Since “Glee” has been on hiatus we’ve had a World Series, a Hurricane and a Presidential election — so it’s no surprise that a That’s What You Missed on “Glee” is more useful than ever now. Last we left off everyone was breaking up after the distance of college applies different kinds of pressure. This week in “The Role You Were Born To Play” we focus on most of the left behinds, from a heartbroken Blaine to a listless Finn who’s looking to focus on saving the underclassmen of McKinley like a neuvo Schuster.
Now that he’s back in Lima, Finn is working at Hummel Tire and Lubes, and Artie comes to try and motivate him to co-direct “Grease.” He reluctantly agrees, but there’s just one problem — the heir-apparent Danny Zuko, Blaine Anderson, is not in the correct headspace for the part after his breakup with Kurt. Sam tries to explain that they’ve all been through breakups, and he’ll get over it, but Blaine definitely can’t. He breaks into “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” Sandy’s lament from the musical while pouring over a really well-appointed Kurt scrapbook that borders on creepy and pays homage to the movie version of Grease by sitting in the bleachers, then slow motion walks through the football field carnage unaffected before he’s on stage, auditioning anyway.
He’s the Danny of their dreams, but Blaine can’t do it, freaking out in a major way about not being able to play “the truth of Danny” before offering that maybe he can pull it together and do one song as Teen Angel. Finn is discouraged and Artie calls in the cavalry — Mike and Mercedes back to help cast and choreograph the show!
Marley and Unique are having BFF talk in the ladies room, discussing the roles they want. Marley is obviously gunning for Sandy, while Unique wants Rizzo even though she assumes the directors won’t allow it. Sue has been eavesdropping and her gender issues rear their ugly head, telling Unique she can’t play a girl part, and can’t be a girl. Marley and Unique say they don’t care and they’ll audition for the parts they want, breaking into P!nk’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss”).
Their friendship, unlike the other new kid relationships, is actually interesting to watch. Unfortunately poor Marley keeps getting duets that overshadow her (first Rachel, now Unique in their fun duet audition). Sandy seems a lock, but there is still no Danny hopes. Finn comes looking for recruits at the football field inspired by his own past and spots Ryder, a new sophomore who is doing dance moves on the field. Finn talks him into auditioning, duetting with him on Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” to inspire him — because men will sing if they can sing classic rock only. When Ryder gets into it suddenly they transition to a packed auditorium rock concert. It’s quite an introduction for the “Glee Project” winner who seems to be filling the role of a mixture of a new Finn and Sam in the New Glee dynamic.
Finn is apparently a loose-lipped director who tells Ryder he’s probably getting Danny and that Marley will be his Sandy, which he proceeds to blab when he introduces himself to Marley in the hallway. New Quinn (Kitty) catches Baby Puck (Jake) getting jealous from across the hall and saunters over to declare her interest in playing Sandy while being mean to Marley, to which Ryder doesn’t respond well. This leads to Jake auditioning too, and Kitty deciding they’ll audition together with Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.” They’re good at convincing that they could play a well-matched couple on stage, even if we’re still not sold on their “Glee” characters having chemistry.
Note: Video Features “Everybody Talks,” Not “Good Time” as Labeled
When they start doing callbacks Finn wants Unique for Rizzo and Sue catches wind of the plan and calls in Figgins. Finn is actually great for saying that if Unique identifies as a girl then she should get to play a girl’s part, while Sue points out that they live in Ohio and they were once unable to protect a gay student in their halls, if they cross gender cast a show things will go south. Maybe Sue has some twisted sense of duty to protect Unique from greater hurt, but it’s hard to feel it. As Finn gets more and more emotionally protective of his directing choices and dismissive of Sue, he missteps and calls her baby “retarded,” and although he immediately pauses and retracts, the tense moment of shock is quintessential “Glee” — a weird mess of not nothing who you’re even allowed to like because no one is a good person.
Then it’s callback time, where Mercedes and Mike lead the four hopefuls in a chemistry audition to “Born To Hand Jive.” As it progresses Jake and Kitty get more and more jealous while Ryder is completely oblivious and dreamy-looking.
Afterwards Finn comes to find Unique and tell her that he’ll have the part she wants. That moment of connection let’s Unique let her guard down and admit that she doesn’t feel comfortable in the boys room or wearing men’s clothes, but that she can’t go in the girls or wear dresses every day. Finn promises to protect her as he can, but wants to be sure Unique is ready for the pressure, and she assures him she is. Then the casting montage begins, and it’s nice to see that Brit hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth or that Blaine isn’t just a puddle of tears in the corner of the choir room. The cast shakes down about as you’d expect — Blaine is Teen Angel to Sugar’s Frenchie for example — while Ryder and Marley will play the leads much to Kitty’s chagrin.
All along the episode we continue the Emma and Will ongoing issue over Will’s new Washington gig and Emma’s reluctance to give up her own life just to follow after him. They figure out a compromise that lets them both have their dreams, and their relationship. As he prepares to leave there’s just one more thing Schue has to do — pass off the glee club to Finn, in doing so ushering rootless Finn from the purgatory of not quite a kid, not yet an adult into true adult status.
“The Role You Were Born To Play” finds the central figures to the story taking the first steps to embrace their new roles — gender to career to relationship. It also marked the first episode in “Glee” history not to feature Rachel Berry, perhaps apropos because she’s been practicing for her role as Rachel Berry, star, since birth. But don’t fret, she and Kurt are back next week.