The Glee Project Recap: It's Only Fear That Makes You Run

michael glee project elvisMemo to all future Glee Project contestants: When you’re in the Bottom 3 and fighting for your life in the competition, never ever answer a question from Ryan Murphy — be it about your childhood traumas or your feelings on hairless cats or your favorite brand of toilet paper — with a shoulder shrug and a mumbly “I dunno.”

After all, The Glee Project (somewhat inexplicably) doesn’t bother with straightforward acting challenges, so in a sense, your face-to-face interviews are an important opportunity to get into character (you’re playing your heightened self, obviously) and emote, emote, emote! Bonus points if you can squeeze out real tears without hideous facial contortions/unfortunate mascara runs.

Unfortunately, my favorite contestant this season — and the person with the most gorgeous vocals of any Glee Project contestant ever — forgot this important lesson, and her dreams of boarding the mothership went the way of Damian McGinty’s acting skills. (Insert toilet-flushing sound here.) But more on that in a moment.

Things kicked off with guest mentor Grant Gustin, with not nearly enough hair product, announcing the week’s theme of “Theatricality,” and Lily annoyingly screeching and flailing before he’d even gotten the word out of his mouth. “Theatricality is something I embody all the time,” she announced, and let’s be honest, that’s got to make her pretty insufferable to be around.

The homework assignment was the excellent “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line, and the performance gave us more hints about who can act (Blake, Shanna, possibly Ali) and who cannot (Abraham). The winner, though, was Ali, who actually looked like a contender for the first time in the entire competition.

Then it was time for the video shoot — where the contenders had to play grocery store clerks singing the Pussycat Dolls’ “When I Grow Up” and morphing into famous rock-star personas. I had a bad feeling Nellie when she kiddingly complained out loud about the mentors casting her as Britney Spears: I mean, if Robert Ulrich tells you you’re going to be drenched in chum and dangled mere centimeters over a tank of great white sharks, you’re supposed to smile enthusiastically and squeal, “I’ve always wanted a near-death experience!”

In the studio, Michael once again struggled with his vocals — maybe because his speaking voice sounds like someone’s pinching his nose? — while Abraham had a mental meltdown after Nikki asked “Would you consider yourself androgynous when you perform?” Our vocal coach acted surprised by Abraham’s response, but I felt like maybe that was a wee bit disingenuous of her. It seemed to me as though Nikki knew that probing Abraham — who identifies as a straight man — about his effeminate characteristics might spark the kind of emotional response that makes for good TV. Otherwise, why bother to ask at all?

But I digress…the video shoot found Shanna performing in a smelly, slimy Lady Gaga meat dress without any complaint whatsoever (girlfriend is a pro), Michael dressed as Elvis and thrusting his hips with abadon in front of the lettuces (kid can be pretty funny), and Lily crossing the border between camp and ridiculous. Nellie, meanwhile, pretty much sealed her fate when she groaned awkwardly about having to lean seductively into a citrus display. (Side note: Nellie certainly captured “sexy” well in the schoolroom and pool video shoots earlier in the season; anyone else find it odd that she was asked once again to unleash her inner seductress rather than playing a different emotion?)

The judges decided Ali had won the week — she was cute as Katy Perry, I suppose — while giving Michael a last-minute reprieve from the Bottom 3. Here’s how those last-chance performances played out:

Nellie: “I’m The Only One” was perhaps pitched just a tad low for her in the opening verse, but her tone is beyond breathtaking. But her failure to answer Ryan’s questions with any kind of enthusiasm or thoughtfulness only contributed to what he saw as a pattern of indecisiveness and lack of passion. I thought it was telling when she whiffed the question of whether she really wanted to be on Glee, or just be a musician making albums and playing concerts.

Abraham: His dance moves on “Stereo Hearts” were pretty embarrassing, and his vocals weren’t particularly memorable. But his “I am who I am” inspirational response was like candy for the hungry-kid judges. Bottom line: Spouting bon mots like “I let my fear paralyze me” is usually good for another week in the competition, even if he really should’ve been the one to go home.

Lily: The most annoying contestant left this season fell to the ground with excitement when she was assigned Adele’s “Someone Like You,” but as Ryan pointed out, she performed the song quite memorably, as if she was actually in character as a Ms. Lonelyhearts singing to her long, lost love. Still, I almost fell to the ground in shock when Lily started blaming her poor video performance on Zach’s choreography notes and Cyndi Lauper’s lack of icon status. (Me: “How DARE she!?”) Lily’s dramatic monologue about being overlooked as an actress because she’s 240 pounds was fairly stirring, though, and I understood why the judges decided to keep her another week.

And so it was Nellie who got the boot. Here’s hoping, though, that her exposure on the show leads to a record deal full of great material. Paired with the right songs, she could be a singular sensation at radio, and maybe one day they’ll be singing her songs on Glee, y’know?

What did you think of this week’s Glee Project? Were you upset to see Nellie cut? Did you understand the judges logic? And what about the Nikki-Abraham androgyny controversey? Sound off in the comments!