Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Pot O' Gold" proves elusive on Glee

     FOX's Glee finally returns with "Pot O' Gold." Brittany (Heather Morris) thinks the new Irish exchange student living with her, Rory Flanagan (The Glee Project co-winner Damian McGinty), is a leprechaun. Santana (Naya Rivera) uses that to her advantage to get Brittany, now her girlfriend, to leave the New Directions with her and defect to Shelby's (Idina Menzel) group. Tossed aside, and exposed as non-magical, Rory is sad and bullied. Until Finn (Cory Monteith) befriends him and brings him over to the New Directions.

     Damian is laying on his accent a bit thick in Glee. He was understandable during the reality show this summer, but sometimes one must strain to pick out the words that his new character is saying. The songs chosen for Rory in this episode also fall flat. "Bein' Green," a classic, has weird phrasing. In "Take Care of Yourself," Rory jumps into an odd falsetto. Neither work really well. Which means a very odd, weak opening for someone that should be a really cool character.

     Also lame is Quinn's (Dianna Agron) plot to steal baby Beth back from Shelby. In "Pot O'Gold," Quinn places dangerous and illegal items in Shelby's house, than calls family services to report her. Luckily for Shelby, Puck (Mark Salling) has an affection for her, and removes the offending objects, with Shelby none the wiser about the plot. Quinn will try again, surely, but Puck won't be a part of it next time. Wanting her baby back makes sense for Quinn, who doesn't have a lot going on otherwise, and has been looking for direction. However, it's a huge step down for the character, who is no longer interesting, merely evil. For now.

     It is no surprise that Puck ends up kissing Shelby at the end of "Pot O' Gold." Anyone with eyeballs can see the smooch coming from a mile away, especially when Puck croons "Waiting for a Girl Like You" to Beth in front of Shelby. Feelings about the budding relationship, though, are mixed. Puck is a senior, and Shelby works at his school. True, Shelby only teaches a glee club, which Puck isn't a part of. And Puck is probably eighteen. Plus, Puck already has a track record of going for cougars, of which Shelby might qualify, albeit she is much classier and less slutty than the typical one. Still, there's something vaguely creepy about a student and an older woman. Please drop the Mrs. Robinson story line!

     Blaine (Darren Criss) continues to clash with Finn as the male lead of the New Directions. It isn't so much that Blaine is trying to take over, but that Finn feels outmatched vocally, and he should. Finn is handling the situation like an idiot, unfortunately. But Blaine is mostly staying out of any real bickering, to his credit. Given Finn' previous plots, he will probably come around and apologize, finally showing maturity. Eventually. Until then, it makes Finn quite a bit unlikable, acting like a child.

     Blaine sings "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" in an effort to raise the club's spirits. This continues Criss's trend of making catchy, mediocre songs actually sound really good on Glee. Unfortunately, there is something missing in this performance. It may be the lack of an all-male vocal backup. Blaine seems a little different and off with all of the girls singing around him. Too bad, because Blaine rocks otherwise.

     Despite the music-enhanced low points of "Pot O' Gold," there are actually some really good, non-music stories going on. The most notable is Burt's (Mike O'Malley) entry into the race against Sue (Jane Lynch). Coming too late to make it onto the ballot, Burt begins the arduous process of campaigning as a write in. This comes after Burt finds local business owners to re-fund the musical that Sue cuts the budget from. Burt stands a chance at winning because he is passionate about the cause, crediting Will (Matthew Morrison) and the glee club for saving Kurt's life.

     Glee may be slightly preachy when championing Fine Arts Education, but it's not wrong. A lot of kids need music, drama, and art. They need passion when having trouble connecting with other material, and struggling to find themselves. Not to mention the benefits, such as kids performing higher in other subjects, when arts ed is added in. Burt is exactly right that, in a time of budget cuts, the arts should be protected, not chopped. It's a timely message in Ohio and the country, and Glee gets mad props for defending it so vigorously.

     The threat from Sue is that she plans to refocus her campaign on her original goal: getting better Special Education programs, in memory of her sister. This is a sympathetic message, and one a lot of people will be able to get behind. Because it's television, and not a huge, nationally-spotlight race, people may even forget just how psychotic Sue's earlier comments sound. But with Kurt and the other seniors graduating, this will probably be Burt's last season on the series. A triumphant move to Washington would be a fitting ending. So let Burt win, and he can help Special Ed as well as Arts Ed. A better choice, over all.

     It seems for awhile like Glee will stop pursuing the love story between Brittany and Santana. Thankfully, that is not the case in "Pot O' Gold." They are out on a date at Breadsticks (of course), and Santana really opens up about her feelings. While less committal, Brittany seems to return those emotions. They make a cute couple, and as long as Brittany really digs girls, which it appears she does (as well as guys), then they can really work. With other love interests removed, there is no reason why the two cannot be together.

     Which makes their triumphant "Candyman," with Mercedes (Amber Riley), so thrilling. They are happy together, mixed only with a little sadness about leaving the New Directions. This girl-power group is formidable, which is apparent not only to the members, but also Shelby, Will, and Finn.

     The only weakness here is that Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies) steps aside a bit too easily from headlining the group. If she really has conviction about her talent, as she claims she does, she wouldn't give up so easily. Now it seems like her character is brought in only as convenience to get a second group going, and bring Shelby back. Which might be worth it, anyway.

     Don't miss Glee, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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Article first published as TV Review: Glee - "Pot O' Gold" on Blogcritics.

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