Glee Recap: S03E06: Mash Off

Santana dishes out the insults, but she does not expect Finn to come back at her.
Santana dishes out the insults, but she does not expect Finn to come back at her.

What is a Mash Off?

Glee has explored the concept of mash ups before, a performance that takes two or more disparate songs and combines them together to make a new product. Mash ups have been a pre-sectionals tradition for New Directions since season one, when the boys and the girls faced off in “Vitamin D.” Mr. Schue wanted to foster healthy competition to get the group excited about singing again. Now, given the friction between New Directions and the Trouble Tones, Shelby and Schue decide to channel the competition into something more productive. The students will still sing mash ups, but the two teams will be competing against each other, thus the mash-off.

While the competition is meant to be friendly, the negative energy that is running around McKinley is rampant, and tensions rise all around. In the end, only one relationship is mended while all other bridges are burned. And in the end, the one hurt the most is Santana.

Beth is too cute. That's all.
Beth is too cute. That's all.
Shelby tells Quinn to leave after she finds out about her attempts at sabotage.
Shelby tells Quinn to leave after she finds out about her attempts at sabotage.

Mixed Relations

“It’s happened. The Lion King Puck-fasa has been caged.” Ever since their shared kiss, Puck has been fixated on McKinley’s newest teacher, who also happens to be the adoptive mother of his child and the biological mother of someone he once dated… There may be no incest in that equation, but I think that is as close as you can get without breaking state laws. In typical Puck style, he goes after what he wants with confidence, approaching Shelby with the many reasons they should be together (which he even wrote down):

  1. “You’re hot”
  2. “I’m hot”
  3. “Beth needs a dad. Why shouldn’t it be her actual dad?”

Puck tries to convince Shelby that she needs him. That it’s inevitable: “Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t feel something too. You want a mash-up? We’re the ultimate mash-up. Two things that maybe shouldn’t work together, but do.”

When Puck is over at Shelby’s playing with Beth while Shelby puts together the chair he had promised to construct for her, he decides to fess up to Quinn’s plan of attack: “I always thought of Beth as an accident. But she’s no accident. Quinn and I gave her life. But somehow, god or nature or whatever, meant for you and her to be together. You were always meant to be her mother. And I would like to be a part of her life too.” Though badboy Puck is entertaining to watch, I do so love it when he shows some intelligence and decides to do the right thing.

Puck’s penchant for older women is disturbing in general, but his attraction to Shelby, while inappropriate, has a sweet side. She is the adoptive mother of his biological daughter, and he has been trying to be responsible when it comes to his relationship with Beth. Naturally he would feel drawn to Shelby when the other viable option is Beth’s biological mother, the currently crazy, selfish Quinn.

Speaking of Quinn, she is impatient and wondering why Children’s Protective Services have not done anything about her anonymous tip. She decides that she needs to get closer to Shelby by joining the Trouble Tones. Initially, Shelby wants to think on her decision, but once Puck comes clean about the planned sabotage, Shelby is furious. When Quinn drops by Shelby’s with a gift for Beth as if everything is normal, Shelby sets her straight:

“You have no idea what it means to be a mother. It’s not about whose body she comes out of! It’s about accepting the fact that you don’t matter anymore; that your feelings, and that your life, and that your body all come second to making sure that that child is happy and safe.”

After this diatribe, Shelby opens the door and tells Quinn to get out and to stay away from Beth. When Quinn asks whether Puck will still get to their daughter, Shelby does not give her an answer. Hopefully Quinn’s awful behavior will not jeopardize Puck’s relationship with his daughter (or his fantasized relationship with Shelby).

Kurt sticks up for Rory on the dodgeball court.
Kurt sticks up for Rory on the dodgeball court.

Brittany's Speech

Tornadoes are nature’s most destructive force. These violent storms have ravaged America, crippling communities all across our land. Isn’t it time we take a stand? If you honor me with being your next class president, I will make tornadoes illegal at McKinley, keeping you and your families at our school safe from their murderous rampages. Also, on Tuesdays, I pledge to go topless.

Kurt finds a campaign issue close to the heart.
Kurt finds a campaign issue close to the heart.
Kurt and Rachel, together again.
Kurt and Rachel, together again.

Taking a Stand

“You know why I fight dirty? Because I’m fighting for something. I have a cause.”

So Sue justifies her negative campaign against Burt Hummel (more on that later) to his son, Kurt. She means it to be a lesson to Kurt himself (she does have a soft spot for “Porcelain” as she calls him) in the running of his own campaign for class president. But Kurt decides not to go down that route. After all, he has been suffering enough at the hands of his so-called friends.

One such friend, Rachel, is continuing her quest for the perfect NYADA application by asking her biological mother, who also happens to be a national show choir champion, to write a letter of recommendation for her. In true Rachel fashion, however, she has already written the letter and requires only a signature. But once Shelby admits how proud she is of her, Rachel changes her mind, and cautiously offers that Shelby could write her own recommendation. Shelby is pleased, and tells her long-lost daughter that no one has a chance of getting into NYADA if they do not have a resume like hers. Mention of her acceptance into NYADA brings to mind the friend with whom she wanted to go: Kurt. If Rachel’s presidential campaign succeeds, Kurt will not have the same kind of excellent résumé, which could put his application at risk.

So when campaign speeches arrive, there are a few surprises waiting:

  • Kurt finally found his cause. After seeing Rory get pummeled by balls at the end of the epic glee dodgeball showdown, Kurt decided to stand up for kids who, like himself, had been bullied at McKinley by targeting a symbol of playground animosity:

“Well I refuse to be bullied. In fact, I refuse to let anyone be bullied. Today, I want to take it one step further. I would like to hereby pledge to ban dodgeball at McKinley High. Since it’s invention in 1831 by Silas W. Mangold, dodgeball has been used as a schoolyard instrument of suppression. It’s violent; it’s painful; it’s humiliating; and I believe that it’s an equivalent to modern day stoning. Let’s end dodgeball at McKinley High and send a strong message that violence isn’t okay.”

  • Rachel decides to be a drama queen, as usual, but she shows she has a good heart when she exits the race for all the right reasons:

“I hereby withdraw my candidacy and urge you all to vote for Kurt Hummel. He’s the only candidate here today who never went negative. He’s the one who deserves to be president. That’s why I’m casting my vote for Kurt Hummel. Vote Hummel, McKinley. Vote for Kurt.”

After the conclusion of the campaign speeches, Kurt and Rachel end their fight. Rachel realized that her dreams of New York included Kurt, so her new goal is to help him win his campaign so that they can go together. Whatever the outcome of the race, it warms my heart to see these two friends again. Remember in season one when they were both competing for Finn’s affections, and Kurt tried to give Rachel and Grease-inspired makeover? How far these two kindred spirits have come! Fans of the show often complain about inconsistent characterization, but this friendship at least shows show development (let us forget that Mercedes and Kurt were once so close that she was the first person he came out to, shall we?).

Sue's campaign ads slander Burt with falsehoods.
Sue's campaign ads slander Burt with falsehoods.

Mudslinging Glee Style

The lies flying in the school campaign have nothing on those perpetuated in the run for Congress. The culprit? Sue of course. She contends that Burt has a baboon’s heart, that he is married to a donkey (poor Carol), and that he is “using his tire shop to sexually assault automobiles. What’s not to like about that?”

One individual who knows how to mudsling like Sue is her head Cheerio, Santana. Having grown up in Lima Heights Adjacent, Santana claims that she was raised on insults. Finn has always been a target for her caustic wit, and now that he is in a competing glee club, she lets the insults fly faster than ever. Finn and Rory try to compete, but their offerings fall short:

Finn: “Hey Santana, you look like an ass-less J-Lo!”

Rory: “You’re skinny like all the crops failed on your family’s farm!”

Their insults fail, so Finn suggests the ultimate mudslinging showdown: glee dodgeball. In what is most definitely the most athletic game of dodgeball I have ever seen, the Trouble Tones pull out a win. But the animosity turns physical when Santana leads a mean-spirited dodgeball pelting. Poor Rory is the target, and the throws are so hard, they actually draw a little blood. Kurt calls for a stop to the madness (and gains inspiration for his campaign): “Maybe that’s how others treat us around here, but we don’t do this to each other. We’re better than this!”

Brittany on Adele

Dude I love her! She sounds like what banana cream pie sounds like when it sings!

A new campaign ad starring Santana comes after Sue for having promoting a lesbian to head cheerleader.
A new campaign ad starring Santana comes after Sue for having promoting a lesbian to head cheerleader.
Santana slaps Finn for unwittingly outing her to the world.
Santana slaps Finn for unwittingly outing her to the world.

Kurt is not the only one to call a stop to the violence. At Trouble Tones practice. Mercedes comes in with their mash-up planned out: Adele. She then tells Santana to back off with regards to Finn. And Mercedes, as newly elected leader, gets what she wants. Santana promises to be nice.

Later, in the hallway, Santana stays true to her promise and begins to apologize. But soon enough, sarcastic comments start to fly. And poor, abused Finn has enough. As Santana walks away, confident in her victory, Finn lashes back with the one thing he knows can hurt her:

“Hey Santana. Why don’t you just come out of the closet? You know, I think I know why you’re so good at tearing everybody else down. It’s because you’re constantly tearing yourself down because you can’t admit to everybody that you’re in love with Brittany and she might not love you back. That must hurt not being able to admit to everyone how you really fear. You know what I think you are? A coward.”

Normally, things would end there. But let’s not forget where the mudslinging began. Things come full circle when Becky asks Santana to Sue’s office, where Sue, Mr. Schue, and Burt Hummel are all in attendance. Apparently, Reggie “The Sauce” Salazar is also running for Congress. And his commercial decides to spread lies about Sue. Santana gets caught in the crossfire. Reggie’s niece goes to McKinley and happened to hear Finn’s accusations. So Reggie goes after Sue for having a lesbian on her squad as head Cheerio. The commercial will air and soon the entire world will know Santana’s carefully guarded secret. After signing her heart out to Adele, Santana confronts Finn and slaps him in the face. The End.

What's to Come

The Glee Club must now band together to protect Santana in the aptly named "I Kissed a Girl." And it seems from previews that Sue will attempt to combat accusations that she is also a lesbian by dating Beiste's new beau. I can only hope for some emotional Santana scenes paired with awesome support from some key characters (resident gay couple, Kurt and Blaine, former boyfriend, Noah Puckerman, and favorite character with two gay dads, Rachel).

Grading the Songs

This episode is music heaven for me. The mash-ups are always the most interesting. While nothing can really compare with the original mash-ups for me It’s My Life/Confessions Part II and Halo/Walking on Sunshine from the hilarious season one episode “Vitamin D” (as well as the brilliant Borderline/Open Your Heart mash-up from the Madonna episode), the music from this episode makes an excellent case.

Hot for Teacher – B

More Mark Salling! Even though I love his sweet, sensitive side (Beth and Waiting for a Girl Like You), when he rocks, he ROCKS! On an episode of brilliant music, however, this song falls a bit short. The production itself is fun, but it seems out of place in an episode based largely around actual school performances.

You and I/You and I – A

This is the most seamless of the mash-ups in this episode, in my humble opinion. The similarity in the lyrics and the smooth arrangement allow Matthew and Idina to weave between the two songs beautifully while displaying their powerhouse vocals. I love hearing Matthew get a chance to sing, and these two Broadway vets have voices that blend perfectly together. Of all of the productions in the episode, this song gets the simplest staging, but given the purpose of showing the New Directions and the Trouble Tones how well the competing teams could get along, the simplicity makes sense.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way Or Another – A-

I miss Cory leads. And he sounds greatest on these kind of rock songs. In addition, this mash up gives Naya's voice a place to shine. Both songs are apt lyrical choices to accent the dodgeball game taking place, so overall, this mash up adds to the episode. I also give props to the displayed athleticism. Clearly someone broke out some trampolines for this shoot.

I Can’t Go For That/Make Your Dreams Come True - A

Hall and Oats! I adore the original “Make Your Dreams Come True,” and Cory manages to live up to its standard. The performance also benefits from adorable costume design mixed with the quirky and haphazard New Directions style choreography. I also appreciate that they gave time in the spotlight to Dianna (whose voice works well in this situation), Damian, and Jenna (whose voice works well in any situation).

Rumor Has It/Someone Like You – A+++

You wouldn’t necessarily think these songs would work well together, but this performance is pure perfection. Amber kills, as usual, but it’s Naya’s voice that slays me to pieces. Given the emotional context behind the song, as it immediately follows the revelation that Santana is about to be outed to all of Ohio, the lyrics ring with true sincerity. Add to this the killer choreography that Ms. Corcoran's glee clubs always display, this ending number kills on all levels. I love my New Directions, but if they go up against the Trouble Tones, I would bet on the Trouble Tones every time.

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