At some point, Rachel has removed her diva sunglasses long enough to see that there’s no talent in all of New York City that could possibly function as her underst– Oh, what’s that? Santana is here to audition and she’s singing Rachel and Babs’ signature song? Cool.
Confession: I watch Rachel’s season one performance of “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” like, once a month. It’s so good, it’s so convicted, it’s so Rachel. With the back-of-the-auditorium entrance and the staging, Santana’s performance is a pretty clear message that she feels she's just as good. Of course, Naya Rivera knocks it out vocally because she can, but we’ve seen convicted Santana, and this ain’t her…purposefully so, I think. This is calculated Santana – and it works! Rupert loves her (and can’t you just feel his creepy turn coming in T-minus two episodes?). A-
Rachel returns home fuming to Kurt that when Barbra “goes” (how dare you, Rachel Berry, Streisand is immortal) that song is hers, just in time for Santana to overhear. The two go WAY at it. Santana tells Rachel that all of her ambition is a direct result of the hate she and her Cheerio friends threw at her in high school. It serves as an excellent reminder that these two have had a few warm and fuzzy moments, sure, but they’ve always had a rivalry and their talent has always aligned in a perfect storm of insecurities. “I was better than you then and I’m always going to be better than you. You are short. You are awful. And that is never going to change –" SLAPPPPP. I gasped. Lea Michele really went for that hit. Girl wound up her arm like a damn Yankees relief pitcher.
And then the phone rings. Santana gets the part. Give the pacing of this episode some credit: That was one tense and entertaining scene.
Wait, wait, wait, don’t forget about McKinley – those kids still have to graduate! Artie and Tina head onto the stage to give the speech of their lives. Sue introduces “absolutely no one’s favorite new direction, Tina Cohen-Chang,” and TCC promptly delivers a speech urging the judging panel to choose Artie as valedictorian. And Artie returns the favor. These two aren’t frenemies, they’re just friends who get feisty sometimes. Figgins is crying; Beiste is crying (Beiste is always crying), and Sue is not having any of it. She was not expecting to hear, “Is it a bridge too far to call Artie Abrams an American hero – I think not.” And so, she relegates them to co-salutatorians and bumps up the No. 3 to valedictorian status: Blaine Anderson. “I know this sounds like a humble brag, but honestly, I feel like sometimes things just get handed to me.” HA!
It must be something in that Lima water, because back in New York, Rachel and Santana, rising Broadway stars, are figuring out how to navigate being teenagers who hate each other while also rehearsing for the same role. Rupert loves the publicity they’re going to get for having been high school pals and needs them to cut the crap and do the like-white-on-rice thing with each other. As Santana shadows Rachel through rehearsals, they break into The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” I am reveling in so many Rachel/Santana duets, and the camera work is extra rich with literal and metaphorical shadowing and their mirrored performances on the show’s two-story set. B+
We get a quick happy scene in the loft where Elliot/Starchild fesses up that he knows what Kurt is doing and he’s “not trying to take over your band, man!” Dude got an article in Village Voice; he’s doing OK. And he’s just happy to have a new friend, so why not commemorate their fun day with a cheek-kissing selfie? Oh, maybe because your child-bride fiancé might see it and act like he’s totally cool with it, but my money is more on “totally not cool with it.”
Savor in the friendly moment, because Santana and Rachel both return to the loft after a strained rehearsal and they know someone’s gotta go. But, uh, who in their right mind would leave that loft the size of an elementary school gymnasium? Rachel, apparently: “This is my big break and she is poisoning it!” The camera is doing something crazy on every single one of Rachel’s screaming close-ups, and it follows her right though packing up her old life and heading out to a new one. “You and I have never been friends; never have, and never will be!”
Blaine has decided that his valedictorian speech will be of the musical variety (because Blaine is the Blaine-iest Blaine to ever Blaine), and he’s requested backup from Artie and Tina. In what I think we’re supposed to assume will ultimately become his speech, the three sing “Breakaway” by American Idol-era Kelly Clarkson. If that song doesn’t take you somewhere emotionally (cruising the Texas streets with my brand new learner’s permit), then you had a very different 2004 than I. Those Lima kids are about to head out on their own (take a risk!), Rachel’s moving out (make a change!), and she dramatically rips up a picture of herself and Santana just to seal the deal, and remind you that, yes, you’re still watching Glee.
- “If during the middle of your speeches you decide to abandon your prepared text in favor a musical number because the emotions you’re feeling are so complex they can only be expressed in song, I promise you I will dedicate my life to making sure that every beverage you drink until the day you die will have just a tiny little bit of my pee in it.” – Sue’s very specific and very necessary threat to Tina and Artie
- Rachel on a fellow up-and-comer at the photo shoot: “She just got the lead on AMC’s new show about Victorian prostitutes." Ball's in your court, AMC.
- “How does one go from Schroeder to Starchild? What is that journey like?” – Kurt asking Elliot what everyone is thinking
- Rupert after finding out Santana and Rachel know each other: “One high school produced both of you?” Oh buddy, you don’t know the half of it.