It began with a Van Halen tribute and ended (in grand soap-opera tradition) with a dramatic face-slap. But perhaps most important of all, this week’s installment of Glee contained a couple of truly memorable musical moments that helped raise an important question: Why can’t Ryan Murphy & Co. give us all mashups, all the time?
And while it wasn’t as epic as “The First Time,” it’s safe to say that “Mash Off” did its part to contribute to the overall impression of a revitalized Glee in Season 3. Of course, if you were busy contemplating the musical attributes of banana cream pie and forgot to tune in, allow me to catch you up — in the classic “here’s what you missed on Glee” format:
Worried about the possibility of “World War Glee” between New Directions and the Troubletones, Schue and Shelby proposed a “mash-off” — a battle to create the best mash-up — as a way to foster healthy competition and better prepare for sectionals season. Unfortunately, Santana missed the memo about the kumbaya approach, and began a war of words with Finn — primarily directed at the physique of the football quarterback (aka “Lumps the Clown”). Things got even uglier at the end of a friendly game of dodgeball, with the Troubltones unleashing their fury on Irish exchange student Rory.
At the same time, Sue went negative against Burt Hummel in their battle to win a congressional seat, airing ads suggesting Burt had a baboon heart, a donkey bride, and a tire shop that sexually assaulted automobiles — a not-as-funny-as-it-should-have-been development that once again painted Sue into a caricature corner and made it seem slightly ridiculous when she began acting like a reasonable human being at the end of the episode.
The congressional campaign paralleled the race for senior class president, where Brittany promised “root-beer water fountains and robot teachers,” spread the rumor that Kurt’s face “was used as the template for Hasbro’s successful line of My Little Ponies,” and pledged to go topless on Tuesdays. Kurt, wearing a braided leather turban that made him look like a cross between Norma Desmond and Yasser Arafat, rejected Sue’s advice that winning is all about poo-slinging, and later gave a rousing assembly speech on an anti-bullying platform that sought to ban dodgeball, “the modern equivalent of stoning.” Porcelain’s words were so inspiring, they prompted Rachel to drop out of the race and encourage her classmates to send their votes to her bestie — a move that, thankfully, thawed the frosty tension between the future theater majors. Rachel also shared a sweet moment with Shelby in which her birth mom (with “the pedigree of a national champion show-choir coach”) agreed to write her college recommendation letter.
Speaking of Shelby, Puck continued his aggressively sexualized attempt to forge a romantic relationship with his math sub/adoptive mother of his biological child. Shelby insisted their recent kiss was “a mistake” but Puck countered by insisting “you know this is gonna happen,” and Shelby wound up allowing Puck to visit her home and help her assemble some baby furniture for little Beth. I know the writers kicked off the hour with Puck reminding us that he’s 18, which is past the age of statutory rape, but I hope they don’t try to get us to buy into the dreaminess of this student-teacher romance. If the Schue was on the other foot, and the kiss had happened between Schue and Quinn, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion, would we?
At Shelby’s, Puck came clean about Quinn’s plan to get Child Protective Services to take Beth away from Shelby, and apologized for his role in the scheme. “You were always meant to be her mother,” he cooed. But when Quinn showed up later with a gift for Beth, Shelby revealed that she knew Quinn’s dark intentions and rightfully hissed that the incredibly selfish teen had “no idea what it means to be a mother.” True to wretched form, Quinn said she gave up her child so she’d have a better life, but that Shelby only gave up Rachel back in the day because she was “a cash whore.” Needless to say, that ended Quinn’s plan to join the Troubletones.
And finally, Mercedes asserted her position as head of that increasingly fabulous glee club, and demanded Santana call a truce with Finn (while still acknowledging her friend’s position as a “star member” of the group). Santana agreed to the terms, but her apology to Finn turned into a litany of insults, and Finn finally snapped by suggesting Santana was “a coward” for not publicly admitting her love for Brittany. Somehow, word of the conversation made it beyond the halls of McKinley, and one of Sue’s congressional rivals created an attack ad saying she was not a family values candidate because she allowed a lesbian to rise to the position of Cheerios’ captain. (I won’t even get into the ridiculata that a congressional campaign would even consider outing a teenager as an effective campaign strategy…sometimes you just have to suspend your disbelief to make it through an hour of Glee.) Santana was devastated by the news that she was about to be outed to her family, and after delivering a devastating Adele mashup, slapped Finn across the face for his role in her new crisis. And that’s what you missed on Glee.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s run through the episode’s four best lines of dialogue:
4) “You’re skinny like all the crops failed on your family’s farm failed.” –Rory, unsuccessfully attempting to wade into Santana’s war of words
3) “You guys, hurry up. Go get some wet towels, We have to keep Finn wet before we can roll him back into the sea.” –Santana mocking Finn in front of the Trouble tones
2) “Baboons are dangerous killers who throw their own feces when they’re not tearing off people’s faces or admiring their own weird butts.” –Sue in her ridic attack ad
1) “She sounds like what banana cream pie sounds like when it sings.” –Brittany weighing in on the awesomeness of Adele
And with that, let’s assign some grades for the week’s musical numbers…
“Hot for Teacher,” Puck
I wonder how many kids watching Glee even recognized the homage to Van Halen’s classic 1984 video. Still, while Shelby certainly pulled off the high-school fantasy sequence, there’s always something a little stilted about Mark Salling’s vocal stylings; he just doesn’t read “rock n’ roll” to me. And I also had to downgrade a little for Blaine and Mike Chang’s grotesque “whoopsie, I’m hiding an erection!” dance move that will probably haunt me to my grave. Did Mr. Schue really mean it when he gasped “spectacular!” at the end of the performance?
Musical grade: C+ Relevance to the plot: B
“You and I”/”You and I,” Shelby and Schue
I loved the audacity of mashing up Lady Gaga with an Eddie Rabbit-Crystal Gayle chestnut, and the results had the sheen of ’70s a.m. radio fare. Still, Shelby’s voice was almost too crystal clear for the Gaga half of the composition. Or maybe nothing will ever really live up to Haley Reinhart’s American Idol cover.
Musical grade: B Relevance to the plot: B-
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”/”One Way Or Another,” Finn and Santana (with New Directions and the Troubletones)
I had to laugh watching those bodies flying across the gym like ’80s action heroes, and that shot of Finn taking a dodgeball to the face was funnier than it should’ve been. Santana’s moments on lead were obviously stronger than Finn’s Auto-Tuned into submission vocals, but that doesn’t mean the number wasn’t a hoot.
Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: A-
“You Make My Dreams”/”I Can’t Go for That,” Finn, Rory, Tina and New Directions
Certainly, the Troubletones beat New Directions in this particular battle, but I loved the frothy, silly spirit of this number, with the guys dressed like Miami Vice extras, Puck and Blaine rocking Oatestaches, and Tina getting a little moment on lead vocals. Too bad we didn’t have a little more “I Can’t Go for That” and a little less “Make My Dreams,” no?
Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: A-
“Rumour Has It”/”Someone Like You,” Mercedes, Santana, and the Troubletones
Downloading as soon as I post this recap. I mean, nobody can completely match Adele doing Adele, and yet Naya Rivera and Amber Riley somehow made the sum of this mashup a worthy equal to Adele’s glorious original parts. And those dance moves were pretty fly, too.
Musical grade: A+ Relevance to the plot: A+
What did you think of this week’s Glee? Which plot points made you happy, and which had you looking for a rewrite? What was your favorite musical number? (And is there any alternative to the one that rhymes with “Tumor Has Split/Stun-Gun Strike Two”?) Take our poll below, then hit the comments and argue your points. And for all my Glee recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!