Glee got decked out this week in sleigh bells, garland, and a healthy dose of unabashed sentimentality for a Christmas-themed episode that should fulfill two very disparate purposes: Reminding folks of the joys of giving back to the less fortunate, and of course, moving a massive amount of copies of Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2.
“Extraordinary Merry Christmas” was less of a fully formed episode and more a collection of holiday carols that paid homage to A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Star Wars Holiday Special, and The Judy Garland Christmas Show. (Checkout this YouTube clip from the last of those specials to see how lovingly the environment got recreated by Glee‘s set decorators.) Still, what the hour lacked in plot it made up for in festive cheer and good vibrations.
Rachel, who last time I checked was Jewish, suddenly began channeling Sally from The Peanuts, giving Finn an insane Christmas list that included spray-tanning treatments, teeth-whitening sessions, and even diamonds, then insisting “All I want is what’s coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”
Meanwhile, New Directions got double-booked for the holidays: The Lima PBS station needed them to put on a Christmas special — directed by Artie for a budget of $800 or less — while Sue needed them to provide entertainment for an evening at the homeless shelter. Sue’s charitable streak was either prompted by the fact that it was her first Christmas without her late sister or by the writers deciding she needed some personality rehabbing via adorable kids in need. (The latter wouldn’t be an unprecedented move: Remember when Sue and Schue volunteered in the children’s cancer ward of their local hospital? Uff da.)
And then there was planning for the Christmas special itself: Artie wanted everything lighthearted and upbeat, but Sam — who just left his family and moved back to Lima to get his glee-club on — opted out of the telecast, insisting that acknowledging sad times is the only way to fully appreciate the happy ones. Sam also became Irish exchange student Rory’s Christmas sponsor following one of the worst lines of dialogue in Glee history: “Brit and her family are going on a trip to see a gay Santa. Something about Santa Fey.”
In the end, though, everyone got a happy ending. Rachel saw the error of her ways, returned the diamond earrings Finn bought her, and donated the money to the Salvation Army. New Directions, inspired by Rory’s improvised Linus impersonation about the true meaning of Christmas, finished their PBS gig and rushed to the homeless shelter for some last-minute (though truncated) caroling. Sam and Quinn (not acting beastly for once) skipped the TV appearance to help Sue at the soup kitchen. And Sam, Rory, Rachel, and Finn ended the episode ringing a Salvation Army bell outside an evening showing of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Anyhow, with the plot recapped, let’s get to the week’s best quotes:
* “I thought we agreed that a ‘Things We Did Wrong This Week’ list was hurting more than helping.” –Finn, as Rachel approached him with an unidentified list
* “You said you consider homeless people urban campers.” –Artie, flummoxed by Sue’s desire to volunteer at the shelter
* “This is my, um, best friend and holiday roommate.” –Kurt, introducing Blaine with a retro wink, as they introduced the PBS special from their “holiday chalet”
* “I think these are the end times.” –Mercedes dropping a hilariously deadpan punch line mid-Christmas special
And now, let’s get on to the grades for this week’s musical numbers (though I’m skipping my usual “relevance to the plot” grade, since there wasn’t much plot of any kind):
“All I Want for Christmas Is You,” Mercedes
A relaxed, restrained Mercedes kicked off the week by trimming the rehearsal-room tree and belting Mariah Carey’s peppy seasonal ditty, though was she delivering it to Sam (note how she wrapped her garland around his neck) or that barely sketched boyfriend of hers, of whom she never speaks?
Musical grade: A-
“Blue Christmas,” Rory
Why was this performance filmed and staged so statically? And why was Rory dressed like a gas station attendant? Somehow, his inclusion felt like Ryan Murphy & Co. woke up and realized they needed to do something (anything, really) with that Glee Project winner before his seven episodes were completed.
Musical grade: C
I didn’t understand the logic of Rachel choosing this wistful ballad just moments after agreeing with Artie that their pageant should be comprised of uptempo, joyous music, but damn if she didn’t sound amazing performing in front of a backdrop of glittering pines and the gentle fall of snow on the McKinley auditorium stage.
Musical grade: A-
“Extraordinary Merry Christmas,” Rachel and Blaine
A fun but slight interlude for Darren Criss and Lea Michele (rocking an a-mah-zing blue dress with white sparkly snowflakes). I have to admit, though, that I kept getting distracted by the way Mike Chang was dressed like Freddy Krueger.
Musical grade: B
“Let It Snow,” Kurt and Blaine
A jazzy, uptempo take on the seasonal classic with gorgeous harmonies and retro dancing. This rivals “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the Klaine classics department.
Musical grade: A
“My Favorite Things,” Rachel, Mercedes, Kurt, and Blaine
A little Rodgers and Hammerstein is always welcome at any party, no?
Musical grade: B+
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” Puck and Finn
What did Mark Salling do this season that he always seems to get assigned the least moving/most karaoke productions for his solos? Either way, this Springsteen knockoff was fun, I guess, but not deeply exciting.
Musical grade: B-
“Christmas Wrapping,” Brittany and the Cheerios
Brittany leading a team of sexy Santa’s helpers through a rhythmic gymnastics routine? Yes, please. I was just bummed that the song got cut short before my favorite line: “A&P has provided me with the world’s smallest turkey.”
Musical grade: A-
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” New Directions
I’ll admit I struggled a little bit with the setup — was it really necessary to plunk New Directions into the middle of a homeless shelter filled with adorable moppets? — but they sang the bejeezus out of it nevertheless.
Musical grade: B+
What did you think of “Extraordinary Merry Christmas”? What was your favorite number? Take our poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts. And for all my Glee recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!