Episode 6.6: “What the World Needs Now”
Sam (Chord Overstreet) greets Rachel (Lea Michele) in the McKinley hallway with an Elvis impression, which he calls the “world’s greatest icebreaker.” Sam, if you need an icebreaker to talk to a girl you’ve known for years, you have issues. That’s all I’m saying. Anyway. The two make plans to go for dinner at Breadstix and it’s super-awkward (not in the least because Sam was brainwashed into thinking he was in love with Rachel when, outside of the mind-control, he said he was still carrying a torch for Mercedes) and not all that cute. Sam walks away and Rachel slowly walks behind, watching him. And not even 30 seconds into the episode, we get our first song: “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” from Promises, Promises. And oh, my God, you guys! It’s a real showtune! Written for a musical! I’d forgotten what that sounded like on this show. I already like this episode twice as much as the the previous four showtune-less ones combined just on the power of starting an ep with a song first performed by Jill O’Hara in 1968 on the Shubert Theater stage. Anyway, they walk around the campus and other student couples dance and are cute.
Hey, here’s a set we haven’t seen in a while! It’s the studio of popular internet chat show "Fondue for Two"...otherwise known as the bedroom of one Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris). Her never-before-seen mother knocks on the door and says that she and Brit’s dad would like to talk with her. The door opens, and in walk Whitney S. Pierce (Jennifer Coolidge) and Pierce Pierce (Ken Jeong). Always fun to see those two in anything, so, yay, welcome to the show, guys! They ask what Brittany is working on. “Trying to find a Euler brick whose face diagonal is also an integer,” the math whiz responds, and proceeds to explain the geometry to her blank-faced parents. “The integer’s giving me a headache,” Mrs. Pierce sighs, and then asks Brit if she’s ever wondered why she’s so good at math, even though her mom is of “average” intelligence and her father (who is sitting right there) is of “below average” intelligence. “I’m really not a smart man,” he says with a gentle smile that goes against every character Ken Jeong has played in anything I’ve seen, so hooray for playing against type! Noting her husband’s IQ of 60, Mrs. Pierce says he should only be “allowed” to harvest vegetables or repair furniture. Or maybe run for Congress. (I might have added that one in myself.) Mr. Pierce begins to repeat what the Mrs. just said, and the scene is beginning to annoy me in spite of Coolidge and Jeong. Anyway, Mrs. Pierce says that it’s time Brittany knew the truth about her heritage. “Pierce is not your father,” she reveals. “WHAT?!” daughter and father gasp in unison. “We’ve talked about this,” Whitney whispers to her husband. “We’ve talked about this every day for 19 years.” “Oh, I remember!” he says with a sigh, and then rises. “Brittany, I’m not your real father.” Sigh. Brittany asks who her real dad is, and Whitney reveals that it’s...Dr. Stephen Hawking! “The robot?” Pierce Pierce gasps. “He’s not a robot,” Whitney sighs, and explains that on their honeymoon in England (good choice), he revealed to her that he was “sterile” and “can’t have kids.” (She includes air quotes for those lines, and I smile in spite of myself.) What he really meant, she adds, was that he was “virile” and “couldn’t wait to have kids.” “That sounds like something I would say,” Pierce laughs. “You did say it,” she counters, and I wonder how much longer they can drag out this one joke. Anyway, in a pub, Whitney met Dr. Hawking and the two got it on, and she gave birth to Brit-Brit nine months later in an Indiana barn. “I want you to know I’m still your dad, even though I’m not your dad, and I’ll always be your dad” Pierce assures his daughter. But Brit-Brit has a bombshell of her own to drop: She finally announces that she’s marrying Santana. Whitney and Pierce cheer.
The McKinley Hallway of Awkwardness! Sam and Rachel see one another from across a crowded
hallway, and awkwardly approach to awkwardly apologize for blowing off their date last night. It seems that neither one of them showed up, but neither one texted or called to cancel, which makes both of them jerks. How do you bail on a date without any kind of message in this day and age? Jerks. Anyway. Sam confesses that he has “a little thing” for Rachel, and with “a nudge or two” it could probably “grow into a big thing,” and he should be so lucky if it’s even a medium thing, but this is a family website so never mind. He still has feelings for Mercedes, he adds, and Rachel acknowledges that she “has feelings” for him as well, but she has to focus on teaching right now. That reminds Sam that he’s supposed to be teaching a health class right now, and I worry about what those students are learning from him. He runs off with a quick “I love you,” and she echoes it back to him. Hmm.
Choir room! Rachel is still “basking” from winning last week’s fake and meaningless competition, and Kurt (Chris Colfer) says that they want their “champions” to celebrate another champion. “Katniss Everdeen!” Brittany yells, and why isn’t she back at MIT again? I forget that plot contrivance. (There are so many.) “Close!” Rachel says. “Burt Bacharach!” (“This is a good time to go to the bathroom or get a snack,” Kitty whispers to Spencer. Ah, she knows this show so well.) Bacharach, Kurt explains, has written 73 top hits, has won Oscars, Golden Globes, “and his music has been featured on everything from The Simpsons to Goodfellas.” And the first season of a then-underdog Fox Network musical comedy series. The New New Directions need Bacharach’s style of energy in order to win Sectionals, Kurt explains, but they have a secret weapon — and Miss Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley) walks into the room as their new mentor, wearing real diamonds and boasting that her single “Shaking My Head” is number 89 on iTunes. (Quick, someone go check and see where the song is in real life!) She hands out CDs to the students, and episode writer Michael Hitchcock seems to think that kids today still use CDs, which is just adorable. Mercedes asks who wants to be her mentee, and everyone’s hand flies into the air. In the faculty room, Mercedes asks Rachel about what’s going on between her and Sam. “He was brainwashed into kissing me when he’s really in love with you,” Rachel doesn’t say. “Nothing,” is what she does say after a second’s hesitation. “Why? What did you hear?” “If the Olympics had a gossip event, Kurt Hummel would be Mark Spitz,” Mercedes snarks, and oh, I missed Amber Riley! If Jennifer Hudson is going to play Sofia in The Color Purple revival, can La Riley play Celie? Please? Rachel mentions their failed date and apologies for planning to go out with Mercedes’ ex...and why should she apologize? Sam’s a grown-up (...sort of); he doesn’t need Mercedes’ permission to date again. Whatever.
Mercedes is more concerned that Rachel’s once-promising career isn’t going anywhere. “Soon enough, you’re going to have to go back where you belong. New York. Broadway.” Oh, was that Rachel’s goal? I thought she’d decided she wanted to be a TV star. Anyway, Mercedes was chatting with her friend Russell, as in Simmons, and he knows of an upcoming Broadway show that Rachel would be perfect for — “a new, original musical.” Ooh, Fun Home? “They’re holding auditions on Friday, and you’re going.” Mercedes even took the liberty of getting Rachel an audition, but Rachel says she isn’t ready. Mercedes doesn’t want to take Rachel away from the kids, “but nothing feels right if Rachel Berry isn’t in front of an audience somewhere killing it six nights a week and twice on Sunday.” So no Saturday matinees, then? Okay. When Rachel says she’s scared, Mercedes announces some “inspiration”--and several teachers turn around to join her for “Baby, It’s You” (which was also used in a short-lived Broadway show, so I’ll count it). In the auditorium, Mercedes sings lead and Santana (Naya Rivera), Rachel and Brittany sing backup in matching pink dresses, and it’s cute and fun and after all the sourness of the last few episodes, a nice change of pace. But after the number ends, Rachel says she still can’t bring herself to return to New York. Oh, well.
Hey, Artie’s back! (Of course he is. Hi, Kevin McHale!) He wheels into Brittany’s bedroom, reminding her of when they dated, though she doesn’t recall dating a guy with glasses. As Lord Tubbington purrs, Brit asks Artie to be her and Santana’s wedding planner. Because, you know, why hire a professional when you can ask a college student to do the same work? Oh, and to do it for free, she emphasizes. She’d like him to do the job because he’s had “nothing to do all year” (wait, did I miss something? Did Artie leave film school?) and because he’s a director. “I made a list of all the things that remind me of Santana because I thought one of them could be a great theme,” she explains, and pitches her ideas: Scissors. (Artie shakes his head.) Sweet lady kisses. (“No.”) Tuna. (Lord Tubbington, who meows, apparently snuck that one in.) “Heaven” is her last suggestion, and Artie asks her to elaborate. And we cut to a Heaven set, with Santana in a white angel costume singing “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” and Artie is there and, because it’s Heaven, he can dance, and it’s always nice to see McHale show off his moves. Glad we got one more fantasy dance scene with him. Darren and Sam and the rest of the Old New Directions join in, and the white angel dresses become bridal gowns, and it’s all very pretty and sweet. (The lyrics, incidentally, are changed to be about a woman, which makes sense for Brittany to sing, but it messes up the rhymes.) Fantasy ended, the two decide to keep “Heaven” on the list of possible themes...but to not discount “Underworld,” either.
Choir Room! Mercedes asks the guys to help her boost Rachel’s confidence, even though she’s already doing a great job getting the Glee Club up and running again. (“And you’re doing a great job too, Kurt, with, you know, whatever your thesis is.”) Declaring that Rachel’s real home is New York now (isn’t that kind of up to Rachel to decide?), Mercedes says that they need to make their fallen Broadway star homesick. Artie has already agreed to help, and Mercedes says that she’s called Blaine. Kurt looks alarmed.
“Brit, we can invite them but I don’t think that Johnny Weir and Joan Baez are going to come,” Santana warns her fiancee. “That lady was the best sexter I ever had!” Brittany protests. But Santana is more concerned about another name on the guest list: Her abuela, who was less than supportive when Santana came out. Santana has a reverie of pretending to be a bride with her grandmother, and mentions that the elder Lopez has been online complaining about her diverticulitis. “If I could get into her head and bring her into this century, I would, and I would forgive her and have her here...but having her at my wedding means not marrying you. And I’d choose you over everyone.” “I choose you, too,” Brit says, and they kiss.
A doorbell rings, and Abuela Lopez (Ivonne Coll) answers the door. It’s Brittany in an old-fashioned nurse’s uniform. “I’m your new nurse! The agency sent me!” “What agency?” Abuela asks, confused, but Brit pushes her way into the house and tells Abuela that she’s cute and could play Peter Pan in a retirement home. “I know a guy.” Commercial!
On the phone, Brittany thanks “Dr. Walgreens” for writing a prescription, and settles down to chat with Abuela about her stool. But Abuela doesn’t feel comfortable with a stranger in the house...much less discussing her stool with said stranger. In grammatically perfect but oddly accented Spanish, Brittany says that when she was a girl in Puerto Rico, she also didn’t trust strangers — and, oh, look at the time, could they watch telenovelas (Spanish-language soap operas) together? (Sigh.) Time passes, and the two women are gabbing away about the characters in the telenovela. Abuela notices Brittany’s engagement ring, and begins asking all the questions people ask young brides. Brit suggests they take a walk, and smash-cut to: “Welcome to Queso por Dos, which I just sold to Univision!” Yes, Brittany’s talk show, Fondue for Two, is back, and Abuela is the special guest. The set is decorated with Mexican kitsch, and Lord and Lady Tubbington are trying to break a pinata. (Just...sigh.) Abuela, whose real name is Alma, was apparently married twice to two men named Lopez: Hector (who died in Vietnam) and then Pedro, the true love of her life. Brittany, out of nowhere, brings up Eleanor Roosevelt and her close friend (and rumored lover) Lorena Hickok, who wrote more than 3,000 letters to one another. As Brittany rambles, Abuela notices that Lord and Lady Tubbington are reading. (This episode is really reaching for the jokes, here.) Brittany considers eloping with her fiancee, and Alma chastises her, saying that a wedding is a day of celebration. “You should be surrounded by your loved ones, especially tu familia.” And we see that Santana is watching the broadcast, just Abuela stresses the importance of family. That has to hurt.
In the auditorium, Mercedes is still trying to convince Rachel to go back to New York, and Blaine (Darren Criss) appears at a piano in a top hat and tails to play “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do).” Artie, Roderick, Sam, Kurt and the rest of the guys (all dressed in tuxes and looking amazing and dapper) join in, while Rachel has flashbacks to her time in New York. When the song ends, Rachel declares (for the millionth time) that she isn’t ready to go back, and Mercedes declares that she won’t leave until Rachel does. Fine, Mercedes, how about you do you and let Rachel decide for herself when she’s ready to try New York again?
McKinley hallway, where no current students dare walk. Brittany signs autographs for adoring fans and tells Santana that Univision has renewed "Queso por Dos" for two more seasons. Santana, irritated, pulls Brit-Brit away and calls her out for her deceptions. Abuela doesn’t just have a problem with gays, Santana explains. “It took that bitch 50 years to talk to a black person and it was her mailman and then she accused him of stealing her Christmas cards.” (I love this line not just for the great description of Abuela’s mindset, but also for the implication that she’s so mean that no one sends her Christmas cards. Brittany reminds Santana that people fear what they don’t know (crediting the wisdom either to Mr. Schue or to Rosie O’Donnell), noting that she was once afraid of Greek yogurt, but grew to like it once she added a box of sugar. “Maybe it’s our job as young, hot progressives to educate older, scary farts.” Santana agrees to try and mend fences with Abuela.
Montage time! Sam strums a guitar in the locker room and around the hallways as he sings “They Long to Be Close to You,” ending up on the auditorium stage singing to Mercedes. When the music ends, he complains that the breakup has been hard on him, and that he can’t get used to not being Mercedes’ boyfriend anymore. She encourages him to get out and date again, and promises that their friendship will be strong enough to survive new romantic partners. In fact, she’s met someone, too — a Christian rock singer who is also saving himself for marriage. How does Sam feel about this? “A little jealous, but I guess mostly happy for you.” Mercedes takes this as a sign that he’s ready to move on, and she encourages him to go out with Rachel...but acknowledges that yes, she’s jealous, too. Sam, mollified, asks about the Christian rock singer: His name is Tank, and yes, he’s bigger than Sam. “Mercedes Jones is all about that bass,” she says with a grin. Sam is newly intimidated again.
In the choir room, Rachel is freaking out as Mercedes walks in. Rachel asks if Mercedes can coach Glee Club this week, and explains that she’d leave it with Kurt but she doesn’t want the kids singing Into the Woods and Paula Cole all the time. (Look, they could do worse. I’m just sayin’.) Mercedes asks what’s going on, and Rachel shows her what looks like a plane ticket (an actual paper ticket, which, like CDs, is pretty much obsolete these days). Mercedes cheers: Rachel is going to the audition. But the pint-sized diva collapses in tears, still scared. “When I was in high school and had all these big Broadway dreams, I got used to everyone laughing at me. And I figured one day I would make it, and I would show them that I’m not a joke anymore. And then I did, and it all fell apart, and I realized that there is a whole different kind of laughing that is way worse.” Yeah, you could be the fodder for snarky internet TV recappers. That would sure suck. “So...I can’t. I can’t fail again.” Mercedes assures her friend that she, and they, will fail, “again and again...The hardest part is just getting up, shaking it off and getting on with it.” Mercedes assures Rachel that when she (Rachel) sings, no one is laughing. The band walks in, but Rachel walks out singing “Promises, Promises,” on her way back to New York. She finishes the number on a stage in front of several casting directors.
And I have to hand it to her — Lea Michele really does this number proud. No unnecessary riffing or tricks; just a pure voice with a lot of power behind it. And her look of fierce determination adds plenty to the moment. So, cheers, Little Girl. You did good.
Auditorium! Brittany guides Abuela into the room and sits her down in a chair. The curtain parts, and Santana appears, gorgeous in a crimson sleeveless dress, singing “Alfie.” Like magic, the Old and New directions appear behind a scrim upstage, singing backup. In the middle of the song, Brittany rises and joins the choir, singing backup for her fiancee, and when the number ends, walks up and takes her hand. Abuela makes her way up to the stage as the rest of the Club leaves. Santana greets her grandmother. “You look really good. Did you lose weight?” “Diverticulitis,” Alma answers flatly, then turns to Brittany. “So you two know each other?” Brittany finally comes clean and explains that she is Santana’s fiancee. “So you come into my home, treat me with kindness, lure me here and trick me into seeing my granddaughter and hearing her sing?” “I love Santana with everything and I would do anything for Santana, even tricking a sick old woman,” Brittany says with all due compassion (which, frankly, isn’t much.)
“You taught me to be a strong Latina woman, to be bigger than the world was ever going to give me permission to be,” Santana says, and Naya Rivera just nails this moment — the straight spine and the pleading eyes make for a fantastic conflict, and she totally conveys how terribly she wants both Abuela’s love and respect. Nicely done. “You taught me not just to exist, because I’m worth so much more than that. And without Brit I just...exist. She’s the love of my life and I’m going to marry her and I want to share that with you because without your love I just exist, too.”
Brittany begs Alma to come to the wedding, but the grandmother stands firm. “Right is right. I love you, Santana, but I don’t love your sin. Girls marry boys, not other girls.” Refusing once again to attend, she turns to leave, but Brittany gets the last word in.
“I’m glad you’re not coming,” she says, and cites the New York Times, noting that much of the support for equal marriage rights has come from “generational turnover.” “That’s what smart people call crazy uptight bitches dying,” she clarifies. Wow. Harsh. Not wrong, mind you, just harsh for the usually sweet-as-sugar Brit-Brit. Oh, but it gets better: “You guys lost, and honestly, the rest of us are just going about our business being normal and waiting for you not to be around. And not because you can stop us from getting married, but just because you’re kind of annoying.” I pick my jaw up off the floor. So does Abuela.
“You let her talk to me like this?” Abuela asks Santana, furious and horrified. “Take a look,” Santana snaps back, “because this is what real love looks like. I love you so much, but Brit is my family now, and if having her in my family means not having you, that’s a trade I’ll take any day.”
And exit Abuela! Wow. That was beautifully done. And I’m kind of glad the show has a character not suddenly see the light by the 40-minute mark and pull a 180 in world views. This is a much more realistic, if disheartening, ending for this story arc. The world keeps moving forward, but some people don’t move with it. Commercial break, and I think we all need a drink after that scene.
Okay, last scene. In the faculty room, Rachel is telling Sam and Mercedes about her audition, saying that she never felt so at peace trying out for a show before. She feels pretty confident about it all. “You don’t need a mentor to get back to Broadway or New York,” Sam tells her. “Nothing can stop Rachel Berry.” They go to head out to the auditorium, and Rachel and Sam make plans to have dinner at Breadstix again. Next week. Brit and Santana walk through the halls, arm in arm. Santana feels bad for Abuela and Brittany regrets her harsh words. But Santana appreciates Brittany’s efforts and her support. “I wanted her to say that she accepts me. But I have a lot of love in my life already.” They walk into the auditorium and Spencer escorts the girls to their seats. Once they’re ready, Artie wheels out onto the stage to announce that, with Abuela’s departure, there is an empty seat at the Lopez table for the wedding reception — and a lot of people want it. And hey, there’s Will (Matthew Morrison)! He leads the Old and New New Directions onto the stage where they present a painfully rehearsed speech about love and family and togetherness that feels like it should be in a Public Service Announcement. Kitty volunteers the “new kids” to help out with the planning and behind-the-scenes services and releasing doves. “There had better be doves,” she adds. Artie assures her that there will be.
The Old and New New Directions launch into "What the World Needs Now," and the new kids join in. At a gesture from Mercedes, Santana and Brittany join the choir onstage, but we don’t see them sing because the scene fades to a party at Will’s house with all the Old and New New Directions (and a bad body double for Emma standing there — where on earth did Jayma Mays go?) Artie passes food to Kitty, and they seem to be reconciled. Brittany shows her ring to Emma’s body double, and Blaine arrives at the party alone. Kurt checks the hallway before closing the door, and sure enough, no Karofsky. The scene ends with everyone sitting on parallel couches in front of an enormous fire in the fireplace, and it’s all very homey and sweet and comforting.
So, hey, that was a nice antidote to the last two episodes of bitterness! Lots of songs, great singing, some powerful performances and an ending that was truly poignant. Nicely done, Hitchcock.
Up Next: “Transitioning”
“What the World Needs Now” (Air Date Feb. 6, 2015)
Ivonne Coll as Alma Lopez
Jennifer Coolidge as Whitney S. Pierce
Ken Jeong as Pierce Pierce
Not Jayma Mays as Emma Pillsbury Schuster
"I'll Never Fall In Love Again" from Promises Promises (Lea Michele and Chord Overstreet)
"Baby, It's You" by Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams (Amber Riley with Heather Morris, Lea Michele and Naya Rivera)
"Wishin' And Hopin’" by Hal David and Burt Bacharach (Kevin McHale, Darren Criss, Heather Morris, and Chord Overstreet)
"Promises, Promises" from Promises Promises by Hal David and Burt Bacharach (Lea Michele)
"They Long to Be Close to You" by Hal David and Burt Bacharach (Chord Overstreet)
"Alfie" by Hal David and Burt Bacharach (Naya Rivera)
"What the World Needs Now" by Hal David and Burt Bacharach (Old and New New Directions and Matthew Morrison)