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Glee Recap: S03E03: Asian F
Coca-Cola, "Kiss My Grits," and Harvard University
If the title of this episode did not clue you in immediately, let me do that for you; in the midst of audition and college drama we get a look at the life of Mike Chang, aka, "The Other Asian," who has heretofore served as an attractive body for Tina to romance and dance with. Unfortunately for Mike, we are getting this look at a time of crisis. Having taken on being a member of the football team and glee, directing Booty Camp, AND dating Tina, Mike is breaking under the pressure and letting his stellar grades slip. And by slip I mean drop one third of a grade to an A-, or the dreaded "Asian F." Mike's father, Mike Chang Sr, is ready to step in and take the necessary action to ensure his son gets his acceptance letter from Harvard University ( a school so famous that his grandmother knew of it in China, along with Coca-Cola and the catch phrase "kiss my grits").
This leads to a scene that might be funny but turns out to be heartbreaking (as is the case with other moments in this episode) in which Mike Sr takes his son to Figgins' office and demands regular drug testing. The logic behind this decision? Either Mike is on drugs, or he has taken on too much responsibility. The solution is to cut Glee. But Mike begs his father to give him a second chance. He will do whatever it takes to turn things around if he can keep glee.
What his father may not know is that Mike had decided to add one more responsibility to his plate: the musical. He has been working on his singing, something of which Tina is extremely supportive. Of course, given this new dilemma, it seems that Mike will have no time to audition for the second lead, Riff. In fact, he is on his way to meet his new chemistry tutor just before the audition when he passes the dance room. Amidst hallucinatory visits from his father and his girlfriend, Mike pours his heart and soul into dancing in that room. He seems to realize that he needs to do what makes him happy, which leads him to ditch tutoring and show up for the audition instead. What follows is a beautifully choreographed audition featuring the Titans, who have been drafted to play the Jets. Mike kills his audition and erases any doubts that his voice would not be up to the task (because who could doubt his dance skills?).
Of course, his absence from tutoring could not go unnoticed. Mike receives a visit at the dance studio from his mother. What could have been another heartbreaking parental confrontation turned bittersweet. While his father and mother both had lofty dreams for their son, Mike's mother understands that Mike might not have the same goals for himself. She vows to support him, and to be there for him when he tells his father about getting the part in the musical.
We will most likely never see that confrontation, but that is not because it does not need to happen. When the cast list for the play is posted, Mike's name is exactly where it should be, near the top. Tina celebrates his success with him. Of all the couples on Glee, their relationship seems to be the most stable. We will have to see how they survive being at separate schools when Mike graduates at the end of the year (something that Kurt and Blaine will also have to face). I for one, hope they break the college/high school romance stereotype.
Emma: Good morning, sunshine. Do you want me to iron some bacon for you?
Emma: I spoke to their ghosts last night. I have ghost parents.
Coach Beiste: Ballet improves your coordination. It boosts your IQ. And it gets half the NFL on Dancing With The Stars. Boo-yah!
Tina: This is your chance to break out and show everybody that you’re more than just a… fleet-footed dance ninja!
Kurt: Which is more like me running and, you know, Brittany whimsically hopping and skipping nearby.
Coach Beiste: It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. And that includes when I had to sell one of my prized donkeys to pay my gas bill.
Effie White with More Attitude
With other members of the glee club, the audition process does not go that smoothly. The fight for Maria in particular heats up when Mercedes throws her hat in the ring. Rachel is as competitive as ever, but she still wants to keep the competition friendly. Mercedes does not seem to value their friendship as highly. In fact, she exalts when her boyfriend tells her that she is better than Rachel Berry. "I've been here for three years," she states in awe, "No one's ever said that to me." That's sweet and all, but I don't think that one should pin their self esteem and well-being on being better than someone else in any given circumstance. I appreciate Mercedes' talent and do find it ludicrous that only Rachel is praised so highly, but I think they are each brilliant in very different ways.
The directors of the musical feel the same way. After Mercedes kills her audition with a powerful yet subdued version of Jennifer Hudson's "Spotlight," the panel decides that a diva-off is in order. They tell both girls that they will re-audition with "Out Here on My Own" from "Fame." The result is breathtaking, and it is easy to see why the panel comes to their decision to split the role. The problem? Mercedes does not want to split the role. She declines rather than share with her current nemesis.
Meanwhile, Mercedes' attitude spreads to the glee club. She is late to booty camp rehearsal and sick of the way Mr. Schue treats her because of it. She yells at him for favoring Rachel, and walks out even despite his warnings that she will not be able to return. The only choice remaining to her is to join Shelby's new group and make the most of it (and from the preview for next episode it appears she tries to bring other glee club members with her).
Now Mercedes has an important storyline, but is it worth it? What will become of her now that she has forsaken her friends (and whatever happened to her being bffs with Kurt?).
Now let us return to the woes of my dearest character, the fabulous Kurt Elizabeth Hummel. In a very classy and devoted move, he brings his boyfriend flowers to express his joy in Blaine's winning the part of Tony, because as he tells him, after that audition, the judges would be crazy to give it to anyone else. Of course, when the cast list goes up and Blaine's name is there as expected, Kurt does seem sad to see it, but that is understandable given his hopes to be on Broadway. Still, I hope that he remains supportive and this does not come between them (my sources say... it does not).
Of course, things are not so right in other areas. Brittany's campaign for class president heats up with a brilliant flash mob in the auditorium that inspires girls to change the world. And then, Rachel, Kurt's newest bff, decides that given the uncertainty with the role of Maria, she too needs to throw her hat into the race. Even after she gets the part by default, Rachel refuses to withdraw, much to Finn's confusion. Ad to who he will vote for, his girlfriend or step-brother, that remains to be seen. Rachel and Kurt's friendship is clearly on the rocks, however, which does not bode well for their shared future plans.
Other relationships seem to be right on track. Emma and Will are happily living together. So happily, in fact, that Emma has a hidden stack of bridal magazines. Seeing this brings Will to the realization that he has yet to meet Emma's parents. When he raises that suggestion, she panics and tries to pretend that she has no parents to meet, despite Will knowing the opposite. He takes that to mean that Emma is embarrassed of him, but the truth is the reverse; Emma is embarrassed of her parents.
At Beiste's suggestion, Will takes the situation into his own hands and invites the Pillsbury's over for dinner. There he discovers what Emma fears others knowing. Her parents are ginger supremacists, people who believe in propagating the ginger gene.
Grading the Episode
I complained heartily about how heartbroken I was following the massive Kurt abuse that occurred during “I Am Unicorn.” In many ways, this episode was more heartbreaking because it dealt with deeper set family issues for two beloved yet largely unexplored characters. But while “I Am Unicorn” left me depressed and wishing for the simple woes that come with slushy facials, “Asian F” left me hopeful. The difference, I feel, is that there was more of a support structure in place for the suffering characters, and the very existence of that support will lead to more positive development for Emma and Mike. Of course, my beloved Kurt is still in an uncomfortable position, so we shall have to see how his perfect senior year progresses. I am not sure it is the best episode ever, but it is the best of this season so far, and I expect it to stand as one of the best for season three in its entirety.
Grading the Songs
Spotlight – A-
I am a fan of this song off of Jennifer Hudson’s debut CD, and Riley sings it creditably. That said, I do not think she improves much upon the original. Riley has a great voice, but I miss Hudson’s deeper resonance on these notes. Something about Riley’s delivery is not quite as believable. I feel like this is sung but not lived, as it were. I do, however, enjoy seeing a more sedate and controlled Mercedes on this song.
Cool – B+
This marks the first serious musical endeavor by Harry Shum Jr on Glee. This song from West Side Story is not one that needs much when it comes to vocal chops, but it does have a… I need to say it… cool vibe that Shum pulls off well. Even on first listen, before seeing the scene, I could see him commanding the stage with his dance moves.
Buy it on iTunes
Run The World (Girls) – A-
Having never been a fan of the original, I was not expecting much from this song. Does it need to be that repetitive? Of course, like most songs covered on the show, being sung by the amazing actors on the show improves the song significantly. I love the harmonies on this track. This song will definitely have me out of my seat and dancing every time I hear it. Again, hearing Heather Morris’ voice is like seeing her perform it. At first listen I could only imagine seeing the scene would increase my enjoyment significantly. And to my horror, I predict that this will be the most played song on my ipod from this episode. Way too catchy for its own good!
It’s All Over – A
Amber Riley has tackled Dreamgirls on the show before (and she tackles Jennifer Hudson earlier on the show as well), and she knocks this vocal out of the park. I love that the inclusion of this song gives the group a place to shine as well. Chris Colfer can show off how high his range can go; Naya Rivera can become Beyonce; and even Harry Shum Jr gets another vocal moment. Add some fantastic staging and costuming and you have the recipe for one well-crafted group number (even if it is missing one Rachel Barbra Berry).
Out Here On My Own – A+
Too beautiful to describe. Beautiful and emotional. Only problem? It is way too short. And it is a moment when two former friends are pitted against each other in a battle to the high school death, so the context is slightly depressing. Either way, after this performance I can easily see why the directors had difficulty choosing a single Maria.
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Fix You – A
It takes a little time to get used to Morrison’s falsetto. But then Kevin McHale begins to back him up. And then the orchestra comes in. And this entire song comes together beautifully. Easily as moving as the original. And that is just considering the vocal. When you bring everything together with a montage of heartbreaking scenes between Emma and Will, along with the lesser but still painful scenes associated with the casting of West Side Story, this makes for the perfect ending number for a perfect episode. The large group number to close the show may have become cliche, but Glee uses it because it works so well to underscore everything that was developed during the hour.