Photo: Adam Rose / Fox

New Kids On The Block

McKinley High Homecoming brings welcome visitors but mixed results, as Glee 3.0 really begins.

Time for Act 2 of tonight's two-episode season premiere/ritual sacrifice of this show. It's as if Fox thinks fans of Glee don't have anything better to do on a Friday night, but we know better, don't we? Don't we?? Let's save some precious time and skip the boring parts, shall we?

Dead Poets Society This Ain't

Blaine voice-overs about how he's gotten his life back together thanks to his love of music and coaching the Warblers. Because the healthiest cure for the breakup of your high school relationship is to literally go back to high school. No, okay, that's real though, kids do that. Dalton is safe and unchanging -- except oh no! Dalton has admitted (dun dun dun!) a girl! She's a legacy and her parents filed a Title IX suit and she wants to be a Warbler.

Who Would Come Home For This?

Sue announces over the PA that it's Homecoming week, while Rachel pathetically walks through the halls trying to get people to sign up for glee club. Becky slushies her, which I'm ashamed to admit made me laugh out loud. Later, Rachel tells Kurt, Sam, and Will, "I forgot how cold those slushies are," and after watching The Glee Project, this feels like a real moment among actors (and I still wonder why they had to use real slushies). Before dinner, Will (at his house -- where is Emma?) lays down some ground rules for friendly competition among the only three show choirs in Ohio. Blaine, arriving late, whines about his "dilemma," and everyone tells him he's an idiot.

Remember The Lost Boys In Peter Pan Live?

At Dalton, the current Warblers are none too happy about the prospect of a female member. "Imagine the sexual tension," cries one. "We would never get anything done!" "But, um, aren't most of you guys gay?" asks Blaine. Funny, but (a) if that were true Blaine would've gotten a lot more action in high school, and (b) that might be even more inappropriate than anything Will has ever said to his kids. "We all have girlfriends," another Warbler replies, as queenily as possible. Oh, Glee. Blaine says he will respect the decision of the council. Of high school students. At a school that has been sued by the girl they're talking about. Really not clear why this is a conversation here. The Chief Warbler calls for a vote that they simply let her audition to find out if the whole thing is moot. Rather than "aye," they "ah" in harmony, which is cute.

Alphabetically, You Idiots

In the McKinley choir room (now the "Becky Johnson Memorial Computer Lab"), Rachel and Kurt argue over whether they're co-chairs or Kurt is Rachel's assistant, and how best to organize music -- chronologically or by emotion. Though of course they still have no members. In a callback to the pilot, Rachel hears someone singing through a vent and follows the voice to the boys' locker room. He's not in there, though, and before she can find the source, it stops. Hopeful that talent and passion still exist at McKinley and just need to be drawn out, Rachel makes up with Kurt and surprises him with Mercedes, Santana, Brittany, Artie, Tina, Puck, and Quinn. QUINN! Quinn is back!! Quinn, who didn't even come back for her ex-boyfriend's funeral! (I'm sure Dianna Agron had a very good reason but it was still weird.) Is it dusty in here? (It is, but it's also totally boring. These bitches better sing something soon.)

Slowly Learning That Life Is Okay

Rachel and Kurt ask the gang for help getting glee club back up and running -- "Not all the time, we know you all have lives in other places." Heh. They need the alumni for some continuity and tradition, starting with a big number to show the school what glee club can be. And what high school student in 2015 doesn't love 1985's "Take On Me"? Well, I do, so suck it, children. This explains why Artie is "practicing [his] storyboarding," and the odd animation effect that's been starting and ending each scene. They do half-decent, half-nonsensical homage to the classic video, with the kids running from Sue in the line-drawn comic book world and some pastel '80s dancing in the cafeteria. The arrangement has them singing a cappella-ish backing vocals (though there's a karaoke track too), which I always appreciate. It's very classic Glee. When the song ends, we see that the dancing was just a fantasy and that no one in the lunch room has even looked up.

Rachel Berry: Scaring Kids Since 2009

A new kid voice-overs about "the fat kid who always wears headphones...so he doesn't have to hear your lame-ass fat jokes." He's a transfer student with no friends, who helpfully explains that he loves music. Rachel accosts him while he happens to be looking at the bulletin board, which always goes well. She literally drags him to the choir room, where we learn his name is Roderick, before he runs away.

Rachel Berry: Blowing Auditions Since 2010

Meanwhile, Blaine tells Jane that she gets to audition but still might not get in, and she's like, fuck off. He gives her a bizarre pep talk before bringing her to McKinley to meet Rachel. "You're a legend," says Jane. Really? I mean, even without the TV failure, that seems unlikely. Anyway, despite being on rival teams, Rachel wants to help Jane on behalf of Womankind, and coaches her on her audition. You know, something Rachel has been historically terrible at. "My family has a tradition of singing 'Up Up And Away,' which is bad because--" Rachel cuts her off, but I don't know what that song is or why that's bad. Rachel asks for her phone and sees that Janelle Monáe's "Tightrope" has the most plays, and declares that that should be her audition song.

Maybe The Most Glee Scene That Ever Gleeed

Kurt waits for Spencer in the locker room because that's not inappropriate at all, and explains (out of the blue; have these two even met?) that when he was the kicker, it was a big turning point in glee club/football team relations. Spencer asks why Sam and Puck aren't recruiting him, then. Spencer says that being gay isn't how he, or anyone else, primarily identifies himself, and that things have changed since Kurt was in high school. Kurt tells Spencer he's naive if he thinks that would be possible if Kurt and Blaine hadn't come before him: "You owe glee club." "Please," Spencer shoots back, "I owe Modern Family." Ouch. Spencer goes on to say that he beat up the only two guys on the football team who had a problem with him coming out, and that he "can't stand Gaga." He insists that he has nothing in common with Kurt except liking boys. This scene is deeply frustrating because it's true, yet also completely didactic in the most Glee-ish way possible. The show takes credit for social change but throws in a self-effacing joke so that we can't knock them too hard for being cocky. And of course the whole thing is still deep in fantasyland as if, because of Glee (and Modern Family), high school football players are coming out left and right all over the country and no one ever gets bullied anymore. Thank you, Ryan Murphy, you've cured homophobia! But on a purely micro level, Spencer is totally right, and that's annoying too: does Kurt even know if Spencer can sing, or did he ask Spencer to join glee club simply because he's gay? 

You Know Who CanSing?

Jane's audition. She kills it, of course, dancing all over the room. All but the crankiest Warblers can't help themselves and join in on backup. Musically, it's pretty tight. (Though this has bothered me since the Warblers were first introduced: why are their vocals so heavily processed? They sing more or less traditional a cappella, and none of the actors are famous, so presumably they can sing. It's a very strange and distracting production choice.)

Stop Trying To Make "Hell To The No" A Catchphrase

Puck, Quinn, Sam, Tina, and Mercedes address McKinley's Tea Party Club, citing their own high school involvement with conservative clubs. They recommend that the kids join the New Directions to broaden their horizons and meet new people, like they all did. The baby tea partiers spout some right-wing talking points, setting Mercedes off, and that all goes about as well as you'd expect. Stop fast-forwarding at the very end of the scene for what looks like a genuine blooper between Sam and Quinn that's completely delightful and the only funny thing about this scene. (Bets on the lead Tea Partier, who reads super-gay, joining the glee club in a few episodes.)

Actually, All-Male A Cappella Is A Very Specific Sound

The Warbler Council votes against letting a girl into the club. Blaine tells Jane that he's going to fight for her. 

Bring It On

The classic New Directions girls (and Artie) don their cheerleader alumni uniforms (yes, they say "alum" on them) for a rousing rendition of Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea's "Problem" on the football field. The marching band and the new Cheerios get involved, but when the number is over, the squad, led by Kitty (who is how old now?), couldn't be less interested. Sue didn't make Kitty transfer because she's a star Cheerio, and Kitty's still mad at the way Artie treated her when he left for college (forgive me, I have blocked this storyline out completely). A boy and a girl Kitty calls "the incest twins" ask if they can audition together, and the rest of the squad takes off.

Sssssshhhhh! You're In A Library!

Brittany gives Kurt advice on how to win Blaine back, which includes burning all his clothing and "dressing like a normal person," and following his life's ambition to become America's top Barbara Bush impersonator. Oh Brittany, never change. Rachel asks for a report on recruiting, and as we know, it's not going well. She hears the voice through the vent again, but this time everyone else hears it, too. They track it to Roderick in the library, and I'm disappointed that it's not somebody new we haven't already seen. Rachel apologizes for coming on so strong earlier, and explains that glee club "is a place where misfits can fit in." I'm trying to imagine how I would have felt if ten twenty-one-year-old strangers had surrounded me in my high school library and bullied me into doing an activity. I guess better than if a teacher had done so in the shower.

Even The Gay Asshole Has Morals

Sue asks Spencer to "infiltrate the glee club and be terrible on purpose so
that everyone gets demoralized and quits." Why not Kitty? Never mind. As payment, she offers him a "one-of-a-kind, custom-molded Tom Brady Fleshlight with a dishwasher safe turbo-studded latex recto-sleeve." COME ON. Spencer gives an uncomfortable "no thank you" at this. How about starring quarterback? Spencer says he's not for sale, and that Sue's going to have to try harder than that to get rid of glee. (I think Fox has that covered!)

Ride, Roderick, Ride

At Roderick's audition, he keeps his headphones on as sort of a security blanket while he sings "Mustang Sally." He gets more confident as the song goes on, and Quinn, Santana, and Brittany join him on backup. The band is here too, but I thought there were no more arts at McK-- oh who cares? Roderick's great, of course. 

Even Sue Is Tired Of Becky

Becky makes a bunch of tedious "joke" announcements about Homecoming (she's the grand marshal of the parade) before the first official glee club meeting. Rachel is feeling the pressure of turning nothing into what the New Directions became (insert your own joke about Season 5 of Glee here) before the club's first meeting...of one member. Wait, two members! Jane has transferred to McKinley, which, thanks to Sue, is now academically on par with Dalton. Blaine is furious. 

Home Is Wherever I'm With You

At the official first meeting, Mason and Madison McCarthy, the cheerleader twins, join Roderick, Jane, and the alumni. The twins' parents met in Up With People! Santana: "I think I've made a mistake." Hee. After a group hug, the old gang leads a homecoming rally rendition of "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, intercut with the twins' audition and Sue yelling some old-fashioned Sue quips into her megaphone and the new kids getting to know each other. In the locker room, Spencer joins in and looks like he's maybe possibly considering signing up while Sam, Artie and Kurt spy on him? C-R-E-E-P-Y. Blaine and Karofsky cuddle under the fireworks, to Kurt's chagrin, and Sue and Will look like friends for some reason. A lot of this feels like the actors actually having fun, which is really nice. 

Verdict

The musical numbers are solid, and feel more like old-school Glee than anything from last season, but despite the welcome presence of almost the entire original cast (whither Mike Chang?), this episode lands with a pretty heavy thud. The scenes all feel dull and wheel-spinny, not unlike actual alumni visiting their high school and finding they don't know that many people and have nothing useful to do with their time. The new kids are promising, and already more charismatic than any of the Glee 2.0 club (it surely helps that they weren't chosen by reality show and aren't attempting to replicate types from the originals), but let's see what they offer in a week or two.

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