Tuesday’s back-to-back pair of “Glee” episodes brought us an homage to “Freaky Friday,” a Lindsay Lohan movie, during hour one and the actual appearance of Lindsay Lohan during hour two. It also delivered another trip to nationals (this time in Chicago, not New York), several musical numbers and, of course, a ton of important questions.
Questions like: How is it possible that Quinn is completely able to walk and participate in choreographed dance numbers? I mean, I know she worked really hard during her physical therapy sessions. And I know that Joe helped her during those sessions, and he’s super-tight with Jesus. But still, this progress happened very quickly. So the lesson here is: You should not text while driving, but if you do and get in a devastating accident as a result, you’ll probably be able to recover quickly from paralysis and go to Yale anyway. At least that’s my takeaway.
Also, why did Rachel need two episodes to decide she wouldn’t give up on her NYADA dreams when she’s only been working toward those dreams since birth and should have gotten fired up to try again much sooner? And given the fact that she’s been stalking Carmen Tibideaux, why did she need Tina to tell her that the woman normally known as Whoopi Goldberg is teaching a master class at Oberlin? Does Rachel not have Google?
Oh and hey, did you know that next week is the finale and the graduation episode? Does that mean you’ll all join me if I spearhead a national chant of “Noah Puckerman graduates” during next week’s installment?
Clearly there’s no way to answer all these questions right now. Let’s just get right to the musical numbers. This was a two-hour episode and we have a lot of Celine Dion songs to cover.
“I Won’t Give Up” — Rachel Berry
This was Rachel Berry’s Jason Mraz moment to declare, while wandering through the McKinley High hallways, that she refuses to abandon her Broadway dreams even though she choked during her NYADA audition. Her vocal power was, as always, present and accounted for even if, as noted above, it seemed a little weird that it took her this long to muster a sense of determination. Grade: B.
“Because You Loved Me” — Tina as Rachel Berry
This number was part of “Glee’s” “Freaky Friday” portion, in which Tina bonked her head, imagined that she had become Rachel and Rachel had become her, and that numerous New Directions members also had swapped identities. What this all amounted to was the sight of Jenna Ushkowitz wearing one of Lea Michele’s cutesy dresses while belting out a Celine Dion cover, as Cory Monteith and Mark Salling looked on while pretending to be Chris Colfer and Darren Criss. Oh, it also subjected us to, among other images, this one.
Is it me, or does he look like he’s about to star in “American History X 2”?
Anyway, this was a clever piece of work that finally gave Tina some time in the spotlight after a season in which she did pretty much nothing. She did a nice job although, at the risk of not being supportive, I must acknowledge that Rachel would have sung it better. Grade: A-.
“Mean” — Puck and Coach Beiste
After a touching scene in which the bullied Puck and the abused Shannon Beiste bonded — Dot-Marie Jones, thanks for making us verlklempt, again — they joined together for a little Taylor Swift duet. Puck kicked it off with a slightly whiny pitch but once the two started singing together, there was something charming about it. In a way, it was more effective than Swift’s version because I can believe that both Puck and Beiste have had it rough. Taylor Swift? Not so much. Also, I liked the way Shannon referred to Puck as “Punkin.’ ” Grade: B+
“Flashdance (What a Feeling)” — Rachel, Tina and company
I can’t believe it’s taken this long for “Glee” to delve more deeply into the Irene Cara songbook. Seriously, how is it possible that the New Directions haven’t covered “The Dream” yet?
Anyway, Rachel and Tina’s bonding moment was sweet although the pounding on the lockers — meant to evoke Jennifer Beals’s dance moves from that 1983 movie — came across as awkward. Ultimately, this wasn’t as soaring as it could have been, but I did like the way it took us from hour one into hour two and Nationals. Grade: B-.
“The Edge of Glory” — The Troubletones
We’re at Nationals now, so pay close attention, everyone. Santana, Brittany, Quinn and Mercedes led the charge on this first song in the New Directions performance. The Lady Gaga cover started strong but even with the quick edits, some of the choreography looked slightly out-of-sync and lacking the high energy one would assume these kids would bring to this level of competition. But don’t worry. As we’ve learned roughly 850 times on this show, it gets better. Grade: C.
“It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” — Rachel
Let me be clear about something: I hate this song. It gives me bad early ’90s adult contemporary flashbacks that I find difficult to handle. So it’s a testament to Rachel Berry’s/Lea Michele’s gifts that I found it compelling to watch her use the soaring vocals of a Celine Dion song to rediscover her onstage mojo. And rediscover it she did, knocking this one out of the park. She even made Carmen Tibideaux, Oberlin master instructor, whistle in approval. Grade: A.
“Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” — New Directions
Okay, Mr. Schue, why did this song seem like a good idea? It’s about two kids doing it and it’s eight minutes long. Not exactly appropriate fare for a high school show choir competition. Fortunately, our plucky crooners truncated it and edited out some of the saucier parts. The singers boasted plenty of feeling — this may have been Finn at his absolute best in the history of “Gleedom” — although I still wasn’t thrilled with the choreography. Enjoyable overall but I still think they were better at regionals during the season one finale. Grade: A-
“Starships” — Wade “Unique” Adams and Vocal Adrenaline
Let’s just be honest: Vocal Adrenaline was better than New Directions. Their dance moves were sharper and more in sync, and Unique’s Minaj-esque magnetism factor sold the whole thing. (Dang it, Sue, why did you have to be right about the effectiveness of props and flashiness?) Plus, they actually tossed some of their members like human starships as if they were on one of those ESPN-broadcast cheerleading competitions. Sue, weren’t you supposed to bring those sort of moves to the table as a Gleek mentor this year? Still, the number did lack a certain underdog emotion that the New Directions, of course, had in spades. And as some YouTube commenters have noted, Vocal Adrenaline’s season-one “Bohemian Rhapsody” was also superior to this effort.Grade: A.
“Pinball Wizard” — Wade “Unique” Adams and Vocal Adrenaline
Okay, this number had spinning pinball machines. If I know one thing about life, I know this: Nothing beats spinning pinball machines. The one thing working against Vocal Adrenaline and which none of the celebrity judges mentioned because they were too busy promoting their blogs and comebacks is that this didn’t feel like a true choir’s effort. It felt more like a performance by Unique with a very large group of back-up singers and dancers behind her. And we all know from the lessons “Glee” has taught us that teams are better than soloists. Vocal Adrenaline was great but in the end, New Directions wins. Grade: A-.
“Tongue Tied” — Montage
Technically this wasn’t a number so much as a musical celebration of New Directions’ championship status. But I must recognize it because it delivered all the elements one hopes for from a montage set to a Grouplove song: confetti, sparkling cider fights and Will and Emma having intercourse. Grade: A-.
“We Are the Champions” — New Directions
So this is the part where everybody pays tribute to Mr. Schue just like the East Dillon Lions did during that “Friday Night Lights” episode where Buddy Garrity turned the sports banquet into a salute to Eric Taylor. It was a sweet way to honor their mentor. Plus, the choice of song worked wonderfully as an assertion of the New Directions’ championship status and a hearkening back to the Vocal Adrenaline use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” during season one. Nicely done. Grade: A.