Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Fearlessness" - Glee Project Recap



I put off doing this recap of The Glee Project Fearlessness.  I have watched the producers discriminate rather aggressively against a particular disabled kid all season, and it came to a head this week.  That made me very sad.  On the other hand, given Damien McGinty's rather abrupt departure from Glee, it is clear that winning the Glee Project is not  a guarantee of success at all, and the results may not end up mattering much over a year's time. In the end, this is a minor reality show that grants one kid an opportunity to play an insignificant background character on a dying television show.  There may be greener pastures out there, Charlie.

 Aylin is breathing a sigh of relief for the end of "Adaptability" week when Robert comes in to give them their new contrived theme.  Welcome to "Fearlessness" week, folks, and you know what that means; the bullying is just around the corner.  Aylin helpfully reminds us that she's a Muslim and a flirt, which means she must also be fearless, as well.  Honestly, honey, are they just going to tattoo that on your forehead?  Flirtatious Muslim?  Just a suggestion:  don't go visit the old country any time soon.  It's not that you are so brazen or slutty; you are just becoming annoying.  Whatcha wanna bet her parents are indulgent old softies?

 Because this is "Fearlessness" week, Robert wants them to perform a song that might scare them a little.  It's a rap song.  "Now That We Found Love."  Yes, I imagine several of these kids will be quite terrified at how silly they are going to look doing this.  Abraham is afraid because he's Asian, and maybe that has something to do with the fact that he can't rap.  Or maybe not.  But hey, we've got to keep the sterotypes coming!

Blake thinks it's challenging because it's fast, and Nellie faces the idea that she's got to stand out for her outstanding fearlessness while singing something that makes her really uncomfortable.  The group decides to begin by bending over and shaking their butts in a line.  Yep, they are going to bend over and take it.

So who is the guest mentor?  Fearless actor, fearless character.  You might even say it's a reckless and irresponsible character, and it's certainly an outstanding cast member.  This week, we get to see Jane Lynch.  The cheers erupt, and they are deserved this time as Jane marches in with her megaphone.  However, it's clearly Jane, not Sue; she's not wearing a track suit. Everybody is genuinely excited.

Jane tells us that she was forty-nine when she got her big break on Glee.  Before then, she'd been a... no, not a failure.  According to IMDb, she's got a resume a mile long going back to 1992.  I'd call that the career of a consistently working, well respected actress who finally became a megastar.  Any way, the leaner years taught her to relish opportunities to be fearful, because they turn out to be the best moments.

The kids sing "Now That We Found Love".  It's odd.  Because this is a chanted, nonlyrical mess, the fact that each kid is spouting out a single line divorced from all other context does not seem to bother me as much any more.  Maybe I am just getting used to it.  Maybe I just don't care about the song, so it does not bother me if they sing it badly.  Maybe the fact that most of the song is made up of a chorus they sing in unison helps, too.

Jane:
- Thinks it was amazing.
- Michael hung back a little bit.
- Aylin was fantastic and she treated it like an acting lesson. She told the story.  Aylin is emerging as one of the better actors in this group.  Despite my snarking about her unending Muslim riff, she's actually beginning to emerge as my pick to win this show.  Talented, kind of pretty, distinct personality and attitude.  She pops on the screen.
- Lily made Jane laugh. The "wedding moves" that Zach hates so much are working with Jane.
- Nellie held back.  Say it ain't so.  Big shocker.

Jane struggled to choose between Aylin and Lily as the winner of the Homework Assignment, but she chose Lily because.... Aylin's already won once, and they are being very, very carefully fair about the distribution of this prize. Lily is ecstatic that she gets to be mentored by Jane Lynch, of all people.  (As opposed to... say... Samuel Larson.  Poor Abraham.) Aylin is disappointed because she does not understand that she's not allowed to win this prize again until everybody else has gotten a turn. Yes, we know she only got Kevin McHale and Lily gets Jane Lynch, but it could have been worse; she could have gotten Damien McGinty, the newly canned.

The video shoot will be a mashup of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "One Way or Another."  Oh, goody.  Dodgeball fight, anybody?  Nope, Kurt outlawed dodgeball on campus, remember?  They are back to the tried and true slushies.  Everybody cheers at the idea of getting slushied.  These kids are not very smart. Jane watches them jump up and down and scream and cheer and she looks like she thinks they've all gone out of their minds.  "You've obviously never been hit with a slushie."

Shanna chirps that they are being initiated into All Things Glee!  Great kiddo, encourage them to torture you horribly, atta girl.  And there is one more element.  It's taking place at a swimming pool, so they all get to show off their toned little nubile bodies.  I can't help wondering if the swimming pool is there to help them get the slushie off more quickly.  Got hit with the ice?  Just jump in the pool and wash it off!  You don't have to worry about wet, nasty clothes!   Instead of learning choreography, they will be fitted for swimsuits.

Lily tells us that she's not afraid of this; she's so used to being mocked for being overweight, she has become very comfortable with her body.  As Nellie looks at the identical red racing suits, however, she is clearly uncomfortable with her body and feeling extremely vulnerable.  She sheds a few tears about it back in the dorm.

Remember how last week Aylin stuck Charlie in the Friends Zone?  Yeah, that didn't work out.  They are in the Boy's Room holding hands, and Charlie thinks it might be the real thing.  Aylin the Incredibly Flirtatious Muslim (who is twenty years old) thinks that Charlie might be her first boyfriend.  Seriously?  Either she's lying, or she's flirtatious because she's making up for an entire adolescence of lost time being stuck at home in a Very Conservative Family.  Charlie suggests a kiss.  He is rebuffed... for now.  There's a nice shot of those two kids at the back of the room, and a comfy, inviting mattress at the forefront.  Hint, hint.

Nikki asks the kids in the sound studio to give her lots of attitude in their vocals.  Nellie is freaked out by the large group of kids staring at her through the window as she sings.  They are trying to rattle her; they are out for blood. When Charlie gets in the studio, he is again a bit scattered; he's spending too much time looking out the window at his friends and focusing too little on the vocals.  He hits a bum note... and the writing is on the wall.  It's just a matter of time now.  Abraham hits several bad notes, but Nikki thinks it's great.  Michael is overthinking his solo lines.

The video shoot theme is really strange and contrived.  They are all on the swim team, and a slushie fight breaks out during practice.  This is unrealistic to the point of being surreal, but hey... it's Glee.  It doesn't have to make any sense.  Aylin gets the first slushie, a quick icy slap to her face that makes her laugh and giggle on the outside.  In the confessional she tells us that it's unpleasant and sticky, and "so cold that it burns" but she succeeds in displeasing Eric by having a rather brave and jovial attitude upon getting hit with this thing.  Nikki informs Robert that Aylin tends to laugh when something goes wrong instead of getting serious.  I think this is the silliest damned reason to be upset with somebody that I have seen yet on the Glee Project, and I am beginning to seriously dislike Nikki.  Really.  The theme is fearlessness.  Aylin gets shocked with a surprise slushie directly in the face.  She laughs it off.  This reaction is held against her in a week supposedly devoted to displaying courage. This show is becoming more and more arbitrary.

Charlie makes another genuine mistake with the lip-syncing.  Nellie the Shy is asked to do a sexy head shake as she gets out of the water, to her dismay. Her fear is palpable to everyone, and it's clear she's in trouble as they begin to descend on her like vultures who smell death. Lily, on the hand, gets something she's very comfortable with.  She gets to be a bully.  She's going to hit everybody else with a hose.  During the mentoring session, Jane said that Lily reminded her of a young Jane Lynch, so Lily's head is three sizes too big now.  She's very convincing as she hoses, and it's clear this was her week to shine.

We see these kids getting hit with multiple slushies from several directions.  Ali feels left out.  She has not been slushied, and she begs for the opportunity; maybe she fears she will be sent home if she doesn't get slushied.  However, since her wheelchair is a real, functional tool and not a prop, she cannot sit in it and get slushied like Kevin McHale can.  She's going to have to sit immobile on a bench, genuinely completely helpless.  This worries Zach, who is very much aware of how the limitations of Ali's disability make it much harder for her to withstand this than anybody else.  The slushies start, and Ali begins well, but around the twelfth or thirteenth slushie in a row (I can't even believe these sadistic monsters did that to her) her shrieks of enthusiasm begin to turn into screams of real helpless misery and Eric realize they've gone too far with this.  It's the first time I think I am really, completely disgusted with the Glee Project mentors.  I think before these people hit one more person with one more slushie they need to each get hit with fifteen in a row while tied to a chair wearing a bathing suit.  Ali cries and cries and everybody else looks really shocked.  The mentors just look disappointed that she couldn't stand it.  Ali tries to laugh so that nobody else can see that she could not do this, and she dives into the pool.  Clearly, she can still swim.

Robert realizes that everybody deserves a lot of credit for withstanding a very physically demanding day.  It's going to be very difficult for them to decide who will sing for Ryan.  In other words, everybody did a great job and they are just going to have to make up crap as excuses for putting some of their better cast members in jeopardy.

We see the finished video.  Some stupid jock slushies Aylin and sneers that "swim team sucks."  That gives everybody an excuse to slushie everybody else.  The mentors clearly remember the romantic Last Chance duet between Nellie and Blake; they have her rising seductively from the water to flirt quite sensually with him before being rudely shocked by a slushie from Michael.  Yes, apparently they've decided that Nellie the Terribly Shy is going to be the Sex Symbol of the Glee Project right up until the moment she runs screaming for the hills in tears.  Somehow they manage to give off the impression that Ali is standing with the others as the group forms two lines to slushie each other.  Finally, Lily hoses them all down.  Then they all jump in the water and clean off.  This video doesn't make any sense at all.  There's not a group of high school kids in the country who would voluntarily participate in a pointless slushie fight that intense while half naked, and not a swim coach in the country who would allow it. They sang this same medley during the dodgeball game in Glee last year, but the Glee dodgeball game worked, mostly.  People play dodgeball in gym clothes.  That's a common, believable activity.  It's a real game.  Slushie fights in swimsuits?  No. Besides which... even on Glee, teammates do not randomly slushie each other.  They get hit by the bullies.  It's just... stupid.  If this is any indication of the quality of the scripts coming from Glee next year, it's going to be a train wreck of a year.

Ali thinks, quite understandably, that this was the hardest week for her.  She knows she's safe, though.  Two others are less sure; Charlie and Aylin can feel the doom creeping up on their romance, and she's weeping in his arms as he holds her.  "Don't miss me if I'm gone" he says.  He knows what's coming. Aylin gives in and kisses him over and over, even as she tells the camera in confessional that she's afraid of giving in to her feelings because it will suck if, after they begin their romance in earnest, one of them goes home.  I cannot help wondering if the very poignancy of their story here played a part in the choices made this week.

The mentors come in to reveal the bottom three.  They have a few MVPs to praise first.  Lily owned the video.  Ali showed how fearless she was.  They are safe. Ali feels like she can doi anything now.  And she probably can.  Ali can do anything except walk... and sing pleasantly.

Robert admits that everybody gave excellent performances this week.  Some were spectacular.  Others needed extra support to get there.  Shanna, Blake, and Abraham are called back.  Nellie's face gets more and more pale and pinched the more Robert talks.  She knows she's in trouble, as are Michael, Aylin, and... oh, hi, Charlie.  Here you are.  Again.  Fourth time, right?

Sucks to have ADHD, doesn't it?  Oh, and autism, let's not forget the autism.  However, while we have had discussion after discussion of how disability challenges Ali and Mario and even Tyler, they have not said a word about Charlie's disabilities since the first episode of the show.  It's as if they do not want us to know why he has trouble focusing.  I think I've said this before; I can understand why they might decide they don't want to work with Charlie and his challenges, but I am deeply offended that they do not even acknowledge his struggles when they used Tyler's transgender issues as an excuse for absolutely everything, including the fact that he can't sing for squat. 

- Charlie did not make a strong enough entrance to the song in the video shot.
- Eric had to stop Aylin from giggling and being silly.
- Nellie was clearly intimidated by the entire week of work.
- Michael was boring during the homework assignment.

Michael's boring, and the other three are not, but Michael's safe.  Charlie and Aylin, the star - crossed lovers, will be competing against each other to stay on the show.  Nellie will be singing "If I Were a Boy".  Aylin's got "Take a Bow."  Charlie will sing "It's Not Unusual."

Aylin firmly informs that camera that she wants to be on Glee more than anything; she won't let her feelings for Charlie get in the way of that. Nellie decides to focus on her song rather than on going home.  Charlie is very much aware that he's been in the bottom three for four straight weeks, and he knows how much trouble he's in, but he's not giving up without a fight. It's even harder because of his relationship with Aylin.  He doesn't know what he would do if she got sent home, but he still wants to be in the competition himself like crazy.

Ryan comes into the auditiorium and tells the mentors that he agrees with their choices; these three were more reticent and shy than the others.  While I am still wrapping my head around the idea that Aylin is reticent and shy, let's bring her out to sing.  They think she lacks focus.  I wonder if they think she's focusing too much on that guy of hers.  Aylin struts on with verve and attitude, and she sings with her guts hanging out.  There's a disgusted sneer at certain moments.  Ryan lectures her for laughing when she got slushied, which still doesn't make any sense to me at all, and he tells her she has to be strong and vulnerable.

Uh... OK.  And what, exactly, does that have to do with using laughter as a defense mechanism when you get slammed in the fact with an iceberg?  Have YOU ever been slushied, Ryan?  Ryan does think that if Aylin gets on the show, thousands of Muslim girls will feel like they are represented.   So... the hopes of the Arab-American world lie on her shoulders!  She's got to take this seriously for all the flirtatious Muslim girls out there!  She's a game - changer!  Holy cow, she's totally winning this thing!  Unless Ryan remembers that he hates everybody with ovaries!  But they've got to dump that distracting boyfriend of hers first!

Charlie's problem is that he's incredibly talented, but he makes odd acting choices, and there's no excuse for anything he does, no sir, nothing to consider at all.  It's not that we don't have to excuse it.  We don't even have to acknowledge it or mention it.  Really, he's just an asshole.  It doesn't go any deeper than that.  Oh, and he's getting inside Aylin's heart and head.  Really, just cut this cancer out now.  Charlie tells Ryan that he enjoys the weekly sessions, and then he jumps and runs around and changes the lyrics to make it about his own situation and he's just so fresh and funny and charming and inventive, and oh, I will miss him.  Ryan, you chose two boys who were both as dull as toast as winners last year.  Maybe you might want to give somebody with a personality a chance this year?   Ryan thinks the performance was amazing, but Glee is not just a performance show, unless you are Darren Criss.  It's not just about the thing that you bring in the Last Chance performance; it's about what you bring during the week.  He's not a team player. 

Nellie is here because of her insecurity.  She sings, and her voice is as rich and amazing as ever.  Singing is her strong suit.  She's not good at prancing about in bathing suits.  She's good at pouring her heart out in song.   Lord, this is a strong bottom three.  I think there are a lot of people half as talented as this trio sitting in safety this week.  Michael, Ali, I'm looking at you.  Even Abraham.  Ryan lectures her for being uncomfortable in the swimsuit when it's so clear that she's a star in front of the mike.  Ryan even admits that he could not do what the girls had to do this week.  Zach tells her that he's done telling her how wonderful she is.  He thinks they are asking her to be on Glee.  She is not fighting to be on.

Once Nellie's gone, Ryan tells the mentors that he thinks the bottom two are clear.  They are; there's no good reason for Aylin to be here, and I don't understand why she is.  He is frustrated with both Nellie and Charlie, and he does not think either are ever going to change.  Zach goes in for the kill.  He wants one more week... for Nellie.

Goodbye, Charlie.  Aylin weeps as she sees his name on the list of doom.  They meet together for one last tearful embrace and kiss.  They are surrounded by their castmates; there's not a dry eye anywhere.

There were a lot of wet eyes on tumblr, too, including mine.  It is very frustrating when dull people get chosen over interesting people for shows like this one.  I have been harping on the fact that Charlie is erratic because he's disabled, but there's another angle to him, never mentioned once, that could have made for a rather amazing story if anybody had bothered to pay any attention.

They want people who are game changers?  People who can make a difference, change the way people see each other?  Get this.  Charlie Lubeck is Jewish.  He is a kid with an autism disorder who was basically this reality show's male romantic lead, and his partner is this was a Muslim. 

You want a story that might revive a badly stalling show?  You want compelling new people in the choir room?  Give them the romance between the Jewish boy with Asperger's Syndrome and a Muslim girl with strict parents.  It writes itself.  You don't need to turn it into a love triangle for the story to be interesting - and we could present TWO demographics that aren't seen that often.  Too bad Ryan wasn't inspired by this. Unfortunately, Brittany will never mistake Charlie for a leprechaun, but maybe she could have kept calling him Rain Man and asking him to add big numbers in his head.  Yes, those are terrible, offensive jokes, but most of the Glee Project winners had to deal with very offensive stereotypes in their characterization.   Ah, chances wasted.  Good luck, Charlie.

If there is any doubt at all that this romance was real, this should put this to rest.  What a story.  Anything else on this season is going to pale beside it.

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