I would like to state for the Official Recapping Record: I really enjoyed this episode of Glee. I laughed; I cried; I shrugged my shoulders along to that song from the Samsung Galaxy commercial. I know I tend not to shy away from pointing out a show’s inadequacies — unless it’s, for example, a limited holiday run of The Sing-Off, hosted by Nick Lachey, the only flawless program on television — and this episode still had a few missteps. They will be mentioned; rest assured, they mostly have to do with that shoehorned B-plot. But damn if that wasn’t a more out-of-the-box, enjoyable hour than I was expecting.
Maybe it’s because I was sort of expecting a non-live version of The Sound of Music Live!, subbing out Austria sets for New York and Carrie for Rachel. This was the Funny Girl episode, after all. But instead of performing every number from the show or having Lea Michele roll out another rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — one that can never quite match the thrill of the first time — the show actually earned its ending. The episode wasn’t just a depiction of the opening night of Funny Girl on Broadway. It was also Rachel’s story of making it to the opening night of Funny Girl on Broadway. Is it ridiculous that Rachel has been in New York for only two years and, while going to school full-time, has managed to get the lead in a huge Broadway musical? Sure. Was that New York Times review maybe a touch too glowing and a little too focused on Rachel? Perhaps. But this is where we’ve landed with New York Glee, and while the show got pretty creative with its depiction of Funny Girl last night, the payoff seemed to be a particularly focused episode.
Tonight was all about Rachel, and I mean ALL about Rachel. The show has secretly been softening me up to the Gold Star Girl, allowing me to root for her this episode in a way I haven’t since her first underdog season. Her limited storyline last week, and Lea Michele’s emotionally raw but understated performance, thawed my heart, cleared a little room for a full-Rachel plot this week, and prepared me to actually want her to succeed. I didn’t even know it was coming! Yes, I think it must have been the thrill of the unexpected that got me so on board with this episode; that combination of 40% confusion, 30% excitement, 15% fear things are about to go off the deep end and, of course, 15% concentrated power of will. And it started in immediately, the episode’s opening scene finding Rachel in the middle of the most confusing three minutes of television since Jeff Probst coaxed Brandon Hantz out of a mental breakdown with the sheer power of his massaging hands.
Rachel is having a common nightmare: She’s being called to stage for the first scene of Funny Girl and she didn’t even know there was a performance. Perhaps slightly less standard, Rachel’s nightmare features cameos from former favorite recurring characters, Karofsky and Jacob Ben Israel, berating her as her teeth fall out. She’s also naked. Then she’s in a bunch of heart balloons. Then Blaine is Warbler’s garb and Santana is in a Cheerios uniform. And suddenly, Rachel has gone Full Sophomore Year, reindeer sweater and all, singing The Cardigans’ “Lovefool.” My notes simply read, What the fudge is going on here? (Only I didn’t say “fudge.”) But, really, I’ll take any chance for Rachel to be totally taken off guard and then brought back to her comfort zone by a ’90s pop song. All of her friends are Toddlers & Tiaras mom-coaching her dance moves from the back of the auditorium as the sound starts to get wonky, but before things can get too Requiem for a Dream, she wakes up. A-
It seems all of Rachel’s nightmare-inducing stress is coming from reading negative blog reviews and comments about the Funny Girl previews. Everyone knows that actors “are like a bottomless cup that constantly needs to be filled with love and validation,” but a comments section is no place for that, you naïve young thing. Kurt, playing Rachel’s personal sage with great aplomb tonight, tells her she’s going unplugged, and while I momentarily hoped that meant some hippie acoustic performance of Funny Girl is headed our way, he just means no internet. No comments! No negativity! As Kurt says, “If you need your cup filled, we’ll fill it right here.” Everybody now: AWWWWWW.
NEXT: That’s weird, it doesn’t feel like we’re in New York…