Directed by Joss Whedon (a.k.a. the genius behind Buffy), this episode had several plots going on: Bryan Ryan (awesome name, btw), played by Neil-waitforit-PatrickHarris, is a former McKinley Glee Club star who returns, having had his hopes of stardom dashed by cruel reality, to do financial cost control for the district in the form of closing the Glee Club to reduce school expenditure; Rachel suddenly yearns for her mother and Jesse helps her to find her; Artie’s and Tina’s romance subplot plods on slightly, with her trying to help him achieve his dream of being a dancer.
Joss Whedon! Neil Patrick Harris! Is there any way this episode would not rock?
Random points about this episode
-Teenage Will (or Teenage Bryan Ryan for that matter)? Not convincing, show.
-For some reason, watching NPH, I just kept catching glimpses of Barney Stinson so it was kinda hard to take him seriously in a different role. During his emotional breakdown with Will around the quarter-in mark, I totally thought he would adjust his tie, smirk at the camera and break into a “GOTCHA!” cop-out any moment.
-Rachel was born in…1994? Again, show, not convincing.
-What’s with the episode having so many songs but only a few of them being released on iTunes? True, many of them weren’t by the actual cast (although ‘Big Spender’ was just about the most awesome thing the entire episode) but I would have loved to hear a studio recording of NPH and Matt Morrison on ‘Piano Man’.
-The flash mob scene was kinda awesomely executed, with the videocorder sections and the whole mass dance feel. Imaginary though it was, it was certainly interesting and it was great to see Kevin McHale (who used to be in a boyband) and the other real dancers in the cast pull off some impressive moves.
-Whoa, they actually did cast Idina Menzel as Rachel’s mum! When Idina was first announced to have been contacted to join the show, lots of fans petitioned for her to be cast as Rachel’s mum since they looked so alike in real life but I thought that maybe that would have been too obvious so they just cast her in another role. Guess there really is fan-service, eh?
-At least we’ve found out that Jesse was sent to New Directions so that he could guide Rachel to Shelby and not be some kind of traitorous spy that will sabotage the team at regionals. Although, it could actually be both, in which case that would be some messed-up family drama right there, wouldn’t it?
-Bryan Ryan’s logic for cutting the budget when he lost the part of Jean Valjean to Will? Doesn’t really hold (although I guess it’s more about him being petty and reactionary anyway). I mean, if he (Bryan) didn’t get the part, at least another supposedly washed-up ex-Glee star (Will) got it right? It’s not like both of them failed the audition.
-It’s pretty cool to see other characters take up much of the episode. I mean, we hardly even saw characters that the past few episodes have been about and even Rachel only appeared for about a third of the show.
Songs of the week
Dream On (original: Aerosmith): This was actually pretty good. Both singers are about the same in terms of vocal power and talent (although both sounded a tad too smooth and lacked enough rock edge) and, while the movements were pretty cheesy (but perhaps apt for the musical audition setting), the overall effect was pretty awesome. Plus, I didn’t know NPH was capable of those ear-piercing screams! B+
Safety Dance (original: Men without Hats): Ok I know I said I loved the dance segment in the show but as a song it’s really zzz for me. I’m not a fan of this genre (whatever “this genre” is) and I thought McHale did what he could, as a song it was just really boring. A- for the segment in the show but C for the actual recording.
I Dreamed A Dream (original: from musical Les Misérables): What’s with the Les Mis love this week? And with SuBo’s signature tune, too! Nonetheless, I thought this was the best song of the night. Idina sounds pretty good here (although she sounds way more pop-ish and less Broadway belty than I expected) and I thought Lea Michele not only matched up to her but might have actually one-upped her in parts. But overall, fantastic harmony and both were emoting the heck out of the song. A
Dream A Little Dream of Me (original: every jazz artist ever): This is one of those show-enders I’m not a fan of (although there have been almost no other precedents). While it was cute and light and the dance between Tina and Other Asian was pretty elegant, I thought it was a lacking the oomph and drama, or even any sort of musical climax, that usually closes the show. Zzz. C+
Overall I thought the episode was decent but a tad disappointing considering the director and guest star. I found it not terribly exciting, the plot movement and characterization not brilliant (I mean, Bryan Ryan suddenly broke down to Will so fast but turned out to be kind of a douche in the end anyway?) and the scripting and dialogue surprisingly devoid of witticisms (ironic considering Buffy was the original treasure trove of quotable quotes). Some segments were pretty well done (the flash mob and the repartee between Bryan and Sue in her office were excellent) and the songs were pretty good but generally the episode was underwhelming. B