Glee Recap: You Gotta Bieb-lieve!

Last night’s Glee wasn’t about to let a little thing like plot come between itself and the popular Twitter trending topic Justin Bieber. Sue tried to destroy New Directions from within (while discovering her own squishy inner core), Rachel tried to become socially relevant (while launching Brittany to the title of Trendiest Girl in America), and Sam refashioned himself in The Bieb’s image (while trying to kick his unfortunate Na’vi habit).

Unfortunately, Sue’s was the least successful of the three story arcs. Maybe I just can’t find the humor in our favorite crazy cheerleading coach assaulting students in the hallway with increasingly arbitrary fervor, but last night, she could only manage the runner-up spot behind Santana for the title of Head Bitch in Charge of Funny. The episode kicked off with Sue threatening to commit “Sue-icide,” which apparently involves overdosing on chewy vitamins and using CIA training to stop your own heart. You see, after losing nationals and getting named Loser of the Year by Katie Couric, The Lady Sylvester had nothing to live for. C’mon, it’s not like she was going to actually have the Cheerios out there cheering for McKinley teams!

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Emma and Will determined that a brief stint with New Directions would cure Sue’s depression, but it turns out they were merely playing into Sue’s plan to destroy glee club from within. Yet just like the Grinch learning the true joys of Christmas, Sue quickly realized that Mr. Schue was right, that “music can get to a part of us that’s hard to open up.” Her effort to create a rift between Rachel and Mercedes went kaput when their sing-off turned into a joyous celebration of each other’s talents, although I did enjoy the two characters’ explanations for what it takes to be a diva. (Mercedes: “Sassy fingers and shakin’ that weave”; Rachel: Experiencing a buildup of emotion that threatens to explode out the side of your head.) And then, in a scene so cloying I kind of couldn’t believe it was happening, Will took Sue to a pediatric cancer ward where they sang “This Little Light of Mine” with an absolutely adorable (and ethnically diverse) group of kids.

Maybe I’m just a cynic, but the hospital scene seemed like a cheap shortcut to humanizing the show’s biggest baddie. Yeah, I was moved seeing Sue get misty eyed by the end of the song, telling Spongehair Squarechin she’d never forgive him for making her so vulnerable, but at what cost to Glee‘s storytelling credibility? (I know, I coughed a little after I typed that phrase, too.) What next? A hardcore scene of Emma Pillsbury enjoying her weekly trip to the  local S&M club, just so we know she’s got some “edge.” Suddenly, Sue was joining New Directions in a rousing My Chemical Romance anthem, then accepting a position coaching Regionals rival Aural Intensity, where one can expect her to continue her policy of “No more Bieber, no hoodies, no pocket-lesbian Bieber hair.”

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Sue got on her anti-Bieber kick thanks to Sam’s sudden obsession with the pint-sized music superstar. Feeling like his relationship with Quinn was in jeopardy, the football star/closet dork formed a one-man band, the Justin Bieber Experience, through which he could book Bat Mitzvah gigs and test out his swooshiest hairstyles and acoustic rendition of “Baby.” Lo and behold, his new look and sound turned out to be a hit with the ladies, and possibly Puck. (“Dude, that haircut makes your mouth look even bigger!” cried the Mohawk-sporting bad boy in a moment of brief/hilarious homoeroticism.)

Yet while Sam’s journey to Bieberville succeeded in getting Quinn to choose him over Finn — yep, the gal likes a little bit of shamelessness — Santana pulled the overly styled hair out of his eyes and made him see that he’d been duped: Quinn caught her mono from making out with Finn, not by extracting a gumball from his throat during a near-deadly choking incident. And just like that, Sam dropped Quinn and picked up with the chick who’s not afraid to point out his peculiar “mouth-to-face ratio” or that he’s as “dumb as a bag of wet hair.”

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Finally, we had Rachel taking a break from friend-requesting Barbra Streisand (again) and auditioning for Avatar on Ice, and instead trying to “dominate popular discussion” by paying Brittany to help turn her “sexy schoolgirl librarian chic” style into McKinley’s latest trend. However, with a few small tweaks — legwarmers worn on arms, carousel-horse sweaters instead of ones emblazoned with reindeer — Brittany made the look her own, and scored a feature in Teen Vogue. Rachel, for her part, had to swallow a hard truth from McKinley’s ditziest cheerleader: “When people look at you, they don’t see what you’re wearing: They see a cat getting its temperature taken, and then they hear it screaming.” And now, Ms. Berry has a new purpose: Writing an original song for New Directions to tackle at Regionals, even if nobody thinks they want her to do it. And maybe getting Finn to fall back in love with her, though why she’s still carrying a torch for the cocky snot is a mystery to me.

Before we get to grading this week’s musical numbers, I’ve got to give some love to a couple of particularly choice lines:

* “I wore a tank top today because I thought it was summer. No one ever taught me how to read a calendar.” –Brittany
* Brittany thinking an anthem is the “bottom of an ant’s pants.”
* “My carousel-horse sweater should make me look like an institutionalized toddler, but no, I look hot and smart. I feel like Michelle Obama!” –Santana
* Sue explaining her hatred of hospitals is “why I keep voting for those death panels.”

And now, the grades…

“Baby,” Sam | I loved the unabashed dorkiness Chord Overstreet brought to the performance, which fit perfectly with the way Glee‘s writers initially introduced Sam as a secret doofus. Here was a guy fighting to hang onto a relationship without a single care of whether or not it looked cool, and thereby redefining what cool meant in the first place. The choreography — particularly the sideways-downward drop delivered on the lines “down, down, down, down” — was executed well enough to look great, without sacrificing Sam’s endearing awkwardness. “We’ve gotta get that girl on the Cheerios,” declared Sue, and who can blame her? Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: A-

“Somebody to Love,” Artie, Sam, Puck, and Mike (aka The Justin Bieber Experience) | I liked the staging on this performance, with the quartet of Biebs bathed in individual spotlights, but this was a classic case of Glee using so much Auto-Tune that the track might as well be credited to a foursome of very fetching laptop computers. Also, we’re not really going to see the guys of Glee dressed like the Bieb forever right? Musical grade: B- Relevance to the plot: B-

“Take Me or Leave Me,” Rachel and Mercedes | Who’s going to complain about the chance to hear two of the show’s biggest voices paired with a song full of sass and glory notes and unbridled passion? Loved the way Rachel and Mercedes slowly went from ferocious vocal competitors to mutual admiration society. Here’s hoping nothing and nobody gets in the way of this budding friendship. I just wish for once, the wardrobe department would put Mercedes in something not quite as hideous as that silver and white “tiger” top; on the other hand, Rachel’s black “Love” sweater? Gorgeous! Musical grade: A Relevance to the plot: A-

“I Know What Boys Like,” Lauren | Lauren’s solo debut featured a passable vocal and an (intentionally?) atrocious outfit, but shoving Artie’s face into her cleavage was maybe a step (or three) further than the “zaftig sex goddess” staging needed to go. Musical grade: C Relevance to the plot: B-

“Sing,” New Directions (and Sue) | A big, rousing number that was definitely more anthemic than the songs that preceded it, but I agree with Rachel: It’s just not good enough for Regionals, not even with Sue’s lumberjack plaid track suit in the mix. Musical grade: B Relevance to the plot: B+

What did you think of this week’s Glee? Am I being too tough on Sue’s storyline, or did it leave you feeling lukewarm, too? Which musical number was your favorite this week? Sound off in the comments, and to stay up to date with all the latest Glee news, follow @TVLineNews on Twitter!