Stars: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz
Writer: Ian Brennan
Director:  Brad Falchuk
Network: Fox, airs Tuesday nights
Original Telecast: February 6, 2011

It’s the post-Super Bowl timeslot and GLEE certainly had big shoes to fill. On paper, it seemed like the perfect fit for the Super Bowl – a show that can celebrate the sport, not to mention cheerleaders and do it in an utterly entertaining way.

Yet, is the Super Bowl too big for GLEE?

It would seem like GLEE has bitten off too much this time out. This is an uber-ambitious episode filled with so many disparate elements, it gets confusing at times. Plus, the show throws in some pretty ridiculous subplots and it leads you to believe that everyone at McKinley High School is capable of belting out a tune and the ability to dance like there’s no tomorrow.

“The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle” deals with the big football game – and whether McKinley’s students can come together and win it. There’s half the team that’s joined the Glee club, the other half think it’s silly and for sissies (well, harsher words are used).

The cheerleaders in GLEE - Season 2 - "The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle" | ©2011 Fox

The cheerleaders in GLEE - Season 2 - "The Sue Sylvester Bowl Shuffle" | ©2011 Fox

That’s when Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) hatch a plan for unity – if the football team wants to play the big game, they all have to take part in the football game’s halftime show put on by the Glee club which will feature a mash-up between Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll.”

This doesn’t sit too well, and causes even more friction. When the football team gets slushied by the hockey team, well, the super machismo guys decide not to play. That’s when the Glee club girls decide to join the football team (yeah, I know, kinda stupid).

Meanwhile, the Cheerioes, spearheaded by Sue (Jane Lynch) are on their way to win their latest Nationals, but Sue decides to get revenge on the Glee Club by scheduling the Nationals on the night of the big football game (that means the Cheerio girls have to choose between Glee club and cheerleading).

It’s all rather chaotic storytelling, but the heart of it though is Finn (Cory Monteith) finally taking charge and being a leader and Quinn (Diana Agron) realizing how much she misses him (now this is the subplot and relationship we’ve been waiting for).

There’s some cool detours along the way. Sue wants to shoot Brittany (Heather Morris) out of a canon, so her fear of dying becomes a running gag throughout the episode. There’s also a brief mention that Sue directed a made-for-TV movie called the DALLAS COWBOY CHEERLEADERS that continues to expand the myth and enigma that is Sue Sylvester.

The musical numbers are strong too. Rachel (Lea Michele) and Puck (Mark Salling) sing an amazingly strong pop rendition of the Lady Antebellum country song “Need You Now.”

The Warblers at Dalton Academy do a Destiny Child number “Bills, Bills, Bills” in preparation for Nationals. The number is strong, but the throwaway scene afterwards with Curt (Chris Colfer), Rachel, Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Blaine (Darren Criss) seems to exist only to remind people that Curt is still part of the show.

The entire football team, practicing to be zombies also sing and dance (in full zombie make-up) to “She’s Not There” originally sung by a group called the Zombies. Clever!

And then there’s the mash-up between “Thriller” and “Off with Your Heads” which is inspired. It’s hard to go toe-to-toe with Michael Jackson. It’s the holy grail you don’t touch, but they found a way to do it in an incredibly clever way. The zombie half-time number is a solid.

Katie Couric has a cameo too, in a nice coda to what feels like a longer-than-usual episode

Like many of the uneven episodes of GLEE, there’s some good moments, great moments and outright baffling ones. Seeing Sue fail miserably for a change is one of the high points of the episode, and once again, Agron is a standout in her moments both with Sue and Finn. She’s such an underrated actress, and she oftentimes is the dramatic center to the series.

Now the major complaint and this one is addressed to the producers – I understand the need to let major publications know what’s coming up on the show, but at a certain point, all the surprises on the show are literally drained by the time they air because of all the information that’s revealed beforehand. We know the songs, we know the guest stars, we know the major plot points. There are literally no surprises and it makes it inevitably harder to enjoy an episode. Knowing “Thriller” was going to show up on this episode, because nothing can ever live up to the hype.

I know you can’t keep everything secret, but a little tact would go along way.

Did GLEE succeed in keeping Super Bowl fans glued to the screens? I think the early moments where the Cheerios are practicing a routine to the tune of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” probably had all eyes glued. Not sure about the rest of the episode (there was definite button pushing going on), but it was certainly a subversive try. And after two months of waiting for a new episode, this was certainly a breath of fresh air.



CLICK HERE for more of ASSIGNMENT X’s GLEE reviews and interviews

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