This week’s Glee is called “Choke,” a title that applies to different characters in different ways. Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) finally get their NYADA audition, and one of them bombs it. The girls are ashamed to learn that their jokes about Bieste (Dot-Marie Jones) being domestically abused turn out to have hit on truth. And Puck (Mark Salling) contemplates dropping out of high school just before graduation, but if he decides not to, can he even pass?
Among the other weighty topics Glee takes on, spousal abuse is a strange one. Because much of the action of the series takes place at a high school, a look at home life is limited, and this is one crime that goes on mostly behind closed doors. However, as usual, Glee writes the pathos well, and Dot-Marie Jones nails the part of battered wife with amazing sincerity and heartbreak. The story may feel a little cheesy and forced into the larger arcs, but there should be no complaint about the level at which the scenes are performed.
Why, oh why, did “Choke” have to ruin Bieste’s happy ending, though? She is introduced as a character who has a hard time finding a man. Then Cooter (Eric Bruskotter) comes along, and he seems perfect for the football coach. The two have a whirlwind romance, and are soon married. But now, it turns out that Cotter hits women. It’s a heartbreaking and unexpected twist for the lovelorn Bieste, and certainly one that she doesn’t deserve.
Of course, no one deserves domestic violence. And in Bieste’s situation, having waited so long for a man, she is even less likely than most to leave her guy. By the end of “Choke,” Bieste has returned home to give Cooter a second chance. While the odds are stacked against Bieste to find love again, given how long it takes her to do so the first time, no guy is better than a violent one. Plus, she is a very sweet woman, with a huge, caring heart. Surely someone else will see that eventually.
A nice part about Bieste’s plot is that it also involves Sue (Jane Lynch) and Roz (NeNe Leakes). Roz is annoying until “Choke,” when she suddenly becomes relevant. Also, by labeling the two as black Sue and original recipe Sue, there is a great dynamic between the pair. Sue and Roz stand up for Bieste, giving her friends; a support system. Bieste doesn’t make use of their help, but hopefully, in time, she will. At least she has people she can turn to.
The rest of Bieste’s subplot, which involves several of the high school girls singing to her, isn’t as good as the dialogue-driven scenes. A truncated version of “Cell Block Tango” is fun, but that song should never be cut down. It loses some impact with only two verses. This is followed up with a more emotionally successful “Shake It Out,” though it’s too bad Glee doesn’t go with the up-beat version of the tune. Yes, the characters are sad, but they could be inspiring without being boring. Luckily, the interspersed scenes with Bieste save this ballad.
At McKinley, the legendary Carmen Thibodeaux (the just-as-legendary Whoopi Goldberg) arrives in “Choke” to see if Kurt and Rachel have what it takes to join her first class at the famous NYADA school. The gravitas Goldberg brings just by appearing on screen in this part is impressive. Perfect casting!
Kurt ditches his rehearsed, safe “The Music of the Night” in favor of “Not the Boy Next Door.” Having dancers on stand by and a fitting costume under rip off dress wear proves this is a decision Kurt considers before implementing it at the last moment, but that takes away nothing. This isn’t the best song Kurt has ever done on Glee, but it’s damn good, and should secure his spot under Ms. Thibodeaux’s tutelage.
Dot-Marie Jones may win the MVP award for “Choke,” but Lea Michele comes in a solid second. She crashes and burns while trying to perform “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” a Glee classic fans may remember from season one, and a tune Rachel has been practicing since childhood. Nerves are real and can strike anyone, even a born diva like Rachel. It’s an earth shattering moment, as she watches her dreams crash and burn. That’s probably why she gets worse as she gives it a second go, sensing her end is nigh, and devastated by the reality of the situation.
But Rachel’s break down doesn’t end there. Michele redeems her vocal talents with a tearful “Cry.” If only the NYADA judge could see that, Rachel would ace her try out!
What will she do now? Certainly not give up. That’s not like her at all. Surely she will formulate a come back scheme. Which should fail, because Rachel working as a struggling actress could be quite fun.
Finally, “Choke” sees Puck loudly vow to drop out of high school with a rocking “School’s Out.” It’s a great number, but doesn’t entirely fit. It feels like this isn’t quite the direction the writers want to go with Puck, but can’t resist such an alluring song.
Puck soon rethinks his ways after seeing his deadbeat dad (Thomas Calabro, Melrose Place), and asks his friends to help him study. Which they do while singing an updated “The Rain in Spain.” Yet, Puck fails the test, and thus the class, anyway.
Poor Puck. He wants to do well, but doesn’t want to show that he cares. His efforts are too little, too late, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to see him without a future. Puck will probably never go to college or be rich, but he could build himself a respectable life, if he chooses to. It’s too bad his efforts are half-hearted. Although, this might mean he could stick around for season four.
Glee continues its build up to graduation Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.