It’s week three and once again, Glee denied me of hearing my beloved Roderick bust out a bluesy song with his soulful voice. In fact, the entire New Directions team was chorally absent from this episode. Instead, we are given a front row seat as the acrobatic powerhouse Vocal Adrenaline and the mighty Sue Sylvester take over the spontaneous song-and-dance performances at McKinley High. Watching Mr. Schuester’s kids hang by wires from the auditorium ceiling as Sue terrorizes students in the hall was definitely concerning. The show choir winds have shifted in Lima. And to think—it all started with a plastic fork.
Now that Sue has absolute power at WMHS, she decides to pity Will for having the emotional depth of a 12-year-old girl by inviting him to lunch. When he inadvertently leaves a disposable fork on the table at the conclusion of their meal, Sue’s unmedicated brain translates the gesture as a sign of disrespect. Forget retiring to the marsh in southern Iraq. It’s time to put an end to Will Schuester and Glee Club once and for all. TO THE HURT LOCKER!
Becky joins Sue on her maniacal quest and asks the question everyone wants to know: What is a hurt locker? Sue raises the door to a storage facility that houses a collection of personal objects and display boards full of memories. This is where she stores her hatred. It’s a sight to behold if you’re a stalker. The rest of us are relieved that this wasn’t a weird basement where the Glee kids from season 4 are being held against their will, forced to process their dire circumstances through the power of song.
Sue pins the “rage fork” on Will’s voodoo board, next to other mortal enemies Jimmy Carter and Al Roker. A lock of Rachel’s hair extensions remind Sue that Will’s protégé must be stopped as well. Sue saunters over to an organ, plays a chord, and a secret wall raises up, revealing a much sweeter exhibition. Ladies and gentlemen, Sue Sylvester is a Klaine fan! And she will stop at nothing to restore their tender man love so she can be a flower girl at their fabulous wedding. Fear not Porcelain! Sue may be taking down your Glee Club, but she’s determined to lift you and Blaine up where you belong.
There’s one problem. Kurt doesn’t want Blaine back. He shares this sentiment with Sue, just before she sends him to the auditorium to greet the teams who have just arrived to compete in the Glee Club Invitational. Kurt panics, knowing that Sue crafted this diabolical plan to sabotage his team. Buckle up New Directions. It’s time to see what real competition looks like!
Naturally, Rachel is in freak-out mode and gently reminds Mr. Schu that his kids have had all summer to practice their set, while her four kids have only performed a couple of songs and uttered a collective five minutes of dialog in three episodes. This isn’t fair, and Sue knows New Directions will crumble under the pressure. Rachel asks Mr. Schu to remember what it’s like to lead a ragtag group of misfits into the line of fire, hoping that their dreams aren’t crushed in the wake of battle. Will walks backstage and notices the picture of Finn looking down on him. He decides to toss out the numbers they had practiced.
As the Vocal Adrenaline team rushes to learn new songs, Rachel and Kurt ask Blaine if the Warblers will take it easy on New Directions. Blaine is quick to answer, “In your dreams,” before suggesting that if this competition is too scary for the quartet, then New Directions should probably drop out. Suddenly he receives a frantic text message from Karofsky. There’s an intruder in the apartment! Blaine, Kurt, and Rachel race over to find a bear cub munching on rainbow pillows.
Clearly Sue is behind this bizarre behavior. Kurt busts through Sue’s office, explaining that when she learned of Karofsky’s attraction to bears, he doesn’t actually mean the deadly animal that can rip out your trachea. It’s a metaphor for burly men. Arranging to have a real live bear placed in someone’s home is insane!
Sue: Will Schuester once submerged a lucite platform into the swimming pool so he could literally walk on water to propose to his girlfriend. Now that’s pretty insane.
NEXT: Heads are gonna roll.
Incapacitating Karofsky’s relationship, planting seeds of doubt in New Directions, and playing cupid to Blaine doesn’t derail Sue from unleashing her plan to sabotage Rachel. She hypnotizes Sam (apparently all you need is a swaying pocket watch) convincing him that when he hears the word “piano,” he will fall instantly in love with Rachel. When he kisses her, he won’t remember a thing.
Later at Breadsticks, when Rachel laments that it’s hard not falling back into old Lima habits, Sam asks her if she has any outside interests. Yes! Learning to play the piano! Sam falls immediately in love and vows that Blaine, who owes him for all those times he shaved his back in New York, will be happy to teach them both.
The piano lessons in the auditorium are quickly squelched by the arrival of Sue. Or should I say, the lowering of Sue on a cherry picker. (She was just loosening some bolts. No biggie.) After belittling Rachel, Jane Lynch breaks the fourth wall and sings the angry girl power anthem, “Bitch,” as she terrorizes students with a fire extinguisher. Let it be known that Lynch commits to the moment.
Smashing students’ heads into their lockers didn’t quite complete Sue’s “destroy and conquer” list for the day. She also arranges for every one of Karofsky’s bear-y exes to eat dinner at Breadsticks at the exact same time he and Blaine are there. To make matters even more awkward, Sue presents a genealogy profile she obtained using DNA from hair follicles she pilfered from the lint trap in their dryer. Surprise boys! You’re third cousins!
Sue doesn’t stop there. She visits Carmel High to tattle on Will to… Principal Figgins in a wig? No. It’s his twin sister Abigail Gundersen. And after watching Sue’s drone footage (nice) of the Vocal Adrenaline Coach promising the enemy that he will throw the invitational, Principal Gundersen is furious.
Now that Will’s job is on the line, he confronts Sue for attacking his career. Why would she be so cold-hearted when they had finally reached a place of peace? For the next 150 seconds, Sue provides intricate details of why she loathes Will. The writers threw themselves on their literary swords, by poking fun at seasons of crazy plots and inaccuracies. Jane Lynch delivered the lines with razor-sharp humor and commitment. It was glorious. (See sound bites.)
Meanwhile, Sam continues to encourage Rachel to keep practicing the piano. They manage to reach prodigy status in a matter of days based on the familiar opening riff of Vanessa Carlton’s “Thousand Miles.” We follow their journey of infatuation as they serenade each other while tickling the ivories from the back of a truck. When the final notes are played, Sam leans in and kisses Rachel. With this exchange, the spell has been broken, and Sam denies Rachel when she asks him out on a date.
Kurt can empathize. He sits dazed after meeting Walter, his online crush, in person. Walter is played by Perseus himself, Harry Hamlin! For those of you who aren’t currently Googling “Perseus + Harry Hamlin,” the obvious age difference does not go unnoticed by Kurt either. Walter is 50-mumble years old, has a couple of kids Kurt’s age, and just came out of the closet after 33 years of marriage. Walter wants to be friends first so they can see if this goes anywhere. Creepiness aside, Kurt agrees when Walter reminds him that he also thinks Golden Girls is the greatest sitcom of all time. Break out the Be-Fri necklaces!
Across town, Will finds a hypnotized Sam rummaging through his mail. Sam tells Will that Rachel asked him to steal the bills. He claims she will do anything to win the invitational, and she blames Will for the “Run Joey Run” fiasco. Will is hot. This means show choir war.
The next day, Sue channels her inner Effie by welcoming the invitational contestants to The Hunger Games. The curtain opens, and Vocal Adrenaline nails their performance as shocked, slack-jawed audience members sink lower in their auditorium seats. Will shoots Rachel an all-knowing “suck it” look. Game on, Berry. May the odds be ever in your favor.
NEXT: Musical notes and sound bites
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks
Is Jane Lynch the best singer in the world? Of course not. Did Jane Lynch commit full force? Absolutely. The song was a perfect choice as the soundtrack for a tyrant wreaking havoc over those with whom she rules. I appreciated the writers using this performance to embrace the over-the-top antics of Sue Sylvester. They understand that the viewer can’t possibly believe Sue is this crazy, so they inflated her actions for comic relief. Sue licking the contents of Rachel’s lunch was especially disturbing, but I digested the moment with ease because the Meredith Brooks pop-rock ditty is so darn catchy.
“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
At first, Sam and Rachel’s duet seemed mediocre. I was distracted by the bizarre recreation of the original music video, complete with the piano in the back of a truck, random bikers, and tiny ballerinas. When I listened to the song on iTunes, I liked it better. Rachel and Sam’s voices blend nicely, and the song suited them.
“Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s
Mr. Schuester sticks to his guns by choosing songs from more than three decades ago. And since Vocal Adrenaline always features one dude singing with 49 backup dancers performing intricate parter work in elaborate costumes, this selection actually worked. I’m unsure if younger viewers will run to purchase “Rock Lobster” as the final work of their B-52’s trilogy of hits (see “Roam” and “Love Shack”), but Vocal Adrenaline gets major props for choreography.
“Whip It” by Devo
Let’s face it. You can’t really screw up a “Whip It” performance. Most of the lyrics are actually spoken. Once again, the main Vocal Adrenaline dude carried the entire vocal load on his shoulders, as well as the iconic Devo red hat on his head. Two kitschy performances in a row was a bit much. And the fact that Carmel High School has an aerial dance elective seems highly suspicious to me. Even though this was my least favorite performance of the night, I will say that the dancers left it all on the floor, including blood, sweat, tears, and probably pulled hamstrings.
Sue: You pick only the vulnerable students to favor while actively ignoring the others, like that gross kid with the dreadlocks, or that poor Irish kid, or that black dancer whose name none of us remember.
Sue: You worship a kid if they can so much as carry a tune, and yet you don’t know the name of the only true musical geniuses in that choir room—THE BAND—who have demonstrated time and again that they can, at the drop of a hat, literally play any song you can name.
Sue: Your charms wore off a long time ago. Somewhere around Bieber week.