I like Burt Bacharach as much as the next person, but I'm just going to come out and say that last night's episode of Glee was just the tiniest bit boring. Bacharach's songs are classics — with good reason — and they're lovely and sweet. But hearing eight of them in a row is a bit much, especially when the performances themselves are pretty flat (lots of walking around in formalwear, with one brief detour into heaven), and the vocals sound even more produced than normal. The majority of the performances so far this season have been similarly understated, and while I like the nostalgic throwback to the feel of season one, I'd like at least a little more pomp and circumstance going forward. I understand that Glee's budget and schedule were probably the most restrictive they've ever been, but there are only seven episodes left. It's time to bring on the showstoppers.
Still, the slow pace of the episode wasn't entirely Bacharach's fault — anything would've felt like a letdown after the previous weeks' two-part episode, which was willfully insane and improbably hilarious. I knew not to expect the show to stay in that darkly comic territory, but I'd semi-hoped it would. What Glee did instead was set stories in motion that will (theoretically) send Rachel back to New York City, Sam into her arms, and Brittany and Santana down the aisle.
For the first time ever, this was an entire episode of Glee devoted to women helping other women solve their problems. While the show has always done a decent job of spotlighting the talents of its female cast (okay, fine, of spotlighting the talents of Lea Michele), it's struggled to create sustained, supportive female friendships like Sam's friendship with Blaine. So it was really exciting to see Mercedes swoop into the choir room at McKinley and announce that not only was she there to mentor the New New (New?) Directions on their way to Sectionals, but she'd also scored Rachel an audition for a new Broadway show.
As an aside: Mercedes turns up right as Kurt and Rachel are explaining the theme of the week; Kitty leans over to Spencer and informs him that now would be a good time to go to the bathroom or get a snack. Seriously, that fourth wall is gone.
Of course, it's not all that difficult to convince Rachel, although it does take a rendition of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," known more colloquially as "The Moon and New York City," a song I have problems with on several levels. First of all, how does a person get caught between the moon and New York City in the first place? Second, what exactly is the space between the moon and New York City, and who's to say we're not all in it all the time? And third, when has falling in love ever solved anything? But Rachel apparently shares none of those concerns, since she sits through the performance lovingly clutching a small Statue of Liberty and then finally (after a few tears) sings herself back to New York, this time with a song that's actually appropriate for an audition! Wonders never cease.
It's still not clear where things will actually go with Rachel and Sam, and I'm wondering whether Glee's creative time is certain about that yet — there are still a couple of weeks left to film, and word is they're still making changes to some scripts. Mercedes nudges the two of them together by saying she needs Sam to "help heal" Rachel's heart, which sounds an awful lot like a pity date, but the two of them do have chemistry, and Sam is sweet and good to everyone. Still, I sort of hoped he'd stay single forever and grow old in a guest house in Kurt and Blaine's backyard decorated to look like an exact replica of the bat cave.
Meanwhile, Brittany and Santana's wedding is drawing closer, and Brittany finally tells her parents (the magnificent and underused Ken Jeong and Jennifer Coolidge) about the engagement. They're thrilled, if only because it takes the focus off of the awkward revelation that Stephen Hawking is Brittany's real dad. If Stephen Hawking guest-stars in the episode where Brittany and Santana get married, I will take back every single bad thing I've ever said about Glee. If a Stephen Hawking impersonator shows up, I will be irate and unsurprised.
But Santana's Abuela doesn't share Brittany's parents' excitement; she still hasn't spoken to Santana since she came out to her in season three. Because Brittany is Brittany, she finds a nurse's uniform, shows up at Abuela's, tells her she's there to help her with her diverticulitis, and begins a stealth attempt to win her over. She even has her as a guest on Univision's version of Fondue for Two, which is called Queso for Dos. Finally, after Brittany has talked up her "mystery fiancée" to Abuela, she brings her to the McKinley auditorium and Santana sings the love theme from the movie Alfie and then asks her grandmother to love her for who she is. Abuela calls Brittany and Santana's relationship "sin" and says she won't come to the wedding.
Brittany comes back with a pretty masterful takedown that boils down to "Cool, well, you're old, and the rest of the world is hip to this, so we're basically just waiting for people like you to die off." It's magnificent and so important that we see the Brittany who's present and aware and pretty badass as a complement to the Brittany with her head in the clouds and her fists full of crayons. Also, she suggests "scissors" as a theme for their wedding. As ever, Brittany S. Pierce for president.
Still, it's a little frustrating to see Brittany spend so much of the episode talking about Santana with someone else, when she and Santana get so little screen time to talk with each other.
The hour draws to a close with the show's 700th musical number, "What the World Needs Now." The performance itself is simple and pretty, but it's intercut with deeply affecting scenes of all of the glee-club kids, past and present, piled into Mr. Schue's house for a dinner party. I'm not sure what makes it so special — maybe it's just that we don't get to see them all enjoying one another outside the confines of school and performances very often. Or maybe it's because — and I know this is a television show, and I know it's just pretend — it feels like a few short weeks from now, even after we've said good-bye to these characters, they'll still exist on each other's couches, laughing and singing in a happy heap. It's pretty to think so.