This week " Glee" reminds us that even when the songs are fun, the laughs are solid and there's a meaningful plotline, it doesn't all add up to a good episode. Sure, we hummed along to the mash-ups, giggled at Sue's return, and are left with many emotional questions over Santana and Finn's encounters, but the parts don't make a coherent whole. And there were a whole lot of parts to slog through to the payoff -- a slap heard 'round the fan community.
We begin with Puck, letting us know that he's in love with Shelby after their kiss two episodes ago, and does so in typical "Glee" fashion -- with a fantasy musical sequence set to "Hot For Teacher." At first you think the "Glee" kids are just wearing awful outfits as per usual (Blaine's tie, in particular, is not a far cry from anything he's worn this season) but then you realizes it's an '80s throwback dream sequence the segues into a choir room performance. Kurt's bemused and horrified face says it all, as Mike and Blaine engage in some risque dance moves and mock-fencing to back up Puck, with Finn on drums. Mr. Schue leaps up at the end, extremely pleased, possibly misinterpreting that they were hot for him, as the teacher, and not Shelby. In your dreams, Will.
"Glee" integrates Sue Sylvester back into the mix via amazingly ridiculous campaign ads that smear Burt Hummel as having a baboon heart, and later as being married to a donkey. While Burt and Will are taking the high road, eventually all the muckraking has very real consequences. But we'll get to that later. For now, we want to pat the editor tasked with those faux commercials very heartily on the back. The show has blossomed for lack of Sue recently, but this was the perfect dose of her insanity.
Sectionals are fast approaching and ignoring the much touted in previous seasons numerical requirement for competition, apparently both New Directions and Troubletones will compete. Will and Shelby decide to throw a mash-off, a mash-up competition between the two groups, which the pair announce by singing a horrendous mash-up of Lady Gaga's "You and I" with the 1982 Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle duet by the same name. We stand with Brittney's quote, "Is this what having a stroke feels like?" We just don't agree with liking the feeling.
While Puck tries to seduce Shelby with the gift of a mini pumpkin and the compelling argument that they're both hot and Beth needs a dad, back in the choir room the group starts planning their mash-up based on bands that have stuck together through the long run.
Because nothing is linear in "Glee" world, we break from the mash-off to go to the senior class president speeches. A mulleted hockey player candidate talks about making teachers work for them (and will probably win the whole thing), Britt declares a war on tornadoes and also pledges to go topless. Kurt, after delicately taking off his decorative unicorn horn, broadens his campaign from anti-obesity to take a stand against dodgeball. He picks up the mic and lays down some serious dodgeball facts, all while Blaine nods along from the front row, drawing the elimination of dodgeball into a stand against bullying and violence. While it's still a pointless campaign issue, it's leaps and bounds above everyone else.
When Rachel finally stands to make her speech, she shocks everyone by withdrawing from the race and throwing her allegiance behind Kurt. It's probably not enough to win against a tornado ban, but it's the thought that counts. The pair reunite, and Rachel reminds us that part of the fun of going to New York is going there with Kurt by her side. We're still not convinced either will manage to get into NYADA, but we'll happily watch a show where they squat in a Bushwick loft and work at diners to make their New York dreams come true. Whatever it takes to get them away from the insanity that is Lima.
The combined bomb of Sue's negative political tactics and Finn's lack of tact come to ahead with the teachers, plus Burt Hummel, calling Santana into Sue's office to show her a campaign ad about to be run by another Congressional competitor seeking to discredit Sue by pointing out that the family values candidate has a lesbian head cheerleader. Santana bursts into tears, sobbing that her parents don't know yet before running off down the hallway. We segue into the Troubletones' Adele mash-up of "Rumor Has It / Someone Like You" that is arguably the best performance "Glee" has done since "Don't Stop Believin'." It's perhaps handicapped by being Adele, which as "Saturday Night Live" pointed out this week, biologically makes anyone and everyone burst into tears. While lyrically, performance-wise, it begs for the number to be about a relationship issue between Britt and Santana, not Santana's devastation about her secret finally being out, Naya Rivera's powerful vocals and the strong arrangement still packs the emotional punch "Glee" was targeting, even if it's off-center.
As the number ends, Santana leaps off the stage to call out Finn for what's he's done. Finn, for his part, doesn't realize his actions have any real consequences. He thinks since everyone knows at McKinley and no one cares, Santana's outting was just as bad as her calling him chubby all episode. Santana, of course, and the rest of the gay kids at McKinely (as the camera swiftly cuts to Kurt), know better. This arc between Finn and Santana is one of the strongest, but unfortunately "Glee" left it to rot in the middle of a haphazard episode, and one where Santana's meanness might overshadow for some the true danger and carelessness of Finn's outing and cripple our emotional connection with Santana. We've been waiting a long time for this character to be forced to confront her reality, but her harshness in this episode alone shocks the sympathy away from her character. We can only hope in the next episode that the reality of her situation shapes up and takes true center stage.