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Glee Recap: S03E08: Hold On To Sixteen
Santana fills the time Sam spends away thinking up insults with which to welcome him:
Welcome back, Lisa Rinna.
I've missed you so much since your family backed their bags, loaded them in your mouth, and skipped town.
Can't tell you how many times I've wanted to enjoy a crisp pickle, but couldn't find anyone to suck the lid off the jar.
I assume you've been working as a baby polisher, where young mothers place their infants' heads in your mouth to give back that newborn shine.
So glad you're back. I haven't seen a smile that big since a claymation abominable snowman got his teeth pulled by that little, gay, elf dentist.
The Return of Trouty Mouth
For the first time since 1963, Sectionals are being held at McKinley High. But with the desertion of three members to the Trouble Tones and Rachel’s exclusion due to campaign fraud, the New Directions are facing the impossible task of finding not only songs for the competition but also enough members to be eligible to compete. Adding a few members of their ever-present band will be a quick fix, but Finn decides they need something more to guarantee a win: “We need star power. We need Sam Evans,” he declares to Mr. Schue, who quickly points out that this is impossible given his move and unknown whereabouts. Luckily, Finn has kept tabs on the former member, because "even homeless people have Facebook."
So Rachel and Finn go looking for their lost teammate and find him performing at a “theatre.” But his stage performance is geared toward a particular clientele: women. Imagine the surprise Finn and Rachel must feel when they see their friend stripping for cash. Apparently Applebee’s did not pay enough to support a small family.
Whatever the Evans’ family financial situation before, it seems they are now doing well enough to allow their son to return to Lima for the school year. His parents want to give him a chance to regain his youth, which means back to McKinley High he goes!
New Directions welcomes Sam back with open arms, but none so much so as Quinn, who hopes to get back together with him again. With Puck no longer a viable option, she needs another seemingly stable boyfriend to act as surrogate father to Beth, so she will look like a suitable mother.
Sam quickly puts her in her place, telling her that her problems are not real world problems, but “rich, white girl problems.” He urges her to hold on to the life she has for as long as possible: "You know that song "Jack & Diane" by John Mellencamp? My favorite lyric is this one: 'Hold on to sixteen as long as you can'." Sam may have come back to help New Directions compete at Sectionals, but it seems he brought a healthy dose of reality check with him. It’s about time!
In other news, Sam wants to go back to life at McKinley where he left it, which means he wants Mercedes back. She, now in possession of a rather large boyfriend, rejects his advances, but Sam is persistent. "I don't care how big or bad your boyfriend is,” he yells after her as she walks away from him, “I'm going to fight to get you back!" I missed Sam, and that includes missing Samcedes. Although I was happy to see her with someone at the beginning of the year, that storyline is practically nonexistent at this point in time, and it is about time that someone truly fight for her.
The Trouble With Blaine
Meanwhile, another new member of New Directions is having some trouble fitting in. Blaine transferred to McKinley to be with his boyfriend, Kurt, but it seems he has found little other reason to be there. He is encountering resistance in the Glee club, mainly from Finn, which is a drastic change from Dalton, where the entire club and council ruled at his feet. This comes up during a normal gripe session at the Lima Bean. And of course, the slimy Sebastian Smythe decides to worm his way into the conversation. From the reaction Blaine has to Sebastian’s presence, it does not seem like the flirtation has had any effect, but Sebastian’s continued presence can only spell trouble for the couple Klaine. Sebastian’s parting shot underscores the potential problems; “You take care of that Warbler, Kurt,” he warns, which underscores that you can take Blaine from the Warblers, but you cannot take the Warbler from Blaine.
On the bright side, Sebastian does bring out the brilliance of Kurt’s snarky side:
“I don’t like you… I don’t like the way you talk to my boyfriend. I don’t like your smirky little meerkat face. I don’t like your obnoxious CW hair. I’m on to you.”
“You smell like Craig’s List.”
And Blaine does not seem to fit in with the other members of New Directions. In a discussion about how to distract from the lack of girls, Sam urges his team to turn on the sex appeal. Blaine tells New Directions not to sell out with sex and almost gets in a fist fight with Sam over it. Apparently when Blaine gets mad, he boxes. At this scene, my brain stopped for a second. Gratuitous sweaty Darren Criss sighting? Check! Finn runs after Blaine and they make amends and vow to work together to earn their team the win.
Tina vs. Mr. Chang
Remember the fantastic episode “Asian F”? The drama is ongoing in the Chang household. Mike, desperate not to lose his father, has caved and decided to apply to Stanford and be premed (nothing wrong with that, despite the fact that Stanford does not have an undergraduate premed track). Tina urges Mike to apply to NYU instead and reach for his dreams to be a professional dancer: “You have one life, Mike, one chance to get it right.” When Mike gets mad at her, Tina goes straight to Mr. Chang to beg him to allow Mike to live his dreams. Mr. Chang shows that he is not quite the villain we have been led to believe. He asks Tina if she has the same dreams and lets her know how unlikely it is that she will be able to support herself with those goals. Realistically, not everyone who wants to be a performer ends up a star. Mr. Chang just wants to secure a future for his son that he knows will support him.
Tina’s plea does not fall upon deaf ears. During the New Directions’ performance of ABC, Mike spies his father in the audience. Mr. Chang sees something special in his son’s performance, and backstage he gives his blessing for Mike to pursue his dreams. Mike believes it is too late for him to apply to his choice schools, but Tina already took care of that for him. A sad tale ends happily, at least until the college acceptance letters arrive.
Quinn vs. Shelby
In other continuing news, Quinn is still on the warpath with regards to Shelby. Armed with the new information given to her by Puck, she now has a surefire way to get Shelby deemed an unfit mother. When Quinn runs into Rachel and tells her of her plans, which will also have the additional benefit of securing a New Directions win, Rachel tries to talk her out of it. Quinn does not go to Figgins immediately, but it is still her plan to do so.
During the competition, Rachel stops Quinn on her way to tell Figgins about Shelby and Puck. Again, she pleads with her to see reason. But Quinn is determined. She confronts Shelby, taking out her anger at the way her life is going on the adoptive mother of her child. Shelby cautions Quinn as well:“Don’t wish away your life. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.”
It is unclear which words of wisdom finally get through to her, but Quinn does call of her crusade. She meets Rachel outside of Figgins’ office to tell her so and thanks her for her interference (that’s a first!). Quinn begins to contemplate a different future: Yale. And for the first time this season, she plans to do something that will help her friends rather than herself…
New Directions vs. Trouble Tones
Of course this entire episode is about the inevitable showdown between the New Directions and the Trouble Tones. Prior to the competition, Santana gives the “good news” that Miss Corcoran has already agreed to allow any New Directions members to join the Trouble Tones if they were to lose. Naturally, this good will gesture is not received as such. Either way, it is the New Directions who triumph in the end with their energetic renditions of Michael Jackson hits.
Quinn, newly (and hopefully permanently) reformed, approaches her long last friends and asks for their forgiveness and their return with this moving plea:
“Look. I know I went a little crazy. But I’m here now. I’m seventeen; I have the rest of my life in front me. I love glee club. I love you girls. And when we’re 27 or 87, I want us to be able to look back on these next couple of months and talk about how it was the best times of our lives. We can’t do that if we’re not all together.”
Quinn has taken to heart the messages given to her by Sam and Shelby. She needs to “hold on to sixteen” as long as possible, and that means spending the time with her dearest friends.
Though Mercedes and Santana are weary, they agree to return when Quinn reveals that she has extracted a promise from Mr. Schue and Rachel that they will be allowed one solo performance per competition. The friends join their former rivals onstage for a rousing closing number that brings tears to my eyes. My beloved New Directions are all back where they belong!
Grading the Songs
To tell the truth, I have no idea how Sectionals was decided. All competition songs from the three groups were incredibly good. I can only imagine that the songs we did not see from UniTards and the Trouble Tones were awful to dictate a clear New Directions win. That said, New Directions kills on Michael Jackson song, and the medley they perform is no exception.
Red Solo Cup - B-
It is the return of Chord Overstreet! This song is an odd choice to reintroduce Chord (as Sam Evans) to the Glee family. As a vocal, it is nothing outstanding. It does not steer far from the original (sung by country star Toby Keith), so you get what you might expect. What saves this song is the delivery. Sparkling cider is the only thing is these cups, though usually used for beer at frat parties, but the glee club is still having sober fun.
Buenos Aires - A-
This song heralds the return of “The Glee Project” finalist Lindsay Pearce. As usual, she kills the performance. I still prefer the more emotional performances that come from actors such as Lea Michele and Chris Colfer, but this song makes me think that a transfer for this sophomore would not be a horrible thing come next year.
Survivor / I Will Survive - A-
The Trouble Tones bring it. I love this mash-up and the pretty metallic dresses that the girls have on. I also greatly appreciate that Shelby’s Vocal Adrenaline background has brought improved choreography. In another world, this would be a winning performance. My only gripe is that dance moves sometimes are so fast that synchronicity is impossible.
ABC - A-
Fans have to rejoice at a song featuring the remarkable Jenna Ushkowitz. With the suspension of Lea Michele’s character, other voices get to shine in competition. This one heavily features Ushkowitz and fictional boyfriend Harry Shum Jr. with appearances by the lovely Chris Colfer and Dianna Agron. Ushkowitz’s voice should be put to more frequent and better use, but I will take what I can get.
Control - A-/B+
The split grade reflects the disparity between Darren Criss' smooth voice and Dianna Agron's creepy intro. The more I watch this song, the more I fall in love with it, however, as Criss’ energetic performance always draws me in. And Kevin McHale’s voice on all Michael Jackson songs is just pure brillance!
Buy it on iTunes
Man in the Mirror - A
My boys! It's a great song and it gives the lead male vocalists some time to shine. I loved the individual spotlights for Finn, Sam, Artie, Puck, and Blaine. It gave them time to shine with their Michael Jackson inspired dance moves. The mood lighting was right, as was everything else. A great way to end the set, with an emotional, uplifting number that gets the crowd on their feet.
Buy it on iTunes
We Are Young - A+
Some of my favorite Glee covers are those that highlight as many of the cast members as possible. Or course you have to start with your core, Rachel and Finn, but this song, a celebration of New Directions' that also welcomes the Trouble Tones back to the fold, manages to showcase Quinn, Santana, Mercedes, Sam, and others. Simply said, there is good reason this song went to #1 on iTunes downloads.