This week's episode—the first after a six-week hiatus—showcased the series' female singing talent



Glee returned last night after a (much too long) six-week break. When we last left New Directions, they just won Regionals, defeating Kurt, Blaine, and The Warblers in the singing competition. Gwyneth Paltrow, Charice, and the various members Sue's "Legion of Doom" all returned this week, as the glee club began its preparations for Nationals in New York City.

To help make sense of the episode, we have musical theater and pop culture buffs Patrick Burns 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:

Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Entertainment channel): Well Glee went on a long break, and on the way back it found a few of its long-lost (lazily dropped) characters and plot points. Disgraced former New Directions coach Sandy the Walking Stereotype, returned, along with the leader of Vocal Adrenaline, and, finally, Will's ex-wife, Terri. Played by actors Stephen Tobolowsky, Cheyenne Jackson, and Jessalyn Gilsig, the trio—united by Sue to help her destroy the glee club—shined in their short scenes as the League of Doom. I remember when Gilsig, a TV veteran of Boston Public, Nip/Tuck, and Friday Night Lights, was cast in the pilot of Glee. I was excited for the talented actress to finally land a role in a hit series, only to find her character completely abused by the writers, turned into a grating shrew so despicable that she had to be written out of the show. But back again in a small dose—and invoking the infamous honey badger as her spirit animal, no less—she made a splash in her brief return ("What kind of meeting doesn't have bagels, or something?").

Sunshine Corazon returned this week as well, along with her nonexistent acting skills, to sing an out-of-nowhere rendition of "All By Myself." The foreign exchange student debuted in a similar capacity during the season premiere: popping up randomly, torching a power ballad with her power belt, and then running off, never to be heard from again. Unlike Gwyneth Paltrow, who showed up again for the last of her sporadic (and ever-welcome) guest spots, Charice, the singer who plays Sunshine, is not an Oscar-winning, A-list actress. It's confusing why the show-runners would siphon air time from one of the existing characters—we wait six weeks and get no number performed by Lea Michele?—in order to feature a little-known artist playing a character who is almost completely irrelevant to the plot.

And that's not to mention that only 15 minutes after Charice hit the final note of her Celine Dion cover, her performance was already a distant memory as Amber Riley wiped the floor clean, buffed it, and spit-shined it to a glimmer with her insanely good performance of "Ain't No Way" by Aretha Franklin. While it may be annoying that Riley can't buy a continuing storyline (Mercedes's diva plot was neatly resolved by the episode's end), the 25-year-old actress sang that number with an almost unseemly amount of grit, passion, and power—providing a star moment in an otherwise forgettable episode of Glee.

Patrick Burns (writer, composer, and star of the original one-man-musical, From Foster Care to Fabulous): Charice sang "All By Myself" as no one had ever sung it before! Her giant voice and pop-star-song-acting lend themselves perfectly to this sort of material. She left everyone wanting more and then disappeared into a shadow of broken Twitter followers. Are we supposed to believe that bit about her being a spy? The amount of espionage involved in the Ohio glee club circuit is beginning to tire me.

"Neglected Artists" is a super lame theme for a concert. Especially when the artists end up being Aretha Franklin and Adele. Then, it's not just lame but also inaccurate. However, lame theme or not this concert rocked. Gwyneth's take on Adele's "Turning Tables" was the best I've ever heard from her. Her voice was strong, and the performance was emotional yet grounded.

But no one brought it like Mercedes did this week. After diva antics and a warm realization, she showed us what it means to be a true diva. Not only did she have the bravery to sing one of Aretha Franklin's greatest songs, but she had the talent, voice, musicality, charisma and fabulous to do it extremely well.

Was the scene between Mercedes and Rachel in the car awkward for anyone else? Mercedes doesn't understand why Rachel is more famous than her despite being less talented. Was it too real?

And where did that Gospel choir come from?