'Glee' Season 3, Episode 9 Recap & Song List: 'Extraordinary Merry Christmas'

'Glee' Season 3, Episode 9 Recap & Song List: 'Extraordinary Merry Christmas' Just when you think this show is starting to slip back into the dreaded season two slump, it picks up and does something thoroughly enjoyable. Like, for example, launch into a 1950's-style Christmas special halfway through an episode.

"Extraordinary Merry Christmas" marked the directorial debut of Matthew Morrison (that's Mr. Schue) on the show, so perhaps he deserves some credit for breathing a bit of life into the program. On the other hand, the episode was something of a two-headed beast: half of it was phenomenal, and the other half was right around season 2 levels. Yep. I'm sayin' it.

It all starts with everyone singing (for no reason) in the choir room, then follows up with a little reminder that Rachel is a horrible, horrible person. See, Rachel is getting her NYADA results back soon, and she wants Finn to buy her something expensive and sparkly, so she gives him a Christmas list.

You simply can't have a character act like this much of an asshole time and time again and have her "learn a lesson" at the end of the episode to win us back. It's quite clear that Rachel never learns anything at any time. Which makes her less of a person and more of a singing robot.

That is followed by the cardinal sin of "Glee" numbers: Rory gets up in front of the group and says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I'm sad, I'm going to dedicate this song to my parents, who aren't here." Then he makes everyone listen to his song and make the accompanists play with him, because nobody has anything better to do. And here's the kicker: it's not even one of Mr. Schue's stupid assignments this time, because MR. SCHUE ISN'T EVEN IN THE ROOM.

He comes in a moment after the song ends, as if to say "hey, I know I'm supposed to be supervising this extracurricular group since that's my job and everything, but I was busy picking out just the right scarf to take off to indicate that I was out doing something."

In fact, Schuester was setting up a Christmas special for some local somebody who wants a Christmas special. Artie is directing, and he has a "vision" to combine the aesthetics of the "Star Wars" Christmas special (Chewbacca makes a brief appearance here) with the Judy Garland Christmas special, because apparently everything on this show has to be a mash-up.

Then somebody realized that this episode has no conflict, because Sue charges in and says "hey everyone, come sing at this charity drive for the homeless, and also my character is entirely inconsistent," and then Sam gets in a fight with everyone over absolutely nothing.

I know I promised "thoroughly enjoyable," and so far it sounds like I'm just angry about everything. That's because I am. Here's where the enjoyable part starts.

Without much pomp or circumstance, we launch right into Artie's completed Christmas special, which is filmed in black and white with a 1950's vibe, complete with laugh track. Perhaps it's because it starts with a terrific duet between Kurt and Blaine along with jokes about their relationship that fit in with the time period, or perhaps it's just that this is an entirely fresh take for the show, but this sequence is new, fun, tongue-in-cheek and a whole lot of fun.

Darren Criss, as Blaine, even throws to commercial with a cheery "after these friendly messages from our sponsors." You can't beat that.

It's interesting that, in a week when "Community" took aim at this show, it almost seemed to take a cue from "Community" in breaking format to give a direct homage to a piece of TV history. It worked, too... and even the jokes were better, with a renewed sense of irony (I particularly liked the bit about climate change). And I think Kurt said "yingle bells," which made me laugh.

Sadly, this lovely sequence is over seemingly as soon as it started, and we're back in "reality" again. It is at this point that the two weak conflicts set up earlier are resolved with ease: the kids show up to the soup kitchen in time to make Sue happy that they're there (does Sue have any convictions about anything anymore?) and Sam no longer seems upset about anything, possibly because he forgot what he was upset about in the first place. I certainly did.

Oh, and Rachel learns her lesson, right before Finn manages to give her a star that he named after himself. Long story. Also they sold their gifts and put all of their money into the Salvation Army bucket. So, it looks like Rachel learned her lesson and won't be a selfish, obnoxious person anymore! Until next episode, that is.

This week's musical numbers:

"All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey - Mercedes

"Blue Christmas" - Elvis Presley - Rory

"River" - Joni Mitchell - Rachel

"Extraordinary Merry Christmas" - Glee Original - Rachel and Blaine

"Let It Snow" - Kurt and Blaine

"My Favorite Things" - The Sound of Music - Rachel, Mercedes, Kurt and Blaine

"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - Bruce Springsteen - Puck and Finn

"Christmas Wrapping" - The Waitresses - Brittany

"Do They Know It's Christmas" - Band Aid - New Directions