Before “Rumours” aired last night, I tweeted that I had this weird feeling that the final string of episodes was going to be pretty strong. Despite my issues with the length (and the subsequent Kurt lovefest that resulted because of it), I thought last week’s episode was very good and it set up a number of quality character stories that could carry Glee through its final four episodes. After watching “Rumours,” I am now totally convinced that my tweet was correct. It might not be the absolutely best episode of the season, but it’s damn close and most certainly my favorite episode of season two. Somehow, an episode with April Rhodes’ return and more Sue Sylvester plotting couldn’t even mess up the stories it was telling here. This review might end up being hyperbolic, but I am legitimately excited to have this good version of Glee around, the version I was fairly convinced would never come back for a consistent run. Clearly two episodes isn’t a “consistent run,” but now I sort of have…confidence? That’s crazy.
I’ve talked before about how Glee works best when it lets the kids’ emotions run rampant and mess up the possible achievements of the glee club as a whole. Quinn’s season one pregnancy was moderately difficult to sit through in spots, but the reveal of the father’s identity near the end of the first 13 episodes was one of the best things the series has ever done. And not just because it put Sectionals in jeopardy, but it sort of ran through the New Directions like a virus, slowly destroying all their small glimmers of hope. “Rumours” presents a one-episode version of that story, wherein a number of the ND’ers are concerned about the lies they’re being told and that paranoia quickly destroys the group dynamics (Well, sort of). The reactions to these rumors — that Sam is hooking up with either Quinn or Kurt, the Santana is a lesbian — from people like Finn, Rachel, Quinn, Santana and Artie are overly emotional, but not too much so.* Finn is right to be fearful of Quinn’s lack of fidelity, Santana doesn’t necessarily want her sexuality broadcast all over the school and Artie deserves to know what the hell is going on with his girlfriend and her best friend. No one does anything particularly stupid in response to these rumors, as Rachel and Finn’s stake-out is completely within the bounds of this series’ universe. In general, everyone reacted like hormonal teens would act when their relationships are questioned: Like it’s one of the WORST THINGS IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Glee nails the hyperbolic nature of teen hormones and thought processes and this is probably the best representation of that ever.
*Nice little touch with Sam hanging out with Kurt and Quinn, the character we all assumed he was introduced to date and the one he actually did.
And somehow, the episode figured out how to stick the landing, that oddly sobering landing, without being too preachy or patronizing. During the episode I tweeted that the reveal of what Sam was doing in that hotel room was going to be awful, but it actually wasn’t at all. Sure, learning that his parents have lost their jobs and subsequently their house so they’re now living in a motel was out of nowhere and probably wasn’t planned by the writers before this episode, but it mostly fits well into how the Sam character has (read: hasn’t) been used this season. He’s been mostly absent since his Bieber turn in “Comeback,” and mostly looked depressed and dejected while sitting in the choir room. I just assumed that was Chord Overstreet’s normal disposition, but perhaps Ryan Murphy and company told him to react that way because his character was secretly losing it all. And wasn’t he trying to make some money in “Comeback,” and that’s why he partially did the Bieber stuff? Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but that adds some credence to the fact that the Glee team had some semblance of a plan. It really doesn’t matter, this isn’t Lost, but it’s just something to think about.
In any event, the reveal about Sam was actually well-executed for the most part. It’s realistic for the current economic landscape, especially in a fairly small Ohio town, and I really loved how it totally brought the rumor-mongering to a screeching halt. It was nice to give people like Finn and Rachel some perspective, even if the episode mostly allowed them to be the saviors anyway by pumping Sam up with a speech about how the glee club is what he needs right now. I understand what that scene was trying to accomplish and get that the New Directions is supposed to be this life-altering safe place for any and all of society’s misfits, but the episode over-did it in that respect. The final performance and the raising of Sam onto people’s shoulders was way too much and took me out of the episode just a bit. But that’s Glee. It’s never going to shy away from a moment like that, no matter how well-executed the previous 40 minutes of the story are.
Of course, the week’s music plays right into that. But even though this episode begins with the usual “lesson” from Will about how the club must pick a song from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours as a way to express their feelings about the backstabbing, possible cheating, etc., it thankfully doesn’t unspool like one of those episodes. The issues between the students are already there before Will makes his decree, so the music only further emphasizes their feelings instead of completely shaping them. Every single song is not only well-performed, but smartly integrated into the story. This is one of the episodes where the music supports and serves the story instead of creating it, which has been something of a rarity here in the second season.
Moreover, “Rumours” figured out how to make the series’ two worst elements — Will and Sue — fit pretty well into its structure and storytelling without much dragging. It feels like the writers are slowly figuring out what to do with Will as a character. They might not know what arc they want to build for him, but they’re coming around to not making him an awful person, which is a vast improvement. If he’s just going to be the mouthpiece for the week’s lesson, the series is better off having him be a consistently good dude, and I think a lot of recent episodes have suggested that. Bringing back April is smart in that respect, but she always brings out the hopefulness in Will. She’s working on a Broadway show of her own and there’s some hints that Will might actually join her. Even though the scene with Emma urging Will to give a shot wasn’t completely unearned, I really enjoyed Matthew Morrison’s performance. It’s not his fault that the writers have assassinated his character and are just now figuring it out. I liked how he admitted that he did actually want to go to NYC with April, but couldn’t bring himself to because the kids (and Emma) saved his life and allowed him to have some hope again. It’s all a bit overdone dialouge-wise, but like I said, Morrison really sold it. Maybe Will won’t be the world’s worst human being by the time season three rolls around.
And finally, this was a nice little episode for Sue. Her plotting works best when it’s at least somewhat subdued (i.e. not trying to endanger Brittany by showing her out of canon) and it’s sort of shadowy. Reinstating the school newspaper and starting up the rumor mill is one of her more intelligent ideas. Moreover, I liked how Sue’s manipulative ways didn’t overtake the episode. The newspaper’s rumor mill fueled the fires that were already there between some of the characters, but she never really got too involved in what was happening. Even though the episode was terrible, I liked the heckling club from “Night of Neglect,” and combined with the newspaper, Sue’s actions have been much less stupid and broad in recent weeks. That’s a shockingly positive development.
“Rumours” is, from top to bottom, just a well-constructed episode of Glee that features a slew of great individual character moments.
- Naya Rivera and Santana continue to be the best part of the season. Santana and Brittany’s relationship continues to develop and get more complex without becoming too dominating within each episode.
- Meanwhile, I am apparently invested enough in Artie and Brittany’s relationship that his calling her stupid actually made me upset too. Who knew?
- Really great performances this week. Rivera’s “Songbird” was an obvious stand-out, but Kevin McHale’s version of “Never Going Back Again” and Lea Michele’s “Go Your Own Way” were also very, very good.
- Jane Lynch in David Bowie and Ann Coulter costumes is pretty funny. TOTALLY STUPID, but funny.
- I won’t be the first or the last to say this, but this episode should have been the 90-minuter, not last week’s. A lot more quality, interesting stories to tell.