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'Glee' recap: Switching it up at sectionals


To paraphrase new show choir member Lauren Zises, recruited by Puck after saving him from port-a-potty purgatory to take Kurt’s place for sectionals, and to only slightly overstate the case, last night’s “Glee” may have been the most depressing … episode … ever. Or at least within recent memory. Not in a deep, dark way like the episode in which Burt Hummel got sick or anything. This episode, titled, for some reason, “Special Education,” just felt more like a long, slow letdown after a season of gleeful highs. Mr. Schu’s face after Emma bailed on being his date for sectionals said it all.

Last night, “Glee” was glum.

How did it bum us out? Let me count the ways:

1) The music:  If “Glee” were real life and McKinley High were a real school and Will Schuester were a real teacher with real students, you’d applaud his Emma-prompted move to pull his star performers back during sectionals to give his other students a chance to take their turns in the spotlight. And in some way, we’ve probably all been secretly waiting for this moment, wondering what would happen if Quinn and Sam and Santana were pushed center stage, and Mike and Brittany’s dancing was featured more prominently. But the fact that we’ve long wanted it only made it more dispiriting when the anticipated shining moment turned out to be so dull. Quinn and Sam’s voices (and romantic interplay) seemed wan and thin as they performed “Time of My Life,” from “Dirty Dancing,” especially compared with what we’re used to getting from Rachel (the voice!) and Finn (the emotion!). Mike and Brittany’s dancing was impressively athletic, but seemed kind of tacked on, as did Santana’s solo. Finn was right, pulling him and Rachel (and Mercedes) as star performers during sectionals was like yanking your star quarterback before the big game, especially considering Kurt’s absence. New Directions’ sectionals performance wasn’t a total fumble, but it wasn’t the touchdown you might’ve hoped for either.

2) The relationships: Rachel and Finn broke up, and worse, Rachel really betrayed Finn’s trust and reached a new level of self-absorption. He called her mean. But she’d just been glowingly nice to Kurt at sectionals, after being lukewarm to him earlier in the episode. Her character is getting a little confusing. Why was she being so supportive of Kurt at sectionals? She of all people should have seen him as the competition. Also, Kurt hasn’t spoken to Finn since the wedding? What happened to all that “brother” stuff from last week’s episode? Bright spot: I’m really starting to love Artie and Brittany’s connection. Their “magic comb” interplay was cute and funny and heartwarming and magically unnauseating. Emma’s elopement with the hottest dentist ever might have also been a bright spot (not yet ready to see her back with Will), but did they have to show her looking regretful already?

3) The laughs: I know, not every episode can be a Sue Sylvester yukathon. And we did get a few good Brittany lines. But after last week’s heights of hilarity, the relative lack of humor in this episode was notable.

Here’s hoping the show, like the Warblers’ canary, is just molting and will come back better than ever next week.

And you? What did you think of the episode -- were you disappointed or perfectly pleased? Did you think the oldster Hipsters were robbed at sectionals? Are you as sick of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” even when finger-snappily performed by the Warblers, as I am? (Related question: Should songs used in commercials that play during the show be disqualified from being performed in the show?) Should Finn forgive Rachel? Should Emma ditch the dentist and return to Will? And do you have a storyline prediction for the club’s new show-choir-scorning member, Lauren? Please share!

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: New Directions perform at sectionals in the "Special Education" episode of "Glee." Credit: Justin Lubin / Fox

Comments () | Archives (18)

I loved this episode! I was happy that the past few episodes have a storyline and not a gimick! I loved the Kurt/Rachel solo and loved the florence & the machine number at the end.

I was bored with the dance number. Those two can really, really dance. It should have been more hip hop or something.

i miss finn and rachel already - they are ruining the show - and Rachel. How could she cheat on finn...the one person who loves her for who she is..and with all people - puck. This show has taken a turn for the worst. I am hoping for a christmas episode miracle for finn and rachel..

I think the Hipsters were robbed! "The Living Years" was my favorite performance of sectionals

I think Finn should forgive Rachel eventually. What she did was mean but I really loved them as a couple. I liked the show but I was not impressed with the direction they are taking the story line. I really liked Will and Emma and Finn and Rachel together.

I loved Finn and Rachel breaking up because I like Rachel better when she isn't with him. Her scenes with Puck were much more charming and sexier than anything Finn and Rachel have done lately. I didn't think much of the Sectionals performances. Time Of My Life was pretty bad. I get changing it up but not featuring your weakest singers. The Rachel/Kurt scenes were great and show that Rachel is a good person but Finn brings out the worst in her. I felt bad for the way everyone treats her and delights in hurting her.

Lauren will have a voice that no one is aware of and get a few shots at some solos. Love. Her.

I am an avid Gleek from Day 1 and was extremely disappointed with this episode. Like you said, the thought of replacing Finn and Rachel was the right thing to do but turn out to be anti-climatic especially when you compare it to the Journey to Regionals episode from last season. The singing of Sam and Quinn was horrendous and overall the performance was weak. I'm a big fan of Finn and Rachel and was disappointed about their break up...I see why both were hurt and angry by the other but in Rachel's defense, she's always the last to know about everything and although I don't agree, I can empathize with her retaliation. Isn't always not what the lie is about but the lie itself that tears people apart? Hopefully all will be forgiven by next season.

Highlight of the episode was watching Will's face while the Warblers performed and actually listening to the Warblers. Yes that song is overplayed but the arrangement was amazing and now I'm becoming a huge Blaine fan!

Please bring Rachel and Finn back together- I hope he accepts her apology. Maybe not right away necessarily- let her really earn his forgiveness, but i hope they eventually reunite.
Poor Mr. Shue- he is a great actor and I swear you can feel his heart drop to his feet the way he reacted to Emma getting married.
I also loved the Rachel/Kurt scenes.
Looking forward to what next week brings, but sad that it's the season finale!

Didn't like the episode and in fact removed Glee from my DVR last night after watching.

Why is it okay for Mr. Shue to single out Rachel and speak so horribly to her? She isn't any more nasty than anyone else in Glee and in fact her comments about her peers are always based on their talent level or lack thereof, while others freely feel they have the right to trash her in anyway and are fully supported by these other supposedly tolerant Glee members.

With all the hype of Gay bullying, it seems there is plenty of bullying on the show to go around, and Rachel is the victim de jour.

Oh and the music was just so so. The Warblers deserved the win.

Best moment. Ever. Will putting Rachel in her place. Tellling her to shut up and deal was probably the best thing he could've done for Rachel. Her insecurity is really getting to be a downer. Like Holly told her, she sux and needs to lighten up. Maybe Will saw some of him in Rachel and how he deals with Emma.

And Rachel is either playing Kurt for the sympathy card or she genuinely sees how alike she and Kurt really are. Like walking in another's shoes lesson. Why not cheer on Kurt on the Warblers? That showed a maturity in Rachel never seen before. Plus Kurt did come to Rachel-maybe he was playing on her need to be the center.

So changing the line up in sectionals with Sam, Quinn and Santana may not have been good ratings wise but makes sense in that if the show is gonna grow it has to take chances. And since these 3 are seldom in the spotlight it gives them a chance to grow-vocally and emotional maturity. Who knows; Artie is long overdue for a shining moment in the spot.

Best green room. Ever. When everything came to a head backstage at sectionals. Those kids, and they are representations of (today's) kids, had that bottled up for sometime and it made for a good catharsis. If anything, the last number seemed forced: one minute they're all daggers, then at the end they're all hugs. Actually Sam is the only one unaffected by all this and it'd be a shame to see his character get embroiled in the drama.

And did anyone see how miserable Kurt was at Dalton Academy? He went thinking because of Blaine, and the no tolerance policy he'd be a shoe in with the others but nope. He's just another victim of the school hierarchy. His performance and face at sectionals said he's coming back to McKinley. I said before that I hope he and Blaine stay friends-love can ruin a friendship-and Blaine will still be around if Kurt returns to McKinley.

On that note, with the producer earlier this year talking about taking on teen bullying and suicide, I see Kurt coming back to McKinley, stronger and confident, and outing Karofsky in a heated exchange. Should that happen and Karofsky find himself the "Kurt" of his group, I see a suicide-his-and a tidy Hollywood end to that storyline.

Hated the ep. Overkill metaphor (Kurt is the canary!!!), totally agree that Quinn and Sam are dullards, and the song was terrible. Still in a real world, as you posit, they would have won, no contest. Feel the director is the new Randall Kleiser and am careful not to underestimate him: my wish...that Kurt brings his big Muppet face back in a Free to Be You and Me ep, and starts dating the kissing bandit football guy. Because Blaine is as boring as Sam, and the Warblers make the Whippenpoofs look like NIN. I was so happy when Emma Pills got married! Could this _please_ be the end of her character? The teachers are the worst thing about this show barring Bieste, and SS was funny until she ripped off Carrie Bradshaw (:((((( ) and married herself, and! sang with tragically unfunny fossil Carol Burnett. Rachel is a bish; Santana and Britney eps need to get in line, Puck also; Finn is a load, cannot believe you find him passionate! He is like Archie Andrews, but weaker and uglier. Thx for yr column, kickass!

Definitely the worst episode of this season so far.

New Directions should have come in third -- that was their worst song choice, worst staging, and worst performance so far this year. What cracks me up is that from September to Sectionals the Glee members have performed lots of really great numbers in class, any of which would have blown away the Sectionals competition. But then Sectionals comes along and does anyone think to say "Why don't we do that great number we did in class last month?" Nooooooo! They decide to start rehearsing a tired wornout new number apparently about a week before the competition giving nobody time to rehearse it.

And how in heck did Kurt get over to the boys school, get in the Warblers, get to audition for the big solo (which never showed up, by the way), and learn their competition number, and get to be in the front row on stage, all in less than a week?

And Emma getting married on the spur of the moment in Vegas? Puhleeze.

Thankfully, the preceding two episodes were two of the best.

Rachel is so aggravatingly annoying. Yes, she can sing (as she has been yelling from the rooftops since the pilot episode) but I loved when Will put her in her place. I was a little surprised that he did (considering he usually lets her get her way, especially in recent memory). Remember back in Season 1 when he gave the solo from West Side Story to Tina and Rachel walked out? Will didn't back down. I thought he would this time, but no, he didn't! Yay!

I find the relationship between Rachel and Finn to be stupid. She was so incensed that he slept with Santana (of all people). Uh, hello, Rachel - I don't know if you've noticed but Finn is not exactly the hottest guy at the school. He may be the star quarterback but that's about it. (Maybe it's because he's a bit dorky?) I think Santana was pretty much the only girl who would sleep with Finn. But Rachel is so narrowly-focused that she thinks anyone that she would be with would have to be the best choice.

The performances at Sectionals were good - not great (like the Don't Stop Believin' number from the pilot) but just good. Brittany and Mike's dancing was a little meh - they both are such great dancers but I don't think the number showcased that.

Have you ever seen uglier dresses than on those New Directions females at Sectionals? Seriously now.

And if Kurt doesn't stop carrying shoulder strap man-purses in every scene, I may barf.

Cory Monteith is amazing. He plays the dumb jock character with such layers. When he heard Rachel say those hurtful things, he was heartbroken. You could see it in his face. And I don't understand anyone who says he's not hot. He is totally hot.

I don't think this was the worst episode ever.

I think it was very good...it was among the shuffle...

i think some people have to look through the other episodes like Rocky Horror, Brittany/Brittany, and Grilled Cheesus to see some not-so-great episodes...

i thought quinn and sam did really well for their first try at being center stage...though doesn't sam sound like a finn? maybe all the jocks have the same voice...

and i like the new 'sub' for the new directions...she cracks me up.

even though it is a tv show, i wish it had more realism...i mean having a show done up in a week is not going to work...i mean if you look at real show choirs they take months to do perfect a set...so i think it would be actually nice to see them pull songs from long ago and use them...

i have more to say, but i think i have said enough about this episode :)

Why has Kurt hijacked the show? He's a supporting character. Why waste the gorgeousness of Matthew Morrison? (My sexiest man alive). Don't bring on any more special guests when you're not using the great talent yo already have.

I don't know what episode you were all watching. This was so good, so much character development. Frankly, Finn and Rachel were getting quite boring, the drama and tension was sorely needed to get us all to start caring about them again as a couple. If anything, it's a good thing that Sam and Quinn are relatively boring as a coupel, they serve as a foil to Finn and Rachel.

I loved the Valerie number, and Santana's voice and sassiness was absolutely perfect for the song. They were aiming for their own version of Rehab, and the big dance numbers are sorely missed in the absence of New Directions. s

As for Time of My Life, everyone here seems to be dwelling on Quinn and Sam's voices, and the meaning of the song choice has been lost on everyone. At the start of the episode, Will hinted that they needed to do something that made them stand out from the other competitors, who were traditional 'stool' choirs. They needed to do a ballad too, and what better choice (at least theoretically) than 'Time of My Life' which married both the ballad and the 'dance'/anti-stool choir element given its 'Dirty Dancing' roots. I thought the song choices were the perfect antidotes to the chirpy but somewhat stifled and conservative 'Hey Soul Sister' (an otherwise brilliant arrangement) and 'The Living Years'.

Even if it didn't top Furt and the Substitute, Special Education is far from being as disappointing as the pre-Never Been Kissed episodes. The tension and plot development removes some of the predictability and monotonity of the theme episodes of early Season 2. Wanting and hoping for Finn and Rachel to be together is so much more enjoyable then seeing them comfortable and living happily-ever-after - now that would be dull.


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