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TV Review: Glee – “The Purple Piano Project”

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FOX’s Glee season premiere is “The Purple Piano Project.” Will (Matthew Morrison) gets three purple pianos, and randomly places them around the school. He hopes spontaneous performances by the New Directions will help identify students that just cannot stay away from music. This is needed, because the club has lost three members, including Quinn (Dianna Agron), who has a whole new look, and is hanging out with the “skanks.” But Sue (Jane Lynch) is now running for Congress on an anti-arts education platform. Sue tasks new co-Captain Santana (Naya Rivera) with destroying the pianos, leading Santana to be kicked out of glee club.

Last year, Santana quits the Cheerios because Sue goes too far, siding with the New Directions. This year, she does an about face. While Quinn is actually the one who inexplicably burns a purple piano, Santana is blamed for the incident, and doesn’t deny it. What happened to the girl who loved glee club, much as she hated to admit it? Surely she’s still in there. Could she only have been participating for Brittany (Heather Morris), and once rejected, care less about the music? It certainly doesn’t appear so in the multiple numbers this week that Santana jumps up and shakes her booty around. As such, hopefully the exile will only be temporary.

Quinn’s defection, from both the New Directions and the Cheerios, is more understandable. After all, she has had a rough couple of years and just wants to start over. Hanging out with the group that she chooses isn’t the best idea, but it also isn’t unrealistic for a teen girl who is long struggling to find her identity. With all of the set backs Quinn must overcome, one is left hoping that she finds happiness more than wanting her back in any specific club. That could happen, when Shelby (Idina Menzel) returns with Quinn’s daughter, demanding that Quinn clean up before the two can have a relationship. At least, that’s what the preview for next week appears to be setting up.

Sam (Chord Overstreet) is also gone as of “The Purple Piano Project.” Overstreet chose to leave Glee when not upgraded to series regular, and the script reflects that Sam’s father got a job and they had to move. This makes sense, given the financial state the family is in when last seen. Zizes’s (Ashley Fink) defection makes less sense, as she is a valuable part of the club, and brings a unique personality to the mix. Then she just up and leaves, breaking poor Puck’s (Mark Salling) heart in the process. Bad form!

Sadly, the talent pool at McKinley does not provide quick replacements for the four missing members. Only one girl, newcomer Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies, Hawthorne), tries out. She has Asperger’s, and thinks she is far better than the rest of the New Directions. Her rendition of “Big Spender,” completely out of tune, begs to differ. Will is faced with the possibility, for the first time, of not letting a student who tries out into the group. But finding something for her to do besides sing does not go over well.

The one bright spot in the membership game is Blaine’s (Darren Criss, now a series regular) transfer into the public school. A performance of “It’s Not Unusual” quickly secures him a position in the glee club. He transfers because he loves Kurt (Chris Colfer), who practically begs him to switch schools, until Blaine does, and then Kurt worries that this will hurt their relationship. Truly, picking a new high school is an extreme choice for a teenage beau. This could seriously backfire in the long run. And yet, Glee‘s penchant for happy endings, as well as strong fan feelings for Kurt and Blaine’s pairing, might just assure that it works out.

Kurt’s major worry in “The Purple Piano Project” isn’t his love life. He and Rachel (Lea Michele) learn, much to their dismay, that the Julliard does not have a musical theater program. Emma (Jayma Mays) suggests another NYC school, and sends them to a mixer for wannabe applicants near by. The two go in with much confidence, but a fantastic performance of “Anything Goes / Anything You Can Do” by Harmony (The Glee Project contestant Lindsay Pearce) and her friends leaves them feeling more than a little intimidated.

The moment in the car between Kurt and Rachel is one of the surest, sweetest times shown in their friendship, and in all of Glee. It shows just how much they have come to care about each other, and with one another for support, they actually stand a chance at making it. Plus, again, Glee strives for happy endings. Surely, they have talent. Their “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” proves that. But they also need luck and encouragement, the latter of which they can help each other out with.

Will needs no encouragement to stand up to Sue in her would-be reign of terror. Faced with losing his job and the program he loves, Will goes on a full-out campaign against his nemesis. Delivering a glitter bomb, he makes a public statement that Sue will not get away with what she is trying to do. Unfortunately, his stunt back fires, driving Sue’s rising poll numbers even higher.

This particular plot in “The Purple Piano Project” matches what is really going on in Ohio and other areas. Tea Partiers, angry at everything government, but with no plans to actually change anything for the better, demand cuts across the board. Suddenly teachers and valuable programs like arts education become the villain. With no regard to the actual benefits, and with general ignorance, they want change. Ohio has cut many teaching jobs and arts programs lately in response to that. Given Sue’s personality, she is the perfect candidate to please such a crowd, much to the detriment of the public good.

There is a positive response to Will’s bold actions, though, and that concerns Emma. With her neurosis, the couple is having trouble connecting in the bedroom department. Emma is very turned on by this aggressive, passionate Will, who won’t let Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) fight his battle for him. With a few more of these activities, there should be no more problems for them, sexually.

All in all, “The Purple Piano Project” proves to be a really good time, with fun happenings such as a food fight and wonderful performances of “We Got the Beat” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” by the New Directions. Keep up this level of light humor, along with appropriate emotional impact, and season three will be great.

Watch Glee Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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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