OK, maybe that expression of joy and positive energy doesn’t quite work in print, but Glee‘s homage to the King of Pop this week was jam-packed with terrific song-and-dance numbers — the sole exception being an interminable rendition of the excruciating “Ben” — and several plot developments that should make for an innnnnnteresting second half of the show’s third season.
Sebastian emerged as a villain worth railing against. Early seeds for a tense Regionals showdown got planted. And Rachel said “yes” (urgh) to Finn’s marriage proposal, but a last-act twist made her confront the very real question that I was screaming at my TV set for most of the hour: “Grrrrrrl, what the hell are you thinking?”
If you were too busy trying to score tickets to the Michael Jackson: Immortal tour — whoa! the episode’s ridiculously unsubtle product-placement has managed to infect this recap! — here’s how the central story arcs played out:
* The Dalton Warblers decided to tackle Michael Jackson for Regionals, after Blaine let slip to “buddy” Sebastian that New Directions were considering a King of Pop theme, too. Mr. Schue proposed that his students ask themselves “WWMJD” (What would Michael Jackson do?), which seemed like a dubious advice from a licensed educator. This led to the dueling show choirs staging a “Jackson-off” to “Bad,” but things took an ugly turn at the end of the performance, when Sebastian hurled a giant, souped-up slushy into Blaine’s face, scratching his cornea so deeply he required eye surgery. After perhaps the most groan-inducing line in Glee history — “Unless you have proof that he tampered with the slushie, the police aren’t interested in getting involved.” (delivered by Mr. Schue, naturally) — the kids worked through their anger and decided against retaliation. Santana, however, taped Sebastian confessing he’d put rock salt in the cup, but Kurt decided they shouldn’t share it with the police or Dalton officials. (Um, shouldn’t that decision have been left to Blaine, the guy whose vision was in jeopardy as a result of Sebastian’s actions?) Instead, New Directions turned the other sequined glove and performed “Black or White” for their rivals, in the process letting the Warblers know their captain was a low-down dirty snake.
* As the episode began, Rachel still hadn’t given Finn an answer to his marriage proposal, so he made an impassioned plea about how “those rings will be a reminder of how we feel right now” — even after they move to New York City. Rachel’s gut response — “it all sounds really crazy” — sounded reasonable enough to me, and was backed up by frenemy Quinn, who bluntly warned Rachel that leaping into a teenage marriage could put the kibosh on her hopes and dreams for the future. And even though Quinn’s “you’re gonna have to break up with him” took things a step further than a simple “Don’t get engaged,” I couldn’t disagree when she noted how she had come to her own realization that she didn’t want to carry any of her own anchors from the past into the bright lights of her future. (Yep, turns out Quinn kept up a straight-A GPA and got into Yale.) Rachel’s insecurities bubbled to the surface, though, after Kurt got a letter telling him he was a finalist for a slot at NYADA, while her own mailbox remained empty. (Loved that scene of Kurt holding his sobbing friend in front of the lockers.) Feeling like she had nothing to hold onto except her boyfriend, Rachel said “yes” to Finn, but was that regret on her face a few days later when she got her own “finalist” letter, and immediately shared the news with her BFF, not her betrothed? (Here’s hoping Ryan Murphy & Co. find a way to respect the Finchel love story while making these characters decide that they’re waaaaayyyyy too young for a trip down the aisle. And yes, I know they’re only fictional characters, but you can’t tell me Glee isn’t the kind of show that’s afraid of endorsing the occasional agenda.)
* In other news, Sam and Mercedes shared a brief but loaded kiss. Blaine got an eye patch and a date for surgery (which will help explain Darren Criss’ whereabouts while he was completing a Broadway run of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying). And also, no Sue. No Emma. No Becky. No Beiste. (Besite, I missed you most of all.)
Anyhow, with the plot recapped, let’s get to the week’s best quotes:
“He was best friends with Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor!” –Kurt, responding to Rachel’s comment that she never “got” Michael Jackson
Kurt: I’m trying to keep the flames from shooting out of the side of my face.
Santana: Well, that outfit isn’t helping.
Santana fantasizing about dragging Sebastian to a tattoo artist and forcing him to get a tramp stamp stating either “tips appreciated” or “congrats, you’re my 1,000th customer.”
“Y’know, Prancy Smurf, I respect that. I want to go to a college that isn’t a FEMA trailer in a prison yard, so let’s take the high road.” –Santana, agreeing to Kurt’s plea to avoid seeking revenge
“This isn’t violence, it’s clever: I taped it to my underboob!” –Santana, pleading to use the tape she’d made of Sebastian admitting his rock-salt treachery
And now, let’s get on to the grades for this week’s musical numbers:
“Wanna Be Startin Somethin,” Blaine
Loved the “leaning” choreography as Blaine led Kurt, Mercedes, Santana, and (the increasingly silent) Brittany down the hallway, and the big finish featuring the New Directions kids in various MJ drag was cool, too. The best use of Darren Criss’ voice on Glee in quite some time. Grade: A-
“Bad,” Artie, Blaine and Santana with New Directions and The Warblers
It’s always a little weird for me when Glee‘s set pieces mimic the original artists’ videos, but the fight-sequence choreography was nifty, and honestly when Santana broke out on the chorus, I got chills. Grade: B+
“Scream,” Artie and Mike Chang
Artie’s “angst face” was a bit overwrought, but I’ve always had a soft spot for “Scream” as a song and a video. The dancing was super fun, and who knew an androgynized Mike Chang would look so damn hot? Grade: A-
“Never Can Say Goodbye,” Quinn
Not the most dazzling staging in Glee history, but this was a remarkably lovely fit for Quinn’s reedy voice, and a nice farewell to the character’s boy-obsessed past. (Side note: Was it just me, or did Quinn’s black sequined gown look exactly like Kimberly Goldson’s stunner from the Season 9 Project Runway finale? Grade: A
“Human Nature,” Sam and Mercedes
I loved how this duet brought out the tender side of Amber Riley’s voice, and Sam’s playful crotch grab was a nice touch (pun intended). Grade: A-
“Ben,” Kurt, Rachel, and Finn
No. Grade: D
“Smooth Criminal,” Santana and Sebastian
Apologies to Grant Gustin, but this was really a duet between Santana and those amazing black cellos. (Cello Intensity?) This performance had me on the edge of my musical chair from start to finish. An instant Glee classic. (And bonus points for Santana’s immediate post-performance “I was better.”) Grade: A+
“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” Finn and Rachel
Really pretty, but I just can’t with these two getting engaged. This might’ve been a B+ or A- if it hadn’t ended with Finn putting a ring on it. Grade: B
“Black or White,” New Directions
Now would probably be a good time to admit I’ve always been freaked out by the face-morphing at the end of MJ’s original video, yes? Grade: B
Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments with your thoughts about “Michael,” and take our poll about the week’s best musical number. And for all the Glee news, views, and interviews your heart desires, follow TVLine on Twitter @TVLineNews.