More songs, more fantasy, less talking and less adults. These principles applied to the basic structure of "Glee" result in the best episodes of the franchise, and Michael Jackson hit all the notes. The adults stay out of it except in direct support of the kids, the emotional speeches were bookends to musical numbers, the musical numbers themselves were strong, fantastical and poignant to the story. Even as the real world creeps closer and closer to the Michael Jackson fantasy land of McKinley, the New Directions are finding ways to overcome.
We begin with the former Troubletones lamenting to Kurt and Blaine that they missed their chance to perform Michael Jackson in competition, and in a brilliant bit of marketing synergy Blaine manages to promote the Michael Jackson Cirque tour, and kick off the episode with "Wanna Be Starting Something." Blaine crotch-grabs his way through the McKinley halls, rallies the troops in the library and then they all end up on stage in various versions of MJ costumes, looking fabulous. Meanwhile, Finn has been patiently waiting 3 days for Rachel to make a decision about his desperate proposal last episode. Rachel claims to want to marry Finn someday, but that she's still planning on New York, while Finn explains that this engagement would be a way to keep them together and make their relationship more solid. Rachel rightly calls him out on that being a little crazy, but it is crazy in a very specifically high school way where heightened emotion and the fear of change leads to these sorts of rash decisions. Finn stalls her and tells her to think some more.
Video: Blaine, "Wanna Be Starting Something"
Over at the Lima Bean, discussion turns back to Michael Jackson memories -- even though the whole discussion should be about Kurt's fabulous gloves. Evil Sebastian shows up and proclaims that the New Directions' plans are foiled because Warblers have first slot at Regionals and will be performing Michael Jackson as well, since Blaine accidentally tipped him off on their set list. Santana tries to take Sebastian down a peg but he quips back more racist, classist and meaner than Glee's villains normally act. Basically, we're quickly learning Sebastian is a new type of Glee villain. He's even changed the rules in the Warblers, serving as their captain, the days of the council and their fair and proper ways long gone.
Of course the club is in distress, despite Blaine reminding them all that they have pulled off last minute set lists before, and they still have plenty of time by Glee standards to throw something new together.
Mr. Schue turns their frustration into a lesson called WWMJD - What Would Michael Jackson Do? While that's ripe for off-color jokes, Artie points out that Michael would fight back, and Blaine claims that he would "take it to the streets." Glee's version of the streets is an abandoned parking garage, where they meet the Warblers for a Jackson Off. New Directions have put on hoodies to signify their toughness, and they break into a choreographed dance fight set to "Bad" with the Warblers that is up there with the Dreamgirls performance from earlier this season as one of the strangest and best things "Glee" has done. When they edge into true musical theater moments infused in the show is Glee's shining point, and this whole episode showcases mostly that. In the end, the fantasy slams into reality as the Warblers pass Sebastian a slushie he intends to throw at Kurt, except ever valiant Blaine leaps in the way and then crumbles to the ground in pain.
Video: New Directions & the Warblers, "Bad"
Slushies have been an annoying but ultimately harmless abuse device for three seasons on "Glee," a clothes-and-day ruiner and a symbol of high school status, but not actual violence, but our newest villain has, again, changed all the rules, putting something into the mix that we learn scratched Blaine's cornea and requires surgery. Kurt quietly delivers this information to the club, always the boy surrounded by hospitals and pain, and the group reacts in anger. They want revenge, but without proof that the slushie was tampered with there's nothing they can do. Artie breaks down, telling Mr. Schue he wants to do more than just sing to react, and stop turning the other cheek and waiting for things to get better. Schue tells him to take a break, and the Glee fantasy takes over as he steps out of his chair and walks, with Mike, into a recreation of the "Scream" video. It's a reminder of how unfortunately it is that Artie is wheelchair bound because more Kevin McHale dancing on Glee would be amazing. Again, Glee flourishes by letting the songs narrate the show, and taking something iconic visually to highlight the kids' emotions. We learn more about Artie's frustration in this fantasy scene than we have in 3 seasons. We fade back into reality as Artie rolls out of the choir room to calm down.