Our panel weighs in on this week's extra-long episode
The boys and girls of New Directions sang out their rally cry on last night's Glee—they were born this way!—and it took a supersized 90 minute episode to get the message out. As they processed Mr. Schuester's lessons about self-acceptance, Quinn and Lauren faced-off for the prom queen crown, Emma (once again) confronted her OCD, and Rachel struggled with a major life decision.
To help make sense of the episode, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Patrick Burns, Meghan Brown, and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.
Here's what they had to say:
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Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): Isn't every episode of Glee basically about Lady Gaga and loving yourself? Well, yes, but this week's installment was extra special.
First of all, it was 90 minutes long—and rightfully so since it's jam-packed. Quinn has a sordid past, Rachel has a troubled present and Kurt gets to come home!
Rachel and Quinn's performance of "Unpretty/I Feel Pretty" was beautiful. The arrangement was clever, the ladies sounded great, and the song was placed perfectly into the plot of two characters who were restored a bit of their depth in this episode. Quinn and Rachel have both been one-dimensional, uninteresting, and bitchy for most of the season. Giving the girls some humility this week helped to remind us why we ever cared about them in the first place.
Santana's scheming led to some rewardingly witty dialogue, which she delivered with great flare and timing. However, the best thing she gave us was the return of Kurt, who triumphantly reclaimed his place in the glee club by belting out his best Norma Desmond. Now, I'm not big on Andrew Lloyd Weber, but Kurt's performance was great (as always), and the song choice was a vital boost to the level of gayness of the gayest show on television.
Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Entertainment channel): For better or worse, Glee embraces what it is. This week's episode contained predictably maudlin and corny dialogue and unabashedly implausible production numbers: 90 minutes of melodrama and sob stories—and made no apologies for it. Nor should it. Glee's life lesson with a kick line is what we've come to expect, and it's what—cheesy writing and all—keeps us moved and entertained each week. Mr. Schuester invoked Lady Gaga to teach his lesson of the week: We were born this way, hooray! He teamed with Emma to employ a Scarlet Letter strategy, costuming the kids in t-shirts branded with their most "interesting" qualities—the ones they're teased over the most—as a way of embracing those God-given traits.
Some were obvious. We learn that Kurt ("Likes Boys"), with his entrance-making top hat and suburban mall flash mob, was born flashy and flamboyant. And Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, is the unlikeliest of actors clearly born to sing Norma Desmond's 11 o'clock number from Sunset Boulevard. He performed every beat of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" as if he's been honing his acting choices for years. But more surprisingly, we learn that Quinn ("Lucy Caboosey") was a fat, ugly child who only attained her prom queen looks after crash dieting and rhinoplasty. The revelation explains the emotion behind her duet with Rachel ("Nose"), a mash-up of TLC's "Unpretty" and West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" that was unexpectedly gorgeous and haunting—yet another example of how skilled the music directors are at these mash-ups.
The rest of the cast got into the spirit in less interesting ways: Mercedes ("No Weave"), Schu ("Butt Chin"), Tina ("Brown Eyes"). In a complicated scheme that I'm still too confused over to decide if it was earnest or evil, Santana ("Lebanese") blackmailed Karofsky into apologizing to Kurt ("Likes Boys"), who in turn transferred back to McKinley. It's a decision with tragic repercussions, as it's likely that we've seen the last of the Warblers (Darren Criss as Blaine will still be around). At least we got a stellar swan song, as their version of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" is the performance that stuck with me the most from last night's supersized Glee.
Meghan Brown (co-founder of the Giraffe Hunt Theater in Los Angeles): I've got to put it out there: I think "Born This Way" is pretty much the worst song ever. It's "Express Yourself" with a fake positive message and even worse lyrics. Ugh.
So it's a a testament to the show's uncanny power of persuasion that I found myself smiling along as the Glee Club of Misfit Toys pranced winningly around the McKinley High auditorium. No weave? No problem! Just put your paws in the air.
I've always pushed for more character development for Quinn, and feel like her not-entirely-original "Lucy Caboosey" origin story was a step in the right direction. Santana had some really nice moments as well, and I'm glad to see the writers aren't dropping the whole "Lebanese" storyline. Hopefully there's some more Brittana in the future.
Overall, this was the best collection of songs we've had in awhile. Quinn and Rachel's "Unpretty" / "I Feel Pretty" mashup was lovely, and the Warbler's (read: Blaine's back-up singers) did a solid cover of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know". But, as usual, the gold star goes to Mr. Hummel. Kurt's version of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" was absolutely stunning in every conceivable way. He had the emotional connection, the musicality, and the storytelling ability down pat. Goosebumps. Kurt as the world's youngest Norma Desmond? Let's make it happen.
Past Glee panels: