by Melissa Albert
Just when "Glee" was starting to spin its wheels with one too many countdowns to regionals/sectionals/nationals, Kate Hudson showed up and put Rachel Berry on her list.
It's a long way to fall from being top dog of Lima, Ohio’s No. 1 glee club, and Rachel's feeling the pain in the season premiere's opening scene, as she's singled out for abuse by Cassie, her frightening dance teacher at NYADA. We kind of love Kate Hudson as Cassie, and we're psyched to see whether the indestructible Berry will ever win her over.
Between her sexually overactive roommate, the teacher who has it in for her and two months of radio silence from Finn, Rachel’s New York life has so far failed to unfold like a Streisand movie. But she does meet-cute with buff NYADA upperclassman Brody, whom she bonds with over their complex moisturizing rituals and powerful egos. "In case you’re wondering, which you were," he says as he walks away in nothing but a towel, "I’m straight."
Back at McKinley, good ol’ Jacob Ben Israel introduces us to McKinley’s "new celebrities"—basically the same Glee-sters he's been obsessing over since Rachel Berry was his dream girl. Question: Did Mike Chang dump Tina or did Tina dump Mike Chang? Better question: Who's going to be the new Rachel Berry?
Blaine, Brittany, Tina and Wade “Unique” Adams all just yelled “ME!” And you know what that means: It's time for GLEE FIGHT CLUB!! Here are the rules of Glee Fight Club:
Artie judges Glee Fight Club.
You do not talk to Mr. Shue about Glee Fight Club.
These rules could be catchier.
The Rachel wannabes strut around shoving each other and singing "Call Me Maybe," because what the world really needs is another version of that song. Finally Artie names Blaine the new Rachel, which we wholeheartedly endorse. We can’t wait to see him in a bow-tie-enhanced sweater set.
Despite being the "coolest club in school," the New Directions are looking awfully depleted, so they hold auditions. Jake, a Puck-lite bad boy (who turns out to be Puck’s unacknowledged half-brother!), sings and plays The Fray’s "Never Say Never"...but when Shue interrupts him mid-audition, Jake trashes a music stand and stalks out. Nice girl Marley, a new character with a hastily developed backstory of money troubles and a lunch-lady mother, kills it with "New York State of Mind," making the newly snotty Glee kids smolder with jealousy.
Glee nemesis Sue Sylvester has both a new baby (named Robin, instead of, say, Champ Winnington) and an evil new head cheerleader. Kitty combines the blonde bitchiness of Quinn with the mercilessness of Santana, and reveals herself in a throwaway joke to be kind of a white supremacist? We predict she goes down hard, and we want Unique to serve up the slushie.
Speaking of slushies, Kurt could use a nice, icy slap in the face. Rejected from NYADA and killing time slinging lattes at the Lima Bean, he’s become a sad McKinley High lurker. Blaine finally lays down the law, telling Kurt he’s stuck and should follow his dreams to New York. He reiterates this advice the only way he knows how: by getting the whole school involved in a rousing rendition of "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.
The Glee kids are once again struggling with the age-old question of whether to be popular or nice—except Unique, who knows it’s better to just be yourself, which in his case means raiding Dolly Parton’s closet and looking fabulous. But Artie crosses over to the dark side to get in good with cheerleader Kitty, mocking the overweight lunch lady. Marley snaps, revealing that the lunch lady is her mom and stalking off. No worries: a group apology wins her back into the Glee fold.
But all is not so rosy in New York. After Cassie shows up to class on a rum-smoothie bender, Rachel publicly calls her out for having alcohol breath. This is a bad way to get in good with your teacher, but a GREAT way to make her step up to you with a dance challenge. When a character on Glee drunkenly slurs, "I can still dance circles around any of you!" that’s as good a sign of an impending musical number as Mike Chang taking his shirt off.
Cassie crawls around on the floor singing Lady Gaga's "Americano," and it’s pretty awesome—she erased all our bad memories of Gwyneth Paltrow’s embarrassing Holly Holliday with one terrifying tilt of her eyebrow. "You’re not just on my list, Schwimmer," she says to Rachel. "You are my list." Gulp.
But it's okay, because NYADA’S Carmen (Whoopi Goldberg) loves Rachel’s vocal performance (also "New York State of Mind"). And by “love,” we mean, “hears it, nods slightly and doesn’t kick her out of school on the spot.” Will Carmen become her champion and Cassie her Sue Sylvester? Please say yes, because we’re holding out for a Whoopi/Kate Hudson dance battle. The rules of NYADA Fight Club are much sexier than the rules of Glee Fight Club.
But we should probably talk about who we’re shipping this season, right? Sweet Marley and tortured Jake (MarJay?) are clearly being set up as the new Finchel, and Brittany and Santana are still going strong over webcam—but word is out on former fiancés Rachel and Finn. I’m not feeling boring Brody as a Finn replacement, but maybe my feelings will change when he gets his first song.
And what of Kurt and Blaine, all-time best "Glee" couple? We’ll see if they can make long-distance work: At episode’s end, Kurt’s dad puts him on a plane to New York. He’s got two weeks’ worth of motel money, an emergency credit card and the ability to make an iced latte. (He’s going to need that last one.)
Marley sings Adele’s "Chasing Pavements" in her first rehearsal as glee soloist; smoldering Jake longingly watches from the back of the auditorium; and Kurt reunites with Rachel by a fountain in New York, come to save her from her terrible roommate and big-city loneliness.
And we cry tears of relief, because it looks like "Glee"'s going to be really, really good this season.
Song of the episode: It’s a toss-up between Cassie’s sweaty Gaga routine, which looked like vintage Britney Spears, and Marley on "Chasing Pavements," which was neither too Broadway nor too "Idol." (We kinda missed Finn’s Frankenstein dancing, but you can’t have it all.)
What did you think of last night's "Glee" premiere? Are you feeling the new additions? Smell any budding romances? Have any New York tips for Kurt? Tell us everything in the comments and on Twitter!