Nothing equals comedy gold quite like a sanctimonious reality show trying to tackle a sensitive subject.
“The Glee Project” got all kinds of goofy this week as the contestants were forced to “dig deep” and face their “inner demons” and other cliches that were uttered somewhere between zero and 100 times during the hour. It was hard keep notes on every inane thing that someone said this week.
Anyway, Robert Ulrich definitely said it would be a “very very challenging week” for the contestants because:
Homework assignment: Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You”
Guest mentor: Cory Monteith
Michael — who we don’t really know anything about yet — is already feeling super challenged about this theme because he’s young and not very experienced. (Too young to ever feel vulnerable? Um, OK then…)
When he’s introducing Monteith, Robert calls him “the most accessible actor on the show.” And Cory’s advice to the kids, “If it’s real for you, it’s gonna be real for the audience.”
Apparently “real” and “vulnerable” translates as deeply pained, because that’s how everyone looks when they’re singing Clarkson’s peppy anthem. But the only opinion that counts is Cory’s and he’s not so fond of Abraham (too forced), Lily (too sexy — !?!) or Ali (too theatrical). He’s more of a Shanna and Nellie man — he has good taste.
Cory’s choice for homework winner: Nellie.
She gets the one-on-one session with Cory, plus a featured spot in this week’s music video: R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”
Robert announces there will be no choreography session this week (obviously Zach needs a break after last week’s dance-ability disaster), and instead everyone will meet with video director Erik White to discuss their personal experiences with bullying. This is when it starts to get really good.
“As a half-black Jewish trans person there’s no one else around like me,” explains Tyler, which is undeniably true and about all we hear from Tyler this week. Probably because the show doesn’t want to be too mean to the least talented contestant during “Vulnerability” week.
Shanna unloads a story about how other kids made fun of her mom’s drug use and called her “a crack baby,” while Abraham laments being a “straight Asian raised by two women” who therefore picked up “female attributes” and was teased for being gay, even though he’s not, he swears. Blake was bullied in junior high for being short and skinny, and also walked by someone getting beat up and has always felt really bad about that.
And finally, the real gold comes from Lily, who confesses she was the bully herself in 6th and 7th grade. Then she watched “Mean Girls” in 8th grade, realized what a bitch she was being (!) and made a phone call to apologize to the girl she bullied the worst. See, Lindsay Lohan, your work does make a difference!
Sadly, we don’t get to hear from anyone else. Not even Michael, who has several reaction shots and always seems on the verge of saying something, but never gets to explain why he’s such a stranger to the concept of vulnerability. (It’s a bizarre set-up without a payoff. Kind of like many storylines on the real “Glee”!)
In her mentoring session, Nellie learns that Cory Monteith’s tricks for making himself feel vulnerable include thinking about his parents’ divorce. He wants to know if Nellie has anything similar to draw from?
Why yes, Cory, she recently experienced the 10 year anniversary of her sister’s death. Say…what!? That’s a pretty major revelation that the show kind of glosses right over. But we do see more of Nellie than ever before this week and she’s coming into focus as an extremely shy person who has carefully built up a wall around herself. I’m afraid she may be too green and too insular to go the full distance of this competition, but she has a unique voice and seems considerably more genuine than most of her rivals.
For example, Mario. He’s struggling in the recording booth with Nikki, who observes he’s “having a hard time pitch wise.” Mario finds this hard to believe, because if you ask him, he’s perfect. Nikki is also frustrated with Ali this week, because Ali is always so upbeat she can’t show any vulnerability. It’s not good to frustrate Nikki. If you’re going to be on “Glee,” you’re going to have to sing. It’s kind of important.
There’s a lot of nonsense during the music video shoot, including Robert and Zach getting borderline inappropriate in the way they ogle and praise the seemingly very bland heartthrobs Michael and Blake, and Robert and Zach’s frustration with Lily (she struggles with lip-syncing because everyone is “making too much noise”) that turns into amused delight when she takes on the role of bully. Like she told Erik, Lily was a mean girl until “Mean Girls” and she delights in throwing Aylin to the ground and yelling in her face full throttle.
But the real controversy comes when Charlie makes an improv move to steal Mario’s cane while playing Mario’s bully. Zach is appalled that Charlie would take a cane from a blind man — even in a video that is supposed to portray bullying and features an incredibly stupid scene of someone walking up to wheelchair-bound Ali and throwing a stack of papers she’s carrying into the air.
When it comes time for Robert, Zach and Nikki’s evaluations it’s agreed that Blake “hit it out of the park,” so he’s safe. So are Abraham, Michael, Shanna, Aylin and Tyler. There are reservations with Nellie (too shy) and Ali (too perky), but they’re ultimately safe too.
That leaves the bottom three: Lily, Mario and Charlie.
LAST CHANCE PERFORMANCES
Song: Duffy’s “Mercy”
What Ryan Murphy says: “I get that you’re sexy and you love boys. I’m worried about you because the show is about underdogs and you’re not an underdog.”
How Lily responds: She has a soft side too! Lily feels her strength is in ballads, leaving her heart on the stage, and she hasn’t been allowed to do that yet. She breaks down crying. She also screams out that she’s 240 pounds. Ryan feels like he finally saw the “real” Lily and he likes it.
Song: Coldplay’s “Fix You”
What Ryan Murphy says: “You started singing and I was like, uh, what?! [in a good way] I was so unsure where you were going almost every note. That’s what the show needs. We don’t want to be a damn karaoke show. So good for you.” But he brings up the whole issue with Mario and the cane during the video shoot.
How Charlie responds: He’s still getting used to working in front of a camera. He’s used to rehearsing things out on stage, but he’ll learn from his mistakes! Ryan thinks Charlie is “inclined to go for the brave choice. Sometimes with actors that’s not the right way to be.” But once Charlie leaves, Ryan declares he “may be my favorite thing I’ve ever seen on this show.”
Song: Israel Kamakawiwoole’s version of “Over the Rainbow”
What Ryan Murphy says: “People like me right now will be very inspired by not just your talent but also the need you have to express your talent.” But why was Mario so defensive about Nikki’s criticisms that he needs to work on his pitch?
How Mario responds: With a lot of tears and (obviously) fake modesty about how he’ll work really hard and do anything anyone tells him to do, and please sir won’t you give him a chance? Ryan falls for it hook, line and sinker.
As the judges are deliberating, we’re treated to a hilarious scene of Mario acting like a jerk to all the other contestants again. No fake tears here, just complains about being singled out as “off key” when so many others were — in his opinion — also guilty. This obviously offends everyone else, they’re all getting more than a little sick of Mario acting like he’s the best around and nothing’s gonna ever keep him down. The problem is Ryan’s not seeing any of this — just like Alex last year, Mario treats everyone like crap and then turns on the waterworks for Ryan.
Anyway, someone’s getting eliminated, right?
Wrong. In a not so surprising surprise inspired by the week’s anti-bullying theme, a decision is made that everybody is called back. (Boo!!)
We’re stuck with Mario, for now. Where’s Sue Sylvester when you really need her?
What did you think? Did this week change your opinion about anyone? Can you imagine any of these contestants on “Glee”?