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Glee: Michael

Glee-hee’s tribute to the late, great Michael Jackson. This was so heavily promoted, that I felt for sure that it would be a corker this week.

There is so much potential for Gleeful goodness in MJ’s oeuvre, but sadly, I think Glee rather squandered it. The various plots were pretty messy, disconnected or just plain badly written. Some of the music was awesome, or it would have been taken out of the context of the story, so I will try and review the performances as if they were standalone clips, and save my lament of this episode’s wasted potential for the Bad section.

Good, Really Really Good

- Blaine looked so beautiful in that white bomber jacket. And Kurt looked like a cross between a cub and a leather daddy!

- 2CELLOS are amazing, thanks to Glee for showcasing their talent (during Smooth Criminal).

- Burt Hummel makes every scene better. Brilliant speech to Kurt. Really nice follow up scene too, Rachel’s pain about not getting a NYADA letter felt real, and more importantly, Earned, since they’ve been building up how important it is to Kurt and Rachel all season.

- Kurt and Rachel are finalists for NYADA! Does that mean they’re in, or do they have an audition coming up? That would be fun to watch. Please can there be a spin-off about their and Blaine’s adventures in NYC. Songs and the City? Or just, Get Happy?

Bad, Really Really Bad

- Apparently, Sebastian has got mind-control powers. How else would he make them forget that the Warblers do not have a director but three senior classmen who oversee group practices. Somehow the Warblers have elected a single junior as their ‘Captain’, and will appear in abandoned car parks with him at the drop of a hat. They’ll also agree to slushie rival glee clubs... and if they knew it was meant for Kurt (or Blaine) that means they’d slushie one of their own past members. Does this sound remotely like the Warblers to you? I Don’t Think So. This is shockingly poor continuity. I also Hate the fact that Glee inadvertently made the return of the Warblers into a complete downer for me.

- While I’m bitching about Glee’s tendency to assassinate the character of entire glee clubs, I don’t think Sebastian’s switch from bitchy gay who fancies Blaine, to Evil Incarnate was that plausible. When Santana told him about Blaine’s injury he was pretty unabashed, I wish they’d toned him down a bit.

- Bad was well choreographed, but it felt way too soon in the episode to have the two glee clubs facing off. There should have been some build up of nastiness between Blaine, Kurt and Sebastian, culminating with Bad as the final showdown. I didn’t buy New Directions’ speech before Black & White, there wasn’t much of an olive branch in it, so having the Warblers sans Sebastian getting up and joining in was just too unrealistic. It felt cheesey, which I accept is a part of Glee, but it also felt forced, too obviously a writing decision to have the feud over in time to tie everything up with a nice neat bow.

- Poor Blaine’s cornea! This is also a ‘B,RRB’ because while I can believe Sebastian would attempt to throw rock salt in Kurt’s face, I can’t believe the rest of the Warblers would even let him stay in the group after seeing Blaine in agony on the floor, let alone follow him to two more confrontations with New Directions.

- When Joss Whedon gave us an Artie dream sequence back in Season One, it was beautifully staged so that we saw exactly how Artie felt being stuck in his chair. Scream had none of that build up, it felt more like a randomly inserted music video with Mike Chang solely there for his dancing ability, rather than any particular connection or relevance to Artie’s situation. Artie’s rant was believable, but would have made So much more sense coming from Kurt, who had a major bullying storyline and whose boyfriend was just attacked. If anyone would have been wanting to scream at Mr Shue’s lacklustre response, it would have been Kurt.

- Quinn really shouldn’t have been the one to sing Never Can Say Goodbye. While she aced it, it would have worked better if she’d given Rachel her advice, Rachel had wrestled with it and decided to lay aside her broadway dreams (aided by the lack of a NYADA letter) for Finn. She could have ended the episode singing Never Can Say Goodbye to him, but in the final scene, Rachel would get her acceptance letter and do her worried face. Quinn hasn’t had much in the way of romance with Puck, Finn or Sam this year, so her singing about how it would be hard to leave them didn’t make much sense.

- While it was nice to see Finn and Rachel coming round to check up on Captain Blaine Sparrow, I thought Ben wasn’t appropriate for the scene. Fair enough there are a limited number of MJ songs, and in lieu of one called ‘Blaine’, this was at least about friendship, but I didn’t like Kurt singing the first verse – it’s such a platonic sentiment that they seemed to be a bit neutered as a couple.

- I don’t really know what to say about the whole ‘Finn and Rachel getting engaged’ thing. It makes sense for her to say yes but Glee wouldn’t be true to its ethos if it didn’t show how bad an idea that is... which makes me think that it’s just a matter of time until ‘Finchel’ experiences relationship calamities resulting from this engagement.

- I thought the whole flimsy excuse for this week’s theme was that the Troubletones didn’t get to sing Michael? So why didn’t Mercedes, Brittany and Sugar get any solos? Human Nature doesn’t really count since Sam organised it. And where was Sugar? Has she been forgotten for another episode?

Glee Against The Music

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' performed by Blaine with New Directions:
I know I’m biased, but Darren Criss did such an amazing job on the vocal track. I loved the hallway choreography; plenty of MJ style and it was very funny watching Blaine being so into the song backed by Kurt and the girls. After a quick tour around the library to pick up some more of New Directions, it’s on to the auditorium. Brilliant solo shots of each character dancing against the light bulb wall (nice budget Mr Shue), and the costumes were a very nice tribute. I thought the acrobats were a touch over the top (that’s where Sue’s Cheerio funds have been redirected) but it did make the performance that little bit more electric. It’s a shame the best song was the first one of the episode, it was all downhill after this! Grade A-

Bad performed by Santana, Blaine, Artie and Sebastian:
Awesome choreography, shame there was such bad lighting that some of it was too dark to see. What, they expect us to suspend disbelief enough that we can enjoy the perfect synchronicity of two rival glee clubs’ unpractised face-off, but not enough to throw a few spotlights around? Sounded great, but what happened to the Warblers, they got rather drowned out. Grade B

Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson – Scream performed by Artie and Mike:
Ignoring the awkward set-up, this was pretty fun to watch. Kevin McHale and Harry Shum Jr are fantastic dancers and the set was impressive, although I did think the costumes have not aged well. It’s much easier to do a straight tribute, than to both emulate and reinvent a music video. They managed it with Vogue in The Power of Madonna, but this wasn’t nearly as successful. There’s also the small matter of me just not liking the song very much. C-

The Jackson 5 - Never Can Say Goodbye performed by Quinn:
Wow, Dianna Agron gave an absolutely gorgeous vocal track, this song is very well suited to her voice. She looked stunning in that dress, and I loved the tour of her locker photos, cute to see Beth featuring so prominently, as well as Punk Quinn and Magenta from Rocky Horror. I did find the backing vocals a bit too loud and obvious though - seeing as how they had a whole choir for Black & White they could’ve at least had a couple of the girls backing Quinn. Grade B+

Human Nature performed by Sam and Mercedes:
I’m just not into Sam and Mercedes as a couple, and the song didn’t particularly float my boat either, despite Chord Overstreet doing a wonderful vocal. Stop it Mercedes, you have a great boyfriend already! Grade C-

Ben performed by Kurt with Rachel and Finn:
I’ve already complained about the staging... good vocals of course but otherwise I wasn’t feeling it. Grade D

Smooth Criminal performed by Santana and Sebastian with 2CELLOS:
On the first watch, I thought this was pretty effing spectacular. I mean, it is, there’s no doubt about that. The whole computer screen was practically throbbing with heat. Santana and Sebastian sure have a lot of chemistry for a gay guy and a Lebanese! Add to that the circle of chairs and the two unreasonably attractive cellists, and you’ve got yourself a top grade performance. Thing is, much as I love Santana and Sebastian together, it was 2CELLOS who did the musical arrangement, and the chair circle was lifted straight from their video, so one mark down for unoriginality. Grade A-

Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret - I Just Can't Stop Loving You performed by Rachel and Finn:
Sweet, but there’ve been so many Finn/Rachel love songs that I need something a bit more than them making googly eyes in the choir room to be impressed. Grade C-

Black Or White performed by Artie, Santana and Rachel with New Directions and The Warblers:
I have to start by saying that the face changing thing was Incredibly Creepy! Fair enough, they were doing a tribute to the MJ video, but whether you knew that or not, I’m sure it was a disturbing experience to have that cut into an otherwise entirely ‘live’ performance onstage. Maybe the face shifting worked better back in 1991 when it was easier to impress with special effects, but if Glee was going to do that they should have had the entire performance in ‘music video mode’. I’ve already said that the Warblers joining in didn’t work, and it didn’t add anything to the performance either. In fact, there were so many people onstage that I didn’t even notice the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it choir in yellow robes at the back. What’s the point of having them, only to give them a cumulative 1.5 seconds of screentime! It was just another clue that New Directions have an overblown budget. Grade C-

Quotes for Gleeks

Sebastian: “Oh my God, hey Kurt. I didn’t recognize you. You are wearing boy clothes for once.”

Sebastian: “Unless you want to join your relatives in prison, that’s probably not the best idea. You see, my dad is sort of what you’d call a state’s attorney, but if you had a piƱata you wanted delivered, I bet he could make sure that got to them.”

Puck: “Dude, you told them what we were gonna do — you’re like a modern-day Eggs Benedict.”

Kurt: “I take a lot of crap from a lot of people, but I refuse to take it from Sebastian, the criminal chipmunk.”

Santana: “This isn’t violent. This is clever. I taped it to my underboob.”

Santana: “Today is your lucky day, because Auntie Snicks just arrived on the Bitch Town Express. Now, my suggestion is that we drag him bound and gagged to a tattoo parlor for a tramp stamp that reads, “Tips appreciated,” or “Congratulations — you’re my thousandth customer.””

Santana: “You know what, Prancy Smurf? I respect that — I wanna go to a college that isn’t a FEMA trailer in a prison yard, so let’s take the high road.”

Quote of the Week: “You beat them all. They threw everything at you. They tried to beat you down. But you know what? You are unstoppable, Kurt. I am so proud to be your dad. They can never take this away from you. Right now, in this moment, on this day, you won.”

I had such high hopes for this episode, so I’m consequently more disappointed than if this had just been a regular episode of Glee. Yes, some of the music was great, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum, it has to fit with the plot. One and a half out of four silver MJ gloves.


  1. Yay! I've been looking forward to your review, Harry! Here is an invisible, tasteless cookie.

    Tumblr pretty much exploded (it actually crashed) after Glee aired this week and I think most of it had to do with Sebastian and Santana's "Smooth Criminal". I adore Grant Gustin and think Sebastian is one of the better villains to be showcased on Glee in the series, so I am really hoping that we get to see more of him. It's sad that hardcore "Klaine" fans have been sending Grant death threats. A lot of people on Tumblr have been de-constructing the slushie scene frame-by-frame and I really hope the writers can find a way to redeem Sebastian. If they can redeem Karofsky, surely they can redeem the Criminal Chipmunk.

    I just skipped over the Finchel scenes in this episode ... In fact, I think I have always skipped over their scenes.

    And now, I can admit that I am a "Seblaine" and "Sebtana" shipper.

  2. Excellent review, right on the nose.

    And this is Exactly how I felt about the episode.

    I love the music, but please ! better consistencies with the scenarios and story lines !

  3. Great review, Harry! Your reviews are keeping me interested in Glee. (You should get a percentage.)

    I do wish they'd turned the Criminal Chipmunk in. Assault charges --> jail time = a good thing. That's not payback. It protecting other humans from rock salt to the eye.

  4. Apart from the character assassination of the Warblers and the ridiculous refusal to hand in the tape and Sebastian, I actually enjoyed this episode. The performances were excellent (except Ben, that was awful) and a lot of the characters seemed a lot more in character. Quinn in particular was enjoyable, back to being the confident, capable and smart character from earlier seasons rather than the psychotic mess of the past few episodes.

    Santana showed a lot of development too: actually out-smarting Sebastian instead of her usual subtle-as-a-brick methods. It's a shame they didn't listen to her because she was dead right. It also highlighted perhaps Glee's biggest problem: with the possible exceptions of Kurt, Burt and Santana the characters aren't actually characters, they're reasons for the drama to happen, lacking reasons to exist of their own. Good drama gives its characters lives off-screen, plans of motivations that exist independent of the show. Glee doesn't do this and so the Warblers change from nicest guys in the state to bullies and normally smart characters act like idiots (though to be fair, that's also a characteristic of teenagers).

    Mind you, it could have been the worst episode they've ever done and it'd have been worthwhile because of the scene between Kurt and Burt. That had me in floods.

  5. I liked "Smooth Criminal" the most. It was terrific. Santana and Blaine are the characters I like most these days, and the Kurt and Burt scene, as everyone has already said, was practically the best part of it.

    I've been sort of assuming that we might be getting a sort of split next season, with some action and some of the cast at NYADA and the rest at McKinley?

  6. Actually, I think they're retiring some of the characters next season ('graduating' them would be more accurate) but I'm sure we'll have a few cameos, maybe Rachel coming back to give the New Directions some pointers. Would be nice :)

    Liked the music on this one so I actually enjoyed it more than I expected, but completely agree with the review; too much inconsistencies undercut what could've been better moments. I always thought the Warblers and New Directions had this sort of camaraderie, and it just doesn't work for me to see 'em fighting (much less reconciled) in one episode.

    Also did I miss something, or is Sugar actually in New Directions now despite being rejected early on?

  7. Nick, Sugar was rejected but after The Troubletones were absorbed into New Directions, she sang with them during We Are Young, at the end of the episode Hold On To Sixteen. Since she subsequently appeared in Yes/No singing solo for Summer Lovin' and joining the group for We Found Love, it's safe to assume she's part of New Directions now. That's why I am bamboozled by her absence in Michael.


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