Thanks to Sam and Blaine’s investigative work, the Warblers are officially stripped of their sectionals title; this week’s episode treats the whole affair as campy and pulpy, so the entire debacle is much more palatable. Even better is the local newswoman who storms off the set after Rod Remmington is done “reporting” the story. “THIS is what we call news now?? You know I went to school for this.” This means that the New Directions are headed to regionals! Finn somberly points out that they’ll still need to raise $400 to pay for the bus. Sam offers to sell “more of his semen” (and with that, I lose the ability to talk about this show with my mother), but Tina suggests that they do a Men of McKinley calendar instead.
Artie immediately suggests “objectifying the girls, too,” but Kitty points out that that’s stupid since girls are the ones who buy things. She goes on to explain that the Twilight books are “poop on paper, and we’ve turned them into a billion-dollar industry.” And this? Right here? This is what I’ve missed about Glee. The concept of the episode is teed up, the characters poke fun at it, and we all move forward. And just when you think things can’t get any better, "Fondue for Two" is back, and Marley is Brittany’s guest. Brittany introduces her as “the girl with the fat mom who ruined sectionals for everyone,” and goes on to grill her about her feelings for Jake. When Marley tries to take some of the heat off of herself by claiming she’s a pet psychic, she tells Brittany that Lord Tubbington has a gambling addiction, but Brittany tells her that she’s wrong. Lord Tubbington is, in fact, a slumlord. “None of your high rises are up to code,” Brittany hisses at him. (Can we get some “Is Lord Tubbington Your Landlord” infographics, please, Internet? Because I have some concerns.)
Marley takes Brittany’s challenge and invites Jake to the auditorium; the song she sings Jake is the love theme from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, and while it’d be easy to snark on, Kitty already mocked the franchise a few scenes back, and furthermore, it’s a perfect choice for a shy, sweet sap like Marley. And if we’re being really honest about it, I can’t be objective here since I’m the sort of person who legitimately cries if they think about what would have happened if Renesmee hadn’t loved Jacob back, so, whatever, it’s great. Later, Jake returns the favor and sings “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” and while that’s a sweet enough song, it’s also pretty mansplain-y. Then again, would we expect anything different from a Puckerman? Lyrics not withstanding, it’s the best vocal performance we’ve heard from Jake so far, and you can’t hate too hard on a performance that comes as a result of Ryder’s claim that “what [girls are] really looking for is a guy who’ll get naked emotionally.”
Meanwhile, Principal Figgins calls Sam and Brittany into his office to tell them that they have, respectively, the lowest and highest SAT scores at McKinley. Brittany immediately plans to go to “mitt” or “The University of California at Charles Barkley’s House.” Also, Sam’s scores are impossibly low; you get 300 points just for signing into each section of the test. At any rate, this sends Sam into a tailspin, and he decides to throw himself into the calendar. He rounds up the rest of the New Directions boys for bro-ga. What follows is a pretty bizarre montage for a television show that’s just done anti-eating-disorder and anti-steroid episodes — there’s a lot of female-lifting and fat-measuring via pinchers and uninspired Nelly mash-ups, but ultimately we discover that Sam has more to offer the world than his abs. I love Sam, and I love Chord Overstreet, but it stings to see his little arc resolved in a more life-affirming way than Marley’s could ever hope to be.
Back at NYADA, Rachel’s been cast in a senior-thesis film project, but she’ll need to take her top off for the role. This is the most realistic depiction of life at NYADA thus far — of course she wants to build a reel, get more roles, and eventually get her union card. But she’s first confronted by Old Rachel, who tells her “a little shame is a good thing.” That’s interesting, since Old Rachel made the New Directions sing “Push It” at that assembly and also made very brazen overtures at Mr. Shue. It would stand to reason, then, that Old Rachel is really more the Ghost of Rachel As Controlled by Finn. Can we all stop being sad about that breakup now, please? Also, as effective as I find the whole “two Rachels” shtick, do not take my praise as a request for even more Rachels, Glee. I have limits.
What’s weird about Rachel’s inner struggle is that it’s set to Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” When did nineties easy-listening become the go-to source for Glee’s filler song material? Haven’t we already heard “Barely Breathing” and “Don’t Speak” so far this season? (To explore this issue personally, wait at a dentist’s office for an hour and note how many Glee songs you hear.) Rachel’s final decision — with Brody’s (legit) naked approval — is to do the film, and I actually agree. Oh God, Glee, I really, really hate it when you make me take Rachel’s side about stuff. Still, for the record, I maintain the stance I took about the sexualization of Rachel Berry in the season premiere. Hey, whatever, cool, but someone’s going to need to teach Lea Michele how to act sexy.
After Kurt’s efforts to slut-shame Rachel out of the movie fail, he calls in the big guns: Quinn and Santana. Quinn asks Rachel a simple question: How will she feel about the choice two weeks from now? Two months? Two years? Look, I know that the Ballad of Quinn Fabray has many verses, and many of those verses are riffs on the fine art of sociopathy. I hardly dare hope this much, but the Glee writers have laid a really nice groundwork for a bipolar-disorder story line, and I have no doubt that Dianna Agron could hit it out of the park. (But a proper story arc, not just a cursory mention. Homeland is making it trendy! Let’s get it done!) All that notwithstanding, we’ve seen both Quinn’s potential for accomplishment and her potential for insanity in equal measure (and that’s saying something, given how Glee shies away from nuance), and it’s nice to see the former in play here, as she presents Rachel with some legitimately level-headed advice. Crazy girl makes good! Film at eleven!
Rachel eventually feels uncomfortable once she’s on set, and that’s okay. I wish Glee had done a bit more to show that it would’ve been okay if she’d gone through with the topless shoot. I know that’s dangerous territory, but it’s territory Glee will need to figure out how to tread if it’s going to be a show about college kids for high-school kids. The number it all culminates in, Sara Barielles’s “Love Song,” is only slightly applicable to the situation, but it’s fun and triumphant and maybe the first time we’ve ever had a Quinn and Santana and Rachel trio. If that’s not praise enough, it’s the first number I’ve downloaded in a long, long while.
The episode ends the way all the good ones do: in a happy, messy heap on the McKinley stage, with the New Directions kids acting like actual kids. “Be not afraid of who you really are,” the kids sing. It’s this, Glee. Be this. Please.