Glee found a groove in “Hold on to Sixteen” that the series hasn’t been able to find yet this season. Welcoming Sam (Chord Overstreet) back to McKinley and the battle between the New Directions and The Troubletones, with Rachel sidelined by suspension, enlivened a supporting cast that was clearly aching for a moment out front.
The star, in what was mostly a supporting role was Kurt (Chris Colfer) who started the show on fire by burning Blaine’s (Darren Criss) flirtatious friend Sebastian (Grant Gustin) with a series of biting barbs:
“I don’t like the way you look at my boyfriend. I don’t like your smirky meerkat face and I don’t like your obnoxious CW haircut.”
Give Sebastian credit however, that retort about ‘Gay Face’ showed he could give as well as he got in terms of catty comments. It will be interesting to see how this rivalry develops especially with the rumored return of Karovsky later this season in an arc opposite Kurt.
Kurt was also the funniest part of Sam’s return to McKinley and the New Directions. After Finn (Cory Montieth) and Rachel (Lea Michele) found Sam working as a male stripper, under the moniker ‘White Chocolate,’ they convinced his parents to let him come back to McKinley.
Sam returned with a song called Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith, that, while lively, was only really entertaining because of Kurt’s haughty reaction shots; Kurt is no friend of country music. Sam’s return was, of course, met with an insulting visit from Santana (Naya Rivera) who has now morphed into the female, cheerleader, version of lovable insult comic Don Rickles.
With Sam back it was time to focus on Sectionals and specifically on how New Directions would attack The Troubletones minus Rachel (Lea Michele). For those who’ve already forgotten, Rachel was suspended for trying to rig the Senior Class Presidential election in Kurt’s favor.
Rachel’s suspension included Sectionals leaving New Directions seeking something special in order to make up for the loss of her big voice. Sam’s idea is to employ some of his new stripping talent; something the rest of the group, specifically Blaine, disagrees with.
Blaine has been clashing with Finn ever since he arrived and while this may have seemed like it was building to something important the writers were able to dismiss it with a single scene and a brief apology from Finn who admitted that he was intimidated by Blaine and worried about being upstaged.
With Blaine and Finn’s beef squashed, we were ready for Sectionals and Quinn (Dianna Agron) told everyone she had an ace up her sleeve to ensure a New Directions victory. Quinn found out last week that Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) had slept with Puck (Mark Salling) and now she intended to use that information to get Shelby fired.
A heart to heart with Rachel, surprisingly enough, caused Quinn instead to go to Shelby first, before going to the principle. Again, Glee puts a tidy little bow on things as Shelby dismantles Quinn and decides to fire herself. This actually wasn’t a bad scene but Quinn’s sudden change of heart later in the episode, not turning in Shelby, not trying to get the baby back, was a bit of a stretch.
Then again, this is Glee where character motivation and narrative consistency go to die. Another good example of the quick change of heart came in the Mike (Harry Shum Jr.)/Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz)/Mike’s dad (Keong Sim) story in which Mike’s dad watches his son perform one time and has a complete change of heart about demanding his son go to med school.
Mike’s life changing performance came as New Directions battled The Troubletones and the forgettables (honestly, do you care about the third group?). The performances here were some of the best of the season with The Troubletones opening with a hot mash-up of Gloria Gaynor and Beyonce.
However, the New Directions countered brilliantly with a medley of Jackson family tunes that allowed some of the supporting players a few moments in the spotlight. Tina turned in a great lead on “ABC” with Kurt backing her up and then Blaine and Artie (Kevin McHale) stole the show with the leads on Janet Jackson’s “Control.”
“Control” was an almost comical commentary on how the members of the Glee gang are growing up and ‘controlling’ their own lives. Nevertheless, Darren Criss and Kevin McHale’s twinned vocals were fantastic no matter what the weighty metaphor was.
Closing the performance with Michael Jackson‘s “Man in the Mirror” seemed like a mistake after the rousing performance of “Control” but the way Finn, Sam, Blaine and Puck stepped up and nailed their solos and the way the chorus pounded out the finish was an absolute home run.
From there we got Quinn’s sudden change of heart as well as the end, sort of, of the Troubletones as Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison) welcomed Mercedes (Amber Riley), Santana, Brittany (Heather Morris) and even Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) back to New Directions with the promise to give them a feature song of their own down the line.
The wrap up of “Hold on to Sixteen” was so tidy you’d think it was a season or even merely a Fall finale but no. Next week is the seasonal finale with a Christmas theme.
- Sue (Jane Lynch) was off this week no doubt plotting vengeance for her loss in the Congressional race.
- No Coach Beiste (Dot Marie Jones) either, not that I missed either the coach or Sue; as I said last week the adults on Glee are rarely as interesting as the teenagers.
- I think there is potentially something fun about Sam deciding to fight for Mercedes. Good luck White Chocolate.
- This week’s soundtrack:
- “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith (Sam and New Directions, minus Kurt)
- “I Will Survivor/Survivor” Mash-Up by Gloria Gaynor/Destiny’s Child (The Troubletones, with Mercedes out front)
- “ABC” by the Jackson 5 (New Directions with Tina on the lead)
- “Control” by Janet Jackson (New Directions)
- “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (New Directions)
- “We Are Young” by ? (All cast)
- Favorite line of the week goes to Finn who, upon seeing a man dressed as a firefighter at a club he didn’t realize was a male strip joint, replied: “I didn’t know Backdraft was a musical?”