Monday, September 17, 2012

The New Rachel - Season Four Episode Recap

"The New Rachel" - Season Four Episode Recap

Here's what you missed on Glee. Last summer Ryan Murphy got diarrhea of the mouth and a sudden need for inappropriate amounts of attention, so he announced that he would be forcing all of his most effective and popular characters to graduate from McKinley. What he really wanted to do was give the Big Three a spinoff, but FOX wouldn't let him do it, maybe because it might just kill the franchise, so instead he is having to cobble together this weird hybrid thing where we watch the people we've actually cared about for three years - or at least, those who have not been written off the show - in one segment and all the brand new kids at McKinley in another. And by "brand new kids" at McKinley, I mean characters with new names and new actors who are otherwise exactly like the old characters in every way.

So Rachel got into NYADA even though she botched her audition and Kurt is now an official Lima Loser even though he aced his. Finn is now a picture on Rachel's wall, Santana is something Brittney can't make out with over Skype, and all the other seniors are AWOL. The Glee Club kids are really cool and popular, but Ryan's about to fix that because he doesn't want to have to write a new story with new characters, and Will is as ineffectual as ever. And that's what you missed on Glee!

That will take you up to the present day. If you want to move forward, follow after the jump.

We begin at NYADA.

It's dance class, and I am having sudden flashbacks to the old 80's movie and TV show, "Fame" as these limber little goddess bend over backwards to touch the floor. In the middle of all this balletic preening, we see Rachel shaking nervously. The blonde martinet of a dance instructor, played by Kate Hudson, is snidely calling out "Welcome to NYADA" as she forces the dancers through their paces and issuing threats and insults indiscriminately all the while.

NYADA only accepts 20 freshmen a year, and she makes it clear that everybody in this class is a freshman, but I am pretty sure there are more than 20 kids in this room. Maybe some of them are sophomores who flunked the class and have to take it again, although I doubt that's an option for reasons we will see later when Whoopi Goldberg takes the stage.

Fifteen seconds into her diatribe, Cassandra the Dance Teacher from Hell informs one girl that her name is not Lydia, but Muffin Top, presumably because she's very slightly overweight. I would think the intense dance class might solve this in a month, but Cassandra's not patient. Twenty seconds into her diatribe, she's found her new Whipping Girl for the year.

Guess who.

It appears that Rachel was as impressed with Cassandra's behavior towards Muffin Top as I was, and now, there's blood in the water and Cassandra's the circling shark. She's got a new nickname for Rachel - Little Miss David Schwimmer - and I wonder how many of Glee's regular viewers really remember David Schwimmer or what Cassandra's making fun of when she says this. Maybe she thinks Rachel should become a nebbish paleontologist who is On a Break. Little Miss David Schwimmer says she's from Ohio? Even worse than Iowa. Cassandra has decided that Rachel's stuck up attitude is pissing her off, and she can't really dance.

Rachel's stuck up attitude? Cassandra, you ain't seen nothin' like what this gal can do. She can't dance? Well... no, not really. Of course, neither can you, but I'll really rip you a new one for that later. Rachel tries so hard to dance well that she falls, and Cassandra gets down on the floor to give her a big New York City welcome; she sucks. Ah, with this introduction, I am sure that we will eventually see that Cassandra herself is a really fantastic, amazing dancer Right?

Crickets? Bueller? 

Back at McKinley...

Jacob is STILL doing his obnoxious little videoblog. OK, we lost Finn, Santana, Mercedes, Quinn, Mike and Puck, but we still have this guy. Great. Oh, look, he's balding. Maybe he should graduate. He's on the street to let us know that the kids of New Directions - what's left of them - are now celebrities at McKinley High. Artie Abrams has been seen - gasp! - sitting with Cheerios at lunch! Actually, Jacob, he's been sitting, singing, wheelchair dancing, and occasionally making out with Cheerios for the last three years, because there have been as few as three and as many as five Cheerios and former Cheerios in Glee Club the entire time - not to mention several football players. Artie cheerfully replies that he is usually seen sitting, and that's it's great fun being popular.

Jacob next accosts Sam, who is either giving girls his autograph or his phone number, or both. He's gone from being a hobo stripper to Glee Club celebrity. Sam thinks it's awesome, and about time. I have a hard time believing a kid that hot and good-natured was ever unpopular, but this is a conceit we just have to roll with. I still think having gorgeous, nice people in show choir - or even multiple football players and Cheerios - should have raised the group's popularity level way before now. See, that is how it works. It's been decades since high school for me, but I haven't forgotten.

Sam's still the old, nice Sam, but Tina has gotten scary. She's got a nervous looking freshman for a personal assistant and she's throwing the banana this poor little thing is offering her on the floor because it isn't organic. I see that Tina has developed a strategy for becoming the New Rachel, although Rachel was never quite this bad.

Sam's Taylor Lautner impression has now become cool. It would be even cooler if he showed us his Taylor-quality ripped abs while he did it.

Jacob drops a bomb on us. Tina has broken up with Mike (a week after tattooing "Mike Chang forever" on her hip, because the long distance thing was just too hard.) OK, Tina... you seem to have a nasty habit of breaking up with guys over the summer because you've been physically separated from them for five minutes. I suggest you never marry a guy in the military.

Jacob concludes his webcast by asking the question on everybody's mind... who is the new star of New Directions? Who is the New Rachel? Everybody thinks it will be them. Obviously, this explains Tina's behavior. Artie, who seems to have decided that he can't be the New Rachel because he can't walk (even though he can sing) just looks nervous.

Somewhere in New York...

 the Old Rachel is watching Jacob's blog on her laptop. She is taking some solace in being missed in a place where she was hated and mistreated. She misses her dads, she misses that lunkhead she used to date... ah, there he is, a photo on her bedside table. And that concludes the performance of Cory Montieth this week. She hasn't heard from him in two months... why not?

Uh, because he broke up with you, Rachel? You never do quite believe him when he does that to you. Frankly, I still think the last one was kind of inexcusable and you ought to move on.

Rachel's roommate is going to have a venereal disease or an unwanted pregnancy in about three weeks, although we will not have the opportunity to watch this up close and personal. Rachel wishes her Best Gay had gotten into NYADA, presumably because if he were her roommate, the line of men leading to his bed would not be out the door. At least, not until/unless he breaks up with the incredible Bowtie Boy.

Speaking of Finn and moving on... I think the writers agree with me. Rachel goes to the co-ed bathroom... co-ed bathroom? Really? .... and she hears a guy singing in the shower, because that is now the absolutely required method of introducing the Hot New Guy of the year to the show.

Rachel, rather than being terribly embarrassed that she's wandered into the boy's bathroom accidentally and fleeing, actually walks towards the singing. She appears to be mesmerized by his fairly adaquate voice. And yes, he does get out of the shower, buck naked, and she's staring right at him. NOW she flees. His reaction... get mad that she was staring at him as he gets out of the shower? Nope. He just grabs a towel around his private parts and starts chatting. The Hot Abs of the week is named Brody. He's also at NYADA, also majoring in musical theater. He's a junior.

The fact that Rachel actually survived Cassandra's first dance class means that she's good, apparently, and Brody credit's Cassandra's sadistic nature for getting him a role in a Broadway show as "Steel Worker #3." It lasted three performances. Well, that's the most realistic thing we've seen so far.

Brody, like Rachel, haunts the one co-ed bathroom at night because he gets teased about his moisturizing ritual. Maybe also to avoid getting stared at by a freshman girl as he gets out of the shower. Or maybe not. He tells her she's at NYADA because she's the best of the best - something Cassandra does not appear to be clear on - and oh, by the way.... he's straight. So apparently, he actually haunts the bathroom to pick up girls.

Rachel's expression says, "Finn who?" and I say, "Go get that, girlie."

So the first thing Rachel does is get on the phone to Kurt, who thinks the Brody story is hot and doesn't have any qualms at all about her moving away from Finn, even though Finn is his brother. Rachel lies and says she's happy. Kurt, as he... wanders down the halls of the high school that treated him, absolutely literally, like garbage for the dumpster... lies and says he's fine. He's come to see Robin Sylvester, a precious little Down Syndrome baby named by her beaming mother Sue in a memorial to her Favorite Dead Bee Gee. Yeah, mine too, Sue. Sucks about that. Sue's downright nurturing here. Well, at least to a helpless little infant. She then introduces us to.... Kitty.

The high-ponytailed Cheerio who struts into the room actually makes me do a double take. Not only is she clearly Quinn 2.0, since Dianna Agron is rumored to be leaving Glee, but the script doesn't bother to hide it. Sue actually celebrates the reboot at length: the new, improved Quinn 2.0 is not pregnant, manic-depressive or in and out of a wheelchair... yet. But damn, she's identical, at least in that uniform with that hair style.

Kitty correctly notices that Kurt should be in college.... or really, anywhere else in the entire world other than the halls of McKinley, where he was absolutely horrifically mistreated. Kitty thought gay people were all successful overachievers? No, Kitty. In Ryan Murphy's world, only gay people who can easily pass for straight are successful overachievers. Gay people who are obviously gay are the writer's bitch, and now that I've seen the New Normal, I understand that it's never, ever going to change.

Sue is very supportive of the fact that her precious Porcelain is now officially the biggest, most gaping failure of the Class of 2012. Not aimless, semi-talented Finn. Not academically challenged, unmotivated Puck. Nope, it's the femme guy with excellent grades and buckets of talent who once appeared to be very ambitious and organized. Sue thinks Kurt is a trailblazer; it used to be that football players were the Lima Losers who couldn't leave the halls of high school behind, but now this gay show choir champ is also a depressive sad sack desperately clinging to past... uh.... glory?

Sue, he got voted frigging PROM QUEEN. Why the hell's bells is this kid still at McKinley?

Will bounds into the show choir room full of WINNERS, baby! He is pysched! They are already all psyched out! Will thinks that it's time to move forward. Since they are now the Kewl Kids on Kampus, it should be very easy for them to find new underclassman bodies to sway in the background while they all tear out each other's throats in their quest to become The New Rachel. And, indeed, when Will puts up the signup list for New Directions, he nearly gets trampled into oblivion.

Yes, they've lost some big voices, some big personalities, some big... people who made the show interesting... but they still have some huge voices in the room. (Camera shots to Tina and Artie.) Will wants to replace what's been lost, so he introduces his first nominee to fill the gaps left by ...two of them. (New Glee Club rule: in order to be accepted in New Directions, you must be a 2.0 of an original character. This will end up explaining one of the big questions out there after the end of this first episode. Clones only. No original personalities allowed. I presume that's why Rory went home, because he was not a convincing Finn 2.0.)

Yes, the person coming in is both Mercedes 2.0 and Kurt 2.0 simultaneously. It's Wade, er, Unique, that sassy black belting female diva in the body of a gay man. Of course, his (and by "his", I mean Alex's) acting skills made Amber Riley seem like Chris Colfer by comparison, but hey, he won the Glee Project even more than Damian did in the end, so we should all be terribly excited.

Crickets? I am feeling crickets; I think a steady diet of Unique is going to get very old very fast. New Directions is also feeling crickets. Brittney is happy and excited because she thinks Mercedes got a haircut, but everybody else is overwhelmed to see a singer with a really big, soulful voice walk through the door.

This character is a bit tricky, so here's how I am going to handle the situation. When the character is responding to the term "Wade" and wearing male clothes, I will refer to him as a boy named Wade. When she is dressed to the nines as Unique, I will call her that. Basically, I will go with the persona this person has chosen for herself at any given moment. Default is female.

Wade comes in dressed like an ordinary boy. He tells Will that he wanted to be in a place where being different was celebrated. I suggest that he not move to McKinley High School. He might end up being Prom Queen. (Of course, that might be the most touching and wonderful day of Unique's life. She might not even realize she was being taunted.) Will is very excited to have Wade, but Tina and Blaine both look like they want to push him out the window. Indeed, Joe and Sugar are the only ones not being little turds about the situation. (Oh, hi, Joe! I saw Jason Castro in concert this week. Are you sure you weren't in Dallas on Thursday?) Will, being much more perceptive than usual, realizes they aren't all jumping up and down with joy, and Blaine is unusually blunt. He doesn't want any competition to be The New Rachel. I see he's already got the attitude down pat.

Will is not on the same page. He's the director of the show choir, but he's the only one who didn't get the memo about one person being the solo-hogging star this year. Tina wants to be the star, too. After all, the single, solitary episode in Glee history that had Tina as the lead character showed her wanting to be Rachel and shutting up only because she felt her deserved time was coming.

"We don't win with stars" says Will, who has been operating on the premise that everything is mostly centered around Finchel for three years. Will rejects the idea of a New Rachel, but unfortunately, Ryan and his crew do not. Wade takes his seat next to Blaine, and Blaine delivers a whispered ultimatum. They will decide this in the auditorium. Five o'clock. Apparently, Will is not only being ignored, but his decisions will be made for him in his absence and without his consent. Way to do your job, Will. Maybe you should go back to butchering Spanish.

Five o'clock. Auditorium. The four biggest egos are here to take over New Directions and wrest all control and authority permanently out of Will's hands. They are: Tina, Blaine, Wade and... Brittney?

Really? Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....... OK, we have three genuine contenders and a delusional mess who should only dance. Artie is here, but.... he's not trying to be the lead singer. Brittney is up for Lead Singer and Artie is not. My head is exploding.

Artie's head may be exploding, too. They've decided he gets to judge this little patch of arrogant foolishness, which is going to be especially fun because two of the contenders are ex-girlfriends who dumped Artie harshly and left him quite flat. I notice with some amusement that three of the four contenders are members of the LGBT community. So, in other words, it's like most show choirs. Tina thinks that if they all sing for Artie, and then demand that Schue honor the results of this private audition that was held without his knowledge or consent, he will be forced to forego any plans or directions he had brewing for a new year and go back to coddling a single oversized ego at the expense of everybody else.

Tina hopes that she will be the New Rachel. That's what Rachel wanted. Look, it wasn't her dying wish, Tina. She didn't leave you the lead vocals in her will. On the other hand, congratulations for developing a personality, even if it's a snotty one. Artie is uncomfortable with this gross insubordination, but he just can't resist the urge to judge others, so he's in... and at least he's self-aware about his motives.

Tina gets to decide the song they are singing. I don't know that this is the song Rachel Streisand would choose for herself, but Tina's decided on "Call Me Maybe", because that will sell really well on Itunes. Wade declares that he needs no practice. He can sing any song, any time, which is ridiculous because there's not a singer in the world who can do that - not even Adele. I can see, however, why he won't be named The New Rachel. He really is clearly the New Mercedes. Kurt had a firm canon habit of rehearsing his songs. And... they are off.

It's amazing how four people who are all contending for a spot as the new star, who have not practiced this song together and who wish to steal focus, all manage to agree on exactly who is taking which line without even rehearsing. Hey, we all know how this would normally go down if we've watched The Glee Project. There is usually kicking and biting involved. Nope, they sing this song quite seamlessly. And they all know the same choreography, too! Even Wade! There's a little pushing and shoving and flicking, of course. They are competing, after all, so there must be trash... gesturing. Oh, and look! They got a whole orchestra line of strings to back them up on this unauthorized inpromptu musical rumble! Of course, the funny thing is that we've got four very different, very distinct voices, three of them are outstanding, and they are meshing well enough to demonstrate that we don't need no stinkin' stars. The team concept is working well here.

So, Artie. Who is the new Rachel?

Commercial break. Advertisement for a new Clint Eastwood movie. I find myself looking for an empty chair.

Commercial break continues. Quinn is now the star of an advertising campaign about not texting while driving. Glee episodes now really are PSAs.

And we are back in the Lima Bean. Despite their rivalry in front of Artie, Brittany and Blaine are bonding over lattes. We learn that Brittany is discouraged by the limitations of romance via Skype; you can't scissor a lovecam. Uh, I can't unhear that. I have this horrible idea that she tried. Fortunately, something happens that takes my mind off that and gives me a new reason to be horrified.

Kurt is their barista. Every nightmare of every Kurtsie is coming true. Not only is he serving them their drinks, but he wants to go watch the Glee Club auditions, and they are both visibly unnerved by this.

Fortunately, something happens that takes my mind off that and gives me a new reason to be horrified. The snotty rich kid in the Lima Bean isn't Sebastian, thank god, but she's there. Oh, hello Kitty. Kitty being catty. She's quite the sourpuss. Her iced latte is too cold and she'd like a new one, please.

On a more reasonable note, Kurt needs to stop chatting with his friends about stuff that's happening at the high school from hell that he should have left behind and fill that biscotti bowl. Blaine and Brittney decide to vacate the deathplace of their friend's last scraps of self-respect and dignity.

Back in New York, Cassandra is concocting herself a hangover remedy when a nervous looking nebbish arrives to break tha bad news. He can't be her TA this year; he's traded one wicked witch for another one, and will be one of Elpheba's flying monkeys in Wicked. Cassandra is ecstatic for him; she seems to have some warmth for students who actually accomplish something. Her recommendation got him the gig. I believe they are trying to communicate to us that this woman is not actually made of suck unless you do. She goes back to her hangover cure and looks very pensive for a second. Then... out comes the booze.

I think she wants to be the flying monkey.

Tina pounces on Artie, still working very hard on her Snotty Rachel impression (at least, what she perceives as Rachel's behavior; I don't recall Rachel being quite that abrasive). When is he going to announce the winner of the New Rachel contest? It's been four minutes, man! Artie replies, "I am now going to evade and stall because the moment I make a final decision three of you divas are going to tear me limb from limb and then Mr. Shue will find out what we did and cut my head off." I think I understand why Artie did not want to be The New Rachel; he values his life.

A new girl who looks vaguely like Rachel approaches the Kewl Table where the high ranked Glee Club kids, all quite full of themselves, are eating large portions of Smug Sammiches and enjoying the high life. Marley is a sophomore - apparently, you must be a sophomore to try out for Glee Club - and she wants to audition. Tina sneers that there is lots of competition, and Unique comes to join them for lunch. Sam nearly has a heart attack. They will hang out with Wade, but not Unique; the makeup has got to come off. Artie explains: for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the tie between the Glee Kids and the Popular Kids is weak, and could be broken very easily. They could be smacked back down to the bottom again for any provocation.

OK. We have a club made up of a bunch of seniors, which has been largely peopled by Cheerios, football players, three real candidates for Prom Queen and one genuine Prom King winner, and the Senior Class President... and they fear being snubbed by a bunch of new kids we've never seen before. Got it. This is ridiculous.

Blaine, who knows better than anybody else that gay men only have dignity in Ryan Murphy shows if they can pass for straight, suggests that the character who has been rudely forced to become Wade should only wear his makeup for performances. I actually have another suggestion; maybe Wade should disappear completely and Unique should come to school dressed really pretty. They can just say Wade went back to Carmel. What? It's Glee, people, if the writers decide they can fool the rest of the school like that, it will work whether it's realistic or not.

Wade, who came to McKinley under the badly mistaken impression that it had an inclusive atmosphere, sadly agrees to take off his face. Perhaps he's already figured out that the two people who inspired him to change schools have both graduated.

Catty Kitty slips into her place at the table; even though she is new and they are all veterans, she is the person who dictates who is kewl.. I can't imagine that Blaine's all that happy to see her. One of the other snotty kewl kids, a guy in a letterman jacket, sneers at the obese lunch lady. There's another jock at the table; soon the fat jokes are flying. Artie and Blaine don't like it, but they don't fight it. Brittney makes a comment about medical conditions that sounds to me like she was trying to defend the woman and failed badly, and then Artie is asked to make a crack. Pause. Beat. He caves. When she sits around the house.... uh, it's not even original.

Marley can hear this.

It turns out that the overweight lunchroom lady is Marley's mother. When Marley goes to see her mom in the back, she is sewing designer labels into the second-hand clothes they got for her in a thrift store. Mom understands: High School is about image - and Marley's not set up for success right now. Her clothes are from Goodwill, her mother is the lunch lady. Marley wonders if she has a chance of getting into Glee Club. I don't see how she could possibly miss, unless she's tone-deaf, based on the recruiting strategy Will has always used before. Mama Lunch Lady says her daughter has magic in her throat. Since Mama Lunch Lady is poor, as opposed to say, Sugar's dad, we can believe this is true and not just a spasm of Stage Mom From Hell. Mama Lunch Lady is going to drive the car several blocks away so nobody sees Marley get in the car with her.

This is both incredibly kind and incredibly sad. Wade, you say you came to McKinley because it encouraged diversity?

Casshandra shtumbles drunkenly into the clashroom and shees Rachel tryin' to danchsh. Why that arrognat lil... I gonna teach her, I yam. Burp. Shend her back to Iowa, or Ohio, or shomthin.

Is Rachel getting worsh? Is she tird? Lonly? Homesic? Ready to pack up an git outta my classroom?

"Why are you picking on me?" squeaks Rachel, used to constant praise. It suddenly occurs to me that the NYADA audition does not have a dance component. It's all vocal. If Cassandra had been involved in the auditions, Rachel would not be here, but Brittney might.

Cassandra thinks she's motivating Rachel... oh, wait, little miss priss is looking very judgmental again. Seems that Rachel does not want her teachers to come to class falling down drunk. This is not what she's paying for. But when Rachel mentions this, the entire room turns to watch. Apparently, commenting on Cassandra's little foible is a major no-no and they know that trouble is brewing.

Cassandra on the defensive for a real mistake is a scary thing to watch. She struts to the center in barely contained rage at having her sobriety questioned, and announces that she can dance circles around any of them. Then she proceeds to prove that this is blatantly untrue. I am going to assume that they made Cassandra get drunk so that it wouldn't seem quite so inexcusable that Kate Hudson's dance skills are so ordinary.

The song is "Americano", and Kate's got several backup dancers to help make this display more convincing. Several of them are showing her up, and I keep thinking of two things:

- Brittney would do this better.
- This is just like everybody drooling over Finn's singing voice in the first few weeks of Glee, before they realized they couldn't polish a piece of granite and call it a diamond.

The fact that Cassandra has been so arrogant and nasty, but doesn't really have the goods when called to showcase them, is so distracting it kind of impedes my enjoyment of the number; they needed an actress who could walk the walk to really make this work. Surely there's a famous actress out there who could have done this better? Of course, they have a similar potential problem if the ever ask Carmen Thibideaux to sing; perhaps Whoopi will have the good sense to keep her mouth shut.

Funny how Cassandra's students have the backing choreography memorized. How often do they do this? Every time Cassie gets loaded?

Oh, and now Rachel is Cassandra's entire sh*t list. She does seem to piss people off everywhere she goes.

Back at McKinley, I cringe deeply as the pathetic mess that used to be my favorite proud, ambitious character jumps eagerly into the process of watching high school sophomores audition for New Directions. Kurt reminds everybody that they are looking for superstars... well, you are, buddy, but we are looking for cannon fodder that won't compete with us for solos. Shouldn't you be in college?

Stoner Brett is the first person up. He... is not a superstar, although Brittney kind of likes it. Everybody else stares at him in horror. He sounds... homeless. Actually, I think it would make for some pretty potent comedy if Stoner Brett made Glee Club. There's actually a really interesting story in that, and Will might be able to turn his life around. However, Stoner Brett is not a 2.0, or a Glee Project winner, so he will not pass the audition.

Wait, they are rejecting people now?

De'Wanda, whom we have never met before. is next. She dances marginally better than Kate Hudson without a dance double. More horrified stares. De'Wanda is also not a 2.0, so she is out.

A swarthy kid with a bad attitude stares down another boy as he signs up for the auditions. He calls himself Jake. That's it. However, he's got a nice voice, a nice face, a nice bod, and Sugar declares him sexy about five bars into the song. Sam disagrees jealously. Wade agrees, and this settles the issue, although that probably should not have been a laugh line. Are we to be amused that Wade is attracted to a boy?

This really is very nice, one of the best songs of the week, so of course, Will cuts him off. He's seen enough. Jake is offended because he thinks he's being dissed, and he trashes the music stand.

"That was rude and unacceptable!" squeaks Kurt. Shouldn't you be in college?

Will, as effectual as ever, calmly asks Jake to pick up the music stand, and Jake struts out in disgust. OK, massive fail on all sides, and that's too bad, because New Directions needs 12 singers for Sectionals, right? Right? Jake would have been a good choice. Of course, he's not a 2.0... is he?

Now we are in Carmen Thibadeaux's vocal class. I wonder if the extras playing freshmen in this scene are the same as the ones in the dancing class, but I don't really have time to check. Rachel feels more confident here. She's actually good at singing. Oh, look, there's Brody. He's got clothes on now. She sits right beside him. Finn who?

Carmen is as arrogant as Cassandra, but much, much more dignified and professional. Also more sober. She explains that the room they are in is round. It has perfect acoustics and every vocal flaw will be immediately obvious for this... the Debut.

"Also known as The Freshman Reaping" whispers Brody. I see the Hunger Games has made its impact on NYADA, and he's right. This is almost as bad as being a Tribute.

Beatrice McClain, one of 20 people chosen over Kurt Hummel to make up this class at NYADA, goes first. She sounds exceedingly nervous, and her Ave Maria.... uh. Let's just say that I've heard better versions come out of nice neighborhood people in my little church choir. We certainly would have gotten a less wobbly version from Kurt. Thin, reedy, nasal, poor breath control.... how did she get into a school that rejected Jesse St. James? At the end of a single phrase, Carmen stops her. She gets 8 bars... It appears that Carmen told Beatrice that she needed to practice all summer. (And this girl defeated Kurt... how?) Carmen decides that Beatrice needs to practice more and reapply in December.

She's been cut from the program.

You know, Carmen, I am not sure how the school is going to stay afloat if you toss out kids after eight bad bars. Does this mean one of the people you rejected gets in now?

Rachel gets to follow this little execution. "Impress me" says Carmen evenly. This is her version of the trash talk that Cassandra spews, and I must say I like it better. So Rachel begins to sing "New York State of Mind"... just as Marley begins to sing the same song back in Ohio.

Ah, so Marley is Rachel 2.0, for sure. I am sure there are a number of Rachel fans who are quite annoyed that Rachel's first solo of the year is shared with another character we've never seen before.

Rachel gets through the first eight bars without being stopped. After all, she sounds just like Broadway star Lea Michele, and therefore almost certainly does have what it takes to make it in this business. Also, since she has not been singing this song since she was a baby, she does not choke.

By the end of the first verse, Brody is smiling. Rachel is doing well.

So is Marley. Will is happy and excited. Blaine and Tina are both sullen and nervous. They both want to be the New Rachel, and the New Rachel has just walked through the door to upset their apple cart of entitlement. I do think Melissa Benoist does suffer a little at the side-by-side contrast with Lea Michele because Lea's voice is a little richer and more resonant. With Marley I hear less Barbra Streisand and more Karen Carpenter, but it's still quite good. Artie, at least, has the good sense to enjoy the singing as much as Will does. I notice that Marley gets to finish. Maybe Will decided that cutting off really good singers is a losing strategy?

Brody is on his feet by the end. Carmen looks like she might just cut him from the program for his enthusiasm, but she's in a good mood today so all she says is "Nice."

Will approaches the bulletin board with a sense of destiny. He has the results sheet. Marley is watching. So is Jake. Timidly, Marley goes to peer at the page that will decide her fate... and because she has sung well and she's clearly Rachel 2.0, she leaves looking very happy. Jake approaches with hope and trepidation.

The list includes every member of New Directions, new and old. There are only nine names, even though they need 12 to go to Sectionals. Jake has not made this cut. Neither have any of the swarming mob of people who signed up to try out. Marley is the ONLY new member besides Wade. What, did everybody trash the mike stand on their way out the door? Look, even Brett and De'Wanda could sway in the background. Isn't that what Blaine and Tina want anyway? Jake tears down the cast list.

OK, this is getting really distressing. Kurt is STILL hanging around the campus that treated him like garbage. Now he's organizing all the sheet music. Actually, he's wallpapering the floor with it. Gee, I guess they should just put him on the cast list so that they can have more bodies for Sectionals.

Tina bribes Artie with a sweet dessert. I wonder if she's going to end this by offering to be his girlfriend again. Unique, who has been listening to my recap, apparently, has taken my advice. Here she is in full sassy flower, being a girl.. and Joe balks. He thinks Unique should only be Unique on stage. Kurt begins scolding them for not being accepting enough... OK, last year, buddy, you had the same attitude towards her. He also wants to know when everybody became obsessed with who was the biggest star. Kurt, that would be... pilot episode, sophomore year, sweetie, and you were as bad about that as everybody else, as Tina is all too happy to remind you. Kurt and Rachel fought over solos for three years. Of course, Kurt never, ever won a single solitary time, but I think the writers want us to be unaware of this.

Then, they corner Artie. He MUST decide who the new lead singer will be right now. After meticulous deliberation, an on-line poll (that's a dead giveaway as to the winner) and careful thought as to what result will be least likely to result in him being torn limb from limb, Artie has decided that Blaine Anderson will be the new lead soloist of New Directions. This means he will be singing solos every single week. This means, of course, that nothing has really changed at all.

At least, until Will comes in, parading the real New Rachel - Marley Rose. Sam, Sugar and Joe clap graciously and Blaine, now feeling more secure in his place as new head honcho, welcomes her to New Directions. Sugar likes her sweater... but knows it is not J. Crew.

Mama Lunch Lady is brimming with pride that Marley was the only new person accepted into New Directions. Her baby is the New Rachel! Oh, no, she's not, I guess, because Blaine is the New Rachel and Marley wants to be a singer on the radio. She wants to be the New Mercedes? Oh, wait, Unique is doing that. She's not bitchy enough to be the New Santana, so we will watch this space for further developments.

One problem, though. These lovely Glee kids who fought being downcast outsiders for so long are making fun of Mama Lunch Lady. Success has gone to their heads even more than it's gone to Ryan Murphy's. Marley is uncomfortable lying about her mother, and we learn that Marley - a drop-dead gorgeous girl with a lovely singing voice who appears to be very kind and pleasant - was shunned at her last school because her mother was fat. Mom is willing to fade into the background to give her daughter a shot at popularity; she's almost as awesome a parent as Burt Hummel.

OK, the pathetic loser thing has gone entirely too far. Kurt is now eating lunch with Blaine during school hours. Shouldn't you be in college? Or at the Lima Bean? Or... SOMETHING? Kurt thinks Blaine should be the lead soloist, since he already is, anyway. However, he does believe that Rachel always made sure everybody else was included. Funny, that is not my recollection in the slightest, but everybody is treating Rachel as if she were dead, and it's typical to remember your departed loved ones as being better than they were. Blaine agrees to be less of a huge turd to the new people, and then gives his sad little boyfriend some tough love.

Kurt needs to get off the McKinley campus. He looks pathetic, and nobody wants to be the boyfriend of a really visible Lima Loser. Well, Kurt knows he's pathetic. Blaine kindly suggests that he's stuck. He needs to go to New York. We learn that Kurt has reapplied for NYADA - apparently, he does not understand that there are other performing arts schools in that city - but he's afraid to just up and leave without a plan. Apparently, Kurt's need for proper planning and structure kicks in when it hampers him, but disappears when it's time to apply to a safety school so he doesn't end up being a Lima Loser. At any rate, watching Kurt dissolve into the sinkhole of failure and regret is killing Blaine, and he's prepared to shove him out of the nest. Kurt wonders a little about the challenge of a long distance relationship, but Blaine promises... it will be fine. Yeah, we'll see about that at hiatus time, bud.

Well, it's nice to see that the Klaine dynamic has not changed in the slightest. Blaine, while being a year younger (apparently), is the one who comes closer to passing for straight, so the Law of Murphy dictates that he must be the wiser, more mature, more decisive partner in this relationship about absolutely everything all the time without exception. Now that I've seen The New Normal, I understand that this is actually a Murphy truism, it will never, ever change and the Kurtsies all need to just suck it up and accept the fact that the writers consider Kurt the vastly inferior half of this couple. Blaine rocks and Kurt is a pathetic ball of suck. It's canon. Got it. Grrrr.

Fortunately, something happens that takes my mind off that and gives me a new reason to be horrified... I seem to be saying that a lot today...

The Cheerios start the rhythm, and the band kicks in for no good reason, and the Artie-appointed New Rachel is off to do what he does best... break into random song at unexpected times and places. "It's Time!" he sings to Kurt. Maybe he worked this little solo out with the Cheerios and the band ahead of time just for Kurt's benefit. The boy who almost froze Kurt out last year because he feared the New York separation is now singing his encouragement that Kurt leave. Yes, the moment that Kurt makes a decision that changes his life forever is almost completely dominated by Blaine. Kurt does not make the decision himself, and he does not sing about his own journey. He once again has no personal agency at all in the things that happen to him in Lima.

This couple really needs to break up. It's really extremely unbalanced. A year and a half ago, I'd never thought I'd say that. However, the game of cups is kind of cute.

Back in the lunch room - now minus Kurt - Blaine is informing Brittney that she can't just quit because Blaine gets to have all the solos. Ah, I see that the New Rachel strategy is working well. Heather mutters a series of lines about a dead heart song that are so poorly delivered and so hard to understand I just can't be bothered to go back and listen again. Maybe Blaine is the New Rachel because he can talk.

Kitty tries to change the subject to something more pleasant; they can't do a Popularity Homecoming Float with all white people.. oooh, she's lovely. I see she's related to the Grandmother on the New Normal. Oddly enough, the black jock at the table is not offended by Kitty's racism. He's more offended by Mama Lunch Lady's girth. Sugar chimes in, and Marley explodes, blowing her cover. Yes, she's related to Mama Lunch Lady.

Shocked silence, even from Joe and Blaine. Kitty is clearly thinking, "Oh, you are SO dead meat." I'd like to hope that Joe and Blaine are thinking "OK, we are assholes." Sugar appears to realize that she's said something amiss as Marley stomps off, and Sam, sitting at a less kewl table, watches this with concern.

Back in New York, Rachel is pining for Finn, a picture on her cell phone. Brody sees this and decides to accelerate the breakup process by gently informing her that he broke up with his own long-distance girlfriend after six weeks.

"That's not going to happen to us" says Rachel, which confuses me a little because I thought it already did, and at any rate, I believe it probably will pretty soon. Brody bides his time until sweeps.... in the meantime, he thinks she killed it in Thibadeaux's class. Rachel is uncomfortable in New York, but Brody explains that it's because she's becoming a different person. She's becoming a New Rachel. New life, new city, new attitude, new memories and pretty soon... new boyfriend. OK, let's cement that idea with a photo of the new couple, side by side in New York. Unless Brody turns out to be a secret asshole like Cooter did, Finn's in for a heap of trouble here. Brody is more handsome, he sings better, he's more intelligent, and he's a better fit for Rachel. The only thing Finn has going for him is that his actor is better and more beloved by the fandom.

I do think Brody was also lecturing us. Don't fight the new Glee! New characters, new scenarios, new ships! And there is this. As far as I can tell, Brody is not a 2.0., unless he combines the talent and intelligence of Jesse St. James with the basic decency of Finn Hudson. (Well, when Finn is allowed to be a good guy, which is sometimes.)

Back to dance class. Cassandra is sober. Her dancers are not yet psychotic enough to please her. She asks Ms. Schwimmer - the only dancer not in black - to do a twirl. It's still pretty Community College dance class quality, but Rachel swears to Cassandra that she will keep getting better until she's the best Cassandra has ever seen. Given the level of basic talent on display, this is not likely, Cassandra pretends she likes the spunk, but what she really plans to do is make Rachel's life hellish. Apparently, it's now personal. Rachel does not dance all that well and she dislikes drunk teachers. She's toast.

 Burt has driven Kurt to the airport. Kurt has no job, no NYADA, no place to live, no plan, but he's got a one-way ticket to New York City because he's an essential part of this spinoff within the original show, so he's going. He's going to have to sell his car for two weeks of rent in a hotel, and he has a credit card so he doesn't starve to death. OK, so Kurt has exactly two weeks to get his life in New York in order. Gee, I wish Emma had done her job last year and made him create a backup plan.

Oh, for crying out loud. Kurt still doesn't want to go to New York. He wants to apply for NYADA from Ohio and he understands that his barista salary would go farther in Lima than in the Big Apple. Kurt really, really has no personal agency or drive here at all. He's being forced out by everybody who loves him because he's incapable of making any bold decisions for himself - at least while he's still in Lima. Burt encourages his son to embrace the adventure, the struggle.

Kurt is being shoved out of the nest forcibly, and he's terrified. This is actually the worst possible way they could have written his ticket to New York, at least in terms of narrative development for him. They can make him be a wimpy little whiner if they like - he's their character, not mine - but I get to be disappointed. However, Burt remembers what Kurt has forgotten. Lima sucks. It's been horrible to him. It's mistreated him terribly. For all that New York is more demanding of excellence, it is also more accepting of eccentricity, and there is more chance that Kurt (once he escapes from Lima) will be up to the challenge of being excellent at something than there is that he will be conventional as he does it.

The best dad on television tells Kurt that New York is filled with people who aren't afraid to be different. He knows that Kurt is going to be happy there, and I am going to accept this as a promise from the writers; that Kurt will blossom and thrive when he's out of Lima, because enough is freaking enough, dammit. The New Kurt in New York with New Rachel. OK, we will try this out. And as his son walks away from Lima, Burt Hummel weeps, because he knows his strange little wonderful son, finally given wings to fly, is never coming home.

 At least one person is kind of disgusted with the antics of the Glee Club - Sam. He catches up to Marley in the halls and apologizes for nasty comments he did not make so that she will not leave a Glee Club that has too few members as it is because they've become too full of themselves to let anybody in. Sam knows that the sweater is from Wal-Mart. He knows what it's like to be poor. He thinks that in Glee Club, if you can sing and dance, you belong.

As long as you don't trash the music stand, at least. Boy, I guess there really aren't any good unrecruited voices at McKinley High, if he's right. Should they get Jacob to sway in the background again? Marley does not want to stay in Glee because they were making fun of her mother, but as she turns around, she sees that the whole group have showed up to apologize. Sam has organized this exercise in collective remorse. He seems to be a real leader. Maybe he should be the New Rachel. Blaine declares that in Glee Club, everybody gets to be a star - at least, everybody except Kurt, who never did get any of those solos he kept fighting for - and he hopes she will come to rehearsal. She gets to sing lead vocal! She IS the New Rachel! Unique is there in full regalia, hoping that Marley will feel accepted because Unique is now being accepted... at least, I think that was her point, and it wasn't just pointless bragging. I will say this; Alex's acting improves significantly as Unique, and it's clear to me that Wade should be gone for good.

Well, Marley is sold on the Glee Club, but she's not sold on sitting with racist, catty Kitty and those two guys... one of whom is black, but willing to sit with Kitty, which confuses me.. but oh, look. Here's Catty Kitty herself with her two buffoons. Kitty still appears to have all the power in this relationship, over the Senior Class President, also a Cheerio and nominee for Homecoming King. She was willing to let the Glee Club kids be popular because they won a National Championship, but she does not like transgender people or poor people. And after all, Unique and Marley were not actually on the team that won that championship.

Therefore, Blaine excuses all of them from her toxic crew. And therefore... it's slushie Central. We may be looking for the New Rachel, but it's same old McKinley. Their status as winners lasted one episode.

Kurt, are you on that flight yet? You were hanging around here... why? Glad you got out in time.

Will is in the office, doing a little research he probably should have done earlier. He wants to talk to Jake. Is it because Jake is such an extraordinary voice? Because they only have nine singers and they need twelve? Because having another good-looking straight boy in the organization may improve the group's image? No, it's because Jake... is Puck 2.0 His last name is Puckerman. He is, absolutely literally, Puck's long-lost half brother, and Puck does not even know he exists.

Jake deducts that since he is Puck 2.0, he is now good enough for Glee. He would be absolutely correct in that deduction, but Will does not want to admit that, so he chooses this angle: Noah Puckerman was a nasty little punk who became a pretty decent guy because he joined the Glee Club. Will feels he can do the same thing for Jake Puckerman, Puck 2.0. Will interrupted his audition because he knew Jake sang well enough, and because he wasn't doing a split-screen duet with Puck, who is AWOL this episode. Will has ears. He knows Jake sings well. However, Jake knows that if he joins the Glee Club, he will be spouting PSAs by the end of the year and he doesn't want to change like that.

So of course, he will change his mind by the end of the last song, "Chasing Pavements." Marley is singing lead as the group takes the stage for afternoon rehearsal. Unique is now a girl, possibly for good. Rachel sits in Central Park, looking at pictures of Finn and feeling sorry for herself. Funny... Marley is singing lead without actually being in rehearsal, but as she appears in the auditorium, Blaine welcomes her onto the stage and she just keeps on singing. Funny how they were all singing the same song at the same time. Jake enters as well. He is not singing, but the magic touch of being 2.0 draws him against his will. We are the New Directions. Resistance is futile. No, you aren't going out that door, kid. Oh, you are? OK, we'll drag you in next week. You know you want to be here.

Rachel, alone in Central Park, calls Kurt and comes clean. She lied.

New York sucks.
She misses Kurt.
She misses Finn.
She misses being a star.
Cassandra is a monster even though she can't really dance much better than Rachel can.
Her roommate is sleeping her way to the top, or at least to the Clinic.

Kurt thinks she should move out and get a new roommate. He knows just the person. Turn around.

He is talking to her on the phone, on the other side of the fountain, and Hummelberry is reunited. He's solved her loneliness problem, her roommate problem, her confidence problem, and his own housing problem. Since he's not in NYADA, they won't compete for solos, either. Hey, since he's not in a singing organization at all anymore, he may never sing again.

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