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TV Review: Glee – “Hold on to Sixteen”

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FOX’s Glee presents “Hold on to Sixteen.” Finn (Cory Monteith) and Rachel (Lea Michele) are worried about Sectionals, so they travel to Kentucky to bring back Sam (Chord Overstreet), whom they find working as a sexy dancer. Sam agrees to return to McKinley, though Blaine (Darren Criss) isn’t pleased, feeling shoved out of the group. Finn makes peace with Blaine, and the New Directions win Sectionals. Quinn (Dianna Agron), who decides to keep Shelby’s (Idina Menzel) secret, at least for now, convinces Will (Matthew Morrison) to fold the losing Troubletones back into the group, with the caveat that they get to perform a number at all future contests. Thus, the band is back together again.

The most glaring thing wrong with “Hold on to Sixteen” is Quinn’s conversion back into the good girl. She is ready to spill the beans on Shelby, but a few words from Rachel change her mind? And they’re friends now? Though, kudos to Rachel for calling Shelby “Beth’s real mom,” which she definitely is. Shelby also tells Quinn that she needs to enjoy being a teenager, a concept that Sam echoes to Quinn earlier in the episode. But it just doesn’t gel. Quinn acts nice at the end, but all that keeps coming to mind is, “What’s her angle?” Is her character so ruined that she cannot be seen as a decent human being anymore? Or is it intentional that Quinn is merely acting that way to further her next scheme?

Mike Chang’s (Harry Shum Jr.) first, and probably only, real character arc comes to an end in “Hold on to Sixteen.” Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) makes it her personal mission to convert Mike Chang Sr. (Keong Sim) into a believer in his son’s dancing. And, of course, she does, even though Mike Sr.’s outlook is much more realistic. This entire plot in “Hang on to Sixteen” is cheesy, and yet, still heart warming. Sometimes a little cheese is OK in a series like Glee, and this is probably one of those times. Let’s just hope Glee doesn’t shove Mike back into the background for the rest of the season.

And Tina will never, ever make it as a professional performer of any notability.

Annoyingly, it does not appear that Blaine’s stalker with the “CW hair,” Sebastian (Grant Gustin), is going away. He pops up again in “Hang on to Sixteen,” and his exchange with Kurt (Chris Colfer) is quite fun. Yet, he feels like an unnecessary hindrance, and the series would be better off without him.

Sam’s return is welcome, if a bit weird. This is the guy too shy to wear the golden underwear in Rocky Horror last fall, and now he strips down to them in a lecherous crowd, voluntarily, every day? It’s also odd that Sam’s parents (including Smallville‘s John Schneider) allow him to go stay with friends and transfer back to a high school four hours away. Top that off with Sam’s come back performance of the country talky “Red Solo Cup,” and the whole reunion is a little forced. But that doesn’t matter, as viewers will be as happy as Santana (Naya Rivera) is, as evidenced by her amusing insult list, to have Sam back.

When Sam last leaves Ohio, he is in a relationship with Mercedes (Amber Riley). Upon coming back in “Hold on to Sixteen,” he vows to win her heart once more. This is complicated by the fact that she already has a boyfriend, albeit one who never gets, but deserves, much screen time. The best part about the inevitable showdown may be if Shane (Lamarcus Tinker) gets some actual story, and maybe even a song. However, Sam will probably win in the end, since fan favorite Overstreet is back to (potentially) stay.

Sam’s rejoining of the New Directions is beneficial, to be sure, though definitely not the only reason that they win Sectionals. With Rachel out of commission, almost every group member gets to sing solos. It’s a true team effort, which may be why it sounds fantastic, perhaps even their best Sectionals yet! That, and the fact that they do a Jackson medley, perfectly suited to their voices, including “ABC,” “Control,” and “Man in the Mirror.” Well, admittedly “Control” is a little out of synch, but the opening and closing are awesome from start to finish.

Small note: glee clubs choose their set lists months before competition and work the same songs tirelessly. Yet, in Glee, the kids pick material days, or hours, before going on. They would never place, let alone win, in the real world.

Sectionals is a rousing affair, as usual, though lacking any really fun guest judges. Harmony (The Glee Project‘s Lindsay Pearce) leads her group, the Unitards, in “Buenos Aires.” The crazy girl seems very happy to get third, out of three, bragging that she is only a sophomore. Hopefully this means Harmony will return, maybe transferring to McKinley for the next two seasons of Glee? Still, happy about getting last? Come on!

The Troubletones get the short end of the stick this week. They are overconfident in a win, and are crushed when they don’t get it. And only one song is shown in “Hold on to Sixteen,” as opposed to all three being seen for the New Directions. Considering that this group is made up of major characters, why are they cut short? Even worse, the New Directions laugh about having things in the bag when the girls sing “I Will Survive,” and any take back of those comments when the song morphs into a mash with “Survivor” is on the cutting room floor. This makes our heroes look petty and cruel.

It is nice that everyone comes back together again with “We Are Young.” Though Quinn only delivers her proposal to Mercedes, Santana, and Brittany (Heather Morris), they bring Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies) along with them. This is acceptable, since Sugar is a recurring role. But what about the rest of their girls, the ones with no names or speaking roles? Are they just abandoned? That doesn’t ring right with the spirit of the whole Troubletones subplot. While it makes sense from a practical perspective, this could have been handled slightly better, perhaps with a humorous scene in which the others feel betrayed by the defectors.

Lastly, if Rachel is only allowed into the school to pick up work during her suspension, as she claims to be, how comes she spends most of “Hold on to Sixteen” there? Is she really skulking around, risking further punishment? Sneaking in for Sectionals, sure, I could see that. But she isn’t even acting like she’s trying to hide!

In a night of many great lines, one in particular stands out: “I started the Dalton branch of Fight Club, which I obviously can’t talk about.” ~ Blaine

Tune in next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET for Glee‘s Christmas special! Also, watch Community this Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC for a fun parody of the series.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Barbara

    Best sectionals yet? Don’t Rain On My Parade and You Can’t Always Get What You Want would beg to differ.

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    I admit, that first Sectional was very, very good. But I like that this one wasn’t just all about Finn and Rachel, as many sets have been.

  • Grace

    We must not forget, Quin started out as a villain. She was scheming from the get go, so her behavior so far this season has just been a version of her furthered by hurt.

    “I also started the Dalton branch of fight club, which I obviously can’t talk about!” Best line ever.

  • http://jeromewetzeltv.blogspot.com/ Jerome Wetzel

    Grace – She sure did! But she softened over time, and I feel like she was in a good place not too long ago. Then everything changed, for the worse. It’s tragic.