FOX’s Glee‘s latest episode, “Trio,” is uneven, as is par for the course of Glee installments lately. The New York scenes are mostly excellent, depressing, but frustrating, with solid character definition and development. The McKinley stuff is silly fluff that doesn’t make sense. But with the end of the high school setting so close, all viewers can do is grit their teeth and wait it out.
Let’s hit the good parts first. Rachel (Lea Michelle), still furious at Santana (Naya Rivera) for being her understudy and at Kurt (Chis Colfer) for remaining neutral, meaning he didn’t side against Santana with her, latches onto Elliott (Adam Lambert) as her new gay bestie slash personal assistant. Santana strikes back, paying Elliott to run scenes with her. This battle continues until Elliott and Kurt throw up their hands and tell the ladies to go away until they can work out their issues, kicking Santana and Rachel out of the band.
This part of “Trio” is excellent because, as heartbreaking as it is to have Rachel and Santana at each other’s throats once more, acting like they are back in high school, Glee stays completely authentic to both characters. Rachel is overreacting, she’s always been a bit of a drama queen, and is too proud to back down. Santana doesn’t apologize because she doesn’t want to appear weak, and when threatened, resorts to her old lashing out coping mechanism. Santana didn’t mean to hurt Rachel, but now that she has, neither can back down.
There’s a scene in this episode where we see the girls softening towards one another, and they’re almost vulnerable, admitting they don’t have any other gal pals around. Had Kurt and Elliott not walked in, interrupting, they may have made up, rather than trying to save face as they did, driving them further apart. The question is, can that friendship be found again, or will circumstances keep eroding it until it’s too broken to heal?
I love Rachel and Santana as friends, but they also make great enemies. Fans desperately want them to work it out, so they probably will, eventually. But the presentation of two such powerful voices, conflicted by circumstance, is an enticing one, and I’m glad Glee chose to explore this path, even if, hopefully, it’s only temporary.
I think the main difference between now and high school is that neither Rachel or Santana have any enablers. Their friends, Kurt, Elliott, and even Santana’s girlfriend, Dani (Demi Lovato), recognize that this feud is between two good people, and all move to isolate the women until they can come to their senses and realize the importance they have to each other. Cut the oxygen off to the fire, and it will die out.
I have to admit, I’m expecting Santana to instigate the reconciliation. I do think Rachel needs a big slap in the face to knock her down a peg, so I don’t want to see Santana defeated or to have to bow down. I just think Santana is the one who has to be the bigger person here, having caused the rift in the first place, even if it wasn’t intentional, and is more likely to do so.
This part of the episode results in some pretty solid music, as well. I’m not a big fan of Elliott and Rachel’s “Barracuda” just because it doesn’t feel like a Rachel song, but it showcases Lambert well. “Gloria,” an all-out battle between Rachel and Santana with Elliott caught in the middle, is much more entertaining, allowing both girls to showcase their vocal talent. Kurt, Dani, and Elliott’s debut as One Three Hill, “The Happening,” is plain fun, light and amusing, as well as well sung. And then they all participate in the closing song, shared with the McKinley cast, which is awkward, as usual, but it’s a good number.
Back in Ohio, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), Sam (Chord Overstreet), and Blaine (Darren Criss) are celebrating and mourning their final weeks together as seniors. They decide they need to do something epic and memorable, and so after Sue shuts down their idea for a lock down, they sneak into the school at night, because apparently McKinley is the only high school left in the nation without a security alarm or cameras, and party down, only to be interrupted by Becky (Lauren Potter).
It makes sense to see the seniors played up as their time comes to an end, even if that means five cast members, just promoted to series regular status in the fall, have had virtually no screen time for awhile. And the antics in the halls are entertaining, very John Huges-esque, which makes sense for the characters’ sensibilities.
Then, Becky turns up, but is never given a good reason for being there. Glee could have explored Becky’s loneliness and desire to bond with her classmates, but it doesn’t. What’s more, the seniors cruelly leave Artie (Kevin McHale) out until the very end of the episode for no stated reason, just another misstep from Glee. And worst of all, Sam and Tina make out, even though they’ve never shown any interest in one another and don’t afterwards, either. “Trio” is a bundle of stupid contrivances that don’t make sense for them.
I have to admit, their music is good, though. I don’t know how any teenagers today are familiar with “Jumpin’, Jumpin’,” but it’s a welcome blast from the past. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” reinforces the tone the episode is trying to sell nicely, even if the performance is weak. And the end ending “Hold On,” despite unfortunately including the New Yorkers, hammers in the message of this side of the story.
The third plot this week finds Will (Matthew Morrison) and Emma (Jayma Mays) trying to conceive. He puts too much pressure on her at first and, after some advice from Sue (Jane Lynch) and Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), backs off and concentrates on the romance instead. This results in successful impregnation.
To be sure, the pregnancy story is a little rushed, starting and ending in a single hour. However, Will and Emma have been through enough crap, so they don’t need more heaped on top of them. Plus, Mays has limited availability due to her starring role on The Millers, which is why we’ve barely seen her this season, so it makes sense to get through the story all at once.
There are some wonderful moments present. “Danny’s Song” is sweet and soulful. I absolutely love when Will puts paint on Emma’s nose and she freaks out, a play off the familiar trope bent to stay true to the characters, beautifully played by Mays. The affection between the pair is evident, and it appears their union is strong. It’s nice to see them get a happy ending.
That being said, there are parts of this that are absolutely horrid. How dare Will and Emma have sex in a school, cycles be damned? That has to be illegal and immoral and should result in immediate firing. And on top of that, they don’t even lock the door, allowing Becky to walk in on them? I admit, Sue gets some great lines out of this, but the whole thing is ridiculous and disturbing.
So Glee delivers the good with the bad. Viewers have gotten used to this, but still long for the run of multiple great episodes in a row that occasionally pops up through the series, not currently being delivered. Any chance ditching the Ohio stuff and building towards next spring’s series finale will allow them to finally shed the weird unevenness dragging the show down and allow the show to finally, five years in, reach its potential? Maybe. But for now, we’re still saddled with hours that mix terrific moments with bits that clearly have not been thought through.
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.