The ability to cry on command is an important part of any actor’s arsenal. Still, the Bottom 3 contestants on this week’s Glee Project put on such a display of waterworks during their last-chance performances, I was a little worried Glee‘s executive producer Ryan Murphy and his team of mentors might be swept out to sea, never to resolve the burning question of what the heck Kurt Hummel’s gonna do with his life now that he’s not getting into NYADA.
The theme this week was “vulnerability,” and guest judge Cory Monteith — whose hair looked incredible, by the bye — dropped by to grade the homework assignment, which found the remaining 11 contestants dividing and conquering Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without U.” No shocker, Mario and Lily unleashed their inner divas while fighting for scraps of the song — as if it really makes a huge difference which snippet of the lyrics they get to sing — and Cory correctly identified Shanna and Nellie as the standouts, with the latter vocalist snagging the win. Cory had some good notes for Abraham (trying too hard), Ali (too much face), and Lily (too much sexy), though I wished he’d have also pointed out that Lily’s end-of-performance angst-face was so ridiculous it could make Damian McGinty look like a potential Emmy winner.
Then it was time to prepare for the week’s music video, a series of vignettes about bullying juxtaposed with a performance of REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” The kids sat down with director Erik White to talk about their own personal experiences on the subject, and Lily once again activated my eye-roll reflex with her tale of being a middle-school queen bee whose life changed after a fateful viewing of Mean Girls. Blake declared her anecdote as powerful as any of the contestants who’d shared their expeirences of actually being bullied, but to me, that’s like saying it’s just as meaningful to hand out bananas and Gatorade during a marathon as it is to run the race itself.
Studio time with Nikki Anders was fairly uneventful, save for Mario once again flexing his powerful ego when the vocal coach talked to him about his struggles with pitch. “None of the greats go in the studio and get things done on the first take,” he huffed, as if historians one day might rank him alongside Aretha Franklin and Mick Jagger. But what does Nikki Anders know anyway? Mario is classically trained! On the flip side, Aylin, Shanna, Nellie, and Michael sounded pretty terrific in their brief time at the mic. In fact, if Nellie doesn’t win the whole shebang, maybe Mr. Murphy can hook her up with some label execs and look into making her a recording star?
The finished product was one of The Glee Project‘s best videos ever, and as Robert Ulrich pointed out, there really weren’t any visible weak links. This meant the mentors had to look for behind-the-scenes issues to select the Bottom 3: Mario, for the shade he threw at Nikki; Lily, for whining that the other contestants’ chatter threw off her lipsynch game; and Charlie, for improvising his bullying tactics and grabbing Mario’s cane. The judges saw that latter move as dangerous and unacceptable, but Charlie felt it was merely a “wrong blocking choice.” Um, dude, what next? Knocking Ali out of her wheelchair?
Oh, and not to belabor a point, but Nellie’s solo in the video actually had me hitting the rewind button for a second listen. Her tone is just sublime, even if her acting skills are a little low-key.
Anyhow, with the Bottom 3 in place, it was time for last-chance performances (and a merciful break from having to hear Tyler do a solo):
* Lily’s take on “Mercy” wasn’t quite as on-point as her Shania Twain cover last week, but she proved she can nail a dramatic monologue by delivering a speech about how she’s a 240-pound girl putting on a brave face to hide her insecurities after Ryan told her he doesn’t really consider her an underdog. “It’s the first time we’ve seen Lily,” said Robert, although I’m not sure I’d buy that theory. To that end, I’m surprised that no one called Lily out for her deeply unenthusiastic response when the mentors assigned “Mercy” to her in the first place.
* I was completely in agreement with Ryan that Charlie’s cover of “Fix You” was borderline disconcerting, but ultimately very successful, as he delivered the opening verse with a peculiar cadence that relied very little on Chris Martin’s template. “I could not have loved him more,” grinned the head judge after pointing out he doesn’t want Glee to be “a damn karaoke show.”
* Mario seemed to be priming himself for an early exit when once again he got snippy with the mentors over the notion that he’s not always on pitch. “That would suggest I’m not ready,” he huffed, before he was reminded that none of the contestants are ready. “This is not just a competition, it’s a boot camp,” noted Nikki, politely refraining from finishing the sentence with “you cocky little turd.” Mario’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was fine, but not really anything special, which didn’t stop him from going backstage and complaining to his fellow contestants that several of them had pitch problems too, and that it didn’t make sense that he was in the Bottom 3. “I love you Mario, but that comment was totally unnecessary,” said Aylin, before Mario declared himself “offended” by the way his comrades were misinterpreting him. Why not just throw slushies in their faces, then complain that they hadn’t complimented the refreshing blast of cherry flavor he’d delivered directly to their mouths? This guy is 1-800-Too-Much. Of course, to the judges’ faces, Mario was weepy and humble, pleading for another chance, and they bought his whole “I get it now” act.
And so, with Charlie delivering one of Ryan’s all-time favorite Glee Project solos, and Lily and Mario in a deadlock in the elimination cry-off, no one was sent home. Nope, not even Mario’s stank attitude.
What did you think of the “everybody’s safe” conclusion? Would you have sent a contestant home? If so, who? Did you love Charlie’s Coldplay cover as much as Ryan? And did you buy Lily and Mario’s tears in front of the judges? Sound off below!