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Glee: The Rhodes Not Taken

Will: "Do you think we can win Regionals without Rachel?"
Emma: "Remember the Jamaican bobsled team?"

In this week's episode, "The Rhodes Not Taken", newly minted Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth guest starred as April, a former Glee Club superstar who's become a drunk has-been squatting in foreclosed homes. And let me tell you - that lady won an Emmy for a reason. Not only can she sing, she completely stole the show - a show that was probably the best episode of Glee I've seen yet.

This episode left me with so many thoughts and reactions that I'm going to try something a little different, and divide the review into sections based on my thinking. I'm also going to skip the plot recap, since I assume if you're reading this, you already know what happened :-) Let me know what you think about this format, as I am still playing with review styles.

Focus, people! Focus!

One of the best things about "The Rhodes Not Taken" was that it finally narrowed its focus into a cohesive storyline. To be honest, I've been struggling with To-Do-or-Not-To-Do a recap each week, partially because there are so many things going on, just trying to summarize it takes up like 2 pages. I don't mind having lots of things going on, and Glee has done a fairly good job of keeping them all pretty much related to the "Theme of the Night", but centering around a few key characters and plot points made a HUGE difference in my viewing experience. It definitely helped me become more invested in what was going on, as well as allowing the characters more breathing room for development. Much tighter storytelling, for sure.

Plus, I feel like having a huge cast with too many storylines is what did Heroes in, so I'm a little wary. I spent so much time trying to follow what was going on that I completely stopped caring about the characters, who basically started sucking anyway because, well, how much can you do when you've got 6 lines each episode?

Welcome Back to Earth

In addition to filtering out the noise, "Rhodes" was a far more grounded episode. Don't get me wrong - I love the show for its absurdity and cheekiness - but I was really happy to watch something that I could relate to. Until tonight, Glee was more like a edgy, sly spoof of every high school movie/show ever made - more concerned about how the story was told then the story itself. And I loved it - I love poking fun at all 3 sequels of Bring It On - but would it have been sustainable? How long can you make fun of others if you don't have your own story to tell?

Flawed, but Real, Characters

I really like flawed characters - mostly because I think that being flawed is what makes us human. I also like complex characters. The two leads of this episode - Rachel and April - proved to be both flawed and complex, while the "good" characters - Will, Emma, and Finn - gave in to manipulation to get what they wanted.

Rachel really struggled with her decision to leave Glee Club. She feels the only thing she has is her talent, and she (wrongly and selfishly) thought it was being dismissed last week. She's miserable with the play, but keeps insisting that it's the price to pay for being such a star - trying to convince herself as much as those around her. Like any teenager - heck, any human being - she wants to belong, have people who miss her.

Kristin Chenoweth brought out layers and layers of complexity in April. She used to have such bright future, but made some bad choices, and ended up quite south of where she wanted to be. But instead of being bitter or in denial, she acknowledges what's happened and is doing her best to move on. She remains pleasant and sweet, if not altogether appropriate or classy. Like Rachel, she seeks Will's approval and admiration; but rather than being defensive and snotty, she tries hard to do what he asks - raising her hand in Spanish class, trying to woo the Glee kids, with hysterical results.

And Will, Emma and Finn? All of them knew that what they were doing was wrong - Finn took advantage of Rachel's crush to get her back to Glee, Will took advantage of April's vulnerability to help New Directions win, Emma took advantage of Finn's dilemma to help Will be happy. But they really convinced themselves that the end justified the means, even when they were patently uncomfortable about it. I'm glad that they aren't paragons of virtue.

Now... the Critique

Of course, no review of Glee can ignore the musical numbers. Tonight we had some powerhouses: while I didn't especially love the song from Cabaret, I thought splicing April and Rachel's performances were cleverly done. The karaoke of "Alone"? Genius! And picking a country song? Very bold, very fun.

Yet... *sigh*. I really enjoyed "Somebody to Love", but there are holes in the performance. First of all - Finn's singing. He's the male lead - he needs to be stronger. He's always quiet when he starts off a number, and especially when he's playing off a powerhouse like Lea Michele, he sounds tiny and unsure. At first, it was endearing - it made sense plot-wise, Finny was nervous and unsure. But at this point, he needs to drop the bewildered act, and really step up his performances. Its not that he can't sing - once he gets further into the song, it becomes more confident - he just leads off poorly, which sets a poor tone for his solos.

Second, the "dancing". What dancing? Vocal Adrenaline danced. I realize that New Directions isn't going to win because of their mad choreography, but does it have to be so amateur? On last night's So You Think You Can Dance, there was this hilarious segment about what NOT to do in an audition. One of the four was what they called the "Reach to Nowhere" - basically, when a contemporary dancer reaches beseechingly into the sky. As judge Adam Shankman said, "What are you trying to get??"

There's an awful lot of reaching in New Directions' routines. It even bothered me starting with on "Don't Stop Believing", when all Rachel and Finn did was hold their hands out to each other, but I wrote it off to being their first performance. Now, its just annoying. And I don't mean to pick on Finn, but he really looks constipated or like his pants are too tight when he "dances". Again, not very becoming of a male lead.

Finally, please fix the lip synching. Study some Britney Spears if you must, but if you're going to lip synch, please do it in, er, synch.

Oh, and what's with the shameless plugs for MySpace? (Fox owns MySpace.)

Finally... the GLEEful Moments:

-- Kurt: "Oh Bambi, I cried so hard when those hunters shot your mommy."

Best line of the night, hands down. Emma really does look like a deer in the headlights sometimes, with her humongous, trusting eyes :-)

-- Puck: "I bet you thought Bert and Ernie were just roommates."

Sue only had one line of the night, but it was a doozy...

-- "When I heard Sandy wanted to write himself into a scene as Queen Cleopatra, I was aroused, then furious.

Speaking of Sandy...

-- "Let me tell you about my planned production of Equus. Have you ever hung out at a stable?"

-- Puck: "That Rachel chick makes me want to light myself on fire, but she can sing."

-- Will: "We'll get you sobered up, find you some underwear."

-- Emma: "I'm pretty sure its not a fake ID because he looks like an 11 year old milkmaid."

-- April: "Then Ralph had an affair with Vinnie, and I ended up with two mixed race twins."

All in all, superb. Could this be the turning point, where Glee grows up to be a real show? I certainly hope so.

Three out of four boxes of wine.


  1. I think the new review structure works just fine, Serena. I don't think the lack of recap is really an issue for the current viewer. It could be more of an issue later if someone is reading the reviews well after the show has aired. That's why I put the brief recaps in my reviews. Since I'm mostly doing retro shows, I figure it helps to refresh people's memories. But then again, you cover so much in your reviews that it probably refreshes the memory, even without the recap.

    As per normal, we had nearly opposite reactions to this one. :) I loved the musical numbers, but pretty much hated the character drama. Tired, soap opera plotting in my opinion. I suppose, as you say, the assorted manipulations added depth and complexity to some of the characters (it was certainly disconcerting to see Finn be so blatantly manipulative), but while watching I was just irritated by it.

    I did really like the final scene between April and Will. It had a nice touch of actual humanity to it, kind of like Kurt's coming out scene last week. When the revelatory moments feel more real, they seem to connect with me.

    I also loved Kurt's line about Emma being Bambi and her line about him looking like an 11-year-old milkmaid!

    I completely agree with you on Finn's singing and the lip syncing issues. I had the same thoughts about Finn's voice being relatively underwhelming, which for the lead isn't good. Cory M. might be a very fine singer, but he pales in comparison to Lea Michelle. He needs to step it up.

    Thanks for another great review!

  2. Serena,
    I prefer this format. I don't need a recap. I already watched the show and even with my age induced failing memory, I can still recall what happened. I much prefer your thoughts on the episode - it is why I come to the blog.
    I thought this was an excellent episode, perhaps the best so far. I am mostly into Glee for the musical numbers. Heavy doses of rap and hip hop leave me cold. Good rock or even show tunes (my first unrequited crush was on Natalie Wood in West Side Story) are what I am looking for. Lea Michele is just a fantastic singer. The semi-duet withh April and Rachel was truly amazing. And Kristen Chenoweth - what can you say. Olive Snook was my favorite charater on Pushing Daisies and if anything, she was even better on Glee. She can act, she can sing, she can dance, I bet she even makes a mean pot roast.
    I can suffer through a few Acafellas (which I really, really did not like) to get to episodes like last night's.

  3. I agree with Peter. The rap stuff leaves me cold but the show tunes and soft rock numbers I really love. There wasn't a song I didn't like this week.

    Likewise, I agree with Serena that Finn's voice just isn't up to scratch. He probably has the weakest voice in the whole show. Even nerdy Artie has a better voice. When Rachel's belting out a duet with Finn, I'd like to hear someone vaguely her equal coming back at her. I'm not sure Finn's voice will improve much. It has its moments, but sometimes gets cruelly exposed (like in "Somebody to Love").

    I'm so in love with Kristin Chenoweth, I don't know what to do with myself. It seems unhealthy, even to me. I was so pleased to see her on screen again after the cancellation of Pushing Daisies (Booooo ABC... just Boooo!). Unfortunately, it's fuelled my obsession again.

    And quote of the week definitely came from Sue: "When I heard Sandy wanted to write himself into a scene as Queen Cleopatra, I was aroused. And then furious." Lol... classic!

  4. I prefer the show tunes and rock music numbers, but I like the rap and hip hop numbers, too. Not because I like necessarily like those songs, but because of what the show does with them. The ones from Acafellas were hilarious because of the group of guys that they had singing them.

    Kristin C. rocked on Pushing Daisies! Always so funny and yet heartfelt. Olive could have easily been the annoying wrench in the "true love" story, but I adored her. It was real treat to see all her numbers this week. Especially the "duet" with Lea.

  5. I still hadn't decided on Glee, but hearing Kristin Chenoweth's show-stopping performance of "Maybe This Time" may have finally sold me. That woman has an incredible voice. I loved her as Olive, and I'm sorry her guest spot on Glee seems to be a one-shot.

    Sally Bowles (from Cabaret) seems an apt symbol for April. Poor, pathetic Sally--confusing being loved with being used, thinking starring in a cabaret will finally make her feel worthwhile, and throwing away what was probably her only opportunity for happiness. (Okay, the guy was mostly gay, but, still, it was the 1930s and they could have made it work.) The lyrics for "Maybe This Time" are also weepy in this light: "not a loser anymore" and "everybody loves a winner so nobody loved me." You can see some of Sally in Rachel, too, who sometimes seems to be heading for a sad ending.

    On a different note: If you have no experience with Cabaret, try to see a staging of the show, especially if the show follows the changes made in the 1998 Sam Mendes revival. I'm not a fan of the movie, but the musical is funny, sad, romantic, and disturbing, all at once. And it features some great songs. Maybe they'll revive it again on Broadway with Kristin Chenoweth as Sally.


  6. The songs last night were definitely apropos. I liked the country one, I'm ashamed to admit. *blush*

    I wonder if they'd be able to write in a Britney song somehow? That in itself could propel them to cult status.

  7. I had a busy week and only now saw this episode. And I loved it. I particularly loved the dual "Maybe This Time" number. I thought it was perfect for both characters.

    What I'm not liking is the stupid double pregnancy plot. I want to shake Finn and tell him to go read a biology textbook. I also can't quite believe that Will hasn't noticed that his wife isn't really pregnant. I know it's supposed to be amusing, but I find it annoying.

    Thanks for another great review, Serena. I agree that a synopsis is nice but it isn't necessary. I sometimes include a brief one, but mostly I don't; I assume that the reader has just seen the episode or remembers it well enough to follow what I'm saying about it.

  8. I really like glee but I have noticed you comment on how good the actors sing , granted they do a good job and sing well but even thought they use their own voices , they are autotuned but considoring all the stuff they have to do ontop of singing and acting i am surprised but still tis awesome. I mean When quinn sings that one line from don't stop beliving at the start iof the episode am I the only one that thought it sounds rather off But I have spoker with alot of people and glee does use autotuning


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