The Glee Project Recap: Too Arty for the Party?

This week’s installment of The Glee Project found ship’s captain Ryan Murphy asking a question that endlessly plagues judges and fans of reality competition: “Do you cut someone because their attitude sucks?”

And given that we’re only on Episode 2 — where, unless you’re being asked to curl up on a bed of hungry leeches on Fear Factor, one’s attitude should reside somewhere at the corner of Chipper and Grateful — part of me was rooting for Mr. Murphy to answer that quesiton with a resounding “Heck, yeah.”

Luckily for Lily, who’s clearly grown up inside a cocoon of “that was perfection!”/”you’re so talented!”/”Lea Michele isn’t fit to carry your sheet music!” ridiculousness, this week’s elimination criteria seemed to zag in a different direction, which means she’ll live to interrupt the mentors and screech in the recording booth another day.

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Things kicked off with the news of the competition’s latest theme: Dance-ability. “That’s not my strong suit,” worried Dani, who really is impossibly pretty. Tyler mumbled some words that essentially amounted to a terrified gulp. And Aylin reminded us she’s a “spunky badass Turkish Muslim,” because out of the corner of her eye, she spotted that dead horse twitching.

The group homework assignment — divvie up “We Got the Beat” 13 ways, whip up some kicky choreography to go along with it — brought out the worst in Mario, who didn’t want Ali to get the “round and round and round” line because it “would be cliché” coming from a chick in a wheelchair. Right? How dare she! Taryn, meanwhile, kept mentioning how “irritating” it was to work with a group of strong-willed folks with disparate opinions — in other words, to have a job of any kind — and promptly dropped out of the competition. Thankfully, the show’s producers didn’t dwell on her exit, since that dude in the commercials for The Next Big Thing: NY had more screen time than Taryn the last two weeks.

And then there were 12 kids left to perform for guest mentor/Season 1 winner Samuel Larsen. It’s hard to judge the contestants when their solo moments are so brief, but these were my scribbled observations during the Go-Gos number. Tyler really can’t sing. Floppy-haired dude (Blake) made interesting use of his falsetto. Would love to hear more of Nellie’s singing voice. Dani’s too. Ali hit an insane note at the end, but I’m not sure I actually enjoyed it.

Judge Robert Ulrich declared it the Best! Homework! Assignment! Ever!, and I can’t say I disagreed, but the choice of Abraham as the winner left me flummoxed. Where Samuel saw “extra, extra intensity,” I saw painfully overbaked facial expressions.

Finally, it was time for the main challenge: A video for LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” set at a high school house party. Dance rehearsal did not go well for Tyler or Dani, while Lily’s whole “I’m the only one with vocal and theatrical training” blathering backfired during a comically awful recording session. The wince on vocal coach Nikki Anders’ face was worth a thousand “no me gustas.”

Speaking of wincing, choreographer Zach Woodlee spent the entire shoot looking aghast that the contestants seemed to be experiencing collective amnesia with regard to the simple dance steps he’d taught them. “At this point, standing would be better,” he said, while Lily continued to bust out a bizarre breast-bouncing move that he’d previously warned against. While Dani, Abraham, Nellie, and Tyler continued to struggle on set, Aylin reveled in an on-camera game of spin the bottle that ended with a lengthy kiss with Blake — “one of the hottest things that’s ever happened to me!” she cooed — and then went backstage to plant one on flirting partner Charlie, because I think deep down she understands that embodying a fleshed-out character (Muslim chick who breaks the rules) and courting backstage drama (possible love triangle?) can’t be bad for her long-term prospects on the show.

And while Robert dubbed the finished footage as the worst music video in Glee Project history, it needs to be said that Blake and Michael definitely stood out with some jaunty dance steps, while Shanna continued to be a magnetic on-camera presence, even when she was pushed to the corner of my TV screen. Oh, and I still want to hear more of Nellie’s singing. She might be really, really good.

Not surprisingly, the Bottom 3 turned out to be Tyler, Dani, and Lily — but not before Abraham wept at the mentors’ criticism and trotted out the old “I didn’t do well because I was too focused on being perfect” excuse. (Lord, how I hate that excuse.) Lily, amazingly, repeatedly interrupted Zach when he tried to explain why she’d be singing for her life, and finally huffed that she thought her solo dance moves were just peachy, since she “never got a note saying otherwise.” Instead of pressing a button to a trap door that would swallow Lily whole and plop her in the dumpster behind Glee Project HQ, though, the mentors took their seats for last-chance performances:

* Dani’s rendition of “Landslide” was a tiny bit tremulous but quite evocative, even though I wished she’s worked the stage and tried to amp up her performance a little. Girlfriend may admittedly be a coffee house performer, but last I checked, Glee hasn’t been planning a Joni Mitchell tribute episode for Season 4.

* Tyler’s vocal on “Daniel” was significantly less unpleasant than last week’s “ABC,” and yet still not entirely pleasant.

* Lily’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” was decently sung, but she probably saved herself by sassing around the stage and flirting with the boys in the band. Still, I have to say I gasped during her post-performance chat with Ryan when she admitted that her contentious attitude with Zach was a pattern she could trace back to her relationship with her high school chorus teacher. “That’s a little unnerving,” noted Glee‘s head honcho, which is another way of saying “this fool can’t possibly be serious!”

In the end, though, Mr. Murphy settled on ousting Dani because ultimately, she’s “not the show.” And while indeed, the Justin Bieber doppelganger has genuine vocal talent and seems comfortable in her own skin, I’m not sure she’d be comfortable in the skin of a fictional character. In other words, I’d be happy to check out her set at a coffee house, but I’m not sure she’s an actual actress, which should be a major requirement for getting cast on a popular prime time TV show.

What did you think of this week’s Glee Project? Was Dani the right pick for elimination? And how gracious was her exit speech? If not Dani, who should’ve gotten the boot? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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