“Glee” recap (6.12): Once Upon a Time in Lima, Ohio (Part 1)

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The first part of the Glee finally brings us right back to where it all began: 2009. The episode gives us a little insight as to what happened in the moments we weren’t privy to in the pilot. When a plucky Spanish teacher named Will Schuester took over a flailing glee club, and a young sophomore named Kurt Hummel was tormented in the halls. (It’s so weird to see Chris Colfer dressed as himself six years ago, especially since he’s changed so much.)

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Kurt is pretty desperate and lonely, enough so that he stops by Emma Pillsbury’s office and nearly takes a pamphlet on suicide. Emma asks Burt to come in and discuss her concerns about his son, and it’s amazing to see how far Burt Hummel has come over the years. From a gruff, no-nonsense man who had no idea what to do with this child who was clearly his complete opposite, to the kind, loving, sage of a man who could make us all cry with the drop of a hat. He’s clearly upset by what Emma tells him, and in an effort to get Kurt out of his shell, he forces him to join a team at school. He doesn’t specify what kind of team, though. I’d forgotten how fabulous Kurt’s old room was, too.

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The next day at school, Kurt meets Rachel Berry, who is a whirlwind of intensity. She’s in every club you can think of, and encourages him to audition for the new glee club run by “an old Justin Timberlake,” which is the best description of Will I’ve ever heard. Rachel agrees to help Kurt prepare for his audition. They sing “Popular” from Wicked and it’s terrific. Their voices blending and swirling. It’s one of the things I’ll miss. Kurt assumes this means Rachel will join him for a dual audition, but Rachel gives him a hard no. She’s a star, and she’s not willing to share any spotlight, even one in an audition. Rachel Berry is dead serious about success, and she’s hardened herself so much against teasing and ridicule that she’s almost like a machine.

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So, Kurt turns to another star to help guide him: Mercedes Jones. Kurt calls her Miss Jones, which is beyond adorable, and she gives him a much warmer reception than Rachel did. He asks for her help, and Mercedes tells him to let his personality make the impression rather than his clothes.

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He auditions for Will, singing “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago, and he does indeed make a big impression. Kurt literally skips into Burt’s auto-body shop, the joy painted across his face, to tell him about joining glee club. Burt is less than thrilled, but when Kurt tells him that now he’s actually happy to go to school, his fatherly instincts kick in and he acquiesces. In Kurt’s head, he comes out to his father, hoping that he doesn’t stop loving him.

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While Mercedes might put on a big smile in front of Kurt, she’s just as lonely as he is. She doesn’t have any friends to speak of at McKinley, so she decides to take the plunge and audition for glee club as well. Soon enough, she is accosted by Rachel Berry, who never takes a breath. Mercedes is convinced that Rachel is trying to throw her off her game, but Rachel just can’t help being Rachel. She tries to bond with Mercedes by telling her that one of her dads is black, but Mercedes is already exhausted and leaves her in the dust. Rachel chases after her, asking if she can hear Mercedes sing at church.

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Mercedes wails at the beginning of the service, and Rachel is certainly impressed. She’s also intimidated and needs to find a way to undermine Mercedes so she doesn’t usurp her talent. However, Mercedes sees right through her and throws the gauntlet down.

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