Glee Recap: Lords of the Rings [Updated]

Everything’s better with a little Helen Mirren — and Glee is no exception to the rule. Of course, everything’s also better with some righteous plot development that stays true to core characters, and that point was also driven home in “Yes/No,” the show’s first new episode of 2012, and (in my humble opinion) best episode of Season 3.

The news that Coach Beiste had eloped with Cooter Menkins over the winter break not only elicited a verbal barb from Sue Sylvester that was on par with any insult she ever spat back in her Season 1 heyday (offering her congrats to “Michael Chiklis in a wig”), but set into motion a surprising string of events:

* Emma wondered (accidentally aloud) if Will was ever going to make an honest woman of her, which prompted Will to go ring-shopping with Finn, assign the New Directions kids the task of concocting the ultimate show-stopping proposal, and ask Emma’s wretched, revolting parents for permission to pop the question. I’ll admit, I scratched my head over Will inviting Finn to be his best man (that has to cross some kind of student-teacher ethical boundary, and is also kinda tragique no?). But conversely, I was floored (in the best possible way) by that scene where Will and Emma sat down at the dinner table to confront the not-entirely-unjustified concerns her parents had raised about her marriage-readiness. Jayma Mays, in particular, broke my heart with her tearful assessment of her personal shortcomings: “Can I promise you I’m gonna get better? No. This is what you get. This incomplete person with toothbrushes and with rubber gloves and with so much love for you.” (Girlfriend, no need to agonize over what to put on your Emmy reel.) In the end, Will put aside his worries, walked Emma to the McKinley pool, and proposed after a showstopping mashup between glee club and synchronized swim team set to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” If you don’t think this number belongs in the show’s all-time Top 10, then I question your ability to count to double-digits without using your fingers. (Oh, and Emma said “yes.” Yes!)

* A love triangle, of sorts, emereged when Artie asked out Sugar, and Becky asked out Artie. Yet while that first pairing went on a trip to Not-Happening-ville (“I’m really worried people are gonna think your legs are look thinner than my arms,” Sugar apologized), Artie did agree to take Becky to Breadstix after she informed him that letting her watch his sexy Jagger-esque rehearsal did not a date make. It was amazing to me how, in the course of an hour, the show’s writers turned two-dimensional Becky (till now, little more than an amusing lackey for Sue) into a fully realized character, while confronting head-on the dashed hopes and disappointments that can be a reality for a person with Down Syndrome. Putting Becky’s internal monologue in the voice of Helen Mirren was a fresh way to force viewers to take a second look at a girl whose desire to date boys isn’t so different from any other teenage girl.

I loved Artie’s terse disdain at his New Directions cohorts calling his hanging out with Becky “a little weird,” but even better was the way Artie himself grappled with the same issues when Becky sought to sexualize their relationship. Sue’s straightforward advice to Artie — “Why don’t you treat her like a real person and tell her [you’re not interested]?” — was beautifully matter-of-fact, especially peppered with a few classic Sue insults. (“Stop buttoning your shirts up all the way like a demented 90-year-old. You look like you’re auditioning for the lead in your nursing-home production of Awakenings.”) That final scene of Becky trying to fight back tears after Artie’s “just friends” speech — “Some days it sucks to be me. This is one of those days.” — gave me my first good TV cry of 2012. And the denouement of Becky and Sue sharing ice cream and “Lifetime television for ovaries” was just the ticket to end my waterworks.

* We got a brief glimpse of Mercedes finally admitting that Sam was more than just a summer fling. And we got a reminder that Sam’s not yet done trying to wrestle his woman back from Shane, as evidenced by his seeking out a Varsity Letter Jacket by joining the synchronized swim team. When Mercedes cleaned synchronized slushies from her ex’s face, and lingered a little too long after Shane’s invite to walk her to study hall, it seemed pretty clear that LaMarcus Tinker might be freed up to head back to Cougar Town before the season is over.

* And finally, we had the culmination of Finn’s deflated football dreams and murky college future, summed up by his fear of living up to the motto “High school: Hero; Life: Zero.” Initially, it struck me as odd that a kid whose stepdad just went from car mechanic to Congressman would have trouble envisioning some kind of successful future for himself, but then I remembered the one thing most high-school kids lack — perspective. So yes, why wouldn’t Finn consider following in his late dad’s footsteps and enlisting in the Army? Cory Monteith beautifully handled that scene where Carol and Bert (and Schue and Emma) confronted Finn’s desire to enlist, and while the revelation that his dad had died of a post-deployment drug overdose, and not as a war hero, detoured onto Melodrama Lane, that doesn’t mean it didn’t pull at the heartstrings. (Side note: Marriage certainly agrees with Carole Hudson, no? Romy Rosemont has never looked better on this show.)

Anyhow, while it’s not certain Finn has put the kibosh on his military dreams, he certainly made clear his intentions when it comes to his love life, proposing marriage to Rachel in the school auditorium in a didn’t-see-that-coming cliffhanger of an ending. The look on Rachel’s face was more “Oh no what is he doing?” than “Oh yes, put a ring on it!” but we’ll have to wait till next week to see if she’s on Team Yes or Team No. (Full disclosure: As a realist in life and love, I’m on Team No.)

Anyhow, with the plot recapped, let’s get to the week’s best quotes (aside from Sue’s aforementioned Chiklis and Awakenings jabs):

* “Sweet, sexy, handi-capable like me, with a voice as velvety as my favorite Sunday church dress.” –Becky, describing Artie’s atributes (in her Helen Mirren inner voice)
* “I’ve never seen lips like that on a white child, and one of your nipples is higher than the other.” –Coach Roz, getting her first look at Sam
* Sam: Swimming is sexy!
Finn: Not if it’s synchronized.
* “What was your big move then: A Jumbotron that said ‘Hey, Terri, I wanna make a fake baby with you’?” –Santana, wondering about the start of Mr. Schue’s ill-fated first marriage

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

“Summer Nights,” Sam and Mercedes A sweet, fleeting homage to Grease that finally filled in the blanks on the Samcedes summer fling. Romantic longing looks good on Trouty Mouth and Miss Jones, no? Grade: B+

“Wedding Bell Blues,” Emma This song was so perfect for the scene, it felt like it could’ve been written just for the episode. Jayma Mays’ vocals were a breath of dewy spring air, and the 1-800-Too-Much fashion — Emma’s tulle-tastic gown, Sue’s Princess Beatrice Hat — only added to this amusing daydream. Grade: A

“Moves Like Jagger”/”Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Artie A nifty little mashup, and one of Artie’s more appealing musical moments this season, though I have to admit to having a limited threshold for watching Will leaping about like a dime-store Baryshnikov in a black tank and red scarf. Grade: B

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Rachel, Tina, Mercedes, and Santana I love when Glee takes a song and delivers it from multiple characters’ points of views (i.e. “Like a Virgin”). The vocals were pretty electrifying from all four ladies, as they remembered back on their specific moments of romantic realization. I also loved how this number revealed where Mercedes’ true affection lies. Grade: A-

“Without You,” Rachel A vocally stunning reimagining of the David Guetta-Usher dance number. Sure, it was pure Rachel Berry melodrama, but what high-school love affair doesn’t feel like the be-all and end-all to its participants? Grade: A-

“We Found Love,” New Directions A sublimely, ridiculously, excessively terrific production number. I loved everything from the synchronized-swim choreography to the jaunty, old-school red-white-and-blue bathing suits on the New Directions gals, to the absurdity of Artie rolling his wheelchair into the pool. It speaks volumes that I’m not exactly a fan of Mr. Schue, but still found myself gasping when Emma said “Yes.” In other words, resistance was futile! Grade: A+

What did you think of “Yes/No”? What was your favorite musical number? Ready, set, comment! And for all my Glee recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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