"Glee" Recap: "Asian F"
With early promises of being one of the best episodes of the season, perhaps of the entire series, “Asian F” had great expectations to fulfill. Despite a slow start and some unnecessary performances, this episode was definitely a showstopper, shifting the spotlight to two of New Directions’ most underutilized characters: Mercedes Jones and Mike Chang.
Mercedes finds herself once again butting heads with Rachel, this time over the opportunity to star as Maria in "West Side Story." She becomes a serious contender for the role after audition with Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight,” arguably her best solo of the entire series, and Rachel knows it. The directors are torn between the two divas, and decide a callback is the only way to make the final decision.
Between her struggles with the dance “booty camp” and the callback, Mercedes is wearing thin. After an argument with Will, she quits New Directions, but instead of immediately leaving the auditorium, a dreamlike sequence begins, with the booty camp attendees dressed in "Dreamgirls"-style costumes, singing “It’s All Over.” The episode lead up to the song with comparisons between Mercedes and "Dreamgirls" character Effie White, but the song lost the impact of Mercedes’ leaving behind an overly-theatrical number. It was an entertaining performance, but her exit would have been just as dramatic and emotional without it.
She attends the callback, singing “Out Here on My Own” from "Fame" with Rachel. The directors can’t decide who was better, so they double-cast Maria, giving each girl a week of performances. Mercedes, still tired of living in Rachel’s shadow, declines the offer, and the episode ends with her approaching Shelby, wanting to join the second glee club.
Mike Chang finally gets his chance to shine, in a struggle with his stereotypically Asian father, who plans for his son to go to Harvard and is disgusted by an “Asian F,” Mike’s A-minus on a chemistry test. Mr. Chang believes that the glee club is to blame, and Tina seems to be the only one who believes Mike should stand up to his father and follow his own dreams.
The moment of truth comes when Mike chooses to attend his "West Side Story" audition over chemistry tutoring. Last season, his major insecurity was that he can’t sing, so his decision to audition for Riff shocks the directors. From the moment he breaks into “Cool” from West Side Story, complete with surprisingly good vocals and stunning dancing, backed up by football players, the role is Mike’s.
We meet Mike’s mom in one of the most heartfelt scenes of the episode. Mrs. Chang is supportive of her son’s dreams, and says they will tell his father together if he gets the part. She reveals that she, too, wanted to be a dancer, but didn’t have the courage to tell her parents. The always charming Mike offers to teach her to dance, and we see a moment of raw emotion as they waltz around the room with a newfound understanding of each other.
The other members of New Directions aren’t forgotten amongst the focus on Mercedes and Mike, though. With the upcoming election for senior class president, Brittany reveals her girl-power campaign, complete with a “flashmob pep rally” of Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls).” The girls of McKinley were crazy for Brittany’s campaign, although the episode could have done without the flashmob itself. It was another entertaining dance number, but the episode would not have suffered without it.
Rachel also decides to run for president, fearing that she won’t be cast as Maria, and needs something more to improve her chances of getting into NYADA. She decides to stay in the race after she gets the part, jeopardizing her friendship with Kurt, as well as forcing Finn to decide between supporting his girlfriend or his step-brother.
No episode would be complete without an absurd storyline for Will, who decides it is time to finally meet Emma’s parents. We learn that her parents are ginger supremacists who believe their daughter is a freak because of her OCD, and treated her accordingly in her childhood. Despite the initial absurdity, though, the story finds a humane touch when Will lashes out at Emma’s parents for their harsh parenting, showing his unwavering support for his girlfriend.
The final song of the episode is Coldplay’s “Fix You,” which begins as a way for Will to show his support for Emma, but encapsulates the collective struggles of the entire glee club, who sing back up to Will in a simple, but powerful chorus. During the song, Artie posts the cast list. Santana, Blaine, and Mike are all delighted to be cast cast as Anita, Tony, and Riff, respectively. Kurt, though, is torn between his happiness for his boyfriend, but also hints of disappointment that he will be Officer Krupke, not Tony. Most powerful of all is an unusually humbled Rachel, unsure if she actually deserved to be Maria, or if the role should have gone to Mercedes.
Despite some minor misses, “Asian F” carried on the momentum of the previous two episodes, with a refreshing focus on frequently forgotten characters, and heartfelt moments that prove Glee is back and better than ever. With the next episode airing in three weeks, hopefully "Glee" does not lose steam during the brief hiatus, but returns with even more power and heart in November.
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