After a month away, "Glee" returned with an episode that's promising bright spots couldn't escape from under the weight of the show's typical mistakes.
Special mentions needs to be made of Lauren Potter, who plays Becky, and Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren for her internal monologue. Both actresses turned in great performances that elevated the episode significantly. The concept, from its introduction to the very end of the episode, worked on every level and reminded us of the perfect balance "Glee" can strike between tragedy and comedy. It's just unfortunate that the rest of the episode's many storylines couldn't have taken note.
The episode kicked off with the girls and boys groups talking to Mercedes and Sam, respectively, about their summer fling. Do you ever wonder if Kurt feels slighted that Blaine gets to hang out with the boys? Anyway, the gang broke into the only song appropriate for such situations, "Summer Nights," which was pleasant, if a little too rote of a cover. Mercedes explained that none of those summer nights mattered anymore because she's now with Tinker from "Friday Night Lights." But those feelings got called into question during "First Time I Ever Saw Your Face," when Mercedes could only think of Sam.
Soon afterward, we were treated to the soothing voice of Dame Helen Mirren, standing in for Becky's inner monologue. News of Mirren's voice cameo broke a few weeks ago, but actually seeing the execution and how it played out in the context of the episode surprised with how poignant it was.
After hilariously dismissing others like Puck, Becky chose Artie as the target of her affection. He had just been talked down to by Sugar Motta for being handicapped, a theme that would play out in two of the week's main storylines.
Artie didn't know how to handle Becky's new-found interest in him, and he agreed to go to Breadstix with her for a presumably innocent date. The two hit it off, but Artie never had any intention of continuing down the romantic and sexual road Becky had planned. He realized this too late, and it took a talk from Sue to set him straight. He eventually told Becky his true feelings, and despite her cool exterior, Dame Helen revealed the tragedy inside.
The reason Becky and Artie's story worked is the reason "old Glee" (the first half of season one) still holds a place in the fans' hearts. The plot touched on a universal experience, unrequited love, from a very "Glee" perspective, the treatment of handicapped people as people. It ended on an appropriate down note and reaffirmed Sue and Becky's touching dynamic.
It also worked as a parallel to Will and Emma's storyline for the week. After Beiste and Cooter eloped, Emma got wedding crazy, blacked out, sang "Wedding Bell Blues" and proposed to Will. She later denied it, but the incident spurred Will to propose as well, giving us the week's assignment. The boys felt a mash-up of "Moves Like Jagger" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" would make a memorable proposal, which makes me worry for their future fiancées.
Next, we visited Will during a discussion with Finn. They had a heart-to-heart, and Mr. Schue admitted, and I quote, "You've taught me more about being a man than anyone I've ever known." I can only assume Will was referring to a season of "Glee" that didn't air, in which Finn didn't act like a petulant man-boy and taught everyone a valuable lesson about modern masculinity. Otherwise, that sentiment would have made no sense at all.
Finn took the opportunity to reveal his plans to enlist, in order to be more like his father. This immediately caused concern with Will, who called a Finntervention with Burt, Emma and Finn's mom. Instead of outright being opposed to service for one's country, the group revealed an odd story about the true circumstances of the death of Finn's father. He suffered from PTSD and took up a drug habit after Desert Storm, eventually dying from an overdose.
In order to make an honest woman out of Emma, Will visited with her awful parents to ask for her hand in marriage. They did not give their approval, insisting that Emma's disease was too great for her to ever be a real wife and mother. Completely against character, Will agreed with them and rebuffed Emma's proposal, saying she was too sick. It was a pretty low blow and a hypocritical move on Will's part that would have certainly made things awkward if he decided to propose the next day.
Will decided to propose the next day, and to do it, he enlisted the help of the New Directions and the synchronized swimming team. (More NeNe, please!) Rachel (boo) and Santana (yay!) led a rendition of the party drug and domestic abuse anthem of 2011, "We Found Love." Everyone splashed around and looked like they were having fun. For the grand finale, Will took a page out of Jesus' book and literally walked on water to propose to Emma. Despite his horrible speech the day before, Will delivered a rather sweet proposal. She said yes, by the way.
The big twist/cliffhanger/inexplicable scene came at the very end of the episode. Finn invited Rachel to the empty auditorium to tell her that he wanted to get over his druggie dad, which he seemed to do in about a half hour. It became clear that he planned on proposing to her about halfway through, and I blacked out hoping he wouldn't go through with it.
Download or Ditch
"Summer Nights" - Ditch
The "Glee" rendition was too close to the Olivia Newton John-John Travolta version, and the tie always goes to Travolta.
"First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" - Ditch
This was an odd song choice from the very beginning. Lea Michele's cry-singing only made it worse.
"Without You" - Ditch
"Let's take all the excitement and fun out of that song that people like."
"Wedding Bell Blues" -Download
Jayma Mays stepped up her vocals for this throwback, and surprisingly enough, it worked.
"Move Like Jagger/Jumpin' Jack Flash" - Download
This gets points because Artie is consistently awesome, and it's only barely a mash-up.
"We Found Love" - Ditch
If Naya Rivera had all of the lead vocals, this would have been an easy download.
What did you think of last night's "Glee" episode? What are you hoping Rachel will say to Finn next week? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!