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Glee – 4.01: “The New Rachel”
Written By: Ryan Murphy
Directed By: Brad Falchuk

Glee is back for it’s fourth season and there are lots of changes. I was going to try and recap/review the episode in the sequential order, but it’s much easier to go by the storylines. And there were a lot of them. They really crammed this episode full of character and story developments. Maybe more in this one episode than a block of episodes from last season.

The show didn’t even both showing a “Previously on Glee…” segment. It wasn’t even necessary and I’m sure they would like to forget some of the horrendous storylines they had last year. So we immediately begin with Rachel’s first dance class at NYADA. It’s taught by Cassandra July, played by Kate Hudson. She’s tough on Rachel, but she claims later in the episode that she is not picking on her but trying to motivate her. It’s the same scene where Rachel smells alcohol on Cassandra’s breath. It’s a really weird moment that followed Cassandra’s T.A. leaving her to be in Wicked and throwing rum into her smoothie. Then Cassandra claims that even though she’s older, she’s still got the talent. She does a mash-up of “Dance Again” & “Americano”. It’s a fun number that’s well choreographed and had great lighting. The character is still a little bit of a mess and doesn’t work yet, but Hudson was fun to watch in that scene.

There was much more Rachel at NYADA. She’s shown struggling at the school. It’s not as easy as she thought it was going to be. The freshmen at the school have two performances during the first semester. “The Debut” at the beginning, and the Winter Showcase at the end (by invitation only). This is set-up by guest star Whoopi Goldberg, and gives the show a new version of the Regionals competition. Rachel does a great performance of “New York State of Mind” and even gets a positive comment from Whoopi’s character.

Rachel’s made fun of for her extensive nightly glam ritual, so she has to shower/primp at 3 A.M. It’s at one of these sessions that she meets Brody Weston (played by Dean Geyer), an upper class-men at NYADA. It’s a fun introduction where he steps out of the shower and confesses that he also has a nightly beauty ritual. There’s some nice chemistry between them and he’s an interesting character. Rachel’s seems more comfortable when he is around. There’s probably going to be some kind of love triangle with those two and Finn coming up.

Even though this all going on in New York City, there is still a lot going on back in Lima at McKinley High School. Kurt is still a ghost lingering around the city. He’s working at the coffee shop and planning on attending the community college there until he can reapply to NYADA. He’s trying to find ways to stay busy, until he’s convinced by Blaine (through a musical number, of course), that he needs to follow his dream and go to NYC. Kurt’s father, Burt, drops Kurt off at the airport and wishes him luck in NYC. There’s a nice moment between Chris Colfer & Mike O’Malley, who really play off each other really well. Burt tells his son, “New York City is filled with people like you. You’re going to feel at home there.” A little corny but it was a nice moment. Kurt’s move happened pretty fast, but the fun Darren Criss/”It’s Time” musical number would’ve persuaded anybody. Kurt shows up just in time to help an overwhelmed Rachel. It’s going to be an interesting storyline to follow them pursuing their dreams in the Big Apple.

Also in Lima, New Directions is trying to gather what’s left of them and create a stronger singing group. Blaine, Tina, Brittany & Wade a.k.a. Unique (transferring from his other school) are competing to be the New Rachel, to be picked by Artie. After a mediocre rendition of “Call Me Maybe”, Artie declares that Blaine is the New Rachel. But that’s not really evidenced in the rest of the episode. What the rest of the episode indicated was that Marley Rose is the New Rachel.

New Directions has a lot of open spaces, so they hold an open call for new members. Jake Puckerman (played by Jacob Artist) is an early favorite. But a bad attitude lowers his chances. It’s Marley Rose (played by Melissa Benoist) that impresses everyone with her rendition of “New York State of Mind”. The performance is cut with Rachel’s at NYADA, in a pretty unique way and makes it even more powerful. Of course, Marley makes it into New Directions when she sees her name of the cast list. Although with all the people they allegedly auditioned and the number of former cast members gone, you think that they would have more spots to fill.

Marley makes it into New Directions and everything should be perfect, but it’s not. Marley has been hiding that her mother is the obese lunch lady that everyone has been making fun on since the beginning of the year. After Marley’s had enough, she has an outburst and says that she thought Glee Club was different and that she didn’t want to be a part of it if they made fun of people who were different. A few scenes later, they get together and apologize and offer her to do the lead vocals on “Chasing Pavements”.

Overall, this was a strong premiere episode and one of the best episodes of the entire series. The show really took advantage of the graduating students and reinvented itself. Rachel & Kurt in NYC has a lot of promise, but the real standouts are the new cast members. They were really well cast in their roles and their characters had a nice introduction for the audience to get to know them. There are still a few issues, as well. I’m not completely buying Kate Hudson’s character and Marley’s mother’s arc felt a little heavy handed. But really, this was a strong start to the season and I hope the show can continue with this momentum. It could have a great season.