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'Glee' recap: Back to school (and basics) in the Season 3 premiere

September 21, 2011 | 10:09 am

'Glee' Season 3 premiere recap

After a long, lazy summer away, the kids of McKinley High grabbed their backpacks and sheet music and returned Tuesday night for the Season 3 premiere of "Glee."

"Welcome back, Titans!"

And welcome back, Gleeks. I think it might just be a great year. After a celeb-packed Season 2 that sometimes went off in too many new directions, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy has promised us a season that will return to the basics -- including a renewed focus on the core characters.

The initial episode appeared to deliver on that promise, shedding or shunting aside some spare characters it had collected of late (So long, Sam! See ya later, Lauren!); checking in at leisure with those who have been with us all along as they embark on what is, for some of them, their final year at McKinley; and hinting at some of the story lines in store for us this season:

Finn: Aside from making moony eyes at Rachel, Finn, in stark contrast to many of his fellow New Directions members, has no plans for the future.

Mike Chang: Playing up the Asian stereotype, Mike, who is still with Tina (at least for now), says his mom is still deciding whether he should head to Harvard or Stanford.

Tina: A junior, she'll be sticking around for one more year.

Artie: He's also a junior. (When video-camera-toting gossipmonger Jacob says he thought he was a senior, Artie explains that the wheelchair adds a year. )

Rachel: She and Kurt have plans, big plans, to move to New York and make it big in the theater. After an initial setback, in which they learn that Juilliard does not have a musical theater program (and we learn that Emma has pamphlets in her office that say "Me and My Hag"), they set their sights on the highly competitive (and apparently fictional) New York Academy of Dramatic Arts (NYADA), which accepts only 20 students each year. 

Kurt: See Rachel entry above. (His plans also include getting married -- "legally.") But Kurt's present is looking at least as promising as his future: He convinces Blaine to ditch Dalton and enroll at McKinley for his senior year so they can spend it together. It's nice to see Blaine in his civvies. (Love the red pants!) But in terms of Blaine's future, it does seem a risky move.

Blaine: Meet New Directions' newest member. I hope this means we'll hear more, not less, of Darren Criss. (Will Rachel, who jokes at one point that she wants to be Kurt's "boyfriend," be jealous of Blaine's star power?)

Santana: Making good on her vow to be "the Cheerios top ho" (reluctantly sharing co-captain duties with Becky), Santana plays for "Team Sue," and sets one of the glee club's purple pianos on fire. So Mr. Schue, who has finally grown a backbone, boots her off the team for disloyalty. At least in terms of school clubs Santana can't play "both sides," as Sue pointedly puts it.

Brittany: Not much on character development for Brittany this time around, though she does of course get in some great lines. Just for example: "Are you working on a time machine, too?"; "I was sure that our nationals trophy would grow during the summer"; "I have pepperoni in my bra" (to which Santana replies, "Those are your nipples").

Quinn: Quinn has dyed her hair pink, gotten a nose ring and an "ironic tattoo" of Ryan Seacrest (so funny), and distanced herself from her old pals, falling in with a new crowd of burnouts who call themselves the Skanks. ("We used to be like the Three Musketeers. Now Santana and I are like Almond Joys and you're like a Jolly Rancher that fell in the ashtray," Brittany tells her old pal.) Anyone want to wager on how long it'll take Quinn to return to the New Directions fold? One episode? Two? Or will we have to wait for the season finale?

Mercedes: Now that Sam's gone (his dad got a job in a different town), Mercedes is dating a member of the football team and she appears to have no inclination to hide her light under a bushel, announcing, "Mercedes is feeling extremely pretty this year."

Puck: He's a free man again, after having been dumped by Lauren Zizes. "She's the one who got away -- really, really slowly," he notes.

Mr. Schue: He and Emma have shacked up (packing each other's complementary superhero lunchboxes!), though things are still a little hinky for them in the bedroom. And while Schue is still clueless about throwing his New Directions kids to the McKinley wolves (the "Purple Piano Project" was clearly destined to end in flames and tossed spaghetti, if not greater injury), he does have a new sense of potency: glitter-bombing Sue, crushing the musical dreams of new girl (and self-diagnosed Asperger's sufferer) Sugar Motta. "I'm really enjoying this new stink of man marbles wafting off of you," Sue says. As are we all, Sue. As are we all.
 
Emma: But perhaps none of us is enjoying Will's "stink of man marbles" quite so much as Emma, in whom Will's swagger seems to have unleashed something decidedly unsanitary. "So this is what being turned on feels like," she says.

Sue: I have saved the best for last. Coach Sue Sylvester was in perfect form in this episode, neither too mean nor too misty. Plus, she's been given a great story line and a solid goal to strive for: She's running for Congress. Initially polling at 6% -- "well behind undecided, that rapist from prison, and 'I don't care; please don't call me during dinner' " --  Sue decides "the people are angry; they want a candidate who's against something." So she stakes out a position against funding for school arts programs and begins a sharp rise in the polls, quickly passing "undecided" and "anyone white."

The show also took a nice back-to-basics approach to the music, eschewing pop hits of the moment and reaching back for some classics: The Go-Gos' "We Got the Beat," "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" from "The Wizard of Oz," Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" (with Darren Criss giving a panty-throw-worthy performance), the Broadway hit "Anything Goes" (featuring "The Glee Project" winner Lindsay Pearce), and the cheerfully defiant "You Can't Stop the Beat" from "Hairspray."

And there were too many great one-liners to mention -- from Becky's assessment of toast ("Bread's already been baked. I don't get why you need to cook it again") to Sue staking a claim on negativity (“Unless it’s a day she’s being screened for hepatitis, this gal’s not positive”) to the unforgettable insult: "Taste the rainbow, glee-otch!"

But my favorite exchange may have been in the preview of next week's show:

Teacher: "What's the capital of Ohio? Brittany?"

Brittany: "O."

So it looks like the fun has just begun. What did you think of the Season 3 premiere? Are things off to a good start? Or would you like to see the show move in a new direction? Best lines? Best moments? Weigh in!

RELATED:

Full Show Tracker coverage of 'Glee'

'Glee' recap: New Directions hearts New York

Emmys 2011: Darren Criss on 'Glee' cast controversy

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: "New Directions" performs in the Season Three premiere of "Glee." Credit: Adam Rose / Fox

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