As far as milestones go, 500th song feels a bit like a stretch, but then this is Glee, and Glee is always prepared to celebrate itself, even if it has to invent reasons to do so. Still, it’s interesting to compare “Shout” (the aforementioned 500th song) to “Don’t Stop Believin’” from the pilot, which wasn’t the very first song on the show, but was its first big production number. “Shout” is performed with only two of the original New Directions (Tina and Artie); Brittany and Blaine (who were hired onto the show as a choreographer’s assistant and a short-term guest star, respectively) sing the leads.
On top of that, the performance takes the kids across the school, through the biology classroom to the library to the cafeteria. This is remarkable both because no one gets slushied — some kids even applaud at the end! — and because it’s so far from Ryan Murphy’s original “rules” for the series, which dictated that musical numbers would only be obvious fantasies or a part of rehearsals and performances. It all just serves as another reminder of how far Glee has come, which is always bizarre and fun and also semi-depressing to think about, and I’m genuinely curious as to whether we’ll see 500 more songs. That said, as solid as the choreography is (largely because Blaine and Brittany are featured) and as hard as the kids are selling it, the performance doesn’t push “Shout” beyond what it really is, which is that song everyone thinks they want to dance to at weddings, because they’ve forgotten how tiring it is after the first 45 seconds.
But it’s not just 500th song week on Glee; it’s also MOVIES week! The idea comes to Mr. Schue after he has a black-and-white dream in which he and Emma are performing “You’re All the World to Me” from Royal Wedding. It’s a great number in Will’s voice (and maybe the first strong solo he’s had this season), and it features dreamy-but-less-impressive-in-modern-times (thanks a lot, Inception) dancing on the walls/dancing on the ceiling choreography. It’s a true bit of movie magic, and I hope it leads people to the original film, which is charming and underappreciated. Less impressive than the number itself is the fact that Will uses “Honest injun!” as an interjection just before it begins. Oh, Glee. You’re so good at being offensive when you’re not trying to be.
Glee has done fewer of these tightly themed episodes so far this season (just Britney, Grease, and, I suppose, Christmas), which is fortunate. Typically episodes like this only work if plot is abandoned altogether and/or the music is absolutely showstopping; unfortunately, that’s not the case in this particular episode. There’s a lot going on with the one zillion threads and the five currently active love triangles that have been set up so far this season, but nothing really happens. To wit: Will and Emma are going to go on a date! Kurt has a romantic dream about Blaine but wants to still date Adam! Santana finds out that Rachel’s pregnant but Rachel just cries and doesn’t say anything! Kitty finds out Marley kissed Ryder, but Marley ends up confessing to Jake herself! Finn tells Will he kissed Emma and is met only with stony silence!
In a way, it feels like the entire episode was a set up for Kurt and Blaine to sing “Come What May” to each other, something Ryan Murphy has been semi-promising to fans for over two years now. It’s a strong performance (and a particularly mind-boggling demonstration of Chris Colfer’s vocal range), but even though it’s a dream (or fantasy) of Kurt’s, it’s a strangely literal re-creation of the “Come What May” scene in Moulin Rouge rather than a re-imagining or -interpreting of the song. Fortunately, Moulin Rouge is sparkly and theatrical and romantic, and so it’s still enthralling. But that isn’t the case with Will singing “In Your Eyes” to Emma from below a bedroom window while he holds a boombox over his head and leans against a vintage car, or for Jake and Marley singing “Unchained Melody” as they sculpt on a potter’s wheel.
It doesn’t feel like an homage to movies or a celebration of them; it seems like the easiest possible way to make an hour of television with songs from movies in it. Even the mash-up of “Danger Zone” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” feels uninspired, and I wanted it to be fun. It’s an episode that wants to seem ambitious, but so much of it feels so lazy. Credit where credit is due: It’s great to see Unique wearing elbow-length gloves and a ballgown, singing lead on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend/Material Girl” (even if the arrangement seems to have been “borrowed” from Moulin Rouge without credit). I like — and I’m aware that this sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I mean it sincerely — that the way Glee has mishandled Unique’s story line sends the message that transgendered youth should be treated just like everyone else. That’s obviously true, but it’s done so by ignoring Unique completely; here’s hoping her story gets some of the attention it deserves soon.
Santana is the saving grace of this episode; she spends most of it snowed in at the loft she now shares with Kurt and Rachel. She announces that she’s mistrusted Brody ever since she moved into the apartment, because he “smelled all talcum-y like a Cabbage Patch Doll.” As a result, she “rooted through all the pockets and drawers in the apartment” (an admission that’s accompanied by one of the best montages we’ve seen on Glee in ages) and found $1,200 and a pager, which she thinks means Brody is a drug dealer. When Kurt and Rachel take offense to the fact that she went through their things, she sighs and says, “I like how you guys pretend to be all accepting about everything, but when your friend suddenly shows up in your home, moves in, and goes through all your stuff, you’re offended??” And while she torments Rachel for most of the episode, she’s genuinely kind and comforting when Rachel finally admits that she’s pregnant.
As an aside: I don’t know how the Rachel pregnancy (which Lea Michele has already said does not result in a baby) is going to end, but I do know that no matter what happens, it will be absolutely insufferable.
The show culminates in a peppy but entirely uninspired rendition of “Footloose” in the auditorium, with plenty of literal leg-kicking to simulate the kicking off of Sunday shoes. It’s fine, but at this rate, the American public will never embrace the fact that Footloose is every bit as much about farm equipment races as it is the right to dance, and no one does a back flip during the “Jack, get back” part, so what is the point of anything, really?
Next week, what starts as a Backstreet Boys/NSYNC sing-off ends as a fistfight, but isn’t that always how it goes?