The Beginning: There's one week to go 'til the finale, and excitement's high in the Glee House. Aylin, in particular, can't seem to contain her adrenaline for the end of this competition. First, though, she and the other four remaining contestants will have to see their way through a challenge involving what Glee casting director Robert Ulrich calls "absolutely the most important skill" on the show: actability.
Each of the five contenders seem pretty excited to get this assignment, though Michael lets on that he's definitely worried about being outshined by Blake here—I guess all the mentors' comparisons between them really got to him. Michael gets a break, though, in the announcement of the week's homework song, Robert Palmer's '80s hit "Addicted to Love," which apparently only he has ever heard.
The Homework (featured song: "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer): Glee Project again pulls out the big guns for their guest mentors; this week, Robert takes great joy in introducing someone he (rightfully) calls one of Glee's best actors, Dianna Agron, who plays Quinn Fabray on the show. Agron's advice to the contenders is to not get so into their own head remembering lines and choreography that they miss what's going on around them; basically, acting is reacting.
Before the contenders can perform their song, Robert and Dianna have a surprise for them: they'll be challenged with "emotion flashcards," meaning that before each contestant sings their verse Dianna will hold up a card with an emotion on it that their tone, facial expressions, and body should convey. This scene gives Agron a chance to practice her Vanna White act, you know, just in case.
If you were wondering, here are the emotions each of the contestants are surprised with:
In general, it seems like all the girls kind of overact their emotions, while Michael and Blake play them just right. Dianna doesn't agree; she thinks everyone did a great job but Lily, who she wishes would actually have gone broader with her choices—not feedback that Lily has gotten a lot this season. Michael seems like a clear winner, and though Dianna waffles between him and Ali, she gives the prize to Michael, making it his first of the season.
Then it's time to announce the video song for the week, which'll be Pink's "Perfect." However, this week there's a twist: the video will be shot as a fake film's movie trailer about a high school coming-of-age story. Every contestant has a character to play in the video, and Dianna and Robert suggest working out the details of those characters ahead of time since director Erik White will be asking them to improvise scenes during the shoot. When Dianna hands out the character assignments, things get kind of real. The characters are:
-Aylin: a rebellious Muslim girl who gets pregnant by the football team's quarterback and is forced back into a conservative lifestyle by her parents.
-Blake: the quarterback, someone lots of people look up to but who's actually kind of a jerk.
-Michael: Blake's best friend, who's been comforting Aylin in troubled times.
-Ali: Michael's brother, a runner with Olympic aspirations who gets injured in an accident and loses the use of her legs.
-Lily: The girl driving the car in which Ali got injured.
This is the first time Ali's been asked to incorporate her injury into her performance in such an up-front way, and you can tell by her reaction that she recognizes the gravity of that request. Lily, too, seems to feel a lot of pressure being the one whose character injured Ali.
The Video (featured song: "Perfect" by Pink): There's no choreography to be learned this week, and the studio time we see's pretty brief. The only thing really of note is that, when recording her verse, Lily kind of breaks down in front of vocal coach Nikki Anders. She's clearly feeling the emotion of the song and the week, but Nikki hopes she'll be able to keep it in check and call on it only when it suits her character. We'll see.
At the video shoot, the kids are indeed asked to improvise the dialogue in a lot of their key scenes. Lily has a tough time with this, taking too long to get to the point of a scene and then making whatever's happening all about her (if you've ever studied improv, you'll know that you're supposed to be a "giver of gifts" and support your scene partners!). This causes Ali, her partner, to have to fight for anything to do, and it ends up making both of them look not great, although Lily really does nail the emotions she's supposed to.
Michael, Blake, and Aylin, on the other hand, all do amazingly. Erik tells Blake that he wants to see a dark side of the kid, "Darth Blake," and Blake delivers with some really frightening stuff. Michael, his scene-partner, responds in kind with a really great performance. Aylin has a sensitive moment where her character's forced to don a hijab (the traditional Muslim headscarf) and she gets pretty emotional. Her whole life has been about rebelling against this kind of conservative tradition, and it definitely seems strange to see her in the scarf now. Perhaps prophetically, Erik tells her that putting it on might be good practice for future roles. Considering that major productions tend to typecast people of different races, sexes, and religions, he may be right on the money.
Other than Lily, who struggled with both the homework assignment and video shoot this week, there doesn't seem to be any clear contenders for the bottom three. Robert even notes that at this point in the competition picking the bottom three is more about guaranteeing two people saves for the finale. Who do the mentors think are most worth saving?
Last-Chance Callbacks (featured songs: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" as made famous by Cyndi Lauper, "Son of a Preacher Man" as made famous by Dusty Springfield, "Here's to Us" by Halestorm, "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John, "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera): Actually, the mentors aren't going to save anyone. Calling it their gift to the remaining contenders, all five of the kids will have to perform for Ryan Murphy PLUS Glee's writing staff. Yikes. No one is safe, it seems, though everyone has, in theory, an equal shot of moving on to next week's show.
Michael comes up first with a slow, maudlin version of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" that completely misses the point of the song. Despite the terrible arrangement—which Michael has no say over—he does a great job singing it. The writers think he's sweet and genuine, and Robert points out that he's grown the most over the season, particularly as an actor. Will it be enough to save him?
Next comes Lily with the soul classic "Son of a Preacher Man." She really gets into acting the performance and makes some wild choices on stage. Glee co-creator Ian Brennan says that he thinks she's a complex character but her acting is just too much; he also, somehow, accurately guesses that she probably does not take criticism well.
Ali takes the stage next in her, to this point, only solo performance for Ryan. She sings "Here's to Use" by Halestorm, which really sounds like the name of a metal band, doesn't it? As usual, Ali gets very into her performance, and the judges seem impressed. Ian Brennan has odd feedback for her: "I keep picturing her as a promiscuous bitch. I think she'd be good as a bitch character."
Then comes Blake, who, as Robert tells the rest of the judges, is the show's best actor. He performs Elton John's lesser-known but great "I'm Still Standing" and really takes to the stage, even doing a bit of a George Michael dance during his number. This seems to go over well. Writer feedback is split; he could be a star, but maybe he's too perfect, not enough of an underdog. These are the same things Ryan's been saying all season.
Up last is Aylin, who commands the stage with her performance of Christina Aguilera's "Fighter." The judges love this, and everyone agrees that Aylin would be a character unlike any Glee had seen before. The panel seems split, however, on whether that trumps the natural star quality of someone like Blake.
It's going to be a tough decision for the writers; every contender has pros and cons to consider. Ryan throws a curveball into the elimination process: if someone doesn’t seem like they'd work on Glee, just get rid of them now, he says. Maybe two or three contestants need to go instead of just one. It's time to make the hard decisions.
The Elimination: Hard indeed. Did anybody at home guess the outcome of this episode? Lily was an obvious choice to go because of her struggles during the week, but Michael—arguably the week's best performer—kind of comes out of nowhere. He's really become very fun to watch over the last few weeks, and it's weird to think that he made it this far, improved so much, and now doesn't have a shot at the win. Ryan Murphy, you can be a cruel man.
The Favorites: For most of the season, Ryan has seemed somewhat biased towards Aylin, don't you think? As long as she doesn’t totally mess up next week, it seems like this contest will be hers to take. There is definitely a strong pro-Blake sentiment amongst the judges, too, but in the end Ryan will likely go with who he thinks he can write the best for, and that's gotta be Aylin… unless Blake does something insanely unexpected during the finale.
Who do you think will win?