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'Glee' recap: Getting over Bieber fever

February 16, 2011 |  9:47 am


The highlights of Tuesday night’s “Glee” episode were the details, the silly sight gags and clever throwaway lines. I’d be disappointed if an episode that featured a lot of Sue Sylvester didn’t include a lot of those. (I’ll get to the keepers in a moment.) But to be honest, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed anyway. Sure, the wonderfulness of last week’s “Silly Love Songs” doesn’t help it by comparison, but even taken on its own, Tuesday’s “Comeback” didn’t really take off.

Part of that may be a reflection of the artist it paid homage to -- Justin Bieber – not what you’d call a musical heavyweight. It did include hints of the boy singer’s undeniable yet peculiar charisma. (Lauren Zizes boils down his disconcerting appeal: "I’m totally turned on by the Biebs. That is until I remember that he looks like he’s 12, and it’s kind of creepy.”) But like Bieber, it was all glossy hair and pretty songs without much substance, creative oomph or emotional maturity beneath. 

Although new characters such as Sam and Lauren managed to shine, many of those we have long loved seemed to falter. Finn continues to be dismayingly drained of all that once made him so adorable, and Rachel, too, has been deprived of the depth and sex appeal she so carefully developed over time. That paternal hand Finn placed on her shoulder seemed to crush the spark that used to exist between them just as it may have been intended to reignite it.

Sue’s character, too, is all over the place: One minute she’s rampaging through the halls on an abusive tear; the next she’s smiling and singing with (apparently real) sick kids in the hospital, but then, wait, no, she’s evil again. It would be one thing if these moments grew organically from or revealed something new about Sue’s character, as unexpected moments often do in “Glee.” (Note to “Glee” producers: If you have to resort to singing to sick kids in the hospital to add emotional heft to an episode, that’s probably not a great sign.) In this episode, the elements seemed like fragments pasted together to form a disjointed collage.

That’s not to say that some of those elements were without appeal. Here are some memorable moments from an otherwise all too forgettable episode:

1.    Sam’s performance of Bieber’s “Baby”: Like the glee kids, we were skeptical at first but then found that Sam charmed us with his totally all-in dance moves and pretty-lipped vocals. Loved Sue’s line: “I gotta get that girl on my Cheerios.” 
2.    Glee undies: Puck encourages Lauren to picture the audience members in their underwear to overcome her nerves when she performs her anthem, the Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like.” Her vision is unexpectedly revealing -- and we’re treated to Sue done up all dominatrix.

3.    Rad plaid: When Sue helps the glee club tackle My Chemical Romance's "Sing," they all take the stage in plaid, including Sue, who wears a fetching plaid pantsuit.

4.    Brittany’s fashion-girl triumph: Rachel’s plan to enlist Brittany’s help in taking her “sexy schoolgirl librarian chic” look to the masses backfires, and Brittany, not Rachel, is toasted as “the trendiest girl in America.” It’s true: Those carousel horse sweaters are to die for. (Great Santana line: "I mean, my carousel horse sweater should make me look like an institutionalized toddler, but no, I look hot and smart. I feel like Michelle Obama.") And I bet those arm warmers do come in handy when wearing a tank top on a winter day.

5.    Mercedes and Rachel’s diva-off: Thanks to Sue’s meddling, Mercedes and Rachel face off in a performance of “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent” that is the musical (and emotional) highlight of the show. They sing it for all its worth, with Rachel turning in a particularly rip-roaring performance. And when it’s all over and they (and we) are all basking in the glow, Sue makes us laugh by asking, indignantly, “Hey, where’s the hate?”

Other great Sue lines:

-- “I just stopped my own heart. It’s my CIA training.” (Even funnier if you were already chuckling over the track-suited mannequin in Sue’s bedroom.)

-- “Will, you have more grease in your hair than the guy behind Wikileaks.”

-- “I agree with Spongehair Squarechin.”

-- “For a brief period, I was a tamborine player for Wilson Phillips.”

-- “I hate hospitals, William. That's why I kept voting for those death panels.”

-- “I don’t care how adorable those kids are. If I hear one song from that classic rock outfit Journey, I will start pulling catheters.”

Yeah, it’s those kinds of lines that make us want to unlock our jaws and swallow “Glee” whole like a python.  And you? What did you think of the episode?

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Sue (Jane Lynch) visits a pediatric cancer ward in the "Comeback" episode of "Glee." Credit: Adam Rose / Fox