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‘Glee’ Recap: ‘The Substitute’

Accept no substitutes, Gleeks. Last night’s episode was one of the best (if not, the very best) of the season so far. It had everything that makes “Glee” great: surprising musical numbers, with the right balance of humor and life lessons. Not to mention the fact that “The Substitute” had one of the most anticipated guest stars of the series, Gwyneth Paltrow, who passed with flying colors.

So what brought the Oscar-winning actress to the halls of McKinley High? After the dreaded (monkey) flu sweeps through the school, it renders Mr. Schuester ill (but not before giving us THE MOST ADORABLE HALLUCINATION EVER when he imagined tiny tot versions of his students), and a substitute is called in. Cue: Holly Holliday (played by Ms. Paltrow), a free-spirited, if not flaky sub who shakes things up with New Directions.

Holly lives by a philosophy of doing what you like, when you like and encourages her students to do the same. Not only does she have a sharp tongue (when Santana burned her with, “You’re, like, 40” she immediately fired back, “Top 40, sweet cheeks”) but an impressive voice as well. Gwynnie has done her fair share of singing before, but she definitely held her own in the glee club’s clean rendition of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You,” as well as her “Chicago” duet with Rachel. In short, I’m glad this isn’t a one episode guest stint.

Elsewhere, Mr. Schue was suffering in more ways than one as the dreaded Terri made her way back into his life. Armed with an arsenal of trickery, manipulation and some seriously disturbing baby talk, his ex-wife was clearly trying to use Will’s defenselessness to her advantage. While they did hook up (for shame, Will, for shame!) it seems like he even realized it was a one-time mistake.

In fact, Mr. Schue was an all-around winner in this episode. During the past few weeks he has bordered on annoying/needy, so it was really refreshing to be reminded of the teacher the fans (and his students) all know and love. He nailed his “Make ‘Em Laugh” solo number (move over, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you’ve got some serious competition!), as well as the group’s “Singin’ in the Rain” mash-up with Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (how much fun was that performance?!) Despite a short-term firing from temporary Principal Sue Sylvester (who took over for a sick Figgins), and his unwavering need to cover every song in the Journey catalog, it was impossible not to sing Will’s praises this week.

Lest we forget about the students though! Kurt, despite some scary moments with Dave Karofsky, is marching on, all the while falling madly in love with Blaine (can you blame him?!) But Kurt, in turn, is leaving his BFF Mercedes in the dust. In turn, she distracts herself with the majesty that is tater tots. That is, until Sue uses her power as principal to have the tasty treats banned from the school because of their lack of nutritional value. Now, close your ears Napoleon Dynamite, Sue sorta had a point! After all, Mercedes thought a piece of broccoli was a toilet brush, while Brittany worried it was an axed tree that was home to gummy bears. It was, if nothing else, a rather disposable storyline for Mercedes, but it did provide some silliness and levity to a show that’s desperately needed it lately.

Some other highlights from this stand-out episode included the second-funniest butter floor prank of all-time, Bieste’s besting of Sue in the locker room, Kurt’s complaint about his stoner classmate (“You smell homeless, Brett, homeless“), Holly’s description of scary student Cameo (“She was like an attractive Biggie Smalls”) and the wondrous combination that is red wine with “Animal Hoarders.” But, the moment that trumped them all was Kurt pulling a tiny pink purse out of his mouth during his very gay-friendly dinner with Blaine and Mercedes. It’s what the rewind button for DVRs was invented for.

Quick error side note: Did anyone else notice how the gang at “Glee” misspelled Lindsay Lohan’s name wrong during the first translation in Holly’s class? They spelled it “Lindsey” in the first set of subtitles to appear on screen! Whoops!

Check out Jim Cantiello’s hilarious “Glee”-cap!

What did you think of last night’s episode, Gleeks? Did you love Gwyneth as a substitute too? What did you think of Puck’s imitation of Finn? Will Terri go away for good or are we doomed to run into her again? Let us know!