After last week’s adrenaline rush of an episode, anything short of Elton John–o-rama was bound to feel quiet by comparison. Add to that a general lack of plot movement, and this week’s “Home” felt a little tame. But after much consideration, we’ve decided that “subdued” is an adjective Glee might do well to use once in awhile. Instead of constant insanity and quickfire Sue-to-Schue hair jokes (which, let’s be honest, could be retired right about now — Jane Lynch is capable of lots more), we got a good deal of touching and, for the most part, believable character development. Lea Michele’s vocal cords got a break, and Kristin Chenoweth made a show-stopping return as wackadoo April Rhodes, all to the tune of a balanced playlist, the likes of which could keep Glee from skidding off the rails in the long run.
Bruce Springsteen, “Fire”
First, let’s get one thing straight: The Cheerios do not “need” the auditorium as practice space; they have the gym, where they did a gigantic routine involving stilts. We’ll play along with Sue’s little plot to oust the glee club; maybe she thinks Schue is dense enough to forget said gymnasium, and maybe she’s right, since Will admits defeat and readily sets about finding “a new home” (hark, the episode title!) for New Directions. Enter April, now running the local roller rink (and mistress to an octogenarian strip-mall owner). After greeting Will with an amplified “I just had a sex dream about you! Wait, I smell something. I smell a duet comin’ on!,” the roller-rink rock band kicks in for a song that’s perfectly paired to Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison’s dynamic. It really does seem like these two have known each other forever, and, much like their duet on “Alone” earlier this season, “Fire” is an irresistible eighties classic with the easy, fun feel of classic karaoke.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “A House Is Not a Home”
Kurt hasn’t given up on turning Finn. With charming lines like “you both have dead spouses,” he’s set up their parents, and it’s not long before he’s asking Finn for advice on wallpaper, imagining move-in day, and — head ever in the clouds and ignoring Finn’s obvious mortification — singing to him (in front of the whole glee club). “New Directions is clearly a club with a dearth of … direction,” says Kurt, adding that “we all need to explore the idea of a sense of place,” and thus winning the award for Most Literal Lines Ever on Glee. Cue a performance that simultaneously makes us squirm (poor, delusional boy), tear up (all he wants is love!), and laugh out loud (Puck’s genius whisper of “Are you gay?” to Finn). For Finn’s part, his interlude is mercifully brief — this tune just isn’t in his register, though we do enjoy the sight of him singing to yet another inanimate object (first the sonogram, now the jar of ashes).
Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “One Less Bell to Answer”
We’re extremely impressed with how the Glee writers handled April and Will’s reunion and ensuing sleepover: Instead of an icky hookup, we got a lengthy scene, almost no real dialogue, yet still a perfect sense (thanks to Morrison and Chenoweth’s great sense of theater) of their mutual loneliness and confusion and how that echoes the feelings of Kurt and his dad and Finn and his mom. It’s all suspiciously well-timed to Chenoweth’s Broadway opening in Promises, Promises (music: Bacharach), but no matter. The traditional Barbra version of “One Less Bell” (eventually sliding into “A House”) gets a welcome twist with the insertion of a male voice, which makes the number feel all the more heartbreaking — like a conversation in April and Will’s minds that only ends when they tenderly hold hands at the end.
Christina Aguilera, “Beautiful”
Though she’s willing to admit that Kurt and Mercedes deserve a show on Bravo, Sue isn’t all snappy shout-outs: Mercedes’s body isn’t up to Cheerio standards, and if she wants to perform in the big number planned for a visit from Splits magazine, she’ll have to lose ten pounds, stat. Several scenes centered on eating disorders follow, some hilarious (Artie, Tina, Rachel, and Jesse dressed as gigantic pieces of junk food in Mercedes’s hunger-induced hallucination), others mildly uncomfortable (Becky’s joy, and Sue’s strange tenderness, at weigh-in time). But we’re most affected by Mercedes’s quiet chat with a reformed, thoughtful Quinn (who’s looking extra gorgeous lately, and finally wearing empire-waist outfits again, at least hinting that she might be pregnant). The talk, and song choice, could easily have erred on the preachy side. But Amber Riley’s artifice-free performance (we did love Artie’s accompanying hand wave on the first melisma run) had us full on tearing up.
Charlie Smalls, “Home” from The Wiz
“Maybe there’s a chance for me to go back, now that I have some direction,” sings April. Everyone’s grown up a little bit this week, especially Kurt and Finn who realize, at least in part, that they’ve been acting like the insecure, selfish teenage boys they are. In a subtle feat of acting, Jane Lynch gives us a clue that Sue may have seen a glimpse of the error of her ways — the chinks in her armor are all too visible as she takes credit for the Cheerios’ “Beautiful” performance. While we’re eager to see the rest of New Directions get singing again (all those shots of Jesse and Rachel together, yet not joined in song!), we’re especially curious to see Sue’s own insecurities explored further.
At EW.com, Tim Stack notes how several potential future storylines were opened up in this episode (hurray–life beyond fake pregnancies!): Quinn and Mercedes’s possible friendship, Finn’s bonding with Kurt’s dad (and Kurt’s ensuing jealousy), and, in general, a refreshingly more in depth look at the kids’ home lives. Also, we agree — a field trip to New York to see April’s all-white production of The Wiz is most definitely in order!
The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff completely disagrees with us on most points, but that’s okay! We like having our thoughts provoked. VanDerWerff found the episode overfilled with story lines and at times nonsensical, and he fears that several good musical numbers do not a good episode make. He’s also fed up with how the show is increasingly treating the supporting characters as window-dressing (Tina, Artie, Puck), which we have to agree with.