Every once in a while, Glee proves the impossible can happen. And this week, it did. We actually didn’t hate a theme episode! Our dream of a Fleetwood Mac episode finally came true and, it turns out, the making of the storied Rumours album parallels pretty well the usual dynamics of New Directions: kids who fight all the time — except when they’re making music together in a small, windowless room — and the constant exchange of romantic partners. All that’s missing is the mind-altering drugs! The results on Glee are slightly less uniformly excellent than on Rumours, but, with the addition of Kristin Chenoweth and Lord Tubbington the cat, we’ll consider this week another step in the right direction.
Sue is back, up to her old tricks, and it’s indicative of how old her breaking-up-glee-club shtick is getting that even the sight of Jane Lynch dressed as David Bowie doesn’t make us laugh. Slightly better is her motto for the Muckraker, the school newspaper she’s reviving with the sole purpose of rumor-mongering: “If I hear it, it’s probably true, or something.” Meanwhile, April Rhodes is back — still tiny, still drinking alcohol with a straw, and still wearing kicky neckerchiefs! When Will confides he’s afraid gossip will tear the New Directions apart, April advises he give them a dose of “the Mac,” and we all know Schue finds themes almost as attractive as vests. (“I think I have Rumours on LP somewhere!” “Everybody does” — so true, April, so true!) Soon, Schue and April are duetting, and while it doesn’t quite reach the cuteness heights of “Alone” or “Fire” (perhaps owing to April’s strange lounge moves and Schue’s hand-dancing), it’s a great choice for the moment: a slightly discomfiting lesson in knowing when to follow your impulses, which will prove especially relevant to Schue later on.
“Never Going Back Again”
OMGOMG Brittany has an Internet talk show. It is called “Fondue for Two” yet rarely involves only two people, features melted cheese, and stars her excellent chubby cat, Lord Tubbington. The minute she tells the world Santana “plays for the other team,” we know she doesn’t actually mean she’s a lesbian, but it’s enough to awaken Artie’s suspicions. He’s convinced Santana’s flirtations with Brittany are expressly meant to belittle him and Brittany can’t convince him otherwise, resulting in a moment that nearly brings tears to our eyes: “God, Brittany, you’re so stupid!” “You were the only person who never called me that!” We see a hint of the same knee-jerk self-righteousness that broke up Artie and Tina, and, for the moment, it seems he and Brittany are through. This excellent Lindsey Buckingham soliloquy is a surprisingly good vehicle for Artie’s resolute defensiveness (and a nice reminder that Kevin McHale can sing, too); the silent chorus of teenage-boy guitarists is a nice touch as well.
Christine McVie’s piano-and-voice ballad is the beautiful oddity of Rumours and a particularly inspired choice for Santana to sing to Brittany (though we’re not sure it was the greatest “cheer up!” choice ever), more raw and touching than her perfectly lovely “Landslide” — a song of a woman far more ravaged by life than dear teenage Santana. Naya Rivera’s vocal talents have been slowly creeping up on us — “The Boy Is Mine,” “River Deep/Mountain High,” “Valerie” — but this is the best yet. Totally unadorned, much like McVie sang it, it’s a pretty heart-stopping moment and moving enough to make Brittany offer herself as Santana’s prom date, along with a bonus sort of soft coming-out, on “Fondue for Two.” Santana later fails to show up, and, in what can only be a writers’ wink to Berger’s famous good-bye on a Post-it on Sex and the City, leaves a voice mail that simply says “I can’t.” And so yet another week goes by, with us remaining confused as to whether Brittany is willing to explore an actual romantic relationship with Santana.
“I Don’t Want to Know”
We’ve never seen the New Directions crew do homework (or submit to many parental controls — outside the Hummel house, that is), so really, why wouldn’t they spend their evenings on stakeouts? Sam’s been seen in a few sketchy situations, late at night at a motel with Kurt and then later with Quinn, which gives Rachel plenty of alone time with Finn, during which she attempts to convince him to duet with her at nationals (but we all know she means duet FOR LIFE). Commercial break — it’s that Kindle commercial with the New Pornographers song, which makes us oddly think of how Neko Case fits in the pantheon of Stevie Nicks–esque lady singers. Back to the episode! Quinn and Finn have a snazzy little bit of repartee in the hallway, ending with Quinn’s spectacular on the spot declaration of, “Well I guess I know what duet we’re doing this week.” Time for angry circling in the rehearsal room! Sadly, with Quinn and Finn involved, this number has all the vitriol of a Donny and Marie number, but we must admit Corey Monteith’s voice is sounding better than usual, and everyone’s confused facial expressions during the long, dance-break-free musical interlude toward the end are priceless.
“Go Your Own Way”
It was a real nail-biter toss-up as to which Rumours song Rachel would choose for a kiss-off to Finn by way of Quinn (or would it be Quinn by way of Finn?) — “The Chain” (“and if you don’t love me now, you will never love me again”) or the song that actually allows her to stare deeply into Finn’s eyes while singing “lovin’ you, isn’t the right thing to do”? Oh wait, it was never a toss-up! Wearing the most flowy, seventies-ish top she owns, Rachel Rachel-ifies this song, which means performing it 80 percent nicely, 20 percent with strange Rachel pronunciations of vowels and random belting at the end (if there’s one thing we can say about the songs on Rumours, it’s that they are in no way in need of embellishment). It’s enough to elicit an ultimatum from Quinn — if Finn wants her, he can never again duet with Rachel! Jeez, think he’ll duet with Rachel?
Poor Sam is forced to make a confession: All those sketchy late-night meet-ups? They were all because he’s living in a motel with his parents and two tiny moppets of siblings, because his dad lost his job (somehow, the health of Sam’s hair has not suffered). He sold his guitar, is delivering pizzas, and is generally ready to give up on life, until Finn and Rachel (heretofore only tenders to the ill, and now tenders to the poor as well!) show up with concerned looks and said guitar (which, for reasons beyond our comprehension, has a Bikini Kill sticker on it — if Sam is actually a riot grrrl fan, we’re suddenly sooo much more interested in him … ). Meanwhile, Mr. Schue struggles with the decision of whether or not to follow April and her hilarious-looking show to Broadway — especially after Emma woos him with her bush-baby eyes and tales of how he saved her from herself (commenters, you predicted it!) — and Matthew Morrison is at least given a brief opportunity to act (his “but I want to go so badly” is fairly wrenching). All seems well that ends well, especially when this song — practically ruined by overuse in political campaigns — closes the episode in a number replete with dancing children and a “for he’s a jolly good fellow” hoist for Sam. But if Mr. Schue’s slightly less hearty than usual “woo!” at the end is any indication, all isn’t completely resolved in glee land. Next week: It’s prom time! Oh, who are we kidding — nothing matters more than the Return of the Groff.