From the moment Glee’s show intro narrator told us of the ex-Cheerios, “Hey, now you get to see what they look like in street clothes,” we had a good feeling about this episode, because hey, we were just thinking about that two days ago! And lo and behold, this episode worked a whole lot of magic. Things we previously found annoying — the never-ending Finn and Rachel drama; everything Blaine does — became less annoying! Plot points we expected to work out in extremely predictable ways — the Blaine-Kurt misunderstanding; Puck’s new crush on Lauren — actually proved less predictable than anticipated! Moments we found vaguely excruciating and creepy were actually acknowledged as such! And then there was Santana’s identification of “Lima Heights Adjacent,” the spectacle of Mike Chang doing Michael Jackson moves, Tina’s frightening yet endearingly mood-swingy “My Funny Valentine” … Well, suffice it to say, by the end of the episode, we had quite the goofy grin on our face. Did Glee just manage to pull off a holiday-themed episode?
There’s a whole lot of internal-monologue voice-over this week, starting with Puck, who’s once again developed a fairly random love interest: new glee club member and wrestler extraordinaire Lauren. It all feels a bit like a condescending reliving of his Mercedes episode (see, the hot guy can go for a non-skinny girl!), till we see Lauren’s characterization has happily become slightly more complex: She needs to be wooed, and she’s not blindly grateful for Puck’s attention. Thanks to Mr. Schue’s Literal Assignment No. 653, we get the first of this week’s “should we smile or cringe” musical moments: Puck and the boys totally rocking out to Queen (awesome!), while the girls all look hilariously horrified (especially Santana — Naya Rivera deserves an Emmy purely for her facial expressions this week) for good reason, before Lauren (rightfully!) calls out Puck for serenading her in the most insulting way possible.
Oh, Finn, we finally see the truth — you’re just a fickle high-school boy like the rest of ’em! Now that he’s on top of the world, he’s feeling charitable, starting a kissing booth for the glee club’s benefit, and his moral boundaries have relaxed a little. Helping Quinn cheat on Sam? Totally cool if it works out for him! Toying with Rachel’s emotions by giving her a literal gold star? Also fine! Thank goodness for Santana’s sass: “I’ve kissed Finn, and just let me say? Not worth a buck. I would, however, pay $100 to jiggle one of his man boobs.”
There’s drama brewing over in the land of the “privileged, porcelain birds” (that would be Dalton) as well: Blaine’s seduction of Kurt continues as he ropes the Warblers into a scheme to serenade his mystery love interest, which of course Kurt thinks is himself, even though we know it clearly isn’t. Thank goodness for the unassailable pairings that are Artie-Brittany and Mike-Tina in this adorable dancing and singing duet, in which Kevin McHale gets down with his bad self and Harry Shum Jr. makes us gape at his pretty darn amazing MJ moves (even better — it’s the realization of a season-one dream Kevin McHale told us about!). No wonder Heather Morris looks like she’s sincerely blushing with joy when it’s over.
“When I Get You Alone”
Apparently our bar for Darren Criss was set a little low two days ago when we were won over by his snappy moves during “Bills, Bills, Bills.” His creamy vanilla voice is far better suited to white-boy soul (much as it makes our ears bleed, “Hey Soul Sister” worked pretty well, too), and the a cappella arrangement here is pretty impressive. When Blaine decides serenading his Gap employee love interest en masse is a good idea, we feel ready to slap him upside the head — it seems the ultimate manifestation of Blaine’s ego to assume that Jeremiah is cool with being outed in front of a store full of customers. And then we actually get what we want from the writers — Blaine gets a humiliating smackdown in front of Kurt, who then gives him the best kill ’em-with-kindness, here’s-a-taste-of-your-own-confusing-medicine chat, after which we want to give Chris Colfer a mighty high-five.
With all the romantic entanglements at the forefront of this episode, it was easy to pass over several quite enjoyable smaller joys, many of which involved Lea Michele. The Mercedes-Rachel-Kurt slumber party, for instance: fabulous, and not just because of Mercedes’s footie pajamas — it was touching to see the three divas tentatively decide it’s okay to be alone for a little while. Rachel tending to mono-stricken Finn involved a nice little bit of acting for Michele as well, leading into this belter, which, despite a suspicious bit of Katy Perry–esque Auto-Tuning, felt like an oddly well-chosen number. As we see Rachel stomping through the hallways, she’s really quite alone, and it’s starkly sad to see her by herself at Breadstix — until the camera widens and we realize she may be back to season one, square one: an outcast star, among many other kindred outcasts.
“Silly Love Songs”
Kurt’s lonely-hearts night at Breadstix is plenty cute, involving yet another non-annoying performance from Blaine, but we were distracted by two thoughts: One, will we ever hear Kurt sing again?! We know Darren Criss is making the Glee folks lots o’ cash and all, but please bring back singing Kurt! We also can’t help but notice a feeling very similar to one we had way back in the halcyon days of season one: Suddenly, New Directions feels like a crew of losers again … and dare we say, we like it? The whole crew at Breadstix, Warblers and Directioners alike, feels more cohesive than ever, and it seems largely owed to the fact that this week we saw everyone — even the suavest and most badass — face some failure, large or small, and then pick themselves up and trudge onwards, singing. Is sad Glee the best Glee? Next week, with the return of Sue and Emma (by the way — where is Stamos?!!), we’ll see how quickly things do or don’t return to hunky dory.