Since its premiere, Glee has centered its main semblance of a plot on the show choir competition that takes place each year. Season three hasn’t been the exception, with most of the dramatic weight being given to the episode where the New Directions travel for Nationals in what is for many of them their last attempt at winning the prize, in an episode that showcases both why I love and sometimes just hate Glee.
Things get sour pretty fast before the competition, however, as Mercedes gets sick and the whole team starts fighting each other due to some members underperforming in some areas, while the adults also find themselves over a lot of stress, all of them wanting the kids to win the competition so they can have a few different weeks as their last ones in high school. The tension between the students rises, as usual for them before competitions, but ultimately Will finds out a way to get them all to calm down and work together for their common goal.
The moment of the competition arrives as three “celebrity” judges are in the competition and even Carmen Tibideaux assists to watch Rachel perform. Mercedes gets better suddenly thanks to Sue’s crazy treatment, allowing the whole team to participate in the performance. There, they perform three songs – The Troubletones open with a cover of Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory that’s pretty well done both vocally and on stage. The song is followed by It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, sung by Rachel (Lea Michele) – A version that’s pretty much the same that Céline Dion recorded back in the nineties, though much shorter than the original due to obvious time constrains. They close the show with what is probably (And sadly) the worst number they have performed for a competition by following up a Steinman song with another one, the poorly chosen Paradise by the Dashboard Light, originally recorded by Meat Loaf for his debut album Bat Out of Hell. This performance, though a visual delight, is a vocal disaster – Paradise is an amazingly complicated song from all points of view and both the ensemble recording and the fact that the producers decided to take away the hard rock core from the song, turning it instead into an almost choral version of it made the song a simply terrible one to endure.
After their performance, Kurt and Mercedes go see Unique to wish him luck and find him on a tizzy and saying he won’t go on stage due to stage fright. After a chat with him where he reveals he’s having issues dealing with having become the posterboy for kids who are different, Kurt and Mercedes get him to take on the stage. For their performance, Vocal Adrenaline present two pretty good songs – Covers of Nicki Minaj’s Starships and Pinball Wizard, original by The Who. Though both songs sounded fine and had good – Great in the case of Starships – choreographies going on, Alex Newell’s performance as Unique in both songs looked bland and uninspired, making it look almost as if the character didn’t really wanted to be there and were doing it just because he had to.
The episode then takes a wrong turn when the scene with the judges takes place – Two out of three judges are terrible, terrible actors and Rex Lee isn’t one of those. Whoever thought putting Lohan and Perez Hilton in the show was a good idea needs to get fired – Both delivered the worst acting job on the show ever with uninspired performances and clichéd lines. How exactly the producers can go from having Whoopi Goldberg guest star in an episode to having such talentless people on camera is something that should be investigated by sociologists in decades to come. They also gain extra points by actually having put Goldberg and those two in the same episode.
Before the winners are announced Jesse St. James, who’s been acting as coach for Vocal Adrenaline, stops Carmen while she’s on her way out of the building and, after reminding her of his own audition for the NYADA, tells her that Rachel is an amazingly talented girl – The most talented he’s ever met – And that if there’s anyone who will be a star and deserves a chance, that’s her.
As the competition comes to a close, the judges award the MVP trophy to Unique and then award first place to the New Directions, in a plot twist that amused – Wait, nevermind. Everyone saw that one coming a year ago when they lost.
As they go back to school, the New Directions are received as heroes and hailed by everyone in a clear display of terrible writing. The sole idea that the same group that was reviled was suddenly loved by everyone just because they won a loser competition in a high school setting is preposterous. To make things worse, the writers go on their own “make everyone happy” spree by dedicating the last scene to the “Teacher of the Year” award, where it is given to Will Schuester in yet another amazing plot twist that – No, wait, that one was also terribly predictable.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, Nationals was an excellent episode up until the scene with the judges. Even the horrible dismembering they did to Paradise by the Dashboard Light could’ve been overlooked simply because, well, they’re Glee and butchering songs is one of the things they do best. However, the horrible scene with the
winners of the golden raspberry for the lifetime achievement in terrible acting judges and the following displays of terrible writing that doesn’t even bother to try and look a bit like reality really brought down the quality of the episode. It was still one very entertaining episode to watch and a much better one than many in the season, but it also left a bitter taste since it began as what could’ve been a perfect episode and then spiraled down into a simply good one.
Final review rating: 4/5