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Warning: this is crazy long, because I fit it together like puzzle over a period of 2-3 days, adding here and there until suddenly it was the size of 3 posts. And then I shoved everything under just a couple of cuts instead of conveniently breaking it up.
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Yesterday: *clutches DVDs to chest* No! I won't give them up! NEVERRRR! Oh, I have to give them back tomorrow? Fine. I should probably sit down and watch them instead of ducking out to go biking every time I have a few spare hours.


Except every time I start, I inevitably get overwhelmed with Feelings about early fall, when my babies were still happy and safe at the beginning of senior year, with all the promise ahead of them, in ways that drive me back to the cozy pages of my own senior-year-of-high-school journals. I want us all to stay there and not face the reality that is the upcoming year of post-high-school land.

What this really means is that I love the time period so much, I can't settle down long enough to sit still and watch the episodes. I just bounce and skip from scene to scene, reveling in the glitter bomb of happiness that Glee ultimately is to me no matter how much everyone rags on it or how many scenes I have to skip, and loving how West Side Story is the main concern on everyone's mind. NYADA hadn't yet crushed people's dreams (we had student council for that) and nobody was engaged and while Quinn might have been a little worse for the wear, most people were where I wanted them to be.

OKAY!

We might as well have a little organization in this post. (edit: lol) As I said in the cut text, or as you may remember, I breezed through most of the episodes on discs 1 & 2 the first time around and either skipped or ignored boatloads of stuff. These were also back in the days where I still barely tolerated Kurt Hummel, and then only for Blaine's benefit. Time to dive in with fresh eyes! Bullet-point-observations style. In non-chronological order.

Songs in blue text for easy differentation. And I gotta say, I'd forgotten how much I love the Jukebox feature on the DVDs. It's an easy enough feature to replicate on your own, but it's also nice to have it just handed to you where you can hit "play all" for an unfettered shot of musical happiness.

Second Look #1: 3x03, Asian F
-Wow, Mr. Schue is REALLY unnecessarily prickish with Mercedes, isn't he? I see your look this time, Kurt, which is either surprise at the whole thing or judgment of him, but I like the latter so Imma mock up some quick headcanon of you throwing attitude at him and standing up for your friend.

#judging you

-So did we ever figure out the point of Shane's existence, or...?

-Run The World: I skipped this the first time around. And while on the CD it mostly gives me a headache, I've slowly gotten used to it. Now that I am familiar with it, turns out this song is way better with the addition of an awesome dance. The only time Brittany seems like a real person is when she's dancing; she's totally in her element and she looks so confident it's like the fog has lifted from her brain. Who'll run the school? Girls! But only for the duration of this song, then you'd best hand the reins back to Mr. Hummel.

-I love how Tina is such a wannabe cheerleader and always shows up as an extra in their singing numbers. Can there be fic of this? Like how she loves and marvels at their routines but would never actually try out for that cult of evil, either because she dislikes every Cheerio not in Glee/doesn't want to be under Sue's thumb or just because she doesn't want being a Cheerio to take over her life (and wardrobe) and define her entire persona like it inevitably does when she has so many other interests?

-Oh! I always thought it was Blaine who shied away from a post-flowers kiss, but I am pretty sure Kurt looks down first, i.e. canon support for him not being a fan of public kissing (at least not at school); can we all stop ragging on the writers now?

-*not recognizing the Maria audition faceoff* Oh, man. I basically skipped everybody's WSS audition except Blaine's and maybe half of Rachel's, didn't I?

Speaking of that, FINALLY. It has been driving me batty not knowing which episode this was from:

Usually I can identify the rare mystery .gifs based on what Blaine is wearing (I pay attention to him. Kurt's clothes go by in a blur of insanity), but there were too many changes early on for me to get this one. I love it! I can't figure out why something as simple as them talking in the auditorium seems so intimate, I just love the placement of Kurt's elbow behind Blaine's shoulder, and the latter leaning in.

-*watching Kurt stalk away from Rachel in a way I would absolutely not survive at this point in time* This whole student body president faceoff, which frankly was super boring and irritating to me last fall, is heartbreaking now. Dear Kurt: welcome to the first in a long, long line of things that are not going to go right for you this year. Time to pay your debts from that mostly-good junior year you dared to grab for yourself.

-"When You Ship Someone But It Goes To Waste," exhibit A:

"I don't have any idea what I'm doing down here, but I'm willing to learn."
a/k/a "stop doing sweet & adorable things, I need people I actually care about to do those"

-Fix You is really, really good. Damn. I recognized this the first time around, and later downgraded my opinion because I only remembered the Will/Emma aspect standing out, but I think it could have gotten a spot in the Top Performances list this season. Spoiler alert, it's also the last time Matt Morrison slays me with his voice.

-Final grade: I am still not captivated by Mike & Tina, so I still don't get why everyone loved this one so much, and now that I'm not even trying to buy its hype I still like it, but do not find it wonderful.

Second Look #2: 3x02, I Am Unicorn
-Awww, I cannot believe how much I am loving the (short lived) Kurt/Brittany team this time around. I can't even remember the last time I found her tolerable, much less likeable, but it's really sweet how he accepts her help. It's almost enough to send me back into season 1 when they were "dating," except I have this faint feeling that they may have actually made out and my brain so violently rejects that nauseating image that I dare not find out of it is true.

-Brittany's face in the flashback when she realizes everyone is laughing at her dumb answers = tears, and also whoa. It is so weird to me when Brittany realizes that people make fun of her, because I have spent so much time skipping her scenes and thinking of her as basically a lobotomy patient that I am not only amazed when she puts two coherent sentences together, it always mystifies and astounds me when she shows any signs of self awareness whatsoever.

-Heh, Kurt looks so pleased when Blaine asks to stay for booty camp too. "Pestering my boyfriend to transfer was the BEST IDEA EVER!" (and as for the rehearsal itself...wow, there really were a lot of Kurt/Blaine scenes in the beginning, weren't there? I already rounded them up on my own time when I went on my Shipping Tours, but it seems worth another mention here.)

-Favorite Puck quote of the season:
Will: 5, 6, 7, 8!
Puck: I! Am! In! Hell!

-Shellllllbyyyyyy. That is why I love this one. [More than "Asian F," actually, now that I'm directly comparing them and have a higher opinion of Kurt.] Her reintroduction was pitch-perfect. Forever bitter how they dragged her name through the mud to drive her back out though.

-I think it's finally time to admit that I have tried, but "Somewhere" is a really boring number, Idina Menzel + Lea Michele or not.

-Speaking of skipped auditions, "I'm The Greatest Star," which I literally didn't know existed until June and am watching now for the first time (on mute -- because it's kinda awful) because could he BE having any more fun climbing all over his personal jungle gym? And just when I think Colfer can't get any more precious, HE BREAKS OUT THE SAI SWORDS. I know what this means now! (p.s. here is a bonus clip to drive it home.)

-Santana, exhibit A of me wanting to claw her face off: convincing Brittany to ditch Kurt's campaign and run on her own platform. I cannot bring myself to care that Brittany is her best friend while I had the same opinion of Kurt Hummel she did this time last year, her reaction to Kurt's reaction to the unicorn posters was not okay. Brittany did, in fact, fail her precious unicorn, and instead of helping stab said unicorn in the back, a non-hateful version of Santana would have comforted her and then set about helping her fix it. Because Santana is hateful, of course, she just starts pulling the strings on her Brittany puppet -- what I dislike more than anything about the "feminist" things Brittany says at the end (and in the next episode) is that she was clearly told exactly what to say, and probably only understands the meaning of maybe half those phrases.

[Note: Rachel will receive zero blame when she essentially does the same thing because Rachel is a precious golden light of my life, and it's not her fault that her self esteem balloon bursts and disappears at the slightest provocation, driving her into a desperate and panicky corner.]

-Tthe godawful Romeo/Juliet scene...I saw it for the first time on Tumblr in a gifset a couple of months ago, but good lord. I don't know what to do with the fact that my demands for Kurt/Rachel cuddling in bed have now technically been met (albeit only for an instant, darkly lit), and that I now have a litmus test for whether or not I can actually deal with the notion of non-platonic Hummelberry when I try to force a true OT3 in my head (I can't. The entire scene is the most cringeworthy thing I have ever seen, ever. And yet I still kinda want to make my brain try)

-BURT HUMMEL CONTINUES TO BE THE BEST DAD IN THE WORLD: "Quit makin' out in the shop." Hah, hah! Omigod, how have I never seen the beginning of this scene, because I'm making it my favorite Finchel moment until the finale. Burt is just so fabulously both nonplussed and not having any of this in his workspace as he breezes right on past their tonsil hockey.

Sidebar: I really think that, for all they've focused on Finchel, Glee's dropped the ball on developing the relationship between her and Burt. (is there more in Heart? Seemed like he talked to her dads, but concentrated on Finn) You get a real "potential in-law" vibe with him and Blaine that you just do not get with Rachel, which is v. sad and can only be chalked so much up to his lack of practice dealing with teenage girls (especially considering all the time she already spends with Kurt).

-This scene is really about Kurt, though. "What do you want?" / "Nothing. Is Finn the only son that can help out around here?" / "No, but you only volunteer to help when you want money or you want to talk about something. What's going on?" And there in a three-sentence exchange is everything that is wonderful and good about this most flawless of the show's parent/child relationships.

-Come to think of it, I did see most of this scene; I remember laughing at the notion of anyone ever believing Chris Colfer, much less Kurt, as straight. (Enter Struck By Lightning + summer 2012 book tour photos of HOT DAMN WHAT SORCERY IS THIS/LET ME LOVE YOU) It's very sweet.

-Whoa. Whoa. Tumblr! Why have you not been all over "No one's really looking for a Kurt Hummel type to play opposite Kate Hudson in a rom-com"?? I'm beginning to think they name drop celebrities on purpose to entice them to guest star later.

-...the way Will's all lovely and encouraging as Finn struggles with the dance steps, complete with eye-level "I believe in you" pep talks and congratulatory hugging afterward, just makes it all the more glaring how poorly he treats non-white, non-male Mercedes in the next episode, doesn't it? Awkward.

-Sue's whole anti-arts platform never stops making me laugh out loud. I can't even be mad at it, it's so bizarrely baseless and "no one would ever think this, like ever, outside of a wild YA dystopia novel."

-Blaine's audition: I reaaaally wanted to put "Something's Coming" on my Top 25 Performances list. It remains a blah song, but there is approximately infinity charisma in this performance and everything about it just shines. Literally shines. I am incapable of watching this without finding myself smiling with pride*. It's also more or less our last hurrah for Blaine + attractive hair, so. Salute.


*Yeah, that's pretty much my face. Now let's take a moment to appreciate the one bright spot in Kurt's day before the spotlight goes dark again.

Artie: Would you mind reading for Tony?


Whoops. There it goes.

Et tu, Blaine?

Although I still like my original bucket quote. ("Kurt, [if Blaine does not read for Tony], take your sniveling little bitchass self out back and hit yourself with a bucket. Why a bucket, I don't know. It sounded good at the time.")

-Final grade: I feel like I need to not only bump this one up in the rankings, but maybe move it out of the "medicore" and into the "pretty good" category, that's how great it is. Only that would wreck the flow I had going where 70% of the first 10 were declared mediocre.

Second Look #3: 3x04, "Pot O' Gold"
-Rory never again attains quite the level of exposure and unfiltered narrative focus that he does in 3x04...and it's still too much. LOOK AT YOUR USELESS MAW. Usually I feel less vitriolic toward less favorable scenes and characters when I go back in time, but ugh. Claws out forever on this waste of space.

-"Did you airbrush out your jowls?" / "NO!" -- heh, heh, forgot about this gem. I can't quite get the reaction shot I want, but I like to believe that although Blaine is obviously voting for Kurt, he also finds this particular brand of insult immature and petty (Rachel's still his friend, after all, and now very important costar), and is giving Kurt an admonishing look of "was that really necessary?" At which Kurt is sulking and refusing to meet his eyes because no, it wasn't, but right now he also doesn't care because he's allowed to be pissy about this.

-Still can't get over how wildly entertaining I find "Last Friday Night" now. 

-Oh, for the love of -- Santana resorted to fucking trickery to get Brittany into Shelby's group and further attempting to ruin the New Directions?? (see: things I skipped) Bitch, okay, are we starting to see why I laughed so hard (and continue to laugh) at her being outed? Forever one of my favorite things to happen on this show.

-Rory audition solo: LMAO at Rachel elbowing Kurt all, "SEE? SEE?" and him all "YES, FINE, YOU WIN."

-Final grade: despite the copious amounts of Beth and the nice start to the Burt Hummel, Politician storyline...yeah, this episode was about as dumb as I remember it being.

Second Look #4: 3x01, "The Purple Piano Project"
-Or as I am going to call it from now on, HUMMELBERRY CENTRAL. I finally rounded up all the missing Klaine scenes (I think), but there are always untapped wells of character/relationship footage waiting for me to discover on this show, and today it's time for all the Kurt + Rachel parts. Handholding in the office! I did not know about this.

(wait, wait, NYADA's special program only takes in about twenty students per year? OK, now I really don't understand how Rachel still got in. Frankly, based on that level of competition I wouldn't have put Kurt in either.)

-POP QUIZ: which of the following dreams for the future will come true?
"This year we'll both be applying to a New York-based performing arts school."
"*coughJuilliard*"
"We'll get an eclectic little apartment on the lower east side."
"I'll originate a role in a new Sondheim musical, Tony by 25..."
"Married by 30 - legally!" (edit: wait, I thought that quote was season 2 and purely hypothetical! fine, that's just one more thing to throw into his side of hashtag #Verbal Contracts)

-Finally saw "Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead." It was good that I skipped it back then, as it's still a crap song, but it's really fun to see it now that I love their friendship. You can just imagine how many hours they've spent after school like this, playing around and singing like dorks. BRB watching my yearbook-signing soulmates scene again

-The NYADA mixer! (Harmony takes my breath away every time, and I have watched this so many times) The sobbing in the car! The brilliant part I have never even seen, "I am ending this pity party right now" + inspirational life coach cheerleading! They are each other's perfect support system. I need to watch this roughly 98 more times to be coherent about it.

-You know how Blaine was like 40% of what I could stand about this episode the first time around? I like it more overall now, but if anything, I didn't praise him enough.

-Forever cracks me up that Blaine is in the club for about 5 minutes and has already gotten blamed for something he didn't do and watched one of its senior members get unceremoniously banned. I like to imagine him wondering what hotbed of hostility he got himself mixed up in.

-We Got The Beat is like 18x better than I remember it (as long as I don't let myself remember the food fight), and it was pretty great the first time. SO MUCH HAPPINESS IN THIS EPISODE. I'm calling 100% success rate on performances. Did I put "It's Not Unusual" on my Top 25 Performances list? Because it's an insane amount of fun. And aw, Blaine, look at you confused but smiling and having no idea that Santana is already in the process of declaring you her mortal enemy. 

-The second half of "You Can't Stop The Beat" is so, so wonderful. Blaine's first group number where he fits right in, everyone dancing with so much joy...honestly, this is what makes me so nostalgic about the group. (bonus moment: Chris Colfer slipping and falling on his ass at the end, but recovering in time to hop up and pretend nothing happened, in the true spirit of a gymnast)

-Final grade: Basically all of Will and/or Sue's scenes are horrible, but everything else is kind of magnificent and may be enough to rank this one above Asian F too? This is definitely the one I find myself bouncing through more. It helps that with enough time having passed, it is now possible to sympathize and feel sorry for Skank Quinn instead of hating everything about this brand of personalized character-assassination hell. 

Second Look #5: 3x06, "Mash Up"
-Yep. Shippin' Will/Shelby like a boss, still. If anyone was ever going to rival Terri in my heart, it was her.

-Also still literally crying with happiness as Finn eviscerates Santana.

-I forever refuse to call "Rumour Has It" the best song of the season - because no, absolutely not - but Mercedes is absolutely fierce & fabulous (better than Adele imo), their dresses are beautiful and uniformly flattering, the choreography is the best, and the dangerous glitter in the dark stormlouds that are Santana's eyes is phenomenal and gives the song a whole new layer.

-The stupid closeups blinded me before, and they are still super stupid, but otherwise I now love the dodgeball game. The song is full of energy, everyone is clearly having a blast, I kind of love the "femme fatale" Santana/Mercedes/Brittany trio that strides forward, and I just like the whole setup of girls vs. boys + 3 vastly superior steadfastly loyal girls.

-I have been running in the opposite direction from the Hall and Oates mashup for months, because I apparently watched it once, but H&O represent geezerdom and the worst kind of classic country sound to me, so I have been disdaining it ever since. Plus, the costumes. Are you kidding me?

But it's been turning into an earworm all day, based mainly on HOW DID I FORGET ABOUT ALL THESE SECRET QUINN VOCAL CAMEOS. Quinn/Finn (magic!), Quinn/Rachel/Tina, Quinn solos, Tina getting vocal cameo duets on top of all that...but let's talk about the Quinn work because nearly all her best work this season comes wrapped in tiny packages tucked into group numbers. I miss her voice so much, it is the sound of an angel.

-Sorry, Kurt. Your pathetic anti-dodgeball campaign still makes me want to mercilessly pummel you to a bloody pulp. But I am totally still here for you & Rachel making up, because LOOK AT THIS HUG I FORGOT EXISTED.

-Final grade: Kurt's stupid speech -- that's why I remember this one with disdain. Well, that and the gross Puck/Shelby. Mostly that. All the mashups are great, as is all the hell Santana goes through, but there's enough negative stuff to outweigh the good.

Half A Second Look: 3x07, "I Kissed A Girl"
It's still the season's worst (see reasons 3-13 here, except for the second half of #12 which I now deem OK), and I'm still not going near the title song even on mute. After whipping through the remaining minutes, I have determined that the only things worth watching a second time are "Constant Craving" (you beautiful song with a lovely Klaine-inclusive montage, you), the scene in which Kurt is accused of cheating and his mini-meltdown afterward, and of course, solid season 3 highlight "Perfect," of which I shall never tire as long as I live.

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Special Features: The Bad
Glee Under The Stars: I have no idea what this is because I was not following Glee news last summer unless it was a Ryan Murphy interview or E!/Ausiello spoilers. It seems to be some sort of outdoorsy panel.

-You have no idea how many times I have wondered to myself how rabid a Finchel shipper I would have turned out to be if Finn were played by Darren Criss. Just imagine all the pretty kissing that might have taken place! Then again, pretty sure I would have never been agreeable to Kurt getting a boyfriend played by anyone else, meaning I'd still loathe him, and wow, it would have been a whole different world.

-...and now it's turned into fan-posed questions so LOL BYE.

Glee Give A Note: ...no, why, what even the, no. Why do they think we care about Glee fans? No one cares about the fans! Stop inviting them to talk! No one cares how Glee has influenced your stupid teenage life. People buy the DVDs because they care about the show. We would like to know more about the show itself, or at least its actual cast, and your special features are threadbare and crappy enough as it is. You release 50 times as much special content to the internet as any one person could ever keep track of; I promise nobody would be mad if you copied some of those things and stuck them on the DVD, especially if it meant we didn't have to hear from nobodies.

And why does Dot Marie Jones go everywhere? Stop trying. She's as bad as the the fans. I feel like she's just awkwardly always there, picking up any gigs that the main stars pass on, trying REALLY HARD to be as enthusiastic and well loved as they are (maybe even more so, since she has a lighter workload and more time to focus on things like this). I think she really does love the show and the fans and all of it, but at this point it's to a degree that's almost embarrassing. She's not as cool as the main stars, nor is her character as as integral, and she's way older than almost everybody else so it's kind of awkward when she gets all buddy-buddy with them.

Anything Featuring Sue: Nope.

"Santa Baby Deleted Scene": massively inferior to every scene Ryan Murphy released on Twitter, including the other Santana scene. Never watched, never will, and can we take a moment to focus on Glee this season bragging about having three extended/deleted scenes -- its first ones EVER -- while The Office literally shows up with hours of deleted scenes every year??

Special Features: The Good
"Props" Extended Behind The Scenes: YES! That's what I'm talkin' about. You should just have all the BtS videos, extended or not, as one giant feature. Those are some of the best things about the show. That said, I'll take even the one. It's really fantastic. Everyone is adorable. Although I still can't look directly at Puck!Darren; it's awful.

***Saying Goodbye***: Yay, another extended BtS! And ooh, 15 full minutes, this might be a record as far as "long and 100% quality bonus features" go. Too sad for words, with all the reflections back as far as season 1. I don't want my cast disbanded, even in part! This is one of the most perfect groups on TV.
p.s. Yep, Finchel still breaks me in their goodbye scene. And how is it possible that I totally agree with yet still want to punch Failchuk in the face when he says this?: "Rachel has this very specific and interesting character when she's alone and when she wants something very badly. And so the idea was, we're going to send her off into this big world, she's going to be this little girl in the big city. If she has her boyfriend there...it's not as interesting."

***Meet The Newbies***: FAVORITE! (for about half of the footage)
Lindsay Pearce: *basks in radiance*

I love how they just threw big-belter songs and unfamiliar dance styles at her both times and she took it all in stride. Forever at a loss for words as to why this fabulous lady was only given two episodes, because she illuminates my screen with charisma and energy and stage presence. Especially compared to McGinty -- the freaking winner -- who stands there with literally all the interest and appeal of a fence post.

Samuel "Pretty Eyes" Larsen: Now that is interesting -- he originally auditioned to play Sam. (translation: "I will get scenes with Dianna Agron or die trying." Speaking of, just gonna snatch that image they tossed in front of me --

Yes good this was lovely thanks.)

"Made it to the callback, made it to the test -- and then found out that I didn't get it. I actually called my agent and was like, 'Hey, I don't want to go up for anything until Glee's casting again,' because I love the show." OK, that? Is the kind of fan I can love and respect.

I think I definitely prefer the version of Fabrevans we got, just aesthetically, but it's kind of interesting to imagine the AU playing out. And oh, I thought I remembered something about Joe's religious character traits being drawn from real life, but thought I just made that up via wishful thinking. It's really cool to hear that confirmed again. With that rationale, his tattoos gross me out slightly less than most people's, which is to say that do not physically make me gag on sight.

Vanessa Lengies: She is such an underrated gem. Sugar sneakily gets in more face time than you realize, and has not done anything aggravating with it all year. Vanessa similarly gets insufficient cam time, but she's always cracking me up when she does. So much charm. Remind me I need to rewatch "Stick It."

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Now, what lessons have I learned that I plan to implement for season 4?
1. My reviews will probably be 10,000 words long now to make sure I miss nothing.


1.5. But wouldn't it be cool if I could learn to shut my damn trap and focus on the most important themes, thus encouraging people to actually read what I write?

2. I should be more open to and accepting of the music & performances the first time around, because at least 80% of them, I end up looking back at fondly all, "Remember when?" even when I hissed violently at them on live airing.

2.5. This plan is already shot to hell because a boycott is in place for most of Britney 2.0, Britney/Brittany still being a nauseating trainwreck as far as music & performances go and one of my least favorite episodes ever. Glee is still perfectly capable of faceplanting on songs.

(2.75. Besides, remembr how much fun it is to rank them with single/double plus and minus signs, depending how far off they go from neutral?)

3. This will be the year I love Brittany again!
3.5. If she's going to be as much of a performance-ruining diva in 4x01 as shown in the promo, this plan is also shot to hell before it begins.

4. Kurt/Rachel: Platonic Soulmates is an acceptable consolation prize in the event of a Klaine breakup.
4.5. Who am I kidding
(4.75. Well it's better than nothing.)

5. I need to go on a Glee-icon-shopping spree, because I have like 5 already, but I also have a ton of empty icon spaces and really, if I am going to mention this show 10x as often as any other show, I might as well have one for every applicable character/mood/ship situation. Plus my Sam/Quinn one is...not terribly relevant anymore, though I'd like to keep it for archival purposes.

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