Friday, September 10, 2010

Glee 1.22: "Journey"

“Life only really has one beginning and one end, and the rest is just a whole lot of middle.”

While I don’t think “Journey,” the season finale of “Glee,” quite measured up to “Sectionals,” the fall finale, it was still a better-than-decent hour of television. There were some good emotional moments and some attempts at creativity. It’s finally Regionals time, and the future of New Directions is on the line. Remember, back in the pilot, Will made a deal with Principal Figgins that New Directions would only exist on a trial basis. If they don’t place at Regionals this year, they’re gone, and their funding goes back to the Cheerios. Or something like that. It’s kind of fluctuated throughout the season what they actually have to accomplish. No matter what has been said before, the practical upshot of this episode is that they had to come in first or second place. Now that’s settled, on with the recap!

The episode begins with quite the bombshell bit of news for New Directions. Sue has been chosen as a judge for Regionals. Will’s first reaction is to angrily plead his case to Principal Figgins, who says he has no control over the judges chosen for the competition. Which makes sense, really. I’m not sure what Will really expected Figgins to be able to do. Anyway, the news is pretty devastating to the kids. Will hosts a “Regionals setlist nomination party” at his apartment, and it’s a total downer. Instead of being excited about the upcoming competition, the kids are all crying. Rachel asks if instead of choosing songs, they can just talk about their favorite memories of glee club. They’re all convinced that with Sue as a judge, they don’t stand a chance at placing, and glee club will be over for good. They’re also convinced that without the glee club, they won’t stay friends. Which is probably true.

Will goes to Emma for advice, because that’s what he always does in situations like this. Emma’s wary about Will’s intentions. She informs Will that she’s seeing someone else. Her dentist, to be exact. Will isn’t thrilled about this, but he knows he doesn’t have any right to complain, so he leaves her alone after really inappropriately asking about how far Emma’s relationship with the dentist has gone. Later, while driving home in his car, Will hears “Don’t Stop Believing” play on the radio. Will completely breaks down when he hears it. It’s supposed to be a very emotional scene, but I think it’s played a little too melodramatic for my tastes.

Before the next glee club rehearsal, Finn and Rachel discuss the club’s new situation. Finn is just as determined to turn the club’s attitude around as Rachel is. Rachel is so moved by Finn’s determination to save glee club that she kisses him right then and there. Finn is more than fine with that, of course. When they arrive at rehearsal, they find that Will has become more optimistic, too. He has an idea for their big performance at Regionals. New Directsions will perform a Journey medley. This is good from a theme of the episode (and the show, I guess) perspective, but from a music perspective, it’s kind of absurd. I know if I were preparing a group for adjudication, I’d want them to be performing tried-and-true numbers that they could do in their sleep, not teaching them all new numbers days before the competition.

Soon enough, it’s time for Regionals, and the panel of judges is a bit of a who’s who of minor characters and past celebrity cameos. Joining Sue are Josh Groban, Olivia Newton-John and Rod Remington (Sue’s news anchor ex). New Directions’ main competition is Vocal Adrenaline, of course, and another group called Aural Intensity. The writers really do have fun making up vaguely dirty glee club names, don’t they? Aural Intensity is up first, and their strategy is to pander as best they can. They perform a Josh Groban/Olivia Newton-John mash-up. The kids of New Directions are furious at how blatant and uncreative that performance is. Will forces them to refocus by turning off the intercom where they were listening.

New Directions, of course, manage to pull it together and give a good, energetic performance. Instead of a Rachel solo like at Sectionals, this time we got a Rachel and Finn duet of “Faithfully.” Finn and Rachel profess their love before the performance starts, which is kind of sweet, and they begin the song in the back of the auditorium, just like when Rachel did “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” I know usually I complain about Finn getting the male lead vocals all the time, but this time I didn’t mind it so much because Cory Monteith sounds best (relatively) on classic rock, so the Journey medley suited him. Of course, Mark Salling probably would have sounded even better, but still, Cory wasn’t bad. The group reprised “Don’t Stop Believing,” and although I don’t think it quite had the same magic that it did in the pilot, one thing that I did like was that this version included more of the kids on lead vocals. Puck, Santana, Artie, and Mercedes each got their moments. I thought that showed a bit of how far the group has come.

After the performance, the drama really kicks into high gear. Quinn’s mom shows up with some big news. She kicked out Quinn’s dad, and she wants Quinn to move back home. Quinn’s response is rather…unconventional, to say the least. Her water breaks. Thus begins one of the most ingenious musical set-ups ever on “Glee,” even if the execution didn’t really match the awesomeness of the idea. Quinn giving birth is intercut with Vocal Adrenaline performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The execution was lacking (even with Quinn’s screams matching up with some of the lyrics) because I think Jonathan Groff can’t possibly live up to Freddy Mercury. Frankly, if I have to have an alternative “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the original, I prefer this one. One thing I did really like about the whole sequence were some of the things that happened at Quinn’s birth. For instance, I was glad that Puck and Mercedes were there with her, especially that she was finally letting Puck in a bit. The other thing I really liked was Puck’s reactions to the whole situation. At first he had a look of disgust, and by the end, he was in tears. It was really a great performance by Mark Salling.

Rachel is the only member of New Directions who didn’t accompany Quinn to the hospital. She stays behind to dig into that Shelby wound a bit more. She tells Shelby she wants her to be co-director of the glee club with Will. I thought this was out of nowhere and extremely inappropriate. Even so, I thought Shelby’s reaction was even worse. She says she “missed out” with Rachel. Basically, she wants a shiny new toy. I could go on a blog-post-long rant about Shelby, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Rachel mentions Quinn is having her baby, which, by the end of the episode, means Shelby has adopted the baby. She names her Beth like Puck wanted, at least. That was kind of cute.

Elsewhere at Regionals, the judging has begun. Popular opinion is not overwhelmingly in favor of New Directions. Olivia Newton-John, for instance, is offended that they didn’t honor her by singing one of her songs. As the other judges make fun of New Directions, Sue starts to see a bit of herself in the glee kids. Especially when the other judges start picking on her for only being a local celebrity. They call her an underachiever, and it stings. Not surprisingly, when it’s time to give out the awards, New Directions takes home third. Apparently that wasn’t good enough. They had to get first or second. It appears that glee club is over. But this is television, so obviously that can’t stick.

The next day, Emma is yelling at Principal Figgins so furiously that she can barely catch her breath. Will is impressed with her newfound assertiveness (and so am I), especially since it’s directed at helping Glee. He interprets Emma being upset that glee club is over as Emma being upset that their relationship is over, and he kisses her. Emma doesn’t really protest the kiss, although I don’t think the dentist is going to be immediately out of the picture. Spoiler alert, the “Glee” producers cast John Stamos for a reason this upcoming season. I’m hoping he’ll be gone sooner rather than later, since I’m a fan of Emma and Will’s odd relationship, but I think he’s sticking around at least for a little while.

The glee club calls Will to the auditorium, where they perform “To Sir, With Love” for him. It’s a rather moving performance. Sue thinks it’s moving too, as she watches from the back of the auditorium. She ends up saving the day. She uses her blackmailing powers one last time to get Figgins to give the glee club one more year to place at Regionals before disbanding them. Sue couches it as being bored with having no nemesis around, but we can see that since the judging fiasco, she’s actually developed a bit of a soft spot for them. She placed them first on her own ballot. Will gives the kids the good news, and to thank them, he performs a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” on ukulele with Puck as backup. It was pretty, although not especially memorable. So now I look forward to what the new season will bring. Personally, I’m hoping for less Autotune.

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