Glee Recap: A Her-story of Violence

lea michele cryThe New Directions’ rehearsal room may be “America’s No. 1 desination for cheap, sappy moralizing” (Sue Sylvester’s words, not mine), but even at its After School Special-iest moments, Glee can still manage to tug at the heartstrings. And in this week’s episode — titled “Choke” — most of the emotional punch was delivered by Lea Michele and Dot Marie Jones, who breathed fresh life into their respective story arcs about potential college rejection and unexpected domestic violence.

If you were too busy studying Finn’s “Save Puck in the backyard” diagram to pay attention to the entire hour, here’s how the action played out:

* After Coach Beiste showed up at school with a black eye, Santana made an insensitive joke that had Roz and Sue (who if memory serves was physically assaulting students in the hallway around this time last year) up in arms, ready to teach the New Directions girls about the perils of domestic violence. (Best moment: Roz dubbing Brittany, Tina, Mercedes, Sugar, and Santana as Hat Rack, Asian Horror Movie, Little Oprah, Rojo Caliente, and Salsa Caliente.) As Sue, Roz, and Beiste embarked on their teaching moment — once again relegating Schue to the role of background ooh-er and aah-er — the tough football coach broke. Turns out her new hubby Cooter had given her that shiner in a drunken fit of rage, and she was afraid to leave “because I don’t think anyone else is ever gonna love me.” (Oh how Dot Marie Jones turned what could’ve been nothing more than a PSA masquerading as a script into something very real.) In what seemed like a pat conclusion, Beiste decided to move in with her sister and thank the New Directions chicas for possibly saving her life, but in an end-of-episode reveal, we discovered the polyester-loving lady had given Cooter a second chance. I liked that the story didn’t wrap up neatly in the course of the hour, but I wasn’t crazy about Brittany’s clueless response to Beiste’s confession (“Did he break his hand?”) or Sue’s wisecracking (“If you don’t have a change of clothes, I have a tent you can wear.”) in the face of Beiste’s plight. You can’t demand we take seriously the issue of domestic violence then crack dubious jokes about its burly victim in the same breath. Especially just because she’s burly.

* Kurt aced his NYADA audition — in front of Broadway legend Carmen Thibodeaux (Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg) — with a last-second switch of song choice from “Music of the Night” to “Not the Boy Next Door.” But Rachel, who’d hilariously pumped herself up in front of the mirror with zingers like “You are gonna shine so bright on that stage that the sun is gonna cry with envy,” choked and forgot her lyrics — twice! The stern rebuke of the NYADA dean — “You get 8 bars; I gave you 16.” — was way harsh, Tai, although probably pretty realistic. Surely this isn’t where Rachel’s NYADA dream ends: Girlfriend is too spunky — and insane — to take a single “no” before giving up, right?

* Puck failed to seduce his way to a passing grade in Ms. Doozenbury’s European Geography class, but before he became a full-fledged dropout, a visit from his estranged father (seeking $500 in rent money) made him decide to redouble his studying efforts — with an assist from his New Directions bros. Yet despite the guys admirably stepping in in the role of Dad — even Blaine! — the episode ended with Puck getting a giant red ‘F’ on his exam.

Anyhow, now that we’ve covered all the pertinent plot details, let’s review the best quotes from the episode:

“If we do Alien Abductions, we could set up corn fields and probing booths.” –Senior Class President Brittany, brainstorming prom themes

“I spent the weekend sending your photo to ivory poachers who could make an absolute fortune selling your enormous white teeth on the black market.” –Sue, spewing venom at Roz

“You finally shed the last five pounds! Congrats!” –Sam, reacting to Finn wanting to make an announcement

“I vowed not to speak with you unless William and Kate got pregnant, Liza passed, or unless one of us was in grave danger.” –Rachel, approaching Kurt’s locker before their NYADA auditions

“Once, La Thibodeaux stopped a performance of Medea at The Met because someone glanced at their watch while she was doing one of her ‘I’m killing my babies’ arias.” –Kurt, basking in the ferociousness of Whoopi Goldberg’s character

“Her dads are doing something called sitting shiva.” –Finn, telling the guys how Rachel was handling her NYADA audition disaster

“Moving on, what rhymes with Pre-industrial European deforestation?” –Artie, hoping the “Rain in Spain” teaching lesson had other applications

And now, let’s get on to the grades for this week’s musical numbers:

“School’s Out,” Puck Even with the hellions-in-the-bathroom, Cheerios-writhing-on-the-playing-field, everyone-in-Alice-Cooper-mascara motif, this felt like something of an afterthought. Grade: C-

“Cell Block Tango,” Tina, Santana, Mercedes, Brittany, and Sugar A faithful rendering of the Chicago classic (no, that’s not a Pizzeria Uno reference), although how come there were only five merry murderesses? Grade: B

“Not the Boy Next Door,” Kurt I loved Kurt’s whole “I had my swans on standby” shtick as he changed directions from “Music of the Night,” but the choreography here felt a little…stilted? I thought last week’s “I Have Nothing” was a more impressive musical moment. Was it just me? Grade: B+

“The Rain in Spain,” The Guy of New Direction (except Kurt) Props to the show for trying a drastically different rock arrangement of the My Fair Lady ditty, but I have to be honest: It mostly made me wince. Grade: C (hey, it’s better than getting an F like Puck, yes?)

“Shake It Out,” Mercedes, Santana, and Tina I got chills — and they were multiplyin’ — as the trio of New Directions divas harmonized against images of Beiste returning home to her abusive hubby. Grade: A

“Cry,” Rachel Rachel may be a maddening ball of crazy, but my heart broke for her as she mourned the loss of her NYADA dreams — with jaw-dropping vocal athleticism — on this Kelly Clarkson ballad. Grade: A

And now it’s your turn, hit the comments with your thoughts on “Choke.” And for all my TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Kat says:

    The only song worth listening to last night was “Cry” – Lea Michele was simply amazing! I don’t know why Glee doesn’t give her harder songs to sing because it’s obvious that she can handle them! And the way she supported Kurt and showed her devastation over her audition was flawless – I don’t know why Glee sort of pushed her aside after S1.

    The rest of the episode didn’t do much for me. The Beiste storyline mixed with jokes was offensive, the idea of Beiste’s hubby hitting her was sort of ludicrous considering he knows how much she can bench press and how tough she is – if she’d wanted to she could taken him down.

    The idea of Rachel choking also seemed off to me…I just can’t see her character doing that. I know they want to keep her on the show next year but couldn’t they have had her not be able to afford to go to NYC – that would have been more realistic.

    And what is the point of Roz Washington? I see no reason for that character to exist. Just like there was no reason for Blaine’s brother to visit. Glee used to be so good but now it’s just a platform for Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan to showcase their pet causes and court celebrity favor with pointless guest stars. Clearly, Murphy and Brennan have been drinking too much of their own Kool Aid but I hope FOX forces them to make some changes in S4.

    • holla says:

      Nerves are a bitch and the stakes were high for Rachel. It makes sense, actually.

    • not normally a Lea Michele fan, but... says:

      Terrible ep, but it is the first good acting from Lea Michele since the beginning of season 1- real emoting, not fake or too overdone. Her lip singing was good too in this ep; lately she has seemed to coast through her scenes or overdo them so she looks completely unnatural, but this in this episode she was convincingly bubbly as Rachel Berry and then devastated when she bombed her audition. The episode was made all the better simply because of her.

  2. ggny says:

    Shake It Out was one of the best preformance Glee had ever done. And im that it looks like Puck will be back next year

  3. joe says:

    The abuse storyline came out of nowhere,were has beastie been most of the season,the teachers in that school have such bad boundries …..the whole rain in Spain thing made me cringe,and Rachel,choking during the audition ,was a givin because she said she was coming back next season

  4. Kristina says:

    I seem to be the only one who thinks so, but I found a teacher sharing the private details of her abusive marriage with a bunch of teenagers slightly inappropriate, even though the story set it up that way. It would be one thing if she was using her past experience as a testimonial–“I was in an abusive relationship and got out” kind of thing, but this is an ongoing issue with her right NOW, and she is talking to kids who she is in a position of authority over. I think Beiste’s part of the domestic abuse story should have been confined to the adults. I know his isn’t the first time a teacher has wildly over shared (Will Schuester, anyone?) but still.

  5. Bibi Black says:

    ” I thought last week’s “I Have Nothing” was a more impressive musical moment. Was it just me?” I don’t know if it was just you, but it was not me. That’s for sure. Kurt’s “I Have Nothing” sucked so bad. His NYADA audition number in this episode was actually fantastic. He did it great and I finally saw some actual evidence of his fabulous-ness that the writers have been stubbornly insisting upon all this time, but until this episode had consistently eluded me.

  6. megs says:

    “her-story”? Is that a parks and rec reference? Or am I just so obsessed with that show I can relate anything to it?

  7. Kim says:

    I have been loving the acoustic song breakdowns that Glee has been doing! Most recent ‘Shake it up’ This is Glee at it’s best best because it truly highlights how talented the cast really is as far as singing…I’m a singer and I love the acoustic stuff! So much better than all that digital crap

  8. aunt_deen says:

    Isn’t it “NYATA,” not “NYADA?” New York Academy of Theater Arts?

  9. felicia says:

    I loved this episode. It was what Glee used to be…..and more importantly Blaine didn’t get one solo in it! Yay! I love it the most for that:)

  10. Rose says:

    Am I the only one that after watching the episode got a feeling that something could happen between Rachel and Puck? If they both don’t get to go where they want or fulfill their dreams (and with Finn looking set to go to New York) that there was some slight hinting at something happening between the two of them – might of just been me

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