Though music is what most empowers Glee, at its best the show must meld such music to plot and characters. That’s where Glee can get spotty, as with this week’s Mash Off episode that produced the most entertaining song selections of the season so far, but didn’t add a story worth their impact.
I mean, since when was dodgeball integral to McKinley apart from this season’s colorful promotional motifs? If it’s worth a song, I guess Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, mashed up with Blondie’s One Thing Or Another, is fitting enough. But the only story was Santana again being a bigger bully than anyone who’s ever dumped on her former glee club. Yawn.
As for Will and Shelby’s surprise duet for You & I/You & I, it sounded good, but again didn’t serve a plot point. The two show choir coaches were supposed to be pushing a friendly rivalry, not harmonizing. And New Directions’ subsequent mash-up of Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams Come True and I Can’t Go For That, while bouncy and fun, advanced this tale about as much as another slushie in the face. (And what was that about Rory singing lead?)
At least an axe-wielding Puck’s Hot For Teacher, backed by his boys, was a riveting rocker that sold its lasciviousness well. Glee’s second Van Halen song (after Jump) again did the original justice.
Mash Off also had the stirring finale of Adele’s Rumour Has It and Someone Like You, with dramatic Motown punch for the latter and some of the best singing and dancing Glee has done this year. The seven all-female Troubletones looked great, sang great, moved great and got away with a pregnant pause big enough for quintuplets. And what a bold finishing kick — or slap — for a Glee episode.
But what’s it all about, Ryan Murphy? Santana openly lusted for Brittany starting in Season 1 and often declares her sexual abandon, yet she’s overwhelmed with embarrassment that anyone thinks she’s gay (or as Britt would put it, bi-curious)?
Mash Off also paraded inevitabilities masquerading as major plot points, as when Rachel yielded to Kurt in the Senior Class President race, thus allowing them to be NY-bound best buds again, or when Shelby belatedly learned Quinn wants Beth for her own. But at least Idina Menzel’s line readings for Shelby’s firm brush-off again showed how this fine actress lends Glee heft. Also give director Eric Stoltz some chops for that scene.
But even with its thin story, Mash Off did what most TV shows try and fail to do: Quite simply, it entertained. No, it wasn’t charged with dramatic impetus or buoyed by comic creativity, apart from the outrageous TV political ads. But even with few zingers, our favorite singers again gave us what no other TV show can: sheer movie-musical-style vibrancy. When has that ever been showcased so lavishly and relentlessly on TV as on Glee?
I’ve often said to those who diss or dismiss Glee, show me three minutes from any other TV series that can stand up to the best three minutes on any week’s Glee, whether it’s the inspired Rumour Has It/Someone Like You mash-up this week, the exquisite One Hand, One Heart last week, or any number of inspired performances since Season 1. Show me. I want to see it.
But I’m not holding my breath, because I don’t think anyone can. I think Glee and only Glee truly has the goods. I think its Adele mash-up will be in heavy rotation on many iPods. And I think Glee, at its best, is as good as prime-time entertainment gets.
— Bruce Westbrook