Who knew it would take a few inspired mash-ups to restore Glee to its former glories? The show enjoys a renewed fun factor this week when the annual 'mash-up' contest between girls and boys becomes a 'mash off' between McKinley High's two resident Glee clubs. Although this allows for a slight twist on the past two season's mash-up episodes, it's really a chance for the show to get back to its roots and push the music front and centre, making for some enjoyable set pieces. And not a West Side Story song in sight - how 'bout that?!
Will and Shelby decide a 'mash off' is the perfect exercise to incite a sense of friendly competition between New Directions and The Trouble Tones, delivering their own fusion of Lady Gaga's 'You & I' and Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle's song of the same name to turn the kids on to the idea. Bless a well-meaning show choir director for trying but, with so much conflict going on at the school already, a good clean competition was just never going to work out really now was it? Sue's playing dirty in her attempt to usurp Kurt's dad, various Glee kids are still battling it out for senior-class presidency, and Quinn is still intent on battling for ownership of her daughter. This mash-off is gonna get ugly...
In true American high school style, the task soon descends into 'World War Glee' with a blood-drawing bout of dodgeball (set to a mash-up of Blondie and Pat Benatar, of course) and lots of trash talk, mainly coming from Santana's mouth and directed at Finn. Early on in the episode, Coach Sue declares that 'winning is all about flinging poo' and Santana is not afraid to dish it out; however, after one particularly elaborate diatribe from Lima Heights' acid-tongued princess, Finn hits perhaps Santana's one and only weak spot, her denial of her sexuality and love for Brittany. This is overheard by a fellow student whose father is also in the running for Congress which leads to a huge turning point in Santana's journey, set to a blinding intertwining of Adele's 'Rumour Has It' and 'Someone Like You'. A juicy final scene suggests the conflict between the two musical groups is only set to continue - and get even more personal as it does so.
Speaking of personal, perhaps the weakest link this week is the continuation of the Shelby/Puck/Quinn triangle. None of the players are at fault: Mark Salling clearly enjoys delivering Puck's increasingly dippy lines, while Idina Menzel and Dianna Agron are worthy adversaries but - at this point in the story anyway - the arc is perhaps a tad too soapy and feels like its heading in the direction of heavy-handed melodrama.
Despite the fracturing of certain relationships, this episode has an air of Season One's most feel-good hours about it. This is most likely down to the music (a goofy, mustachioed rendition of Hall & Oates hits is cheesy yet smile-inducing) but also because the episode gets right the balance between sassy put-downs and good-natured Gleek power. Rachel's resignation from the race for student president, following Kurt's impassioned anti-bullying speech, might be schmaltzy but the sweetness of Rachel and Kurt's friendship is grounding and an asset to the show. Also, this is another busy episode which means certain cast members get sidelined, so the mash-ups at least allow everyone a chance to shine and bring some of that group Glee magic to the screen.