Glease was the word Thursday night, with an entire episode devoted to songs from the classic musical. The music this episode is split between the general fun stuff ("Greased Lightning" the "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee") that, while they fit, only contribute bits to the story, while other "Grease" songs ("You're The One That I Want," "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" and even "Beauty School Dropout") manage to lyrically highlight the ongoing storylines of the season -- the testing of relationships, the search for a place.
For that the episode goes above previous musical theme episodes like Rocky Horror Picture Show or on par with West Side Story's integration, even if some of the pacing and logic harkened back to Season 3 "Glee" amidst an otherwise darn good Season 4.
To start off, Schue officially names Finn as "Glee" club mentor in his absences and the kids aren't happy -- and neither is Sue, who says she'll be back to her crazy old Season 1 selfr, then proves it by attacking random students in the halls. Despite Finn trying to make up with Sue over his offensive remark about her baby last week, Sue won't accept. Since she's taken over the auditorium so they move rehearsals to Burt's garage so the boys can go "method" as they prep "Greased Lightning," which is 90 percent Ryder's hips and 10 percent hair gel, yet zero percent Blaine Anderson.
While the guys gyrate on car parts, the girls are battling budding eating disorders. Dastardly Kitty is tricking Marley into thinking she's gaining weight by altering a single Sandy costume every night. For some reason Marley freaks out over this, assuming she's starting to gain weight thanks to her genetics even though if she stopped to think she'd realize none of her other clothes are too tight. Kitty says she wants friends and invites the girls over for a sleepover, during which Kitty explains to Marley that she can eat all the junk food she likes if she just binges and purges. She leaves Marley in the bathroom to think about it while she breaks into "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee" in a brown wig and newsboy cap. Even though the girls start off appalled when the music starts it's like a magical "Glee" spell that means they must engaged in Kitty's version of reality.
Last week Unique earned the role of Rizzo, but she kept the news from her parents. They're overall supportive and proud of Unique's identity, but they're worried for her safety in Ohio and pull her out of the play. A day before the show they bring in Santana to play Rizzo, which means poor Tina -- who comes bursting into the choir room in a modified costume and half-off book -- is overlooked yet again. Perhaps the end of Season 4 will be Tina just snapping and murdering everyone at McKinley. We'd all understand.
Converging on the Lima storyline are our New Yorkers. After Cassandra July discourages Rachel from auditioning for her first off broadway avant garde production of the "Glass Menagerie," Rachel tries to encourage Cassandra to audition with her, except for the non-ingenue role as a way to "get back on her game." Despite this, she offers Kurt and Rachel her frequent flier miles to travel back to Ohio to see their ex-beaus on stage out of the goodness of her heart (and since she can't use them herself after being banner for Jet Blue for a bloody mary incident.)
The story's two location narratives weave together as Kurt and Rachel return to McKinley and run into Blaine and Finn backstage, resulting in some very awkward standing around and staring. Kurt thinks coming back was a bad idea, but Rachel says they're going to sit in the audience and hold each other's hands and be proud of their friends. First up on stage is Blaine, singing "Beauty School Dropout."
He's all Teen Angel confidence except for the one moment he catches Kurt's eye in the audience and almost breaks. Backstage Ryder catches Marley making herself vomit in the bathroom and immediately jumps to bulimia instead of just nerves, then Ryder has an entire story about a boy on his old wrestling team that was using laxatives and then "crapped himself." Marley goes into "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee (Reprise)" as she makes moon eyes at Ryder and encourages herself to become a new woman. While we're not opposed to a whole new Marley, the show is rushed a sloppy getting us there.
Next up is Santana, who just before her number has a sweet but sad exchange with Brittany where while they're both still into each other, they're still staying apart. "There Are Worse Things I Can Do" strongly highlights three storylines -- Santana's, Unique has she sneaks into the audience to watch the role she wanted and sign along, and Cassandra in New York, who has taken Rachel's absence as a way to seduce her new TA, Brody, through sexy half-naked dancing.
Now it's time for a flash round of relationship drama -- Tina and Mike talk backstage and he tells her maybe they shouldn't have broken up. Tina says she's been finding herself as a single person, none of which we've seen on this show, but that maybe they can talk about getting back together. Also in the endless backstage downtime Ryder sees Marley in her sexy Sandy wear (we guess in "Glee" world no one ever has a dress rehearsal since he reacts like he's never seen her before). Kitty appears to try and psych them out over some McKinley theater critic who means nothing, and Ryder calms her with a kiss, which Jake sees and gets emo over. They take the stage with "You're The One That I Want," which starts off as the current McKinley denizens, but Rachel begins fantasizing about what it would be like if it was her class doing Grease instead, flashing back to Rachel and Finn's first duet in the pilot on the same song and pairing up all our favorite broken-apart couples.
She flees the auditorium after it's over to call Brody, but Cassandra picks up and reveals that they're hooking up. Finn finds her in the hallway in tears and they have a very sweet conversation where they're relatively adult-like until the Brody elephant pops up. Finn says they shouldn't talk about anything anymore, no contact not even in song, and Rachel agrees.
In contrast with the finality of the Finn and Rachel interaction is the final scene between Blaine and Kurt. Blaine catches Kurt in the hallway and wants to explain what happened with the boy he hooked up with, but Kurt cuts him off. He doesn't Blaine wants to talk to him and Kurt isn't care what Blaine has to say because he doesn't trust him anymore. Both he and Rachel, after their confrontations, emphasize that this "I thought this was home, it doesn't feel like it anymore" before they leave for their new home, New York.
Where this episode dragged and stuttered was more noticeable than the rest this season -- the Marley story, everything they do to poor Tina -- but the through-lines of the Kurt and Rachel show continues to ring true. The two of them are finding their actual place, and of the two men they've left behind to do so, at least one, Finn, is on a more solid path to self-realization. Only logically it's Blaine's turn next, and next week's return of the Warblers is the perfect start for him to do so. Our only question for this season of "Glee" is -- what happens when everyone finally finds their way?