Dance with Somebody
A weird thing happened one Tuesday night in February. US Gleeks witnessed Amber Riley, aka the show's Mercedes Jones, belt out an impassioned cover of Whitney Houston's signature diva moment 'I Will Always Love You' in Heart... three days after the singer was found dead. The show was always going to acknowledge the passing of one of America's biggest singers but, following the strange coincidence of it inadvertently doing so, it's not a surprise it chooses the route of devoting an entire tribute episode. With Houston's calling card and biggest ballad already ticked off the list, the show turns to the rest of the hits that helped make up her record-shifting career.
Beginning with a funereal acapella 'How Will I Know' which announces to Mr Schue the extent of his students' mourning period, Dance with Somebody doesn't push the references too much and, after a fleeting enquiry as to whether Houston's music is 'appropriate' from Sam, the darker details of her struggle are ignored in favour of her most popular songs. It's a wise approach, as it allows the songs to act merely as an expression of the characters' own struggles or, in the case of the more upbeat tunes, a celebration of a back catalogue.
As we hit the seventeenth episode of the season, the show's creative team are also wise enough to acknowledge that Graduation is neigh, which means characters (and viewers alike) will soon be saying goodbye to some of the core Glee club members we've followed all the way through. It's a little heavy-handed that the loss of a pop star acts as a metaphor here, but it also sets in motion what will hopefully be a nice build to a big emotional finish at the season's end. So, we have Rachel and Santana making nice over a duet of 'So Emotional', Dad of the Year Burt Hummel letting Kurt know how much he's going to miss his son, and Kurt and Blaine having a bit of a tiff that turns out to stem from the latter's insecurities over his boyf's plan to move to NYC (and not helped, of course, by the fact that Kurt is texting a loud gay he met in a sheet music store). And, of course, feeling it perhaps the most from the sidelines is Mr Schue, who demands to Emma that the wedding must happen in May, afraid that if it's any later the kids that 'changed [his] life' would have moved on and forgotten about him.
Because the show's cast of characters is so huge now (poor Tina, as always), it feels right that the show should already be crafting smaller moments, such as Puck gifting his friends shot glasses in the locker room, ahead of the bigger goodbyes on the way. It's a shame then that drippy Joe Hart, bleeding heart Christian, has his eyes on a Quinn struggling to cope with the consequences of her car accident. After a joint rendition of 'Saving All My Love for You', he's busy getting all hot and bothered during her physio classes and being generally annoying. Elsewhere on the negatives, the song that gives the episode its name is ruined by a dodgy Eurotrash dance beat, a fate that nearly befalls Blaine's take on 'It's Not Right But It's Okay'; seriously, why the need?!
By the time rousing closer 'My Love is Your Love' rolls around though, with a handful of characters having confronted the fact there is only 42 days until they leave high school and Glee club is disbanded, the episode concludes as a successful 'beginning of the end' at the same time as it respectfully closes the locker door on a pop icon.