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'Glee' recap: Dueting for breadsticks

October 13, 2010 |  9:23 am

204Gs2ep204_Sc19_MY-2133 You know how, in a perfectly sung duet, the two voices ebb and flow and twist and blend and play and lift in a way that makes a wonderfully pure whole? That’s sort of what Tuesday night’s episode of “Glee” felt like to me. The plot and the music were in perfect balance. No one was being pushed out of character by some tacked-on theme, facing the trauma of a dying parent, or tackling deep issues about the presence of a deity. Every member of the choir was given a storyline and a voice. (No, Artie and Brittany didn’t sing, but, to borrow Brit’s winking wordplay, even if they didn’t get to duet, they did get to “do it.”)

There were no distractions from the grownups, either: No Mr. Schue leaping across the stage with jazz hands, or whatever it was he did the other week; he remained in the background, tasked with setting up the nominal plot (Puck’s in juvie and out of the picture, for now; Bieber-headed footballer Sam’s taking his place; it’s duet week, a competition, winner gets a gift certificate for two to dinner at the bounteously banqueted, faux-Tiffany-lamped date venue Breadsticks) and then appearing only to cheer on the clubbers as they sang pair by pair. And for better or for worse, viewers had to look to the commercial breaks (several of which were “Glee”-themed) for their dose of Sue Sylvester.

In fact, aside from Mr. Schue, the only other non-glee clubber heard from was Kurt’s dad, mercifully on the mend after last week’s trauma, cracking jokes and giving Kurt sound and loving, if difficult, advice, just like the old days.

It was pure “Glee.”

And like the new guy Sam’s lemon-enhanced hair, it was replete with highlights. In the spirit of the episode, let’s take it couple by couple (duets and “do its”), in no particular order:

Rachel and Finn (duet): They were right -- their version of Elton John and Kiki Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” really was a winner, with Finn giving a heartbreakingly openhearted performance. It was fun to see them work together on their devious plot to lose too. Their common goal -- throwing this competition with an eye toward winning Nationals -- seemed to unite them in a way that felt particularly welcome after several weeks in which the plot dwelled on the many ways they are mismatched. Oh, and their send-up of Billy Preston and Syreeta’s "With You I'm Born Again” -- with Rachel dressed like a go-go-dancing nun/Catholic schoolgirl combo and Finn like the world’s cutest priest? Deliciously sinful. Sinfully delicious.

Santana and Brittany (do it): Sweet lady kisses!

Mercedes and Santana (duet): What Santana won’t do for a wheelbarrowful of breadsticks! She convinces an initially reluctant Mercedes to team up with her on Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” complete with booty-shaking dance moves, and they make that number snap like a long, skinny table cracker. 

Tina and Mike (duet): Cracks are beginning to show in their relationship -– with Tina tiring of their mutual Asian-ness and revealing, perhaps, some residual feelings for Artie. (Beautiful abs will only carry you for so long.) But, at Tina’s behest, we do get to hear Mike Chang sing, after a fashion. The two give a spirited performance of “Sing” from “A Chorus Line,” and of course, the best thing about it is the dancing.

Kurt … and Kurt (duet): Kurt, in a selfless move not to ruin Sam’s rep, embraces his solo status as the only out teen in the school (calling Rachel’s two gay dads: How about a little “It gets better” help for Kurt here?) and explores his male and female sides in "Le Jazz Hot" from “Victor Victoria.” This should have been a slam-dunk, and Kurt hit some amazing notes, but somehow his emotions, which Kurt generally employs to make his songs soar, were overpowered by the fancy costumes and fancy dancing. Happily, his slam-dunk came later …

Sam and Quinn (duet, for now): The is-he-gay-or-is-he-straight storyline is resolved as these two sing a button-cute, guitariffic, blonde-meets-blond rendition of Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat’s “Lucky.” Is Quinn’s return to abstinence in danger? Sam-I-Am might not like green eggs and ham, but he sure likes a certain flirty-eyed Cheerio. How do you say “awww” in Na'vi?

Brittany and Artie (do it): When Brittany approaches Artie to propose a duet (and romance), his reply is priceless: "I'm just a little confused. You've never even made eye contact with me." But it’s not quite as priceless as Brittany’s face when she realizes that she’s hurt Artie by so casually relieving him of his virginity –- or the shot of her rolling a meatball across the table with her nose in an homage to "Lady and the Tramp."

Kurt and Rachel (duet): The duo’s "Happy Days Are Here Again"/"Get Happy" is -– hands down -– the musical highlight of the episode. Lea Michele and Chris Colfer nailed the Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand duet -- and the physical resemblances really are uncanny.  It’s also a nice throw to the show’s die-hard fan base: It may be a terrible thing to say, but we Gleeks probably really are more similar than we think.

What did you think of the episode? Which duet do you think was most worthy of winning a free meal at Breadsticks? And what did you think of all the interclub coupling and uncoupling?

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Will (Matthew Morrison) assigns Mercedes (Amber Riley, left,) and Santana (Naya Rivera) a duet in the "Duets" episode of "Glee." Credit: Fox.