Glee – back on form in a BIG way with ‘Born This Way’

After the lacklustre ‘Night of Neglect’, Glee roared back with a terrific extended episode this week, named for Lady Gaga’s latest. The episode saw the extremely welcome return of Kurt to McKinley, a surprising revelation about Quinn and Santana proving herself to be a schemer of the highest order. Best of all, pretty much every song was great, with a Rachel/Quinn duet that is definitely my favourite Glee song for ages, and one of the best of the season.

Firstly a complaint. There was a lot in the news about this 90minute episode of Glee. Well my DVR clocked in at 57mins and 50 seconds. That is A LOT of adverts that the TV audience had to sit through. Glee must be an enormous cash cow for Fox.  I often wonder who exactly is raking in the iTunes sales money. Then there is that extremely long tour the kids are doing. Will they be making a mint from the pricey tickets?  I doubt it..

Unfortunately I hear ratings were not great for this episode – possibly due to many eager people waiting weeks for a new episode and being disappointed by last week’s below par effort. For Gleeks, there has been talk about the Born This Way episode for a long time – before Gaga even released it I think!

The episode’s theme was to do with being happy with what you are born with, prompted by Rachel’s decision whether to get a nose job or not after Finn’s uncoordinated dancing leaves her nose broken. Will and the other boys seemed not at all keen, while Quinn dropped the insults and helped her for once as Rachel coveted her nose as a role model! Meanwhile, in a bid to be prom queen and win Brittany, Santana came up with an evil genius plan. To get votes she decides to get Kurt back, to get Kurt back she needs to fix Karofsky and his bullying. After spotting Karofsky staring at Sam’s ass, she realises Karofsky is gay and forcefully suggests they play each other’s beards. In other prom queen news, Lauren decides to run, making Quinn seem unusually threatened. After some digging Lauren discovers why Quinn is so prickly about it – she was a chubby, unattractive child and that perfect nose Rachel wants – all plastic baby!!

Emma sees a therapist about her OCD, Tina gets a few more lines, Finn gets dance lessons from Mike Chang and after Karofsky apologises to the Glee clubbers, announces he and Santana are now dating too, allowing Kurt to return triumphant. Finally, in an extremely busy episode, Santana and Brittany have a moment and the kids don t shirts with slogans saying what they see as their faults – Emma ‘OCD’ (‘Ginger’ was her first attempt), ‘No Weave’ from Mercedes, ‘Likes Boys’ for Kurt, ‘Nose’ for Rachel etc. while singing the title song. Phew!

So what made this episode work when last week’s didn’t? Well for a start the music. I heard the Rachel/Quinn duet, a mashup of ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Wide Story and TLC’s ‘Unpretty’ last week on YouTube and have been listening to it over and over! Dianna Agron and Lea Michele’s voices are polar opposites in terms of power and range – Agron’s sweet vocals have never really fully convinced.  I remember reading she was cast something like the day before shooting and of the kids, she has the most tv credits. She seems to be more of an actress who sings and dances a bit while most of the rest of the kids were primarly singers or dancers. Indeed, Agron has a far more extensive resume than any of them, popping up in Veronica Mars, Heroes and blockbuster (if fairly shite) “I Am Number Four” recently as well as a small role in Cher’s “Burlesque.”

Lea Michele on the other hand really does have a voice in a million, with power to spare.  Long story short, it seemed that these  two could never sing together, surely. I read a quote from someone who said it sounded like it would be putting a pit bull and a poodle in a dog fight ring together! Well somehow, it worked! Lea Michele takes it easy, matching Agron’s breathy but undeniably sweet voice. Kudos to music producer Adam Anders though, what really makes it work is the blend of these two unlikely songs in a just lovely arrangement. I think I’m into the 20s for the number of times I have listened to this one now!

Also wonderful was Kurt’s ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ from Sunset Boulevard. I’ve always liked this song – I have Glenn Close’s version on my ipod – but Chris Colfer does it so well. It is amazing to see how much he has grown up in less than 2 years since the show started. As the youngest of the cast, he has undoubtedly grown and changed the most. This was also a totally perfect song for the returning Kurt. While he looked cute in his blazer, this episode saw the fashion pioneer Kurt return with a splash! Top hat for school, an adorable dance outfit to convince Rachel to leave that nose alone and he just oozed confidence as he strutted around in his “liked boys” t shirt.

Talking of the boys in blazers, Blaine and the Warblers sang Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ to say goodbye – once again just a wonderfully appropriate choice of a song I happen to adore. Darren Criss has had a disproportionate number of solos this season, but when they are as good as this, there are no complaints from me.

Finn unlocked his inner Sammy Davis Jr in ‘I Gotta be Me’, my least favourite song of the episode only because I am not a fan of this style of music. Cory sang it well although danced abysmally! Yes, Finn’s t shirt HAD to say “Can’t Dance”

The final song, a group number to Born This Way was only disappointing because the song is actually pretty dull. Sorry Lady Gaga, it IS a Madonna rip off and simply not that great a song. The kids performed it well, and I loved the slogan t shirts, although if you stop to think about it, the idea of something you don’t like about yourself didn’t quite work for a couple of them – I’m thinking Kurt’s “Likes Boys” one. Even Santana’s “Lebanese” (Brittany can’t spell Lesbian) doesn’t quite fit.

As well as the great songs,  we also had some interesting plotlines. Rachel’s nose issues were an intriguing subject. I do hope Jewish doctors don’t really encourage their 16 year old daughters to get nose jobs in that way. In some ways I can understand why Lea Michele is such a red carpet clothes horse as she is nearly always made to look pretty awful on Glee, having received far more slushies or similar than anyone else. This week the make up department clearly had fun decorating her nose and face to show some nasty bruising. Poor Rachel looked pretty miserable for much of the episode.  On the other hand, we all know Lea Michele has NOT had a nose job, therefore Rachel was never going to go through with it (by the way DID Naya Rivera get a real life boob job? How come NO ONE mentioned it or Santana’s boob job in this episode? Odd..)

Rachel and Quinn’s trip to the plastic surgeon together (which led to the Unpretty song) was nice to see. Is Quinn not going to call her names any more now? As the actresses are so close, it is nice to see the characters do something other than fight over Finn.

In many ways, the real instigator of so much this week was Santana. She had nearly all the best lines – indeed, Brittany was the serious one, Santana quipping. My favourite: ‘I am a bitch. Legend has it when I was born I came out and told the nurse she was fat.’ Or ‘the only straight I am is a straight up bitch’. Naya Rivera has impressed me a lot this year. She has a fantastic voice and her acting has gone from strength to strength. Similarly, Max Adler as the bully Karofsky seemed like a dumb, one note character when we first met him. This episode saw him confronted with a situation out of his comfort zone – Santana’s calling him on his sexuality, and the actor did a good job.

I am very glad they did not just flip a switch and have Karofsky either all nice now or totally accepting of his sexuality. It was enough of a suspension of disbelief that he didn’t thump either Santana, or lose his rag with his dad, Burt or Figgins. Plus who can forget Santana and Karofsky in those berets!!

With the later scenes between Santana and Brittany we saw another side to her – still vulnerable over Brit’s rejection, but spikey with it. As a Santana fan, this was a great episode with so much for her to do.

(Wow, this review is going on)

Quinn as a former fat and ugly girl. Hmm, not sure where that come from – Glee sometimes does introduce stories out of no where. However, they played it out in THIS episode. From the very first moments, Quinn is not into Will’s ‘happy with how you are born’ message and we find out why. Is it believable? Not sure to be honest. I’m guessing that WAS Dianna Agron in Lucy Caboose make up as her former Ugly Betty self. Bet that was fun!

Jayma Mays did some awesome work this week in a killer scene with her new therapist, guest star Kathleen Quinlan (who I have always been a fan of.) With all the kids, it can be easy to forget how talented some of the grown ups are, and Mays has been around for a long time, specialising in sensitive, fragile characters. But her tears on the therapists (now super clean) couch were really touching. Will forcing her confront her OCD comes across as overbearing at times though. Who is he to preach to anyone?

Quick mentions – loved the toddler Lauren and her baby chin ups. The Barbra-vention – a flash mob to some dance song was fun if a rather tangential way to tell Rachel she didn’t need the nose job.

All in all, just a great episode, even if for once, everyone seemed to have a happy ending. There is usually someone miserable by the end, although perhaps you could count Santana, reduced to sitting watching her Glee pals sing Gaga while wearing her Lebanese t shirt instead of standing up there with them.

As you may have guessed, I liked this one. A lot.

Hooray for Glee!