On this week’s episode of FOX’s Glee, “Mash Off,” Will (Matthew Morrison) and Shelby (Idina Menzel) vow to keep their groups from fighting by staging a McKinley Mash Off. Santana (Naya Rivera) isn’t thrilled, finding it impossible not to start an argument with Finn (Corey Monteith). Growing tired of her taunts, Finn plays dirty, accusing Santana of hiding in the closet. Unfortunately, someone connected to Sue’s (Jane Lynch) Congressional opponent hears, and features the slur in an attack ad. Kurt (Chris Colfer) keeps his own campaign for class president clean, leading a lonely and chastised Rachel (Lea Michele) to abandon her run, throwing her support behind him.
Mash up episodes of Glee are always special, featuring wonderful music, and “Mash Off” is no different. This time, Hall & Oats and Adele are the featured artists who get this treatment. The Troubletones slay Adele’s “Rumour Has It” and “Someone Like You” with the power of Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Santana. Santana is very raw, emotionally, in the moment, and it lends the song real weight. The New Directions go a bit more classic, using “I Can’t Go For That” and “You Make My Dreams.” While Finn does sing lead, many of the supporting players, such as Rory (Damian McGinty) get focus, too. The result is a beautiful tribute to fantastic music. Neither group can be declared the winner, because both are excellent.
Of course, this showdown is not the only singing in “Mash Off.” Will and Shelby mash two songs called “You and I” in a fun and interesting way. It’s also nice to see them play well together, making Shelby an ally, rather than an enemy, this time around, despite what may be going on with the fractured glee clubs. Breaking that spirit, the Troubletones and New Directions go for “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “One Way or Another” during a charged dodge ball fight that is quite effective. Puck’s (Mark Salling) “Hot for Teacher” is a bit weird, feeling a little outside the typical realm of Glee in the staging and choreography, as well as the subject matter. But that doesn’t prevent it from being pretty darn enjoyable.
Puck’s storyline itself, while understandable for the character, is unfortunate. He is a good guy who deserves happiness, and thinks he can have it with the woman raising his baby. While this certainly makes sense from his logical perspective, it isn’t a good situation for Shelby. Puck is eighteen, so the relationship is legal, but she is a teacher at his school. True, she doesn’t regularly teach him, but it could still cost her her job, as well as huge public humiliation. Shelby is smart enough to know not to act on a horny teenager’s impulses. But in her loneliness, it’s easy to see how she could consider Puck’s offer, as wrong as she knows it is.
When the Puck / Shelby pairing first pops up, it is a shockingly wrong. However, as it unfolds, it feels authentic and sweet. This is a testament to Salling and Menzel, who both commit fully to the situation. It is still wrong, for a number of legal and ethical reasons. Yet, it’s hard not to root for the two to be together in the end. If only Puck would cool down his pursuit until June.
Or, even better, bring back Zizes (Ashley Fink)!
Puck’s feelings lead him to expose Quinn’s (Dianna Agron) attempts to frame Shelby as an unfit parent. Shelby is rightfully furious, accusing Quinn of still being just as ugly as she starts the season, despite restoring her hair color and losing the piercings. And she’s right. Quinn is no longer a likeable character that one can feel sorry for. Her single-minded mission to get custody of Beth is ridiculous and cruel. Quinn is still a monster, and needs some serious professional help if she is to recover from this very bad place that she is in.
The election for class president is heating up. Brittany (Heather Morris) chooses a platform of unrealistic things, like banning tornados and going topless on Tuesdays. She would not even be allowed to declare the latter in a real school, and she would be laughed away for the former. However, somehow, in Glee world, her words are popular. Plus, she’s hot. One other nameless candidate doesn’t speak at the so-called “debate,” in which no questions are asked, and another is even crazier than Brittany.
Kurt, on the other hand, is taking things much more seriously. Banning dodge ball is a bold and stupid move that could backfire, given the game’s popularity. However, as shown in “Mash Up,” it can be a very cruel contest. Going after bullying is a great issue, though, and this is the key that might lead to victory for Kurt. It certainly sways Rachel, who is already missing Kurt as a friend, to resign as a competitor and get behind him. Together, hopefully the two will prove unstoppable.
Glee deals with bullying plenty, but in “Mash Up,” the harassment takes a more personal, more disturbing edge than previously. That may be because it’s between two main characters. Santana is always quick with an insult. Lately, after quitting the New Directions, she focuses a lot of her rage on Finn. He finally can’t take it anymore, and unleashes a rant about her hiding in the closet. Everything he says is true, and unbelievably cruel. It shakes Santana and viewers alike. The result is a very uncomfortable scene, where Finn crosses a line that he really shouldn’t. Of course, it’s also realistic, given how much she is pushing him, that he would snap in such a manner.
The blow back is far worse than high school peer pressure. Santana being a lesbian becomes the subject of a TV ad against Sue, who is running for Congress. Sue is uncharacteristically supportive, feeling very bad for her role in it. Will and Burt (Mike O’Malley) are also there to lend a hand. Not that Santana wants any of it. She storms out, upset, as she hasn’t even told her parents that she is gay yet.
Santana’s story in “Mash Up,” and the surrounding episodes, is every bit as emotionally moving as Kurt’s prior bullying arc. She is shaping up to be one of this fall’s biggest power players on Glee, and given her talent, it’s a welcome shift. One can’t help but be moved by what she is going through, and want to help as the teachers try to do. Sadly, there is nothing that can be done for a fictional character. Hopefully, though, real high schoolers will watch and be changed by what they see. Glee could potentially have a real-world impact with something like this.
Finally, it must be noted that Finn is bullying Blaine (Darren Criss) a bit, too. It’s an ego thing, as Finn considers himself the male leader of the New Directions, and he feels threatened by Blaine’s considerable, arguably better, talent. Blaine takes the high road thus far, even when Finn teases him with giving a solo to Rory in “Mash Off.” But how much longer will Blaine be able to take it? There is going to be a serious confrontation coming up between the two of them, for sure.
Watch Glee Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.