Welcome back, guys! Glee has finally returned to our TV screens after a very long hiatus - and with a lot of fanfare. Of course, what with the show having the post-Super Bowl slot, I was bracing myself for an immediate display of something heterosexual males would like. And lo! In the first thirty seconds: there were scantily-clad cheerleaders, BMX bikes, and fire! Let's hope some of the Super Bowl viewers stuck around for the spectacle, eh? To the RBI Report!
"The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle," written by Ian Brennan, directed by Brad Falchuk.
As a natural extension of the post-Super Bowl eye-catching, the episode also featured the McKinley High football team, and the inherent friction that comes with co-existing alongside Glee Club. In an effort to assuage the tension between football and Glee, Coach Beiste and Mr. Schue (in a lovely extension of their friendship) forced the two teams to combine and perform the halftime number together.
Let's look at the three main characters who were focused on this evening: Finn, Quinn, and Karofsky. Their inclusion in this is pretty straightforward. Finn and Quinn are the "leaders" of the original Glee-resistant popular kids, and Karofsky is heading up the Next Generation, if you will. And so the show presents them with... the Choice. They can choose football/cheerleading, or they can choose Glee. Now, inherently, Puck, Mike, Sam, Santana, and Brittany get lumped in with these three. Technically, they have these choices too. But the show cares more about Finn and Quinn because they are portrayed as the leaders of their little units and so we know nothing about why the others choose the way they do.
And that's what's frustrating about this whole choosing business - all of the kids have chosen Glee at one point or another. I ranted for a whole week about how the writers needed to cool it with presenting the decision between football and Glee to Finn, only to have him fail at first. The good news about this episode is that Finn passed. The bad news is that Quinn, Santana, and Brittany didn't - and got the treatment usually reserved for Mr. Hudson himself.
Of course, the Cheerios had to choose between Glee and cheerleading, because, naturally, Sue Sylvester is making them. Understandable. I do take issue with how the show chose to portray the decision-making, though. We got that great scene in the bathroom where Quinn, Santana, and Brittany deliberate a little bit - which was fantastic because a) it was giving us a glimpse into their brains, and b) it gave us actual evidence of the Unholy Trinity operating as something of a unit again. It was like a zombie double rainbow! My conclusion from this scene was, "Oh, surely they'll stick with Glee! Glee was there for Quinn when no one else was! Glee is the best part of Santana's day! Brittany loves to dance!"
Imagine my consternation when the outcome was actually the opposite. Grumble.
Yes, being on the Cheerios makes you cool, but by having those ladies choose the Cheerios, the writers were blatantly ignoring some serious canonical evidence that would suggest they might choose otherwise - much like Finn in previous episodes. And that's unfair to the character(s). And what's worse, to me, is how the writers decided to include Finn himself in this little charade: he's the one that saves the day. He waltzes up to the erstwhile Cheerio-Glee hybrids and with only the power of his good-natured persuasion, convinces them to change their minds.
You know who should have made those decisions? Quinn, Santana, and Brittany. Their characters would be so much stronger for it. And having Finn tsk-tsk them just makes him look like a hypocrite for having gotten all preachy about a mistake he's made before - and more than once. To me, this was the biggest failing of the episode, and what's worse, it seems as though it were included simply to pave the way for a Finn/Quinn reunion, somewhat ineffectively. I would have been fine with a Fuinn reunion if they didn't destroy a bunch of characterization along the way - and look, Quinn's getting all uncharacteristically swoony because the writers are misusing Finn, who in turn gets his own de-characterization as a result. Oh, show. It's times like these when I see right through you and I do not like what I'm looking at.
That being said - much of the rest of the episode was rather successful. I don't wish to seem complainy. How much did I love the Glee ladies playing football? A+ choice on the slow-mo walk-up, Mr. Falchuk. And, A++ for giving Tina the chance to run with the ball. I wanted so badly for the girls to actually play, and I loved that it was Tina who went for it. That was excellent, but then nerve-wracking because then they went all serious and made me think she'd gotten hurt, which is NOT COOL. But that may just be the after effects of my poor heart having to see the look on Mike's face in that scene. I can't decide if I love or hate the writers for being so damn emotionally manipulative there.
What else? I loved to see that Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes, and Blaine are spending time together outside of school. "Need You Now" was beautiful and lovely, and how much do I love that Coach Beiste teared up and sang along? Puck was a solid A+ this episode, between going after Azimio with his guitar, patching things up with Finn, and his rather kickass speech to the football team at half time. He will Tik-Tok your face! And how hilarious was Rachel Berry this episode? Her pure enthusiasm for helping the football team, combined with her refusal to work with homophobes, topped by her flat-out aggression in a brawl/football situation - Ms. Berry was on pointe, I must say. And, the obligatory comment - "Thriller/Heads Will Roll" was indeed pretty awesome, and the sooner we can get Kevin's and Naya's voices actually overlapping, the happier I will be!
Barring the Cheerios, Finn had some pretty solid interactions with other classmates - Puck and Karofsky in particular. I like to see the Puck-Finn breakdown mend itself, even if the rift never really went anywhere after "Sectionals," because, hey, I'm never going to say no to friendship on this show. And, I'm finding this Finn-Karofsky dynamic interesting because surely (so then, hopefully) it will come into play when the Kurt-Karofsky business comes to a head. Karofsky was making such lovely progress this episode, and then he got all freaked out again. Sigh. Looking forward to more development with him. The dramatic irony of knowing his secret really does add an extra interesting layer to almost every action he takes onscreen, and I'm definitely intrigued to see where the writers are taking him.
Let's talk about Dalton for a bit. So, the Warblers... sang? Yeah, that's pretty much all those guys do, isn't it? I took note of two things in this mostly useless (but still fun) scene - firstly, that Kurt got hardly any coverage in the shots, which makes me wonder if it was purposeful. He's finally blended in there! He's just another one of the backup singers, which tugs at my heart a little bit. Secondly, why isn't there any conflict at Dalton? I know that the showrunners want to portray it as this very ideal place of learning for Kurt, but I personally think that Dalton could stand to have a wee bit of conflict in their halls. And there's some already available, which I literally just mentioned - their whole glee club is just a cappella singers backing up Blaine on the lead. Wouldn't that breed some resentment? I get that RIB want to show off Darren and have some (pretty kickass) a cappella numbers, but... within the show, I want a little bit of conflict there. It could be interesting, and I think it would be pretty realistic. But hey, that's a minor quibble.
I should probably speak as well about Sue Sylvester's rampage for "catastrophic success" and how the show frames it within its narrative, but I fear this is getting too long - so, it'll be a post for another day. Go figure that I write two epic posts about Finn and Quinn over the hiatus, and who should take center stage in the first episode back? It's why this recap is filled with my reactions to those parts - I'm hyper-aware to how the writers deliver Finn and Quinn's characterization, and unfortunately, in this episode, it was slightly left of target.
All things considered, I think many of the episode's details were handled accurately and successfully, but that the show got too caught up in its own mythology of popularity vs. Glee and as a result missed out on what could have been some pretty great character moments, particularly for Glee's Cheerios. And, we'll see where this Finn-Quinn business is leading next episode, and if I will indeed have another mini-tantrum, a la Sue Sylvester, in which I throw my notebook across the room...
The RBI Report Card...
Musical Numbers: A+
Dance Numbers: A+
Episode MVP: Noah Puckerman.