Another week is upon us and I come to the realization today that there are only 5 episodes left until the end of the season, including tonight’s all new episode “Choke”. The previews have let us know that this week we will meet Puck’s father so we may get a rare Puck-centric story. I’ve also peeked at the tracklisting and checked out one of the First Listen Friday recordings and someone will be doing one of my very favorite songs by the Church of Pop’s Lady of Broken Hearts: Kelly Clarkson. Needless to say, I am stoked.
In case you didn’t catch last week’s Whitney Houston tribute… (Here’s what you missed, on GLEE!)
Let’s get on with it, then?
In a classic montage scene worthy of the Pilot episode, Rachel Berry tells us through outer space metaphors that some people float along, never realizing their full potential (Cut to Puck) and others become stars. With the support of her fiancee: Finn, Rachel is training hard for her NYADA audition and fully confident that this is her moment; her destiny.
Finn approaches Puck (and the dead animal on his head) in the hallway. He overheard Puck telling one of the Cheerios that he may not graduate this year. Puck tells him he said it for sympathy and that in order to graduate he just has to pass Ms. Doosenberry’s European Geography test. Rather than take the obvious route and study, Puck plans to seduce her to guarantee his success. (Remember? he likes the cougars!)
Elsewhere, Brittany gets out of her first student council meeting (LOL!) and reveals that McKinley are going to have “another prom this year” but she has to come up with a theme. As she’s talking about it, Coach Beiste walks by with a nasty shiner. Ever the Queen of Snark, Santana says “Looks like Mr. Bieste went all Chris Brown on Mrs. Bieste.” Also in the hallway, Swim Coach (and recent co-leader of the Cheerios) Roz Washington lays the smackdown in a deliciously Sue-like fashion, making up offensive “placeholder” names for each of the girls (Tina: “Asian horror movie” and Mercedes: “Little Oprah”) and scolding them for making jokes about domestic violence, adding: “You’re on my list now girls!”
Later, Roz is telling Sue about the incident in the hallway and Sue agrees to help her teach the kids a lesson. They are joined by Mr. Schue and Coach Bieste, who is shocked that the kids thought she might have been battered by Cooter and explains that a punching bag at the gym rebounded and hit her in the face (“No, I fell down the stairs…”) Mr. Schue can’t believe any of the New Directions would joke about such a thing. Sue tells him not to fret and that “John Goodman, Black Sue and Original Recipe Sue will take care of it!” (Yes, “John Goodman” was referring to Coach Bieste.)
In the auditorium, Kurt is performing one of his potential audition pieces: “Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera, for Blaine. Aside from Tina’s comedic turn as a rather stoned/mod-looking Christine, this number is a total dud but ever-the-supportive-boyfriend, Blaine says it’s “FAN-TAS-TIC!” Kurt, consumed by the desire to really wow the NYADA recruiter is not convinced and feels he may have to do something more daring.
After school, Puck approaches Ms. Doosenberry in her classroom, bringing her some fireworks to remind her of how “explosive and taboo” their chemistry is. Further attempts to woo involve telling her he’s been hot for her since the ninth grade. She resists his advances despite an uncomfortable moment where she looked rather turned on and referred to being lonely after a recent divorce. She tells him that he’s not stupid and if he would apply himself he could pass the test and graduate. Angered by her confronting him with his own baggage, he storms out with the following ultra-choreographed musical number:
So, in case we’re not clear, I think Puck is saying that he quits, right?
Later, in the choir room, the New Directions ladies’ are called in to speak with Sue, Bieste and Roz. When confronted about their jokes in the hallway the girls go on the defense, telling Sue that she has no place telling them about how to fairly treat people. Sue says that while she may think about doing terrible things and make mean spirited jokes that there is nothing funny about actual violence and that no one deserves to be hit. A solemn Coach Bieste listens while Roz Washington tells the story of her Aunt who was in an abusive relationship for five years before she got out after being sent to the I.C.U. They assign the girls some work for the week, to find a song that makes light of violence against women and turn it into a song of empowerment.
In what I can only assume is gym class, or maybe just after-school group fitness, all of the Glee guys are working out. Mike and Blaine are discussing hairstyles for prom and Finn decides to keep it real by bringing up the thing that apparently everyone missed the other day when Puck put on the concert on the football field: Puck’s missing. Everyone seems unphased by this, but through Finn’s natural born leadership he soon rallies the troops. The boys are going to help Puck pass the test so that he can graduate!!
Meanwhile; in the hallway, Rachel runs up to Kurt with concern in her eyes to say that Blaine told her he was thinking about doing “Not The Boy Next Door” from The Boy From Oz for his NYADA Audition instead of his go-to song: “Music of the Night”. She tells him that this is the biggest moment of his life and that she thinks he’s sabotaging his chances so that he will have something to blame if the audition doesn’t work out. She urges him to do the song he’s been rehearsing for his whole life and offers to be his Christine for the audition. He seems to decide that she’s right and gets excited once again about the “Phantom” number. (Geez, Tina gets shafted once again.. )
In the auditorium, the Glee girls are presenting their assignment to Sue, Roz and Coach Bieste. It’s immediately evident that they got the point of the exercise all wrong when they reveal they’ve chosen Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango”. For those who don’t know the song, it’s from the perspective of six murderesses who felt justified in killing their lovers because of neglect, betrayal or just plain crazy. As they perform, we learn an upsetting (but not terribly surprising) truth and Coach Bieste stands up and walks out of the auditorium.
Later, in a classroom, Coach Bieste reveals to Sue & Roz that Cooter came home drunk one night, got angry that she hadn’t done the dishes and he struck her. She said he was immediately sorry and that he cried because he didn’t mean it and begged her to forgive him. Sue and Roz urge her to leave her husband, but Shannon breaks down. She says she can’t leave him because she doesn’t believe that anyone else will ever love her. (This scene is heartbreaking and should earn Dot Marie Jones an emmy nomination.) Sue offers a place to stay for the night, not forgetting to do it with a backhanded remark. (It wouldn’t really be Sue without one.)
Puck is doing his final pool cleaning for Mrs. Collins, one of many Cougars that seem to reside in Lima. She offers him a quickie, but he declines and says he wants to keep this last job legit. He tells he he has quit school and is heading for L.A. She seems disappointed and says she’ll miss his abs. As she walks away we hear someone else walking up, Puck looks into the camera in disbelief: “Dad?”
Meanwhile, the New Directions boys are setting up a game plan to kidnap Puck at his pool cleaning gig and force him to study for the test. As Finn tries to explain the plan to the others, Puck enters looking shell-shocked. He reveals that his Father showed up with some beer from his Micro-Brewery (Puckerman’s Special Sauce) to butter him up and ask him for some money because he was broke and couldn’t afford rent. Puck gave him the money and realized he didn’t want to drop out of high school and end up just like his Father, broke and begging Beth for money someday in the future. He asks them to help him study.
Kurt is waiting in the wings to go on for his NYADA Audition. Rachel is there to freak him out some more with her unending pressure to be perfect. She tells him that their judge today is Carmen Thibodeau; one of NYADA’s most infamous alums (played by guest star Whoopi Goldberg.) She’s been on a much publicized audition trip looking for the most promising performers and she’s tearing dreams apart. He walks out onto the stage in terror, and reveals his song selection which causes Thibodeau to sigh. Kurt realizes how safe and standard the choice is and decides at the last minute to go with his other choice, which is “a lot more me.” Mercedes, Tina and Brittany join him on stage and he begins singing, tearing away his Phantom costume to reveal a whole other costume underneath.
Kurt does a fantastic job with this number! How can you not LOVE Chris Colfer’s Kurt Hummel!? As he stands, waiting for judgement, Carmen talks about how she worked with Hugh Jackman when he won the Tony for this role and says that she thinks he would be just as impressed with Kurt’s rendition of the song as she is. Kurt is overjoyed and skips off the stage feeling really good about his audition. (That’s right, I’m making a point to note that no decision is made or revealed at the actual audition. We still don’t know if he got in!)
Later, Rachel is backstage psyching herself up in the mirror and generally feeling pretty calm. Finn comes in to offer her some flowers and wish her luck and she seems to think she won’t need it because this is her destiny. It’s no surprise what’s about to happen given that the episode title is “Choke” but it’s still heartbreaking.
Her name is called and she walks out. She states her song and begins. She sounds strong as she belts the first verse of Streisand’s “Don’t Rain On My Parade” but in the second verse she flubs a lyric and panic immediately crosses her face. Instead of just continuing on, Rachel stops the band to apologize and try again. It’s too late now, her second take immediately falls apart and Carmen puts on her coat, collects her things and tells her the audition is over, adding “Do you know what happens when you forget the words on Broadway?They give the job to your understudy.”
Later that night, the Glee boys are chilling in the choir room (apparently at 3:00am, because schools are open 24/7, you know!) as they attempt to help Puck study for the test. They do so by singing a ridiculous, British-punk version of “The Rain In Spain” from My Fair Lady which is also known as the second worst 1:28 of Glee, ever (Second only to the abomination that was “Red Solo Cup.” We shall speak of this no more.
Sue comes into Coach Bieste’s office the next morning to ask her why she didn’t stay with her as they had discussed. Coach Bieste says she spent last night moving in with her Sister. Sue is glad that she got out of the bad situation and really admires her for what she’s doing and how difficult it must be. This leads us to a bit later in the choir room as Coach Bieste tells the Glee girls the truth about where the shiner on her face came from and wants them to know that even if they think their boyfriends would never hurt them, they need to know how to get help if something like this ever happens because she didn’t think Cooter would ever hurt her, either. She tells them that she got out and moved in with her sister and is considering pressing charges and thanks them for opening her eyes and maybe even saving her life.
Cut to Puck writing his test (but taking a moment to doodle a dinosaur playing a guitar, interesting foreshadowing for next week’s episode title: “Prom-A-Saurus”) and it seems that studying may have helped as he nails the first two questions right off the bat but then realizes the rest weren’t in the ridiculous song they sang to study. (Uh-oh!) He tells the guys later in the hallway that he thinks he passed and thanks them for their help and for every time they’ve helped him in the last few years. Not having a Dad in his life, he’s appreciated their influence on him.
The girls call Coach Bieste back to the choir room. They want to tell her that they’re sorry for not taking the assignment seriously and show her that they admire her for standing up for herself and for having the courage to tell them the truth and show her support. They’ve prepared a new number: “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. (Hey Mercedes/Santana! If plans don’t work out for you after graduation you should call Tina up and become the next Wilson Phillips!)
As they sing the gorgeous number, however, we cut to clips of Coach Bieste doing what many domestic abuse victims end up doing: going back to their abuser. We see flashbacks of her re-entering the apartment and Cooter thanking her for the second chance. She watches the girls performing the beautiful song in celebration of her bravery as it eats her away in side that she’s not as brave as they think she is. It’s obvious that this storyline, like Karofsky before it, is going to get worse before it gets better. (More emmy nominations for Dot Marie Jones!! Give her all of them in fact!)
Kurt approaches Rachel at her locker. Ever the supportive friend he tells her that Carmen is a bitch and that she killed the beginning of the song and maybe she’ll still get in on the strength of that moment alone (seems likely that somehow she’ll get into NYADA). She thanks him but realizes that she legitimately choked on a song she’s done millions of times and offers no excuses. She goes on to tell him that she thought he was amazing and that he was better than he’s ever been. She wishes him and Finn luck in New York and he tries to comfort her, saying she’s destined for New York too even if NYADA doesn’t work out. She starts to cry and asks if they can stop talking about it. He hugs her and says: “I love you, Rachel Berry.” She says she loves him too before we move into the final song of the episode, also one of the finest song choices of the season, the tragically never-released-as-a-single “Cry” by Kelly Clarkson. See for yourself:
As Rachel’s voice soars on the songs biggest note, we learn that Puck supremely failed the test with a big, red “F.” Our hearts break a little for both of them, though it seems Rachel’s still got a chance. Is it truly too late for Puck to graduate? (He’s in the ads for Glee-duation wearing the gown when Senior president Brittany S. Pearce is NOT so there has to be SOME saving grace, right?)
The song ends with a close-up on Rachel’s tear-streaked face. She takes a deep breath as a calm overcomes her, and her eyes seem to meet ours for a moment as the camera pans away. [The-End]
The Verdict: “Choke” is one of season three’s finest. It successfully recaptured something that reminded me heavily of early Season One episodes and as we’re about to say goodbye to some cast members (at least in theory) it’s only appropriate that things should come full circle in some ways. Strongly written with great musical numbers and throwing in some more roadblocks as we push ever forward to Nationals and Graduation.
Main Beef: I don’t know if there are plans for us to see any more of Puck’s father, but it seemed odd to call in a guest star (Melrose Place alum: Thomas Calabro) to play his Dad for what was literally a one-minute scene. Otherwise, I had little negative to say about this episode, except that once again I don’t think we saw a single moment of Quinn. Am I right?
Next week, it’s time for Prom again and apparently Senior Class President Brittany has come up with a theme: Dinosaurs! “Prom-A-Saurus” promises to bring some new Quinn versus the wheelchair drama and the ever-important question: Who will be Prom King & Queen!? Check out the preview:
What did you think of “Choke?” Do you feel bad for Rachel or think she had it coming? Leave your comments and feedback and I’ll see you all again next time!