Glee 5.18 “The Back-Up Plan” Review: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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Oh, Glee. We have such an up-and-down relationship. Last week’s “Opening Night” was one of my favorite episodes of the series in a long time. The characters acted like themselves, the stakes were high, and all of the heartwarming moments or hilarious one-liners felt earned. Unfortunately, this week’s “The Back-Up Plan” was a step down from the heights of last week, as it felt like characters were either acting in ways that they never would or were being given things that they didn’t deserve.

Let’s start with my biggest problem with this episode: Rachel. Glee has continuously made clear throughout its entire run how much Rachel Berry wants to be a Broadway star. It’s everything she’s ever wanted to be and has trained to be for her entire life, and last week, she finally achieved it. And that’s why I have such a hard time that she would jeopardize this dream, the only thing she’s loved in this world as much Finn, for a chance to star in a TV pilot.

If anyone remembers back to season three, during the Saturday Night Fever episode of Glee, the series made it clear that Santana was the one who wanted to be famous, no matter how she got there. She wanted to be a star and didn’t care if it was through singing, acting, or something else, not Rachel. Rachel has always wanted to be in the limelight; fame is something that has always attracted her. However, when she’s described wanting that stardom, it has never been through film or television and always through Broadway. Having her dash those dreams so quickly, only to be rightfully berated by Sidney and so that Glee can try to shoehorn a Dawson’s Creek-esque “TV show within the TV show” storyline, is insulting to Rachel’s character, and a storyline that I could just not find myself buying.

Similarly, Blaine’s main plot of the night was one of the least interesting stories that Glee has done in a while. I’m not someone who hates the character of Blaine, but I will say that I hate that Glee can never commit itself to having him earn what he gets. In “The Back-Up Plan,” it’s the same old story: Kurt asks Blaine to perform with him for NYADA socialite June  Dolloway (guest star Shirley MacLaine), who instantly takes Blaine under her wing, asking him to break up with Kurt so that he can perform his own show and gain notoriety.

It was only a couple of weeks ago back in “Tested” that Glee was changing up the Kurt/Blaine dynamic and finally showing Blaine’s insecurities, while Kurt had finally found his place in New York. Now, we’re back to the old status quo, of Blaine having the edge over Kurt again without even having to really struggle to get it. I don’t want circumstances to be bad for Blaine. I want him to succeed just like every other character in New York. However, I also want to see him fight and work hard for it, like I’ve seen from Rachel and Kurt.

Without having spent any real time with Blaine as he strives for his goal, his developments with June feel as fake and manufactured as the TV show storyline that has now been set up for Rachel. “The Back-Up Plan” is a step back for Glee from last week’s “Opening Night.” I only hope that with its final two episodes this season, the series can reverse this pattern and find a way to keep moving forward.

Other thoughts:

– Everything having to do with Mercedes and Santana worked for me in this episode. I really love watching them perform together, and their rekindling friendship was touching and fun to watch.

– It was also great to see Rachel and Santana’s friendship solidified near the episode’s end, and I really hope the rumors about Naya Rivera and Lea Michele aren’t true because I’m loving Rachel and Santana’s scenes together.

– Overall, the music in this episode was strong, but I really loved Rachel’s audition performance of “The Rose,” Rachel’s slowed-down version of “Wake Me Up,” and Blaine and Kurt’s rendition of “Story of My Life.”

What did everyone else think about last night’s episode of Glee?

[Photo via Tyler Golden/FOX]

Chris is the Managing Editor of TVOvermind. A graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he majored in English and Film, he has been writing for TVOvermind for over two years and has written about several different television shows, such as New Girl, Breaking Bad, Glee, and Homeland. Contact him through Twitter (@ckinger13) or email (chris@tvovermind.com).
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