less momentous than it seems to be at McKinley High (then again, our yearbook wasn’t called the Thunderclap — which manages the admirable feat of sounding like a frightening weather phenomenon and venereal disease at the same time ... ). Ever downtrodden, the glee club must pay $325 for even a tiny photo space showcasing two members, leading to a whole bunch of deceit: Mr. Schue pays for the space against Terri’s wishes, and the club, fearful of the pens of football players everywhere, unanimously votes Rachel into the Most Likely to Get a Hitler Mustache spot. Bright little huckster that she is, Rachel wisely appeals to Finn’s flagging sense of self-esteem (“I could use a lieutenant; I do have over 65 proposals”) and gets him to join her as co-captain, which naturally leads to a smiling lesson, through song! Rachel and Finn harmonize nicely enough, but this number errs a little too close to the ones that actually don’t work as well in musicals (i.e., when the characters simply burst out singing for, well, rather forced reasons that don’t move the story along). Wouldn’t this have worked better as a Rachel to Finn fantasy, at least? Or maybe as a revenge song, for Puck to sing to the increasingly upset Quinn, or Tina, after being jilted by Artie? And no, we will not stop imagining solo numbers for Puck until we get one.
Van Halen, “Jump”
This episode jumped (ahem) between quiet, touching moments and loud, campy ones that sometimes felt patched in. (We love Sue at all times, but her crazy commentary was a little less powerful than usual this week, maybe because it seemed designated to temper the Big, Sad Life Moments peppered throughout. Smile, damn audience, smile!) So after Rachel’s believable moment of self-doubt in the picture studio (all the looking into the mirror this episode was a bit much, but Lea Michele makes a really convincing mournful face), we of course needed a big pick-me-up in the form of an eighties synthesized power-chord number performed on gigantic mattresses, of course! We’ve heard the Glee actors talk about how much fun they had singing “Jump” all season in press sound bytes, and now we see why: Their performance is bright, bouncy, and all-around rocks. That includes choreography, for once — the sight of Finn whizzing through the legs of New Directions was almost as good as Bruce Springsteen’s crotch bump to the cameras at the Super Bowl. At first, we wondered why the glee kids, so self-conscious about the yearbook photo, would feel sooo much better about a dorky local commercial, but then we remembered: It’s high school. Local commercials are probably cool.
Charlie Chaplin, “Smile”
Momentous, absurd things must happen before the fall finale, we realize, which must account for why the last third of this episode felt like so much drama packed into a few minutes. Mr. Schue learns the truth about Terri, angrily rips into the stack of free mattresses left for the kids, hears the “divorce” word from Emma, and nearly gets the kids disqualified from competition 8212; whew! Quinn storms into Sue’s office, ready to threaten blackmail in return for her spot in the Cheerios picture, then just as quickly storms out, ranting about how glee makes her feel part of a group! Take that, eye-lift lady! And the kids, who, thanks to the uplifting words of Mr. Schue, see the light after an episode of pouting, suddenly band together for the yearbook photo. Finn and Puck are even weight-lifting together in what appears to be the girls' bathroom! Everything, of course, is nicely set for the finale, now — all to the tune of a song nearly as cheesy as “Imagine” was last week, and perhaps forever ruined for us thanks to Jermaine Jackson’s mis-singing of it at his brother’s funeral. At least we still have the memory of “Jump” — and a glimpse of a season closer next week anchored by a sure-to-be-grandiose rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Cue the mid-season hiatus tears!
At the A.V. Club, Todd VanDerWerff delights in proving once and for all that
Glee is essentially a sad show (with this episode surprisingly written by
usual camp-meister Ryan Murphy), and makes a fun Mad Men analogy involving
Will's angry scene.
Dan Snierson at EW reminds us of one of the best moments of the episode: the
ending. The moment of pride in the glee yearbook photo immediately, and
unbeknownst to the glee kids, defaced, seemed to capture the underlying theme
of the show perfectly: smiles on the surface, disappointment underneath.
Which makes us think "You Can't Always Get What You Want" may just be the
perfect song choice next week.