Rachel gets bored with her dream of being a Broadway star and entertains other ideas of entertaining; Mercedes and Blaine both push the boundaries of generosity and logic to accommodate Santana and Kurt, respectively

By Jodi Walker
April 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM EDT
Tyler Golden/Fox
S5 E18
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Tonight on Glee, everyone is actively trying to ruin their own lives. It is very weird! Glee has heard your cries of incredulity regarding Rachel’s meteoric rise to stardom, with little more than a polyester waitress uniform and partial fine arts school transcript as her stepping stones, and the show has committed itself to creating balanced storylines and characters. So if Rachel is going to achieve her dreams one week, then why not have her become bored of them and totally change her life’s purpose in the very next episode? And just to really hone in on this theme, let’s have Mercedes risk her album by forcing her record company to make her first single a duet with an amateur singer. Okay — and I know this isn’t dashing anyone’s lifelong dreams or anything, and will probably improve the character’s life drastically — but just to keep the tricks guessing, let’s have Santana change her whole personality. This kind of focus is what keeps the audience coming back for more!

All right. I’ll settle the hell down, because it’s not as though this was an unentertaining episode of Glee. I still enjoyed it: the performances were dynamic, I found only the scene where Blaine questions Kurt’s One Direction song choice (how dare you, Blaine) to be clunky, and I laughed out loud multiple times at the heavy dose of physical humor this episode, particularly with anything involving a certain sci-fi space opera. But I also spent the entire 42 minutes of the show scratching my head. And a lot of the commercial time, to,o because I think that I Wanna Marry Harry show is really happening. Like, they’re really going to air it.

Are the writers just having these characters make the irrational mistakes of any average 20-year-old? Kurt seems to be doling out logical advice, but everyone is uniformly refusing to take it. If the show had taken just a few more episodes to flush out Rachel’s disillusionment with playing Fanny Brice, I think it could have worked. But the catalyst for her flippancy is that after only a month of being on stage, a single person tells her she might not become a screen star? That was just too much too fast.

The episode begins with Rachel signing autographs outside of the stage door and floating through New York City like she owns the place. And she does! She’s getting rave reviews, there are rumors of a Tony nomination, and she’s fulfilling what she deems every homeless person’s dream by signing their newspapers while they sleep. She’s even gotten an agent who asks her about her aspirations . Suddenly, she’s aiming at spinning this Broadway thing into a movie career, or maybe a hit TV show. He informs her that’s not the way for her; she doesn’t have a face for the big screen, but she could probably play Fanny Brice for the next 15 years if she wanted to. And with that, the dream that Rachel has had for about 15 minutes is crushed, and she’s feeling stifled by the dream she’s harbored her whole life and has recently achieved.

NEXT: Rachel could stand to be a little wiser and maybe older too…

The camera pans in on that close-up we’ve been told Rachel/Lea Michele shouldn’t have (puh-lease, give me all the Lea Michele close-ups) as she applies her Funny Girl makeup and starts singing a sadder, slowed down rendition of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.” I like that it’s kind of an undoing of the great scene from last week where Rachel made her way from dressing room to stage to for her first performance of “I’m the Greatest Star.” I had a little more trouble, however, getting down with the writers trying to have us feel bad for Rachel because she’s up to 40 Funny Girl performances and… I guess she’s bored? Wake her up when it’s all over, because she’s kind of done with this whole starring on Broadway night after night thing. I don’t think I can feel sorry for this girl achieving her dreams. Wait, maybe I can. Let me just — nope, no, not an ounce of sympathy. But the episode never really helps me figure out if I’m supposed to feel bad for her, or if I’m supposed to be annoyed that she’s not appreciating all that she’s achieved.

If it’s the former, that’s ridiculous; if it’s the latter, that’s interesting, but ultimately too unrealistic (I know, I know) that Rachel would be bored of the dream she’s had since she was a toddler after less than five weeks of shows. It sounds great, it feels weird. B

But who cares what I think, because guest star Jim Rash, playing a Fox executive, thinks Rachel is fabulous and is dying to capitalize on her childlike boredom. He’s inviting himself into her dressing room, telling her to come to L.A. to audition for his new show, Song of Solomon (which I swear is already a show on CBS). He suggests Tuesday might be a good day to come to L.A.. and to let her understudy give “People” a try. Rachel tries to feign exhaustion with Sydney the Producer to arrange just such an opportunity and he tells her she can pass her job over to her understudy when aliens invade Manhattan or her head falls off…and even then, she might just need a steroid shot.

According to the timeline that Glee continues to treat like a chew toy, Santana is back in New York permanently again and living in Mercedes’ Giant House of Bedrooms. Mercedes returns home and says that her producers have listened to her album and didn’t hear a single single — er, a song they think could be a single. Then, staring into Santana’s beautiful face, Mercedes realizes that the two of them have always been bad bitches together — which, yes. Why not give it a try in the recording studio? They head over to meet with Mercedes’ Crime Scene Investigator producer, but quickly realize they’re not feeling inspired by the setting.

Santana reminds Mercedes that the reason she came to New York was to capture the spirit of the city. Then they just go sing in different parts of the building, namely, the bathroom and the basement. NOTHING MAKES SENSE! But it is a diva-tastic Mercedes/Santana number, and it does bring some Lauryn Hill into the mix with “Doo-Wop (That Thing),” so thank-yous all around from my pre-teen self. I don’t quite understand what singing a cover accomplishes as far as the producer feeling like they found a single, but “Mercedes Jones, you got yourself an album!” seems like pretty positive feedback. B+

Over at NYADA, which is a school that some of these characters still go to, Kurt is buzzing because “the coolest socialite in the world,” June Dolloway — widow of a mineral baron, muse of Helmut Newton, peyote tripper with Joe Kennedy — is coming to the school for the unveiling of a dance lab that’s being dedicated to her. Kurt has been selected to perform at the ribbon cutting. He asks Blaine to perform with him, because they’re getting married — so if something happens for one of them, it happens for both of them. Good lord, is that how it works? May I never fall in love with a musical performer, fire breather, or anyone particularly “sporty.”

June, played by Shirley “A-f—ing-mazing” MacLaine,  arrives to the unveiling. It’s fun to see Kurt finally excited about a storyline of his own again (don’t get too attached). He hits the stage with Blaine in coordinating jewel-tone suits to perform One Direction’s “Story of My Life.” It sounds perfectly good in their two-part harmony, but it’s mostly just hilarious watching Blaine casually nail his spots while Kurt stares like a maniac because he’s so excited to be performing for June. It took me a while to understand why Kurt had all the lame verses, while Blaine had the much more exciting bridges and higher harmony on the chorus. June could only be impressed by one half of their “youthful energy” — and since Kurt was given a small sliver of Blaine’s charmed life last week, we’re being set up for the golden boy to get back in the throne-like saddle. B

Apparently, June has “an eye for the extraordinary” and asks Blaine to accompany her to a big upcoming fundraiser. Only Blaine. And just when these two had started making their mouths into smile-shapes toward each other again…

NEXT: A sneak peak at Fox’s 2016 upfronts…

Blaine feels terrible that he stole Kurt’s thunder, and while Kurt says he’s a little jealous, he’s not resentful. Although a lot of that good sportsmanship seems to be riding on the idea that she’ll open doors for both of them. With the assurance that he looks like pre-accident Montgomery Clift, Blaine heads to the event. June immediately drags him onstage with her to sing her guests into donation submission. (Oddly, Eric Roberts delivers the news that people aren’t being so generous, then never returns to the screen again.) June needs some fat donations, “and not just chubby like your first wife,” so the two perform “Piece of My Heart.” MacLaine looks like the most fabulous 80-year-old (80 years old!) you’ve ever seen in her full-sequin black suit, but it’s an interesting match for both of their voices — they’re not exactly rockers. But they are charmers; they keep the energy high and ultimately make it rain cash money all of up in that place. B

Rachel, against the advisement of Kurt and ignoring all human logic, her heart, and probably her horoscope, tells Sydney she’s gotten the flu and heads to L.A. for her audition. When she gets to the audition, she storms in and starts right in on “The Rose,” which reminds me a lot of Lea Michele’s audition for Glee, — continuing the weird little meta parallel track they’re building here between Rachel and pre-Glee Lea. The juxtaposition of Rachel looking and sounding beautiful as she sings, and all of the Fox execs continually trying to stop her performance is pretty great. Jim Rash’s poor hovering hand made this the only time I’ve ever not cried during that song. It turns out they didn’t really need her to sing in the audition. Rachel hadn’t received a script, but SONG of Solomon had made her assume more musical, less “Guardians of the Galaxy meets Game of Thrones…with a strong Grey’s Anatomy element.” They seem MOST excited about the Grey’s Anatomy element. A-

Once Rachel gets the script, she tries valiantly and hilariously to play opposite their dreamy Solomon, who makes out with her still, closed-mouth face. But she can’t quite get lines like “I will not risk my life on a flute that will never avenge the destruction of my planet!” (I really think this is already a show.) It’s the worst audition of her life, which is just the push she needs to realize that Broadway is still the place for her, and calls Sydney to tell him that she’s ready to get herself better and get back to work. Good thing too, because her understudy fell off the stage and he needs her back that night. Unfortunately, she’s in an L.A. traffic jam with a taxi driver who plays “a john” on The Client List.

Another main character interested in personally sinking her career before it starts: Mercedes is still insistent on making her breakout single a duet with Santana. Santana seems uncharacteristically cool with just tacking herself onto this (unheard) song, when we’ve never known her to be big on depending on other people before. Mercedes’ producer tells her he’s happy to get her a more famous duet partner for her second album, but for now, she needs to stick with her solo calling card for her single. Unless she wants to permanently be a duo with Santana, that is very solid advice…which she does not take. Santana tells Mercedes she should listen to her producer, but she comes to the diner with a contract in hand for Santana — I guess in defiance of her producer, or after having worn him down. It’s not explained; it’s just the first sign that Santana’s behavior thus far isn’t a fluke. She’s ready to have friends and be a friend.

Meanwhile, Rachel has called Kurt for help in her bi-coastal conundrum. He storms into the diner to run his potential plans by Santana and Mercedes: a bomb threat, a bed bug scare, “or maybe I run into the lobby and I’m like ‘Heyyy, Barbra’s in the park and she’s doing a concert for free!” I think that last one sounds pretty good, but Santana has a better idea. The next thing we see is her acting as Rachel’s understudy, a job that Sydney reminds her she formerly quit when he hears what’s going on. Rachel gets back to thank Santana profusely and tell her she was great in final scenes that she got to see. She assumes that Santana will want something in return, because Santana, but apparently she just wants to be a good friend — simply because she realized the world is even colder than she is.

NEXT: Broadway giveth and Broadway can taketh away…

Blaine has spent the whole week with June. She has been completely charmed by him and wants to host some sort of showcase to him. He just has one very small request from the woman who’s already giving him everything: he wants Kurt to be in the showcase too. “We really want to do everything together, and I think that the world really needs to see his talent too.” Dude, look alive; this is not what marriage means. June agrees with me; even though he didn’t ask, she tells him she thinks he should call off this engagement. “Are you going to settle, or are you going to venture out into the unknown like a Samurai and realize your full potential?” When I think Blaine, I think Samurai — so it will probably be the latter.

No, wait, I was wrong. Blaine tells Kurt he’s going to be in the showcase with him even though June explicitly said no. This should all turn out really, really well.

In case you weren’t feeling enough like everyone is totally blowing it, it’s time for Rachel to meet with Sydney as he requested after she e-mailed him to tell him what happened in L.A. For just one moment, you think he’s going to let her off the hook because she’s his star. Then he rips into her in a truly masterful way. If you were someone who had been frustrated with Rachel’s irresponsible actions all episode (I’ve already made a Facebook group for us), then you probably felt a little bit vindicated seeing Michael Lerner look her dead in the eye and say, “I wanted to fire you. I spoke to Rupert, the other investors, they all agreed you’re an ambitious, irresponsible child.” But he’s not firing her. Rachel is their star now, and they need her — but this will not be the supportive relationship it once was. He doesn’t believe in her anymore, and he tells her straight up, if she ever does anything like this again, he’ll fire her, sue her for breach of contract, and make sure that her Broadway reputation is irreparable. “Now get the hell out of my office.”

The episode should have ended there. It was brutal, sure, but it was a valid response to what Rachel risked. She could have just learned her lesson. What happened next could have happened later, after we’d had some time with Repentant Rachel. Instead, a Fox executive calls to say that she didn’t get the role, but they want to offer her a development deal for a TV show of her own. Her excitement again seems like that of a child: she’s defiantly going for the cookie she’s been told explicitly that she can’t have. It also happens to be on a burning stove that she knows she’s not supposed to touch. I did at least appreciate that this episode established stakes that will carry on to the end of the season. Whether they’re illogical, life-ruining, or perfectly-assessed risks that my sorry ass should have never questioned is still TBD.

If you didn’t watch and you’re wondering why I didn’t mention Sam or Artie, it’s because they weren’t there — and no one tells us why. If you’ve been wondering what happened to Brittney after Lesbos, I have no idea, although I wonder if Santana’s newly turned leaf has anything to do with her. What did you think of the new Santana? Were you as confused by all of the character’s  career motivations as I was this episode? Was your viewing of that Rachel/Santana scene affected by current news stories? And do you feel like Glee is about to go full-meta with this Rachel TV show? All show-within-a-show conspiracy theories are more than welcome in the comments…

Next week: Peter Pan; June Squibb; written by Chris Colfer. Should. Be. Interesting.

Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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  • 05/19/09
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