Tonight’s episode, “The Substitute,” was jam packed with fun musical numbers and funny dialogue. Holly Holiday was breath of fresh air for the Glee Club when Will gets sick…but it was also a breath of fresh air for me because I thought it was a highly enjoyable, light episode of Glee! This show can go from extremely serious—last week’s Never Been Kissed—to laughing about gay stereotypes and “singin’ in the rain” in one short week.
It all starts when Figgins gets sick from the world’s best slow-motion sneeze sequence, orchestrated by diabolical Sue of course. Since this is McKinley High and the administration exists in fantasy land, this means Sue is the acting principal and can make any and all decisions at the drop of a dime. When her plans to toy with Glee Club fail, and then she “gets bested by the Beiste” in trying to shut down football, Sue takes on childhood obesity–and the kids’ love of tater tots becomes her new passion. This strikes a serious nerve with Mercedes since this delicious potato treat is pretty much the one good thing going on for her, now that Kurt has his new boy friend (not quite one-word boyfriend yet) Blaine to occupy his social calendar. The Stix date between Kurt, Blaine and third wheel Mercedes is pretty hilarious—I loved how everything Kurt and Blaine babble on about sounds like “gay gay gay gay” to her because she is so excluded. It is kind of ironic that Kurt rails against being stereotyped and bullied, yet also fully embraces his completely stereotypical gay behavior in a situation like this. This kind of inconsistency is just another element of this show you have to look beyond and go with the flow…because if you don’t you could question almost every plot point the show introduces.
Will also comes down with the “monkey flu,” and must stay home with his favorite movie, Singing in the Rain. And, to his surprise, ex-wife Terri shows up to take care of her sick former hubby. The writers definitely are trying to tone down Terri from the devious shrew she was in season one, and give her some more sympathetic layers. In fact, she is rather sweet to sick Will—although that baby talk of hers is particularly obnoxious. After sleeping with each other in a moment of weakness, Will tells her things are truly over between them.
The real reason Will is sick, however, is to allow for another guest star to roam the halls of McKinley—Gwyneth Paltrow! There is always a little bit of skepticism before any episode with stunt casting. To date, I would have to say that Neil Patrick Harris was the best guest star on Glee in “Dream On” (which happens to be one of my all-time favorite Glee episodes). However, Gwyneth Paltrow is more than up to the task of bringing the funny to the classroom and bringing the awesome to musical numbers. She fully embraces the free-wheeling spirit of substitute teacher Holly Holiday—a name that seems it could only belong to “a porn star or a drag queen.” In the classroom, Holly teaches practical Spanish such as “Lindsay Lohan es bien loca” and also performs a rousing “Conjunction Junction” with backup singers in what might be one of my favorite random song performances EVER (Schoolhouse Rock is awesome). At Glee Club practice, Holly encourages the kids to let loose and express their own musical stylings as opposed to Will’s song choices. She even proves her cool factor to the kids by performing Cee Lo’s “Forget” You.
My only complaint of this entire substitute storyline was that Holly told Rachel to loosen up and perform a high-energy song of her choice…and the general theme of the night was to go fresh and contemporary. What does Rachel choose for her duet with Holly? Chicago’s “Nowadays”…a show tune set in the 1920’s. Now, I don’t have anything against Chicago—I really do enjoy that musical—but this seemed completely random and not fitting with the spirit of the night to go young and hip. Fortunately, for the big closing number—after Will and Holly come to a nice appreciation of each other’s different teaching and musical styles—the whole cast performs what is now my favorite mash-up this show has ever done (and that is no small feat!). Pairing the classic Singing in the Rain and Rihanna’s Umbrella was truly an inspired choice and everything from the singing to the arrangement to the choreography was amazing.
Now, before we discuss (en español por favor) how many times Lindsay Lohan has been to rehab, here are some great moments and quotes from tonight:
- A feverish Will hallucinating the baby versions of the students…and their little pint-sized attitudes: “Looking good Puckerman” – “These guns are fully loaded”
- Kurt’s pothead neighbor in English class asking, “Are you on anything?” after witnessing Holly’s innovative “Conjunction Junction” performance.
- Multiple flashbacks to Will asking for Journey song suggestions they haven’t done yet (nice meta-acknowledgment of the show’s playlist!)
- Will’s dream sequence of performing “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Mike was extremely well-done.
- “They look like deep-fried deer poop” (Brittany’s take on tots)
- “Jackée!” (What Sue calls Mercedes)
- “Do you know what this is?” (Sue); “A toilet brush?” (Mercedes); “It’s broccoli. When I showed this to Brittany earlier she began to whimper thinking I had cut down a small tree where a family of gummi bears lived.” I had to rewind this line multiple times to make certain I got it correct, it was that funny.
- “You make the under-flaps of my breasts burn” (Sue to Will, of course)
- Brittany line of the night: “Mr. Schue taught me the second half of the alphabet. I stopped after M and N because they were too similar and I got confused.”
What did you think? And, can we go get tacos?!