Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Glee 2.01: "Audition"

“I would have joined in with a kick-ass harmony, but the dude was naked.”

“Audition” was a very solid beginning to the second season of “Glee.” Sometimes shows will have a bit of a sophomore slump, but I’m not seeing it yet, at least. “Audition” contained some cool musical numbers, set up several plots for a nice arc, and the theme wasn’t anviliciously hinted at by the title (and numerous lines of dialogue repeating the title, along with the theme). New characters, kind of a necessity in a show set in high school, were introduced in a non-offensive way, although both of the major new characters are a bit two-dimensional at this point. I’m hoping that improves as the season progresses. Overall, it was an enjoyable hour, although that could just be because I was watching it after one of the most stressful days ever at work and a microeconomics discussion session that I really didn’t understand. Let’s just say it was a much needed stress release at the end of a very long day.

The episode opens with Jacob shooting a video for his blog. It serves two purposes, really. The first is to bring us up-to-date on the characters, since we haven’t seen what they’ve been up to all summer. Rachel and Finn are officially dating now, for instance. More surprising, Tina dumped Artie for Mike Chang. We later find out that Tina and Mike got together when they were counselors at “Asian camp.” Mostly, Tina likes Mike for his abs (and I don’t really blame her). The second purpose of Ben’s blog is to include some meta humor about criticism the show has received, mostly from online. There are references to reports of Rachel being a diva, and there are references to complaints about Will’s rapping. Kurt says he’d rather people say all these criticisms to his face instead of anonymously on the internet. I can’t decide whether this sequence was genius humor or self-righteous whining.

Anyway, the set-up for the episode (and at least the first arc of the season) takes place in Principal Figgins’ office. There’s going to be a 10% budget cut of a whole bunch of programs at McKinley, including the Cheerios and New Directions, to give more money to the football team. There’s a new football coach, you see, because Ken Tanaka had a breakdown after the whole Emma debacle. Her (yes, her) name is Coach Beiste. She’s going to be quite the interesting foil for Sue. Sue and Will are both upset about the budget cuts, so they decide to form a sort of unholy alliance to take down Beiste.

Will’s got other important matters to deal with too, though. Nobody but the original kids are signing up for New Directions. Sue thinks the club should do auditions instead of just sign-ups, the idea being that auditions would create an enticing air of exclusivity, but Will doesn’t like that idea. The situation is especially dire because Matt, aka “Shaft,” aka the background dancer who isn’t played by Harry Shum, Jr., has transferred to another school, so New Directions is back down to eleven members. If you remember from early Season 1, show choir rules require twelve students to constitute a show choir. Nationals is in New York this year, so Will has the kids perform “Empire State of Mind” in the middle of the school in an area where kids congregate. The idea is that other kids at McKinley will maybe think glee club is cool if they see them perform a more contemporary number. I liked that some of the back beats were done a capella instead of the whole thing being done on synthesizer. The powers that be still haven’t figured out how to properly synch the music to the action on screen, though. It’s still so obviously lip synched.

The performance still doesn’t draw more kids to the club, so individual members take it upon themselves to try some recruiting. Finn hears Sam, a new football recruit, singing in the shower, much like Will heard Finn singing in the shower in the pilot. Sam sings “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which was decent, but not memorable. Rachel meets a Filipino exchange student named Sunshine Corazone. Rachel is incredibly condescending at first, asking in über-simplified sentences if Sunshine saw her perform, because watching Rachel perform must be a huge inspiration. Sunshine starts listening to her headphones and singing along to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” and Rachel goes from patronizing to intimidated and frightened. She joins in on the duet, too, of course, before rushing away from Sunshine as fast as she can.

Finn brings Sam to hang out with the other New Directions guys, as sort of a pre-audition. They ask if Sam has a song in his back pocket that he’d like to sing, and he chooses “Billionaire.” It’s funny, as I was driving home from school last night, anticipating watching this episode, I thought to myself that “Billionaire” was just the kind of song that would probably be on “Glee.” And obviously, I was right. The performance was cute, although for some reason the powers that be had Kevin McHale do a lot of the rapping in this episode, including for “Billionaire.” Mark Salling is really the only one of the guys who even comes close to pulling it off, and all he got lead on was about half of “Empire State of Mind.” Meanwhile, Rachel is taking the opposite tack with Sunshine. She wants to keep Sunshine as far away from glee club as possible. Kurt and Mercedes don’t approve of Rachel’s anti-Sunshine rant. Mercedes has a good point that they need all the help they can get if they want to have a shot at beating Vocal Adrenaline. Rachel takes things way too far and gives Sunshine fake directions to a fake “audition” which lead Sunshine to a crack house instead. It’s absolutely horrible, and I don’t know how we’re supposed to keep rooting for Rachel when she pulls stuff like that.

Sue and Will’s campaign against Beiste is incredibly juvenile. It starts with Will and Sue ordering surprise pizzas for Beiste and the kids trying out for football. Beiste brushes it off and says all the football guys have to eat four slices before practice. Then it’s time for “Operation: Mean Girls.” Both Sue and Will give excuses about why Beiste can’t sit at their tables in the faculty lounge. At this point, Will starts to feel bad for joining in on this foolishness. The damage is already done, though. Beiste starts to cry in front of the football hopefuls, although she tries to play it off. Finn makes the mistake of asking her if Artie can join the team (Artie thinks it will help him win back Tina) while she’s still hurting, and Beiste is convinced that Finn’s request is another practical joke meant to make her look like an idiot. Finn’s idea that pushing Artie’s wheelchair down the field could work as a battering ram isn’t the brightest idea, after all. Beiste is so upset at the perceived lack of respect that she kicks Finn off the team. Finn, of course, is devastated.

Finn decides that since he’s been kicked off the football team, he needs to become a Cheerio to retain any social standing. His dance to “I Got the Power” (yay early 90’s hip hop!) was the funniest moment of the episode by far. I love how the producers are getting really good at using Cory Monteith’s horrible dancing abilities to comedic effect. Finn’s not the only one who wants to be a Cheerio, though. Quinn wants back on the team, too. The theme of this episode seemed to be that many of the characters acting quite Machiavellian to get what they want out of McKinley High life, and Quinn is certainly a good example of that. She leaks the story that Santana got breast implants over the summer, knowing full well that Sue is extremely anti-cosmetic surgery. Sue calls Santana into her office and tells her that Quinn will be replacing her as head cheerleader. Santana will be demoted to the bottom of the pyramid. Santana physically attacks Quinn when she next sees her in the hall. It’s quite ugly.

Not surprisingly, Sue also goes way too far in her pursuit of her goal of ousting Beiste. First, she convinces Brittany to lie to Principal Figgins and accuse Beiste of molesting her. This is so serious that when Will is called in, he puts a stop to it and gets Brittany to tell the truth. Later, Sue tries to serve Beiste “cookies” made of poo, and Will puts a stop to that, too. By that point, he’s decided that he’s going to go back to being himself and treat Beiste nicely. He apologizes to her. Which is a little boring, but true to character, I suppose. I really, really did like how the theme of this episode was definitely present, but not as much of an anvil as “Glee” tends to do. The episode title wasn’t “The Cost of Achievement” with every character saying “cost” ten times in the episode, for instance.

Sam never showed up for his full-club audition, and Finn seeks him out to find out what happened. Sam didn’t like the lack of social status that comes with New Directions. He doesn’t think he’d be able to take the ribbing he’d receive from the other football players. To make matters worse, Sam has been named the new quarterback of the team. He’s taken Finn’s job and popularity. Finn isn’t the only one who has lost out by the end of the episode, though. The entire glee club loses out. Sunshine did indeed get to do her full audition (she sang a song from “Dream Girls”), but she ends up getting recruited by Vocal Adrenaline, thanks to Sue’s machinations, of course. Sunshine accepts the offer because even though she did eventually get to audition for New Directions, Rachel’s dirty trick made her feel incredibly unwelcome. Finn confronts Rachel about that whole incident. Finn and Rachel are still an incredibly solid couple, which is kind of nice to see, but Finn makes Rachel admit that she didn’t try to keep Sunshine away to help the group dynamic. She did what she did because she didn’t want to share the spotlight. The episode ends with Rachel expressing her realization by singing “What I Did For Love.”

No comments:

Post a Comment