does what Glee does best here, as show creator Ryan Murphy returns to pen an episode dedicated to the music of one Michael Jackson. Inevitably, it's an hour of TV that can't fail to entertain fans of the show as well as potentially casting the net a bit wider to pique interest in MJ devotees. Michael closely follows the example set by Season One highlight The Power of Madonna, although this sequel of sorts is entirely free of sly but well-meaning digs at its iconic inspiration (Madonna's alive, after all); however, in celebrating its muse and paying homage to everything from the sequined gloves to his way with a 'Chamone' or two, it succeeds as the Madonna episode did in riding on the best successes of its source and cleverly using the songs to continue the story forward.
It would be complimentary to say the premise for the episode is paper-thin; it's barely visible through all the celebratory moonwalking and crotch-grabbing. Having missed out on getting their Michael medley on in Hold On to Sixteen's Sectionals finale, Mercedes and Santana declare their mission statement for Regionals: Michael all the way. It takes about a millisecond for Blaine to lead the way down the corridor before a jump-cut to stage with a performance of 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'', effectively establishing the tone of what's to come for every single person sitting in front of their TV.
What there is of plot here is mainly a loose framework to allow for big song-and-dance numbers (more than we're used to on a week-to-week basis), although there are a couple of major plot points. Last week's cliffhanger resolves with Rachel saying yes to Finn after wrestling with the decision, all before she gets a promising letter from NYADA that seems to automatically cast doubt upon her decision. Oops. Meanwhile, Quinn announces she's been accepted to Yale, instigating her sweet take on 'Never Can Say Goodbye', while Sam tempts Mercedes into a duet of 'Human Nature' that ends with a smooch.
The main thrust of the story though is the continuing rivalry between New Directions and The Warblers, whose newfound leader Sebastian basically initiates a throwdown by spitefully selecting the King of Pop as his group's Regionals inspiration. Need proof that this guy is oh-so-nefarious? When the two groups meet in an underground parking lot to re-enact the 'Bad' video (which is carried off in a hilariously overwrought manner), Sebastian's tampered-with slushie, intended for Kurt, connects with Blaine's eye and leads to an eye-patch makeover and impending surgery. Of course, this means war and, fearing an 'eye for an eye' scenario, Will leads the kids in the right direction by asking the all-important question: What Would Michael Jackson Do?
Of course, Michael Jackson would answer the so-called 'haterz' in a mild-mannered speaking voice but then take them aback with some wicked dance moves. It takes the group some time to get to this point: Artie vents his frustration by imagining himself and Mike Chang matching the 'Scream' video shot-for-shot (allowing Kevin Hale to get out of his wheelchair and Harry Shum Jr to look silly as Janet), while Santana hides a tape recorder tucked in her 'underboob' and attempts to get an admission of guilt from Sebastian by duelling with him to a frenzied, cello-led 'Smooth Criminal' (which is great, by the way). Of course, because this is Glee and unity and togetherness is better than fighting and nastiness, the big finale is a triumphant 'Black or White' that sees The Warblers join the gang on stage and head Warbler Sebastian outed as a bigger rat than 'Ben'. So, all thriller and no filler then?
There are minuses: the gaping omission of 'Billie Jean' is a big fat missed opportunity, and the fact that Sue Sylvester doesn't get a look-in is a fail too. However, the joie de vivre of the series is clearly present throughout the episode, no doubt helped by Murphy's sharp lines and a cast who are obviously having a ball, which makes Michael easily one of the best of the season so far. A mark of its success, which has been a benchmark for the best episodes since day one, is that I'll no doubt be humming Jacko hits all week (if not digging out my compilation for the car) and all because of a show about misfit teens who sing and dance all day. Chamone to that!