September 20, 2011

Episode Review: GLEE, "The Purple Piano Project"

After a sub-par Season 2 that took a beating from fans, critics, and everyone else, Glee could not afford to stumble out of the gates during its Season 3 premiere. I'll admit that I had some problems with "The Purple Piano Project", but it was an improvement over most of the episodes that we got last year.

It's a new year, so we got yet another meta-opening thanks to Jacob Ben Israel, but instead of rehashing what happened last season this one focused on the future as he asked the Gleeks about their post-graduation plans. Once the cold-open wrapped, we got an update on the state of New Directions. They're down three members since Sam transferred, Lauren quit, and Quinn went all goth rocker chick. Per usual, that meant we were in for a big recruitment stunt, and this time it involved purple pianos. Of course, it didn't go over well and ended up causing a food fight.

While some of New Directions were focusing on finding new members, others were too busy thinking about the rest of their lives. Rachel and Kurt shared their plans to attend Julliard to Emma. but she had to break the news to them that the school does not offer a musical theatre program. Miss P did mention the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts does, and she encouraged them to attend a mixer to check out the competition. Unfortunately for the glamorous duo the other hopefuls made them realize that they did not have the drive, experience, or talent that they thought they did. Instead of letting their dreams get crushed, they made a pact to not give up and sealed it with the Gay Hi-Five.

Say what you will about Season 2, but one of the show's greatest developments was the blossoming friendship between Rachel and Kurt. Once they stopped competing with one another, and started to support one another, this amazing bond was formed which could easily be the emotional center of the new season. Yes, I know that Finn and Rachel are supposed to the power couple, but that pairing has nothing on the friendship between these two. I'm not sure it's captivating enough to deserve a spin-off, but it does have the right mix of humor and heart to make this show special again. Let's just hope they don't mess it up.

Kurt may have spent a lot of time worrying about college, but he did take a break long enough to pester Blaine into transferring from Dalton to McKinley. After a brief debate, our favorite Warbler decided to turn his back on his school and brothers to join his boyfriend and New Directions. He even got his own entrance song that was better received than anything the glee club did up until that point, but that probably had more to do with Santana's scheming. More on that later.

As you can probably tell from the tone of that last paragraph, I'm not a fan of Blaine joining New Directions even if the change was inevitable. I have nothing against Blaine; he was a nice addition to last season and Darren Criss has the talent. From a storytelling perspective, his transfer made zero sense in my opinion. I can believe that a school with no money can afford elaborate sets and costumes, but Blaine leaving Dalton just to be closer to Kurt was a ridiculous move for anyone to make, especially a high schooler. I get that having Blaine at McKinley is convenient, but it might be too convenient.

Other goings-on included Santana being named co-captain of the Cheerios (when did that happen?), but she was forced to show her allegiance to Sue by sabotaging the glee club's Purple Piano Project which led to her being kicked out of New Directions. Speaking of Sue, she announced her anti-performing arts platform to garner support for her Congressional run, and of course Will got all huffy.

I wasn't expecting Santana to be removed from the club, but I'm glad that Will finally grew a pair and put an end to the madness. Since she was one of the break-out characters from last season, we all know Santana's not going anywhere, but having her out of New Directions will allow her to become the villain that she was meant to be. As for Sue and Schue, I have to admit that the writers came up with a convincing explanation for why Sue turned on the glee club. Her motivations are still a little murky, but her argument that funding that goes to the arts should be spent on teaching students the fundamentals made some sense. And at least she mentioned her sister's funeral. Looks like the writers are learning a thing about continuity. Now whether her run for office is necessary, that's another question altogether.

On the Music Front: The Go-Gos cover was fun, but it's hard to buy that they'd use that song to recruit high school students in this day and age. "It's Not Unusual" was a fine performance from Darren, but he ain't no Carlton Banks. "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead" was another solid Lea/Chris duet, but it couldn't match up with "For Good" or "Defying Gravity". By far the best numbers were "Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do" by The Glee Project's Lindsay Pearce and Hairspray's "You Can't Stop the Beat".

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Jacob Ben Israel needs to go away again.
  • So they put Will and Emma back together, but they still have the same hang-ups? Really?
  • Not enough Finn, but it's OK since we got more Rachel and Kurt.
  • "Me and my Hag". Brilliant!
  • Emma threw out some really dark jokes that were great.
  • Somehow grunging up Quinn only made her hotter. I hope they let her keep this look for a while.
  • Even Brittany's getting more verses than Mercedes and Tina. I'm sensing some HeMo overkill coming our way.
  • What purpose does Sugar Motta serve?
  • Man, I've missed the Panther.
  • Seriously, how did Lindsay not win The Glee Project?
  • Please don't let Glee become The Darren Criss Show.
  • Mike Chang Line Count: 4
  • "Wait, are you working on a time machine too?"
  • "I was sure our that Nationals trophy would grow during the summer."
  • "Why is that T-rex eating the Jew?"
  • "So this is what being turned on feels like."
"The Purple Piano Project" wasn't able to get off of the blocks like Usain Bolt, but it had enough laughs and solid Rachel/Kurt moments to make up for most of the shortcomings. All in all, it was an adequate opener that established the season's plots, and it was better than most of the episodes from Season 2. Can't really complain about that.


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