This week on "Glee" is all about holding fast to your ambitions in the face of expectations -- from breaking free of your parents' plans for your future to build your own, to believing in yourself even if the world around you disagrees. Of course, there's varying results, from Mike Chang who warms your heart to Mercedes who leaves you saying "WTF?" or the shades of grey in someone like Rachel. In classic "Glee" form, you leave this week hurting a little bit for everybody.
Booty Camp is still in full force, but Mercedes is showing up late and not taking it seriously. She's sick, which "Glee" doesn't really address this episode but we hope it's just a convenient plot device for this episode and not indicative of Mercedes having a serious illness. In the cafeteria, Mercedes' boo Shane tells Mercedes to stop playing nice with Rachel and to embrace the fact that she's a star and is better than everyone else. For Mercedes, this is the first time someone had fully supported just her at the school, and she beams at him before breaking into Jennifer Hudson's "Spotlight." It starts as a fantasy sequence in the choir room, with Mercedes singing "Well I don't like / Living under your spotlight" at Rachel, before transitioning to her "West Side Story" audition, complete with Brittany and Tina as backup vocalists (is that legal?). Mercedes is undoubtedly an incredible singer, and it's the most confident we've seen her in a while, but she's not a Maria, as much as "Glee" wants us to think she'd do well at the role.
Meanwhile, Kurt's confidence in his victory over Brittany for student council until Brittany and Santana show up and explain that boys have led the school to destruction and "double-digit inflation," and it's time for a girl to take charge. It's more fantasy-meets-reality, with Brittany magically putting on a kinky leather mini skirt and strutting through the entire school to lead an impromptu flash mob to Beyonce's "Run The World (Girls)." It's hot, but not much of an actual campaign, even though this display means she'll give idealistic Kurt a run for his money.
Mike Chang's plotline is the namesake of this episode, receiving an A- on a chemistry exam, the dreaded "Asian F," which prompts his father to request the school drug test him. He demands Mike quit the New Directions and dancing to focus on his future. At first Mike acquiesces, but on his way to a chemistry tutor session that means he'll miss his big audition for Riff, he passes the (improbable) McKinley ballet room and begins a fantasy dance sequence where he's haunted by the image of his father telling him what's expected of him, and his girlfriend telling him to follow his dreams. He rushes to the auditorium and auditions with "Cool," complete with backup football player dancers (when did they have time to practice this?). For Mike Chang's first solo it's impressive -- maybe he should play Tony instead of Blaine!
Speaking of, Kurt and Blaine meet on a stairway to address their rivalry over the leading man role. Kurt brings Blaine flowers and tells him that Blaine killed his audition and should have the role. There's some uncertainty in Kurt's eyes, but in an episode where the boyfriends all support their own "leading ladies," it's nice to see Kurt in the support role this time around. Blaine seems ready to give Kurt a thank you kiss, but fellow students walking by reduces the PDA to a shoulder pat.
Back in Booty Camp, Mercedes shows up late again and can't master the move everyone else, even Finn, manages. She lashes out at Schue, calling him out on his Rachel favoritism and then at everyone for stifling her talent. As she turns to leave, Schue tells her if she walks out she's leaving glee club for good. The lights dim and come up on a flawless fantasy homage to the Dreamgirls number "It's All Over," with the cast all in shiny suits or sequins (and in Kurt's case, both). It's the perfect use of the non-realism of "Glee" and the power of musical theater to express a storyline, with everyone getting a line or two and the song mirroring the emotion and drama of the plot. When it ends, Mercedes is alone in the auditorium.
Mike's mom catches him skipping his tutoring sessions, at which point he admits to her that he doesn't want to be a doctor -- he wants to perform. She promises to support him with his father, and admits she, too, wanted to dance in her youth but wasn't brave enough to stand up to her domineering parents. Mike offers his mom dance lessons, waltzing her around the magical ballet studio. While he may be a shoe-in for Riff, the directors are torn over their Marias and call both Rachel and Mercedes to compete in a sing-off call back to Fame's "Out Here On My Own." Decked out in black, both divas give it their all. While the show wants us to believe otherwise, Rachel clearly out-sings Mercedes for the role, but Rachel thinks she hasn't and gets desperate, worried that her college bid won't work out if she doesn't have something standing out on her transcript -- so she throws her hat in the ring for class president, too. Kurt calls her out on it even as Rachel tries to justify her selfish actions and imply that she'll let Kurt be vice president. Kurt, in addition to his college dreams, is hoping his win could really change the culture of McKinley.
Of course, Rachel's machinations are for naught -- the directors have double-cast Maria, giving each girl a week as the lead. Mercedes won't accept the truce, furious that she believes the school is coddling Rachel. Rachel still holds fast to plan to run for class president, appropriating Brittany's girl-power motto and putting Finn in an awkward place between his girlfriend and his stepbrother.
We finally get to the root of Emma's OCD, stemming from her parents who are "Ginger Supremacists" that insult her and inspire her fear of germs from other hair colors. Schue, who's finally been calling out people on their bullshit all season, flat-out calls them racist and holds them responsible for Emma's problems. The episode ends with Schue and Emma both on their knees, praying for Emma's strength against her compulsions, while Schue sings "Fix You," Coldplay's first appearance on the show. The scenes flips from Emma as a young girl fighting her demons, to the group seeing the cast list, to everyone singing in the auditorium in all white -- minus Mercedes who has deflected to Shelby's currently non-existent competing glee club. With "Glee" on a three-week hiatus we have to wait until November to see if any of these issues has an easy fix.
Do you think the directors made the right casting decisions? Who is the best candidate for class president? Will we survive three weeks without "Glee?" Tell us in the comments!