The Beginning: Since The Glee Project has been deprived of its Aylin/Charlie romance, it's time to kindle a new fire: the Michael/Blake bromance! A scene at the start of this episode shows that these guys have really bonded and, much like Aylin and Charlie, wonder how easy it will be to compete when they actually enjoy each other's company. Michael even goes so far as to call Blake his best friend in an interview. Odds this show comes down to a Gladiator-style fight between Michael and Blake? Pretty low, but still…!
Glee casting director Robert Ulrich asks the group how things are without Charlie. "Quiet!" Ali emphatically replies. Aylin agrees a little less excitedly. We can see she misses the guy, though she says she's more determined to win than ever. Now there are no stupid boys or feelings to get in her way.
When Robert does reveal the week's theme, the kids get pretty psyched to find out it's theatricality. Lily, in particular, is pumped. Robert gives the direction that in the television world "theatricality" means to be real, but heightened. One gets the feeling some of the contestants will have an easier time with this than others.
Robert hands out the week's homework assignment, the song "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line, a musical that Robert thinks has quite a bit in common with The Glee Project. Lily pretty quickly takes control of the choreography, which Aylin seems annoyed with.
The Homework (featured song: "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line): The special guest judge for the week is one of Glee's newest additions, Grant Gustin, who plays the Warbler Sebastian. Robert explains that Glee pulled him from a touring Broadway show, so he knows what he's talking about with this challenge. He offers advice to the contestants on what he thinks it means to be theatrical: "It's about living at a heightened emotion. Song and dance is all you can do to express how you feel." This is probably the very thing that turns people off of musicals, but hey, go with your strengths.
When the performance begins, we can see that Lily's choreography paid off; the whole thing is really intricate and looks pretty cool. It's a good deal different from their usual homework numbers, which tend to be pop songs; this one's a lot more emotive and personal and is driven only by a piano.
When it comes time for Gustin to give the performers feedback, a lot of it's the same old song and dance (HAAAA!). Michael and Nellie need to be more confident, he says, while Ali and Lily get complimented for throwing themselves into the song. In the end, Ali wins the homework assignment for the first time, and Lily looks really bummed. Lily also, by the way, talks a little trash about Nellie in a talking head, telling the camera that Nellie just doesn't look like she wants the job. That's kind of snarky coming from a fellow contestant. It looks like Mean Girl Lily is starting to reappear.
When Robert mentions the music video song for this week, he adds a little twist to the concept: all the contestants will be dressed like iconic rock stars. This was a super fun addition to the episode. Let's run down who dressed like who:
Michael – Elvis
Aylin – Madonna
Abraham – David Bowie
Blake – Boy George
Lily – Cindi Lauper
Ali – Katy Perry
Shanna – Lady Gaga
Nellie – Britney Spears
When Shanna hears that she'll be Gaga, a talking head interview indicates that all she can think of wearing is the meat dress. This can't really be what the show has in store for her, right? Meanwhile, Nellie seems taken aback by her casting, feeling that the choice is too bold. Given that Nellie's criticism has mostly been "Hey, get into it more," that's probably not the best response for her to have. Lily, too, is unsure of her persona; though she says that she's a big fan of Cyndi Lauper, she doesn't find the '80s singer to be as iconic a character as the others.
The Video (featured song: "When I Grow Up" by the Pussycat Dolls): Up first is choreography, and Zach Woodlee's still annoyed about the events of a couple weeks ago. "Don't embarrass me this time!" he yells as the kids enter the dance studio. Message received.
In the recording studios, Michael has trouble for the umpteenth week in a row. This time he appears to have shot so far below overthinking his lines that he underthought them; when he steps up to the mic, he's not sure how to deliver his words. Oops. Abraham also has a tough time in the studio; he's disarmed by vocal coach Nikki Anders' question as to whether he thinks of himself as androgynous when he sings. To be fair, even though he's playing David Bowie this week, that's a weird question, and the fact that Nikki acts very indignant when he can't answer is strange. Though Abraham's sexuality hasn't been an overt topic of discussion for the show, it doesn't seem like something he's completely comfortable with and/or willing to talk about. The show's producers may have been trying to force that issue to the surface by getting him to embody Bowie, but it may not have been that cool to expect him to process everything point-blank in the recording studio. Whatever happened in that moment, it threw off his vocals and made Nikki kinda bummed about his performance.
At the video shoot itself, we learn that in her Gaga guise Shanna actually IS wearing a 20-pound dress made of actual meat. This seems unbelievable but is totally cool. Also, did anyone else think that Blake's Boy George get-up looked a little bit like Jack Sparrow?
Speaking of Boy George, Blake gets compliments on his portrayal of the ambiguous '80s icon from Robert. A talking head interview reveals that Blake didn't want to play Boy George in a stereotypically gay way, since his brother's gay and he felt it would be disrespectful. His more nuanced approach definitely wins him points with the show's mentors. Meanwhile, riding high off her homework win, Ali is confident as Katy Perry, and Michael recovers nicely from his studio mishap as Mr. Presley. Aylin's Madonna costume includes her famous cone bra, which she uses in the video to pop open two cans of juice or something. Nice.
On the negative side, Nellie has a tough time getting into her Britney character; again director Erik White requires a lot of takes to get usable material out of her. Lily also gets critiqued for not really acting in character—Robert and Zach think that she's just being her normal self—which may not work out too well for her when it comes time to pick the bottom three.
In the department of things that are just gross, Shanna tells us that after a few hours her dress started to rot and smell really bad. The price of fashion, she is high.
Last-Chance Callbacks (featured songs: "I'm the Only One" by Melissa Etheridge, "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes/Adam Levine, "Someone Like You" by Adele): The week's top performers are pretty clear and get dismissed by the mentors quickly. Ali's the first to get a callback, and Shanna, Blake, and Aylin are close behind. That leaves Nellie, Michael, Abraham, and Lily to face the mentors' wrath, for reasons we've already discussed. Ultimately, and perhaps surprisingly, Michael's saved for next week, meaning that Nellie, Abraham, and the just-on-a-hot-streak Lily will have to perform for Ryan Murphy. Throughout this whole sequence—or maybe even the whole show—Nellie just looks so defeated. It really does seem like she can't feel good about herself.
Nellie's performance is up first, and she does a nice job singing Melissa Etheridge's '90s barn-burner "I'm the Only One," but then, she ALWAYS does well in the last-chance performances. How many weeks in a row can this cycle repeat? It also probably doesn't help her cause that she can't answer Ryan's questions about her choices that week and her place in the show by saying anything other than "I don't know."
Abraham's up next with a solid run-through of the current Gym Class Heroes/Adam Levine team-up; his voice really fits the Levine stuff well. Unfortunately, Abraham doesn't take his stage presence very seriously until Ryan tells him to drop the diva act and be real. Again the issue of his androgyny comes up; Ryan really wants him to embrace it and says that's his favorite thing about him. Again, it seems weird that the mentors really want to force a conversation about this; maybe they don't think Abraham will be ready for Glee until he can embrace this part of himself.
Finally, Lily takes the stage to emote her heart out for Adele's "Someone Like You." She does the song justice, even nailing the impossibly high notes her second run through the chorus. Ryan calls the performance fascinating but gets upset when Lily blames her poor performance that week on conflicting instructions from the mentors. He pointedly tells her that her excuses aren't interesting, which causes her to have a mini-breakdown. Ryan doesn't seem pleased; will Lily survive to next week?
The Elimination: Yes, she will. In a move that probably doesn't surprise anyone, Nellie goes home. Ryan says blankly that the only people who should stay at this point are people who could really win the competition, and it just doesn't seem like Glee is the right venue for Nellie's considerable talent. What she should do is record an album, tour small venues, and become a hit singer/songwriter. I'd pay to see that.
The Favorites: I know Ali's had a strong couple of weeks, but I'm not ready to put her at the top yet. I'm still imagining the final two as a showdown between Blake and Shanna, with Aylin coming in third.