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We can burn brighter than the sun

I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT. I knew you could somehow live up to all the potential in season 3 and deliver something that was at least 80% pleasing from start to finish and less than 2% rage-inducing. One day. And that day is today, following on the tradition of season 3 turning things upside down, where after traditional-best episode 7 failed, traditionally awful episode 8 Brought It to become the reigning season champion.

Glee, 3x08, "Hold On to Sixteen"
Specific song reactions will be sprinkled throughout sections this time instead. I've got a full catalogue of 'em. As evidenced by the fact that I had to make a program for this 4,000-word review:

Sectionals by Section
1. Tiny Quarantine Section of Rage
2. Quinntervention
3. Shades Of Moral Grey
4. Once and Present Warblers
5. White Chocolate
6. Ties That Bind, Ties That Break
7. The Boy Is Back In Town
8. Clash of the Titans
9. Foxy Boxing
10. Sam/Quinn: Past Perfect
11. Sam/Mercedes: Future Dread
12. Team Asian Fusion
13. May The Best School Win
14. A Little Touch of Star Quality
15. The Troubletones: Who Won't Survive
16. Easy As 1-2-3
17. Subverting Endings
18. P.F. Chang's
19. Quinntervention: Part II
20. Team Pretty
21. Out of the Darkness And Into The Sun
22. Have A Happy Ending

Tiny Quarantine Section of Rage
1. Santana's book of insults. Hey Santana -- you're gay! Boom, roasted.
2. Samcedes, but more on that later.
3. Sam's choice of song

The end! That's literally the extent of my untempered disgust. That barely even adds up to one unit of regular-strength hate.

Quinntervention
So we opened on Quinn still hell-bent on planning to get Shelby fired, or to put it another way, blacklisted from teaching. To quote Addison Montgomery from Private Practice's relevant actual intervention episode, "That used to be someone that I love, and I want her back."

And to quote myself, for the second time: Oh, Quinn. I just want everyone in the club who is not Puck to hug her and tell her she's beautiful and talented and she's done so much with her life and she has so much potential to do more.

*fist pump* Close enough -- people who steer Quinn's course by the end of the night include Rachel, Sam and Shelby, i.e. "all the best possible contestants." Except Mr. Schue, but it's probably good if he doesn't know that she surpassed Terri on the crazy scale at some point. I'm so proud of Rachel's earnestness both times she runs interference on Quinn's madness I could burst. I wish she wasn't speaking from experience on the Idiot side of life, but...I sort of forget my lines of thought when they talk to each other. SO PRETTY.

Shades of Moral Grey
I love how hard we are emphasizing that it's wrong to tell on Shelby, but totally not wrong at all for a teacher to sleep with a student as long as said student's 18. No, I mean I actually LOVE it, because a) Ms. Corcoran is wonderful and deserves protection (even for stupid life choices), b) I will always believe in double standards for teenage boys vs. teenage girls, and, well, c) I have trouble with the whole "student/teacher relationships are wrong" concept on the best of days.

Once and Present Warblers
For once, Kurt is my sounding board instead of mortal enemy. Watch them go to battle and pick up points. "I don't like the way you talk to my boyfriend (1). I don't like your smirky little meerkat face (2). I don't like your obnoxious CW hair (3)."

Sebastian attempts his own very good plan of attack. Let's see how many points he gets:
1) Blaine's too good for you
Well, he's certainly got that right. I award it two points for awesomeness.
2) New Directions is a joke
Nope. That one's wrong, especially since they traded all the awful girls for Blaine, but...
3) One of us has a hard-luck case of the gay face, and it ain't me.

All tied up! However, Kurt has two hidden bonus points: (1) Blaine loves him, and (2) he has a tendency to cry a lot, which nullifies gay-face. Also: "You smell like Craigslist." God help me, I am starting to love their feud.

White Chocolate
In the previews, I assumed this was some just some kind of weirdly suggestive boy band. But no. They went full on Actual Working Stripper**. Wow, THAT writing choice clearly wasn't punitive at all.

I want to wag my finger at you strongly, but I just...can't. That was a very nice naughty Christmas present, Glee, thank you. I especially loved the panic upon seeing Rachel (admirably, and with incredible willpower, looking away to hand him his dollar).

**damn it! I had imaginary money riding on Santana to be the first one to take up that career.

And now that I'm done objectifying him, I need a small novella's worth of thoughts dug out from under the surface here -- fandom, you know the drill, get on the fics -- based on Rachel's "you're good at it for all the reasons you shouldn't be doing it." It's wonderful and terrible all at once. He's ashamed, but not enough to actually stop doing it. It's for his family, not himself. And therein lies my sticking point/total inability to condemn this entirely, even though everything in me says I should. The juxtaposition between this motivation and the Sam from "Rumours" is too good.

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break
I love that we saw the house! Aside from the tacky front-yard chain link fence, it's a pretty cute rental. I'm going to blow right past the part where Sam's dad is played by my least favorite dad on television after his Secret Life of the American Teenager stint tainted him forever. I'm also going to blow past my annoyance at the lack of Stevie & Stacey being there just for the heck of it, and just be really happy that we have now officially seen more of Sam's family than, I think, any club members save Finn & Kurt. All the better to write our Sam/Quinn hanging-out-at-his-house stories.

They clearly don't want us to think too hard about the logistics of having him randomly move out of the house on his own, in the middle of senior year, possibly financially imposing on another family while he's at it, AND cutting out the income provision to his family he so recently seemed to think was so important for totally frivolous reasons, so I won't. He's back and that's what I wanted. Still...I can't be 100% okay with this. Because just like getting Sara on CSI compromises GSR, Sam on Glee compromises adorable Sam/little siblings time. I am heartbroken for them. How hard was it to just move his family back to the area, writers?

Pssst: If you want to make me 99% OK with this, notice how the Hummel Household is pretty well full up with glee kids right now, so I think Sam should probably stay with Rachel. Her parents who have either died or moved full-time to the Bahamas surely won't mind. And think of the epic friendship they could form! Maybe they'll accidentally hook up along the way. For once I'm going to make teenage hormones work in my favor. I mean, who said that?

The Boy Is Back In Town
Great seeing Sam walk back in the room. Especially at a part I gather you can get from the size of my notes -- okay, the thing won't scan, but let me recreate it for you:

Then Red Solo Cup happened. Um...ew? I assumed it was Brad Paisley, because whenever you hear the epitome of why people hate country music and it's supposed to be reasonably popular, it's him, but apparently there's more than one of him in the world. What an awful, awful waste of talent. Top 10 worst show songs ever.

The only good part of it was Kurt, once again acting as my disdainful sounding board. At one point he actually looks at Blaine and mouths "What is wrong with you?" XD XD XD  It is the best thing I've ever seen him do, other than cry.

Sam/Blaine: Clash of the Titans

(edit: Haha, did not even mean for this to play off "Stallionz." That's a happy accident.)

Immediate response: Blaine, you son of a bitch. Do not test my love against Sam. YOU. WILL. LOSE.

That said: fights for Mr. Schue to break up! And the thing is, they're both right. It is my instinct to leap to Sam's defense, for reasons of both seniority and those stated in an earlier section. I didn't give two figs about Finn outing Santana, but I am more than ready to declare "uncool" at slut-shaming, apparently. It's a particularly uncalled-for strike to the jugular, "I'm not for sale," and good for Sam lashing out.

But it's also rather hot to see Blaine lose his temper, especially after weeks of having all his ideas shot down when this time last year he was a solo star. He is definitely right in that glee club needs less sleazy stage sex and more cute bounce and twirl. And I positively got shivers at "Of course that's what you think; you have to think that in order to sleep at night." In conclusion: Blaine wins the moral high ground, but his execution remains deeply flawed.

(unfortunately, my love for the intensity in this part died down a little after Tumblr was all "LASKJFLSDJF REPRESSED-FEELINGS SAM/BLAINE AND/OR PAST-HISTORY SAM/BLAINE," and now I can never unsee it)

Foxy Boxing
Now we're at a quandary, because Blaine hitting stuff = hot. Blaine being visibly sweaty = not. Nor do I want to hear references to fight clubs -- I thought you solved things with your words! your eloquent, eloquent words -- although I will take all the bullying backstory you want to give. And also the yelling at Finn. Most of Blaine's charm lies in the fact that is unflappable, but that makes the rare occasion of him becoming unhinged a particularly delectable treat.

But since I've made a point of remarking on all the good parts of the season, I'd be remiss not to count the simple conversation after that as its own separate point. Small, maybe not significant, but nice. And it's a reminder that they probably see a lot of each other outside of school, and I would like them to form a working friendship ASAP.

Sam/Quinn: Past Perfect
What was that?! What was that, like, sixty seconds just to shoot down the shippers and make sure we didn't get any ideas? "SAM LOVE ME AGAIN." / "LOL NO." / "FINE WHATEVER."

But since I have never actually stopped shipping them with everything I've got, I'm still on board that train. You will never deter me. Forget the fact that I've got ample fic evidence that proves Sam + Quinn + second teen pregnancy = viable storyline. It only took me one-eighth of a second from Sam telling her she had "rich white girl problems" to declare Uptown Girl (Glee version, of course) their official theme song. Now they seem like a hotter potential couple than ever.

Confession time: I count "Jack and Diane" among my favorite songs, and may have had a secret campaign for the first two seasons to have Finn sing it, with or without Quinn dueting...but I had no idea "hold on to 16" was the lyric in that line. I always thought it was "hold on to the sixties," as I thought the message was to hold on to the old mentality of peace, love and carefree freedom. And on that note, wow, there's a dirty implication in this song. Boo! I did not need to know that! See what happens when I don't run radio songs through the lyric filter first?

Anyway. I loved him nicely trying to bring her back to reality and steer her onto a normal teenage course. This whole section might break my heart slightly less if it was just Sam rebuffing Crazy Quinn FOR NOW and/or wanting five minutes to breathe before getting involved in a relationship again, rather than the gross thing below.

Sam/Mercedes: Future Dread
Ugh. Why would you start this again? This was the one single benefit to him being gone. And while my immediate response to hearing Mercedes would be rebuffing him due to the existence of her boyfriend was along the lines of, "Mercedes, look at your man. Now back to Sam. Now back at your man. Now back to Sam. Sadly, he isn't Sam. And there is nothing on earth he can do to even come close to equalling Sam as a boyfriend. Clearly you are touched in the head if you would choose anyone over him."...

...since she appears more receptive than her words let on, and that is a far more alarming prospect: Hello, Sam. Look at Mercedes. Now back at your first ex. Etc.

Mercedes: We had a summer fling.
Sam: It was more than that.

NO IT WASN'T. IT WASN'T EVEN A FLING. I don't know what it was, that's how weird and actively anti-chemistry it was. I get queasy thinking about it. It's like I'm trying to ship kindergarteners.

Sam: I'm gonna fight to get you back.
Oh, like you fought to get Quinn back? *bitter* GO BACK TO KENTUCKY, NEW SAM. You and your lame new haircut, if you do not cease and desist post-haste.

I feel like there are going to be some very long, dark, cold months of this unpleasantness ahead.

Team Asian Fusion
This was the weakest subplot for me, because no matter what they do I find them incredibly boring. I try not to hate on ships for being boring, but I can't help this one. I don't even want Artie/Tina back anymore (at all), but when these guys get to sail along in their dreamy little cocoon of super-mature relationship habits, scarcely challenged by the few minor ripples that come their way -- and then I look at all the skeletons of pretty ships scattered on the rocks in Glee's vicious wake? I get irritable. But there was definitely some solid writing in there. I may come back with more appreciation in the future, since I did gain a load of respect for Tina this week.

May The Best School Win
This is just here so I can mouth "What is wrong with you?" at Mr. Schue's weirdly hostile reaction to the Troubletones' overture -- even Shelby looks bewildered, possibly because they were not exactly coming over to tell New Directions that they sucked and would definitely lose, but more like they expected the New Directions to extend the same invitation if the chips fell the other way. I still don't see why we can't just have a 2-coach superstar glee club featuring Schuester & Corcoran together.

(I mean, aside from the fact that a glee club simultaneously stripped of its three awful girls and filled in with only its three best girls, along with Blaine & Sam as bonus presents -- never mind the new background boys -- is as close to a dream club as I'm ever getting in canon)

Unitards: A Little Touch of Star Quality
I LOVE HARMONY. Let's make that clear. I love how she reminds me of Pauley Perrette, but with better (bouncier) hair. From time to time I like to play "build your dream 12-member glee club using any teens past or present," and so far I have only come up with 5 permanent members (Rachel, Quinn, Sam, Blaine, Jesse), but she would be number six. I do not understand how Damian McGinty outshone the actress, I really don't.

Now let's talk about "Buenos Aires," which was not a song you'd play on its own but was a way more fun performance than I was expecting. I was, er, maybe expecting a slow, dramatic opera number? I was shocked to find out this was from a movie version where the title character was played by MADONNA. Are we thinking of the same Eva Peron? These...do not go together in my head. But no matter; I loved all the energy and flash and their dance costumes with the rhinestones set up to look like heavy necklaces. And, although it is not surprising that many songs sound better once they're run through Glee, she definitely sounds better than Madonna.

And I will -- just this once -- admit that it was cute to have both Kurt and Rachel mouthing along with the words in tandem in the audience.

They deserve their third place performance, but get the trophy for choreography and costumes.

The Troubletones: Who Won't Survive
The tango was asinine -- just for that, you lose the choreography award! though the jumping jacks didn't help -- but second place on costumes (you have to love the sparkly stage-performance-only silver dresses), and I'll come right out and say their overall vocal performance was the best of the night. I'll admit it. As much as it is my knee-jerk reaction to tune out Santana and/or Mercedes' voices, and ESPECIALLY the two voices together, they could not have picked a better pair of songs to showcase them. It helps that I love these songs, especially "I Will Survive.". And Santana's good, she can hold her own, but when Mercedes comes in she KILLS it, so hard that I forget why I dislike her voice at all.

But you, Sam, in the audience there -- shut your face gash. Wipe that stupid smile off your lips.

p.s. Unlike all the other people who are upset this group didn't win, I can accept that the judges are voting on overall group quality, rather than tonight's specific performance, in which case it was never a real contest.

New Directions: Easy As 1-2-3
1) I LOVED "ABC." One, people can stop bitching that Tina never gets a solo! Two, Tina is actually really awesome when she solos (way better than Santana or Mercedes)! Despite what I'm saying about the costumes in a minute, she looks like the ringmaster of her own little glee circus, and it's amazing, as is her voice. Three, Quinn gets a verse! Four, this is so DELIGHTFUL AND HAPPY. This is why I love Glee music. This is the kind of show I want Glee to be. Plus it distracts me from the blinding horror that that is their costumes.

It would absolutely have been the best non-original competition performance they have ever done...if only I could erase that extremely disturbing part where Kurt shouts out in a way he never should again, and then a second later it's all "NO. BAD SAM. PUT THAT AWAY. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING EVERYONE."

2) "Control," which I didn't previously know, was much less fun. Between Quinn's "I am possessed by the devil" voice on the opening, the waste of Blaine's voice (I'd forgotten how often they used to waste him) and the unnecessary parts by Artie, recently confirmed dead to me...oh, and some continuing unnecessary pelvic thrusts in the back...I was back to the familiar feeling of being bored to tears when they get up on stage to compete.

3) "Man in the Mirror," which is not a song I know to begin with either other than maybe hearing it on Idol once, wasn't bad but wasn't particularly exciting, either. Neither R&B ballads nor songs featuring the boys alone are my thing. It'll probably grow on me, performance-wise, though.

At least they're doing an incredible job of sharing vocals tonight. Also, I am totally loving both the reaction shots of Will in the wings as well as all the glimpses of the jazz band boys. I've always said those kids the luckiest people in the school, and now they not only get to hang out with the club, they get to BE part of the club. Perseverance pays off, dreams come true!

Subverting Endings
When the winner was announced, I don't know what show you're watching, but Will was obviously blowing that "for you" kiss to Rachel, since she couldn't be part of it tonight.

P.F. Chang's (Change of Heart)
(*Papa "Frowny-face" Chang. Obviously.)
I'm not sure I really get why this one single night was enough to instantly transform 2+ years of disapproval. It was nice, but it didn't seem life-changing. You suck at having principles, sir. I didn't buy the change of heart at all, but if Glee wants it to be that way, fine. And yes, I made this its own category just so I could use that header.

Quinntervention: Part II
Oh Shelby. Everything you say is flawless. This, THIS is the speech I've been dying for someone to give Quinn, and there's no one better suited for it. I wish there'd been a better way for her to see the light other than that awful business. I wish they didn't have to tear down one of my favorite characters to rebuild another. But if this is the lone offer, it's worth it to see Quinn's soul come back.

You're so young. Pretty. ("Don't talk down to me.") It goes away, you know. Not the pretty, you'll always be pretty. But the young. It happens really slow, and you don't even notice it, and then one day everything just feels different. ("I can't wait to feel different.") Don't wish away your life. You're exactly where you're supposed to be.

I love how she lets Quinn vent, never rises to the bait, never even pauses. Never blames her or tries to stop her outright. And it works. I think I want to be Shelby when I grow up. Minus the poor life choices with boys who have disgusting hair.

Team Pretty
Three Quinn/Rachel scenes in this? THANK YOU. So happy that the combined efforts of biological mother and daughter ultimately stopped the downward spiral. And finally...

Quinn + Yale = SUPER HAPPY RS. I've already stamped it down as canon. I've always said she was destined for Ivy League. Well, maybe it was only implied, but the basic idea was there. I do not agree with the journey you sent her on, TPTB, but hallelujah that the dragon's finally slain.

Out of the Darkness And Into The Sun
I may dislike the three main players of the Trouble Tones, but sometimes I will grudgingly accept Quinn's friendship with them. Love how no sooner has she been pulled from the vortex of insanity herself then she boomerangs over to them to pay it forward. And to say words that break my heart with bittersweet pending nostalgia:

"Do you know what growing up is about? Losing things. In six months, we'll all be gone. Scattered. . . . When we see each other, it'll be a special occasion. It'll be different." Okay. Now is an appropriate time to start waxing depressingly on the end. Get on the ball, Mr. Schue.

On a less profound note: oh, hell no. I will have no talk of "A Trouble Tones performance promised at every competition." Worst! Worst idea! Better idea: come back and sing background for Berry and Blaine. Best idea: quit altogether while the chips are down.

Have A Happy Ending
I've never heard of "We Are Young." The initial lyrics made me recoil in distaste, cluing me in to the fact that it is probably very new even though it sounds all classic-rock-updated-for-Glee. Several lyrics continue to strongly disappoint, but I cannot deny that the performance/montage/whatever you want to call it part was probably better -- OK, definitely better -- than "Dog Days Are Over." The sound mixing was perfect, it was delightful to hear nearly everybody get lines and phrases, and the whole thing was just literally RADIATING HAPPINESS from every pore. Some specific parts that were wonderful:

Oops. I made a collage.

+ Remember when Sam had a pitch-perfect solo line, AND THEN SAM AND QUINN HARMONIZED ON A LINE and my insides officially exploded?
+ Rachel, who is by default insanely pretty, gets this particularly bright twinkle in her eye on performances like this and sets an entirely new standard of beauty
+ Wait, did the Ditchin' Chicks bring Sugar back with them?? Oh please, please, please?
+ Santana sounding really pretty on "The angels never arrived / but I can hear the choir"
+ I spontaneously developed some affection for Rory's puppy-dog-like attachment to Brittany when he picked her up? Weird.

No matter how much I hate various members of this club and wish I could fire or kill the worst people at will (seriously, I have DREAMS where they are on a charter plane that crashes and conveniently kills half of them), I secretly love it when stuff like this comes along and they force their One Big Happy Family feelings on me so hard that I can't lift a finger against them.

Great, now I'm at the point where watching the clip makes me choke up a little.

Up next: Big Christmas episode, which looks like it just might continue this streak of positivity before 3x10 topples it. Cannot WAIT.

And in the meantime, I will just be watching all the competition pieces on endless repeat. Sectional 2011 = my happy place.
---------
Is it sad that I've had more fun in the last three days writing this post than I have watching half my other shows? Of course not. I wish I could teach you all the pleasure of transforming Glee's carnival of wonders into a creative art project like this.

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