Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 18 of Fox's "Glee," entitled "Choke."
Rachel Berry may have choked during the biggest audition of her life, but after tonight's episode, I think it's "Glee" that needs the Heimlich.
When will the writers realize that these Public Service Announcements are slowly killing the show?
This week, we discover that Coach Bieste is in an abusive marriage after Cooter hits her in the face. I think a topic such as domestic violence deserves more than 15 minutes. Karofsky's abrupt suicide attempt was similarly handled earlier in the season. It's sloppy and irresponsible.
"Glee" has an opportunity to really teach its young audience about these extremely important topics, but that doesn't mean that week-after-week we should have to sit through a different PSA. Aside from a few quippy lines from Sue and swim coach Roz (guest star NeNe Leakes), Bieste's abuse was barely mentioned -- and when it was, it felt truly forced and out of place.
I have to applaud Dot Marie Jones for doing a wonderful job with the material. When Bieste tearfully tells Sue that she's afraid she won't find anyone else to love her, I felt for her -- more than I cared about Rachel's N.Y.A.D.A audition and a heck of a lot more than I cared about Puck's European geography test. I needed more time with Bieste, and Bieste needed more time with Sue and Roz -- because the conversation between those three was the only one that really mattered.
In the end, Bieste lied to Sue about staying with her sister. Instead, Bieste returns home to Cooter, where he apologizes once again for his bad behavior. We all know that "Glee's" biggest problem is its continuity, so the likelihood that Bieste's storyline will effectively be resolved in the next episode is pretty slim.
However, domestic violence isn't something that you can easily "shake out" -- and it would be grossly irresponsible for "Glee" to do that.
While Santana, Mercedes, Tina, Sugar and Brittany are helping Bieste -- via song, obviously -- the rest of the New Directions are either gearing up for important auditions or ... helping Puck pass his geography test.
After three months of preparing for his N.Y.A.D.A. audition -- with lots and lots of candles -- Kurt decides that he needs to stop playing it safe. I don't know how an elaborate staging of "Phantom of the Opera" could ever be considered safe, but Kurt has always been a risk-taker. I mean, have you ever seen his closet full of capes and hats?
Side note: I love "The Phantom of the Opera" so much that I would totally sit through three hours of Kurt's wack-a-doodle staging.
Meanwhile, Rachel thinks that Kurt's making the wrong decision and begs Kurt to stick with "Music of the Night" from "Phantom." However, in last-minute effort to show N.Y.A.D.A.'s Dean Carmen (guest star Whoopi Goldberg) that he could be daring and unique, Kurt -- with a little help from his three merry murderesses -- wows everyone with his rendition of "Not the Boy Next Door" from "The Boy from Oz."
Carmen says that even Hugh Jackman, who won a Tony for his performance in the musical, would've been impressed with Kurt's audition. I'm sure Jackman would have been really jealous of Kurt's gold pants, too.
Rachel, on the other hand, surprisingly chokes. She chose to sang "Don't Rain On My Parade" from her favorite musical, "Funny Girl." Little Miss Berry also sang the Barbra Streisand classic in the "Glee" Season 1 finale, and I'm not going to lie: It's one of my favorite performances of the entire series. I have an affinity for musicals. Don't judge.
Sadly, Rachel chokes, not once, but twice. After her second chance, Carmen ends the audition, telling a hysterical Rachel that on Broadway, there are no second chances. I've never been a huge fan of Lea Michele. She's a fantastic singer, but her acting, in my opinion, has always seemed one-dimensional. However, this was one of Michele's best performances to date. When Rachel sobs on stage, realizing that her dreams of going to New York are over, I felt devastated for her.
Speaking of feeling devastated, upon seeing Bieste's black eye, Santana, Brittany, Mercedes, Tina and Sugar decide that joking about Chris Brown and Rihanna's violent 2009 incident is totally appropriate. Thankfully, Coach Roz overhears the girls and totally chews them out for making light of such a serious subject.
When did NeNe Leakes become the best part of "Glee"? Can we please keep her for Season 4? I think it's absolutely necessary.
Sue -- calling Roz "Black Sue" and herself "Original Recipe Sue" -- then assigns the girls their assignment this week: to take a song about domestic violence and make it empowering.
Instead, the girls perform "Cell Block Tango" from "Chicago," which just so happened to be one of my favorite musical numbers ever, but that's totally not the point. The song is about crazy women killing their husbands. Not so empowering.
That's OK because once the girls discover that Bieste's black eye wasn't from a punching bag -- and that she was, in fact, the real punching bag -- they sing a pretty acoustic version of Florence + The Machine's "Shake It Out" for Coach Bieste and everyone cries and feels better. Right? Well, not quite. By the end of the episode, we discover that Bieste is still with Cooter. Once again, I'm devastated.
Meanwhile, in the completely unnecessary subplot, Puck needs to pass his European geography test to graduate. He tried to sleep with his teacher, but that didn't quite work out for him.
Puck's dad comes back to town after five years to borrow rent money. And, after giving him $500 out of his L.A. fund, Puckerman realizes that he never wants to be like his deadbeat dad. So he really needs to pass this geography test, guys!
So Finn rallies all of the guys to help Puck pass his test. Remember Puck, the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. I, too, learned European geography by memorizing the entirety of "My Fair Lady."
Sadly, Puck -- like this episode of "Glee" -- stills fails.
Here are some other random observations:
Original Recipe Sue: "Black Sue, it's no secret that I despise you."
Kurt: "Or maybe I just need more candles."
Blaine: "Oh god no. No more candles."
Finn: "We need to go all 'Black Hawk Down' here."
Rachel: "I vowed not to speak to you unless William and Kate got divorced, Liza died or you and I were in grave danger."
Kurt: "Please tell me that Liza's OK."
Ros: "You girls are cray cray."
Original Recipe Sue: "How dare you stand up and leave? We all wanted out of that room."
Original Recipe Sue: "Sweetheart, you're as big as a house. Why didn't you just turn around and kick his ass?"
Coach Bieste: "I didn't get hit by a punching bag. I got hit by my husband."
Brittany: "Did he break his hand?"
Puck: [in his head] "I know this one. In the plain, in the plain..."
Follow Crystal Bell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/newyorkbell