Glee Review/Recap Season 4 Episode 5 ‘The Role You Were Born to Play’: Rock Me

Talk about bouncing back. After a five-week break following Glee’s most stirringly emotional — yet downbeat — episode, our favorite little central Ohio glee club returned in Episode 5, “The Role You Were Born to Play,” with energized vengeance.

Rock-solid — and rockin’ — songs. Blistering Sue rants. Major character and plot shifts. What more do you want?

Well, I also got what I wanted, which was focusing a Season 4 episode in one place. Take your pick: Lima or New York. Either works for me. In this case it was Lima — and it worked beautifully, feeling like the old high school-set Glee, not like a new show with a splintered cast, fractured settings and so much scene-shifting that it’s hard to get a narrative handle on either.

Look, I love Rachel and Kurt, but I love Glee as a whole — as a series — even more, and this week the show was strongly served by sticking to the new kids on the block — along with beloved veterans — going all Andy Hardy on us to put on a show,  via auditions for this year’s school musical, the spectacularly appropriate Grease.

That also set up a well-plotted character arc for Finn, who emerged from his funk of failure to replace a DC-bound Will as show choir teacher. Finn haters, deal with it. He makes mistakes — he’s human. He blurts the word “retarded” to Sue while instantly realizing it was wrong. But his heart’s in the right place. More than any other character on this series, he truly means well, from his loving self-sacrifice to send Rachel on her way to Gotham and stardom to his new commitment to help kids like himself realize at least small dreams by embracing the glories of song.

I also loved the returns of Mike and Mercedes to help grease Grease’s wheels, though it’s odd seeing other original cast members’ names in the credits too when they don’t appear. It’s doubtless a contractual thing, but it’s bound to confuse eager fans at the start. (“Naya is ON this week!” “Hey, where was she?”)

Even more welcome was the blossoming of new glee clubbers, especially good girl Marley, who broke out big-time in her blazing duet with Unique for Pink’s Blow Me (One Last Kiss). She’s the new Rachel, all right, in terms of McKinley star power, and she’ll be perfect to play good girl gone slightly bad Sandy in Grease alongside impressive Glee Project 2 winner Blake Jenner as Ryder, who will be Grease’s Danny.

And btw, the Pink song’s performance — as Glee is wont to do — even improved on the original.

With so much momentum ahead, it’s fitting that the episode got its one ballad out of the way at the top, for Blaine’s weepy missing-Kurt song, Grease’s Hopelessly Devoted to You. The rest was all about energy, including a welcome foray to the stage by new Cheerios “head bitch” Kitty alongside Jake for the straight-ahead pop-rock of Neon Trees’ Everybody Talks. Finn and Ryder’s Juke Box Hero also did justice to Foreigner’s original, and Born to Hand Jive, while not my favorite Grease song, was spirited, to say the least.

That said, I love Glee’s emotional side. I love Glee wearing its compassionate heart on its sleeve. And I still think the previous show’s The Scientist was the most beautiful song performance Glee ever has staged. But sometimes Glee needs rockin’ energy — hey, it’s about the exuberance of youth — and on this night, it got it.

Yet there was also more than that, as with a meaningful scene for flawed couple Will and Emma, who agreed to disagree with heartfelt understanding and commitment. I also dug seeing Coach Beiste turn counselor for therapist Emma.

All in all, a rousing, well-rounded, smartly entertaining show which was well worth the wait.

Next week: Kurt and Rachel return, and we’ll split the focus again. But that’s OK. It took five episodes, but Glee has found its Season 4 stride — and I’m hopelessly devoted again.

— Bruce Westbrook

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