This fourth episode found Glee on much surer footing after a fortnight of flops, and added weight to my belief the show's best writer is undoubtedly co-creator Ian Brennan. He certainly seems too have a more natural flair for mixing comedy with more realistic drama, in episodes that treat the characters less like puppets and more like actual people.
"Duets" was another "homework episode", where Mr Schue (Matthew Morrison) suggested the glee club have an in-house competition to find the best duet, with the two best singers winning an all-expenses paid meal at the local BreadstiX restaurant. This nicely split the characters up into couples to rehearse a song together, which in some cases meant some refreshing mixes: Santana (Naya Rivera) shunned Brittany (Heather Morris) to partner Mercedes (Amber Riley) with "River Deep - Mountain High", because she has a better chance of winning; Brittany used her sexual wiles to get close to Artie (Kevin McHale), even agreeing to be his girlfriend and pop his cherry so they could compete as a pair; Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) joined forces, but made a pact to lose the competition to give newcomer Sam (Chord Overstreet) a chance of success; Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.) overcame his uncertain vocals with new girlfriend Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), singing the comedic "Sing!"; Kurt (Chris Colfer) made a beeline for Sam, suspecting he's gay, but was eventually persuaded to do a solo duet with "Le Jazz Hot" from Victor/Victoria; and Sam aligned with Quinn (Dianna Agron), building a relationship with her along the way.
What worked about this episode was seeing the characters actually engage with each other in a more believable, interesting way. Morris has been Glee's injection of humour and little else, but she was given a good emotional scene when Artie rejected Brittany for using him to win a trivial competition; the likeable Agron looks to have found a boyfriend in Overstreet's character, who also made a good impression here with a restrained and subtle performance; Colfer is always great value in emotional scenes, and I again enjoyed a brief scene with his convalescing father (Mike O'Malley); and the underused Shum, Jr even got time in the limelight and made good use of the attention. It's not that the characters on Glee are all cartoons, but those who are more "embellished" (Rachel, Finn, Brittany, Santana, Sue, Figgins) can sometimes engulf the vibe of the show for me. But "Duets" was more nuanced with the performances and material, meaning that between songs you felt more connected to the unfolding drama and relationships that blossomed or died.
- Is anyone else disappointed the show has decided to make Brittany's character a poor vocalist? I guess any future performances from Morris will always be restricted to dancing, or the occasional dream sequence like in the "Britney/Brittany" episode. Shame. Glee's very much focused on the singing, so it relegates Morris to backing dancer most of the time. She didn't even get to perform with McHale in this episode.
- There was no Jane Lynch (Sue) in this episode, which is a little disappointing because Ian Brennan usually gives her the best lines. There was also no Mark Salling (Puck), apparently because his presence would have caused too many plot problems trying to get Sam and Quinn together as a couple.
- This episode was directed by actor Eric Stoltz, who occasionally goes behind the camera like this. Just last week he directed the mid-season premiere of Caprica, in which he stars as Daniel Graystone.
- Brittanyism: (to Artie) "For a while, I thought you were a robot". The meatball nudging on her plate, which she's practiced from Lady & The Tramp was also a very funny sight gag.
WRITER: Ian Brennan
DIRECTOR: Eric Stoltz
GUEST CAST: Chord Overstreet & Harry Shum, Jr.
TRANSMISSION: 11 October 2010 - Fox, 8/7c