Instead, Thursday’s premiere featured much toggling back-and-forth between those two extremes. Sometimes we were in Lima, where the new cast members were trying really hard to seem like natural additions to the New Directions mix instead of tacked-on Poochies, while the veteran New Directions were jockeying for solo position in the glee club. And sometimes we were in New York, where Rachel (Lea Michele) was learning that Kate Hudson is a leotard-wearing meanie and that if you wash your face at 3 in the morning, hot, heterosexual men who love musical theater will emerge from the shower and make Night Ranger seem vaguely erotic.
It was a lot to process. Most of it didn’t work at all. A few things did. Here are a few observations about the season four premiere.
— Noah Puckerman’s half-brother is random: So Puck has a half-brother, that he does not know exists, and who really wants to be in the glee club. Fine. Whatever. I’ll try to roll with that. But I cannot accept that his name is Jake and that he looks exactly like Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob in the “Twilight” movies (and who was impersonated by Sam early in the episode in what was clearly a bit of foreshadowing). What’s next, a thin, brooding guy named Rob who likes emo music and is Artie’s third-cousin? I fully expect this Jake kid (real name, kid you not, Jacob Artist) to be walking around the halls of McKinley wearing cutoffs and no shirt by episode four.
— Kate Hudson’s super-rude dance instructor is hot but a little too nasty: Cassandra July is mean for no reason at all, and has immediately designated Rachel as the bull’s-eye for all her choreographed vitriol. Why? Because Rachel is special. And also because it provided an excuse for Hudson — who, for the record, can wear the heck out of fishnet stockings — to fire up the high kicks to a mash-up of Lady Gaga’s “Americano” and Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again.” It was a fun number to watch, but the vibe of it — or maybe it was just the use of the word Americano — reminded me a lot of Hudson’s ”Cinema Italiano” number from the movie “Nine.”
— The Lunch Lady Doris plotline: The new underdog of the glee club is clearly going to be Marley Rose (Melissa Benoist). And we know this because she wears spunky caps while singing Adele’s “Chasing Pavements,” and she’s poor, and her mother is an overweight cafeteria worker, and she says things like “I thought you guys were different.” Apparently Marley and her mother — who I am going to call Lunch Lady Doris since so far her only name is Mom — have already left at least one school because the kids were super-mean to Marley once they realized her mama slings the hash in the mess hall. (Um, is it possible for Lunch Lady Doris to get a cafeteria job at a school her daughter does not attend? It seems like that would solve the problem.)
Now they have showed up at McKinley with the intention of not revealing that they’re related so Marley can become popular and pursue her vocal talents while wearing jaunty hats. I fully expected that ruse to last until mid-season at least but it was uncovered by Marley before the episode was over. Benoist is adorable, but I don’t know about this narrative development either, especially since it appears she may develop a crush on Jake, who is clearly a werewolf because he is Taylor Lautner’s twin.
— The “Glee” veterans randomly became obsessed with popularity. Uh, okay. Because they won nationals, the New Direction seniors suddenly wanted to fit in with some cheerleader named Kitty who came out of nowhere and is clearly supposed to fill the bust-out-snappy-one-liners-while-wearing-a-Cheerios-uniform role once owned by Santana. Before the hour was over, they came to their senses but — really? Would Blaine really tell Wade/Unique not to wear make-up in the cafeteria after all his preaching to Kurt about how he should celebrate his individuality? It made no sense. None at all.
— Can Darren Criss just spend each hour of “Glee” bopping around in bow ties and sweater vests? I honestly would find that enjoyable. Also: Was it even necessary to try to determine who McKinley’s “new Rachel” is when we already know that it’s Blaine because Blaine was basically the new Rachel last year?
— The ‘80s Club: Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed a sign on a McKinley bulletin board for the ‘80s Club. I don’t know what it is exactly or if it will ever factor into an episode. But I would like to be a member.
— Lea Michele can really belt the Hudson River line out of a Billy Joel song. Her performance of “New York State of Mind,” which was synched up with Benoist’s back in Ohio, was fantastic, as usual. Which is why the show has to keep following her in Manhattan. You take away Rachel’s heartfelt belting and Blaine’s squeaky-clean yet alluring presence, and ”Glee’s” got nothing, people.
— Mike O’Malley is pretty much the best. Just when I was almost ready to write off the episode, here comes Burt Hummel sending Kurt off to New York, knowing his son will love it there and never want to come home, and he’s fighting his hardest to hold back the tears but his lip semi-quivers, and they come anyway ... oh, man. So great. Moments like that make me say, “Fine, ‘Glee.’ Fine. You got me. I’ll watch again next week.”