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Glee: “We Built This Glee Club”

Illustration for article titled Glee: “We Built This Glee Club”
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To complain about another battle in the endless war between Sue and Will is to make yourself redundant. Your complaint has been acknowledged, absorbed, and thoroughly rejected on the grounds that Sue is a cartoon, Sues will be Sues, and a farewell tour without one last Sylvester scheme would be missing some ineffable quality vital to the genetic makeup of Glee.

Very well, then; I’m redundant. Hasn’t season six had, like, eight one last Sue schemes? Sue gets a two-parter dedicated to some of her most outrageous plots and a special episode dedicated to unpacking her zaniness. Is another Sue assault really what “We Built This Glee Club” needs? At the very least the other two stories could use some fleshing out, especially Rachel doing the responsible PSA thing and deciding to go back to NYADA. Instead, we get Will masquerading as Sue’s barber in order to shave her head, a prank she responds to with a perfect replica of her old haircut (a “Carol Brady blowout”), and Sue doing some supervillain plan allegedly to rig things in New Directions’ favor at Sectionals. Why the alleged change of heart? Beiste reminds Sue that he and Will were her only defenders, which I’d think would trigger an automatic inquiry into Beiste and Will’s own educational backgrounds because we don’t want people who condone Sue’s pedgagoical tactics teaching their own classes, but which nevertheless convinces Sue to do her version of repaying the favor. And she has a decent—that is, preposterous but still within the realm of possibility for Sue—explanation for most of her shenanigans. Except why does she ask Will to resign in the middle of Sectionals if she’s trying to get him to win? No, Sue’s a compulsive liar, and her explanation to Will at the end is complete bullshit, as usual.


But maybe there is something new here. It doesn’t justify the season’s Sue-centricity, but the episode plays up the moment when Will refuses to thank Sue at the end. It galls her, and Will doesn’t buckle. At this point the “right” thing to do is a question that involves a much wider perspective than this particular instance affords—something along the lines of taking Sue to therapy or going to the feds—but you’d think the right thing to do, the Will thing to do, would be to just thank her. After all, she supposedly “had her heart in the right place,” which I emphasize is in quotes, because at this point, I don’t know what any of those words mean. But he doesn’t. It’s like he’s walking away, in the sense that he’s refusing to play this game on her terms. She vows to return with renewed energy to destroy him down the line. Did he just win? Is that how it works? Sue gives it her best shot, and Will just ignores her, leaving her to her own pathetic life? Maybe, but that’s just a side effect. He’s really just being withholding, because he won Sectionals and she didn’t. And it feels good. He isn’t being noble. He’s being selfish.

The New Directions worthily win Sectionals. Roderick takes lead on “Take Me To Church,” Madison and Kitty alternate solos on “Chandelier,” and Mason heads up “Come Sail Away,” which entails the funny sight of Mason and Madison circling each other and flirtatiously smiling, the twins playing romance for the audience. The drama about who should stand in the back so they don’t drag down the choreography sets a record for how fast a Glee plot is forgotten by its own writers. The Warblers think Roderick and Spencer are the weak links, but Roderick is the only one in front of the scrim for half of the first song, and Spencer does the Warblers-esque choreography for the last number on crutches. Whatever. Why is Spencer on crutches? Because he and Roderick try to get into dancing shape over the weekend, and he sprains his ankle. He wants to play through the pain, but at the last minute Roderick has a better idea. Spencer swings in on a chandelier, and Myron distracts the audience in a white jumpsuit and a long blonde wig. It’s a Vocal Adrenaline tactic, a circus performance to distract from the singing. But nobody notices or calls Roderick out on it. In fact, Will, Rachel, Kurt, and Blaine are all very pleased to see the surprises. I’m surprised the kids aren’t in for a post-show lecture, but there’s no time left between the 10-minute blocks of slo-mo trophy nostalgia.

You could almost make the argument that “We Built This Glee Club” is seeing in shades of gray finally, with Will and the kids both choosing to do something arguably ignoble. But the only plot that makes any sense—in that what happens logically follows, not that it’s necessarily seamless—is Rachel picking NYADA over Broadway, and things are so tilted in that direction it doesn’t seem like there were two right choices after all. There was a noble choice, the pursuit of education. And there was the “easy” choice, as Jesse St. James puts it, returning to Broadway. And Jesse’s supposed to be the one rooting for Broadway. See, Rachel gets visited by three peers. Sam shames her into going back to school, urging her to ask herself if dropping out is something she’s proud of. Kurt says he’ll support whatever decision she makes, but he reminds her that she wasn’t happy last year after dropping out. Finally Jesse tries to sell her on returning to the stage, and he makes a good offer except insofar as he should really be in San Francisco living with Agustín.

We don’t really see Rachel make her choice. There’s no musical number that takes her from indecision to commitment, for instance. But she tells Jesse and us that she wants to go back to school before returning to the stage. He’s proud of her and supports her—they all do; it’d be exhausting if Rachel hadn’t been given the freedom to make a bad decision and fail last year—and then they kiss! I had forgotten he was attracted to women, but that moment still hit so much harder that any of the Rachel-Sam moments in Lima this season. It has to do with performance and actor chemistry, sure, but also Glee’s great subject, its own history. Jesse was a recurring character primarily in season one. Seeing him again doesn’t just reveal how much he’s grown (after being personally rejected from NYADA by Carmen Tibideaux). It’s a marker of how much Rachel’s grown. Sam is inertia, the next available guy in the cast as the characters play musical relationships. Jesse has a much more developed relationship with Rachel. They have sparks. And if 21-year-old, ex-Broadway-star, failed TV actress Rachel Berry must end up in a relationship so we know she’s happy, Jesse St. James is a disarmingly good choice.


Stray observations:

  • Sue’s version of choreography game tapes: Triumph Of The Will. (Wait a second, is that an elaborate pun? Was Sue really helping Will the whole time?!)
  • According to Sue, recurring Sectionals judge Rod Remington was once in a group marriage with all seven members of Jefferson Airplane.

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