Glee Recap: Return of the Mac

As an unabashed fan of Fleetwood Mac who can still remember childhood afternoons spinning my brother’s vinyl copy of Rumours on the record player, I was pretty much pre-programmed to love Tuesday night’s episode of Glee, which was built loosely around the band and their iconic 1977 album. Okay, sure, I waited in vain over the course of the telecast for my favorite two cuts off the record — “Gold Dust Woman” and “The Chain”* — to get the New Directions treatment, but even with those mini disappointments in the mix, I can’t kvetch about an episode that packed six individual Fleetwood Mac numbers into a single hour. (*At least the original rendition got played during the stakeout scene.)

Anyhow, on the off chance that you went and broke the chain of Glee loyalty and missed the episode, allow me to give you a rapid-fire account of the major points — in the classic “here’s what you missed on Glee” format: Determined to destroy Will and New Directions, Sue decided to bring back McKinley’s school paper, The Muckraker, with a motto of “If we heard it, it’s probably true, or something.” The paper’s “blind items” section hinted at (among other things) a hotel affair between Quinn and Sam, but Rachel and Finn’s stakeout caught the trouty-mouthed footballer in suspicious moments with both Finn’s girlfriend (Quinn) and stepbrother (Kurt). Meanwhile, Brittany revealed Santana “plays for the other team” (she was referring to Cheerios and New Directions, naturally) on her Internet talk show Fondue for Two. In the ensuing turmoil, Mr. Schue got some help from former flame and returning Broadway baby April Rhodes and decided to have the kids tackle tracks from the Rumours album as a way to channel all the internal rifts into their art. Artie broke up with Brittany over her dalliances with Santana, but Santana got cold feet about publicly expressing her feelings for her BFF. Rachel and Quinn got competitive over Kurt Finn. And everyone discovered Sam’s family had moved into a shabby hotel room after losing their house to foreclosure. Oh, and Sue let it slip that Will desperately wanted to make his way to Broadway to try to help April mount a production of her autobiographical musical, but even though Emma encouraged him to follow his dreams, Mr. Schue decided he had to focus on taking the kids all the way to Nationals. And that’s what you missed on Glee.

Now, before we get on to letter grades for the week’s musical numbers, I’ve got to dish the three best and three worst non-musical moments from “Rumours” (the episode, not the album).

BEST
1) Brittany’s interactions with her cat, Lord Tubbington, who was allowed to eat from the same fondue pot as Tina and Mercedes (he’s on Atkins, after all!) but who incurred his master’s wrath when she began to suspect he was still smoking. (Bonus points to this Fondue for Two soundoff: “Tune in next week to Fondue for Two where we will be dipping raw meat into boiling chocolate.”)

2) This zinger from April: “You know what I call an afternoon where I’m gettin’ drunk? An afternoon!”

3) Sam’s tears during his “confession” to Finn and Rachel. Okay, the whole story arc played a little hokey — and who knows? the writers could be treating it as a forgotten footnote in a few weeks’ time — but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t feel myself getting a little misty when the kid revealed his predicament. Well-played, Chord Overstreet!

WORST
1) Sue’s incognito/rapid costume changes at the coffee shop. Look, I’ve learned to accept Glee‘s totally absurd plot developments and rapidly shifting character agendas — but not if there’s zero comedic payoff. Beyond the shock value of seeing Sue in drag as David Bowie and Ann Coulter, was there a single amusing moment to the scene? (Don’t tell anyone I said this, but maybe it’s time to free Jane Lynch from a character who’s been written into a corner.)

2) Artie’s “God, Brittany, why are you so stupid?” Sorry, I’m just not buying the sweetest guy on the show would be so careless with his word choice. If the writers had wanted Brittany to choose Santana over Artie, they should’ve worked harder (and smarter) on a solution.

3) Mr. Schue’s tears in the auditorium. Granted, not as egregious as the “stops car and weeps” shot from Season 1, but the next time Will’s in pain, here’s hoping he expresses himself with song instead. Tell me I’m not alone!

And now, onto this week’s musical performances…

“Dreams,” April Rhodes (with backing support from Will) | There really wasn’t any legitimate reason for Will to bring hard-drinking April to glee-club rehearsals to introduce the idea of a Fleetwood Mac/Rumours theme week, but then again, am I really going to go all Sue Sylvester about a guest vocal from Kristin Chenoweth? The sleeveless, white pinstripe pantsuit with wide-lapelled vest top was a particularly jaunty look, although if I have any complaint, I’d say Chenoweth’s vocals (or perhaps the Glee sound mix?) was just a little too smooth for my taste. (Okay, okay…end of nitpick.) Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: B-

“Never Going Back Again,” Artie | Blasphemy alert: I’m not usually the biggest fan of Kevin McHale’s vocals, but the setup here was pretty terrific. It started with a heartbroken Artie leading the guitar-playing trio of Puck, Sam, and Finn through the halls, past the cafeteria, and into the auditorium, where (by my count) an additional six strummers joined in for a wall of acoustic delight. Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: B

“Songbird,” Santana | Naya Rivera has been killing it comedically for the last four or five episodes, but this week she showed she can carry an intense, dramatic scene as well. The night’s most simple number featured Santana singing directly to Brittany in the empty rehearsal room. (Well, except for that dude fading into the piano bench.) In a lesser actress’s hands, Santana’s “tough girls need love, too”/”former-cheerleader lesbian-infatuation junkie” story arc might seem contrived, or even exploitative, but Rivera brought a truth to her character’s internal struggle that elevated the material. “Songbird” stands as proof that sometimes, simple eye contact and emotional intimacy trumps a big production number. Musical grade: A Relevance to the plot: A

“I Don’t Want to Know,” Quinn and Finn | Yeah, I know, we’re in the middle of a great big Glee love triangle, but I found my attention drifting as the camera cut between our troika of teen lovers: Quinn with her shark-eye flirtations; Finn with his “torn between two lovers” puppydog-isms; Rachel with her petulant huffing. Not terrible by any means, but definitely my least favorite New Directions vocal of the night. And come to think of it, my least favorite Fleetwood Mac track to appear on the episode. Musical grade: B- Relevance to the plot: B-

Number from April’s musical, by April and Will | Oh, Will,don’t quit your day job for this mess! Musical grade: D Relevance to the plot: C+

“Go Your Own Way,” Rachel | Oh how I wish the post-performance dialogue had Rachel telling Quinn she could keep Finn, that she was pulling the Full Beyoncé and going all “Independent Women” for the rest of the school year. But even so, Rachel’s defiant vocal — combined with indignant/come-hither side-eye — tore the roof right off the rehearsal space. Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: B+

“Don’t Stop,” Sam and New Directions | Look, I love kids — and I don’t have any issues with wee characters popping up in my favorite shows. But having Sam bring his adorable-moppet siblings to New Directions’ rehearsal so that everyone could join together in a hopeful ballad for the future while whirling said moppets around and performing awful choreography? To quote Mercedes Jones: “Hell to the No!” Musical grade: C- Relevance to the plot: C+

What did you think of this week’s Glee? Which story arcs were you loving? Which ones did you have problems with? Sound off in the comments, and for all my TV recaps (including one coming Wednesday morning on episode 2 of The Voice), follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.