We have arrived at the Final Five, at the last week of competition before the finale. I’ve gotten sort of attached to this kids! Begin all the Glee Project feelings!
Robert arrives at the dorms with the announcement of this week’s homework song, Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” released such a long time before these babies were even born, and the theme, actability. Meaning, it is getting down to the wire and so we are finally going to focus on acting because did you know you need to act to be on Glee too and maybe we should have highlighted that little fact more during this show, perhaps, maybe? To be fair, the contestants have already acted a lot in the videos they’ve made throughout the season, although a lot of that acting has just been giving the right look while singing. This is important, too, but can they say lines without singing and dancing? I hope so.
Before the performance, we are introduced to this week’s guest mentor, which is Miss Dianna Agron! Finally! She talks to the kids with that sincere, sweet-yet-sexy voice of hers that is so strangely captivating, and surprises them with a twist to their performance. As they sing, Miss Dianna Agron and Robert will flash them a card with an emotion on it, which they will have to express on the spot as they sing. Have I ever mentioned that I am really glad I’m not on the Glee Project?
They all handle their emotion assignments quite well. I think Aylin’s is the hardest to convey — anxious — and Ali’s was the most too-perfect-for-her — excited. Really? You really need Ali to act more excited?
Dianna, being Dianna, has kind and thoughtful encouragement for almost everybody, and in the end, awards Michael as the winner of the homework assignment for his amazingly intense determined face.
The song for the group video is announced: Pink’s “Perfect.” Oh, holy hell. I love this song. This song makes me weep like a baby, to be frank. Pink, your inspirational encouragement of youth to embrace themselves is the epitome of all things good in the world and I hope you live forever and ever.
The next layer to this video: it won’t be a video, exactly, but a movie trailer, to a made-up Glee Project movie. Accordingly, each contestant will be assigned a role, and they will have to improvise their lines on set. Wowzers. The plot is contrived like so: Blake is the star football player. (Shocker!) But wait — he’s also a jerkface! Aylin is a Muslim girl from a conservative family (no way!) who has secretly been sleeping with Blake. And wait — she’s pregnant! Michael is Blake’s best friend and teammate (couldn’t think of another character development for poor Michael?) — but he’s in love with Aylin! Gasp!
Ali and Lily’s storylines are weirdly separate, only barely connected by Ali being Michael’s sister. Ali was a star athlete set to go to the Olympics (timely, Glee Project) until she was in a car accident caused by Lily, resulting in Ali’s wheelchair and Lily’s never-ending guilt. This storyline seems over the top womp-womp, and I wish they didn’t have to choose one that so blatantly focused on the wheelchair, on Ali being a victim, and I can tell she feels slightly uncomfortable with it, or at the least disappointed.
Regardless, onto the shoot we go. The first attempt at improv between Ali and Lily goes Awkward Supreme. Erik explains the final lines he wants them to get to, which is basically Lily saying, “I ruined it all — you were perfect!” and Ali saying, “I still am perfect.” Okay, I do like that, but still, not in love with this whole thing. They can find their way to these ending lines however they want. They decide to start out with a super thrilling, “Hey, how are you?” “Uh, I’m okay. How are you?,” exchange, which is pretty much exactly what I would do if I had no idea what I was supposed to say, but again, it’s a good thing I’m not on this show, and it’s pretty awful.
On the second go-round, Lily gets to a super emotional place really fast, busting out the intense tears. Lily had already been emotional just previously in the sound booth when she recorded her vocals, breaking down at the end of her lines. I think the song hits a little too close to home for her, even though she says to Nikki, again, that when she looks in the mirror what she sees is beautiful. I think what Lily is basically saying here is this: Look, I really am happy with myself, but sometimes being the big girl still isn’t easy. Lily, this song makes me super emotional too! I feel you!
Still, Lily’s sobs crowd out any opportunity for Ali to get in some good acting, too, since her sorrow quickly overshadows Ali’s story. This is only natural in this storyline, though: the guilt always looms larger.
Moving on to Blake and Aylin, the first scene we see them improv is fantastic. Blake is being super angry, testosterone fueled boy who has just found out Aylin is cheating on him with Michael. I know I’ve complained about Blake and his undefeatable charm before, but angry Blake is hilarious! He is just SO ANGRY! I mean, his actual character isn’t funny, it’s really upsetting, but in terms of actability, I can’t deny it anymore; Blake’s got it.
Know who else has got it too, though? Michael. In the next scene with Blake when they’re fighting it out over Aylin, they are BOTH so angry, and Michael delivers some lines that are rather cliche — ”I never want to be like you!” — but also perfect for this cliche scene, and delivered with the perfect amount of frustration and rage. And then they push each other into a bunch of haystacks like a bunch of testosterone-fueled dudes do.
And then this really intense thing happens. We’re suddenly in the dressing room, and we see a traditional Muslim hijab being placed on Aylin. Aylin’s face is full of hesitation and conflict and distress until she starts to cry when it’s fully on her face. She explains to the camera that she has been fighting against this stereotype of how Muslim girls are supposed to look her whole life, and to have to wear this brought out all the feelings.
Now, I have no idea what it’s like to be Muslim, and I don’t know what Aylin was feeling — if she was feeling oppressed, or guilty, or sad. All I know is that she was feeling a lot, and it made me feel a lot, and it was one of the most intense, and interesting, moments on this show. I also must say that I thought Erik dealt with it extremely well, assuring Aylin at the shoot that sometimes as an actress, people will want her to play this role, this role of the Muslim girl in the hijab — even when that role is not who she is, even if it doesn’t feel right. It was the most sensitive and empathetic I’ve seen Erik be with the contestants, although I think Erik generally handles them really well on a regular basis. Dude knows what he’s doing.
When we see the cut of the actual video, it starts with a sort of awkward what-up-bro scene with Michael and Blake laying side by side in their whiteness discussing the end of the school year.
There’s also an added scene of Ali looking at an Olympic gold medal wistfully and then chucking it into a pond. What? Why would you do that? Shouldn’t we also discuss that differently abled people can still go to the Olympics?! Get that gold medal back, girl!
Still, even though the video is somewhat cheesy, it makes me cry a little. Listen, this song, man!
But if I wasn’t already crying a little, the tears would’ve come anyway at the next section, when we’ve arrived at the stage for the feedback from the mentors, and each one — Robert, Zach, and Nikki — give a tearful, heartfelt speech to the contestants about how much they’ve grown and how much they’ve enjoyed getting to know them throughout the show. I wasn’t surprised to see this from Robert and Zach, but Nikki! Pregnant Nikki says this really touching thing about how each one of them has qualities that she would love to see in her own children! Stop it! Nikki is crying! OMG, feels.
Honestly, though, the amount that the mentors on this show care about these contestants is the absolute best thing about it.
After this weepy kumbaya moment, Robert then announces that there will be no bottom three this week, that all five of them will perform in front of Ryan and the full Glee writing crew who will be there this week. This is nice, in a way, and fair, because it gives each contestant a chance to show the writers who they are and what they’ve got. At the same time, it makes the whole previous 40 minutes kind of pointless. But, ah well.
On to performance time, where we have a variety of good tunes going on—some Dusty Springfield, some Christina Aguilera, some Elton John. Also, a really remarkable, gender-bending performance of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The only song I didn’t know was Ali’s assignment, which she didn’t know either. After hearing her sing it, I still have no idea. But the important part: I think all the singers did really, really well. It just comes down to The Murphy and the writers now.
The Glee writers did seem really positive and excited about almost everyone, but their debate came down to the essential question of the show: do they just choose “a talent,” or do they choose someone who’s different, someone who’s never been on the show before?
Which, not surprisingly, seems to come down to the Muslim thing again. The first thing that’s said about Aylin by the writers after she rocks out to Christina Aguilera is: “Well, the American public IS very interested in Muslims.” This made me want to slam my face into my desk a little, mainly because it uses the words “Americans” and “Muslims” as if they are two different entities. And saying it that way makes it seem like Muslims are just a marketable force, something marked as “different,” as opposed to people. I do understand the sentiment, and I do think it’s a good thing that non-Muslim Americans want to learn more about Muslim Americans. If there are now more people who are like this, as opposed to people condemning all Muslims as terrorists, then this a good thing. I guess I’m just a little tired of them projecting her Muslimness all over the place for her. As her emotion over her headscarf showed, she doesn’t want to just be seen as a Muslim girl; she wants to be seen as Aylin. They can discuss how great it would be to have a Muslim on the show if they ever discussed other aspects of her personality, as well, but they don’t. Not one of the writers said, “And she can sing so well, too,” or, “And it seems like she’s a really great actor.” I just want to hear something about her talent, but we never hear it.
Ryan tries to instill some tough love and suggests that maybe they should eliminate more than one person this week, that maybe the finale should just be for people they are really, truly considering writing a 7-show arc for. Yet I really don’t know who they’re going to choose, and as the contestants sit anxiously in the backroom, I begin to feel that they’ll do the thing that so often happens on reality TV shows these days—tell them that they can all come back.
Even as they all walk up to the call back sheet, and as each of their faces seem slightly surprised, I am sure this is what’s happening.
Which is why I was so shocked when there in fact was a name on the call back sheet. And not just one name, but two.
It’s time for both Michael and Lily and to pack their bags.
In the end, I do believe that Blake, Ali, and Aylin were the strongest three to have in the end. When I look at them, it makes sense. But I’m still sad about all the talent that’s had to leave before them.
So next week is it, the end of the road. What do you think will happen?