The Beginning: This episode starts by cleaning up some of the fallout from last week, as lovebird contestants Aylin and Charlie discuss their relationship… or lack thereof. We open on them having set some "ground rules" about the future of their interactions, which include things like no kissing, no cuddling, and minimal flirting. Charlie attempts to be excited about this so-called "fresh friendship," but it's pretty clear that this is all Aylin's call. For people who've been friend zone-d, this is pretty hard to watch. By the way, hopefully most of us have never heard "I'd love to go out with you, but I have to win this reality TV show." Anyone? Anyone?
Shortly after this awkward moment, Glee casting director Robert Ulrich enters to give the kids this week's assignment, which is all about adaptability. That means they're going to have to play a little looser this week; they'll be thrown curveballs they won't be able to anticipate. Some of the contestants get excited about this, like Mario, whose very life is a testament to adaptability, and Michael, who thinks that if he can't know what's coming he won't get too into his head like last week. Other members of the group aren't so psyched, like Lily, who has a pretty serious "I like things planned" streak. Charlie has a particularly unique response to this challenge; to him, he says, adaptability means always saying yes. For anyone interested in such things, this is a good improv comedy skill. Always say "yes, and!"
The Homework (featured song: Alanis Morissette's "You OUGHT TO Know"): It's ridiculously funny that Robert calls this song "You Ought to Know," right? He heavily enunciates it and everything. "Oughta" is right in the title! Way to formal it up, guy.
Anyway, Robert kind of pooches the identity of the guest in this segment by saying that he's someone who's good at "rolling with the punches," har har—of course he's talking about Kevin McHale, who plays Glee's wheelchair-bound Artie. This leads to a pretty cool moment where Ali, a legit wheelchair user, gets super-excited; she's even the only one who laughs at one of Kevin's lame jokes. It's kind of cool that she feels a connection with him, even though he only acts like he needs the wheelchair.
But on to the homework: this week being all about adaptability, Kevin tells the contestants that instead of singing Alanis' song in a group, each will have to rock the whole song solo… something none of them, in theory, prepared for. Some of the kids are really excited about this; others, more terrified. From the montage of the performances we can see that Shanna, Nellie, and Abraham do really good jobs; Shanna doesn't even know the words but still kills it. Ali gets kinda scary-looking when she sings; this isn't too surprising, since she's been told time and again to pull back her emotions. To win the challenge, though, Kevin selects Aylin, who "performed the hell out of it."
To continue keeping the contestants on their toes, Robert won't even tell them what the music video song for this week's going to be. He says they'll find out when they show up at the recording studio, and they'll have to learn lyrics, melodies, and choreography on the fly. Yikes.
The Video (featured song: Jessie J's "Price Tag"): The next day, Glee vocal producer Nikki Anders lets the group know that they'll be singing recent Jessie J hit "Price Tag." Aylin and a few of the other contestants are excited… this is really her week… but some of our favorites, including Blake and Shanna, admit that they have no familiarity with the song at all. This might be a rocky challenge for them.
Despite their boot camp-like learning process here—listen to the song in their headphones a few times, try to repeat it—a bunch of the contestants do very well. At the top of that list is Shanna, as well as Michael, who, much like he guessed, can't over-think himself this week. Nikki even says this is Michael's best performance. Aylin, of course, nails it too. On the other end of things, Abraham has a really hard time with things like pitch, timing, and breath control. Nikki isn't so thrilled with his work.
At the video shoot, things get a little tougher; a few of the contestants have a really hard time processing the choreography so quickly. Surprisingly, among that group is Blake, who stumbles for his first time. Nellie, too, can't find a way to learn the steps and pop in a group number, though she stands out great on her own. Charlie makes the strange decision to act like his character from the video—a snobby rich kid—even when the cameras aren't on him. The person who struggles the most here is Mario; he just seems absent throughout the shooting. As usual, Mario takes director Erik White's critique poorly, saying about it "I'm really confused because I'm a really good actor. I'm so stunned on being in this position right now." That's a pretty haughty response to some honest criticism, no?
Anyway, again Aylin excels here, and the whole video actually turns out looking pretty cool.
Last-Chance Callbacks (featured songs: Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You," Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night," Elton John's "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me"): When the ten remaining contestants meet with their mentors, Aylin, Shanna, Michael, and Lily are saved right away—this is no surprise. What is surprising is that the other six contenders find out they all have to perform for Glee producer Ryan Murphy… they'll be doing duets!
Nellie and Blake come up first with an acoustic version of Foreigner's mega-corny "Waiting for a Girl Like You," the same version Puck performed in an episode of Glee (and a massive improvement on the original song). This performance is ridiculous; Nellie, especially, kills it here, and the judges seem blown away. Ryan even says of it "That wasn't a last-chance performance; that was an opera." He cautions the two contestants to go forward with just a bit more energy, but it seems like they'll be coming back.
Next up are Abraham and Ali with that troublesome Katy Perry song. Their performance is pretty weak; they rush the tempo, and Abraham in particular stumbles over some of the words. It ends up kind of feeling like bad karaoke, although Ryan's impressed by Ali, feeling a Dolly Parton vibe from her (which leads to some weird implications about where he's looking). Ryan thinks the two do a fun, charming job, but doesn't have a whole lot to say to Abraham.
Finally, Charlie and Mario take the stage with Elton John's '70s ballad, which Nikki mistakenly identifies as being co-written by George Michael… IT IS NOT. ANYWAY, they deliver a pretty touching performance, and Mario ends up sounding a LOT like the aforementioned Michael. As usual, Charlie changes the melody and words to fit his situation, and we might wonder if at this point his welcome is wearing out. He has been in the bottom three a lot.
When the six performers reconvene, Ryan dismisses Ali, Nellie, and Blake quickly—they're safe for another week. That leaves elimination between Abraham, Charlie, and Mario.
The Elimination: I really thought Charlie was going home this week, guys. He's talented, but he's just had too many rough weeks in a row, and his unpredictability is starting to grow tired, isn't it? Well, maybe not. I actually thought Mario was the least likely to go home, but that's what Ryan decides. He doesn't necessarily work well with others or take feedback especially well. This seems pretty reasonable, but I will admit that Mario's goodbye gets a little emotional. He tells the camera that he wants to be remembered as "a talented, fearless, inspirational young man," and not for his blindness. Although we've certainly piled on his mistakes before, the bottom line is he's A) more talented than most of us (and several of the remaining contenders) and B) had to deal with more hardships than most of us. That definitely counts for something, and I'll definitely miss him on the show at least a bit… he was interesting to watch.
The Favorites: Shanna. Shanna Shanna Shanna. Also, I realized this week that Nellie is the only contestant I'd actually buy a record from. I kind of hope that she just bails on this show to become a Neko Case-type performer.