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'Glee' recap: Mash-up madness!

November 16, 2011 |  9:30 am

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What a strange and startling mash-up of a "Glee" episode. There was plenty of airy fun to be found in Tuesday night's "Mash Off," but underneath all the silly fake mustaches and snappy quotes about root-beer fountains and robot teachers beat a very dark baboon heart. In the end, that murky, telltale undercurrent burst to the fore, like a (literal) slap in the face, leaving us gasping and a little confused.

As Puck told Shelby, as he tried to woo her (with surprising persuasiveness), mash-ups are things that aren't supposed to work together, but somehow do. And if this episode's goal was to slam different elements together to explode our pat "Glee" expectations into a million little clouds of pink, glittery fluff and leave us feeling a bit raw and uncertain, well, yes, it worked.

A few potent blends:

Puck/Shelby: Puck makes his case for a relationship with Shelby, with whom he says he is in love, first with us -- he's 18; he's been around; the age difference is no worse than "Ashton and Demi, Indiana Jones and Ally McBeal, Woody Allen and that Chinese girl" -– and then with Shelby herself. "I'm hot. You're hot. Beth needs a dad. Why shouldn't it be her actual dad?" he asks her, before eventually waxing on about the beautiful Hanukkah cards they could make together. Although Shelby initially tries to evade his pursuit, rightly telling him their previous kiss was a mistake and she could lose her job, he nevertheless tells her it's inevitable. Discomfiting though it is, this strange combo makes a certain unexpected sense.

Mean Sue/Kind Sue: Coach Sue starts off the episode in funny/nasty mode, treating us to hilarious negative TV ads targeting her congressional-election opponent Burt Hummel, whom she suggests has a baboon heart and a wife who is a donkey. (She concludes with the line, "I'm Sue Sylvester, I have a human heart and I approve this message," which really ought to be the standard sign-off in all political ads.) Then she advises Kurt ("Have a seat, Yasser") that he should "start flinging poo" in his own campaign for Student Council president: "It's not personal, Porcelain. It's politics." Oh, she's in rare Sue form. But then, suddenly, at the end of the episode, she's remorseful and highly sympathetic to Santana's sudden plight. We've seen Sue transform before, but this time the switch felt a bit jarring.


Good-girl Quinn/Troubled Quinn: Quinn's two-facedness has been a weird throughline all season, mostly because her duplicitous, scheming side is really just … so … awful -- but also because she looks so convincingly sunny in the New Directions classroom and performance scenes. In this episode, though, Shelby confronts her about her plot to take Beth away. And the verbal dressing-down she gives Quinn isn't nearly as satisfying as you might like. The disparate elements in Quinn's character have grown too messy -– both too broad and too complex -- turning her into more of a confusing stew than a delightful mashup.

Rachel/Kurt: Their unlikely yet inevitable friendship is back on again, now that Rachel has seen the light, dropped out of the Student Council president race and thrown her support Kurt's way. Rachel and Kurt are a mismatch that totally, totally works. Happy to have the combo back.

Finn/Rory: These very different fellows –- the quarterback and the Irish exchange student -– have forged a sweet bond, with Finn tossing solos Rory's way (how great was Blaine's response?) and Rory standing up to Santana on Finn's behalf (great insult: "You're skinny like all the crops failed on your family farm"). Looking forward to seeing this friendship progress.

Hateful Santana/Loving Santana: After spewing hilarious bile (or should I say flaming whale blubber) Finn's way for an entire episode, Santana gets her comeuppance. (Or is it?) Finn lashes out, telling Santana that the whole school knows about her secret love for Brittany and calling her a coward for not coming clean about it. But when word seeps out to the entire world, Santana runs screaming and then lashes out even more brutally. This controversial mashup (Did Finn "out" Santana? Was that face slap totally deserved?) was the episode's real emotional cliffhanger....

"Mash Off's" musical mash-ups, by the way, were fab, especially the Troubletones' climactic "Rumor Has It/Someone Like You," the New Directions/Troubletones dodgeball faceoff "Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way or Another," and even Will and Shelby's "You and I/You and I" double-shot. And Mike and Blaine's crotchtastic dancing on Puck's "Hot for Teacher"? Whoa.

What did you think of the episode? The songs? The emotional wham? And what were your favorite lines?

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Full Show Tracker coverage of 'Glee'

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Mercedes (Amber Riley, left), Santana (Naya Rivera, center) and Brittany (Heather Morris) perform in the "Mash Off" episode of "Glee." Credit: Frank Micelotta / Fox

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