I see this outfit on Chris Colfer and I understand why they titled the episode “choke.” What? That’s not why? Look, you see what you want to see, I see what I want to see. Also, this episode is exactly why I love the show.
I also love (and have missed) Intense Rachel, and she is back in full force as she explains her superstitions before a big performance, why she can’t open doors or kiss, and how she sees potentially murderous stalkers everywhere she turns. And it’s because she is a Star. (While Puck is a ball of gas. The episode didn’t need it, but if Puck had held out a finger to be pulled instead of blowing a kiss…) Highlight of the opener: Finn using a stop watch and calling out emotions as she quick-fire changed from thoughtful, happy, sad and Presidential. (This girl is hilarious.)
Finn tells Puck that he’s overheard Puckerman talk about not graduating. To get this far and not get the diploma? Come on, man. While Puck appreciates the bro-vention, he was only saying that to a girl so he could get a pants massage. (Puck, you have come back the past two eps and I have missed you.) He plans on graduating. He also plans on flirting with his older geography teacher to do it.
Cut to him in class, the teacher asks the class what they know about the Danube. He raises his hand and says, “It’s wet. Really wet. And has a bend in it, wink. And there are…fish that swim in it. And it’s in my pants. I’m trying to say—” We get it, Puck.
Brit approaches the girls (I liked the groups of girls and guys this episode, with Rachel and Kurt as their own clique) and asks if they knew there was a prom every year? So the theme needs to be decided on, and she likes Alien Abductions. Think about it: they can have a cornfield and a probing station! That’s when Coach Shannon Beiste walks by with a shiner.
Santana makes a crack about her husband Cooter smacking her when Coach Roz hears this and pulls up short. Oh hell no. So they think it’s funny to joke about women getting hit? Santana rolls her eyes because obviously Beiste couldn’t be hit by a guy by virtue of her size. (Um.) Roz takes down their names for her “list.”
Brittany: Hat Rack
Tina: Asian Horror Movie
Mercedes: Little Oprah
Sugar: Rojo Caliente
Santana: Salsa Caliente
Roz and Sue talk about this in the teacher’s lounge when Beiste and Will come in. Sue and “Black Sue” are pissed that the girls made light of it. Beiste looks horrified at this because she just got dinged by the speed bag at the gym! Highlight of this conversation: Sue opening with how she sent pictures of Roz’s smile to ivory poachers and Sue calling Beiste John Goodman and herself Original Recipe Sue.
Kurt is working on his NYADA audition song, “Music of The Night” from Phantom of the Opera, and there are candles everywhere and a cape that he won’t stop waving and Tina looking like the most put-upon Christine in the history of the part, and while Kurt’s voice is lovely, it’s…just okay. (Chris Colfer’s comedic timing in this scene is impeccable.) Blaine watches in the audience, totally heart-eyed, which is adorable.
But Kurt is starting to rethink this whole thing. Maybe he should put sequins on his cape? Sing it in German? NO! He’ll perform it nude! (Blaine:…what?) Kurt has always been ahead of the curve, and his audition needs to reflect that. Or maybe he just needs more candles.
Darren Criss’ comedic timing here is flawless as well as Blaine whispers, “Oh, God. No. No more candles.” I kind of have a thing for these two, maybe you’ve picked up on that? (Well, if they both weren’t so damn talented I could get over it. Maybe.)
Puck finds his teacher, closes the door so the “chemistry doesn’t get out” and hands her illegal fireworks. To like, represent their hotness, or some shit. So are we going to do this, or what? And I would like to take a moment of your time to point out that the actress playing this older woman got partially felt up by Mark Salling at work, was paid for it, and in about five lines managed to create a really interesting and well-performed bit part. Way to go, lady!
She pushes him off (even though she’s unbearably lonely after a divorce) because Noah needs to crack a damn book and pass the test just like everyone else. Whatever, lady! Screw you! And he starts to sing the very simplistic “School’s Out For Summer” by Alice Cooper, and they even draw the Alice Cooper lines on his face (and the cheerleaders, too) but it doesn’t work because the lines are clean and Alice Cooper looks like a monkey on a three-day bender did his makeup.
Even though I’m not a fan of the song and it’s not a challenge for Mark to sing, he sounds great when they let him do rock, and that’s another thing I’ve missed. Finn watches Puck essentially self-destruct and is worried for his bro.
Sue and Roz confront the girls about what they said, but Sugar makes the salient point that Sue has no room to talk. But see, guys, Sue may fantasize about hurting you all, but she never actually would. (COUGH. Um, Cheerios Cannon? Right—don’t question Glee, because logic doesn’t work the same there.) They don’t seem to be getting how serious this is, so Roz tells them a story about her aunt and her aunt’s “really nice guy” of a husband. Who eventually put the aunt in the ICU.
It’s not a joke. (And it’s not.) And Sue wants them to sing a song that says, “You put a hand on me: it’s over.” And I immediately hoped they’d sing “UNITY” by Queen Latifah, because “You put your hands on me again/ And I’ll put your ass in handcuffs/ Who you calling a bitch?” Oh, I love Miss Latifah. Or even “Goodbye Earl”—even though that goes all Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. They’ll go a different direction, though.
Mike finds Blaine in the gym and asks for hair gelling advice, and it’s like the sun has begun to shine in Blaine’s eyes. “OKAY HERE IS WHAT YOU DO.” He gives some tips, almost breathlessly, and it’s so funny. “Feel free to use a little sweat or a splash of water to reactivate the gel, or give it a complete new look.” Ahaha.
Finn isn’t so excited, though, because something is missing. Sam says, “Those final five pounds? Way to go, dude!” NO. But thank you. But NO. Puck! He’s gone! He’s not even signing into Call of Duty (which says everything to a horrified Artie). It’s time to get Black Hawk Down up in here. They are not going to leave Orlando Bloom out there to die, okay? NO MAN LEFT BEHIND! Hoo-RAH!
Rachel races to Kurt’s locker, breaking her “I can’t talk before a performance” rule. Well, unless three things happen: 1. If William and Kate get pregnant. 2. If Liza dies. (Kurt whispers with fear, “Tell me Liza’s okay!”) She’s fine. Or 3. One of them is in grave danger. And Kurt changing his audition to “Not The Boy Next Door” is a terrible choice because he’s not practiced enough and it’s too risky.
But…isn’t this the time to take a risk? (Kurt? This is why you are wonderful.) Rachel cannot stress enough how bad a plan that is—she’s performing a song she can do in her sleep. And all of this sounds like self-sabotage. Like maybe Kurt doesn’t believe enough in himself and wants to use the song as the excuse for why he didn’t get in. But she knows he will! She even offers to be his Christine, which makes him happy, and their BFF-ness is seriously wonderful.
Mercedes, Tina, Santana, Brittany, and Sugar perform “Cell Block Tango” for the Lady Coaches and holy crap are they sexy and in high school, what the hell. But Tina has a moment! And she uses Mike (who looks utterly fabulous and seriously, how are there so many hot men on this show?). When Santana starts singing the kitchen fight verse, Beiste flashes onto what really happened.
Cooter hit her. (He smashed a ceramic napkin holder, threw a raging fit, and we do NOT see him actually strike her, so thank you for that, Glee.) Oh, Shannon! She walks out, the girls finish the number, and Sue and Roz berate them for completely missing the point of the assignment.
“You girls are cray cray! You picked a song about crazy ladies in their panties killing their men for chewing gum!”
Roz and Sue find Beiste, and let’s take a moment to commend Jane Lynch for her emotional range this episode. Watching her face as she reacts to Beiste telling them that Cooter hit her is just outstanding. (This whole episode was wonderfully acted by everyone.) They tell her to get out of the house, but Shannon, crying, says that she can’t leave him because what if he’s the only man who will ever love her? Oh, honey.
Sue offers to put her up for the night until she can figure things out (and will provide a tent for clothing so she won’t need to worry). Oh, Sue. Keeping it real.
Cut to an unbelievable MILF in a mono-kini (that is a lot of waxing and tanning to keep up, Ma’am) flirting with Puck as he cleans her pool. No hanky panky today, though, because it’s his last pool in Ohio. He’s off to California ASAP. She shrugs and goes off in search of the gardener, and Puck looks up as someone else approaches. “Dad?”
Finn has the guys gathered at the whiteboard with an elaborate scheme planned out in hilarious detail. Finn’s stick figure has a sideways grin, of course, Artie is screaming in horror as his wheelchair-bound stick figure rolls into the pool, and Blaine’s has binoculars as he hides behind a grizzly bush. Puck’s has a mohawk and 5 o’clock shadow, but wait, that’s actually Puck coming in!
He tells them that his dad showed up and asked to borrow money. And he gave it to him. Rory asks him why, and Puck explains that he knew it would get rid of the deadbeat faster. But that was a big chunk of his savings for California, and he knows that he has to graduate. He can’t turn into his dad and show up at Beth’s door one day, pathetic and broke. Then he asks the group, “Will you help me? Please?” Noah Puckerman has had some serious character growth since Ep. 1.
Rachel finds Kurt in the wings before his audition to tell him that the judge is actually Singing Legend “Carmen Tibideaux.” (They proceed to tell horror stories of her stopping shows because of the audience’s behavior, and that is straight from the life of Patti LuPone, and I love it.) Rachel tells Kurt (in his Phantom outfit) that he owns this and no one can sing the song better than him.
“Even Michael Crawford?” Erm… Break a leg, Tiger!
Kurt walks out on stage, introduces himself and his song and realizes by her “ugh” face that this was wrong, wrong, all wrong. So he explains (as Blaine walks in and takes a seat, looking nervous for Kurt) that here in the 11th Hour he’s changing everything. Blaine gasps and covers his mouth as Will looks on, confused.
The song he’s going to sing? “It’s much more me.” It’s “Not The Boy Next Door,” and let’s take a moment to realize how wonderful this song is on multiple levels. Yes, Kurt/Chris is going to sound great (and does) but Kurt—who has walked out in black and white, no color in his face—steps out of the farmhouse, so to speak, and Kurt Elizabeth Hummel thrives in technicolor, and taking a risk by singing that song, is his metaphoric “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, come into the light!” It’s who he is. (You know the song is from The Boy From Oz? Well if you didn’t, now you do.)
Kurt calls out his “swans” and Tina, Brit, and Mercedes come out in outfits he’s made for them. He is also wearing a breakaway tux with the tightest gold pants on ever and I don’t know how he can dance and move in them, but um. Hip thrusts. Chris? Please stop. Wait, don’t. Just…understand that I’m a married woman, a woman, and you’re playing a fictional character that makes my life hard. Okay? (No, really, please don’t stop.)
He fake plays on the piano with Brad, who seems delighted by the effort, Kurt reminds us all of how flexible he is, and owns this song. Blaine sits in the audience with his hand over his mouth and I just have to laugh at that. Kurt sings, “I’m not sorry for just being me!” and fucking hits that last, gorgeous high note that should shatter glass, if not your hearts. Rachel, Blaine, and Will (who stands) applaud him, Blaine is bursting with pride, and Rachel looks a little confused by this turn of events.
Ms. Tibideaux loved it. She gives him praise for taking a risk and Rachel is…shell-shocked. A short time later, Finn brings her flowers and is supportive and sweet, and she says that she’s not nervous at all. First clue, guys. You need stage fright before a performance to fuel you, in my opinion. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
She goes out on stage, prepared to sing “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” which she usually kills, and after a moment, she forgets the lyrics. She’s mortified, but keeps her game face, apologizes, and asks to start over. The band cues up, she’s off tempo and loses the words again and everyone (including me) is horrified. She presses her hands to her cheeks and that’s when I started crying for her. “Please let me start over!”
“No.” Oh. “You get 8 bars; I gave you 16.” If that was a Broadway performance, she’d be dragged off stage and the understudy would take over. The audition is over and Rachel, her hands pressed so tight against her cheeks to keep her smile there and maybe to keep the tears away, too late, begins begging in a tiny and plaintive voice, “Please? Please?” and the lights turn off and it’s just the worst thing ever. Oh little bird, no!! Not a dry eye in my house.
It’s now 3am and the guys are helping Puck cram for his test in a few hours, but with little success until they burst into the very awkward “punk” opening for “The Rain in Spain.” I…this didn’t work for me at all. It was too dorky, too forced. BUT WHATEVER, LAURA. They get Puck to learn things (very, um, specific things and let’s hope that’s on the test?) and ‘ow kind of you to let me come. (Ooh, ‘enry ‘iggins!)
Beiste tells Sue the next day that she’s staying with her sister, which upset Sue to not have known before hand. She positively ruined her tent by cutting in a neck hole! But at least Shannon’s out of her house. She goes to tell the girls what’s been going on, and they’re shocked. They can’t believe Cooter would hit her because “he seemed like such a nice guy.”
Dot-Marie Jones knocks this performance out of the park with her tender heart on her sleeve. Beiste says something that I felt was the most important part of this whole exchange: “It’s a really hard thing to talk about. And nobody tells you what to do when something like this happens. Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors.”
Let me be blunt: my first husband knocked the shit out of me. And I was too smart to be in that situation, and I was too stupid to know that I could leave. Because it’s a hard thing to talk about. There’s all the shame of “why am I letting this happen?” and “I probably should have got the bathroom cleaned earlier.” And more importantly: nobody tells you what to do when something like this happens.
So let me tell you, if you need to know: get the hell out of that house. If you have to wait for them to be asleep, hole up and wait. And then leave. And go to where you can make a phone call, be it a neighbor’s house, a church, a fire station. And you call this number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
No one deserves to be hit, shamed, insulted, or hurt. You do not deserve that. You get out, you call that number, and let them help you untangle you from your abuser. And you sure as hell don’t need to feel ashamed of what someone did to you. That’s the hardest but most important lesson.
Now back to the show.
Puck takes his test, but doesn’t seem to remember anything. Until he gets a question about the rain in Spain falling mainly on the… Mark Salling’s voice-over, “The plain! The plain!” as he sings the lyrics is so cute. And then that limitation I mentioned earlier rears its ugly head. Well…shit. (He also looks very handsome in that olive green sweater, I want to point out.)
He leaves the class and all of the guys are out there waiting for him. Sam asks if his head hurts, because that’s usually a good sign. Puck thinks it just might turn out okay, and then thanks them all for helping him. He grew up without a dad, but all of the guys helped him know what being a man really is. “Even you, Blaine.”
Ha. Also, Glee? Stop recycling this phrase. It’s losing its impact. They all group hug and Artie rolls under their arms to get in on it, too.
The girls bring Beiste into the choir room to sing an outstanding version of “Shake It Out” for her. Santana starts without accompaniment and sounds stunning, and Tina sings (twice! In the same show!) and I have to say she’s pretty nasally here. But her voice—once open—is lovely, too. Mercedes picks up the vocals and the three weave their voices and seriously: I love these girls.
I would like to point out the overly exuberant kid on the piano, though. He’s the over-snapper from Dalton/ Teenage Dream, I think.
As the girls sing, we see what’s really happening with Shannon. She’s gone back to Cooter. And did you see the ceramic napkin holder hastily glued back together? And the cracks still showing? When this show wants to be deep, it does a wonderful job. Cooter tells her “Thank you for giving me a second chance,” and the scene then cuts back to the choir room.
Shannon tells the girls “Thank you,” and gathers them up for a much needed hug. Oh, Shannon.
Kurt finds Rachel and does the important job of supporting his BFF no matter what. She appreciates it, but it’s just still too raw and she can’t talk about it. But she was amazed by him and his performance, and he had been right. She then says she knows he and Finn will be great in New York together and that would be an amazing spin-off, right? An Odd Couple but with step-brothers? Kurt looks horrified that she isn’t thinking of coming, too, because of course she is.
Right now she needs space, and walks off to sing “Cry,” by Kelly Clarkson and has my broken heart in her hands and Lea Michele, I just love your voice. And I love the emotion you pour into your music. Just…damn, if you watched that and didn’t ache for her, you might not be human. I’m just saying.
As she sings on an empty stage to an empty auditorium, we see Puck get his test: it’s an F. Oh, he looks so disappointed, too. Rachel continues to sing, we see a shot of Finn holding her as she sobs (oh, Finn!) and as she closes out the song, her face is the very image of devastation. Her eyes are swollen and red and that girl just sobbed her heart out and nailed a difficult song. Brava, Lea.
Next week: the prom theme is DINOSAURS. Oh my god, Brittany.