Glee Recap: S03E01: The Purple Piano Project

Glee is back (cue internal squeal of delight). Let's return to McKinley High and see what lesson plans Mr. Schuester has in store for the glee kids, who will leave and join the club this year, and what our favorite characters plan for the near future.

Newsflash! It looks like everyone on New Directions is a senior except for Tina and Artie. Can someone explain to me how Artie got to go to Junior Prom with a junior as his date? Anyone? Anyway, this means that we will get to see Ms. Cohen-Chang and Mr. Abrams next year but will have to see all of our other favorites graduate. But let's focus on this year, shall we? Before graduation comes the Glee Club plans to take nationals by storm. And after graduation, the Gleeks will have to face their futures outside of school, so some planning is involved. Here is the rundown of their future hopes and dreams:

Finn has no current plan, Mike will be deciding between Stanford and Harvard at his parents' insistence, Mercedes is all about her new guy (and he is all about her future record deal and Grammy), and Santana is ready to rule to school as HBIC (head bitch in charge, natch).

And as for the plans of my favorites? Rachel and Kurt can explain it best:

Rachel: I'm glad you asked. This year we'll both be applying to a New York based performing arts school.

Kurt: *fake cough* Juilliard

Rachel: We'll get an eclectic little apartment on the lower east side

Kurt: Think Bette and Barbara Hershey in Beaches, pre cardiomyopathy.

Rachel: I'll originate a role in the new Sondheim musical, Tony by 25...

Kurt: ...Married by 30, legally!

Rachel: Broadway, Lincoln Center, West End, a tasteful HBO miniseries. It's all right here in my planner, you see.

Suffice it to say, they have some serious plans. While I do miss the days when Mercedes and Kurt were such besties that she was the first one he came out to, I do love the development of the Hummelberry friendship. They are strikingly similar in a scary way, so it seems natural that once they got past the obvious competition stage, the friendship would develop smoothly. I adore when they are being supportive of each other, but more on that later.

Purple pianos are all the rage at McKinley High... or not.
Purple pianos are all the rage at McKinley High... or not.
Schue and Emma are farther along in their relationship than ever, but how long will Schue be okay with chaste (but adorable) kisses?
Schue and Emma are farther along in their relationship than ever, but how long will Schue be okay with chaste (but adorable) kisses?

Schuester Steps Up to the Plate

Mr. Schuester plans to inspire his club to earn a win at nationals this year (which means they will hopefully plan their setlist before arriving at the hotel in New York). To get them in the spirit and try to recruit new members, he concocts one of his inspirational plans. This one centers, oddly enough, on three purple pianos saved from the trash. Like the Glee Club members, the pianos are beat up and thought useless, but they can still make beautiful music with a little help. The assignment? The purple pianos will be scattered around the school, and every time a Glee clubber sees one, they must burst into song. While I admire his enthusiasm, I do not think it is a good idea to do so many performances in the halls when the school hates the club. At least he is being proactive.

Other areas Will is being proactive? After some protests from the current members, Mr. Schue actually decides to not let a student join the team. The girl is Sugar Mata, a new girl played with a lot of ego. She wants to be a star, but judging by the ear screeching rendition of "Big Spender," she does not have any talent to back up her ambition. Will crushes her dreams, but given that Sugar's father is the one who donated the pianos, I am assuming we have not seen the last of her.

The only area in his life that Will cannot make progress in is his relationship with Emma. Yes, things are going swimmingly, with the pair sleeping (chastely) together and packing each other's lunches in matching Superman and Wonder Woman lunch boxes, but Emma still likes to play red light, green light with startling frequency. It disturbs Will so much that he tells Sue about it in the middle of their war concerning her plan to take art programs out of schools. Not very relevant, which shows how much this problem is on his mind.

His relationship with Emma is in full swing, with them cutely waking up together and packing each other's lunches in Superman and Wonder Woman lunch boxes.

Quinn wants to exude a bad girl persona, but when confronted by Rachel, a glimmer of the old Quinn shows through.
Quinn wants to exude a bad girl persona, but when confronted by Rachel, a glimmer of the old Quinn shows through.
After a brilliant performance, the Cheerios set fire to one of the club's pianos.
After a brilliant performance, the Cheerios set fire to one of the club's pianos.

The Ever-Changing Glee Roster

With the new year comes changes in the Glee Club line-up. Lauren has quit to maintain her popularity, leaving Puck single in the process, and Sam's father got a job that moved the family out of town. Yet again, this leaves the club in jeopardy of having too few members to compete. Especially considering that Quinn is nowhere to be found.

Quinn disappeared during the summer and returns with a new bad girl image (complete with pink hair, nose ring, and Ryan Seacrest tramp stamp. She quits Glee and the Cheerios and refuses to listen to anyone, even Rachel who comes to beg her sweetly to return. Rachel misses her, despite their differences, and Santana and Brittany are missing their third musketeer. Though Quinn is not my favorite character (stupid decisions like this one might have something to do with it), I do hope she returns to the club quickly. I do not know how long it takes, but the preview for season two does suggest a story line that may have something to do with it.

The final exiting character is a surprise. Mr. Schue takes a stand again when he tells Santana to leave until she can be loyal to the club. He, along with the rest of the club, is tired of her split allegiance. Apparently setting fire to one of their pianos at Sue's request was the last straw.

As always, this means the Glee Club is in need of new members. Adding Blaine to the mix is a great idea, and will happily placate his fans worried about diminishing screen time given Kurt's return to McKinley. He fits in with the team well with his unrestrained enthusiasm, and he works well in the spotlight or out. The only problem is that the guys of the club are concerned that the former Warbler front man will steal all of the solos. If only (imagines a world where she has an ipod full of Darren Criss covers).

Blaine tells Kurt that he has transferred to McKinley to be with him because he cannot spend a day without the man he loves.
Blaine tells Kurt that he has transferred to McKinley to be with him because he cannot spend a day without the man he loves.
Smiles frozen in place, Rachel and Kurt watch as their dreams are shattered before their eyes.
Smiles frozen in place, Rachel and Kurt watch as their dreams are shattered before their eyes.

Plans for the Future

Rachel and Kurt are ready to take New York and Broadway by storm. Councilor Emma Pilsbury (being useful for once) clues them into the fact that Juilliard does not have a musical theater department (although it does have a music program and an acting program). She suggests they look closer to home, but when it becomes clear that New York is the only option, she comes up with another idea: NYADA, or the New York Academy for the Dramatic Arts. Despite having an extremely competitive admissions program, NYADA conveniently holds a reception for prospective students in Dayton. Kurt and Rachel prepare to go and impress the others in attendance with their impressive talents. What they do not anticipate, however, is to be greeted by students as talented as themselves, all ready to intimidate them into silence with a show-stopping musical number. It was painful to see the plastic smiles on their faces as they watch the Broadway caliber number and even more painful to see them crying in the car after their dreams of stardom are given a huge slap to the face by reality. This should give them plenty of motivation to do amazing things this season, however, which I am all for. First on the agenda? Get started on an acceptable school musical (West Side Story) and pad those extracurriculars (Student Body President for one). I wish this power couple well as they plan their domination of the school and the world.

Rating the Music

Now that we have gotten through with the details, let's move on to the truly important things: the music!

We Got the Beat - A

I have been told that as a young child, the only way to get me into my car seat quietly was to play the Go-Go's infectious song, "We Got the Beat." Something about the song's driving baseline must have appealed to me, even at a young age. Now that I am older, my love of this song has not diminished. Every time I hear it, I must get up and dance around the room energetically, and the Glee version of the track is no exception. Featuring strong vocal performances by Lea Michele, Naya Rivera, and Heather Morris, this cover retains all of the spirit of the original. As a public performance in the cafeteria to encourage more students to join the club, I think this performance would serve its purpose if the target audience was not comprised of a bunch of "neanderthals."

My kind of Broadway show. One starring Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry!
My kind of Broadway show. One starring Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry!

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead - B+

This is an odd song choice that screams Broadway so loudly I am sure it will be polarizing. That being said, I love any opportunity Michele and Colfer have to sing together. Their voices harmonize beautifully, and the two play off of each other easily on screen and stage. Given that the song is their way of impressing the other prospective students at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts (NYADA), the pure Broadway-ness of the number makes perfect sense.

Do the Carlton! Blaine rocks out in his New Directions audition with help from the Cheerios.
Do the Carlton! Blaine rocks out in his New Directions audition with help from the Cheerios.

It's Not Unusual - A

You will learn quickly that I am a huge Darren Criss fan (if you did not know this already, of course). I adore his voice on most of the Glee covers and obsess over it in others ("Somewhere Only We Know" kills me every time). So when I heard that he would be covering the Tom Jones standard "It's Not Unusual," my first thought was that Criss would improve upon the original. I was not disappointed. Criss' smooth vocals take away the smarmy undertones I usually associate with this song. In addition, the vibe of the song perfectly accents the character of Blaine Anderson, the dapper young gentleman who possesses Kurt Hummel's heart and can act like a goofball when necessary. And as I have come to find with subsequent and repeated listenings, Criss' vocals are addictive and quite easy to listen to.

Anything Goes/Anything You Can Do - B

Some of the best Glee covers are mash-ups, single songs that combine elements of two distinct classics (the mash-up "It's My Life/Confessions Part II" comes to mind as an excellent example). The amalgam usually surpasses the two originals. Such is the case with this Broadway mash-up. My only concern is the chosen artist. Maybe it will take time to get used to Lindsay Pearce's power house voice, but I would have preferred a little more vocal finesse that could have been provided by Miss Lea Michele. The overall number was well choreographed and suitably impressive, but based on vocals alone, I think Rachel and Kurt have little to worry about from that corner.

You can't stop the beat, or the New Directions. Nationals here we come!
You can't stop the beat, or the New Directions. Nationals here we come!

You Can't Stop the Beat - B

Another Broadway classic, this one starts out slow. I love that touch, especially since it gives Rachel Berry time to shine. Eventually it picks up to regular speed, allowing the rest of the club to join in. When I first heard the track, I enjoyed it, but I felt it lacked the frenetic energy of the original. Luckily, seeing the performance cured this flaw, as seeing New Directions band together usually does. My one complaint? The show cut out Chris Colfer's part. No one should be denied the pleasure of hearing his voice at any point in time.


So what did you think? I do not think any season premiere can ever live up to the brilliance of the pilot, but I felt this one was generally strong. It is difficult to really get into things when the story lines for the season have to be set up, but the show did a good job of establishing the main concerns from the get go. There were some wonderful couple moments (Kurt and Blaine, especially are too adorable for their own good) without detracting from the time for other characters. And I know that a Glee episode is good when I find myself smiling so hard it hurts, and this one was no exception. "It's Not Unusual" is the kind of production number I love to see in Glee, and anyone who could see my face while I was watching it would be sure to know it. Now everybody do The Carlton!

The Carlton

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