NPH!: Bryan Ryan (Neil Patrick Harris!), Will’s high school glee club nemesis, is the latest member of the school board. And take note, “How I Met Your Mother” fans — he did magic to impress the ladies back in high school! He’s had a vendetta against glee club ever since his dreams of stardom failed, and he’s determined to shut it down. In fact, he runs a show choir conversion program. Does he also take secret trips to Europe with show choir singers? The awesomely hilarious John Michael Higgins plays one of his show choir converts, as does Molly Shannon (in the same role she was in recently on “Glee”).
Bryan starts out by crushing the kids’ dreams, using Will’s less-than-impressive life as an example of where glee club will get you. When Will takes him out to drinks and tries to sell him on the importance of music, Bryan breaks down. He’s living a lie and totally misses singing! Will helps him out by starting a little “Piano Man” sing-along (loved the weirded out guy at the bar), and by encouraging him to audition for a local Les Miserables production.
Bryan tries out for the same role as Will (pretty understandable, since Jean Valjean is a great role), and tries to steal his audition song (less understandable), causing them to be forced into a duet by the director. It’s “Dream On” as you’ve never seen it before, folks — these two can SING. And you’d better believe if NPH can handle Sondheim, he can own this song — especially the falsetto at the end. I’m going to note at this point that if I could pick a celebrity to be my BFF, he’d be on the short list.
Sue’s disappointed that Bryan’s no longer anti-glee club, and they quite seriously debate funding high school sports vs. the arts, each citing a bunch of studies that may well be real. After he threatens to cut half her budget, they indulge in some angry sex in Sue’s secret room (“like Letterman”).
Bryan uses the Cheerios money to buy glee club awesomely cheesy jean jackets, tear-away dance clothes (for quick costume changes, I’m assuming, and not for stripping), and Broadway sheet music galore. Sue takes that moment to let Will know that he landed the lead in Les Miz, and Bryan got “townsperson.” Yeah, he’s back to cutting the program.
And now, the somewhat mandatory preachy speech: Will gives Bryan an inspirational pep talk about how glee club is a place for kids to be themselves, without labels: “They may not be stars, but they shine like them.” Okay, he had me until that line — I feel like he’s asking me to sponsor each of them for one small payment a month. And he lost me even more when he extended the metaphor to talk about black holes.
Anyway, he offers the role of Jean Valjean to Bryan, who happily accepts, agreeing in return to leave glee club funding intact. Um, isn’t who plays the lead up to the director? Though I do love that after Will’s whole big speech, all Bryan was really looking for was a bribe.
Winner of the sad plot award: Artie’s very depressing secret dream is to become a dancer, and Tina’s efforts to help him out backfire impressively. First, she decides to coordinate a dance number, which Artie finally drops out of after growing frustrated with his “tap wheels.” After he unsuccessfully tries out a pair of crutches, using his arms to get around, Tina does some research online about spinal cord therapies, telling him not to give up on his dream. And they kiss! Aww.
Artie has a great dream sequence where the therapies work and he can finally dance. The Safety Dance, to be specific, in a flash mob at the mall. And dude, he really can dance! Why the heck did they put Kevin McHale in a wheelchair? I’m glad they found a way to show him off, at any rate. Artie shows Emma all of Tina’s research, hoping to get help adjusting to his new lifestyle once he starts to walk. Oh, man. Emma tries to break it to him gently, but it’s pretty heartbreaking when he realizes that science is such a long way from curing him.
Giving up on his real dream, Artie insists that Tina choose a new partner for her routine so that he can try and focus on things he can achieve. She asks him to at least sing, choosing Mike Chang (or “Other Asian,” if you’re Sue) as her dance partner for her “Dream a Little Dream” routine. It’s cute, and I love Artie’s singing, but man, poor Artie.
Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff return: Jesse’s back from his mysterious spring break, and he’s eager to kiss and make up with Rachel. Step one: Help her find out who her birth mother is. Rachel’s pretty sure it’s Patti LuPone or Bernadette Peters, and Jesse does a pretty solid job not rolling his eyes too hugely at that. But on to the seemingly nefarious doings!
As they look through her baby mementos, Jesse pretends to find a cassette tape that her mother recorded for her, but Rachel refuses to listen to it, saying she’s not ready. And hey, as we all suspected, Jesse is doing the bidding of Vocal Adrenaline’s coach, Shelby. She’s pissed that Rachel won’t listen to the tape, and presses Jesse to continue with the plan even though he’s afraid of hurting Rachel.
But here’s the bombshell that, again, we pretty much all saw coming: She’s Rachel’s mom! And really, how could she not be? Lea Michele and Idina Menzel look a LOT alike. Shelby can’t legally contact Rachel until she’s 18 — until then, Rachel has to come to her. Umm … I know Shelby was aiming for “befriend” rather than “seduce” when she gave Jesse his mission, but that’s still gonna sting when Rachel finds out Jesse was carrying out orders when he met her.
Seems a young Shelby found Rachel’s dads through an ad in the paper, hoping to fund two years in NYC, but she regrets never even getting to hold Rachel. And so Jesse forces Rachel to listen to the tape, on which Shelby sings “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miz. We move to a sequence on a stage where Rachel and Shelby sing the song side by side, Shelby moving to cling to Rachel, then end back in the real world with Rachel singing along to the tape and Shelby singing alone in her car. Again, what a couple of phenomenal voices. Great performances, both.
And what an interesting turn of events! I have to say, I’m not surprised that Jesse had an agenda, and I’m not surprised that Shelby was Rachel’s mom, but I am surprised those two things went hand-in-hand. I was expecting Jesse to be carrying out a sabotage mission on behalf of Vocal Adrenaline, or something of that nature, and I didn’t think Shelby knew that Rachel was her daughter. Can’t wait to see where they go with this.
Quotes/Odds and Ends:
- For the record, the kids’ dreams: Rachel wants to be a big star, Puck wants a threesome, and Quinn doesn’t want stretch marks. All admirable goals in life.
- When Will takes him out for drinks, Bryan admits that Terri was the one girl who got away. They don’t dwell on it aside from Will explaining that music helped him through his divorce, but I thought it was a pretty interesting aside. Hopefully it stays that way, though — I’m better than fine with her absence of late.
- Loved Bryan’s single line rehearsal: “Hooray! Hoooraaaay. Hooraaaay!!!”
- Bryan: “After I graduated, I hit the big time. I was a featured soloist at King’s Island in the ‘Dooble-dee-doo Musical Revue.’ We were a smash.”
- Former show choir member: “Well, guess what? Putting on a show about your father’s prostate cancer will actually just make him more depressed about the situation.”
- Artie: “Fact is, any of the guys in there could dance my part better than me without even rehearsing. Well, except for Finn.”
- “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, performed by Bryan and Will
- “Dream On” by Aerosmith, performed by Bryan and Will
- “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, performed by Artie
- “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, performed by Shelby and Rachel
- “Dream a Little Dream” (the Mamas & the Papas version), performed by Artie and New Directions
Were you happy with NPH’s role? How about Joss Whedon’s direction? Were you surprised by any part of the Jesse/Rachel plotline?