Too soon to call "Asian F" the best episode of the season? Okay, but it's the clear front-runner. Talk about packing it in. We had six numbers and multiple engaging story lines; I laughed, I cried, and I was even left so satisfied that I didn't register that it was an almost Sue-less episode until my second viewing.
We started out with most of the group at booty camp (including a contrite Santana, but no Rachel or Brittany), and Mercedes coming in late. She didn't seem to take the dancing practice seriously, and got a little defensive when Schuester criticized her. I didn't really find this part empowering. I mostly thought she was being bratty. I'd never seen any signs of Mercedes having difficulty dancing and I read her stumbling about as her just not trying because she didn't feel she needed to. (Side note: Throughout the night we saw Mercedes clutching her stomach and claiming not to feel well. With the increased focus on her boyfriend, was anyone else worried the writers were telegraphing another pregnancy story line?)
Mercedes' new man, Shane, pumped her up, reminding her that she needed to take the competition with Rachel for the part of Maria more seriously. He set the tone for the night when he told her that when she makes him watch Dreamgirls, she always says she's Beyoncé but he thinks she believes she's Effie White. So Mercedes changed the game and how the directors saw her by belting out Jennifer Hudson's "Spotlight" for her audition. Suddenly the directors no longer felt they could hand the role over to Rachel but they made the girls face off with another song, Fame's "Out Here On My Own." By the end of it, Rachel felt that Mercedes had performed best. But the directors took the easy way out and double cast the role, adding a week to the play and giving them both their own weeks to shine. Mercedes turned it down.
She continued to spar with Schuester and the rest of the Glee club, culminating in one fantastic take on Dreamgirls' "It's All Over." It perfectly showed the club members' frustration with Mercedes and her feelings of being singled out and ganged up on. She quit New Directions and joined Shelby Corcoran's new Glee club.
Meanwhile, Mike got an A- (an Asian F) and was hauled into Principal Figgins' office by his uber strict father, who wanted the boy drug tested because drugs had to be the explanation for the grade dip. Dad eventually decided that it's the Glee club cutting Mike's focus but the lanky dancer begged for the chance to revive his grades and stay in the group. But he was feeling the pressure, especially when Beastie's push to get the football team practicing their footwork by dancing had all eyes on him and a new task on his agenda -- teaching the team, as well as teaching the Booty Camp. Even though Tina was supportive, pushing him to follow his passion and reminding him how much he'd been working on his singing, Mike remained conflicted.
Harry Shum Jr. really showed his acting chops last night during his solo dance sequence when he imagined talking to his dad and then to his girlfriend, each pulling him in opposite directions. You felt his anguish at having to chose between family expectations and a life in the arts. It seemed that he'd chosen family when he didn't show when Artie called his name for his audition for the role of Riff. But he showed up and proceeded to shock everyone with his confident singing and nimble dancing, backed up by the football team. Later, Mrs. Chang confronted Mike after he missed a tutoring session in order to do the audition, and with her surprise support of his choice, she gave Burt Hummel a run for his money as my favorite Glee parent.
NEXT: We meet Emma's parents and it all becomes clear