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Glee Recap: Continue Believin’

GLEE: Rachel (Lea Michele, R) performs with Artie (Kevin McHale, L), Kurt (Chris Colfer, second from L), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz, third from L), Mercedes (Amber Riley, fourth from L) and Finn (Cory Monteith, fifth from L) in the "Sweet Dreams" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, April 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

You know what? I didn’t want to be angry about Glee this week. But then last week’s gunshot rang out as kicky punctuation at the end of the “Here’s what you missed on Glee!” introduction, and I was outraged all over again. And doubly outraged when I watched a second time and realized the opening shot actually came down the barrel of a gun.

I know that last week’s episode wasn’t exactly a “school shooting”; it was an incident where a gun went off at school. Still, the show’s narrative insisted that it was a major, scary, life-shattering event that changed the lives of everyone at McKinley forever. Treating it glibly before this week’s opening credits even began just further cheapens last week’s heightened drama. I get that it’s hard to come back from a “very special episode,” but Glee consistently abandons the important issues it milks for drama, which makes me think the show shouldn’t try to address them in the first place. Dave Karofsky’s suicide attempt last season is a great example; the sequence itself was chilling and deeply impactful, but (as far as I can remember) Dave was never mentioned again.

While we’re on the subject of things Glee handles inappropriately, NeNe Leakes is back as Coach Roz (I’ll never understand Ryan Murphy’s continued enchantment with her), and she strides into the teacher’s lounge and announces that Mr. Schue and Coach Bieste need to get over themselves, because the incident with the gun wasn’t even a big deal. “I’m a child of the ghetto. I can’t sleep at night unless I hear at least two gunshots.” So, based on last week’s episode, a gun going off at a middle-class high school is a serious trauma; based on this week’s episode, a gun going off in the projects is a punch line. Cool story, Glee.

You know those videos that turn up on the news sometimes, where a student has smuggled a video camera into class to record a teacher going absolutely batshit without provocation? If you spliced all of Mr. Schue’s scenes from this episode together, I’m pretty sure it’d look exactly like one of those. Things start out okay — he announces that the theme for this year’s Regionals is “Dreams” and tells the kids he thinks they should interpret the idea “literally” by performing songs with the word dream in the title. Wouldn’t interpreting the theme literally be something more like snoring in four-part harmony? Have a capella groups done this already?

But after Blaine (as “honorary Rachel”) convenes the kids for a secret meeting and they decide to boycott Mr. Schue’s set list, Mr. Schue goes absolutely nuts. He yells at Blaine for being defiant and tells Sam he has to stop pretending to also be his identical twin, Evan Evans (the greatest ridiculous Chord Overstreet gag of all time, and that’s saying something). Then he tells Unique to “tone it down with the boobs” because it’s getting “distracting.” Unique’s been taking birth control pills and wearing bra inserts to try to simulate boobs, and the fact that both of those things are treated as extremely brief asides in the episode is proof that her story isn’t getting anywhere close to the attention it deserves. And for what it’s worth, every person I know who’s tried to tell someone else what to do with their boobs while in the workplace has lost their job. Mr. Schue goes on to angrily tell the kids that he skipped getting coffee just so that he could be on time for rehearsal, and then he flounces out of the room. So, all in all, a great day of educating kids who likely all have PTSD!

It’s just so unclear what Mr. Schue’s problem is here; if he’s really as upset about his falling out with Finn as he claims, maybe he could just identify that that’s an issue that arises when your best friend is a 19-year-old former student, learn from it, and move on. His tantrum temporarily prevents the kids from learning and performing some of Marley’s original songs, which she’d sworn to share if she survived the gun incident. You know, I harp on Glee’s shoddy realism all the time, but these songs (which the kids later decide to perform at Regionals) absolutely sound like they were written by 15-year-old girls in secret, hidden notebooks, so well done!

Across town at the University of Lima, which apparently is a real place, Finn’s studying a little but mainly partying, with the help of Puck, who’s “auditing a few classes” (when he’s asked if he knows what that means, he basically runs away). There’s a slip-and-slide hall party in a dorm followed by a frat party, and it’s fun for a minute or two, but it’s every cliché imaginable. It’s also difficult to see Finn partying with topless girls and singing Beastie Boys songs without thinking about how Cory Monteith is currently in rehab. I’m not saying the story line should’ve been cut or anything; it’s just a layer of distraction on a story that’s not very compelling to begin with.

There’s a nice continuity to Rachel’s Funny Girl audition — her love for Barbra Streisand was established in the pilot, and there’s been a nod or two to it every season since then. What’s more, Rachel’s actually a good fit for the role of Fanny Brice, a part that leans heavily on big eyes and an ability to belt. And it’s nice to see Idina Menzel back as Shelby; I think she’ll always feel a tiny bit shoehorned back into the show when she turns up, but the quality of her duet with Rachel more than makes up for it. Delightfully, it’s a song I’ve never heard before (Emeli Sandé’s “Next to Me”). Glee rarely introduces me to new music these days, but I’m always excited when it does. “Don’t Stop Believin’” is an absolutely ridiculous audition piece for a Broadway musical (about as ridiculous as getting to perform for three full minutes at an open call), but it’s just nice to see the original New Directions back together again. Truth be told, the featurette that was released about filming the scene is even more delightful; there’s something nice about being reminded how far you’ve come, even if you’re not sure how you feel about where you’ve ended up.

Yep, this is me, getting onboard with a Rachel story line. Miracles happen, peace on Earth, goodwill to all, etc.

Rumor has it that next week, Sue sings “Little Girls” from Annie. Dare to hope.

Photo: Adam Rose/FOX