Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Vulnerability" - Glee Project Recap Episode 3

 Glee Project Recap: Episode 3 - Vulnerability

OK, if you are going to watch the Glee Project, there are couple of things that you've got to get straight.  First of all, it's a show designed to find that one special person to be cast as a singing, dancing, acting cast member in a television show that used to be a huge hit, so it's a talent contest, right?  Well, kinda.  Except that it's also an inspiration contest, so a talentless cockroach with a tough backstory might stick around for a few weeks while they send home an adorable songstress who doesn't inspire Ryan because she has a uterus and isn't perky. 

Also, each week they have to cast off one person, except when somebody commits hari kari, in which case they lose two people when they could have cut Dani a break, or at least sent home Tyler instead.  Then a week later they might not cast off anybody even though there might be two obnoxious brats begging to get the boot.  So basically, this thing has rules, and Ryan can break them at will any time he likes because it's his show and he's Glee God.

Got it?

Let's get going.  The theme for this week... is... going to be deep.   Prepare for the depth and power of the angst involved in... "Vulnerability."   And the crowd goes wild, because it says in their contract that they have to go bananas whenever anything at all gets announced.  Michael does tell us privately that he's not really all that sure about this.  The Homework Assignment is "My Life Would Suck Without You", and it's going to be very entertaining watching each of them grapple for the short lines that they must showboat like crazy in order to show how honest and vulnerable they are.   To my utter amazement, Charlie understands that the bass line of the song does not really lend itself to vulnerability and I decide I like this honest kid.  I am going to have a rough episode. 

Robert tells them that they will sing this for him... and for an amazing guest from Glee.  Some of the kids treat this as if it were a piece of new information.  Robert says that this Glee guest wrote the book on vulnerability, and Abraham pops up with, "Chris Colfer wrote a book!"  Yes, that he did, Abraham, and indeed, Chris Colfer also wrote the book on vulnerability on Glee, especially in regards to bullying.  Kurt's the big bullying victim, Chris has probably cried more onscreen than the rest of the cast combined, and Chris is about to publish a  book, so of course, the person Robert is actually talking about is... not Chris Colfer.   It's going to be a good person, and I do not disapprove, but I do find the buildup kind of funny.   I am waiting to hear that Chris will actually make his mentoring guest shot during something like "Conformity" or "Masculinity." 

Aylin tells us that her goal for the week is to keep doing what she's been doing, which means she will have her lips surgically attached to Charlie's for the long haul.  The kids bicker and fight over the five second line on which they must expose their heart and soul, and we get a hint that Lily's kind of a bitch for the mere joy of being bitchy.

Now it's time to perform for this week's guest, who is not Chris Colfer.  Fortunately, it's also not Damian McGinty.  It's Cory Montieth.  They went with one of the show's strongest actors, and he has had his share of vulnerable moments on the show.  He tells them to tap into something uncomfortable in their past, and they get to try to do this in little bitty bite-size chunks.  I wonder if I will enjoy the Homework Assignment more when there are fewer people and there's a chance what they sing  can be actually meaningful. 

Well, Cory's actually in the same room with them, so he may be able to pick up more than I can.  Cory praises Abraham's voice, but thinks he's reaching for the emotion.  Maybe if he had more song to sing... Lily sounded good but her hand gesture to the hair was inappropriate and flirty.  I agree with that. Ali is pushing too much. Shanna was truthful. Nellie sounded fantastic - oh, yes, she sure did.  Indeed, she's the Homework Winner.  Lily and Aylin look like they want to strangle her.  The Music Video number is "Everybody Hurts" by REM.  The concept is, of course, Teen Bullying, because that hasn't been covered on Glee adaquately yet.  Oh, it's been covered.. just... not adaquately.   Eric will be around soon to ask them to spill their guts to America about bullying.

So, the kids are in the dorm, and here comes Eric for the psychoanalysis session.  He wants this video to resonate with kids. He wants to see the memory of their bad experiences on the camera.  Tyler chirps up that he's a half-black transgender Jew.  Shanna digs a little deeper.  She was bullied because her mother took drugs.  Abraham took a lot of garbage because he's a street Asian who grew up with two women; he was bullied for coming across as feminine.  Blake got bullied in Junior High for being short; he is very hard on himself because he once witnessed bullying on a stairwell and was not able to intervene.  Lily is so inspired by that painful memory that she offers up one of her own:  Lily was the bully.  (And still is, if you ask me.)  Lily claims that her life was turned around by watching Mean Girls, but I wonder if she just realized she'd better create a redemption arc for herself before one of these other kids short-sheets her bed.  Or worse.  Blake is taken in by Lily's story.  I will say this; she's showing some signs of acting ability in this episode, and Glee does need that. 

Nellie is not used to digging deep into emotion for her vocals, but she hopes the mentoring session with Cory will help.  Cory says that he finds the pain he needs for acting through remembering painful experiences, including his parent's divorce; Nellie remembers the death of her sister.  Nellie starts out timidly, but finds the painful spot after a moment of reflection.  Ali can't find the vulnerable place at all.  Mario can't find the right note at all, and he's arrogant and defensive about it.   Aylin gives an honest performance, and she talks about the walls that she raised around herself to avoid being called a "terrorist" when she was in school.

Lily begins the video as others playing the Cool Kids taunt her.  Lily has a terrible time trying to lip-sync a line in which she is being bullied; she looks confused rather than distressed.  Miss Diva asks others to be more quiet so she can concentrate on her lip-sync better.  Blake, in contrast, pops off the screen very vividly with a startlingly convincing scene in which he appears quite prepared to beat Michael into a bloody pulp.    Ok, Ryan, you have an actor here.  GRAB HIM.

Mario gets ready for his big scene... he will walk along the chain link fence as people behind him talk smack,  Unfortunately, one of the kids who is going to be harassing him is Charlie, who feels like he has to find the place where the bully takes joy in what he's doing.  Charlie makes a horrible blunder here; he grabs Mario's cane.   That shocks everybody around him half out of their wits and the adults are all pretty quick to condemn him in fairly harsh terms.  I agree that it was a terrible choice, and I am very glad that Mario was not hurt.  However,  they might want to remember something about Charlie; he's on the autism spectrum.  He was told that he had to behave like a bully, and... he did.  Acceptable social boundaries have to be slightly more specifically spelled out for kids with Asperger's Syndrome,  and I think it is safe to say that he now understands that this particular decision cannot be acted out without specific direction, even when you are expected to behave inappropriately.  I think Charlie may have been confused as to what the acceptable boundaries were as he was asked to behave in a way that would normally be unacceptable.  There's more than one disability involved here, and if they are going to insist on including kids with every possible problem under the sun, they might want to educate themselves on what the implications could be.  Kids with autism disorders miss social cues.  Stop clutching your pearls and deal with it as carefully and kindly as you deal with Mario's blindness. 

Even after the scene is over, Charlie still doesn't completely understand the depth of what he's done.  He thinks he made a wrong blocking choice, but he is apprehensive because he can sense that everybody's upset with him.  He really doesn't quite get it. 

We see more scenes of kids shoving other kids, lots of anguish, lots of tears.  Lily gets to play a bully, and she's much more convincing than she was when she was lip-syncing as the bullied; she attacks Aylin with a vicious ferocity that makes me wonder if she's going to hurt her, and Robert has the same reaction.  The girls hug it out afterwards.

Then we see the actual video.  A few notable scenes:

1. Blake recreates his memory of the fight on the stairwell; instead of being the witness, he is now the victim.  Later, he will attack Michael.

2. The directors may have been horrified. - horrified, I say! - that Charlie took Mario's stick away, but... they used the footage.  That... stinks.  These people have no ethics or  convictions. If you are that offended, cut it. 

3. It's funny how all the bullies in this video instantly become the victims with a simple costume change.  Several of the kids are playing both roles in the video, and it's really obvious.  It really does not work that well.  Example:  Lily gets an insulting text in one scene and immediately beats the crap out of Aylin in the next.  It makes me wonder if Aylin was supposed to have been the girl who sent the text. 

4. Doesn't this high school have any faculty to stop some of this stuff?

5. While the general gist is that Bullying Is Bad,  the video offers no solutions, no fresh perspective, or any really thoughtful insight about the subject.

Revealing the bottom three:
- Blake was an obvious standout.
- Abraham, Michael, Shanna, Aylin, and... Tyler! are safe! Tyler found something he could do convincingly - suffer!   He's not in the bottom three!  Enjoy it while it lasts, kid, because next week you get to show Naya your sex appeal.
- Nellie was the Homework Winner, and she sang really well, but they feel she needs to commit emotionally a little more.  Of course, since this is Vulnerability Week, and they will cover something else next week, she may not have to go to the dark, painful place she found so hard to visit this week again.  Robert tells her she has to feel like she can make a fool of herself.  Nellie is called back.
- Ali is used to being perky and positive.   She needs to be prepared to be a bit more raw.  However, she is called back.

These are the Bottom Three:

- Lily was thrown off during her lip-synching.  She will sing for Ryan's mercy - "Mercy" by Duffy.

- Charlie took Mario's cane.  Does he realize how dangerous and disrespectful that is?  No, Zach, I think there's a very good chance he genuinely doesn't.  By all means, explain it to him clearly, but remember why he doesn't understand.  His own disability is almost certainly the reason why he's on this show at all.  Don't be so surprised by it.  And if you really can't deal with it, don't pick a kid on the autism spectrum next time.  Charlie gets to try to fix his situation by singing "Fix You" by Coldplay. He's actually happy with this. 

- Mario not only sang out of tune, but he's too prickly to accept the criticism.  When Nikki tells him he's going flat, he replies that he's classically trained, and Nikki keeps her temper with some difficulty.  None of them are ready.  They are a project.  This is boot camp.  They are here to learn and grow.  Mario responds by whining that other people sang off - key as well.  Ok, Mario, just stop digging this hole, because you are about to strike the earth's mantle.  When Nikki says "Mario, you will also be performing for Ryan tonight" I could swear I saw a smirk.   Mario gets the cool Hawaiian version of "Over the Rainbow".

Charlie feels broken and Mario is shaking in his boots.  He's also still having trouble with pitch. Lily's really upset and does not understand why she's in the bottom three at all.

Lily is the first one up, and surely Ryan's got to be making a mental note that this girl's been in the gutter two weeks in a row even though she's a very talented vocalist.  As she sings, I am once again reminded that the Last Chance songs are the only real showcase these kids get, which is kind of crazy.  You have to be in trouble to get to sing something artistically real and worth watching.  Right.  OK, I need Nellie in the bottom three next week, because her voice is amazing.  Lily sings very well, but that's not what really decides her fate this week.  Ryan informs Lily that Glee is about underdogs, like Prom King Finn Hudson, Class President Brittney Pierce, and Head Cheerleader Santana Lopez.   Lily might not fit in because she's not really an underdog.  She's ballsy, and bold...

...and full of bull****.  In one of the most brazenly manipulative moves I've seen on the Glee Project so far, Lily turns on the waterworks and starts bawling about her heart on the stage and everything she hasn't got to show yet.  She is crying about absolutely nothing for the express purpose of making Ryan feel sorry for her, and it works like a charm.  I now officially dislike this girl even more than Tyler and I can't wait for her to go home.  If she gets cast on Glee I may actually have to stop watching.  Maybe I can just catch all the Colfer snippets on tumblr.  Please send her home, Ryan.

Robert tells Ryan that Charlie is here because he made odd choices while he was playing the bully.   He's making some odd vocal choices as he sings this song, too, but the emotional connection with the song is actually honest and raw.  He's showing real vulnerability, not manufactured tears for a show.  Ryan likes the odd choices; it's not a kareoke version.  Charlie tries to explain what the judges are calling a "boundary problem" regarding Mario's cane.  He suggests that he's not used to the medium of television, which I think might be a clumsy way of saying that he's not sure how to pretend to be mean for a television camera without... being mean.  Ryan isn't sure the "brave choice" is always the best choice, but he's glad Charlie made the bottom three because he got to know him a little better.   Good, Ryan, don't send him home yet.  Also, don't make him pretend to bully anybody again unless his instructions are really exact.  He needs to have the rules of the game be very, very clear. 

Mario is last.  He's here because he can't stay on pitch and he can't accept criticism when somebody tells him he's out of tune.  After singing a technically fairly proficient version of the song - I actually think it's the dullest of the three performances - Mario tries to blame his pitch problems in the recording studio on electronic noise in his ears.  Nikki rolls her eyes.  He tells them that when he says he's classically trained, he means that he's not hopeless, and then he starts crying.  While I am certain that Lily is full of garbage and I am sure that Charlie was being honest, I am not sure about Mario.   He does apologize to Nikki for being rude, and that was probably a good move.  He then leaves the stage and goes back to the rest of the group.  

While the directors are discussing the fate of these three, Mario grumbles once again to the other kids that there were others besides him who were off-key... OK, Mario, just... forget it.  Aylin and Abraham are both exasperated, and Lily finally calls him out:  he says things, and it comes off badly.  Mario is offended by that, and everybody - including a large chunk of the audience - is offended by Mario, and if the judges heard this conversation before they made their decision I think the decision would have changed. Unfortunately, Ryan is not aware of what's going on.  I wonder how he reacted when he saw this. 

The only one of these three kids I ever want to see again is Charlie.  OK, Ryan, send home Lily AND Mario AND bring Dani back.  But that's not what Ryan does.  Everybody hurts, everybody cries, everybody touches his heart, everybody... stays.

OK, so that means this whole week was kind of a waste of time, right?   They are no closer to whittling down to a winner than they were before.   At this rate, we will have six people in the finals and they will all get cast.  How soon before the cast of Glee is large enough to apply for statehood? 

 Glee Project Recap: Vulnerability

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