Rachel (Lea Michele) leads the swimming pool sing-athon on the latest episode of “Glee.” (Fox)

Glee” is back. And by that I mean it both literally returned Tuesday night after a month-long holiday hiatus, and returned to its frequent habit of dropping plots twists on us that come out of nowhere. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Within the single episode entitled “Yes/No,” the blank slate of a character that is Finn (Cory Monteith) decided to join the military (where did that come from?), realized his father didn’t really die in Iraq and then, armed with this knowledge, decided to propose to Rachel (woah, where did that come from?). Surely he realizes that Rachel (Lea Michele) wants to dash off to NYADA and the bright lights of Broadway as a solo artist, not marry a football player, hyphenate her last name (Rachel Berry-Hudson doesn’t sound that bad, though) and show up at callbacks for a community theater production of “Sundays in the Park With George” with a wedding band on her finger.

In addition to the Finn/Rachel cliffhanger — she hasn’t answered the “Will you marry me?” question yet, though it’s pretty clear the answer will ultimately be a no that may involve a song from “Les Miserables” — Will (Matthew Morrison) finally asked for Emma’s (Jayma Mays) hand in marriage in what may be the wettest TV marriage proposal ever; Mercedes (Amber Riley) realized she has stronger feelings for Sam (Chord Overstreet) than Shane (poor Shane — at least he won state on “Friday Night Lights”); and the much-hyped use of a Helen Mirren voice-over functioned as an interior monologue for Becky (Lauren Potter), who developed an ill-fated crush on Artie.

There was something extra-poignant about hearing Dame Mirren say, “Some days it sucks being me. This is one of those days,” as well as extra-weird about listening to her utter the following offensive phrase in Becky’s head when she saw Mike Chang in the hall: “No Chang-do. I’m no rice queen.”

Really, “Glee”? But let’s not focus on the inappropriate racial slurs in this episode. Instead, let’s assess this “Glee” installment by the musical numbers.

“Summer Lovin’” — Mercedes, Sam and company


The episode opened with an almost shot-for-shot replica of this number from “Grease,” complete with a T-Birds bleacher dance that was actually shot in the same bleachers used in the 1978 musical. Pluses: This was a high-energy, cute way for the show to mark its comeback. And I loved that in terms of the choreography, Santana was Rizzo (perfect) and Rachel was Patty Simcox (even more perfect). The minuses: Rory (Damian McGinty) sounded flat on the “Can she get me a friend?” line, and Sam couldn’t quite hit the glass-shattering high note that Travolta reached on the song-closing “ni-hi-iiights.” All that adds up to a B.

“Wedding Bell Blues” — Emma

The OCD Miss Pillsbury finally got her own number, allowing her to: change the key line in this Fifth Dimensions hit from “Marry me, Bill” to “Marry me, Will”; sing while wearing a poofy wedding dress; and use the newly married Beiste (in another plot development out of nowhere, she eloped with Cooter) and Sue as her bridesmaid backup singers. The fact that the two coaches were, at one point, wearing the cuckoo hats donned by Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie at the royal wedding was a cute touch. Grade: B

“Moves Like Jagger/Jumping Jack Flash” — Will, Mike and Artie

The show choir was given the decidedly absurd assignment this week of coming up with a song for Mr. Schu to sing when he proposed to Emma. Artie and Mike’s suggestion: ask for her hand in marriage while dancing around like the Rolling Stone frontman, an idea they attempted to advance by (of course) staging a musical number. On one hand, it’s always good to see Morrison and Harry Shum Jr., show off their moves. On the other hand, there was far too much quick cutting to shots of Morrison in a tank top. Grade: B-

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” — Rachel, Tina, Santana and Mercedes

The girls tried to win over Mr. Schu with some Roberta Flack, performed (naturally) in costume and with elaborately arranged instrumental accompaniment. Each of our ladies got a moment to daydream about the loves in their lives while tears streamed down their faces. It was all a little too much. Also, it’s a shame they didn’t use this song earlier in the season; if Quinn had sung it while thinking about the baby she gave up to Shelby, it would have added some dimension to that whole storyline, and been far more genuinely emotional than this flagrant eye-watering fest. Grade: C-.

“Without You” — Rachel

Because we apparently hadn’t met our Rachel Berry high-emotion quotient on the previous song, we got to see her do a solo (directed at Finn) of this Usher/David Guetta song. Theoretically, this was what motivated Finn to pop the question, I guess. But I was on the same page as Santana when she assessed the performance as “make everything about Rachel Berry and force everyone else to watch.” Still, I can’t deny that she sang the heck out of it. So, B.

“We Found Love” — Rachel, Santana and company


This cover of the Rihanna/Calvin Harris tune was the big production number/Will proposes to Emma moment. And it represented the fantasy most women have about this magic moment. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of hearing the words “Will you marry me?” from a man in a soaking wet tuxedo while a bunch of high-schoolers in retro swimsuits stand there, staring?

The best way to describe this synchronized swimming performance is that it was part old Esther Williams movie, part classic “SNL” sketch with Harry Shearer and Martin Short and part music video for “Magic” by the Cars. In short, it was kind of a train wreck. Grade: C.

Agree with my assessments? Or was I too harsh? Share your thoughts by posting a comment.