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TV Review: Glee – “I Am Unicorn”

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FOX’s Glee presents “I Am Unicorn” this week. The directors for West Wide Story are announced, and auditions begin. Kurt (Chris Colfer) struggles to appear masculine enough to play Tony. Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel) returns as a part-time teacher at McKinley, causing a stir for Rachel (Lea Michele), Puck (Mark Salling), and Quinn (Dianna Agron), for various reasons. Will (Matthew Morrison) institutes a dancing class for those glee club members who are not up to par (cough) Finn (Cory Monteith) (cough).

The title of this week’s episode is an idea that Brittany (Heather Morris) has about those who are truly special. She pinpoints Kurt as a “unicorn,” and sets her sights on helping him win Class President. That is, until Kurt rejects his unicorn status, worrying it will cost him something that he really wants. By the time that Kurt comes around, Santana (Naya Rivera) has convinced Brittany that she is also a unicorn, and Brittany decides to run against Kurt. Who might win this show down?

Kurt’s struggle with fitting in has matured this season. He is no longer in denial about who he is, nor does he worry what his classmates think of him. But he does have a dream to be a star, and playing the romantic lead roles requires one to be less flamboyant. His “I’m the Greatest Star” is thrilling, but does little to help his image. While many Hollywood and Broadway actors are, indeed, gay, few are as obviously so as Kurt, a fact that he realizes when he goes out for West Side Story. Burt (Mike O’Malley), of course, is the voice of reason, advising Kurt that there are plenty of other opportunities that he can pursue, rather than this particular aspect of his dream. Kurt may not take this fully to heart yet, but it has at least begun to sink in.

Which is good, because Kurt will probably not get the part of Tony. It is uncomfortable to listen to the directors, Emma (Jayma Mays), Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), and Artie (Kevin McHale), all great choices for the group, talk about Kurt not being what they want. But it’s also honest. Not one of them thinks that Kurt is lacking in talent, but he just isn’t right for this role. It’s a harsh truth that Kurt overhears, made worse by the fact that his Junior boyfriend, Blaine (Darren Criss), slays his own tryout, belting “Something’s Coming” out of the park. Blaine asks to only be considered for a lesser role, but it’s obvious how this will shake down. Hopefully, Kurt can manage to be happy for Blaine, rather than jealous. He needs to repeat to himself, “I Am Unicorn.”

Now the biggest drama still remaining around West Side Story is, who will play Maria? Obviously, Rachel is fantastic, and the directors are all fans of her. But Mercedes (Amber Riley) has not yet been given her chance. The preview for next week’s episode sets up a big Diva Showdown, not the first, nor probably the last, between the two powerful ladies. It’s still anyone’s game, because both have so much talent, it’s hard to see which way the casting trio will lean. Mercedes, however, rarely gets to shine like Rachel does, so perhaps it’s her turn.

One small gripe, since when does casting go on all week like this? A couple of auditions times, sure, but this seems like a never ending slate of appointments. It’s just a little weird, speaking as someone from the general area the show takes place who has gone through his fair share of tryouts.

Also, it’s awesome that Mike Chang (Harry Shum Jr.) co-teaches the dancing class with Will. It’s a nice showcase for Glee‘s newest main character, and one that fits him well.

Besides West Side Story, the other major plot is the return of Shelby. Last seen in season one, Shelby adopts Quinn and Puck’s baby and moves to New York. She also turns out to be Rachel’s birth mother. Now she’s back, recruited by Sugar Motta’s (Vanessa Lengies) father to start a second show choir at McKinley, this one featuring the horrific vocal stylings of Sugar. It’s easy to see why Will doesn’t view the new start up as a threat. Shelby’s return will be much more about the emotional impact she has on her daughter and the biological parents of the child she’s raising than about what she’s doing in the school.

Or will it? Sugar will definitely never get it together, though Shelby is likely to help her improve somewhat. But Will also drops the tidbit that Vocal Adrenaline, Shelby’s former group, has fired its glee club director. Does this mean that she might be swayed to return to her old job, as a competitor of the New Directions, before long? If so, then she would truly be an antagonist once more. Which would be a shame, considering how she has such a nice, friendly story going on now.

Shelby is timid about reconnecting with Rachel, a natural reaction given how they end things. Rachel acts like she doesn’t want Shelby around, surely a falsehood, one done to protect herself emotionally. Shelby seems determined to be in Rachel’s life, but to give her the space that she needs, and the time to accept things slowly. It’s a wise move, and much more likely to work than the subterfuge she previously engages in. It also helps make their “Somewhere” a really moving performance.

In a parallel story, Shelby gives Quinn and Puck the chance that she never had: to be there for their daughter starting at a young age. As a mother, Shelby wants to protect baby Beth, and asks both the parents to really commit before they can see her. Puck is willing to do anything, thrilled with the chance to get to know his daughter. Quinn resists, arguing that her purple hair and “skank” friends are who she truly is. Both Shelby and Will attempt to talk sense into her, the latter in a terrific chewing out, to no avail.

Quinn does eventually clean herself up and rejoin glee club, but it’s a ruse. She is only trying to appear reformed so that she can get close to Beth. You see, Quinn intends to win custody back from the adoptive mother, surely an uphill battle at this point, and one that no viewer will be rooting for. Despite appearances, it’s a step backwards for the mean, manipulative Quinn, and it proves that she is not ready to be a mother. Hopefully, she will clean up her act for real before she has the chance to damage an innocent child.

This episode has a light musical load, to be sure, but each song is perfect where it is, and with so much great story for the characters, how can one complain?

Catch next week’s all new episode of Glee, “Asian F,” next Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on FOX. What is an Asian F? Why, it’s an A-!

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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