Glee recap: The Ballad of Rachel and Will
After last week’s surprising and emotional episode ”Wheels,” expectations for Glee were on the rise, toward the top of Rachel’s register. Would the show remain on a roll with this week’s offering? The verdict: ”Ballad” didn’t defy gravity, but it did offer up a few choice cuts and fun moments (see: the thought-ful ”Endless Love”) while advancing one big story line. The concept of doomed love was explored humorously and poignantly: humorously with Rachel, the latest student to develop a scary crush on Will, and poignantly with Kurt, who hatched a ”master plan” to open Finn’s eyes to the joys of his own sex, or at least Kurt. Of course, the hour wasn’t just about heart; it was also about the belly, as the parents of Quinn and Finn discovered that they’d soon become grandparents (and two of the three didn’t take that news well). In other developments, our Terri-free streak came to a halt, we were sadly Sue-less for an entire episode, and Glee Club’s pianist finally got a name. Brad, care to accompany us while we replay this ”Ballad”?
Crushed Pepper, Crushed Berry
Will informed the gang that the new rules for Sectionals required a ballad performance (did someone’s letter-writing campaign to the Ohio show choir committee pay off?), then asked for the defintion of a ballad. ”It’s a male duck,” offered Brittany. Actually, it’s a story set to music — a perfect storm of self-expression — and Mr. Schue wanted everyone to draw names from a hat (”I bet the duck’s in the hat,” whispered Brittany), so they could pair off and sing ballads to each other, making their partner feel it. The combos? Puck with Mercedes. Artie with Quinn. Finn with Kurt. Tina with the ”other Asian.” Brittany with Santana. Rachel with no one — Matt was hospitalized with a case of spiderintheearitis. After Rachel coaxed Mr. Schue (a known fan of her voice, not her personality) to fill in for Matt, we received a highlight of the night: Their duet of ”Endless Love.” As Rachel sang amorously to him and he served comically as increasingly disturbed counterpoint, we heard the thoughts rattling around various characters’ heads. Kurt: ”I could totally sing this song with Finn, but screw him if he thinks he’s taking the Diana Ross part from me.” Puck: ”I love the days when I don’t wear underwear. Full commando.” By the time Rachel was fawning over Will’s nice teeth, he knew he was screwed: ”Crap, she looks crazy right now. I know this look.” His fears were confirmed later when she gave him a gift: An unfortunate tie with gold stars and a treble clef. ”I figure every time you wear it you can think of me,” she explained, ”and the star you’re helping me become.”
Naturally, Will shared his dilemna with precisely the wrong person, window-Windexer Emma, who noted that if one were to rank crushworthy teachers, he’d be ”no. 1 with a bullet.” He told her the story of Suzy Pepper (Hanna from Everwood!), the intense girl who had the red-hots for Will two years ago and presented him with unfortunate pepper socks. Creepier yet, when Will busted her for calling him late at night and just breathing into the phone, she cooed, ”You knew it was me just by the sound of my breath. That’s so romantic.” Terri threatened Suzy and made Will kill this crush, which sent Suzy into a tailspin: Listening to Extreme, she ate the world’s hottest pepper, burned her esophagus, and wound up in a medically induced coma. Thus, Will’s hesitation about rejecting Rachel. Emma’s suggestion? Take his own advice by singing it to her and letting her down gently.
With Emma observing, Mr. S. told Rachel, ”Now I want you to listen very closely to lyrics because I really mean what I’m singing,” and unspooled a freaky mashup of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s ”Young Girl” and The Police’s ”Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Afterward, Will asked a beaming Rachel if she understood the message. ”Yes, it means I’m very young and it’s hard for you to stand close to me,” she said breathlessly. Ummm… a little help, Emma? ”You’re a very good performer,” Emma told him, also under a full swoon. Funny stuff.
NEXT: Peppering Rachel with good advice
The pursuit continued at Will’s home, where Will was shocked to find Rachel helping Terri make dinner. Teri insisted that if his students were going to keep having crushes on him, she might as well reap some benefits. They squabbled, and when Will told Terri he was bringing Rachel home, she said, ”Can you ask her to dust the blinds in the craft room first?” (I wasn’t thrilled to have Terri back, but I did smile at a line or two of hers.) In the car, Will made Rachel sit in the backseat, yet that didn’t stop her from launching into Jennifer Paige’s ”Crush.” He cut her off and tried distraction by asking about Puck, but she said she dumped him because he was too immature. She had her ”sights set much higher.” Gulpage.
Luckily, he had an unforseen ally: Suzie, who’d ordered Rachel to back off Will in the school hallway, and now had cornered her in the bathroom. Rachel warned that she’d press charges against her, and declared deludedly: ”Ours is a love for the ages. Your threats will just make our love grow stronger.” Suzy’s classic response? ”Let me tell you a few things I learned from two years of intense psychotherapy and an esophagus transplant.” She painted out their similarities: ”We’re both mildly attractive and extremely grating. Love is hard for us. We look for boys we know we can never have. Mr. Schue is a perfect target for our self-esteem issues…. Trust me, I’m a cautionary tale.”
Surprisingly enough, Pepper cracked Berry. At rehearsal, before Rachel could sing an apology to Will, he beat her to the gut-punch: ”I’m your teacher, Rachel, and I’m sorry, but that’s all I’m ever gonna be.” Rachel explained that she’d brought flowers as a peace offering (”Sorry I’ve been acting crazy!” read the card), and began to tear up for acting so foolishly. Will softened right up, assuring her, ”there’s some boy out there who’s going to like you for everything you are — including those parts of you that even you don’t like, and those are going to be the things he likes the most.” He wasn’t through yet; he canceled their rehearsal, telling her that she’d been ”knocking ’em out of park since day 1.” The start of a beautiful appropriate teacher-student relationship? We’ll see.
Bottom line: This subplot was good-n-quirky, and I look forward to the return of Suzy Pepper, but Rachel’s sudden bathroom turnaround felt a little abrupt. I wonder if that story line should’ve featured a bigger showdown/ payoff — perhaps a diva-off between Will’s two crazy crushes, competing futilely for his affections?
Quinn and Finn’s baby blues
We began the Fabray Family drama with Quinn’s mom (Charlotte Ross) failing to squeeze her daughter into her custom dress for the Chastity Ball (irony alert!). Quinn blamed her weight gain on a big taco lunch. But it was already time to talk dinner: Dad, who waltzed in, amped for some Glenn Beck, asked Quinn to invite Finn over for a Sunday meal.
Meanwhile, Finn was having trouble opening his musical heart to a dude. When Kurt pushed, Finn blurted out, ”I’m sick and tired of people pushing to be somebody I’m not!” (Kurt’s stellar response: ”Your lashing out at me is fantastically compelling and inappropriate.”) An apologetic Finn confided his baby drama, and Kurt urged him to sing his feelings to his unborn child via the Pretenders ”I’ll Stand By You.” With Kurt on keys, Finn delivered a middling version of the song that was intercut with overearnest shots of him singing to Quinn’s sonogram on his laptop. Mom walked in on the sonogram scene and deduced that Quinn was pregnant. As Finn sobbed, she soothed him, trying to hold it together herself.
NEXT: Kurt’s pitch for the other team
Kurt also tried to be there for Finn. After Quinn chided Finn for leaking the news, Kurt wandered up to him, commiserating, ”It’s enough to want to give up women altogether.” Narrator Kurt described how he fell for Finn when Finn defended him after a Puck drive-by bullying, and they subsequently bonded over Glee Club, football, and skin care (”Your T-zone is dangerously dry”). ”I don’t know why I find his stupidity charming,” Kurt explained as we saw Finn steal a peek at Brittany’s test. ”I mean, he’s cheating off a girl who thinks the square root of 4 is rainbows.” (Line of the night?) Kurt then revealed to us his master plan: He’ll help Finn, but ultimately Quinn will break his heart ”and then he’ll be crying into my shoulder pads.”
The two boys grew a little closer as Kurt helped Finn pick out an outfit for the big dinner. As Finn sifted through clothes that belonged to his late dad, Kurt talked wistfully about the aroma of his mom’s perfume that still haunted her dresser, and Finn fretted that his dad was so brave to fight in the desert, yet he couldn’t even go to Quinn’s house to tell the truth. Kurt reminded him that his father did have a weapon, to which Finn said, ”You think I should bring a gun?” ”No, I think you should use your greatest weapon,” responded Kurt, ”your voice.”
Back at school, Mercedes (who needs more screen time) told Puck that everyone was too consumed with Babygate to focus on their own emotions, so instead, they’d decided to sing Quinn and Finn a ballad as a sign of support. (Which meant that we never got to see those fun ballad pairings realized. And it meant that no one really finishes an assignment on this show. See: ”Mashup.”) ”Not fair!” Puck bitched to Mercedes. ”Finn gets everything! He gets the sympathy! He gets the girl!” He ended up unloading the truth about being the baby’s daddy, prompting Mercedes to go at him extremely hard: ”You have no business messing up that girl’s life any more than you already have. You need to back off. You owe her at least that much.” (Anyone think that Puck will back off? The look that he gave her during the final number may be all the hint you need.)
Sunday dinner chez Fabray proved an intimidating affair for Finn, who excused himself for a bathroom break to dial Kurt for a pep talk. (”I have to go — they’ll think I’m pooping,” said Finn, ending the call.) After a few karate moves to pump himself up, he returned with a boom box, and, against Quinn’s wishes, started crooning Paul Anka’s ”(You’re) Having My Baby.” Quinn was soon won over; her parents, not so much. They gutted Quinn passive-aggressively before Mr. F. told Finn to beat it. When Quinn stood up for Finn, she got a ”You too. Get out of my house.” Ouch. The scene was moving, but bogged down with some melodramatic mush. (”I just need my Daddy to hold me and tell me it’s going to be okay.”) Finn’s mom was more understanding when the kids showed up at her house. She told Quinn, ”Honey, you can stay here as long you want.” (I’ll be interested to see how the weight of this new living arrangement quickly sinks their unsteady relationship.)
Later at rehearsal, Finn filled in Kurt, telling him that that despite all the trauma and drama, he was glad to have shed his secrets. Now, what song did Kurt want to sing? A pause, then Kurt answered: ”I Honestly Love You.” ”Sounds awesome,” responded Finn. ”I don’t know the song, uh, or whatever, but it sounds positive and nice and stuff.” Mercedes interrupted this delicately heavy moment to collect everyone for the big finale: To let Quinn and Finn know how they felt about them, the Glee Clubbers performed the great, comforting ”Lean on Me” (A tad obvious, yes.) Artie dominated the lead vocals, Kurt provided a dash of humor (”Call me,” he mouthed, motioning to Finn), and Mercedes rocked every high note, allowing the show to end on one.
And now it’s time to lean on you: What was your opinion of the episode? Did you like the Rachel-Suzy-Will plot? How about the Fabray dinner drama? Are you enjoying Brittany’s bon mots? And how are we feeling about the name of our piano player, whose real-life name also happens to be Brad (Ellis)? Or should we take a cue from April and just call him Tinkles or Knuckles? Or hey, what about Sir Keys-A-Lot? I’ll stop now. Your turn.
Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.