Glee is still a month away from returning to our televisions, but for about two thousand lucky fans who attended the record-breaking sixteen-star PaleyFest panel at the Saban Theatre on March 13, Christmas...err, the spring season premiere came early. Ryan Murphy and Co. presented the episode entitled "Hello" (a nice nod to the show's return after the winter hiatus) in FULL, though with the disclaimer that it was just a director's rough cut and would be edited a bit more before airing. Bonus points!
"Hello" had the gang back at school after winning Sectionals, assuming that made them something of teen royalty in the eyes of the rest of the school. Of course that dream was dashed about thirty seconds in, though, with a full-on Slushee facial. Welcome back, nerds...I mean gleeks!
Finn and Puck, football season over, are now splitting their time between glee club and basketball (and for Finn, dating Rachel who is a known handful, while Puck has a baby on the way to worry about). It appears glee is taking a page out of Saved by the Bell's book and truly making these guys little renaissance men. Finn is distracted, though, because Rachel is scheduling every minute of their lives together, circling dates for him on little kitten calendars and generally being her over-bearing self. He isn't sure really even solidified their relationship, let alone wants to.
Sue is also back in full force, her suspension from coaching the Cheerios over, alluded to ending early due to a "romance" with the school's principal. She enlists the aide of Santana and Brittany, "two of the dumbest teenagers [she's] ever met-- and that's saying something; [she] once taught a cheerleading camp featuring a young Sarah Palin!"-- to break up the Finn/Rachel duo in order to make rocky road for New Directions once again. Of course they try, but being that they are more concerned with making out with each other (which we have yet to see on-screen), Finn remains a virgin...for now. Previous spoilers announced that Santana will be deflowering someone in the coming episodes, and the safe bet is on Finn!
When those girls fail to meet Sue's standards, though, she rounds up some pretty homely teen girls to "scare Rachel straight," convincing her to go for her new, Romeo and Juliet style love affair (details below), lest she become like these cautionary tales, members of the Old Maids club. She assumes Rachel dating an "enemy" will cause friction within the glee club, and she needs to ensure they break up so her Cheerios have use of the gym for practice now that it's cold outside.
And Finn is not the only virgin on the show! Mr. Schue and Emma, now dating, are thisclose to getting intimate when she reveals she hasn't been so "in a very long time." "How long?" He asks. "Ever," she eeks out. Wow. That causes everyone to sit back a minute and let the realization wash over them. Later Terry returns home to find Emma preparing a romantic dinner for "date night" for Will and spills that the song Will so lovingly picked out to be his and Emma's song was actually his and Terry's prom theme. Oops.
Mr. Schue also wants to take New Directions in a new direction (pun intended) and tells the gang to come up with choreographed numbers to songs that feature the word "Hello" in them in order to make a new "here I am!" statement. Songs by AC/DC, Lionel Richie, and even All-American Rejects make the cut in this episode, as Finn tries to find his inner rockstar, Rachel and guest star Jonathan Groff (as rival glee club lead from Vocal Adrenaline) bond in a music store, and Rachel lashes out at Finn when he says he wants to see other people.
"Hello" is also the first episode to introduce Idina Menzel's character, who is so eerily similar to Rachel in not just looks. She, too, is all business and can't even stop from talking about herself and her musical work when making out (!) with Mr. Schue. She denies forcing Jesse St. James (Groff) to seek out Rachel as a way to spy on the competition, simply stating that she doesn't see New Directions as competition, but it is alluded that she may be lying. Or that Jesse may be dating Rachel just to get back at her for something; there is a very charged moment of eye contact between the two while he and Rachel are kissing on Vocal Adrenaline's stage. I personally hope he and Idina are having an affair. On-screen. Not in real life. I just love Taye Diggs!
The back nine will also feature high-powered guest stars like Neil Patrick Harris (singing two duets with Mr. Schue-- one from Aerosmith and one from Billy Joel), Molly Shannon, and the return of Kristin Chenowith and Mike O'Malley (Kurt's dad will be set up with Finn's mom in an attempt by the former boy to strike a love connection so hot they will just have to move in together). The upcoming Madonna-centric episode will feature an unprecedented ten songs, including Sue Sylvester striking a pose with "Vogue," and there is even plans for an episode based on the theatricality of performances, with a nod to Lady Gaga. And of course there is the much anticipated episode of all original music to which to look forward!
Going back to "Hello" for a second, though, its central theme was about finding one's true self before being able to give one's self to someone else. This was shown with Finn, who bounced from Quinn to Rachel to the Santana/Brittany duo to Rachel. His last attempt with Rachel was rebuffed, though, as she chose Jesse, someone who knows who he is and isn't afraid to be himself and like her, too. It was also shown with Mr. Schue who bounced from Terry to Emma to Idina Menzel (sort of) to Emma (again). If anything this show just paralleled the lives and personalities of Finn and Will even more; Murphy said he knows the map of the first three seasons of this show, but something tells me if and when it comes to an end, it will be with a flash forward, and Finn will be in Mr. Schue's spot, supervising glee club, right there in McKinley High!
Though I already screened this episode, I realized that watching it in a room full of other Gleeks meant I missed about every third joke due to the raucous laughter, cheering, and clapping from the previous ones not having fully died down. Therefore, April 13 cannot get here fast enough so I can tune in again!