Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Glee 2.07: "The Substitute"

“It’s broccoli. When I showed this to Brittany earlier, she began to whimper, thinking I had cut down a small tree where a family of Gummi Bears lived.”

“The Substitute” was a somewhat entertaining, but ultimately unsatisfying, episode of “Glee.” This was the infamous “Gwyneth Paltrow” episode. Why does it seem like almost every episode of “Glee” this season either has a special theme or special guest star? I miss the characterization and plotting (as ridiculous as it could sometimes be) of the first season. This was a very Broadway heavy episode, music-wise. Generally, I think that’s a good thing, although I didn’t really love the specific Broadway choices for this episode. It might have benefitted from a wider range of music. I think the episode also suffered from focusing too much on Terri Schuster, possibly one of the most hateful characters ever written for television. If she never appears on the show again, I will be happy, although given the events of this episode, that dream is probably never going to become a reality.

A bit of a plague has set its sights on McKinley High, and the heavyset A/V club girl is Typhoid Mary. Sue’s having a walk-and-talk with Figgins, and when she sees A/V girl sneezing and just generally miserable, she makes sure Figgins gets a good dose of it. Figgins is now out sick for an extended period of time, and Sue has randomly been made interim principal. Which is completely ridiculous. Now, I like shows with a heightened reality, and “Glee” usually plays right into that, but I like heightened reality when it sparks the imagination. Not when it’s just plain stupid. Unfortunately for Will, right after he hears the news that Sue is principal, he gets sneezed on by the A/V girl, too. Talk about kicking somebody when they’re already down!

Will’s trying to teach the glee club when he starts to feel a bit faint and queasy. He turns around to look at his students, and all of a sudden, they’ve turned into toddlers. The child actors were talented and rather adorable- the scene was really a highlight of the episode. All that goodwill went away quickly, however. Will passes out, and next thing we know, he’s at home. What makes it so unpalatable is that Terri has stopped by to take care of him. Terri is just so incredibly revolting that seeing her on the television makes me want to change the channel. It’s not Jessalyn Gilsig at all- she plays Terri extremely well as written. It’s the character herself I can’t stand because she’s so horribly, irredeemably manipulative. Anyway, it’s clear that by taking on the role of nurse (or more like forcing the role), Terri is angling to get back together with Will. Will manages to get her to leave, but she puts “Singin’ in the Rain” in the DVD player before she leaves just to remind him how well she knows him.

Back at McKinley, the glee club is left leaderless. Rachel tries to fill the void, but to say it doesn’t go well would be an understatement. She writes “ME!” in huge letters on the chalkboard (trying to be like a substitute teacher, I guess) and barely avoids being attacked by Santana. After that disastrous rehearsal, Kurt and Mercedes chat in the lunch line. Mercedes is a little upset that Kurt is ditching her that weekend to hang out with Blaine. Kurt doesn’t really pay too much attention. He’s got an idea to fix the glee club’s problem. He runs to the Spanish classroom and asks Will’s substitute, Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) if she’ll fill in for Will with the glee club too. She was recently a substitute in Kurt’s English class, and her full-on performance of “Conjunction Junction” (probably the only performance I really liked in this episode- yay Schoolhouse Rock!) convinced Kurt she’d be up for leading New Directions. Holly is more than a little crazy. She thrives on making things fun for her students. I guess she figures that’s really the only way to survive as a substitute teacher.

In the spirit of being lenient and keeping things fun, Holly approaches New Directions by stressing how she wants them to sing whatever songs they want. There’s a funny running bit throughout this episode of Will gleefully (pun not really intended) giving the group music to sing from yet another Journey song. Sue, meanwhile, is not having such an easy time in her new position. She wants to go on a total power trip, but she’s failing miserably. Her dumbest attempt is when she tries to disband the football team. Coach Beiste helpfully points out to her that Sue finally thinks of a way to finally assert her power over the kids of McKinley. She’s going to ban tater tots from the cafeteria.

While all this drama is going down, Will is still at home recovering. He has a rather entertaining dream/hallucination of performing “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Mike Chang. It’s a dance spectacular, obviously, and it was quite a bit of fun. The fun is over, however, when Rachel arrives at Will’s apartment to complain about Holly taking over. I think Rachel’s really more upset that her own quest for power was thwarted by Holly than any threat Holly poses to Will. Rachel saw Holly being really buddy-buddy with Sue, so she’s concerned that Holly won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

At McKinley, Kurt is once again planning to flake out on Mercedes to hang out with Blaine. Just as Mercedes is going to voice her displeasure, she’s got something to be even more upset about. The Cheerios bust into the cafeteria and take away all the tater tots. Later, Kurt tries to set Mercedes up with a football player. He thinks she’s upset because she’s been treating Kurt as her substitute boyfriend, and now he’s found a real boyfriend. I don’t really think this is the case. I think Mercedes is justifiably upset because her best friend is one of those people who pretends nobody else exists when they have a significant other. Anyway, Mercedes gives Kurt a hard time for using “African American” as one of his primary criteria for who he would set Mercedes up with. Then she completely shuts Kurt down by starting a tater tot protest in the cafeteria.

Holly tries to win over Rachel by playing the “Will didn’t let you choose your own songs” game. She tells Rachel that she needs to lighten up a bit, and Rachel plays into it. There are more quick flashbacks to Will being obnoxious about Journey, which I still found pretty funny. After some prompting, Rachel says that she always wanted to perform a glamorous song with a good dance beat. She needs help for the one she has in mind, and Holly is only too happy to oblige. That glamorous song with a dance beat turns out to be “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” from “Chicago.” While that’s definitely a song I enjoy, it’s not really at all what I think of when I think “glamorous song with a dance beat.” It really has no dance beat to speak of. And the performance Rachel and Holly give is elaborate, complete with pyro. I thought this club could barely afford a handicapped bus for Artie, let alone pyro for rehearsal.

Terri shows up at Will’s apartment yet again, and this scene probably made me scream “NO!!!” so loudly that it disturbed my neighbors. Terri is armed with Vicks vapor rub, which Will apparently really likes when he’s sick. So much so that he forgoes all semblance of sanity and has sex with Terri. The next day, Will is feeling better, and he tries to go back to work at McKinley. Sue is having a bit too much fun on her power trip, though. She tells Will that she is now permanent principal of the school. Which really doesn’t make any sense, but I’ve already griped about that. She also tells Will that he’s fired. Holly is the new glee club coach. Will goes to the choir room and tries to convince Holly to let him have his job back, but she doesn’t give in. In this economy, such jobs are just too difficult to come by. Holly soon regrets her choice, though. When she’s called to Sue’s office because Mercedes messed with Sue’s car as part of her tater tot protest, Holly fails utterly at protecting Mercedes.

Mercedes goes to dinner with Kurt and Blaine (awkward!), and she ends up being horribly bored. Kurt and Blaine discuss topics she’s not interested in. like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and fashion. Playing third wheel on somebody else’s date is just bad news, no matter the sexual orientation of the couple in question. The next day, when Mercedes shows Kurt that she smuggled tater tots into school, Kurt tells Mercedes he thinks she’s substituting food for love. Mercedes thanks the infallible Kurt for the sage advice and goes off to talk to the guy he had tried to set her up with. It’s really a rather infuriating scene. The football player who has been tormenting Kurt pulls the same tricks again once Mercedes leaves. He slams Kurt in the locker and threatens to kill Kurt if Kurt ever tells anyone about the kiss.

Holly stops by Will’s apartment, which seems completely inappropriate. She explains to Will that she wasn’t always so carefree. In her early days of substitute teaching, she was pretty regimented about making her classes do their work. Then, in a horribly, horribly racist flashback, we see what changed Holly. It involved Holly getting punched in the face, and it’s so offensive that I’m not even going to describe it more here. Terri interrupts Will and Holly and makes a huge scene, introducing herself as Will’s wife. Holly is taken aback at first, but then Will clears up that Terri is actually his ex-wife. He also tells Terri that the other night was a mistake and that he never wants her to come back. This can’t possibly end well. Nevermind the fact that the whole thing is horribly awkward for Holly.

Thanks to the glee kids groveling to Sue to a rather sickeningly sweet degree, Will eventually gets his job back. He wants the kids to perform “Singin’ in the Rain,” but the kids are not at all enthusiastic about it. He finds Holly in her new classroom, and he enlists her help in making it more modern. They all end up performing a mash-up of “Singin’ in the Rain” and Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” I might have liked it if it wasn’t so freaking Auto-tuned. I think that’s my major problem with most “Glee” musical performances, really.

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