The Gleecap: “Michael”

By Jon Erik Christianson • February 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm


The Gleecap is a column dedicated to recap and review the zany antics that occur in each episode of the television show Glee. Blog posts will be released each Wednesday following an episode. Beware, there will be spoilers.

At 8:00 p.m. last night, two gangs met up near a local school. Witnesses confirm that there was a large, riotous confrontation between the rival groups which ultimately ended with a trip to the hospital. The gangs? Choir groups New Directions and the Warblers. The weapons used? A rock salt-laced slushie and the greatest hits from one Michael Jackson.

Story Overview

Many weeks after their loss at the hands of New Directions, the Troubletones girls find themselves suddenly and randomly infuriated that they did not get to sing any Michael Jackson songs. Thus, the theme for the entire episode is born.

After a sassily snarky confrontation between members of New Directions and Sebastian Smythe of the Warblers at Lima’s only non-Breadstix hangout, the Lima Bean, an all-out musical war is declared. The two groups duke it out in a parking lot where casualties include both the lower registers of many singers and the retina in one of Blaine Anderson’s eyes.

Hell-driven on teenage angst, Artie and Santana lash out in the best ways that they know how: Santana obtains blackmail on Sebastian using underboob, and Artie imagines a long day dream sequence where he can dance.

Three students also find out more information on their futures in the land of higher education. Quinn, after managing to pull off straight A’s all throughout her pregnancy, scores her happy ending in her acceptance to Yale. Kurt receives notification that he’s a “finalist” for NYADA, and Rachel loses her mind because she does not.

Realizing that she suddenly has no future (and apparently she didn’t apply to multiple schools), she decides to grab on to the one thing she does have in life: Finn. She accepts his proposal.

Then she gets the letter a few days later, is accepted, and she immediately questions her engagement decision.

In the next episode, Blaine gets a peg-leg and a parrot. | Photo courtesy of Fox TV.

Characters

There really wasn’t much in the way of character development this week. With nine songs in an episode, that is not too shocking.

In short, Quinn continued to not be crazy, Rachel let her ambition cloud her judgment, Kurt took moral high ground against Sebastian, Santana was devious but ultimately joined Kurt in higher morality, Finn expressed his love for Rachel in song, Mercedes and Sam sang a duet and kissed, Sebastian matches Santana in insulting ability, and nothing at all is surprising.

Songs

“Wanna Be Startin’ Something” by Michael Jackson: Although the song bludgeoned its audience with an overwhelming amount of corny, it was just enough to be encapsulate people in the performance style that is Michael Jackson. Blaine’s singing was pretty good, the dancing was entertaining and the large performance was woefully unrealistic but very much typical of appropriate Glee camp.

“Bad” by Michael Jackson: The song in general was decent and vocally at its peak when Santana was singing. The overall performance was cute, but placing it immediately after another massive group number did the song few favors. It wasn’t as entertaining as the previous song and it wasn’t as fun.

“Scream” by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson: The performance and choreography for this number was incredible. The wild costumes, Artie and Mike dancing, and the cinematography really made the song amazing. Unfortunately, most Michael Jackson songs don’t always translate perfectly to singers that aren’t Michael Jackson. Especially for Mike Chang. Once you take away the visual entertainment, the song does not have that much left.

“Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Jackson 5: Quinn’s voice is not a showstopper voice like Rachel, Santana or Mercedes’ voices. In turn, this song was not a showstopper, but it did showcase Quinn’s voice pretty well. Her singing to her ex-flings and, by extension, her departing past made a lot of sense with the context of show’s story. It fit a lot better in the overall framework of the episode than several other songs did.

“Human Nature” by Michael Jackson: This song was not at all necessary. Generally speaking, having more than five songs really takes away from any story integrity. In turn, every song above that limit should be vocally excellent and very much relevant to the story. This song was neither. Their secret love was explored nowhere else in the episode, and Sam’s voice spent too much time in the land of falsetto. Mercedes’ voice was nice.

“Ben” by Michael Jackson: This is a less-terrible version of the story for “Human Nature.” In general, the song’s context was slightly more appropriate, but it didn’t make sense in context with the 500 million other songs in the episode. The alternating backup vocals in the song were almost impressive enough to make its inclusion slightly acceptable.

“Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson: If there’s any one moment of this episode that deserves to be re-watched and listened to 200 times over, it’s this performance. Not only is it one of Michael Jackson’s best songs, but it’s also sung by two of Glee‘s smoothest performers. The heated villain vs. villain face-off was delicious, and the cello fight was musically gorgeous. As of this moment, “Smooth Criminal” is #3 on iTunes, and it deserves to be there.

“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret: The decision-maker who keeps thinking Rachel and Finn need more love songs should be fired. Finn’s falsetto was terrible and got even worse next to Rachel’s singing. To believe that this song helped change her mind in a marriage proposal is also ridiculous.

“Black or White” by Michael Jackson: In general, I liked this song. It’s another campy Michael Jackson song that fits well with campy New Directions. Two things, however, weaken the overall performance. First, a random song about racism felt very strange in a context that had nothing to do with racism. Second, the impact of the performance is really lessened by the fact that “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” was a better group performance.

One-Liners

“You’re like a modern day eggs Benedict.” – Noah “Puck” Puckerman

“Today’s your lucky day because Auntie Snakes just arrived from the BitchTown Express.” – Santana “Auntie Snakes” Lopez.

“This is clever; I taped it to my underboob.” – Santana Lopez

Overall Score

As awesome as some of the performances were, nothing excuses the fact that nothing really happened. Again. Occasionally a show should be more than just a bunch of singles for rabid fans to download off of iTunes. When nearly 20 minutes of the show’s 43 minutes are song, there’s not much room for any tangible progress.

Don’t get me wrong, “Smooth Criminal” may be one of the best songs this season. “Scream” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” are also quite memorable. That doesn’t change the fact that much of episode felt like a poorly written gimmick.

“Michael:” C+


Jon Christianson (COM/CAS '14) is the zany, misunderstood cousin of The Quad family. His superpowers include talking at the speed of light, tripping over walls, and defying ComiQuad deadlines with the greatest of ease. His lovely copyeditors don't appreciate that last one. If for some reason you hunger for more of his nonsense, follow him at @HonestlyJon on Twitter or contact him at jchristianson@buquad.com!



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