Glee 3x08 "Hold on to Sixteen"

The main storyline of season one was that the Glee club of misfits and outsiders came together and performed their hearts out, in the face of much adversity from parents, spouses, faculty and student peers, in hoping of placing at Sectionals and Regionals to keep the club in business. Sure, it was not the most original thing in the world, but in hindsight, it was perfect for Glee and their whole underdog schtick. Heck, it worked out quite well because nearly every week, they told a similar story – something or someone out to stop the New Directions from succeeding – with only relationship nuances, the comedic bits and the musical numbers swapped out to keep the show from being repetitive.

Season two did not have that luxury because…well, there really was no point. What was the impetus for the New Directions to succeed? It was supposed to be about going for the gold and getting to Nationals, but that was not enough because there was no real antagonist. The club had 12 members (most of the time) and was not getting cut anytime soon. Given the lackluster finale to the show and the cacophony of direction all season, that initial idea of National glory took a back seat to the relationships, lesson of the week plotlines, the prom queen arch (oh please) and the gay storylines. Basically, the entire show became bits and pieces, only to be re-routed for the occasional competition episode. What also happened is that the characters became so affectless and impossible to care for…after all, why should we?

Well, this is awkward.
That’s why I thought this season opened wonderfully. It seemed like the season long arch was going to be New Directions finally grabbing first place at Nationals, while the seniors prepare for life after high school. Sure, not every episode has to be “college application this” or “NYADA that.” Tuesday night’s episode only touched on that a little bit. Sectionals was the major drive of the episode, with the post-high school drama being a secondary option. In an internal sense of the show, the New Directions have purpose and motivation on small and large scales, far beyond a “let’s win nationals; if not, whatever…” attitude that season two had.

I'd kill to see her in a
"Memoris of a Geisha" musical.
What I am trying to say is…keep the focus on life after high school and winning the Nationals trophy. Silly plots, like the presidential campaign, a sex-theme episode, a gay bullying storyline, having Sam come back, having an Irish-exchange student just around for no reason (seriously, Rory is just plain useless) just detract too much from the season long arch and don’t allow us to build an emotional foundation for scenes that are quite powerful. The scenes involving Tina, Mike and Mike’s father worked mostly on the strength of the actors and just barely enough of a foundation laid. Imagine if there was a week-by-week examination of their relationship instead of…what, three scenes under a minute together. That would have been a waterworks moment for nearly everyone (c’mon, who did not love the Mike Chang story this season?). If there is the right amount of build-up for storylines like this, there is a huge reward and emotional payoff for the viewer.

Look, the show is as uneven as it ever has been. I could site many reasons regarding the show’s demise, when it is not some feeble attempt at social commentary, it is its insistence on choosing a plot and character orgy format week in and week out.

Are you pregnant yet? How about now?
My eyes order you to get pregnant.
However – yes, even after that entire diatribe – I am willing to say I liked this episode. For all of its unevenness and given how ill-fitting it is looking at the season as a whole, it was a pretty fun hour thanks to the Sectionals hook, had some great performances (which is becoming the norm for the show, major kudos) and was a welcome departure away from the heavy-handed storylines. The plot and character flaws I am about to address were not THIS episode’s fault; it was more of a result of poor mapping out and execution of the last few episodes. Taking this episode out of context, it is actually pretty good by Glee standards.

Yes, I always feel the show could be better and its potential for fabulosity is always cut-short with some poor choices. For example, Sam’s return might of worked had the seed been planted and the storyline nurtured a bit (even though the cast is large enough as it is). Nope: Finn decides they need Sam to win Sectionals (for some reason) after no one has even talked about him for six episodes. They find Sam in a strip joint (which was pretty amusing, I have to admit), he has a sweet scene with his parents (wouldn’t mind seeing them again, even though my reaction was “where did they come from?”) et voila...he is back at McKinley, getting into nonsensical fights with Blaine, singing a mega-fugly number and trying to get Mercedes back, resulting in yet, another Glee love triangle. That last point does not excite me at all; it is the go-to solution for character devices. Enough already…

It is just so odd and displaced; Kurt and I shared the same reaction. Sam really is a useless character; it is not Chord Overstreet’s fault, but I really did not miss him.

But here is why I am willing to defend this episode and why a part of me thinks they can course-correct after the season’s amazing opening episodes have subsided…as I mentioned, Glee has always been an episode-by-episode show because overarching character and plot archs have never been the forte of the show. It is damn-near impossible with this large of a cast. But, in a very subtle manner might I add, they may have set up the rest of the season with the pending graduation and post-McKinley plans of the seniors ready to take precedent.

I'm confused by your underaged talent. What nonsense.
Kurt, Blaine and Rachel have always had their heart set on performing professionally. Throw-in Mercedes and Santana constantly clamoring for the spotlight. Add-in Tina and Mike Chang’s pursuit, now that father Chang is supportive. Quinn also had her epiphany about going to Yale to act/sing. Artie loves performing even with being relegated to a wheelchair, but has expressed an interest in directing. Finn loves Glee club, even though he thinks he is nothing spectacular (which he is right). Pretty much everyone except Brittany (who never has it together upstairs, if you know what I mean), Sam (who clearly has larger issues to deal with) Damian (whom does not matter because the character is as useless as Sam) and Puck, have expressed or strongly implied that performing is a part of their future.

Believe me, there is a point to all this…all of the plotlines addressed in this episode were wrapped up too sweetly and perfectly. I would have loved to have see the tension of Mike’s family played out an entire season, but it was wrapped up and now it Mike and his destiny to get into performing arts school (thanks girlfriend of the year, Ms. Tina). Blaine and Finn’s relationship could have had more time focused on it, but that is all wrapped after coming to fruition in a too sweetly wrapped up scene. Props to my friend Caroline for telling the boxing scene like it is: a fan-fictionized Blaine overtook canon Blaine. Absolutely hilarious.

We're like total Betty's.
Quinn is no longer a crazy bitch intent on destroying Shelby and getting Beth back. Shelby is no longer the erratic mess finding a need to bump uglies with Puck. The Troubletones rejoined the New Directions after their loss, pretty much resetting the status quo back to normal. In fact, nearly every development is. Oh sure; we can expect more of the Coach Bieste/Cooter/Sue love triangle, as well as more of the Kurt/Sebastian catfight (which bred some laugh-out-loud lines this week; welcome back sassy Hummel). Maybe there will be some President Brittany and definitely more of Santana’s lesbian story (given the recent casting news), but out of the 30 or 40 plot lines, mini-character arches and secrets the show accrued, it seems like there are only a few that remain heading into the (assuming) non-important Christmas episode and another hiatus before Spring. This being Glee, they will probably throw all the balls up in the air again romantically and plot speaking when they return…but, maybe they will learn that the overarching plot should be the priority. They wrapped up all the distractions, so the stage is set. Please, Glee folk, trust me.

Besides they have been nailing the music, left and right. Maybe everything else can fall into place now...

I’ll give them credit for selling me on Lindsay Pierce’s two-episode consolation prize. She is basically Sunshine 2.0, but at least the plot did not go out-of-the-way to give her unnecessary screentime. She had two or three lines in both of her appearances and completely destroyed her two numbers. In fact, if television conventions were chucked, the Unitards would have been my choice for the top prize.

Not that the Troubletones did not bring it…they BROUGHT it. A sassy, fun and fitting mash-up. I would be remiss if I did not point out their costumes were mega fugly. Still, a solid second place.

I think this medley is way over praised, but they did a great job. Let’s face it: however much they manipulate the plot to have Rachel forbidden from participating (they won Sectionals last year without her singing a solo, um hello?), it was a foregone conclusion that New Directions would win. I am not complaining because they at least made a case.

I do appreciate the solos being passed around to nearly everyone, especially to the under-utilized Tina. LOVED her this episode; Jenna Ushkowitz looked stunning, sang well (which was relevant considering only she and Dianna Agron packed the lady voices for New Directions) and had some great scenes. “ABC” was cute and sappy and a great showcase for Mike as well. I thought they had forgotten all about Artie, but there he was; putting his soulful good voice to work. The guys don’t have any real belting power (compared to Mercedes or Rachel), so ‘Control” and “Man in the Mirror” will have to settle for being good and entertaining (if adhering to close to the originals). The dancing and staging was all-around fun.

SUPER-good and awesome. Lea’s voice is suited for most numbers, but I absolutely love it here. A nice, heart-warming scene to close out the episode. Who did not want to jump in on all the fun they were having?

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