After last week's surprising and emotional episode ''Wheels,'' expectations for Glee were on the rise, toward the top of Rachel's register. Would the show remain on a roll with this week's offering? The verdict: ''Ballad'' didn't defy gravity, but it did offer up a few choice cuts and fun moments (see: the thought-ful ''Endless Love'') while advancing one big story line. The concept of doomed love was explored humorously and poignantly: humorously with Rachel, the latest student to develop a scary crush on Will, and poignantly with Kurt, who hatched a ''master plan'' to open Finn's eyes to the joys of his own sex, or at least Kurt. Of course, the hour wasn't just about heart; it was also about the belly, as the parents of Quinn and Finn discovered that they'd soon become grandparents (and two of the three didn't take that news well). In other developments, our Terri-free streak came to a halt, we were sadly Sue-less for an entire episode, and Glee Club's pianist finally got a name. Brad, care to accompany us while we replay this ''Ballad''?
Crushed Pepper, Crushed Berry
Will informed the gang that the new rules for Sectionals required a ballad performance (did someone's letter-writing campaign to the Ohio show choir committee pay off?), then asked for the defintion of a ballad. ''It's a male duck,'' offered Brittany. Actually, it's a story set to music — a perfect storm of self-expression — and Mr. Schue wanted everyone to draw names from a hat (''I bet the duck's in the hat,'' whispered Brittany), so they could pair off and sing ballads to each other, making their partner feel it. The combos? Puck with Mercedes. Artie with Quinn. Finn with Kurt. Tina with the ''other Asian.'' Brittany with Santana. Rachel with no one — Matt was hospitalized with a case of spiderintheearitis. After Rachel coaxed Mr. Schue (a known fan of her voice, not her personality) to fill in for Matt, we received a highlight of the night: Their duet of ''Endless Love.'' As Rachel sang amorously to him and he served comically as increasingly disturbed counterpoint, we heard the thoughts rattling around various characters' heads. Kurt: ''I could totally sing this song with Finn, but screw him if he thinks he's taking the Diana Ross part from me.'' Puck: ''I love the days when I don't wear underwear. Full commando.'' By the time Rachel was fawning over Will's nice teeth, he knew he was screwed: ''Crap, she looks crazy right now. I know this look.'' His fears were confirmed later when she gave him a gift: An unfortunate tie with gold stars and a treble clef. ''I figure every time you wear it you can think of me,'' she explained, ''and the star you're helping me become.''
Naturally, Will shared his dilemna with precisely the wrong person, window-Windexer Emma, who noted that if one were to rank crushworthy teachers, he'd be ''no. 1 with a bullet.'' He told her the story of Suzy Pepper (Hanna from Everwood!), the intense girl who had the red-hots for Will two years ago and presented him with unfortunate pepper socks. Creepier yet, when Will busted her for calling him late at night and just breathing into the phone, she cooed, ''You knew it was me just by the sound of my breath. That's so romantic.'' Terri threatened Suzy and made Will kill this crush, which sent Suzy into a tailspin: Listening to Extreme, she ate the world's hottest pepper, burned her esophagus, and wound up in a medically induced coma. Thus, Will's hesitation about rejecting Rachel. Emma's suggestion? Take his own advice by singing it to her and letting her down gently.
With Emma observing, Mr. S. told Rachel, ''Now I want you to listen very closely to lyrics because I really mean what I'm singing,'' and unspooled a freaky mashup of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's ''Young Girl'' and The Police's ''Don't Stand So Close to Me.'' Afterward, Will asked a beaming Rachel if she understood the message. ''Yes, it means I'm very young and it's hard for you to stand close to me,'' she said breathlessly. Ummm... a little help, Emma? ''You're a very good performer,'' Emma told him, also under a full swoon. Funny stuff.
NEXT: Peppering Rachel with good advice