‘Glee’: A dose of (not entirely) friendly competition

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Hola, fellow Gleeks! In honor of last night’s battle-icious episode, let’s all step away from the Vitamin D and take a clear-eyed look at how the matchups shook out, shall we?

GUYS VS. DOLLS: How far our beloved glee clubbers have come! Mere weeks ago, they were every bit the discouraged underdogs; now they’re so confident they’ll emerge victorious at sectionals that they can barely be bothered to rehearse. Killing it at last week’s invitational — as well as learning your “stiff” competition amounts to the school for the deaf and a halfway house for girls just out of juvie -- was bound to breed complacency. Mr. Schu’s plan to remotivate his students — pit the guys against the girls in a mash-up faceoff — was brilliant and seemed to do the trick, with the girls’ competitive spirit only topped by the guys’. “We’re planning on smacking them down like the hand of God,” an uber-focused Artie informed Mr. Schu.

And, in my opinion, the McKinley High boys did just that. Looking like a pack of swaggering Danny Zuko’sin their black leather jackets, white tees and jeans, the guys seamlessly wove between Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” and Usher’s “Confessions.” (Who would’ve thought to put those two disparate little ditties together? The genius that is Ryan Murphy, that’s who.) Sure, they were a bit wild-eyed, hopped up as they were on decongestant -- aka Vitamin D — thanks to Mr. Schu’s wife, Terri, who’d wormed her way into the school nurse gig, despite having not a lick of healthcare experience. But so were the girls. Now I’m not saying the gals’ “Halo”/“Walkin’ on Sunshine” mash-up, full of horns and piano and pipe-busting perfs from both Rachel and Mercedes, wasn’t infectious. And, yes, the ladies looked downright lovely — and appropriately sunny -- in their canary-yellow dresses.

But there’s a reason FOX released the clip of the guys’ performance in advance. Their number had the same heart-soaring power as “Don’t Stop Believin’.” And it had Artie. Until now, the wheelchair-bound character has served mostly as a punchline. Last night, he got a much-deserved moment in the spotlight, and he rolled with it, doing his best Richie Sambora on the talk box, then taking lead vocals on the Usher track. Give this guy more screen time already!

TERRI VS. EMMA: You knew the moment Terri went to work at the school to keep an eye on Will that she was gonna have it out with the woman who’s head over heels for her husband. I mean, if she had to actually work five days a week (the horror!), then by golly, she was gonna get her kicks. Licking her finger, then wiping it on the germ-phobic Emma’s mug was merely a warm-up for the confrontation that took place later. “You have no chance with my husband. Do I make myself clear?” Terri said, before cheerfully comparing herself to a hammer and the soft-spoken guidance counselor to a nail. But -- surprise! -- Emma didn’t immediately wave the white flag. She’s an insightful one, our Emma, and she could sense Terri’s massive insecurity, even if she doesn’t know she’s stooped to faking a pregnancy because of it. “Will’s kind and he’s gentle,” she said, “and he deserves a lot better than you.” Did you cheer at that line? I did. But Terri’s not one to go away easily (as much as we sometimes wish she would). Thanks to her prompting and ready supply of Vitamin D, Ken had proposed to Emma, an offer Terri strongly urged her foe to accept. Which she did. So Terri wins — for now.


Though not entirely, considering…

WILL VS. TERRI: Wow. That scene in the principal’s office where Mr. Schu, having learned of his fired wife’s drug-pushing ways, let her have it was harsh enough that I almost felt bad for Terri. (I said almost.) How could he trust her to raise a baby when he clearly couldn’t trust her with teenagers? Valid point. “Every time I light a fire in my life,” Will said, “you find a way to make sure it burns the forest down.” Ouch. And yet … another valid point. Score one for Mr. Schu!

RACHEL VS. QUINN: Actually, the longtime rivals made an effort to bury the hatchet last night. Talk about a shocker. Rachel was the one to reach out, prompting Quinn to wonder why: “I’ve been awful to you.” Rachel’s response to her pregnant classmate was gentle, and true: “That was before you knew what it felt like to be me, an outsider.” In an episode full of splashy scenes, this one stood out as quietly powerful. And I loved how the writers, instead of continuing to pit the two girls against each other over a guy, opted to have them find common ground. How refreshing! Even if it’s probably too much to hope that it lasts.

SUE VS. THE WORLD: Who would’ve guessed Sue Sylvester kept a journal?! Journals scream “touchy-feely,” and the Cheerios coach is … so not. But all it took was one little diary entry for us to learn that she not only resents Mr. Schu and glee club which, despite her best efforts, continues to thrive “like some sexually ambiguous horror movie villain,” but Quinn’s quivering thigh and even her blender. Girlfriend’s crazy. Crazy enough to trip an elderly woman down the stairs and put her in a freakin’ coma! In less skilled hands, there’s no doubt Sue would be an over-the-top disaster. But thanks to the incomparable Jane Lynch, I can’t wait to see what trouble the character stirs up next. Now that Figgins has made her glee’s co-chair, you know it’s gonna be trouble with a capital T.

Your turn! What did you think of the competition-filled episode? Do you agree the guys came out on top in the mash-up? What were your favorite/least favorite moments? Let me hear you!

–Shawna Malcom