TV: On ‘Glee,’ Rachel’s ego gets checked and Shirley MacLaine guest stars in “The Back-Up Plan”

By Meryl Gottlieb|| @buzzlightmeryl    
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox    
Rating: 4/5 

shirleyIt looks like we’re on an uphill streak as Glee’s fifth season nears its end. Tonight’s episode, “The Back-Up Plan” is the epitome of what I meant when I said the show would be better in New York City and without pointless side characters. Artie’s (Kevin McHale) and Sam’s (Chord Overstreet) absence went without remorse. Though they may be original glee club members, they are not interesting, and thus only bring down the show when they are forced into the storylines. Tonight’s episode was free of lackluster storylines and finally had an entire episode full of songs I enjoyed. This hasn’t happened in awhile, so let’s rejoice!

doo wop 1Mercedes (Amber Riley) needs a hit for her album, so she teams up with Santana (Naya Rivera) to help muster up that magic they made in high school together when they did duets. While in the studio, they realize the real magic comes from getting out from behind the glass. With a pretty low-tech microphone and a JAMBOX speaker, the two sing “Doo Wop (That Thing)” all throughout the building, even the bathroom. I was not a fan of the rapping; it was pretty poorly executed. However, the few times Rivera chimed in with her smooth, incredible voice made the scene acceptable.

The producer loves it, but he doesn’t want Santana on the record because she’s a nobody. As the good morals girl we all know she is, Mercedes puts her record deal at risk when she refuses to do the duet with Santana or no one at all. Good for you for sticking up for your friends and everything, but are you really in the position to make that drastic decision? I’m not sure you’re being rational, Mercedes.

Kurt (Chris Colfer) has been asked to perform at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reveal of the new dance lab to be named in honor of socialite June Dolloway (Shirley MacLaine). Naturally, he has the authority to make it a duet with Blaine (Darren Criss) to “Story of My Life.” Seriously, you kids need to follow directions. You can’t make solos into duets at your own will. Anyway, Criss blows Colfer out of the water with this performance. Criss’ vocals are a much better match for this song; Colfer has to dig too deep in his range to harmonize and it simply doesn’t do him any favors. Maybe it’s on purpose because June is supposed to take special interest in Blaine, or because Criss just has a bigger — and, in my opinion, better — voice than Colfer.

bjuneJune wants Blaine to be her new project, the thing she will groom into a star. She takes him to a banquet in which only the 1 percent of the 1 percent are in attendance. In order to introduce Blaine and raise more money for whatever cause this banquet is for, June brings Blaine up on stage to duet to “Piece of My Heart.” Criss and MacLaine have amazing chemistry and make a great pair. I absolutely loved this performance. MacLaine has never been the strongest of singers but this song fit her talents well.

Next, June wants to hold a showcase for Blaine to really show him off. All of a sudden Blaine and Kurt are inseparable and in love again, so he asks if Kurt can be a part of the show. And June’s response really peaks my interests. She tells him to break it off with Kurt and that love comes and goes. He puts up a fight initially but doesn’t try to dissent for long. When he gets home, he lies to Kurt and tells him that June wants Kurt in the show. Oh boy. This is going to be some juicy drama.

Now THIS will be an interesting issue to follow. I don’t want Klaine’s relationship to be easy, but I also don’t want it to falter because one of them cheated or something. It should be about their careers. We all know Ryan Murphy loves Criss beyond belief, so it’s only natural that Blaine is the one who is continually handed all of these things. We’ve already seen these two get competitive in “Tested” and it led to a great musical number, so fingers crossed we get good drama and a musical number next time.

Also, congrats to Glee for finally remembering how to use a new guest star. Peter Facinelli and Ioan Gruffudd were used poorly and awkwardly, but MacLaine was great. Her character is going to be a great tool in advancing the storylines of a few characters; her musical number was fitting to her talents; and she simply knocked it out of the park. I love her, and I was thrilled to see in tonight’s episode.

montageIt’s been three weeks since the opening of Funny Girl and Rachel (Lea Michele) is on cloud nine. She is being recognized, and she even signed with one of the top five talent agencies ICA, where Richard Kind is her agent. These random guest appearances are simply too much. But not everything is perfect; she seems bored in the consistent ritual of doing eight shows a week. She sings a beautiful ballad version of “Wake Me Up” while a montage demonstrating how repetitious her job is plays. This would have been a perfect moment had that montage not botched it up. This ballad is what made Glee. It took songs and made them new by performing them in unique ways. I love this cover way more than the original. However, the continual cuts in the first part of the montage when Rachel is doing her makeup is distracting and the worst part was seeing a never-ending parade of Rachel Berrys march out of her dressing room. So close, Glee, so close.

When she is approached by Jim Rash, who plays the head of Fox, Rachel thinks the future of her career lies in television. Rash — whose character’s name escaped me — tells her to be in Los Angeles Tuesday for a reading of the pilot “The Song of Solomon.” To fulfill her ambitious dreams, Rachel goes so far as to fake call-in sick to producer Sidney (Michael Lerner) so that she can miss a show and head to LA.

She sings “The Rose” for her audition and makes my heart melt. Michele’s vocals cannot be beaten; this episode spectacularly showcased her voice. You would think the Fox producers would be equally impressed, but alas, they were not. It’s because the show isn’t a musical! Surprise! It’s a sci-fi opera, a Guardians of the Galaxy meets Game of Thrones concept with a splash of Grey’s Anatomy — an A+ description in my book. I’m not really sure if anyone else enjoyed this scene but I sure did. It was more Lea Michele than Rachel Berry doing the read-through, but I didn’t care. It was hilarious. I would personally like to give a pat on the back to whoever thought of this crazy idea.

The audition was a flop but Rachel has a bigger issue at hand when Sidney calls saying her understudy got hurt and they need her regardless of her health conditions. But Rachel is still in LA so she calls Kurt and co. to help her out. Oddly, they decided to fix this by having Santana go on as her replacement. At least they didn’t try some whacky idea where the three of them would somehow delay a Broadway show with an opening act or comedy bit. This at least got the issue taken cared of.

Rachel meets with Sidney the next morning to find out that he and the rest of the producers really wanted to fire her, but they won’t because she is so good in the role. Yet, he makes it quite clear that if she ever lets her ambition get in the way of the show, he will fire her and sue her for breach of contract — a very good point that she really should have thought of. It seems as if she has learned her lesson when Jim Rash calls her to tell Rachel that Fox wants to create an entire TV show around her and that they are sending a writer to New York to meet with her.

This is a little too meta for me. Lea Michele essentially made her Broadway breakout not too long before joining the Fox show Glee. If this show created around Rachel turns out to be about her experiences in her high school glee club, I will never forgive Ryan Murphy. This fifth season just started to get tolerable. I just stopped loathing it entirely and simply dislike it now. That’s a major improvement! Do not ruin it with that bailout, cheating “solution.” We know the sixth season of Glee will not be New York-centric, but let’s pray it isn’t set on the Fox studio lot. Writers, please don’t do this. Please.


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