Glee Project Episode 9: "Romanticality" Recap
The Beginning: And then there were six. Things seem a lot more close-knit in the Glee House these days because, well, there aren't many people left living in it. Blake, noticing that the competition's almost over and there's an even number of competitors left, guesses that the theme of the week will be "pairability," and he's basically right—Glee casting director Robert Ulrich lets the kids know that this week they'll have to work on their romanticality, which gets them pretty excited. The next bit of news he drops doesn't do much for most of the kids: for their homework assignment, the remaining contenders will be performing Extreme's hit power ballad "More Than Words." Even better, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt will be providing live guitar accompaniment for the performance. This might have made some old people's nights.
When the kids get down to working out the choreography of the song, Aylin decides it's best to pair up and do little vignettes for each couple. They do this with a weird "look at the person you want to partner with" system, which seems full of errors. In the end, Lily ends up with Aylin—Lily's bummed neither Blake nor Michael looked at her—Shanna gets together with Michael, and Blake partners with Ali. Shanna's a little nervous about her buddy, since he tends to get negative feedback on the homework assignment. Meanwhile, in secret, Aylin and Lily plan to kiss during their number, so apparently they're getting along better now than they were last week. Did anyone else wonder what Charlie would think about this?
The Homework (featured song: "More Than Words" by Extreme): The kids arrive in the choir room to find Robert and Nuno waiting for them. Nuno looks old, out-of-place, and maybe a little creepy, but the dude can play guitar. (Side note: the episode doesn't mention that Nuno currently works as Rihanna's lead touring guitarist, which is weird given the song that comes up later on.) Robert says that "More Than Words" is one of his favorite songs and actually admits that he lost his virginity to it. Nice image! Ack!
As obviously awesome as Nuno Bettencourt's presence is, the contestants are a little more excited about their special Glee guest judge for the week, Darren Criss, who plays Blaine on the show. Aylin and Lily are especially into it; they definitely seem to be crushing on the guy, which is understandable. Criss has some nice advice about romance to offer the contestants, saying that to be romantic essentially means being vulnerable. If the kids want to excel this week, they'll need to produce a real, sincere, and unique connection with their partners, even though it's faked for cameras.
The actual song performance is pretty great, with some amazing harmonies from all involved. Aylin especially works magic during her verses. Shanna and Michael's vignette seems the least eventful, while Blake and Ali's is playful and cute, and Lily and Aylin's is super serious. At the end of the song, Shanna and Michael kind of kiss, but Aylin and Lily just go for it.
Darren notices basically the same things we did about the performance, calling out Shanna and Michael for being a little robotic and Lily and Aylin for being a little melodramatic. He likes how relaxed yet earnest Blake and Ali appear, and he gives the homework win to Blake, making it his first.
Robert then announces the music video song for the week, Rihanna's "We Found Love," which gets everyone pretty pumped. Again the kids will be pairing off for the video, and since Blake won the assignment he gets to choose his partner. He picks Ali, saying that he "wants to keep exploring with her" because "it feels right." The show does not stop to consider the awkwardness of these words, but we can for just a second.
Okay, anyway. After Blake makes his choice for romantic partner, Darren and Robert break up the homework assignment couples by putting Michael with Lily and Aylin with Shanna. In a talking-head interview, Lily confesses that she'd much rather be with Blake, who she has a crush on; she thinks there's chemistry between them, whereas her and Michael are just friends. That's two guys on this show who we've seen friend-zoned.
The Video (featured song: "We Found Love" by Rihanna): Because Zach's busy with Glee this week, choreography duties for the episode fall on Brooke. It doesn't seem like there's much to do, though—the kids each have a few steps to learn, but mostly they've just got to get comfortable with each other, something it seems Michael and Lily may not be able to pull off. Shanna, on the other hand, is determined to get as comfortable with Aylin as possible; she swears that Blake and Ali will not remain this week's "it couple" much longer.
We spend a little more time in the vocal studio, where Nikki Anders lets us know that things are going to be a little harder this week—because so much of the assignment relies on duets, the contestants are going to have to go into hardcore harmonizing mode, something some of them haven't had to do much of yet. This ends up causing trouble for the two most steady contestants so far, Shanna and Blake, both of whom have a really tough time hitting their notes. Blake in particular takes a lot longer than normal to knock out his part; something about finding harmony just seems to escape him (for those of you who haven't done much singing, it is pretty darn hard). On the other hand, Nikki's ready for another Michael meltdown, but she doesn't get it. Instead, he nails his part quickly, as do Ali and Lily, the latter of whom is, according to Nikki, becoming the best studio singer of the bunch.
Michael surprises the mentors again at the actual video shoot; despite earlier misgivings, he and Lily seem to be doing really well together. The two have managed to meet in the middle with their energies, feeding into each other nicely. Blake and Ali do really well, too, while Aylin and Shanna have a tough time with their scenes. It seems they've rehearsed too much, and now there's no playfulness or believability to their romance; they're just kind of going through the motions. Really, this has not been Shanna's week.
Last-Chance Callbacks (featured songs: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as made famous by Roberta Flack, "Losing My Religion" by REM, "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson): Glee Project basically took place in Bizarro World this week. Lily and Ali are called back right away for their strong performances. Robert particularly praises Lily for her video performance, noting that this is the first time we've really seen her behave sweetly. That leaves Michael, Aylin, Blake, and Shanna to sweat it out in the bottom. If you're keeping track at home, this is basically the show's top three performers plus Michael. Even more surprising—though also kind of obvious if you paid attention this week—Michael gets the third callback slot. That means one of our top three picks to win this competition will be going home. Unreal.
To fight for her spot on the show, Aylin takes the stage first to perform the soulful standard "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." She delivers a nice, sensitive reading of the powerful song, though she does forget a few lines, something that does not escape the notice of Glee producer Ryan Murphy. Blake's up next with a very straightforward reading of REM's "Losing My Religion" that takes a lot of cues from Cory Monteith's version on the parent show. Interestingly, before Blake comes out, Ryan mentions how he wishes Blake would show a little nervousness; of course, Blake's basically shaking when he takes the stage. Shanna performs last, and this is the first time she's ever had to come in front of Ryan. She belts an intense, throaty performance of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" that the mentors really seem to love; she essentially owns the stage, in fact. Ryan thinks Shanna's weak spot is just that she's not bold enough, which is kind of strange criticism—he just doesn't see what he can write to in her character. Interestingly, all the questions Ryan has for the competitors at this stage are focused on Glee—what kind of character would you be, how would you handle the pressure, etc? It makes sense, and it also indicates that this show's goal line is in sight.
Before we find out who's going home this week, a quick cut back to the Glee House shows Blake telling the other contestants that they're all the best friends he's had in a really long time. It's a sweet moment, and it makes you not want Blake to go home, even though his performance was probably the least interesting of the three.
The Elimination: But, indeed, Blake is safe for at least one more week—in a totally shocking turn, Shanna gets sent home the first time she ever goes in front of Ryan. This seems really harsh, and you've got to wonder if partially it's because her ability to coast through the show until this point made her kind of uninteresting to Ryan. Maybe you've got to fail a couple times to really show your character. Unfortunately, that's not a chance Shanna will get here.
The Favorites: This episode made me totally reassess my standings going into the final two weeks. Given the feedback the contestants got from Ryan and co. tonight, not to mention their general performance, I really think Aylin's in the top spot to take it at this point. I'm going to put Ali at number two, since she's been on a hot streak for weeks. Lily slides in at third, although I still can't see her managing to take criticism well. I'd put Michael fourth and Blake dead last. It kind of seems like Blake might have shown us everything he's got at this point, which is exactly what Ryan does not want to be the case.