'Glee' Season 4, Episode 1 Recap & Song List - 'The New Rachel'

'Glee' Season 4, Episode 1 Recap & Song List - 'The New Rachel' "Glee" is back, y'all! I think Mr. Schuester said it best when he burst into the room and said "GLEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"

With the seniors graduated and spread out across the country, the big question for this season was this: what will change? The answer, many of you Gleeks will be happy to know, is "not much." Oh, but Schuester and Sam both got haircuts, so there's that.

What we ended up with was a simple division of time between Rachel in New York and the kids in Lima, Ohio. Noticeably absent were Puck, Quinn, Mike, Mercedes and Santana, but don't worry: they'll show up sooner or later.

The New York Side

Also missing was Finn, save for a few pictures on Rachel's gaudily encased iPhone. You see, Rachel is having a tough time in New York, what with missing Finn and having a promiscuous (and loud) roommate. It doesn't help that her dance teacher, Cassandra July (played by Kate Hudson) is a nightmare hell bent on making Rachel's life a living hell.

A note of Cassandra: Ryan Murphy seems to love these horribly mean, politically incorrect characters. It was great with Sue, mostly because Jane Lynch is a genius. Same goes for Jessica Lange's Constance on "American Horror Story." Ellen Barkin plays Sue 2.0 on Murphy's new show, "The New Normal," but her intolerance is jacked up so high that it's just not funny anymore.

Now, with Cassandra, the joke is old. And it doesn't help that she's a completely unoriginal concept: the mean dance teacher who couldn't cut it on Broadway and is now cynical and awful to the kids. The only way she could be more cliché is if she had a drinking problem. Oh wait: she does.

Nonetheless, Hudson has talent makes the scenes a bit more bearable. She has a lot going against her, too: the fact that she calls a student "muffin top" and tells her to eat rice cakes and epicac from now on makes her both unlikeable and unrealistic.

So, Rachel is sad and starting to think that maybe she isn't the greatest thing ever. She's turned around on that one (sadly, as she could use the humility) by Brody, a hunky fellow Musical Theater student who helps mentor her through life at NYADA after a bonding moment in the co-ed bathroom. How many times have we seen people singing in showers now on this show?

Luckily for Finchel fans, Rachel is staying true to Finn. Unluckily, her resolve wavers with each brilliantly charming gaze from Brody.

Rachel finally has a shining moment in front of Carmen (returning guest star Whoopi Goldberg) as she sings "New York State of Mind" in the "Round Room," a pretty acoustical set in which the freshmen perform. Later, Rachel's spunk impresses Cassandra a bit, but only enough to make her drive Rachel harder.

Just when Rachel starts to fall apart, she gets a call from Kurt, who has shown up to live and work in New York while he prepares to re-apply for NYADA. Roomies? Definitely Roomies.

The Ohio Side

On that note, before I forget: both Blaine and Burt pushed Kurt to move to New York. Blaine gave a pretty neat performance of an Imagine Dragons song, which was cool, but my god, the scene with Burt was great. ALWAYS MORE BURT FOREVER. Mike O'Malley is the best actor on this show. I can say that with certainty.

Anyway, here's the update on McKinley: Sue has had her baby, and named it Robin, after her favorite dead Bee Gee. She has a new bitchy cheerleader named Kitty, who is the new Quinn (old-school Quinn, the mean one, not the been-pregnant-and-also-temporarily-crippled one). Becky was noticeably absent... did she graduate? Was she a senior? I remember she went to prom...

Tina has broken up with Mike because of the long distance. Kurt works at the coffee shop before Blaine convinces him to go to NYC. Wade has transferred schools and is now a member of New Directions.

The title of this episode applies to both locations: in one, we see Rachel becoming a new version of herself. In this one, the returning Glee club members wonder: which one of them is the new Rachel? Who will be the star: Blaine, Brittany, Wade or Tina?

Artie is nominated to judge a "Thunderdome style" competition, in which the kids sing "what Rachel would sing if she were here, the song of summer, 'Call Me Maybe.'" WRONG. Rachel would have sang a Streisand song. Tina is automatically disqualified for making the suggestion, per my own rules that I just made up.

Artie eventually decides that Blaine is the new Rachel, which was kind of inevitable, wasn't it?

Here's the thing, though: New Directions has auditions, and a new girl joins the ranks. Marley is a quiet sophomore with stars in her eyes and a mother who is a very fat lunch lady. When she overhears the popular kids, who now include the New Directions members, making fun of her mom, she wonders if the club is really for her.

Of course the kids apologize in the end and realizing that they were, once again, being total dicks and not letting someone new into the group. That seems to happen a lot with these guys, despite the message of acceptance being constantly hammered into their heads.

Anyway, Marley might be the new Rachel. Just sayin'. The other new edition is Jake, who turns out to be Jake Puckerman, Puck's half brother. Jake has some anger issues, as shown by his small tantrum when Schue cuts his audition short. He's good enough to be in the club, though, so Schue lets him in, remembering the wonders that Glee did for Puck and his attitude. Jake turns down the offer, but will undoubtedly change his mind soon.

All that hubbub about auditions, and only two new members? Is everyone else at the school really that bad? I mean, Sugar is still in New Directions, so shouldn't everyone else get a chance? Guess they're not rich enough (or as good at one-liners).

So it looks like we'll be dividing our time more or less evenly between Ohio and New York. I actually think this is good for the show: it forces economy of storylines, and there's less opportunity for filler. This was a pretty clean episode that stayed on theme and still managed to fit in six musical numbers, and only two of them totally forced. Is "Glee" back?

Lines of the Night:

"Ohio is like a giant turd that Michigan just can't pinch off."  -Cassandra

"It's hard making out over Skype. You can't really scissor through a webcam." -Brittany

This Week's Song List:

"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen - Blaine, Tina, Wade and Brittany

"Dance Again"/"Americano" - Jennifer Lopez/Lady Gaga - Cassandra

"Never Say Never" - The Fray - Jake

"New York State of Mind" - Billy Joel - Rachel and Marley

"It's Time" - Imagine Dragons - Blaine

"Chasing Pavements" - Adele - Marley and New Directions

 
 
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