I Am Unicorn
Hmm. Following last week's entertaining setup of some of this season's major story threads, I Am Unicorn wastes no time in getting them well on their way. Everybody wants something they truly covet in this episode, which means it's in no way lacking momentum, but (not for the first time) let us thank God for Brittany who adds some bright spark to what is otherwise an episode weighed down in further setup and soapy drama.
The big news this week is that Shelby Corcoran, played by Broadway star Idina Menzel, is back. Not without a bang, either. Employed by the father of spoiled little rich girl Sugar to set up a rival McKinley High Glee club, following his daughter's snub by Mr Schuester last week, Shelby wastes no time in belting out duets with Rachel, the daughter she abandoned long ago, and reacquainting herself with Quinn and Puck, biological parents of the daughter she acquired a season ago. Hello potential conflict. The performance powerhouse of double act Menzel and Michele once again proves a highlight, as Mom persuades Rachel to audition for the school's production of West Side Story with a stirring 'Somewhere'; however, it's Shelby's relationship with little Beth's parents that looks set to result in fireworks down the line. Imbued with a brittleness by an increasingly impressive Dianna Agron, Quinn performs a 180-degree turnaround upon seeing a photo of her daughter, switching from self-identified 'Skank' to her former sweetness-in-babydoll-dress Glee girl. A later admission to Puck reveals that the motivation for her role reversal is to get full custody of her baby girl. Oo-er.
If the above sounds heavy, it's because it pretty much is and is therefore devoid of anything resembling a light touch. The story's B-plot is what provides us with some sweet sweet music, as our main players audition for roles in the school musical. However, despite the forward momentum, the fact that this is audition stage means this part of the episode almost feels like treading water. We see Rachel audition for Maria, Kurt take on Funny Girl Barbra Streisand to win Tony, and Blaine unwittingly rival his boyfriend for the same role with a showstopping 'Something's Coming'. The disparate trio of Bieste, Emma and appointed director Artie provide some fun asides as the judging panel ("He owned that song like it was his prison bitch!") and it'll be fun to see Mercedes attempt to steal Rachel's crown as the production's "ethnic Maria", a performance that will hopefully arrive next week.
It's Kurt though that provides the main focus of this episode - and, thanks to Brittany's genius, is the titular 'unicorn'. Along with Rachel, he's desperate to escape Lima after graduation and so has set his sights on becoming senior-class president and lead male in the musical in order to stand out from the crowd. Brittany assigns herself as Kurt's campaign manager, complete with her vote-winning 'bulging pink fun sack' of gay goodies, but her campaign posters - which depict Kurt as a fully-horned unicorn (choice slogan: 'Believe in magic! Believe in Kurt Hummel!') - are a little too pink even for Kurt. This, coupled with the judges' seeming inability to view him as potential Tony material, means his angst-quota is high; this results in a nice scene with ever-dependable dad Burt ("You're really gay: you sing like Dianna Ross and you dress like you own a magic chocolate factory") but the rivalry shaping up between Kurt and his teenage dream Blaine looks to provide the real juice. Fortunately for us viewers, Kurt's initial dismissal of Brittany's rainbow-coloured marketing campaign leads everybody's favourite airhead cheerleader to get in the running herself, a move that is sure to put us right in the fun zone.
Unfortunately though, this ep is more about shaping the fun that is to come rather than delivering it in spades right here, right now. Sue's present but not upfront, despite her own power play for Congress (which revolves around her opinion that 'the arts stole everything') being an inevitable source of wicked humour. Fellow bitch Santana is granted only one scene after being kicked off the Glee club last week, although her one and only slam is one of the episode's best lines - to Kurt, re the posters: "This is toned down. In the original, the unicorn was riding you." Away from these flashes of funny ha-ha, there's some more Rachel/Finn chat about what lies ahead for them post-McKinley and recurring character Sugar threatens to be one-note (and that note is damn bratty).
Another stepping stone in the right direction (or should that be 'New Direction'? *eugh, forgive me*) for Season Three then, but missing some of the up-to-speed fun of last week's opener and once again slim on stand-out tunes: there are three numbers performed this week and not one of them will be wildly familiar to anybody under the age of twenty who isn't a complete musical geek. I mean, these kids were doing Kanye back in episode two of the first season, remember? Here's hoping next week gets the balance right between the elements that have made this show so great in the past. Until then, it looks like I better get to clicking my fingers and watching some West Side Story, all in the name of research...