Or, that one all the spoilers that made me giddy were about, and which not only matched but exceeded my expectations.
Edit: I have decided that this post is so epic, it needs a table of contents. Ergo, here are the categories, which have a somewhat chronological flair but mostly, are just the order in which I wrote them. Just in case you want an overview.
I. Opening Scene
II. Song Overview
III. Assorted Observations
IV. Will/Rachel 1: Mashup Performance
V. Suzy Pepper
VIII. Will/Rachel 2: The Car
IX. Mercedes & Puck
XI. Rachel & Suzy
XII. Will/Rachel 3: Apology
XIII. Closing Scene/conclusion
XIV. Promo & Sneak Peek
What the heck: scene 1 in detailed observations:
-"Look them right in the eye, think of the emotion you want to express, and make them feel it." Aaaaand, some Will/Artie shippers were just born.
-Brittany thinks a ballad is a male duck. Which might be hiding in the hat. I love her so hard.
-I'm using Santana's announcement as further evidence that she & Matt are dating. Shed some official light on this, writers. Do they even have a following in fandom?
-Other Asian. Oh, WILL. I cannot pretend that is even a little bit okay.
-However, your sudden panic and decision that singing with students is not such a great idea after all, solely because you see Rachel headed toward you, makes up for a lot of things. In my mind.
-Although, I must say, the snarky banter between Mr. Schue & Finn sparkles nearly as much as his every interaction with her. "The fates have spoken, Mr. Schue," says Smirky McSmirkerson, much to the teacher's annoyance, and it is fabulous.
-Noted: PIANO DUDE HAS A NAME. It's "Brad." Great, now all the mysterious allure and intrigue is gone.
-Also noted: Rachel is super pretty. Not that I am not fully aware of her beauty at all times, but somehow this camera angle intensified it. I do not understand how it is possible for a girl to be this gorgeous. So jealous...
-Aside: I don't normally complain about the realism or lack thereof in the singing, but I find it hilarious that they have these pitch-perfect, beautifully controlled and supported voices despite the fact that she's chasing him around in stalker mode and he's like, "omg, halp, must keep significant solid objects between me and the Crazy Eyes." Heh.
-I love how super, super creeped out by this display Artie is. No one else looks quite as traumatized as he does. XD
On the one hand, this is maybe the best concentration of music ever used in a single episode (tied with The Rhodes Not Taken). On the other, still far from perfect. However, although I am going to grouse a lot, I was reasonably impressed by the overall caliber. Or at least the ambition of piling on half a dozen pieces.
-Endless Love: Disappointment right off the bat. I fainted with joy when I first heard that Matt & Lea were actually going to sing a duet, because HELLO, PERFECT MUSICAL VISION, but this song is deathly dull and its lyrics could not be more bland if they tried. Terrible! You would think their pretty voices, at least, could save it, but the best they can do is render it "tolerable listening."
++Don't Stand So Close to Me/Young Girl mashup: You know how we split "Defying Gravity" into three different versions? CAN WE DO THAT AGAIN? I hate mashups, but I especially hated this one, because it kinda flowed, but mostly the switches were so abrupt that it made the music sound downright schizophrenic. And I just got really frustrated, because he sounds SO GOOD on both songs, and I would kill to hear him do either/both, but instead I got neither. That's okay for the first song because I love the Police original, but I have no frame of reference for "Young Girl" and thus any voice except Morrison's sounds inferior.
HOWEVER. I was so determined to love the sound of his voice that I kept playing this song on loop, and within 10 repeats it became not only my favorite of the night, but one of the tracks that makes it onto The Music of 2009. Already got it in my music library and everything. I hate to admit this, but in this case...mashing up two songs really did make an awesome super-song; the relevance in the lyrics they cut together is brilliant.
--I'll Stand By You: HORRIBLE. Ahhh, oh, ouch, my ears! They are bleeeeeeeeding! Luckily I could just tune Finn right out and hear the original in my head. This is one of the first songs I ever fell in love with on the radio, because my angsty 8th grade self was ALL OVER this kind of music, so if you need me I'll be over here. Treasuring the proper version.
-You're Having My Baby: Um, wow. I'd never heard this song before, but when I saw it on the playlist I just naturally closed my eyes and assumed it'd be less squicky than it sounded. FALSE. IT IS EXACTLY THAT SQUICKY. Look, if anyone could romanticize pregnancy, it would be me, but not even I can wring romance out of these lyrics. They just make me deeply uncomfortable.
+Crush: Lame! Cut one of Finn's performances and give me this one in full! I won't lie, I was really hoping for a Take-a-Bow style montage through Rachel's mind, preferably including some new footage to go along with the lyric Not like I faint every time we touch. I'm not the world's biggest fan of this song, but the third CD I ever bought was a compilation of hits from 1999, including this. Ergo, nostalgia ahoy! Plus, unlike Finn, her voice does not murder my nostalgia.
+/-Lean On Me: Eh, maybe later [like the bottom of this review!]. Lately I've developed a habit of shutting off the TV as soon as the closing song starts, because for some reason, it tends to be the least compelling. It worries me that I find the group performances - you know, the kind that will actually be in the spotlight for sectionals - so lacking in luster. (Even though it is a great song, obviously. No one's knocking the song, unless they are also lacking both a soul and a heart.)
Sue: Was not in this episode at all. EPIC WIN.
Emma: Was in this episode such a minor amount, and to fairly amusing purpose, that it mattered not. EPIC WIN 2.
Terri: Was in this episode a minor amount, but in ways that were 500% AWESOME at every turn. Like, if her scenes were a food item, they would be a densely packed protein bar. Or broccoli. EPIC WIN 3.
-Wait, so two years ago, Emma wasn't working here yet? Damn. Way to joss the only fanon that made Will/Emma even a little bit acceptable to me.
-"That's why I can't just tell Rachel to back off. These girls are too fragile." Awwww.
-Is Tina's rosacea real, or is it like her stutter? I just can't trust her anymore. I bet those streaks of blue in her hair aren't even natural. ;)
Will/Rachel: Part 1
Coherent Thoughts: *are not really a thing RS has for the mashup scene, because after 25 rewatches, all she has proven is a dim ability to register that every move and minor change of expression in this performance is freaking perfect. And maybe dimly note Rachel's inner squee when he physically maneuvers her into the chair. "Omigod, he touched [her] arms!"*
Attempts at Coherent Thoughts:
Temptation - frustration - so bad it makes him cry...
HAHAHA! I can't even be annoyed about the fact that he is singing this line straight to Emma, because the offended look on Rachel's face is so great.
Beneath your perfume and makeup, you're just a baby in disguise...
What I should be doing: realizing how squicky this ship is
What I'm actually doing:
Will: So. Rachel. Do you think you understood the message I was trying to get across with that ballad?
Rachel: (beaming and breathless) Yes. It means I'm very young, and it's hard for you to stand close to me.
I dunno, Will; that's the message I got out of it...also, if I were Crazy Rachel, I might run home to look up the full/real lyrics of "Young Girl" and convince myself that he was actually sending me a coded message.
In fact, very little about this performance did anything to convince me my shipping notions were wrong. Part of it is because he's a very good performer, which causes my expression to glaze over in much the same manner as the women here, and part of it is because having the two of them mostly alone in a room together has made my screen melt a little.
OMG. First, Sarah Drew is a magically enchanting creature who turns every character she portrays into gold. Which means Crazy Suzy, with her 6th grade wardrobe, is awesome. Not least because with her 3 AM mouth-breathing phone call, I got this:
Terri: Listen, you little psycho, this is Will's wife. If I don't get enough sleep, my anti-depressants won't work, and then I'll go crazy, and I'll kill you.
(Honestly, I can't decide which line I like more. Because while I adore Terri at all times, I'm really very fond of him sounding appalled.)
"Can't you handle anything, Will?" Fine. So even 2 years ago he was belittled and henpecked and she was on antidepressants, so their relationship status is not a recent development. And yet on the flipside...two years later, they're still here! So clearly he has a high, high threshold for spousal difficulty. I'm not sure how I wound up talking Will/Terri in Suzy's section, but they fascinate me and I LIKE THEIR HOME SCENES, SO.
Back to Suzy. The only thing that surprises me about her suicide attempt is that she didn't do it immediately after Mr. Schue's class. Classic crush-stalker move #1 - you want your crush object there when you're in pain/dying, duh. It ensures that they look panic-stricken and attempt to comfort you, or at least stay with you and express concern for a while. See also, Mac Taylor & Crazy Ella, CSI: NY.
Maybe she ran towards his classroom after the camera cut away. That's what I'll assume.
"Kurt! Stop trying to make canon slash happen."
--To be said in your very best Rachel McAdams-from-Mean-Girls voice, because I swear, that was all I could think the whole time.
But in a tone of affection, because I found it highly amusing. And a little bit sweet, solely because I know it would never and could never happen, in which case I'm totally cool with unrequited gay crushes. I particularly liked the day his crush was born, but that is mainly as I am a sucker for Finn defending fragile and tiny things (see also, singing to the sonogram. As long as it's on mute). And they just make delightful buddies. Much better than him and that lumbering troll.
-"Your lashing out at me is fantastically compelling...and inappropriate." I just had a weird moment of wanting to hug Kurt, who is clearly hurt and yet still sounds like he understands.
-Dammit! Why did you have to tell the sad story about lying next to your mom's dresser and closing your eyes, because it still smells like her perfume? Stupid sentimental moment. Now I'm all teary. I didn't give two bits when you officially came out to your dad; nothing you said was ever supposed to touch my heart!
-"I Honestly Love You." ...seriously. You and your wee tragic face need to stop hitting on my sympathy.
Or, "My Self-Indulgent Wishlist Comes True In Several More Ways":
-Rachel finds a legitimate excuse to be in his apartment
-Terri is vaguely threatened by schoolgirl crushes. And exploits them accordingly.
-Mr. Schue drives Rachel home.
So let's talk about all the delightful things that happen in the space of three or four minutes. One, the fact that Rachel channels her love into a fairly eerie 1950's housewife way that involves fetching beer, cooking dinner and cleaning the bathroom. Two, the fact that Terri's existence, even up close and in person, does not deter her whatsoever. (one really has to wonder what Rachel's perspective is, here, because I can't imagine she's as aware of Terri's heckling attitude the way Emma is. It's not like Rachel has grounds for thinking his wife doesn't deserve him.
Three, scene in the kitchen:
a. the sidelong Stern Glower at Rachel (who picks up on nothing beyond "he's looking at me!").
b. hissing "this is immoral" at Terri.
c. her squeaking that "what's immoral is me having to deal with the fact that my husband spends all day with young girls who are perkier and younger than I am!"
d. the fact that, when she subsequently complains about the rash on her stomach, all his annoyance promptly switches to gentle concern. "Baby, if if's that bad, you have to let me see it. It might be infected--"**
e. the fact that, when Terri immediately hurls him off her in a newfound and sarcastic rage that THAT surely won't send him into the loving arms of some teenage slut --
f. --he snaps right back with gritted teeth. "For the last time, I am not having an affair with any of my students."
g. "And you are not allowed to turn one of them into your slave because you have this irrational fear of me leaving you!" Ah! There! See? Irrational! I honestly think he means that. I don't think he's ever really considered divorce a viable option, because This Is How Marriage Works; he picked it, he chose it, it is what it is, come what may.
**Seriously, I love how even in an episode centered on my FauxTP, it's the tiny little OTP moment that shines brightest. Poor Will. He so wants to be involved in every way possible, and she won't even let him touch her.
Will/Rachel, part 2: His car is warm and dry...
Don't really have much to say, except that by this point Rachel's delusion is starting to get a little sad. Or would be getting sad, if this was not unlike how a few fanfic scenarios set the situation up - even in fic-land, it makes sense that Rachel would be, has to be, the one to make the first move. Hopeful/suggestive comments are a reasonable starting point.
In canon practice, I mostly just feel bad for Mr. Schuester trying to verbally extricate himself from her infatuation at every turn. I love that he is just like, "kill me now" as soon as he figures out what song she's playing. And is reduced to hopefully asking her how things are going with Puck, you remember Puck, that BOY WHO IS IN HIGH SCHOOL. LIKE YOU. AND NOT YOUR TEACHER. (hey, at least he wasn't reduced to actually asking Puck to go out with her again, as this hilarious missing-scene fic suggests)
"I broke things off. He was too immature...as are all the boys in high school. I need a man who can keep up with me intellectually and creatively."
...seriously, that's like word-for-word how things start off in fanfic. It's also pretty much why I've been so fond of them from day 1; the lame-ass high school boys we've been dealt so far aren't good enough for Pretty Rachel. Now, you bring me a worthy one - maybe this Jonathan Groff dude you've been mentioning; he seems cute in photos - and maybe I'll agree to be reasonable.
Mercedes & Puck
*jaw drops* Dear Lord, did Mercedes just remind me why she's awesome after several weeks of languishing in the background? YES. "You need to get something through your mohawk real quick: you're the baby's daddy. It takes a hell of a lot more to be a father..." WIN. And then, right before Puck can argue all that lame crap about how he's ready to step up... "And that role's already been cast, because Quinn chose Finn. And you need to accept that and move on, because you have no business messing up that girl's life any more than you already have."
YES. THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO HEAR. Quinn chose Finn. We can argue until we're blue in the face about ethics & unfairness, but at the end of the day, I still feel relieved when no one acknowledges Puck's ugly mug as having any part in Quinn's life, beyond how he helped wreck it.
Because really, even though he's a moron, Finn >>>>>>> Puck. Any normal person would want him at their side, just like Amy picked Ben over Ricky, when she wasn't being stupid about things, and in ways that have probably unraveled since I drove Secret Life of the American Teenager out of my life.
Of course, in my ideal world, Quinn also slept with Finn as soon as she found out, both to cast reasonable doubt on the timeline and so that he could at least experience the fun part of the consequences she's about to saddle him with. Because that's how my morals roll sometimes: lying can be okay, drunk girls are faultless, and sex is a gift/bargaining tool! I'm flexible in the judgment department on this show, depending on how much I like a given character.
(Random question - what did Mercedes mean by "I found out my hamster is pregnant today in Biology"? Does she have a hamster at home, and somehow found out it was prgnant in the middle of the school day? Are they dissecting hamsters? Are they doing some kind of pet-raising project in class? So many questions! This is important to me.)
I love them. Oh, I love them so much, even when she is irrationally yelling "You're wrong, I'm right, I'm smart, you're dumb!" They made up for it with the way they defended one another in the face of Daddy Fabray's wrath. Screw these fanciful notions of Rachel/Finn; I can't get behind them when you keep showing me these two, being compelling and pretty. Okay, sure, prior to the dinner I was calling the episode "98% perfect" and then, after his little musical confessional, I was threatening to knock it all the way down to 90% for horrific embarrassment...
...but then said confessional resulted in Quinn being thrown out of her house. And coming to Finn's. Where Finn's mom* doesn't even hesitate to tell her she can stay as long as she wants. Oh, I'm sorry, is that the sound of another one of my self-indulgent "probably this will never happen, but wouldn't it be great" daydream scenarios coming true? YES.
[*Just realized, she played one of the earlier lab techs on CSI - Jacqui. No wonder I like her so much!]
I also learned a lot of things about Quinn's home life that I had previously suspected, at least in a vague sense, that explain why I have found her delightful from day 1 and 100% sympathetic shortly thereafter. It frustrates me that I cannot make literary allusions even among YA novels, but I know I have read a number of books featuring girls just like this - popular outside, insecurities galore inside - and so I know just what it takes to make an outwardly unsympathetic character click with the reader.
(...man, I just had a crazy moment of wanting tie-in novels to exist. Could you even do that? I bet you could if you were clever. They're merchandising the hell out of this show in every other form; why not books? Shut up, these stories would too be okay without musical accompaniment.)
I have to wonder what her relationship with her older sister was like. How far apart are they in age? Were they pals, or did Little Quinn merely idolize her big sis? Or has Quinn spent all her life in the shadows, trying desperately to 1-up her sibling? Because I can't quite decide if Popular Head Cheerleader, queen of putting others down, is merely a legacy she upheld or something she fought for to establish herself as significant/important.
I can't even wrap my head around the additional pressure of her oblivious-except-when-things-do-not-fit-h
In summation, she is a dear. If I did not have so many other favorites, she would be my favorite. Also, she is so pretty in her
And a random swing back to Finn - my heart broke a little when he broke down apologizing and crying in his mom's lap. I don't know why I find his stupidity endearing, and I always thought that I would string my hypothetical son or daughter up by their thumbs if they came to me with a teen pregnancy (basically, I'd be Quinn's dad), but if they came at me like this, turns out I'd actually be 100% supportive and reassuring.
Rachel & Suzy
First of all, it is my new dream for them to become crazy best friends. They're both mildly attractive and extremely grating! (or you could switch those two adjectives around, for better accuracy) They would make an awesome duo.
Second of all, Suzy - in a beautiful display of proving she's no longer crazy, thanks to intense psychotherapy and an esophagus transplant - nails it: "We look for boys we know we can never have. Mr. Schue is a perfect target for our self-esteem issues. He can never reciprocate our feelings, which only reinforces our conviction that we're not worthy of being loved.*"
Which, of course, does absolutely nothing to open my eyes the way it does Rachel's, but rather reinforces my conviction that someone like Mr. Schue should go ahead and prove how worthy she is of being loved.
I kid! I meant it when I said Suzy nailed it. It's the perfect definition of Rachel's character. There's an underlying reason she flits from boy to boy b
(*Damn it, Suzy, don't tell me things about myself. I will continue being single and overly attached to fictional characters if I want to!)
Will/Rachel, part 3: in closing...
Or, "The Point At Which My Head Finally Exploded," because this is the kind of scene I've been seeking in fanfic for months, without really knowing what I was looking for until I saw it. I wanted a conversation. Preferably with an underlying emotional current, but without devolving into nonsense that would never fly in canon. I just wanted him to talk to her, one on one, in a way I've been missing since about 1x04 in the dance studio. And then, there it was!
"Rachel, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to stop you. The way you've been acting is totally inappropriate. I'm your teacher, Rachel, and I'm sorry, but that's all I'm ever gonna be."
Flail! I like that he has found a way to be firm without being insensitive. I can only assume he toned it down a notch from when he confronted Suzy Pepper, because this right here is not a reason to chow down on the world's hottest pepper, even if you are crazy in love. Meanwhile, I can't even care how hard they just made any and all future canon-compliant Will/Rachel fics to pull off; I wouldn't trade seeing this on film for the world.
"I know. I brought these for you as an apology. And the song I was gonna sing is 'Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word' by Elton John, because I know how much you love it."
WAAAAAAAAAUGH. Okay. See, that? Right there? That is the kind of thing that does not convince me not to ship them. Even when she is apologizing with a clear head, she remembers pertinent details and tailors her apology accordingly.
"I'm such an idiot. Mooning over you and cleaning your apartment?"
Point 1) he pulls up a chair right beside her, every bit as willing to overlook her passing crazy as she wants him to be
Point 2) Rachel does not take the opportunity to try for a sympathy hug like all the fanfic writers want her to, but instead looks away when she starts crying. This is not only refreshingly realistic after what felt like forty bad!fics, but considerate of his comfort level.
Point 3) Regardless, it is not possible not to feel sympathy for a pretty girl in tears, particularly if she is self-deprecating, so I will just be over here...studying his face and appreciating that fact.
(also: fail whale, Rach! You should have cried before you made your crush obvious! Any other day, Mr. Touchy Feely would have at least patted your shoulder.)
"I know it's not always easy for you, Rachel. And I know that there are some things about yourself that you think you'd like to change. But you should know that there's some boy out there who's gonna like you for everything you are - including those parts of you that even you don't like. Those are gonna be the things he likes the most."
Point 1) Aww. See, if I may apply these words to my OTP for a moment, this is why Will is still in the marriage no one understands. Because his view of love is idealistic and perfect - stop holding that mirror up to my face - and clearly hasn't changed much over the years. Okay, return to scene.
Point 2) Aaaaaaaaack. *keels over, quite dead* Did he just say all that? I didn't imagine it? Good grief, I could not have planned that better myself. Remember those things I said, ages ago, about loving teachers because they have to wear so many hats beyond their job description, including guidance counselor? This is an ideal example. I mean, I didn't go crying at anybody about love, which would have been awkward, but I had to be reassured a time or two that people liked me and I was smart and talented. I should probably be ashamed of admitting my history of breakdowns like that in public, and yet I am not, because those things my favorite teachers told me stuck with me for years and actually made a difference.
I was trying to make a platonically-themed point there. I think it got lost along the way, but I wanted to point out that I usually do appreciate their scenes from an innocent teacher & student perspective, even though I like to pretend I am wicked and incorrigible at heart.
Point 3) And I really, really like how gentle his voice is. See, it even cleared Rachel's sniffles right up.
Tiny nod. "Thanks, Mr. Schue."
"What do you say we ditch rehearsal today?" Aw, was that a laugh? You got a laugh out of her. Perfect, problems solved! "I've got to be honest with you, Rachel - you've never really needed much help with your ballads. You've been knocking them out of the park since day 1."
And I'm good to go. BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. A few seconds of parting joy and validation, in which Rachel safely stows her hands in her pockets, but he's deemed it safe enough to
"Do you like them?"
Yeah, Rachel's crush? Not totally gone, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, gone in the sense that she's not going to dream about seducing him (or vice versa) as a feasible option anymore, but let's not even pretend that she doesn't still value his encouragement and want him to think she's special. Now they should be able to get back into the groove where she accuses him of constantly trying to ruin her life, and he sighs and finds her exasperating, but it's all very sparkly and shiny because really, they need one another to succeed.
(And I just really like how her voice is all subdued but earnestly seeking that last confirmation - which he gives - that things can go back to being okay)
Lean On Me: Re-evaluation
-When did this bit take place, since Rachel's wearing the same thing from the previous scene? The timeline perplexes me.
-Artie's voice is taking on a sort of...nasally/honking muppet-sound that I do not remember from other songs. He sounds like Zach Braff in the only time I've ever heard Zach Braff sing, "Guy Love." That's distracting.
-(Artie's) High five with Mr. Schue!
-I do love them rallying around the pending parents. I know everybody in the world hates the lie-filled pregnancy storylines, okay, but I am the one person who loves them and will be deeply upset when they are prematurely over.
-Aww, look, Brittany tried to pick Quinn up! SO CUTE.
-Okay, Mercedes sounds kind of awesome. And while this song, too, sounds like it has a shizophrenic personality, with a switch too abrupt from an old-fashioned R&B soul vibe to HIP & HAPPENIN', all the little things happening in it - both vocally and dancewise - are totally worth it. I think I like it after all.
-Mr. Schue's sideline directing is superfluous...and yet not. *enjoys*
Ultimate verdict: Uh, just in case this wasn't obvious, BEST. EPISODE. EVER. I dare them to ever make a better one, we're talking that level of good. This even outstrips 1x07, and I gave that some pretty well-justified high praise.
Up Next (possible spoilers): Eve! This time I recognize her, unlike that time she was on Numb3rs and the sneaker plot blinded me with its dumbassery.
But more importantly, according to a sneak peek, Quinn is watching Mr. Schue's nephews for some reason. I DON'T EVEN KNOW how they got this off my wishlist, because I very specifically confined the idea of her babysitting to "the improbable future universe in which Baby Caper works out," but there it is. Just keep tailoring the show to my whims, Murphy. At this rate I'll have to start liking Emma as a favor for all the nice things you've done.