Schue walks a fine line as he recruits new members and sets standards for admittance, Quinn tries to find herself, and Rachel and Kurt get a wake-up call.

By Abby West
September 21, 2011 at 07:53 AM EDT
Adam Rose/Fox
S3 E1
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Hi, guys! The long wait for a new episode of Glee is finally over, and I have to say it was a really satisfying start to the new year. The “kids” all seemed to be in stages that make sense, things moved along briskly, and the majority of the songs not only fit right in to the story line but were simply fun to watch. The seniors (Kurt, Rachel, Finn, and Mike) are thinking ahead to life after high school, Quinn is having an identity crisis, Sue is bringing the full weight of her crazy to her congressional campaign, and Schue is obsessing on the kids while ignoring his (more than) slightly dysfunctional personal life. Yes, all is as it should be in the McKinley High world.

The Glee club is down three members at the start of the show; Quinn is off on her aforementioned personal quest,  Zizes decided her rep couldn’t take the stink of failure from the Glee club anymore, and Sam’s gone because his dad got a job out of state (bye, Chord Overstreet). By the end of the episode they’d pick up a new member (Blaine! More Blaine and Kurt scenes please!) and lost another (so long for now, Santana. More on that later.) Mike and Tina remain an item. Mercedes introduced us to her new man, Marcus. Oh and Will and Emma are sleeping together! But that’s all they seem to be doing.

But with all the setup to go through, we had to wait until after the first commercial break to hear a song. Schue’s bright idea to recruit new members involved donated pianos painted purple and strategically placed around the school. The Glee club members were supposed to launch into song-and-dance routines whenever they saw them to try to spark any onlooker’s musical passion. Not surprisingly, this was not appealing to any of them, what with their popularity hitting new lows following the failure to place in the top 10 at Nationals. But Rachel convinced them to actually do a routine.. in the cafeteria… at lunchtime. With a little more thought I’m sure they could have seen the massive food-fight potential in this, or at least the distinct possibility for creative slushying, like what the Cheerios’ new co-captain, Becky, did. But they did the GoGos proud with that performance, and I’m not so surprised that it was so dangerous for some of the actors.

Quinn’s taken on a new look (pink hair, a nose ring and an ironic tramp-stamp tattoo of Ryan Seacrest) and a new set of friends. I’m not exactly thrilled about a group of teenage girls calling themselves Skanks, but it was good to see Good Luck Charlie‘s Raven Goodwin as part of that crew and I hope we’ll see her perform. (Yes, I watch a lot of the Disney Channel shows. Don’t judge.)

NEXT: Rachel and Kurt get a reality check

It was a perfect little dose of reality for Kurt and Rachel to see themselves in light of a larger world with other, more talented people. The trip to New York last season had seemed filled with pipe dreams and luck (getting onto the Wicked stage, meeting Patti Lupone) but now the reality of not always measuring up loomed large, especially in the face of  talent like The Glee Project‘s Lindsay Pearce, who fit right in as an even crazier version of Rachel heading up a group of  possible competitors. (A nod to Lea Michele for her subtle looks tonight. She had a perfect vague — and politely smiling– terrified look as she watched  that room full of people who looked and sounded like her and Kurt, except with even more talent.)

Oof, can we talk about Sugar Motta? Vanessa Lengies sold it as the obnoxious tone-deaf rich girl whose father donated the pianos. (BTW: How happy was Rachel to find out that Sugar was a horrifically bad singer? You could see that momentary fear she had in the face of Sugar’s confidence.) Sugar’s righteous indignation when Schue didn’t acknowledge that she’d worked that song like a stripper pole bodes well. I hope she makes for a nice enemy, because with Sue having bigger fish to fry, it’ll be great to have another person as a thorn in the Glee club’s side.

Speaking of Sue, she attacked her campaign with the kind of ruthlessness and laser focus we’ve come to expect. After polling at “ninth place, well behind Undecided, that rapist running from prison, and ‘I don’t care. Please don’t call me during dinner,’ Sue realized she needed to take a stand against something to rouse the voting public. When her decimation of one of the purple pianos struck a chord with a disgruntled geometry teacher (help me out here folks, where do we know that actress who played Nancy Blethman from), she knew she had something. Her campaign promise to cut government funding of public school arts programs caught fire and Schuester’s little glitter bomb setup only served to help her win points with people who have a problem with those arty types. She may be playing on a national stage but she’s still locked in combat with Schuester.

Blaine and Kurt, with their budding love and witty, pseudo-urbane ways, are my favorite couple to watch. Blaine’s decision to transfer to McKinley was romantic and I look forward to hearing him sing more, watching him bump up against the insular Glee clubbers, and seeing him show off his non-uniform attire. I also love that Kurt and Blaine’s default topic of conversation is how they’d make over Nancy Grace. I wonder what they thought of her Dancing With the Stars outfit.

Santana feels a little all over the place, first making an impassioned plea for Quinn to return to the Cheerios and reunite the unholy trinity, then acquiesing to Sue’s splans to sabatoge the Purple Piano Project. That act of betrayal got her kicked out of the Glee club.

Now, about Will and Emma sharing a bed together and seeming domestic bliss. I feel like I missed a huge leap for Emma and we need to have it acknowledged. Sure, she lived with her hunky dentist hubby for a time too, and had all the same “intimacy” issues that she has with Will but for the length of time that we’ve endured their will-they-won’t-they thing, it feels like we needed a little more acknowledgment of the big step. What I could absolutely have done without was Will’s “Guess who woke up just before I did” line. <> And it’s hard not to make some Sue-type joke about his hair, which was perfectly coifed when he woke up. I now really, really, really want to see some Schuester bedhead. (And by the way, how perfect is it that the guy who replaced Schue in April Rhodes’ musical won a Tony for it? Kind of improbable for a show that started a month before the awards were handed out but I’m going with the suspension of disbelief here.)

NEXT: Grading the performances and the week’s best lines.

THE PERFORMANCES

The Go-Gos ‘We Got the Beat’: Fun, the whole thing was fun. The fact that the rest of the student body looked on in part horror/part apathy somehow took nothing away from the performance for me.  A-

‘Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead’: This was a little too slight for me. B-

Tom Jones’ ‘It’s not Unusual’:  Darren Criss totally owned this one. Oh yes, this will be on my playlist today.  Also, I can’t. Stop. Doing. The Carlton dance. A

Anything Goes’ ‘Anything Goes’: This outstanding rendition of the Broadway classic felt like it belonged on a big stage or in a big-screen musical. It was so big in scope and talent. I just loved it.

Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’: Another song that made me just want to keep moving. At least it did whenever I wasn’t obsessing over the crazy ugly faces everyone seemed to making during that performance. B+

QUOTABLES:

Brittany: “Wait, are you working on a time machine too?”

Kurt on one of the comments on the YouTube video of Rachel and Finn’s big kiss on stage: “Why’s that T-Rex eating’ the Jew?”

Kurt: “If there are purple pianos involved in this, I’m on board.”

Sue: “I must say, I’m enjoying this new stink of  man marbles wafting off of you.”

Brittany: “Well, yeah, I was gonna do it but I’m a water sign, so, you know.”

Santana: “I’ve got a bar of soap and bottle of peroxide in my locker with your name on it.”

Artie: “Her ears should get to park in my handicapped spot.”

Beastie: “Maybe I should rough her up. Go all Deliverance on her, huh?”

Brittany to Quinn: “We used to be like the three Muskateers. Now Santana and I are like Almond Joys, and you’re like a Jolly Rancher that fell in the ashtray.”

Hit the comment boards and tell me what lines bowled you over and what you thought about the episode and the songs. And please tell me that someone else totally got Becky’s twisted genius about the redundancy of toast… Just me? Okay.

And follow me on Twitter: @EWAbbyWest

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Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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