At least, with the stakes this high, they get to choose their own songs this time. Aylin is going with Adele - "Rolling in the Deep." She wants to be sassy and powerful. Ali has made the savviest song choice of the three of them. She knows her voice is nasal and annoying, but she's also got mad acting skills and great comic timing. She has correctly figured out that playing a well-defined, funny character is her best strategy. Blake has decided to sing "I'll Be" to show Ryan the many facets of his personality. Also, it does not require great vocal range; he can rock those five or six notes really well. Robert says that Ryan has not decided who he wants yet; it may be because Blake and Ali never get put in the Bottom Three so he's never seen either of them. Somebody needs to rethink that procedure. So, says Robert, it all comes down to what you do onstage tonight. Oh, and whether or not you have ovaries or testicles. I mean, seriously? This is getting as bad as American Idol. By the way, the audience is going to be crowded for their last songs. Ryan has invited Ian, other writers, several cast members (but not Chris Colfer, interestingly enough) and the kids they all beat to get here. (I am going to guess that Chris ran off to plug his book somewhere. His priorities are straight.)
Ali works on being a snotty popular girl in song while telling the camera that she cannot imagine going home empty-handed. I will refrain from snark here, because I feel badly for Ali. I suspect she does not get many chances at roles from her wheelchair, and I am beginning to agree that she's really funny in a way that Glee needs. This was a special opportunity for her in a way that it was not for the other two.
Aylin tells us that this is the biggest performance of her life, which is not really new information at this point.
Blake realizes that this boring song, which is all he can really sing well, is not going to be enough to win it for him. His package might win it for him, too, but he's not dwelling on that. Other than the fact that he's a marginally better singer than Cory Montieth, Blake does not really have much going against him. That's what is going against him. He's too damned competent for his own good, and he's got it too much together. How does he convince Ryan that he's a wounded mental case? Blake has a plan. It turned out to be as effective as it was cheesy. Clever, clever boy.
It's time for the final songs. We see Darren Criss in the audience, sitting in for Chris Colfer, who has gone AWOL. Amber is there to cut anybody who mangles Adele. Dianna is there to look pretty. Grant Gustin is there to look forbidding in geeky glasses. Ian ushers in the writers, and Ryan speechifies as they all take their seats. He wants them all to help him make up his mind. The man with the titanium spine, Ryan Murphy.
Aylin thinks that she needs to prove to Ryan that she can handle the pressure of being an iconic character. Blake thinks that this could be the one "no" he can't take.
Ali wheels out first, pretty in pink, considering her predicament as a musical comedy performer in a wheelchair. The chair closes doors to her. This door is open, if she can just roll through it. So she tries... with what I genuinely think was the best song of the three, even though I was not rooting for her and I don't care for her nasal voice. She's got the condescending sneer of Glinda's attitude down perfectly and her comic timing is right on. When she "pops" her wheelchair on "pop"ular, I laughed as hard as anybody. If she could walk, she'd be cast in Wicked as Glinda in an instant. It's just the right song for her. Even her blonde hair is working for her here. She gets a well-earned standing ovation. Ryan thinks she's a great source of light and optimism. She thanks Ryan for this opportunity. Gracious girl. I am becoming glad she got to the end.
Blake is next. He promises to show us something different in him that we have not seen before, and then begins a competent rendition of this very easy song. We don't see anything new from Blake that we have not seen before... until he pulls out his secret weapon. Ryan snidely asks if his little microphone trick is the new thing we haven't seen before, but it's not. Blake... wrote a poem, a tribute to himself. It's actually an amateur, Blake-written continuation of "I'll Be." It's a mediocre poem, and an amazingly brilliant strategy.
I’m the guy who will persist in his path,
I’m the guy that will make you laugh.
I’m the guy who tries to be open,
I’m the guy who’s been heartbroken.
I’m the guy that’s been on his own,
I’m the guy who felt alone.
I’m the guy who’ll hold your hand,
I’m the guy who will stand up and be a man.
I’m the guy who tries to make things better,
I’m the guy who’s the whitest half Cuban ever.
I’m the guy who’s lost more than he’s won,
I’m the guy who has turned but never spun.
I’m the guy that you couldn’t see,
I’m that guy,
And that guy is me.
- Blake Jenner
Game. Set. Match. This is where he did it, by amplifying an ordinary musical performance with a very closely matched personal comment like this one. And yes, the whitest half-Cuban comment was a nice, funny touch. Blake's delivery is better than his lyrics, and he's got Mario in tears before he's even done. So is everybody else, apparently. OK, congratulations, Blake, we expect you to be on the set at 5 a.m. on... oh, wait.
Aylin hasn't sung yet. Maybe we should let her do that, huh? I mean, Charlie's back there watching and he can barely contain himself. Aylin comes on, believing that all she has to do is sing her heart out. Unfortunately, she has not written a poem and she's not funny. She's singing like a boss, but that's all she's doing. The most interesting thing to watch as she kills this song is the look in Charlie's proud eyes as he watches her. Amber Riley really likes it, too. Folks are on their feet as she finishes this passionate performance (which comes without humor or a poem) and Aylin promises that Mama is OK with her one-shoulder dress. I suspect that if Mama has not grounded her by now, it's not happening. Aylin wants to promise America that she is prepared to deal with the pressure, and as she runs off the stage, we hear her say, happily, "I remembered the words! I remembered the words!" That may actually have been the human, vulnerable comment that could have won this for her if Ryan had heard it.
Now Ryan, the Great Decider, needs ask everybody else who they think should win, beginning with... the cast. Darren Criss thinks that Ali's got the "je ne sais quo". I know what that phrase means and I know what she's got: she's funny and she's developed a character that is not her. Dianna is also rooting for Ali because Kevin can get up and walk. She can't, but she's still talented. Dianna wants to see the Disabled Character done right. Camera shifts to Charlie. He's looking kind of anxious.
Grant Gustin jumps on the growing Ali bandwagon. He thinks her heart and expression is beautiful. At this point, Ali Adler intervenes. She saw a boy become a man in Blake. A star is born. His honesty got to her... yep, it was the poem. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was similarly moved. In literary terms, Blake's poem is not really very good, and I am amused at the gushing coming from the Glee writers, but it was pretty raw and honest. That's all that saves Glee sometimes; occasionally it reaches a moment of emotional depth because of the cast.
Michael Hitchcock likes Ali. Samuel Larsen likes Ali... why is Ryan asking you, exactly? He thinks that Ali made him forget they were watching a competition; it was just fun. Charlie begins to look absolutely frantic. Erik thinks past the Last Chance performances they just saw and remembers that Blake has been consistently excellent all season long... and Charlie just can't take it anymore.
Please note this: Charlie is the only expelled cast member who got to say a SINGLE WORD this entire episode. He spoke earlier, and he pours his heart out now. Somebody, somebody, SOMEBODY is going to stand up for Aylin! Even if it's a man in love. The kid who got in trouble for being too much himself throws out a passionate plea. Maybe she's not the best actor... well, she's not, Charlie, please don't remind them... but you can get her there! Charlie thinks the girl he loves can take the bridge of fear and intolerance that has defined the post 9/11 decade... good gravy, if I'm in a pinch and I want one of these kids on my side, I might just want Charlie Lubock. Ryan notes that Charlie has gotten emotional. Yeah, he loves her Ryan. Watch the reruns. It's pretty damned sweet. Heh. I finally found an OTP that isn't crack and sticks, and it's real and it's a couple of Glee Project rejects. Holy heck, I think Charlie's about to cry. Amber decides to help him out by praising Aylin on Adele. Damian also roots for Aylin, which makes me conflicted at best.
Ryan decides that everybody's basically pretty split. This means he actually has to make a decision himself. Meanwhile, Aylin, who has not seen her man walk into the lion's den to try to save her, wants to throw up. Zach thinks that Ali IS Glee. She's inspirational. Code: She's overcoming an obstacle. Nikki reminds us that people watch Glee for the uplifting feeling they get, and I want to know her take on Kurt's storyline this year.
Ryan realizes the Ali lovefest has gone on long enough, and he's ready to discuss Aylin, if only so Charlie does not rampage the editing room and demand a reappraisal. Robert thinks she has an amazing voice. Ryan liked the fact that Amber like Aylin. Ian thinks this is a great story. He's right -she's got the most relevant story of the three. The only one who does not have a story.... is Blake. But he also does not have a uterus.
Ryan wants to talk about the contestant who does not have a uterus. I will give Blake this. He is worthy. He is GOOD. Zach agrees, calling him the fastest, most adaptive actor that he has worked with. Zach thinks they can do more with Blake than with anybody else. Since he does not have a specific angle - he is not The Muslim or the Inspirational Handicapped Person - this is strangely true. If they go with Blake, it's only because he's really good. That might just be a reason worth defending. Robert thinks he's a star, and I actually agree with them. Basic competence as a strategy. What an idea!
Ryan is conflicted. He can't cope, ya'll. He was expecting somebody like Chris Colfer to hit him in the face, but.... YOU CANNOT MANUFACTURE CHRIS COLFER, RYAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You got unbelievably lucky one damned time, and you cannot order the fates to do it again. In the meantime, three capable people have bravely presented themselves. Make up your damned mind, or argue with the Oxygen people to let you cast them all. Get a side gig for Aylin. I think you should give her an articulate and passionately devoted boyfriend with autism and aspergers. I'm just saying... you've missed the best story this year. But I digress.
Ryan still has to decide. Chris Colfer is not among the nominees. This process does not really work exactly as he hoped. He has to choose a mere mortal. When Ryan tells them that some of the heartfelt tributes would make them cry, they shoot to Charlie, the Reject Who Was Allowed To Speak. Last year was easier; Ryan got to reward everybody. This year, he can't, and he's losing half his cast in a situation where he needed two or three pieces of new blood.
Charlie is still looking very apprehensive. He wants this even more than she does....
So Ryan makes his decision. He goes with consistent excellence, cleverly placed poetry, and testicles. He chooses...
So good luck to him. May he create a character who is actually memorable this time. I watched the season this year. I watched him rise. I genuinely hope he creates a character we love, one we embrace as much as we did Kurt. Blake is not the most adventurous choice they could have gone with, and I don't know how inspirational he is, but he's actually really talented. Damien and Samuel were failures. Blake has a talent they do not have. He's actually a good actor. I sincerely this is enough to anchor the potential mess that will be the McKinley choir room.
And Ryan... see if you can sneak the Conservative Muslim and her ADHD Boyfriend on sometime, OK. Because dude, Blake is a worthy guy, but that romance was THE story of your season.