Gleecap: Rachel Chokes in Front of Whoopi Goldberg

by | May 2, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Glee

Whoopi Goldberg on 'Glee' (Photo: Fox)

“If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you!” And girl, what a spill you took.

I have been known to sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” into a hairbrush a few thousand times. My cat cringes and runs for cover when she hears the song’s opening notes.

So when Rachel “Amazing Cloud” Berry failed to sing the words even my cat knows by heart, I full-on gasped and grabbed my wife’s knee in shock.

I had forgotten this week’s “Glee” episode was called “Choke.”

And she had such a strong start! Not in the audition, but in the episode. The Rachel who considers it inevitable that the sun will cry with envy of her shine is the Rachel we met at the start of “Glee.” Teen Bride Rachel can still sing real pretty, but… meh.

Lea Michele has plenty of haters out there, but I’m not one of them. Yes, I poke fun at her pulled faces and emphatic hand gestures (of which she has exactly two that she repeats endlessly). But I not-so-secretly like her and root for her and get sad when she’s passed up for Eponine in the “Les Mis” movie.

But the Finchel storyline, however sweet it may occasionally be, has induced what could be a record-breaking yawn lasting several months.

Watch “Glee’s” Tribute to Whitney Houston:

So it was a welcome change to see some Tracy-Flick-inspired wind in those sails again. It was like, “Oh yeah, this girl can be funny.” That would have been enough to satisfy my Lea fandom for one evening, but instead I got an arc that fulfilled a whole season’s worth of starved adoration.

Rachel was so prepared for her NYADA audition that she bothered to stop focusing on it long enough to advise Kurt to play it safe during his audition. But when she stepped on stage to Nail It, she flubbed her lyrics—twice—and resorted to tearful begging when acclaimed NYADA diva, Carmen Tibideaux (guest star Whoopi Goldberg), ended the audition then and there.

It does not work in her favor that Lea Michele has been allowed to do things like “passionately” squint her eyes so frequently when singing “seriously” over the years. Honestly, how are her eyeballs not embedded into her brain by now? At first sight of her cavorting around dramatically in this scene, it would be easy to brush it off as another attempt to portray intensity instead of actually feeling much of anything.

Her performance seemed utterly truthful here, blending the appropriate amounts of humiliation and desperation with genuine bewilderment at her own failure.

What followed was Rachel’s descent into heartache. What began as restrained distress during a conversation with Kurt perfectly unraveled into unbridled despair on an empty stage. More sincerity appeared in Michele’s eyes than we’ve seen in awhile.

Yet the “Glee” gods were not satisfied and demanded still more tears! And lo, pain and torment came down upon the gentle giant Shannon Beiste.

Remember how Coach Beiste fell for Cooter the Recruiter and beat Sue out to become his wife? It was nice of Ryan Murphy and Co. to let Beiste have a fairytale ending … for, like, twenty minutes. Then they decided to turn her husband into an abusive jerkface.

This initially felt like an after school special shoehorned into an otherwise witty episode.

It started when Santana noticed Beiste sporting a black eye and made a Chris Brown joke, which in turn alarmed Olympic medalist Roz Washington. I get that the writers were most likely responding to the rash of flippant tweets following the Grammys eroticizing Brown’s history of violence. But the storyline still seemed to come from left field.

So “John Goodman, Black Sue, and Original Recipe Sue” challenged most of the girls in New Directions to take a classic song that glossed over domestic abuse and turn it into an empowerment anthem. The girls responded with a truncated version of the “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago.”

While Roz and Sue lamented obliviousness of the crazy-women-in-their-panties performance, Beiste crumbled under the stress of being used as a punching bag. What followed was the obligatory motivational “get out, you deserve better” speech from well-meaning Sue and Roz, plus a confession by Beiste to the girls that she was a victim.

I certainly don’t mean to be dismissive of the point the writers were trying to make, but I felt like the way they were going about it was formulaic and over-simplified. It seemed like the whole situation would be wrapped up tidily in one episode.

In the end, Beiste lied to everyone about moving out and instead gave Cooter another shot out of fear that no one else would love her. So even though it was satisfying that the writers chose to explore the more complex emotions at play, it was dismaying to watch Beiste return to a home where she obviously and justifiably felt threatened.

“School’s Out” for Puck?

Also, Puck’s probably not going to graduate. His geography teacher shot down his attempt at bartering nookie for a grade, so he danced around defiantly in some eyeliner until his high school dropout dad asked him for rent money. Then s— got real and the glee boys tried to help him study, but he still failed his big test.

At least we can be happy for Kurt, who gave a terrific audition for NYADA. At least, that’s what Carmen Tibideaux thought. She claimed that Hugh Jackman would have been thrilled with Kurt’s total rip-off of his Tony-award-winning showstopper from “The Boy From Oz.” (And yes, pun intended, because Kurt’s copy-cattery began when he literally ripped his pants off.) She’s probably right in that Hugh Jackman truly seems to be a warm, humble person who probably appreciates the success of others and a flattering homage.

I, however, am a little underwhelmed on his behalf. Do I agree that Kurt’s “Music of the Night” was so boring it rendered Tina catatonic? Yes. And that the “Oz” number was a bolder audition choice? Yup, although I can’t imagine it’s never been done. And did the performance show potential for growth? Sure. So I guess it was a successful audition.

But as a picky and judgmental couch dweller, I would have liked to see more pure Peter Allen spirit and less acutely executed choreography. I’m prepared to be in the minority here, because Chris Colfer is a beloved and possibly infallible talent. I’m not saying it was anywhere close to bad, I just would have liked it looser and with more sweat and spark.

Here’s What Else Scored Big:

Best musical number: Rachel’s “Cry” while crying was great, but “Shake It Out” was better.

Best Sue-ism: She ruined her tent fashioning a neck hole in it for Beiste!

Best Roz-ism: “… like how there’s a cheerleading coach at their school who’s old as dirt and still trying to have a baby who they know is gonna come out looking weird with rabies and wings, and it’s gonna fly out of your hat box and straight back into hell.”

Best lawsuit waiting to happen: Probing booths at prom.

And Here’s What Put the Choke in “Choke”:

Worst musical number: That completely fornicated version of “The Rain in Spain” must have had Lerner and Loewe spinning in their graves. It was worse than those boys’ version of “Friday.” It may have been worse than the original version of “Friday.”

Worst mumblewhatwasthat:
I’ve noticed more and more throwaway punch lines lately from everyone. A dry tone and enunciation are not mutually exclusive, folks.