Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GLEE 4x1: "The New Rachel"

It's a brave new world in Glee's fourth season premiere. Now split between McKinley High's New Directions and Rachel's NYADA life in New York, the series faces many new challenges - chief among them? Life after the graduation of many of its stars, and the fresh faces who would seek to replace them.

After a long Summer of speculation, Glee showed (some of) its hand last week. Ryan Murphy spent months offering vague sound bites as to the future of the musical dramedy, and - with few exceptions - delivered on the promise of a "next step" for the series and its characters. Here's what you'll find in the weekly recaps to come:
  • McKinley - A recap of the New Directions storylines at McKinley High, with photocaps
  • New York - A recap of the Rachel and Kurt storylines, with photocaps
  • The Big Finish - How did the episode end?
  • Quotes & Commentary - Choice dialogue and overall thoughts on the episode
  • Blaine Corner - Gratuitous photos and video of Darren Criss' Blaine Anderson
  • Coming Up, on Glee - Listing and previews of the following episode's songs

Let's get this season started!

A non-Jew-fro'd Jacob Ben Israel gives us his second annual exposition of what happened over the Summer. Here's what we learn:
  • Artie enjoys being popular thanks to winning Nationals, and is still in a wheelchair
  • Tina got a "Mike Chang Forever" tattoo, broke up with Mike, changed it to "Make Change Forever", got a freshman slave, and is now a delusional diva
  • Sam is no longer a Hobo Stripper, but still a nerd with a killer Taylor Lautner impression

We don't see Blaine's interview, but he's grouped in with Artie, Tina, Brittany and the newly-transferred Wade/Unique as those in contention to be "The New Rachel". [No one seems to care what Sugar or Joe have been up to.] They decide to thunderdome "Call Me Maybe", and await Artie's decision. Because he can't be the star. It's never stated, but you know why.

Kurt's skulking around McKinley before his classes at Sad Homo Community College begin, and pops in to see what Sue managed to give birth to. It's an adorable little girl named Robin, and - let's get this out of the way right now - she does indeed have Down's Syndrome. Tread lightly, writers. It's also in Sue's office that we meet Kitty, her new head bitch. She's basically Quinn, if Quinn had been smart enough to come up with Santana-caliber insults.

Kurt does have a purpose for being at McKinley, though. He's going to help repopulate the New Directions, and replace all the graduated stars you knew and loved. The audition montage favors two new key characters: Marley is a newsboy-cap-loving sophomore, whose very obese mother is a McKinley lunch lady. Mom insists on keeping it a secret, because she wants her daughter to be popular. The New Directions are still in dick mode, though, and join in the cruel jokes at fat Mom's expense. Womp Womp. Then there's Jake Puckerman, Puck's new black half-brother. Jake knows who Puck is, but not vice versa. His defining characteristics are that he's hot, he can sing, and he's a bad-ass.

Marley ends up being the only candidate chosen, but she's unsure if she wants to stay after she admits the truth about her Mom in hopes that everyone will stop being horrible. Sam comforts her, and they have a nice, non-romantic bonding moment about being poor. Jake on the other hand, was not picked. After having his audition cut short, he threw a hissy fit that incurs him the wrath of Will's good intentions.

Artie officially names Blaine The New Rachel, which is of course the only reasonable decision to make. Brittany was a close second, while Tina assumes that she was third. And you know what they say about assuming. They all learn a valuable lesson about how popularity makes you evil, and are then excommunicated from the in-crowd with the aid of slushies and a barrage of name-calling from Kitty: Gimpy (Artie), Tarantula Head (Joe), Richie Poor (Sam), Pre-Op Precious Based on the Novel Barf by Sapphire (Wanique), and Mike O'Malley's Daughter (Marley). 

Finally Blaine has to have a talk with Kurt, as his Lima life is sad and embarrassing for everyone involved. Blaine lovingly gives him the push he needs to take the next step, with my personal favorite Imagine Dragons song. Kurt decides to go to New York, NYADA be damned, and...figure something out, I guess? Congressman Burt continues to be the best father in the history of television, and tearfully sends Kurt on his way.

New York
Rachel made it to NYADA! She also hasn't heard from Finn in 2 months, and lives in a dorm with a stereotypical nympho roommate. The vicious, apathetic boozehound of a Dance 101 instructor named Cassandra July (Kate Hudson) openly insults her, figuratively kicking her while she's literally down by telling her straight up: "You suck." Don't you just love her? 

When Rachel idiotically calls her out for having rum breath in class, she responds by performing a showstopping mashup. She then dismisses the class, despite having not taught them anything in the 5 minutes she was in the room.

During one of Rachel's crazy-person nighttime moisturizing rituals in the co-ed dorm bathroom, she meets Brody Weston. He's a junior, also a musical theater major, straight, and most importantly - super hot and in a towel. He instantly takes a shine to Rachel, and helps restore some of her self-esteem before she performs for Carmen Thibodeaux in class. Thank GOD, since no one had told Rachel how special she was ALL EPISODE.

The Big Finish 
Rachel has grown tired of lying to everyone about how great she's doing in New York, and has an emotional meltdown on the phone with Kurt. He somehow manages to find her at that exact moment in all of Manhattan, and their reunion is actually pretty sweet. And now they'll be roommates! Yay!

Song Ranking
#1 "It's Time" 
Performed by Blaine
Originally performed by Imagine Dragons

#2 "Call Me Maybe" 
Performed by Blaine, Brittany, Tina & Wade
Originally performed by Carly Rae Jepsen

#3 "Americano / Dance Again"
Performed by Cassandra July
Originally performed by Lady Gaga / JLO

#4 "New York State of Mind"
Performed by Marley & Rachel
Originally performed by Billy Joel

#5 "Never Say Never"
Performed by Jake
Originally performed by The Fray

#6 "Chasing Pavements"
Performed by Marley & The New Directions
Originally performed by Adele

Quotes & Commentary
"She's like a young Quinn Fabray, except she's not pregnant, manic depressive, or in and out of a wheelchair." - Sue, on Kitty (No Last Name)

"You've got magic in your throat, Marley!" - Marley's Mom, delivering a line like Tobias Funke from Arrested Development

"I had a song in my heart, Blaine Warbler, and you killed it. Now I have a dead song in my heart, and pretty soon the corpse of my dead heart song is going to start to smell." - Brittany to Blaine, upset by him winning lead in New Directions

"Okay guys, since we can't do a popularity homecoming float with all white people - I say, I think we should do one with all white Chrysanthemums." - Kitty

- Arguably the most high-stakes premiere since the pilot, "The New Rachel" manages to pretty much nail it, despite a lot of characters no longer in the mix. Among those we didn't see: Santana, Finn, Mercedes, Puck, Quinn, Rory, Becky, Emma and Beiste. Take a look at that list - it's pretty lengthy, especially for a season premiere. But for the most part, I was invested enough in the new characters not to notice. How about that?

- I was heartbroken, however, to see that Dianna Agron is no longer credited as a series regular (or credited, period), and it only fuels my hunger for the truth about her alleged exit. Sources tell us that she'll be prominent in a two-part Thanksgiving sweepstacular, but my gut tells me it may be the last time we see Ms. Fabray on this series. 

- While I had heard that Rory wasn't going to appear in the Fall - possibly not until Springtime, if at all - I still found it strange that not a single character even mentioned his absence. It's one thing to forget about Rory in the middle of the season, but when they're actively trying to recruit new members? At least have Sugar tell us he was finally deported or something.

- I'm definitely going to get misty every time Marley and her Mom interact. Not only am I already rooting for Marley in every imaginable way, but the sense of unconditional love between these characters could end up being the beating heart of the Ohio storylines. That is, if they don't cheese out and use it too much.

- I say this every time, but please let the writers have discovered that Sue works best when sparingly deployed. She was excellent in this episode, despite it only being for one scene. And her referring to Kurt as Porcelain gets more and more endearing with each use. 

- Matthew Morrison was quoted in an interview over the Summer as saying that he knew the writers were going to focus much more on the kids in season four. I was hoping the sad look on his face in the promo photo was just a coincidence, but Mr. Schue just looked kinda depressed for a man who's engaged to the love of his life. Is this his last season? Just sayin'.

- Cassandra July tells that super gay former-T.A. that her first Broadway role was as a dancing spoon. So given that timeline, and her apparent age...it's Beauty and the Beast, right?

- Brittany and Blaine were at The Lima Bean together. What on earth could they possibly have to talk about? Oh, right. It was just Santana exposition.

- Let's give it up for the 9pm time slot! Tina's a "See You Next Tina", and Brittany has trouble scissoring a webcam. So Bold. So Brash. So FOX. 

Blaine Corner


This Week, on Glee:
It's time for "Britney 2.0", featuring another 8 (!) Britney Spears songs! Previews can be found here

  • "3" - Performed by Joe, Sam & Tina
  • "Boys / Boyfriend" - Performed by Artie & Blaine
  • "Gimme More" - Performed by Brittany & New Directions
  • "Hold It Against Me" - Performed by Brittany
  • "Womanizer" - Performed by Marley, Tina & Unique
  • "Everytime" - Performed by Marley
  • "Oops!...I Did It Again" - Performed by Rachel
  • "Crazy / U Drive Me Crazy" - Performed by Jake & Marley

"Britney 2.0" airs Thursday, September 20th at 9pm on FOX. Recap posts on September 25th. 

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