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This Week on "Glee": Gwyneth Turns Tables

By Katelyn Anne | TV | April 21, 2011 |

By Katelyn Anne | TV | April 21, 2011 |

It’s been over a month since the last new episode of “Glee” and I was hoping for a decent hiatus return much like the last big return after the Super Bowl, but all the show gave us were ridiculous character choices and a wishy-washy plot. They completely changed the personality of one of my favorite characters, they made an Adele song so bland it could have passed for oatmeal and Will Schuester started off the episode with bad math. This week the show had the opportunity to shine with performances from the supporting cast, but instead they shoved on latex gloves and wiped down their grapes for a mournfully neutered episode of “Glee.”

To start, “Glee,” we get it. Your internet commenters are so mean. They are just big old bullies and they constantly heckle you and it’s just not fair because y’all work just so gosh darn hard, gosh darnit! At the start of the season, it was cute that you decided to throw a wink and a nod to the bloggers, but now it’s just silly. If you don’t want to make art that is criticized, don’t exhibit it. Instead you chose to have a preachy message about the nastiness of heckling and decided to make the reigning queen of GOOP your messenger. It was a message that probably should have been handled better, especially in the wake of kids like Casey Heynes, the bullied youth who knocked his aggressor down a peg. Bullying has become a real problem and most of us have been catty for the hell of it, but when you have Gwyneth Paltrow, one of pop culture’s most ridiculously sanctimonious preachers, decry the practice as being too terrible, it just seems too on-the-nose. Besides, “Glee,” it doesn’t matter how often you cry uncle, as long as it’s topical, we’re still going to talk smack about your show; you should be worried if we don’t.

Of course, it seemed obvious that this episode was meant to placate the fans by giving them more of what they wanted in the least satisfying way possible. The episode’s title was called “A Night of Neglect” and in addition to focusing on unappreciated artists (unappreciated artists somehow being defined as Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion and Adele) the show focused mostly on the supporting cast members. With performances from Mercedes, Mike and Tina, I was really hoping for a stand out episode, but it fell flat. Sue continued on her path of bringing down the Glee club with a new Legion of Doom made up of Sandy Ryerson, Dustin Goolsby & Terri. Apparently none of those adults find any problem with haranguing teenagers in their spare time and decide that destroying the “Glee” club is the best possible life choice they can make. Granted, one of those people wears a bluetooth headset 24/7, the other faked a pregnancy for several months and the last received a restraining order from the court to stay away from students because of inappropriate touching (an order that seems to have been swept under the rug for the most part), so none of these people seem to make the best life decisions. Sue basically wastes Terri’s time and only needs Sandy and Dustin to do anything. Dustin is charged with hitting on Holly so that she’ll leave Schue and Sandy is put in charge of an official school heckling club.

The heckling club gets to rile up the glee club members fairly quickly when it’s announced the group will do “A Night of Neglect” benefit to raise money for the Brainiacs (the trivia club Artie, Tina, Mike and Brittany are in) and the Glee club. The decision to do a benefit came about after Holly Holiday told Will how stupid his idea was to sell salt-water taffy at 25 cents a piece. The club is somehow stunned to discover that it’s hard to drum up an audience for a show they’re putting on in roughly three days and when Sunshine Corazon decides to drop in on the school that she’s a rival for to perform, they reluctantly agree because she’ll bring 600 twitter followers. After Sunshine is slated to perform, Mercedes is bumped from the last number and begins to conduct herself in a way that we’ve never seen her behave before and it’s a little embarrassing. Mercedes is so terribly underrated on that show and as appreciated as it is to see her getting recognition, having her personality change every couple of weeks for the sake of a story is just getting old. This week, she was a performer who let herself be pushed aside by the club, which is strange because Mercedes has never been shy about standing up for parts she thinks she deserves. Zizes sees that Mercedes isn’t being recognized so she encourages her to become a diva of epic proportions.This week, we were expected to buy Mercedes as a meek girl turned into an overly demanding star and it just seemed so out of place. Firstly, Mercedes has never been meek; before the hiatus she sang a song called “Hell to the No” and insisted that she be given her due props for how great it was. Second, it led to a mishandling of the Mercedes/Rachel power struggle. After Mercedes makes her unreasonable demands and then goes into hiding at the benefit, Rachel finds her and tells her that the reason she’s not more prominently featured is because she’s so well liked that it means she doesn’t sacrifice enough for her stardom. Basically, Rachel says that she’s willing to give up everything to be a star; a far cry from the girl before the hiatus who was begging to understand why people didn’t like her more. Unfortunately, I feel like this show has become so habitual about changing their characters just to fit the current story that it’s barely worth fighting it any more. As bad as it was to see Mercedes portrayed as a girl who’d keep her mouth shut while she was being pushed back, it’s really nothing new.

After Mercedes comes back to her senses and drops the diva attitude, she performs the last number of the show that brings the house down for about 8 people. Sunshine pulled herself from the line-up after her director insisted she do so and all of her fans refused to attend the show. During the performances, the only people to show were Kurt and Blaine and a few hecklers. The hecklers, led by Sandy, are so dedicated to their meanness that they make Tina run off the stage crying. Since the hecklers paid for their tickets, the glee club has no choice but to let them stay, but in order to stop them from talking, the club feeds them salt water taffy (for free, which should put them in the red, but oh well, “Glee” logic). After the salt water taffy is gone, Holly Holiday pulls them aside during the intermission and reminds them how mean it is to be a heckler and much better it is to be nice. It was silly and they seemed to take it about as seriously as I did and they all announced they were going home to rag on TV shows on the internet. However, Sandy remains to do his job (except during Holly’s performance) and is about to heckle Mercedes, but is changed by the power of Arethra Franklin and decides to give the team the money they were trying to raise and the Brainiacs go to the trivia competition. It was pretty much ridiculous in the least funny way possible.

Part of the problem with the episode was it’s complete lack of humor. There were a few moments that tried to be funny, but it all fell so flat. Holly Holiday may have been the worst offender this week. She was, at the start of her stint, a cute character, but now she’s obnoxious and the door is wide open for her return, despite her breaking up with Will. What’s worse is that this episode made Will and Holly’s relationship completely unnecessary and a total waste of our time. Holly and Will breakup because she has to go to Cleveland to teach French (why none of the substitute teachers in Cleveland can do it, I have no idea) and Holly let’s him go and Will pretends to be bummed out about it. But we know Will’s not really bummed about it because he spent the afternoon rubbing Emma’s grapes, which is not a euphemism. I am so sick and tired of the Will and Emma relationship, neither of them are cute together any more and it’s frustrating to have a good character (Carl) squandered. Speaking of Carl, he deserved so much better than an off stage goodbye. We’ve seen him and their relationship grow for most of the season and all we’re treated to is a “he moved out.” As of now, it looks more likely that we’ll have a return of Holly before Carl, which is a damn shame.

This week’s performances were completely fine. Episodes like this were the main function is to have a performance tend to eschew using songs as a story telling devices and occasionally it works, but this week everything about the episode felt unremarkable. Blandest of all was Holly’s performance of “Turning Tables.” Despite featuring a full orchestra, the song was a poor imitation of the original. It wasn’t terrible, it was simply adequate, but compared to the Adele version, it was really uninspiring. Mike Chang’s dance to “Bubbly Toes” was really cute and just as good as we can always expect from him, but it somehow didn’t fit with the rest of the episode. Regardless, it was still a joy to watch Mike dance.

Tina sang “I Follow Rivers,” by Lykke Li and I liked what I heard before she got heckled off the stage. For as much as I complain about the show having inconsistent characters, at least Tina has maintained her quirky sense of music tastes. Sunshine Corazon did an outstanding version of “All by Myself” before the actual benefit. Clearly, that girl has an incredible voice, but she did not need to be in this episode in the slightest. Sometimes “Glee“‘s biggest problem is that it always gets in it’s own way trying to show off the skill of their performers’ voices. Last to perform was Mercedes with “Ain’t No Way” and it was really great. But it would have been better had they not made the final number of the night about Rachel pining over Finn. It’s unfortunate that even when Mercedes gets her own solo, she has to give the spotlight over to Rachel’s reverie.

That’s the biggest problem with this episode, sure they paid lip service to the supporting cast, but the major players still get the focus. Had the storylines focused more on the other kids (without changing their characters), the episode may have worked more, but it was all a wash. Hopefully, the show can gain back its energy before its 90-minute episode next week. I’m not sure if I could handle a marathon episode if it maintains this snail’s pace.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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