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Glee Recap: Strip Debates and Couture Bunkers

GLEE: Blaine (Darren Criss, on table) performs in the "Makeover" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, Sept. 27 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Does anyone remember last season, when I said that I was putting in an official request for more actual montages in season four? It’s happening. Also happening? The return of Stoner Brett! During the student body presidential debates (we’ll get to that) he stands up and yells, “Separation of powers!! Woo!!” Oh, Stoner Brett. You say what we’re all thinking!

Last night was Sarah Jessica Parker’s first appearance as Kurt’s very kind boss at Vogue, Isabelle. Kurt interviews with her and is hired and then promoted in approximately a day and a half, even after he and Rachel break into the office for after-hours fashion shenanigans. There’s been some grumbling around SJP’s role on the show, which seems silly because she more than holds her own. She, Kurt, and Rachel do a mash-up (that seems a little strong — the arrangement felt like a “tape-together” at most) of “The Way You Look Tonight” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” that takes place as Rachel gets a makeover (for nebulous reasons) in Vogue’s couture bunker. It’s not the best singing or dancing the show’s ever seen from a guest star, but that’s Sarah Jessica Parker, Broadway’s third-ever Annie, singing a song that’s FROM Annie and I’m sorry, but that’s lovely and — fine, I’ll go there — kind of iconic. Besides, characters who are big-eyed but a little broken inside and desperately in love with New York are what Sarah Jessica Parker does best. I don’t think her stint on Glee will revolutionize the show or her career or anything, but she’s absolutely an asset, and I’m glad she’s onboard.

Back at McKinley, Blaine is finally ready for his turn in the spotlight, which is sort of hilarious, since he had roughly as many solos as Rachel last year. He’s not just after solos, though — extracurricular activities, too! He declares his intentions via a montage set to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” so I’m willing to overlook the lack of logic, especially since he joins the Superhero Sidekick Club and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and the whole thing ends in wizards and comic book characters back-flipping behind him.

Blaine sets his sights on the student body presidency and chooses Sam as his running mate; they face off against incumbent Brittany and Artie, whom Brittany wants as a running mate because she thinks he’s part robot. Brittany is also under the impression that John McCain is Sarah Palin’s grandfather. This is the second Brittany-heavy episode in two weeks and there still needs to be more Brittany. That said, the line of the night was Sam’s. After Brittany challenges him and Blaine to a debate, he leans over and whispers, “ … What’s a debate?”

This leads to yet another montage in which Blaine and Artie try to make Sam and Brittany into better candidates, and it’s set to “Celebrity Skin.” The song works nicely enough (which is a huge surprise), but making over Sam to look more political and, by extension, more adult is a semi-terrible idea because Chord Overstreet looks so old already. It gets even weirder when Sam is asked about his past as a stripper during the debate and then proves he’s not ashamed of it … by stripping. Brittany counters by announcing she’d ban weekends and summers if elected, so Blaine and Sam win! Everyone’s excited for Blaine but Kurt, who can’t be bothered to properly Skype and who ignores Blaine’s calls and THIS BODES POORLY.

And then there’s Rachel. The makeover Isabelle and Kurt gave her has Brody more interested in her than ever, and they sexy dance their way up and down the High Line.  To reiterate last week’s point: bigger hair and c’mere fingers might make you look sexier, Rachel, but they can’t make you BE sexier. But what I understood least about this episode (even less than that ACTUAL TAIL Kurt was wearing) is why Brody is interested in Rachel. I’d assumed that the first couple of episodes were a setup for a “girl gets dumped by the older dude at college who always dates the freshmen” thing, but it seems like he’s sticking around long enough to be the third man in a love triangle, at least. I understand the concept of rooting for a couple on a show, but it’s odd to me to see #TeamBrochel on Twitter when we know more about the backstory of the choir director at the school for the deaf than we do about Brody. If there really is a Finn-Rachel breakup coming next week — and I’m betting there will be — I’ll be interested to see to what extent Brody’s character gets developed.

After a strong establishing episode followed by a decent tribute episode, this one felt like the first real glimpse into the future of the show and it was … well, haunting is too strong a word. Illuminating? In its first three seasons, Glee could afford to take its time; it was easy enough to establish a couple of story lines at the beginning of the episode and sprawl out and sing songs for an hour. It’s harder now. There are so many story lines in so many settings that the pacing feels off and disjointed, and it’s hard to have an emotional stake in an episode when there’s so much going on.

I’m not saying this was a bad episode — it wasn’t. But for the most part, looking ahead to the rest of the season feels a little bit like looking out into the half-empty auditorium like Blaine did during those debates. There’s some stuff out there you recognize, and some stuff you even like, but there are a whole lot of holes, too.

Photo: Beth Dubber/FOX