It’s been a long hiatus for Glee fans. The last episode we had, way back in the first week of December, didn’t even count as a real episode, even if it was full of that beautiful Glee meta I lap up like cream. Its return with “Frenemies” reminded me who some of these characters are at their core. And by some of these characters, I mean Rachel and Tina.
This episode exposed that both women have the same insecurities they have always had, despite what their realities demonstrate. Rachel may be cast as the lead in a Broadway show, but she stills feels like the girl who only had her talent to depend on, and any threats to that talent are a threat to her.
Tina, despite being a member of the now popular National Champion glee club, despite being on student council, despite being chosen as prom queen, despite rocking geometrically patterned dresses for the past three years with a flair I can only dream about, still thinks she’s the outcast that the cheerleaders would never accept and the girl who can only shine if she forces herself to.
And they’re both wrong. Time has not stood still, and their circumstances have changed. Artie tries to get Tina to see that, and I’m not convinced that she does, but she ends up setting aside her ambition and at least ignoring those insecurities by the end of the episode for the sake of their friendship. Rachel, however, gives in to them, failing to believe in the friendship she’s set up with one of her former tormentors. The fledgling friendship fell by the wayside as soon as Rachel viewed Santana as a threat to her career.
Yes, Santana should have told Rachel she was auditioning, but I believe her when she said she was just putting off the inevitable fight—she knew how Rachel would react whether she gave her the courtesy of advance notice or not. And when someone brandishes their claws, it’s not like Santana to retract her own. I honestly don’t think she pursued the understory role to undermine Rachel as Rachel fears. Santana’s lack of confidence this episode, of not knowing quite how to be a Broadway baby, made that clear to me. Pursuing the understudy role wasn’t malice; it was simply more of the floundering Santana has done since before graduating high school. Fame is still her ambition, and she’s trying on different types of fame for size. So far, yeast commercials are a definite no. So instead, Santana pictured herself as the center of theatrical attention during “Brave” and decided why not give it a try?
But she was nervous even at the end of that song going to wardrobe, and she did not seem sure of herself throughout the rest of the episode. That was evident to me in her choice to ape Rachel’s previous entrance for “Don’t Rain On My Parade” to get the part, starting at the back of the theater like Rachel did at sectionals so long ago. Heck, it was evident in choosing that song at all. Though it read like a betrayal to Rachel, to Santana it was using a performance and a Broadway number that she knew—from Rachel’s example—could bring the house down. That mimicking of Rachel continued into their dance rehearsal as well. Some people have said that Santana was obviously the better dancer during the “Every Breath You Take” sequence, but I disagree.
That looks like a girl who knows she’s already gotten in over her head.
She looked visibly nervous to me and watched Rachel closely so she could repeat the sequences, never quite using her full body to inhabit the role while she moved. Rachel embraced the character fully with every step. Santana’s behavior this episode was probably the biggest compliment she could pay to Rachel—she wasn’t trying to one-up her; she was trying to be her. That’s because Santana knows that Rachel is Broadway. In Santana’s limited experience, there’s no greater example she could turn to than her.
Frankly, I doubt the understudy role will stick for Santana anyhow. It’s just another potential for fame that she’ trying on, and I don’t think it’ll fit her in the end. Which isn’t to say it’s believable she got the role, of course. That just makes it all the more clear that we’re operating in Glee’s NYC, not the real one, in case the very existence of NYADA or Rachel Berry getting cast at her first Broadway audition weren’t enough for you. Or heck, add in the facts that the only good singers at Broadway auditions are from Lima, Ohio, or that Tina has perfect attendance—I remember when she had the Asian bird flu! The ridiculousness of the show is the tie that binds it sometimes. My favorite moment of this episode was one of those: Blaine noting that sometimes he just gets handed things while remaining oblivious to Artie and Tina’s obviously oft-discussed annoyance at that very happenstance.
Their trio directly afterward was the musical highlight of the show as well, though I can’t say I’m sad to know that those sort of feel-good numbers ending with everyone rushing the stage are probably close to over soon.
Mega-watt smiles for everyone!
There are only so many times that trick works, and we surpassed that number, oh, about a season ago. As much as I like the bubbly, friendly New New Directions, I feel like we’re just being reminded how nice they all are at this point, which such numbers emphasize. And they are nice! I’d be best friends with every single one of them in high school. But the knock-down, drag ‘em out drama of Rachel Berry feeling like her diva’s threatened and Santana slinging her arrows lights up the screen so much more.
Which isn’t to say it was all enmity in New York this week, try as Kurt might to manufacture some of his own.
Man, I love Adam Lambert. It’s almost too much that my two biggest celebrity crushes of the past decade are now on the same show. When Criss and Lambert share the same scene, I may just explode from joy…and other things…but mostly joy. Elliot’s cheek kiss was very cute, and I love that they have a growing friendship built on mutual talent admiration and spinning around random stripper poles in a music shop.
I call this Dueling Crazy Rock Tongues.
I loved Colfer’s lower register in that number, and well, I always love Lambert’s voice. But I had to laugh at Kurt still being the bouncy, awkward, sai-twirling, bad air-guitar playing Kurt he always has been while dancing around. Kurt, never change. I’m not sure why you started a rock band, but never change.
Wait, I got distracted by Elliot’s vocal runs at the end of the song…I was making a point…and that point was that Elliot and Kurt’s friendship and Pamela Landsbury in general run the same risk that the New New Directions fell prey to, which is the pitfall of being so nice that you’re boring. Of course, I want Kurt to have friends and do well with his band, but it’s not riveting to watch. I’m waiting for a dark underbelly to get exposed. Maybe Elliot has Dani kidnapped in his closet and is forcing her to sing Demi Lovato songs every hour on the hour? Something, anything please.
But let’s take this back to Tina and Rachel, shall we? I’ll just say it. Rachel has lost the only person she was ever willing to delay her ambition for, and that was Finn. She proved it tonight in not being able to let go of her olds fears and accept Santana as her understudy. Heck, she was ready to throw Kurt under the bus when he refused to take her side. Tina, however, may be Tina the Warrior Princess now, the person most of McKinley has suspected has been invaded by an alien species for the last season and a half because she makes her ambitions known loud and clear, but she still fears she’s the shy, quiet girl who’ll never get noticed and never be treated like the star she is. Yet when her chance to get ahead was threatened, she ultimately weighed in like the old Tina always did, letting Valedictorian go for the sake of her friendship with Artie. There is nothing wrong with Rachel’s ambition, and there is nothing wrong with Tina choosing to put hers aside, but I hope both women can learn how to get past those insecurities to see that their worlds aren’t the same ones they were when Mr. Schu first put up the audition list for glee club. Mostly, I want them to know they have made so much more of themselves than the aspiring artist who was always harassed by the popular girls and the shy girl who no one ever saw unless she forced them to listen.
Next week…more Glee! Looks like “Trio” will be taking us back to a good-old Will-based storyline. I’m excited for that.
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