It's the 100th episode of "Glee," and instead of a clip show, Ryan Murphy and his team of writers have given us something a little more original. Because the New Directions lost at Nationals (actually, they won Second Place, but that counts as a loss in Sue Sylvester's book), Sue is eliminating the Glee club in the current round of budget cuts. To mourn the loss of the group and close it out with a bang, Rachel, Kurt and Santana have come back to town from New York and other former members have come back from their various new lives in school or otherwise. With the whole original gang (plus all the new members) together at last, Mr. Schue assigns everyone to prepare a number New Directions has done in the past, but with a new twist.
Besides the overall loss of New Directions, the first mini-conflict set up is between Rachel and Mercedes. Rachel is currently in preparations to star in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl (and life imitating art, Murphy has acquired the rights to Funny Girl for a revival to star Lea Michele) and Mercedes, having signed a major record deal, is on the verge of pop stardom. They're both sad about New Directions, but happy to return victoriously to the scene of their high school triumphs and both a little miffed at the lack of fanfare for their comebacks. Simultaneously proclaiming, Norma Desmond-like, "I'm the biggest star this school has every produced," they both want "the Rachel chair" front and center in Glee club. Rachel gets it first, but her position remains seriously challenged.
Mr. Schue announces the song assignment and, promising not to repeat his past mistake of attempting hip hop, proceeds to demonstrate the idea (of reinventing a former New Directions performance) with the help of a special guest. Enter Kristin Chenoweth, back as down-and-out Broadway star April Rhodes, who joins him in a dynamic rendition of Pink's "Raise Your Glass." Of course, everyone sings and dances along, and you could almost forget the doom and gloom that hover in the air.
|photo by Adam Rose/FOX|
We're then introduced to the second mini-conflict of the episode. Puck, also back at McKinley High, appears to have cleaned up his act since his emotional acting out after Finn's death. He's in the Air Force and strutting down the halls of McKinley, looks handsome and together. His inner monologue tells us out loud that the past is dead to him, "except maybe just one thing," as the camera lands on Quinn. She's clearly happy to see Puck too, although he (and we) are quickly introduced to Quinn's boyfriend Biff McIntosh (played by Chace Crawford) who, as his name, indicates we learn (to the horror of Puck) is the kind of person who calls his mother, "Mother." Conflict Three: Santana is unsatisfied by her life in New York (as Rachel's understudy in Funny Girl) and misses Brittany something awful. Brittany is so engrossed in her work at M.I.T. that she's even spending her time back at McKinley in the lab, working on a hypothesis, although she does remember fondly the time "when all I wanted to do was to scissor you and talk to my cat." Reminiscing, they perform, with Quinn, a scintillating trio of Britney Spears's "Toxic." Brittany beats herself up for being 1/16 of beat off in the choreography. She has no time for Santana, or anything. If there's anytime left over after her research, she should be spending it on her Internet talk show, "Fondue For Two."
Brittany's guests on "Fondue For Two" are Mercedes Jones and Rachel Berry. After hurling some not-so-subtle digs at each other, it comes out that they both plan to sing "Defying Gravity" for Mr. Schue's assignment. They agree on a "diva-off."
|Photo by Adam Rose/FOX|
April Rhodes claims to have say over the auditorium because it's her money that has endowed it, so things are looking up as Rachel, Mercedes and Kurt launch into a three-way rendition of "Defying Gravity." It's actually a somewhat understated performance and, other than some sound mellow riffing from Mercedes, they actually sound somewhat similar to each other. Even at the end, with them repeating the final stanzas for effect, there's not much of a bang to it. In fact, the button to the song is April's fourth wall-teasing aside, "That song should be on Broadway." (Of course, Chenoweth famously created the role of Glinda in Wicked.) Mr. Schue delays the diva-off vote, saying, "Let's sleep on it and decide tomorrow. For tonight, you're all winners." After some fierce campaigning on both sides (and mixed reactions from the voting block), Mercedes finds Rachel crying in the bathroom. Mercedes confesses her own insecurities and, connecting heart-to-heart, they agree to support each other in their separate pursuits, like "Beyonce and Barbra." In the end, the vote is a tie anyway.
Quinn's foolhardy attempt to hide her past from Biff while bringing him back to her high school has crashed and burned and when his confrontation of her turns ugly, Puck is right there to step in. The scene ends with Biff in the dumpster.
Santana keeps pursuing Brittany, who is busy playing chess using the Live Chess club to recreate a famous match. When Glee club reconvenes, Santana stages an "intervention" and the pair perform a dance duet of Amy Winehouse's "Valerie," which is easily the best musical number on the episode.
Puck moves everyone to the auditorium for his emotional performance of Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On," which hits too close to home for Quinn. She's all choked up at the entire crew serenading her, just like they did to show solidarity after her pregnancy had been leaked in a blog.
Sue shoots down April's efforts to save New Directions, claiming that Will spent the entire $2 million April donated to the auditorium, in a humorously knowing reference to the high production values of the show's musical numbers. Sue also outs April for having her own fortunes in jeopardy, revealing April's boyfriend to be Bernie Madoff. No, April cannot help save the Glee club. Mr. Schuester is devastated, saying, "You did the worst thing you could've done. You gave me hope."
|Photo by Adam Rose/FOX|
April apologizes for raising hopes to no avail as she's wont to do, quipping, "just ask all my AA sponsors" (Chenoweth, hilarious as always, is a major asset to the show) and announces that she's used the last of her funds to bring back to McKinley Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow). Holly has retired from substitute teaching because she "can't stand being tied down." Her new business, "Holly Holliday Teach 'Em Pop-ups" is quickly illustrated by a clip of her in drag as William Henry Harrison, "America's worst president," teaching a kamikaze lesson at a school until she's taken away by police. When Rachel informs her "we're singing our favorite Glee club songs we've already sung before," Holly retorts, "When Holly Holliday's in town, this hot bitch is not looking in the rear view mirror; she's looking forward."
Holly leads them in Pharrell Williams's "Happy" and for the first time in the episode, the group looks forward.
Of course, for some of them, looking forward means looking back. Puck and Quinn rekindle their romance, while Brittany makes a move to reunite with Santana.
Finn's plaque is up in the auditorium, but whoever uses the hall in the future might not know who he was. Mr. Schue admits, "I don't have any more pep talks... I didn't come here to cheer you up, just to say thank you."
April and Holly, watching from up in the balcony, vow to save the Glee club — after they finish their wine.