The Wife:

What a great character-driven episode, and what a great step forward for Glee. I loved Kurt’s arc and his fabulous dance performances in this episode. Caught dancing in a leotard (which wicks the sweat from his body) to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Kurt tries to butch up for his dad by pretending he’s dating Tina and that he’s now the kicker on the football team. So, with Finn’s help, he “auditions” for the football team and manages to land the role of kicker simply by being able to deliver a Beyonce-fueled kick clear across the goal posts, something their previous kicker couldn’t do with or without the help of Beyonce.

But Kurt butching up for his dad isn’t the only thing hinged on McKinley High football. Quinn tells Finn that she’s pregnant (you know, from that time he came in the hot tub because he couldn’t think of hitting the mailman with his car fast enough), and that she’ll be keeping the baby. Finn, wanting to be a good guy and not just another “Lima Loser” like other teenage fathers he’s met, knows that if he wants to be able to support Quinn and their child, he’s got to get a football scholarship and go to college. The only problem is that the football team sucks. Hardcore.

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Yeah . . . about that time we didn't have sex in the hot tub . . .

Kurt suggests that the players loosen up by learning to dance, just as the Chicago Bears did with the Super Bowl Shuffle. I can tell you honestly that this isn’t just a myth, but that many professional athletes take dance lessons to improve their agility. Giants’s pitcher (and former Oakland A) Barry Zito used to regularly perform in the Nutcracker, and we’ve all seen how well athletes do on Dancing with the Stars. So, knowing that the football team’s reputation is on the line, Coach Ken Tenaka hands the team over to Kurt, who teaches them the “Single Ladies” routine.

But despite Finn’s heartfelt confession of his situation to Mr. Shuester and the goodness in his heart that inspires him to do right by Quinn, we all know its not possible for him to have fathered Quinn’s child, considering she’s the president of the celibacy club and they’ve never had sex. And Puck, our resident rakish, MILF-loving, pool cleaning lothario, knows that he is the only person Quinn has had sex with. Wanting her to admit what they’ve done, he spends the rest of the episode torturing her and Finn with his knowledge of the pregnancy. And Terri, learning of Quinn’s plight from her husband, sees a golden opportunity in it and sets in motion what will most likely become her plan to covertly adopt Quinn’s baby.

So with all this hanging in the air, McKinley High sets out to play football. At first, they get their asses handed to them, but with merely a second left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Finn takes a pregnant pause and calls a time out. He convinces his teammates that the only way they could possibly win now (and they so desperately need to — so they’ll have a chance at the championship, so they can get scholarships, so they can get respect) is to pull out their secret weapon play: Put a Ring on It. Rather than pass the ball immediately at the whistle, the whole team breaks out into the “Single Ladies” routine and confuses the hell out of the opposition. From there, they’re able to score a touchdown, which means that Kurt gets to be the hero of the game by scoring the winning extra point kick.

And all, it seems, is saved by the power of dance and the goodness of a little gay boy’s heart. I have to admit that I totally had tears in my eyes during Kurt’s final scene with his father in which he comes out to the man who has known all along, as all Kurt wanted for his third birthday was a pair of sensible heels. This scene, and Finn breaking down on Will’s shoulder totally got me.

Meanwhile, outside of the great parts of this episode described above, Sue has landed her own opinion segment on the local news and is speaking up for everything she believes in: caning, litter and so on. When the news station threatens to cancel her segment if the Cheerios continue to defect to the Glee Club, she reinvigorates her sabotage plans by blackmailing Principal Figgins (with his hilarious video from the time he was a steward for Mumbai Airways) to get Sandy back on campus as the school’s Arts Administrator. And Sandy’s first move as admin? Create a musical audition that will steal Rachel Barry away from Glee. Already jealous that Will wants to give Tina the West Side Story solo, Rachel readily takes the bait and when she sees that Will hasn’t changed his mind, she quits Glee Club for good.

It is a little disappointing how readily Rachel played into this scheme, but despite her seeming kindness and tendencies to be dumped upon by everyone, its also easy to see why she would be drawn to a place that wants her to have the star she so believes she deserves. A great arc for Rachel over the course of this season would be for her to realize that, sometimes, wanting what’s best for herself is a completely selfish act and that she should try to change those tendencies. Already, Will, Finn, Kurt and Quinn have grown and changed so much over four episodes, but Rachel, arguably the second lead, hasn’t.

I do think this was a wonderful episode, but I wish that the musical numbers had been better placed. Anything involving “Single Ladies” was great, but Rachel’s audition for Cabaret was not well-chosen or necessary, even if it was a “naturalistic” use of music. I was glad to hear Tina solo, but rather than the Rachel number, I felt like this episode needed to give Quinn or Finn a song to express what they’re going through. There certainly were moments where music could have worked, especially as Quinn ducks away to her car, in tears. I suspect she might have started singing along to a CD as she drove off, had Terri not been there to ambush her. Maybe the point was to break the expectations of the musical and not sing where we could all feel there should be singing? Or maybe, if Finn were to have a song, Ryan Murphy simply couldn’t get the rights to use Ben Folds’ “Brick?”

Stray thoughts and quotes:

  • “Is the baby black?” — Kendra, in horror, to her sister Terri before Terri reveals she’s not actually pregnant. What a great nod to Nip/Tuck, where Jessalyn Gilsig’s character actually did give birth to a black baby after spending the entire season making Julian McMahon’s Christian Troy believe it was his.
  • Dear sweet God, I absolutely need Emma’s baby blue sweater with the leaf detailing on the collar. This show is sweater heaven!
  • “To all those naysayers who say you can’t strike children on their bare buttocks with razor sharp bamboo sticks, I say, “Yes, we CANE.” — Sue
  • “My body is like a warm chocolate soufflé — if it isn’t warmed up properly, it doesn’t rise.” — Kurt, inadvertently also talking about his penis.
  • “Not everyone has the walnuts to take a pro-littering stance, but I won’t rest until every inch of this state is covered in garbage.” — Sue
  • Anti-embolism stockings are hilarious.
  • “If I was out to get you, I’d have you pickling in a Mason jar on my shelf by now.” — Sue
  • I’m sorry, Kurt, but as good as you look in that leotard and sparkly vest, you will never look as good as Joe Jonas, who has thighs so delicious I want to eat them. (Don’t worry about the dancing. Just stare at his thighs.)

The Husband:

Fun fact that I learned in an interview with Chris Colfer, the actor who plays Kurt: the coming-out scene was very much based on the similar conversation Chris had with his own father when he was younger. He didn’t get into specifics, but I have a feeling that pretty much everything Mike O’Malley said, aside from the “sensible heels” line, was close to verbatim. It was sweet without going too schmaltzy, but it also didn’t let some of his father’s prejudices off the hook. This is clearly a major point in Chris’ life having grown up in a very conservative town just outside of Fresno, California, and I’m glad he could share that with us.

The Wife:

Even with 12 dances to watch last night, I’m amazed that FOX still managed to find time for the judges to prattle on about nothing (see the segment after Randi and Evan’s samba where Mary and Tyce just made animal noises at each other like the crazy queens they are) and provide some video filler in the form of a producer package about what the dancers will miss about each other when their partnerships are broken up next week (most notable among these, I think, is the fact that Kupono will miss Kayla’s clammy hands and feet, because he finds them comforting). There are many things to discuss, so let’s just get straight to them.

The Excellent

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

This really is some of Kupono's best work right here.

Kayla and Kupono (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mia Michaels
Song: “Gravity” by Sara Barielles

Even without hearing Kupono’s story about the family member he lost to addiction, this piece would have moved me, and it truly did. It literally took my breath away when Kupono threw Kayla to the floor and they began the synchronized portion of their floorwork together. It was stunning, riveting to watch and brought tears to my eyes. And as beautiful as Kayla was throughout this piece, I have to give Kupono his due for acting the shit out of this. He was completely in his element in this Mia Michaels piece, and I’m glad to finally see him do something that shows me why he deserved to stay over flawless Max. This one goes on my list of favorite SYTYCD pieces of all time, for sure.

Jeanette and Brandon (Jazz)
Choreography by Wade Robson
Song: “Ruby Blue” by Roisin Murphy

Apparently Wade and the wardrobe department recently saw Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom because every single detail of this piece was reminiscent of that film. (Well, except for the Roisin Murphy song. That’s pure Wade.) The piece was about thieves, dressed in black and white with bowlers and red gloves, which lent both a nice cabaret-like feel to the whole thing, as well as providing the most direct homage to the costuming in Johnson’s film. (With the exception of two pieces Rachel Weiz’s character dons at crucial points in the film where she’s acting the part of the mark, the main characters all wear shades of black and white. Rinko Kikuchi’s demolitions expert Bang Bang wears red leather gloves throughout the entire film. Both Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo don bowlers. Also, they’re con men, possibly the most glamorous type of thief.) It was a great, funky piece with which to close the evening and Jeanette and Brandon danced it expertly. I had a hard time taking my eyes off Jeanette, all stuffed into those tight, shiny leggings, because she really can do anything. This might not have been as cool as the hummingbird, or “Cabaret Hoover” or “Rama Lama Bang Bang,” but it was 100% Wade and 100% amazing.

Jeanette and Brandon (Argentine Tango)
Choreography by Marian Larici and Leonardo (who performed that gorgeous tango a few weeks back)
Song: Libertango from Forever Tango

Again, Jeanette and Brandon make my top of the pops list, which clearly earns them the non-existent award for Couple of the Night. They learned a beautiful Argentine tango from the tango masters and performed it expertly. Once more, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Jeanette who transformed into a completely different person on that stage. I think her salsa experience prepared her for the fleet footwork in this number and it showed in her excellent flicks. Nigel clearly thought it was the best dance of the night and gave it a silent standing ovation. Mary followed suit, but added on three Official Mary Murphy Screams and two First Class Tickets to the Hot Tamale Train for the couple. Tyce then said something completely incomprehensible about orange juice to Brandon.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

Pretty sure Jeanette is the world's sexiest loan officer right here.

The Good to Very Good

Melissa and Ade (Disco)
Choreography by Doriana Sanchez
Song:  “Move On Up” by Destination

Even though Melissa fell out of her hold at the end of this routine, she and Ade played it off like it was supposed to happen that way, and I have to commend them for that. This one didn’t start out as well as other disco routines, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Jeanette and Brandon’s from earlier in the season, but it did pick up a lot of momentum toward the end and was very enjoyable to watch – especially the combination of lifts and spins in the final third (i.e. everything after Melissa did that upside-down split lift). Ade was strong and Melissa was saucy, and that’s just what the routine called for. It also called for very, very shiny outfits and was awarded an Official Mary Murphy Scream with a supportive woo for backup.

Caitlin and Jason (Contemporary)
Choreography by Mandy Moore
Song: “Show Me Heaven” by Maria McKee

My husband and I like to play a little game whenever we hear Mandy Moore’s going to choreograph something. It’s a really simple game called, “What 80s song will Mandy Moore choose?” This one tripped us up a bit, because neither of us knew it, but from the vocals and the synthesizer (and with the help of the internet), we realized Mandy played it close to the vest again by choosing a song off the Days of Thunder soundtrack. I thought the choreography was very strong in this piece, and Caitlin and Jason danced it really well. I thought Jason was particularly good in his lead section, in which he showed excellent muscle control and some very strong lines.

Caitlin and Jason (Foxtrot)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin (YAY! Melanie’s back!)
Song: “Minnie the Moocher” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, one of my favorite bands

Caitlin’s silver and green dress for this piece gets my award for Outfit of the Night. Jason, on the other hand, has too much of a baby face to convincingly pull off a double breasted suit, which detracted from his believability in this number. The good news is, though, that he made up for it with his dancing. Both dancers were very graceful, and Caitlin’s leg lines served her well in this piece, especially in the voluminous skirt of that green green dress. Good all around.

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Please buy me this. I'll find a way to wear it. Promise!

Kayla and Kupono (Broadway)
Choreography by Joey Dowling
Song: “The Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story

What I liked about this piece was that Dowling chose to tell her version of the Tony-Maria meet cute through the pre-mambo segment of “The Dance at the Gym,” rather than the iconic portion with iconic movement and snapping. By doing so, she provided something that captured the spirit of the show whence it came, told a story and did so in a unique way. I can’t help but think that when Tyce complimented her on the number, it was tinged with bitterness, because I’m pretty sure he was just a little bit bitter at everything that graced the SYTYCD stage last night. However, I was extremely distracted by the fact that Kayla wasn’t wearing shoes. As Dowling explained it, two kids run into each other on a rooftop and fall in love. Why the hell wouldn’t you wear shoes to the rooftop of your Manhattan apartment building? That just doesn’t seem sanitary to me. And that dress with its adorable bubble skirt needed to be completed with some heels. That’s not Kayla’s fault, but I have to wonder if Dowling specifically told the wardrobe department not to give the girl shoes. And if so, why? That just didn’t make sense to me.

Melissa and Ade (Waltz)
Choreography by Ron Montez
Song: “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” by Mary J. Blige

Melissa and Ade continued their strong showing tonight with this Ron Montez waltz. Melissa was allowed to be as graceful and beautiful as a ballerina is taught to be, and I thought Ade partnered her well. Mary commented on how Ade’s only fault was that his twinkles weren’t good enough, but I’d have hardly noticed. Critiques then rapidly descended into a discussion of English muffins and Brooklyn brownies. What is a Brooklyn brownie, Miss Deeley? Does it have weed in it?

The Mediocre

Randi and Evan (Hip-Hop)
Choreography by TabNap
Song: “Halo” by Beyonce

This one winds up in the mediocre category not because of its choreography or because it wasn’t danced well, but because, compared to everything else, it just seemed to fall short. It was a nice piece danced nicely. Nigel made an astute, if slightly culturally insensitive, comment about how TabNap allowed Randi and Evan to dance a hip-hop routine as themselves rather than being “urban.” I understand what he meant, but the way he said it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. What he probably should have said would have been something like, “It’s great that they gave you two a softer, more lyrical hip-hop, rather than asking you to do something very hard-hitting and edgy.” He also made another off-color remark expressing his dislike for people who have babies out of wedlock, which I’m sure didn’t gain him any fans. He was kind of a douche tonight in general, actually. And those are only two examples. But enough about Nigel! I enjoyed this number, but would find it wholly unforgettable if not for the awkward incorporation of the titular “halo” as Evan looped his arms around Randi’s body. That I will remember, which is unfortunate, because I didn’t like that part at all.

Randi and Evan (Samba)
Choreography by Pasha Kovalev and Anya Garnis
Song: “Ritmo di Bom Bom” by Jababa

I was very excited to see a Pasha and Anya number on the show, as I love when SYTYCD alums return to choreograph. However, the execution of this piece left something to be desired. Mary seemed to think that Randi was flawless in it and gave her a Hot Tamale Train ticket and an Official Mary Murphy Scream, but I didn’t think so. I thought she was better than Evan in it, if only because she had a little bit better extension and shimmied more easily, but she still wasn’t her best. My poor Evan was not at all comfortable in this style and his posture and extension left something to be desired overall. Tyce attempted to explain this to Evan by quoting the onomatopoeia from “Cell Block Tango.” Tyce made no sense tonight.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

I think she's actually doing the Snoopy Dance right now.

Jeanine and Phillip (Jive)
Choreography by Tony Meredith and Melanie Lapatin
Song: “Stuff Like That There” by Bette Midler

My husband may have been way into Jeanine’s breast- and booty-shaking, but I was not into this piece. I think it showed of Jeanine’s ample talents beautifully, but also exposed Phillip’s weaknesses, even though Nigel declared that this was the best Phillip’s ever been out of his own style. (I dunno about that. I think Tyce’s Broadway hid that better than this jive did.) Chbeeb’s floorwork in the beginning was really rocky for me, and he did improve toward the end. It was definitely not their best, even if Jeanine got her own Official Mary Murphy Scream and a ticket to the Hot Tamale Train. (Man, there be a lot of ladies up on that train this week, no?)

Jeanine and Phillip (Kalinka)
Choreography by Yuri Nelzine and Lila Balenko
Song:  “Kalinka” by Barynya

And then there was the Kalinka, a Russian folk dance that I was pleased to see if only because you all know I’ve been begging for more ethnic dances on this show ever since Bollywood started cropping up. I’ve tossed this one into the mediocre category because I agree with the assessment that the dancers both could have been stronger throughout the piece, especially Phillip, who made several errors in his footwork at the beginning. However, I have to express my disappointment in Nigel’s reaction to the dance, a dance he, as executive producer, presumably greenlit to add to the mix because he knew what it would look like. Instead of saying that Jeanine and Phillip could have performed it better, he chose to possibly insult a whole cadre of Russian folk dancers (and the choreographers!) by calling the piece “childish” and not strong enough to be on the show. He kept comparing it to the trepak, which I think is also a conceptual mistake on his part because the trepak and the kalinka are different dances. For him to compare the two as though they’re the same style because they come from the same country would be like comparing a waltz to a jive just because they’re both in professional ballroom competition. So what gives? Yes, Jeanine and Phillip didn’t perform it as strongly as they could have, but I didn’t dislike the dance itself or its inclusion on the program.

You may notice that I’ve left off a category this week, and that’s because we truly are at a level in the competition where we’ve successfully separated wheat from chaff and I believe that everyone left is good enough to make the top ten. Even the two couples that I think were the most mediocre of the bunch this week are fully deserving of Top 10 status, and I’d be happy to see any of them on tour as no one was bad this week. However, all things considered, I do have to make predictions and enter them in the EW Predicitify SYTYCD game, so here goes:
I think Jeanine and Phillip and Randi and Evan will definitely land in the bottom three this week. Ideally, I’d like Caitlin and Jason to join them. This is not because they didn’t perform well this week, but because of their general performances up until this point. If I had my druthers, Caitlin and Jason would both be gone. But I think that when you compare the guys, it will probably be between Phillip and Evan. I like them both. In fact, I love Evan. And as much as I like Chbeeb and what he does in his own style, I think he has begun to outlive his usefulness in the competition. I think this might be his last week with us. (But don’t worry! He’ll still be on tour as an alternate!) As for the girls, the judges love Jeanine, so we know she’s safe. Between Caitlin and Randi, I think Caitlin’s the weaker of the two dancers, and we already know that she doesn’t have as big of a fan base as Randi does. So my choices for the dancers that will be leaving us tonight are Chbeeb and Caitlin, who will both make fine alternates on the tour this fall.

But I’m still worried about Randi and Evan. I just don’t want to think Evan could be leaving me so soon!

Other thoughts:

  • I loved Cat’s very vintage LBD, but I think the makeup folks did her a disservice with that shade of red and the smoky eye. She needed a brighter red to liven up her face against that messy 40s-inspired coif and that austere frock.
  • I do not understand at all what Mary was wearing.
  • Most tragic moment of the night: when Nigel complimented Caitlin on being Grace Kelly-like in her foxtrot, followed by the completely blank look on her face because she clearly had no idea who Grace Kelly was.
  • Remember back in the day when the guest judge du settimane always choreographed the results show group number? I almost wish they still did that so I’d know what to expect, because now I never have any idea anymore.
  • So, following the theory that TabNap only choreographs about their marriage, should I assume that Tabitha is incubating a tiny little hip-hop choreographer in her womb? Yes or no?
  • Total Hot Tamale Train Tickets tonight: 4
  • Total Official Mary Murphy Screams: 6, plus an enthusiastic woo.

The Wife:

I’d be lying if I said that the pilot of Ryan Murphy’s Glee was perfect. It was far from it, but so much of the show is so winning that it’s easy to overlook its few flaws and fully embrace it. It’s not a silly musical in the slightest. Ryan Murphy has always treated music with much more respect than that, even when he’s being ironic or cheeky during surgeries on Nip/Tuck. On that show, the surgery music is used to dig deeply into something as seemingly superficial as plastic surgery. Sometimes it’s funny (such as the use of Don McLean’s “Vincent” during a surgery in which Rosie O’Donnell as Dawn Budge gets a transplant ear grown on a mouse’s back . . . it’s a long story), and sometimes it’s incredibly moving (to this day, I can’t hear Leo Delibes “Flower Duet” without thinking about conjoined twins Rose and Raven Rosenburg, who died after their separation surgery and asked to be put back together when they were buried).

On Glee, the music functions as it should in any great musical: it’s intended to give us an insight into the characters, and I can think of no better example of this than Lea Michele’s (Broadway’s Spring Awakening) audition song for the new glee club, “On My Own” from Les Miserables. I hate Les Mis, but to hear Rachel Berry sing it while hearing about her backstory was the most sublime use of that song. You see, despite the fact that Rachel’s two gay dads raised her to be an overachiever and to strive to be known in the world because “being anonymous is worse than being poor,” she’s lambasted by her peers for being talented, for being different. She posts daily MySpace videos of herself singing in her bedroom, all of which receive comments from her peers basically suggesting she should kill herself (cyberbullying that would probably destroy someone with less self-confidence). She also often has things thrown at her, because for as much of a type-A personality as she is, Rachel is, in fact, on her own. She might be a little cocky and a little dogged in her quest to be special, as evidenced by her claim that the former glee club director molested the boy he gave Rachel’s solo to, but there is something in her that deserves to be recognized for who she is. And there is a tremendous sadness in the fact that no one sees her specialness but her . . . and her two gay dads.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

Glee: what this show will be filling me with Wednesday nights at 9 in the fall.

So with the former glee club director out of the picture and the club in danger of being shut down, Matthew Morrison’s Spanish teacher Will Shuster decides he should take over. After all, Will sees that these kids need a place where they won’t be bullied, and where they can cultivate their talent. But as usual, the activities in which the popular kids reign get more funding, especially The Cheerios, the cheer team coached by Jane Lynch, which receives the bulk of the school’s budget because they keep winning national competitions and bringing the school a lot of press, which ultimately means more funding. So Will is allowed to operate glee club, recently renamed New Directions (which is weird for me, because that’s the name of a counseling center that a friend I know from high school theatre works for), on a $60 budget, which struck me as incredibly realistic given the dire nature of arts education in America, by which I mean, the lack thereof. But even that $60 budget eventually gets cut and Will is asked to run New Directions with his own $60, something that is, for him, very difficult because he lives off his teaching salary and his wife’s 12-hours-a-week job at Sheets and Stuff.

We meet a lot of characters over the course of this hour-long pilot, but even though there are some of the glee kids we don’t know all that well, I’d say that Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is the least well-drawn. Terri is obsessed with an idea of womanhood that allows her to contribute little to her marriage and spend all of her time crafting and decorating. She’s largely just a stand-in for the thing that’s holding Will back from what he really wants from life. But that said, I think Jessalyn Gilsig, as always, turns in a brilliant performance of very little material. I mean, this is a woman who nearly suffocated her own daughter in a cargo hold (on Heroes) and, more importantly, a woman who got fucked off a building (on Nip/Tuck). I am certainly not used to her playing someone demure, and she creates a sort of quiet insanity in Terri that makes her seem both utterly unreal and yet absolutely the kind of woman who thinks her life should be what she sees in magazines. She is deeply shallow, and I think there’s something exceptional about placing a character like that amongst so many other deeply real people. She’s a wonderful contrast.

[Husband Note: Gilsig also did wonders with the quite poorly written role of teacher Lauren “The Nun” Davis on Boston Public, as well an incredible job as the oblivious sister-in-law-party-girl-way-past-her-prime on Friday Night Lights. She’s not the best actor, but she’s a serviceable television performer, and that’s good enough for me.]

Because Terri won’t give Will an extra $60 a month to run glee club (as she’d rather spend it on trinkets from Pottery Barn and crafts), he tries to drum up more membership around the school, taking guidance counselor Emma’s (the lovely and talented Jayma Mays) advice to recruit a few popular kids into glee club, and the rest will follow. He tries to get a few Cheerios in the club, but Jane Lynch’s Sue refuses to give up her girls, setting up a rivalry between the glee kids and the cheerleaders that I’m sure will continue throughout the series. But then, by a stroke of luck, he catches football star Finn singing in the shower, and blackmails him into joining glee club by “planting” some weed from the Chronic Lady (the former glee club director’s new profession: dealing weed) in his locker and telling him that he can spend six weeks in detention (which Will is now running, unpaid, due to budget cuts) which will go on his permanent record, or he can join glee. There was a moment in this scene that I truly loved because it was very representative of how Glee likes to play with cliches from high school movies. Will tells Finn that if he chooses detention, it’ll stay on his permanent record and they’ll take away his football scholarship. Finn asks, incredulously, “I got a football scholarship? To where?” And because that’s just something Will said because he heard it in a movie, he continues on, “You could go places, son.”

With Finn in the club, Will takes New Directions to see the current national show choir champions, and Emma decides to chaperone, as Terri has already turned Will down for some crafting-related outing. Emma, who clearly likes Will, is something of a germaphobe, a trait Jayma Mays does not play up for comic effect, but rather allows into the open with a kind of reserved sadness. In addition to cleaning surfaces in the teacher’s lounge with disposable gloves before she eats off of them, she brings her own food, even to public events, ands he and Will have a conversation about the state of his marriage to Terri over a peanut butter sandwich prior to the choir concert. Over that sandwich, which he says he never gets to eat because Terri is allergic to nuts, he confesses that he’s not entirely happy with his marriage. There’s just something about his relationship with Terri that isn’t working, but he rationalizes that it’s okay because he does love her, and he does want to have children with her, even if they aren’t totally happy. If you want to know why they’re not happy, look at the scene in which Terri makes Will do a puzzle with her in her craft room while she tells him it’s important for him to have a creative outlet, while in the same breath telling him that she doesn’t want him to run glee club because they don’t make enough money with him teaching. She’d rather he be an accountant, the epitome of jobs that lack creativity.

The rival choir puts on a ridiculous performance of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” which is stunningly choreographed and sounds great, but is obviously wildly inappropriate for a high school choir to sing and is incredibly funny if you absolutely don’t ever take your mind off of the lyrics. You just can’t do choreographed lifts when you’re singing a line like, “I’m gonna lose my baby / so I always keep a bottle near me.” (On the other hand, though, I think you absolutely can sing “I Kissed a Girl” for a glee club audition, because that’s just funny.) Clearly, a performance of that caliber is intimidating, but that’s not all of the problems facing New Directions. Finn’s teammates find out that he’s been lying to them about where he had to go when he missed practice. They are not pleased that he pretended his mom was having prostate surgery, and pelt him with paintballs. (“Chicks don’t have prostates. I looked it up.”) Finn eventually stands up to his football teammates when he finds that they’ve locked the wheelchair kid in a port-a-potty, telling them that, like Troy Bolton in High School Musical, he’s not going to choose between being a jock and being a singer. He’s going to do both. “Because you can’t win without me, and neither can they,” he snarls.

And when Terri announces that she’s pregnant, Will quits, following his wife’s suggestion to apply for a job at an accounting firm, leaving his newly formed club without a mentor. Emma tries to talk some sense into him, setting him up with a guidance appointment with her when she catches him filling out an accounting application at H.L. Mencken (oddly, named after a writer and literary critic for the Baltimore Sun who had some interesting ideas on elitism within social classes, rather than a traditional class or race-based social hierarchy . . . I must miss Lost a lot if I’m looking for these kind of references on other shows). Emma shows Will a video of the year the school’s glee club won nationals. It was 1993, and Will was in that choir. And he was happy. She asks him if providing money for his wife and child is really the same thing as providing them happiness, but being a man of his word, he heads off, presumably never to return.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Finn have taken over New Directions and have recruited the jazz band to help them stage their first performance, with Mercedes doing costumes, Rachel choreographing and Finn doing vocal arrangements. As Will heads down the eternal hallway, he hears them singing strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” another instance of perfect music choice. Not only does it serve as a ballad for these kids who just want to believe they’re good at something, but for soloists Finn and Rachel, those opening lines serve as portraits of themselves. Never before have I been teary-eyed hearing someone sing, “Just a small town girl / Living in a lonely world” or the phrase “S/he took the midnight train goin’ anywhere” until last night. They took that song, and made it transcendent – enough to make me believe in the beauty, sadness, humor and joy of this little show and enough to convince Will not to leave, but to remain with New Directions.

This is a show about lonely, sad people, trying to find something that actually makes them happy, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t made happy by music. So even for those of you who don’t really like or get musicals, know that Glee is simply about people trying to find happiness, and that happiness is achieved through music. I also take that last song as something of a plea to those of us who watched Glee and everyone at FOX, executives who clearly believe in taking a risk like this enough to promote it now and schedule it for Wednesdays at 9 p.m. throughout next season, picking up on SYTYCD results shows and Idol results shows as a built-in audience. FOX wants us to believe in Glee, and I do. Your Journey-infused plea has not fallen on deaf ears, Ryan Murphy.

I believe, I believe, I believe. Oh, I believe.

Some other notes:

  • “I’m Beyonce! I aint’s no Kelly Rowland.” – Really, Mercedes? Because you seemed so happy to be asked to do costumes later in the episode. Are you sure you don’t want to host The Fashion Show on Bravo?
  • For as much of a monster as I think Jessalyn Gilsig’s Terri is, she’s really funny. Two winners from her: “If my diabetes comes back I can’t get pregnant” and “Don’t go in the Christmas Closet!”
  • I’m told the first episode aired in the fall will be a re-edited pilot. My first edit: eliminating the references to MySpace and replacing it with something more culturally relevant. Like the word, “Facebook.” Or maybe even “YouTube” in some cases.
  • Spring Awakening fans, that last line was for you.

The Husband:

I honestly thought we were going to wait to review this show until the fall, but as it stands, here it is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to find many parallels, mostly in tone and narration, between Glee and Alexander Payne’s biting 1999 high school satire Election. Not only do we get some wonderfully insightful yet overly self-centered internal monologues from our main characters at only the most opportune times, and also revel in both the show’s insistence on clichés and its subversion of them, but Cory Montheith, the actor who plays Finn, bears a striking resemblance to a young Chris Klein. (You know, before Chris Klein started sucking.)

This is quite a show, just from the pilot, what with its heightened emotions, its parody of high school affectations, its very focused jokes and, of course, the usage of Journey. True, there were some considerable lulls, and I thought the Finn transformation happened way too early, but there is definitely something special about this show. A dramedy of the highest order, I hope it helps brings even more respect to the musical form.

And on that, some might argue this isn’t a musical. Yes it is. It’s just not a “traditional musical.” People don’t have to break out into song, but simply have the music define much of the piece itself. And Ryan Murphy, as my wife pointed out, is very specific about his song choices, so “Don’t Stop Believin’” as sung by Finn and Rachel, knowing what we know about them, defines who they are, amplifies their backstory, and fits perfectly into this world. Sounds like a musical to me. Definitely as much of a musical as Cabaret.

The Wife:

I noted a couple of things right away about this week‘s episode of Fringe.

1. This was the most X-Files-y cold open yet. It was old school, too. Like a cold open from seasons two and three.
2. As soon as I heard that ill-fated kid listening to The Killers’ new single “Spaceman,” I knew that someone on the Fringe production team finally got some money. This theory was confirmed when, in the very next scene at Olivia’s house, she and her sister and niece are listening to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” really loudly FOR NO GOOD REASON AT ALL. I’m glad you guys have money for incidental music not composed by Michael “The Little Ice Cube” Giacchino, but let’s use it judiciously. A kid listening to The Killers in the background of his scene? Good. That makes sense, because the music is coming from his computer and he’s talking to his friend on the phone over it. That thing with “Single Ladies”? Bad. That’s not how we do incidental music on this show. This is not a show where you can just play a pop song over the scene because you want to.

Musical gripes aside, the cold open set me up for an episode that turned out to be very different in tone than I have previously experienced with Fringe. On the whole, it was a lot . . . lighter than anything else we’ve seen before. I said the cold open reminded me of The X-Files in seasons one and two, but the rest of the episode turned out to be more like a TXF episode from seasons four and five, when the show lightened up on the Syndicate conspiracy and started letting Glenn Morgan and James Wong write as many cool, fanciful MOTW episodes as they wanted. I really didn’t expect Fringe to produce something so very like those Morgan and Wong episodes, but they did. This episode didn’t feel like Fringe at all, but I enjoyed it. But I also don’t know if this sudden change in tone is necessarily a good thing.

In the cold open, a teenager suddenly becomes mesmerized by a series of hypnotic images that pop up on his computer screen. I made a lot of Chuck-related comments about the Intersect until the kid started tearing up uncontrollably and a hand reached out of his computer screen to, uh, melt his brain. It is generally bad when anything reaches out of your computer screen, by the way. Due to the brain liquefaction, Olivia gets called in to investigate and brings the computer’s hard drive back to the lab for Astrid to play with. Slowly, the show is making Astrid into an actual character with helpful skills, and I appreciate that. She’s a linguist with a minor in computer science. I really don’t know what gets hotter than that. As labrats Walter and Astrid work on finding out what happened to the hard drive of both the victim and his computer, another victim turns up at a car dealership. His brain and computer are destroyed in exactly the same way. Astrid is unable to work with the hard drives because they are so corrupted, but she does discover that both computers downloaded a very large file before blowing up.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

I'm pretty sure I didn't go to college for this.

In order to find out what that file is, Peter pays a visit to one of his old criminal friends, a gambler who owns a computer repair shop. For a couple of very rare, shiny gold coins, Peter buys the man’s help. Even he can’t figure out where the “virus” is coming from due to advanced source coding on the file, but he is able to figure out where it’s headed to next: Olivia’s apartment. Olivia is busy getting ultimatums from Harris about taking the case. He’s unhappy that she’s decided to work on something that he feels rightfully belongs to the CDC. Although she can prove that there’s no pathological component at either crime scene, Harris, like Skinner in the first three seasons of The X-Files, gives her twelve hours to solve the case before he takes it away from her. When Peter calls her to tell her that the virus is headed to her apartment, she immediately fears for Rachel and Ella’s safety. While Rachel cooks in the kitchen, Ella picks up a nearby laptop to play Paint-A-Pony, a game I wish I had at work. In the middle of her pony-painting extravaganza, Ella sees the same images we saw in the cold open, but luckily, Aunt Liv comes home before the evil computer hand of doom can stretch its way out of the screen and melt Ella’s brain.

It takes a few minutes for Ella to come out of her hypnotic trance, but a doctor’s visit reveals that she’s absolutely fine. She describes a “weird, scary, glowy hand” coming out of her computer screen, which her mother writes off as a result of making too many visits to Aunt Liv’s house. Has Olivia actually told her sister the kind of cases she works? I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you work on top secret stuff. I can’t even chalk this up to a predilection Olivia might have for the weird and the strange because, as far as we know, she doesn’t. I mean, she’s not Spooky Fox Mulder. She’s just a regular old FBI agent who used to be a lawyer and whose lover was involved in a massive global conspiracy to do weird and strange shit. And I assume that’s all stuff Rachel shouldn’t know.

Olivia thinks that whoever sent the virus was watching the recipients through the computer, a conclusion she draws by noticing that Ella’s computer camera was turned on, even though the little girl doesn’t know how to use it. (That’s hardly evidence. I’m sure Ella is extremely computer-literate, given that she was born after 2000. And, even assuming she doesn’t know how to use the camera function, there are umpteen ways she could have accidentally turned it on.) Peter is willing to buy the fact that someone is killing people with a computer virus, but he is baffled by why someone would do that. The answer to that question doesn’t really become clear until a third victim shows up in Evanston, IL. He turns out to be the stepfather of Luke Dempsey, whose best friend died in the cold open. Luke’s father and the first victim’s father once worked together, until Luke’s father got laid off. Based on this information, Olivia brings Luke in for questioning to get at his father. After telling Luke about his father’s potential crimes, Olivia lets the kid go, hoping that he will lead her right to his father. Being 19, he does.

So off Olivia goes to follow Luke to the warehouse, without any supervision or assistance. She arrives just as Luke is grilling his dad about killing people, and the murder admits that he’s merely trying to leave his mark on the world, in traditional mad scientist jargon. He’s intentionally hurting the loved ones of people who hurt him, although there’s still no word on how the car salesman fits into this at all. When his alarm is triggered, Dempsey sends his son to try to ward off Olivia, but she evades him easily, and then gets ambushed by Dempsey himself. He sent the virus to his own computer when he heard her come in, hoping to trick his would-be assailant into melting her own brain, but Olivia is wise enough to look away. Dempsey, however, holds a gun to his head after confronting Olivia and stares at his row of screens, eventually ending his life by pulling the trigger in a trance-like state.

A disapproving Harris is waiting outside when Peter, who rushed in at the sound of gunfire, and Olivia bring Luke out. Peter can’t understand why Luke would try to protect a murderer, but Olivia simply replies that Luke did it because the murderer in question was his father. This really hits home for Peter, who throughout this episode has been struggling with his urge to protect his father when Mary Beth Piel starts contacting him. Mary Beth plays the mother of the lab assistant, Carla Warren, who died during one of Walter’s experiments 20 years ago. Mary Beth contacts Peter, hoping to talk to Walter about her daughter. Finally, Peter relents and allows MBP to visit the lab and talk to Walter. She comes not with accusations, but only with a desire to remember her daughter. She asks Walter to tell her about Carla, and he goes on to lucidly explain that he remembers Carla’s beautiful smile, and leads MBP off to share their memories of the dead girl. Realizing that Olivia was right all along, he heads over to her house to apologize.

The things that really worked for this episode were the humanizing moments about how Olivia and Peter relate to their families. Both of them are in the position of protector, but the things they need to protect are different. Here, Olivia’s relatives are actually put to good use when their lives – or, at the very least, Ella’s brain – are put at risk by her work. I’m beginning to see this other side to Olivia as natural, although I still maintain my questions from last week about whether or not Rachel was affected by drunk stepdaddy in the same way Olivia was. Peter, on the other hand, is Walter’s legal guardian, and despite his begrudging earlier in the season, he has actually grown to love knowing his father. Mary Beth Piel is a threat to that relationship and Peter can’t handle the thought of losing his father again. I’m into these plots. Fringe really needs these humanizing elements to keep the stories and the characters grounded.

Next time, we should do more experiments!

Next time, we should do more experiments!

But as for the rest of this episode, I think it got a little too light. The policework and the science work in this episode were pretty shoddy, and, I believe, this is the first case in Fringe history that hasn’t had anything to do with one of Walter’s old experiments. (If he knew how to melt brains, I’d be very scared of him. I like wacky Walter better, with his love of car seats that warm your ass and his overwhelming concern with safe sex. I’m really glad that his eccentricities are starting to become running gags.) I also don’t know how I feel about this episode being completely outside The Pattern, either. I can get down with a MOTW, but I thought Fringe was going to have every MOTW be part of The Pattern, like my good friend and favorite Fringe villain so far Joseph Meegar. It just feels weird to have an episode I don’t really have to think about (you know, a no-brainer . . . heh . . . yes, I said that), even though I will always find things with melted brains to be amusing. It’s just such a drastic change in tone that I’m not entirely sure how to handle it.

Don’t get me wrong. I like many of the more fanciful MOTWs from seasons three and four of The X-Files. But I like them when they were on that show, and the MOTWs outweighed the mytharc episodes. I just don’t know if I like them on this show. You know, this show that is not, in fact, The X-Files.

My favorite Walterisms of the night:

  • Upon seeing the liquefied brain, Walter immediately assumes the first victim has really advanced syphillis.
  • “I hope she doesn’t notice the two thousand dollars for baboon seminal fluid I ordered.” –Walter, on Olivia requiring expense reports from the lab

The Husband:

I can’t entirely explain why, but this may be my favorite non-Pattern-related episode of Fringe yet. The villain wasn’t in it enough, but I dug the technological implications, and got a good mix of two of my favorite underseen silly supernatural horror movies – Brainscan and Hideaway, which both just happen to be written by Seven’s Andrew Kevin Walker.

I was also happy to get another unofficial TV reunion of several actors from the glorious HBO social drama The Wire, although none of the actors appeared in the same scene as far as I can remember. There is, of course, Broyles (Lance Reddick played Lt. Daniels), as well as computer hacker Akim (Gbenga Akinnagbe played high-level drug dealer Chris Partlow) and Brian Dempsey (Chris Bauer played Frank Sobotka, the focus of season 2’s dockworkers union scandal). There were so many people on The Wire that I’m surprised I don’t see more of them banded up together on television, but I’m happy enough to simply spy one every once in a while, even if it’s on the flailing Heroes.