Glee Report Card: Glee-Hee!

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Glee Michael Jackson episode slushie

That's the noise that Chris Colfer has made in every promo for Glee‘s long-awaited Michael Jackson tribute episode. Just as that joke probably landed only with some of MJ's fans, Ryan Murphy and co. picked many of Jacko's less iconic songs for “Michael.” Could it have been because they couldn't get the rights to more famous stuff or because the more low-key numbers better fit the plot? Who knows. (I'm gonna warn you, as a twentysomething fan, that I was more partial to the songs I'd actually danced to before.)

Last week's anxiety about never getting out of Lima continued into this episode, with Kurt — and, slightly delayed, Rachel — finding out that they were finalists for the New York theater school they so desperately want to get into. But at this point, Finn's warmed up to the idea of settling in Lima; worse yet, Rachel says yes to his proposal when she thinks that she's not a finalist. So, we'll have that aftermath to deal with for the rest of the season.

Also, Sue was nowhere to be found. And much as I think she's way overdone for the talented Jane Lynch, it felt odd not having her in the tribute.

“Wanna Be Starting Something”
Performed by Blaine and New Directions

The actual reasoning behind paying homage to Jackson is pretty shoddy: Reinforcing the whole “we should stand up for ourselves because everyone wants to bring us down”… but they don't say in which era of his life Jackson was equally helpless to an Ohio glee club. That said, I loved the energy of this number and how it showed New Directions immediately on the offensive as opposed to defensive.

Grade: B+

Performed by Artie and New Directions vs. Sebastian and the Warblers

The best number from the episode, which is too bad since it was only the second one. It was fantastic to see Artie take center-stage on this, with Santana backing him up. And while in some situations it's cheesy when they recreate the set pieces from famous numbers, the face-off between glee clubs in a underground garage worked fantastically. And then we get the absurd “twist” that Blaine gets a slushie in the face laced with rock salt, effectively writing him out so Darren Criss can do How to Succeed… on Broadway.

Grade: A

Performed by Artie and Mike Chang

What a bizarre number! Points for channeling Jackson's 1995 music video down to the black-and-white motif and the liquid-latex outfits. It's always a treat to see Artie out of his wheelchair, and this angry song illustrates the frustration of feeling utterly helpless. But does that mean that Mike Chang got relegated to playing Janet Jackson?

Grade: B-

“Never Can Say Goodbye”
Performed by Quinn

I've always had a soft spot for Quinn's performances; her voice is distinctly different from Rachel's, yet the focus seems to be more on her over-dramatic baby plots. What made this number sweeter was the way Quinn carried with her the knowledge that she had gotten into Yale and was moving her life forward.

Grade: A-

“Human Nature”
Performed by Sam and Mercedes

Mercedes and Sam's first (and only?) duet was cheesy through and through. You kind of have to laugh when the number starts off with her saying, “We can't do a duet” and then she turns around and starts singing. Plus, he starts off playing the guitar, but then there's a guitar going while he puts down the instrument. These two are sweeter in their non-musical moments, like last week. (Re: the grade, I'm not trying to be harsh, but I can't just grade everything in the A and B range.)

Grade: C+

Performed by Kurt, Blaine, Rachel, and Finn

What an utterly weird choice, seeing as it's the theme song from a movie about a rat. The only commentary on Jackson I can see is the era where he had a weird love for animals like Bubbles the monkey. Plot-wise, it was difficult to tell who this was comforting: Blaine with his eye, Finn waiting on Rachel's answer, Kurt in general, or Rachel thinking she's not a finalist.

Grade: C

“Smooth Criminal”
Performed by Santana vs. Sebastian

If anyone should have a showdown with Sebastian, wouldn't it be Kurt? But instead the writers dropped some foreshadowing in the first few scenes, so it's somewhat satisfying when Santana faces off with the Warbler leader in her best gangster outfit. But I would've preferred a little more fire to the back-and-forth; maybe because violins were their only accompaniment, but they seemed to keep their voices muted.

Grade: B+

“I Just Can't Stop Lovin' You”
Performed by Rachel and Finn

Ehh. These two have done so many better love songs — back in season 1 and 2 when things were still fresh — that this one came and went, and it wasn't even a big reveal when she accepted his proposal. My suggestion: Skip this one and rewatch their mash-up of “Open Your Heart to Me”/”Borderline” from the Madonna episode.

Grade: B-

“Black and White”
Performed by New Directions

The obvious choice, but a key one. We had to finish with a key song, but I don't feel like anything changed: This episode began and ended with the glee kids asserting their power in cruel high school. Sure, they brought the Warblers onstage and took away Sebastian's power, but you know he'll still make it to sectionals on his own. I did like, however, the recreation of the video… though it made me realize that the majority of glee club is still white.

Grade: B+