Saturday, February 12, 2011

Glee 2.11: "The Sue Sylvester Shuffle"

“Yeah, well maybe you’ll think it’s cooler when I go all ‘Tik Tok’ on your face!”

Overall, I found “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” like everything connected to this year’s Super Bowl, to be a disappointment. Sue was entirely moustache twirling, and I like my villains with depth. But that is only the tip of the iceberg of my dislike for this episode. Like many post-Super Bowl episodes, it had to be generic enough to capture the attention of many potential new viewers. Unfortunately, though, that effort to create an easy entry point for football (or commercial) fans made this episode feel completely out of place. It struck the wrong notes tone-wise, and the plot took place at the completely wrong time of year. It was, as Shakespeare wrote (yes, I am quoting Shakespeare on a TV blog…I’ve got culture!) “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It was all flash and no substance. Okay, maybe there were little bits of substance, but it wasn’t really substance that I liked.

A perfect example of the point I just tried to make, the episode opens with the Cheerios doing a flashy, pyro-laden rehearsal performance to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” My initial reaction was “Why would a cheerleading squad from Ohio choose that song.” It made no sense. Did anybody make an Ohio-themed parody of the song? Like “Pennsylvania Guys” (cracks me up every time I watch it, since I was born, raised, and went to college in two very different areas of the state). Or “Geek and Gamer Girls” (gotta love Seth Green rapping). Even if nobody has, you’d think Sue could afford to commission one. Anyway, despite the over-the-top performance, Sue is bored and demands something more. Quinn, in dialogue that is way too overly exposition-y, explains that this is the most elaborate routine the Cheerios have ever done, and Sue is just trying to top herself for her own amusement- they’re already a shoe-in to get to Nationals. Sue confirms Quinn’s assessment by writing in her journal about how she just wants to feel things again- she’s become extremely jaded. She’s watching a cartoon on television and sees a character shoot out of a cannon. This gives her a very bad idea.

The main plot of this episode, however, involves the football team. We see them playing an important game, which is happening at completely the wrong time of year. A playoff game like this one should be in late November, not February. And we already saw the Christmas episode, so there’s no argument to be made that they slowed down the timeline. Finn makes a big speech to his teammates about how proud he is of them because they’re guaranteed a spot in the conference championships this year. The speech devolves into a stupid argument with Karofsky, where of course Karofsky makes fun of Finn being in glee club and being friends with Kurt. Karofsky threatens not to protect Finn from being sacked, and Finn blows the last play. The Titans lose the game, and there’s a huge fight in the locker room after the game between the guys who are part of New Directions and the guys who aren’t. There would be lots of fighting in this episode. It gets old.

Coach Beiste tells Will that she’s concerned that if her team doesn’t quit this infighting and start working together, they’re going to lose the championship. Will, of course, has a brilliant idea that he’s sure will solve the problem. He gets Coach Beiste to bring the rest of the football team to a glee rehearsal. Nobody on either side of the war is happy about that. Puck and Rachel perform a decent rendition of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” It wasn’t as offensively Autotuned as most “Glee” music, but it was still too polished. The original song is beautiful because it’s raw and gritty, and that’s something that never applies to “Glee” music, other than the impromptu karaoke “Piano Man” by Bryan Ryan and Will in “Dream On” (still my favorite musical moment on the show to date). Anyway, following the performance, one of the football players insults Puck, and the whole thing devolves into a knock-down-drag-out fight. Again. Later, Finn and Puck privately decide to call a truce and unite against the anti-Glee football players.

Turning to the absolute worst plot of the episode, Sue procures a human cannon from “carnie folk” and decrees that Brittany will be shot out of said cannon as part of the Cheerios’ Regionals performance. Brittany is rightfully scared, and Quinn reassures her that she will go to Will with the problem and fix everything. We next see Sue, Will, and Principal Figgins all having quite the argument in Figgins’ office. Figgins (thank God) stands up to Sue and says that she will not be shooting anyone out of a cannon without their consent. I thought he should have said no cannon at all, but I’ll take what reasonableness I can get on this show. Sue throws one of her classic tantrums, seeming to hurl just about any stationary object in the school in an effort to demonstrate her rage. I didn’t like these tantrums back when she did them in the (higher quality) season 1, and I still don’t like them now. As a final insult, Sue gets the cheerleading Regionals competition moved to the same night as the football team’s championship game. The game will have no cheerleaders.

Will thinks that to replace the Cheerios number and build some school unity, New Directions and the football team should do the half-time show instead. They’re going to do a mash-up of “Thriller” and “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in full zombie make-up. And this plot would be better suited to a Halloween episode. Quinn, Santana, and Brittany now have a choice to make: glee club or Cheerios? After a rehearsal, Will pulls Karofsky aside and tells him how talented he is. I guess Will is hoping that by embracing his talent, Karofsky will stop making fun of the glee kids. The plan works temporarily. Karofsky enthusiastically comes up to Finn and asks if they should do a warm-up number before the big mash-up. Finn is pleasantly surprised by Karofsky’s initiative and agrees with him.

As quickly as Will’s plan comes together, it starts to fall apart. The glee club Cheerios are all having a ladies room discussion about the choice they have to make when Sue interrupts. She reminds the girls that they rely on Cheerios for their social standing at school, and she gives them all pre-written New Directions resignation letters to hand in to Will. Scared by Sue’s ultimatum, the girls turn in their resignations like Sue told them to. Finn is furious about this and yells at Quinn for not being as strong as he knows she can be. Meanwhile, the hockey players (all with highly comedic, stereotypical mullets…one of the few things in this episode that genuinely made me laugh), are giving the football players a hard time about joining up with the glee club. The football guys all experience their first Slushie-ing, and it shakes Karofsky, who really has no spine whatsoever. He quits the performance and takes all his football buddies with him. They all end up quitting the football team too, because Coach Beiste says they can’t play if they don’t do the half-time show.

We then take a break from the drama for the obligatory poorly-integrated-into-the-rest-of-the-episode Dalton Academy Warbler performance. This time, Blaine, Kurt and the boys are performing the Destiny’s Child classic “Bills Bills Bills.” I love me some old school Destiny’s Child, and the performance was one of the better musical performances of the episode, but I think that splitting the show between the two schools just kills any momentum each episode manages to get going. We kind of abruptly transition into a coffee meet-up with Kurt, Blaine, Rachel, and Mercedes. The conversation convinces Rachel and Mercedes that they need to do something to save the football game and half-time show. Their solution? The non-Cheerios New Directions girls are going to join the football team. Their plan is to lie down at the beginning of every play so they don’t get tackled (except for Lauren, since she’s badass). And the part of me that is a massive “Friday Night Lights” fan who has been following the coverage of the DirecTV airing of the series finale this week weeps.

The plan works in the sense that the game is allowed to take place and the girls don’t get hurt, but the Titans are losing horribly. One of the opposing team members fumbles the ball, and Coach Beiste yells for somebody to pick it up and run with it. Tina is tired of just lying down, so she does as Coach Beiste says. And gets her bell rung when she gets tackled. She’s eventually able to get up after giving everyone a little scare, and the incident sparks Finn to tell everyone that the only way they can really salvage this game is to put on a great half-time show. He calls Sam in from the sidelines to play quarterback while he goes and gets the missing Cheerios glee clubbers. And, why, if they were so short of players, was Sam on the sidelines, even if he is QB2? Surely he’s capable of playing another position too in a pinch? Finn also asks Puck to go convince the other football guys to come back. Both are successful. Finn convinces the girls that Sue doesn’t care about them, and Puck convinces the guys (except for Karofsky) that being a loser is better than being nothing at all.

The half-time performance was pretty cool, but as a high school colorguard veteran, I kept thinking that the drill design for the marching band would have been rather hellish with all the extra dancers on the field. You see, you don’t just move around the field willy-nilly. There are maps of different steps in the drill and dots that mark where each person is supposed to be. It’s not something they could have just whipped up at the last minute. The performance had good energy, and eventually even Karofsky got over himself and ran onto the field to join in. Coach Beiste gets the guys stay in makeup for second half of the game- she thinks it will be good for intimidation. With just seconds left in the game, Finn realizes that the Titans can win if the opposing team’s QB fumbles the ball. He gets the guys to start saying “Brains” zombie style to provide a distraction. Everyone in the stands join in the chant. I guess it was a cool moment, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that Finn does not play defense (he’s the QB1), so he shouldn’t have been on the field to orchestrate that little maneuver. Anyway, the plan goes off as Finn imagined it, and the Titans win.

We next cut to Katie Couric interviewing Sue, who has been named “Loser of the Year” for her cannon stunt backfire, which apparently let to Cheerios losing Nationals for the first time in eight years. To (rightfully) add insult to injury, the rest of the Cheerios budget for the year is going to New Directions. The glee kids all hope that this victory is the start of a new paradigm in how the school social scene works, but Finn soon finds out that in some ways, that won’t be true. He happily goes up to Karofsky to tell him that the club has agreed he can be a permanent member if he apologizes to Kurt. Karofsky is not at all interested, though. He’s on top because of winning the championship (never mind that his own issues almost singlehandedly lost the game for the team), so he doesn’t want things to change. In news that was so infuriating that I’m only going to give it a brief mention here at the end of the post, Quinn appears after Finn’s confrontation with Karofsky and tells Finn that she’s proud of how he handled himself regarding the championship game. And then they kiss. I could go on a rant about why that makes me irrationally angry (mostly because of how irredeemably badly Quinn hurt Finn last season), but this post is already way too long. So I’ll leave it at that.

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