After a month hiatus, the “here’s what you missed on Glee” provides useful Tuesday, except they manage to ignore the big Kurt and Blaine kiss from last episode as a key plot point, so I am already bored with this episode before it starts.
The Glee club needs $5,000 to go to Nationals (I’m trying to do NYC hotel room rate math and I already think they’re aiming too low) and Schue’s big idea is to sell saltwater taffy by the piece at school. Only 20,000 pieces! Santana points out that they don’t have a leg to stand on to get things sold at the school (remember that disaster of a bake sale?) especially if she, one of the last untouchables, is getting slushied in the mornings.
Out of nowhere, Mike Chang stands up and has lines. He’s frustrated that some of the Glee kids are even further neglected. Mike, Artie, Tina and Britt are part of academic decathlon team The Brainiacs, who qualified for their own Nationals in Detroit but can’t afford the 250 dollars (a much more reasonable estimate) to go. Schue voices the collective “whaaa?” about Brittney being on academic decathlon, but the group needed a fourth, bribed her with Dots, and then she proved extremely useful thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of cat diseases, even though Artie’s knowledge of white rappers sealed the win. Schue decides they can just sell a little more taffy and send everyone where they need to go. However, Santana’s logic stills stands and who even buys taffy when not on a boardwalk?
Elsewhere, Sue has assembled her League of Doom, bent on taking down the Glee club. They are: Dustin Goolsby, the coach of Vocal Adrenaline played Bluetooth-in-ear by Cheyanne Jackson, dubbed Sergeant Handsome; Sandy Ryerson, the fired ex-Glee coach who explains he’s “what they call predatory gay” (always two steps forward, one step back, Glee), dubbed The Pink Dagger; and Will’s estranged, slightly psycho exwife, dubbed The Honey Badger. They’re a pretty lackluster bunch, but the best Sue can pull together.
Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Holly Holiday and during her date night with Will she points out the taffy plan will fail, and a better idea is to hold a benefit concert for the neglected kids, featuring music by neglected artists. “Oh so you mean like me,” quips Rachel when Schue informs the group of the plan. Close enough, and at least the kids are more into this than candy sales.
Meanwhile, Sue starts putting her plans into motion, calling on Sgt. Handsome to try and seduce Holly away from Will. Sandy, wearing some sort of pink cape that sets the gay rights movement back 10 years, will form a heckling club to demoralize the Glee kids, featuring McKinley bully No. 2 Azizmo, Sue’s henchwoman Becky and gossip blogger Jacob.
The Glee kids gather to pick out artists for the benefit and seem to completely miss the point. Mercedes wants to sing Aretha, who is definitely not neglected in the music canon. Rachel is even worse, opting for Celine Dion’s "My Heart Will Go On." Can someone find these kids someone truly underappreciated? Maybe an artist who’s big in the U.K. but gets no love in the U.S. (Robbie Williams? Scissor Sisters? I could go on for days). Sunshine Corazone, last seen being sent to a crackhouse by Rachel, shows up in nerd support and wants to use the power of her 600 twitter followers to join the fundraiser. Charice is a slightly better actor this appearance, but that’s not saying very much. Of course, on "All By Myself" she kills it. She’s like a magical singing robot. Puck is sitting front row and looks like he’s going to cry, adding another enjoyable moment in the catalog of Puck Reacts To Music moments we’ve had this season (see also: his glare at Sectionals and when he almost cried during the Kurt/Blaine duet at Regionals). The group convinces Rachel that Sunshine isn’t out to sabotage them, and that they need her to make this work, but when she gives in she strong-arms Mercedes into bumping herself further back in the program away from the big show-closing number, setting up the first non-food-related Mercedes storyline we’ve had on the show in a while.
Lauren corners Mercedes in the library and calls her out on taking a back seat and letting Rachel step all over her. She says Mercedes needs to get respect like a diva, and to do so she needs to make ridiculous demands of her fellow Glee clubbers, like having fresh puppies to dry off her hands after each performance. When met with these demands, Finn and Quinn shrug Mercedes duties off to a knowledgeable diva, Rachel, who fulfills them to perfection, only to be met with more demands from Mercedes. You just can’t win with divas.
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In adult-land, Emma has returned to her terrifying OCD levels. I wish someone would get her some real therapy on this show, but at least this episode it’s less of a punchline than last time and Will sits down with her and offers to be a sympathetic friend, helping her clean off her grapes. It’s a little heavy handed, but that’s Glee. Holly sees this exchange, and later in her classroom after a lesson on Wallace Simpson complete with fabulous outfit (could we have a whole show of Holly’s Historical Figure Role Play?) Sergeant Handsome shows up and attempt to seduce her with the classic line, “Think about how many years you have left at productive ovulating. Those aren’t eggs in those fallopian tubes, they’re pearls. Also I’m gorgeous.” What sensible woman dressed as a Nazi sympathizer wouldn’t fall into bed with that? Will overhears, and while there’s a moment where I’m hoping for a Broadway leading man showdown, instead we get some ho-hum relationship drama between Holly and Will. Yawn.
We are 30 minutes into the episode with only one song, which is likely why it feels like the show will never end. We return from commercial with the first appearance of Kurt and Blaine, with Kurt giving Blaine a tour of McKinely before the big show. As Kurt wistfully looks after his friends Blaine comments that Kurt really misses them (good job foreshadowing, Glee) before Karofsky interrupts them. Max Adler continues to bring startling nuance to the role—you can hear the nerves in his voice when he needles them for being around—but Blaine and Kurt don’t back down, calling him out on living a lie. They don’t get as far as saying outright what that lie is because he and Blaine get into a shoving match and are pulled apart by Santana, who takes matters into her own hands and scares Karofsky off. Her hair is full of razor blades! The smile she shares with Kurt after Karofsky leaves me to hope that my Kurt and Santana queer allies friendship dreams may actually come true, and sets things up interestingly for a boatload of spoilers tumbling around on the Internet about upcoming episodes.
Unfortunately the Night of Neglect lives up to its name—there’s a grand total of six people in the audience, most of them part of the heckling club. Do any of these kids have parents who care? Not even anyone in the band? Not even Emma? Is everyone in Lima a jerk? Finn rallies the troops with the timeless saying “the show’s got to go all over the place, or something” and shuttles Tina out to perform Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers." It’s definitely strange for Glee, even sympathetic Kurt and Blaine look confused, and the hecklers take her down until she’s in tears. Poor Tina never gets to do a whole solo on this show without ending up in tears. Did Jenna do something to piss off the writers?
The club puts the taffy to good use, feeding it to the audience so their teeth are stuck together and they can’t heckle Mike Chang’s dance to Michael Bublé’s "Bubble Toes," which is thoroughly enjoyable. The group comes down off the high of their first success to find that Mercedes has stormed off in a diva fit and left the building, leaving them with no one to perform after intermission (really? intermission after two songs?). Holly gathers the heckling teenagers into a room and starts a Very Special Episode about living in a culture of insults and how we tear people down to make ourselves feel better. Could we have worked on this when Azizmo called Kurt a fag for a year and a half instead of just booing some lackluster performances? No matter, because the kids decide they’d rather just leave the show than change their ways (and Azizmo has important work to do on his NCIS and CSI message boards—who else will tell the world that Mark Harmon is handsome?)
Meanwhile, Rachel finds Mercedes hiding out in her car in a rain storm—the hallmark of the best emotional scenes—and tries to get her to come back to perform. Mercedes wants to know why Rachel is a bigger star than her, even though she sings just as well. I’m glad Glee takes a moment to explore this aspect of high-school friendship, where you’re competing for the same prize. It’s been a barrier in all of Rachel’s relationships with girls (and with Kurt) and typical of high school where there’s only so much ground to grab and roles are pretty rigid. Someone is always the “best singer at the school” and when you’re second best it feels much worse than being 10th best. Rachel points out that she would rather be a star than be liked, that it’s her be-all, end-all, as opposed to Mercedes, who might be second fiddle in Glee but actually has friends. She challenges Mercedes that if she really wants the closing performance slot tonight, she has to go back into the school and take it away from Rachel. As much of a jerk Rachel can be and has been this season, when she’s a good friend she’s amazing. She’s stayed consistent for two episodes now; maybe this is finally a change in the tide instead of a blip on the radar.
Holly Holiday steps up to sing a number, because there are no more neglected kids in the Glee club who’d rather have a turn (sorry Santana, Lauren, Puck, etc.) and it’s Adele’s "Turning Tables." I don’t hate this at all, but I don’t love it. Holly is making some painful faces I’d rather not watch, and it’s a pretty big stretch to call the first platinum-selling artist of 2011 neglected, but Glee is probably contractually obligate to get some Adele on the show sometime. At least we’ve skipped the seemingly obligatory "Rolling in the Deep"… for now.
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Mercedes returns with a final demand—everyone needs to go watch her bring the house down. She found a choir somewhere (were they in a broom closet this whole time? And none of their friends bother to come and watch?) and a killer dress. Armed with both she absolutely destroys Aretha's "Ain't No Way." Everyone freaks out appropriately, and Rachel watches from side-stage, eyes flickering over to a snuggly Finn and Quinn timed to the line about how she should stop trying to be someone she’s not. Mercedes goes to her and tells her to close the show, but Rachel says no one could follow that.
Conveniently, Holly has a teaching job in Cleveland and is leaving Schue after their brief affair, pushing him back into Emma’s arms. Their big breakup scene is supposed to make us feel something, but I hardly had any reason to want them together in the first place. Sandy, after being touched by Mercedes performance, offers to pay for the Brainiacs to go to Detroit with his drug money, and they when their final question is about hermaphrodite Nazi sympathizers, they have it in the bag thanks to Ms. Holiday’s role playing earlier in the episode. What a charming bow on an otherwise bland episode of Glee. Coming off the high of Original Songs it was likely anything would be a letdown, but aside from some small plot movement and some deserved Mercedes screen-time, this episode does nothing for anyone.
As with Comeback earlier this season, I am 110 percent more excited by the preview for next week than the episode I just watched. Next week we get 90 minutes of Glee, complete with Gaga’s "Born This Way," prom drama and the return of Kurt Hummel’s to McKinley High. He’s wearing a top hat and bondage gear—it’s going to be fabulous.
Mercedes > Hermaphrodite Nazi Sympathizers > Adele > Kurt & Blaine & Santana: The Power Queers > Rachel Being a Human > Mike Chang Speaking and Dancing > Azizmo's CSI Fandom > Sue's Failed Villainy > Gywenth > Lykki Li > Will Schuester's Life