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Glee: Hell-O

Brittany: "Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?"

Before I get started, I have to get a few things off my chest:

1. How hasn't anyone in the Glee universe noticed/commented on the fact that Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) is a dead-ringer for Rachel?

2. Sue! Vogue! Laughing so hard it hurt!


Ahem. *Tries to regain dignity*

Glee returned from an interminable 4-month hiatus with the very appropriately titled, "Hell-O". First, because, HELLO! WE MISSED YOU GLEE! But also because, hey, Sectionals champs or not, high school is still hell.

"Hell-O" picks up where we left off, soon after the kids win Sectionals. In one of my all-time favorite Glee scenes, Rachel, Kurt and Mercedes strut down the halls of McKinley, with strains of Rachel's infamous solo - "Don't Rain on My Parade" - very aptly playing in the background. All three are envisioning what their sure-to-be newfound popularity will look like... and promptly get slusheed in the face. Grape flavor, of course.

I really liked this episode. Not just because I've been jonesing for some musical sunshine (and angels) during the bleak months that we were Glee-less, but also because "Hell-O" had the charm, tongue-in-cheek humor, and simple joy of the early episodes. Although I liked them, the last half-dozen episodes were dark, preachy, and uneven; I felt like the show had lost its way a bit due its unexpected success. It was trying too hard to be taken seriously, with its "emotionally charged" fake baby subplot, and musings on teenage pregnancy.

Thankfully, "Hell-O" brought focus back to the real heart of this show: the kids, the music, and the fun.

Sue: "I am engorged with venom."

And Sue! Sue Sylvester is back with a vengeance, worming her way back to her precious Cheerios by roofie-ing (??) Principal Figgins. This time around, she's not even pretending she's going to play nice with Schuester - telling him clearly that the only way she'd "bury the hatchet" was if she could do it in his crotch.

Sue's latest plot to take down her rival: destroy New Directions from the inside out, by playing on Rachel's romantic insecurities. She has Santana and Brittany go on a hilarious date with Finn ("You buy us dinner and we make out in front of you. It's like the best deal ever.") where they discuss Finn's hotness as he is sitting right there, then manipulating Rachel into betraying her teammates with a "Romeo and Juliet romance" with rival Jesse St. James.

Rachel: "I'm nervous."
Jesse: "I remember when I used to get nervous."

But this time 'round, Sue might be the least of their problems. Vocal Adrenaline - their amazing, perfectly choreographed, Broadway-production-value-with-pyrotechnics stands in the way of a victory at Regionals, and frankly, I don't think our kids stand a chance, even if Jesse St. James and Shelby weren't playing Rachel and Will, respectively.

In fact, I need to take a moment out and just thank the heavens for bringing Vocal Adrenaline back. While I love a lot of New Directions' solos and duets, really, their ensemble pieces are kind of lackluster to me, partially because Schuester can't choreograph for ****. The only ones I really like are when they're just singing - e.g., "True Colors" or "Don't Stop Believing".

Vocal Adrenaline performances, on the other hand, are a big part of why I fell in love with this show. And it's not even the dancing, the acrobatics, or the crazy stage effects (although those are super cool), but rather the songs they choose. "Rehab" for a high school show choir? "Highway to Hell" for Regionals? Seriously? And yet, they sing them without blinking a perfectly mascara'd eye - as if it were some innocent song from The Sound of Music.

But back to humble little Jesse St. James, and Ms. Shelby Corcoran. Jesse is like Rachel's match in heaven - even more talented, arrogant, and obnoxious than she is. The chemistry between Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff, who starred together in Spring Awakening, certainly doesn't hurt. While I think Rachel's crush on Finn is cute and very real, I think they're one of those couples that are better off apart than actually together. Also, I have a total crush on Finn, but as I've always said, he's just not Rachel's vocal equal - whereas Jesse's enormous talent brought Rachel's singing to new heights in their duet.

Most important, he made Rachel speechless, something I never thought possible!

The question is, is Jesse playing her, or is he sincere? It's hard to tell, given the look that he shared with Shelby at the end of the episode. And the truth is, I'm not sure I want to know. I think it will be a, er, hell of a lot more fun not knowing.

Shelby: "Thank you for the coffee. And the making out? Pretty hot."

Will, like Finn, needs to "find himself" now that he's newly single for the first time in 15 years, and cannot define who he is based on his relationship to someone else. Um, find himself "Cell Block Tango" style: "He'd go out every night looking for himself / and on the way he found Ruth, Gladys, Rosemary and Irving." Cue Mr. Schue sucking face with the Vocal Adrenaline Director, after about like a minute and a half of conversation.

I'm kind of mixed on that one. On the pro side: seeing boy scout Will playing the slut was rather unexpected and delightful, and truthfully, I am just not Team Emma + Will. On the con side, it just feels... dirty, given how much Shelby and Rachel look alike. Does no one in Gleeverse notice? Because if they do, Will is essentially knowingly making out with Rachel, which is very, very wrong, and brings up all sorts of questions. Additionally, it might mean that Jesse's relationship to Rachel has underlying Oedipal tones, since it's obvious his director is a parental/authority figure in his life.

Will: "That didn't have hello in it."
Rachel: "Sorry, I was just focusing on the first syllable."

So far so good, right? Not so fast. In the serious irony department, the one place that "Hell-O" fell down on was with the music. Usually, the plot can get kind of lame or weird, but the music makes it OK. Maybe it was because of the Hello theme, which limited their song choices, but the only song that I truly enjoyed was "Give You Hell". To quote the New York Daily, it was "[p]oppy, a little whiny, and exactly the kind of kiss-off any wronged high-school girl would want to sing right to her ex’s face." And hey, Other Asian dancing (but no words, of course).

I did like Lionel Ritchie's "Hello" with Rachel and Jesse, but more because of those two's amazing talent, not so much for the song.

Other than that... meh. The Finn/Doors production was cute, especially when he's rockin' it walking down the hall with an entourage of cheerleaders. But the singing was still kind of weak. "Hello, I Love You" is a mellow song whose edge comes from the performer. God bless Finn, but he's just not a rock star. As Kurt said last season, he does best with the soft rock variety power ballad.

And that totally random number at the end with the horrible, post-Easter sale dresses? It was so short and pointless that I didn't even know it was a Beatles song until I read it online.

Emma: "Can you go now? I think I need to close the door and cry."

Thankfully, the other thing that Glee does do well is to throw us for a loop with its pacing. Usually, the cliche'd way would be to drag out couplings until the bitter end (Finn/Rachel, Emma/Will) or have the underdog's talent only come out in a critical moment (Kurt/football). Glee seems to just get them out of the way, leaving us wondering where they'll go next. I'm glad that they showed right up front that both Finn/Rachel and Emma/Will pairings would not have worked if they actually got together. Rachel's still needy and high maintenance, Finn still doesn't listen to her, Emma is still OCD, and Will is, well, Will.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed "Hell-O". It brought back the simple joy and realistic emotions that made me fall in love with the show to begin with. Let's hope that Ryan Murphy and co. wisely used the time off to sharpen their storytelling, and that the rest of the season doesn't go down the same trajectory as the first half.

Bits and Pieces:

- Did you know that Jesse St. James is the name of a (female) porn star? I didn't, until I googled it looking for the actor's real name. I wonder if that was deliberate, and what it means?

- Rachel: "It will be the kind of heartbreak that girls like me hold for the rest of their lives. Like Barbara in The Way We Were."
Jesse: "You're even more of a drama queen than I am."

- Terri: "Don't bother sleeping with my husband tonight. You're already screwed."

- Shelby: "Are you gay? Because most of the show choir directors I make out with are gay."

- Sue: "You may be two of the stupidest teens I've ever encountered - and that's saying something. I once taught a cheerleading seminar to a young Sarah Palin."

- Jesse: "I've got a full ride to a little school called the University of California in Los Angeles. Maybe you've heard of it. It's in Los Angeles."

- Emma: "You caught me by sneak attack that time, it was like a pearly white harbor."

- Finn: "Coach Tanaka pulled a Jessica Simpson: he lost his fiancee, gained 40 pounds and stopped showering."

- Puck: "Please stop super-sizing because I don't dig on fat chicks."
Finn: "I'm pregnant!"
Puck: "And that's my fault?"

- Mr. Schuester: "What do you guys say when you answer the phone?"
Kurt: "No, she's dead. This is her son."

- Will: "Bring it."
Sue: "Oh, I will bring it, William. You know what else I’m going to bring? I'm going to bring some Asian cookery to rub your head with. ‘Cause right now, you got enough product in your hair to season a wok."

Three and a half out of four gay sharks. And let's hope I never have to type the word "hello" again so many times.

P.S. Woks don't get seasoned by lard :-)


  1. Nice review, Serena! Welcome back. And welcome back 'Glee.'

    I wasn't super excited by this episode. Mostly because, as you say, the musical numbers weren't really all that. And the musical numbers are typically what make this show work for me. Still, it had some fun and crazy moments. I always love when Sue and Will go at it, and that Vogue video had my mouth hanging open wide. Whoa!

    I'm glad that Will and Emma broke up. I actually think they make a reasonably cute couple, but it was just too soon for that to work. I'm really happy the show recognized that.

    The resemblance between Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle is amazing. They could be mother and daughter! I've got to believe that the show runners recognize this, and that, therefore, someone in the show universe recognizes it. I find myself leaning (a bit) toward your second theory, that Jesse has a thing for his director and is drawn to Rachel as an age-appropriate doppleganger. But I'm not really sure. The look that passed between Jesse and Shelby before the kiss seems to indicate it is more than that. We shall see.

    I'm shocked that you didn't recognize 'Hello, Goodbye' by the Beatles. Are you not a Beatles fan, in general? Because that is one of their more famous songs and it seemed like such a surefire inclusion if they were doing "Hello" songs. I agree it wasn't the greatest version, but it was still pretty recognizable. (I hope none of that sounds rude. It isn't intended that way. And I totally agree those dresses were horrid.)

  2. I think Idina Menzel's character will end up being Rachel's biological mom.

  3. Thanks for the great review. I have to disagree with the music comments though.
    I think that this episode is the first time I saw Finn as anything close to a hottie given that he plays such a dufus. His rendition of the Doors' Hello was very sexy.
    Also the Beatles' Hello at the end did a nice job showcasing Rachel's conflict and discomfort. It also showed how far off they are from their competition.
    Thanks for the review.

  4. I'd also expect that Idina Menzel's character will end up being Rachel's Mam. Think the resemblance is quite deliberate.

    Cant believe you didnt know "Hello, Goodbye", its one of my favourite Beatles songs.


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