'Glee' Recap: 'Dynamic Duets' Saves the Day With Kelly Clarkson, Fun.
Apparently that bit about Blaine joining the superheroes club a few episodes ago was not a typical throwaway "Glee" gag, but a setup for "Dynamic Duets," an episode of "Glee" that brings the show both back to its roots of a specific mix of insanity and earnestness, while subsequently moving the show forward into its new, uncharted future. It's a deft move, and something many fans weren't sure the show could even achieve, let alone achieve with a campy superhero themed episode.
First, the new kids. Ryder and Kitty officially join the glee club and Finn kicks off his first official lesson with a bit fumbling and with the idea that the sectionals theme (hey, sectionals is next week!) is Foreigner they will only sing songs by Foreigner in foreign language in outfits of the world. When no one takes to the idea, Finn realizes he has to embrace the superhero obsession and comes back with the Dynamic Duets idea, pairing up the newbies in unlikely duos to perform together -- Marley with Kitty and Ryder with Jake. Ryder and Jake is especially awkward, since they are both overtly going after Marley, with Jake asking her out and Ryder shutting him down in the hallway. Still, in the interest of the assignment they come together to perform "Superman" by R.E.M., each dressed as Clark Kent and trying to one up each other as they flirt with Kitty. It's fun until it turns sour and Jake punches Ryder, the pair of them wresting on the floor until the boys pull them apart. Finn's punishment is for them to sit in a room and tell each other their secrets. Jake goes first with a written note about how he feels like an outsider because he's half black and half Jewish, meaning he doesn't fit in anywhere. Ryder makes him say it outloud instead of reading the note because his secret is he can't read.
Meanwhile, Kitty is still egging Marley into bulimic behavior with a mix of "Mean Girls"-style veiled insulting compliments and playing at being her friend. Their duet of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" is whip-tastic and what most Faberry shippers' (that's Quinn and Rachel for the uninitiated) wet dreams are made of. Kitty is one of the most interesting villainesses "Glee" has produced since Crazy Terri. By all "Glee" logic we know she must be redeemed in some way eventually, but her complex blend of devious and clearly hurt and yearning finally hits home this episode. She's going to be the best thing to watch until they likely give her parent issues and make her dye her hair pink and get a Mario Lopez tattoo.
Jake tells Finn about Ryder's literacy issues and they take him to a specialist. With special care, "Glee" shows the testing that reveals Ryder's dyslexia and then the plans for action around it. What's great about this is it's "Glee" focusing on a story that isn't about a relationship at its core, it's about a boy and his own struggles (and then, later, how that will relate to his parents and the girl he likes). It's one of the most worthwhile and interesting things "Glee" has done, in the middle of an episode where more often than not the characters are all wearing spandex and capes. The fact that Finn delivers him to this is a moment for Finn too, in finding his way as the adult and leader of these kids. In repayment, Ryder stands up to the jocks for Jake (who is getting teased for standing up for Marley's mom). After several episodes where the new faces have been resonating as just background fodder, for the first time we care, especially when they focus on the friendship instead of the romance. While it's great that Kitty's prodding gets Marley the courage to actually assert herself to the boys she may or may not like, what's more interesting is the dynamic of Ryder and Jake's friendship that will make this complicated.
While the new kids are finding themselves, we also have Blaine, who is finding himself sans-Kurt. He has not only joined the superhero club, he now runs it and is inducting new members into the group. His meeting, however, is interrupted by news that sends the club slow-mo superhero racing down the hall to discover that a mysteriously pixelated Bane / Dr. Evil hybrid Warbler has stolen the trophy. Only Nightbird, Blaine's alter ego, can save the day, but he at least chooses to change out of the costume before he heads to Dalton. Once there, he first runs into Sebastian, who he assumes masterminded the theft, on the iconic staircase, but we're reminded that Sebastian has turned over a new, no-blinding-crushes-with-slushies policy. There's someone worse at Dalton now, and he's not even remotely bi-curious. New lead Warbler, Hunter, has been brought in as a ringer from another private school to lead the Warblers to victory, but he still needs his secret weapon -- Blaine. As the rest of the Warblers descend on the library, he tries to sweet talk the former Warbler into coming back. Sebastian offers that they know the true Blaine, as they present him with a Warbler jacket (cueing a comical fireplace flair and cat closeup) and suggest an impromptu sing-a-long. Blaine tries to be demure, but once the do-dah-ing starts, it's like Blaine can't help himself, and they break out into Kelly Clarkson's "Dark Side."
Immediately he slips back into his old self, commanding the room like he did in Season 2. The song pulls Blaine back into his safe haven, the place he ran away to after his Sadie Hawkins attack, and in going back to Dalton he's looking for the Blaine he used to be, the good guy. It's Blaine wanting to hit the reset, pleading not to be picture perfect and have his dark side embraced by going back to the place where he was a teenage dream. The only boy who isn't in the room to see this is Kurt, the one Warbler who needs to hear this song. As he sings the final "don't run away" he snaps out of it, and unbuttons the jacket because he's still torn between McKinley and Dalton.
Back at McKinley, Blaine admits to Finn that he sang with the Warblers and that his place isn't at McKinley, it's there with them. Everything at McKinley reminds him of the dynamic duo of him and Kurt, while the Warblers are his "birthright" and "destiny." Finn eventually reveals to the club that Blaine is planning to leave and as he's packing up his locker, his vice president, Sam, confronts him, asking him why he keeps beating himself up over the Kurt heartbreak. For the first time Blaine explicitly (or as explicit as "Glee" is going to get about a random gay internet hookup) outlined just how he broke Kurt's trust, but more importantly how much he believes that he and Kurt were forever and how he's hopeless to fix that. Sam smartly points out that exiling himself to Dalton won't fix anything and he has to forgive himself. Blaine says he just wants to feel like he's not a bad person, and Sam asks for one day to show him that he isn't. They duet on David Bowie's "Heroes" over a montage of the kids helping out around their community (and goofing off with paintbrushes). Capes off, the club does real good. Resolved to stay, they take off on one last superhero mission to Dalton, this time in costume to recover their trophy as the screen proclaims, "Blam!" and "Slaine" in comic book fonts.
The episode closes on the show's second Fun. number, "Some Nights." It's evocative of the prior season's jubilant performance of "We Are Young," mixed with the iconic original "Don't Stop Believing" number, complete with red shirts. Almost everyone gets a turn in the spotlight, with the only noticeable absence of Unique, who is missing from the whole episode. Her exclusion is the only thing that keeps this from ranking up there with the top "Glee" group numbers of all time -- otherwise it hits all the emotional notes we need to know this group is still strong and ready to defend their title. A group about to go to war that doesn't have all the answers, but they're in it together.
This is the second episode this season that ignored Kurt and Rachel and the New York storyline, but the first that makes you think, for just a moment, that we might not need them. This isn't true, but the new stories are becoming a valued part of the "Glee" fabric. We also get a Blaine who's breaking out of the love-interest role and find his own identity. As Beiste points out early in the episode, putting on a mask is like getting up on stage -- it gives the kids the courage to be who they aspire to be. Ryder unlocks his secret identity with a diagnosis that gives him new focus, Marley might not be a total wet blanket after all, and Blaine realizes that he doesn't have to go backwards to move forward. Onward and upward, "Glee"!