Glee Review-Recap Season 5 Episode 18 ‘The Back Up Plan’: Now what?


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Awkward!

Just as Glee suddenly turned Santana from ice queen to Rachel’s devoted gal pal in Episode 18, The Back Up Plan, we heard Naya Rivera was fired by Glee for insubordination involving diva fits with Lea Michele (though now it’s said she’ll be back in Season 6).

What a mess — like this episode. But we do know this: Rivera will be on next week’s show, but she won’t be in May 13’s Season 5 finale, which was still shooting this week, perhaps to cover for scenes in which her character was cut during the uproar.

Yes, the show must go on — or all over the place — or something. And Glee will go on –perhaps with a scene shift to Hollywood next year, if this episode was any indication.

Meanwhile, we’re faced with one of the worst written Glee hours ever, from Santana’s unexplained change of heart to the relentless, one-note, clumsy brutality of each show biz pro in the yarn, from Funny Girl’s producer to Rachel’s new talent agent to Fox TV executives to Shirley MacLaine’s art-pushing socialite.

With friends — or industry types — like these, who needs a career trying to live out your show biz dreams? It all seems more like a nightmare.

Too, Rachel would be locked into a contract to play Funny Girl for the foreseeable future. End of story. Yet Glee acts as if it will be her choice — and she may turn to television (where exteriors can be conveniently shot on Paramount’s own back lot, just outside of Glee’s own soundstages).

As for Blaine being adopted as star-maker MacLaine’s latest project, why should his NY socialite mentor insist that he ditch Kurt? And why did he stay with her since obviously he hasn’t — and won’t? And why did he lie to Kurt that he’ll be part of the project?

Again, an awkward mess. After so many strong shows since hiatus, I’m surprised at this one. But, as almost always is the case on Glee, at least the music was good.

Make that superb, especially if we’re talking about Rachel’s awesome slowed-tempo and unplugged rendition of Wake Me Up — holding one of the last notes for a full 10 seconds — followed by Blaine and Kurt’s rousing and soulful Story of My Life. Both are current radio hits, and both were nice — very nice.

As for MacLaine’s husky singing in a duet with Darren Criss’ Blaine for Piece of My Heart — the pain, the pain.

First, this is a Janis Joplin hit. You don’t redo Janis. Second, MacLaine’s warbling days are long behind her. Sorry, but it’s true. And what a bizarre song choice for her to unleash on her snooty arts patrons. I mean,  Big Brother and the Holding Company (a rock band of which Joplin was a part)? Come on.

Yet the fund-raising party’s setting was sensational: the Bradbury Building, a wrought-iron wonder on a seedy side of downtown LA. I’ve been there, and it’s darkly beautiful — as we’ve seen in many movies and TV shows, from Blade Runner and The Artist to Fame and The Outer Limits.

But back to songs: What’s weird to me was an unspoken (was it inadvertent?) Joplin-and-doom theme of this episode. To wit: When Rachel sang The Rose for an inattentive group of TV execs — beautifully, I might add — she was singing the title song of a film in which Bette Midler played a thinly veiled fictional version of Joplin — and wound up overdosing, as did Joplin.

Overdosing — also like Cory Monteith. And in effect committing suicide, just as Rachel appears to be committing career suicide by ditching her sudden Broadway stardom for a shaky TV project.

Again, awkward.

Perhaps the script itself needed a back up plan — and some different spins. Hopefully by the time it all plays out after two more shows, we’ll have a better — and more coherent — idea of where Glee is heading for its sixth and final season.

For now, we have Rivera off the show, Lea Michele’s Rachel inexplicably going TV crazy after Broadway was her lifelong dream, and a series adrift as it teeters in narrative limbo. But I’ll stay tuned — it can only get better.

— Bruce Westbrook

 

 

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