Disclaimer: I missed the Grease homage that apparently opened this episode - the cute pizza delivery boy arrived at the exact wrong moment...
Any Gleek worth his salt knew Dame Helen Mirren would do voice-over work for this episode. We didn't know she'd be the interior monologue of Becky, Sue Sylvester's pint-sized assistant. As she moves through the halls of the high school, Becky dismisses all the usual Glee studs with icy British reserve before settling on Arty as the object of her affection. Not only is he dreamy, he's "handicapable," too.
In the teacher’s lounge, we learn Coach Beiste and Cooter Menkins eloped, and Emma wonders whether Mr Schuester will ever pop the question, or if he will just replace healthy relationships with his Glee students until the series is cancelled. She rises from her seat, oversized neck bow buoyant with optimism, and sings "Wedding Bell Blues." This involves plenty of scenes where she pines after Mr Schue as he cluelessly dusts off his Regionals trophy. There is a stunning cameo appearance by Lady Beatrice's fascinator hat, worn by Sue Sylvester, and that was enough to redeem that performance.
Mr. Schue does decide to propose, but he can't just ask Emma. Because then what would Glee club sing about for the entire episode? Instead, he makes it the club's assignment to choose a proposal song that will "knock her well-washed socks off." Phew - now that we have a theme, no one has to worry about a directionless “Red Solo Cup” repeat.
Speaking of Trouty Mouth, Sam is so desperate to regain Mercedes' affection that he joins the synchronized swim team. After his first practice, he has a run-in with his swim coach, the stellar NeNe Leakes. She takes a page from Santana's book and begins berating him: "You are one strange-looking kid, and one of your nipples is higher than the other. That must have been tough for you growing up," she says. She admits she's suffered similar adversity: "When I grew up, they said black people couldn't swim..." but then overcame it, winning a gold medal for individual synchronized swimming. "I bet you didn't even know that existed." We didn't, NeNe, we didn't. But we'll never forget it, thanks to you.
In the auditorium, Arty and Mike Chang suggest Schuester avoid the girlie stuff for the proposal and lead with his hips. "You have rock star hips, Mr. Schue," Arty says (in what world is this a normal thing to say to your teacher?). "It's true, Mick Jagger hips!" Mike adds. With a lead in like that, what song COULD they perform but "I Can Hear The Bells." No, they sang "Moves Like Jagger," mashed up with "Jumpin Jack Flash" in a performance enhanced by those sparkly tie/scarves, but diminished by a lack of shirtless Adam Levine. Afterwards, Becky asks Arty to a date at Breadsticks, and he agrees.
Cut to the weirdest scene of the episode, where Schuester and Finn go ring shopping. Mr. Schuester asks Finn to be his best man, because he has no adult male friends whatsoever, and because Finn has "taught him more about being a man than anyone else ever has." Even worse, Schuester is counting on Finn to "make sure he doesn't do anything stupid at his bachelor party." Which is pretty important, considering he'll likely be spending his bachelor party with a bunch of teenage boys.
This leads to a bro hug and Finn's admission that he's going to join the army. Cue Mr. Schue’s widening eyes and open mouth.
Back at McKinley, Tina, Rachel, Mercedes and Santana grill Schuester about his feelings for his compulsively clean lover. For their proposal song, they settle on "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," which really is just an effortlessly gorgeous song. Each girl has a private moment while singing and has a romantic daydream about their beau (or Brittany), and Mercedes thinks about... Sam. When the girls discuss this in the ladies room, Rachel tells Mercedes to "take it slow and follow your heart," before stepping back into the Babysitter's Club special she came from.
Mr Schue asks Emma's parents for permission to wed her, and they yet again take the Worst Parents Ever award, cautioning him against marrying their "freaky-deaky" daughter. OCD is a serious problem, but is having a spotlessly clean house for the rest of your life really SUCH a burden?
Soon after, Mr. Schuester and Finn's mother and stepdad stage an armyvention, asking him to think seriously about his military aspirations. Finn spouts some platitudes about being a man and doing his father proud (understandable, but starry-eyed) before his mother drops the bomb: turns out Finn's dad wasn't killed at war. Rather, he suffered some sort of PTSD, picked up a drug habit and overdosed. Finn is of course pissed at his mom for springing this info on him, and storms off.
While Finn storms, Becky struts toward Arty in the hallway and sends him a sext: "I just sent you a taste of what you're gonna get Friday night," she says (just imagine Helen Mirren saying that). This freaks out Arty sufficiently for him to seek counsel from Sue Sylvester, who tells him to treat her like a normal person and tell her he's not interested. Good advice.
As Emma nudges Mr. Schue about marriage, he suddenly has second thoughts because of her OCD, doubting whether she can handle the mess of a baby, etc. I've never seen him act a bigger fool. Poor Emma is crying and breathless and tells Schuester to stop leading her on if he's not genuinely interested. I just want to give her a big hug (followed with the application of some disinfectant spray, to settle her nerves).
Kurt, Rachel and Finn share a dinner where they all worry about their future (Didn’t you guys hear? You’re sticking around for another season). Finn begins to bare his soul about his father and the army, so of course Rachel starts singing about how she loves Finn (conveniently muting anything that Finn actually says). That Rachel – selflessness personified. The song is “Without You,” which drives home her attachment to Finn with some killer high notes. This totally makes up for that overwrought Marchesa dress at the Golden Globes.
And it’s finally proposal time. Schue leads Emma down the school hallway, where various folks hand her (sanitized, dethorned) white roses. They step into the school swim room, where Glee boys in retro shorts and tanks and girls in kicky red, white and blue one-pieces deliver an extravagant synchronized swim routine to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” Even Arty careens into the pool, wheelchair and all, only to miraculously resurface in one of those floaty chaise longue devices.
So there’s singing and swimming, swimming and singing. Emma sits in the lifeguard chair (which is a wise choice, considering a high school swimming pool is probably the most unsanitary bacterial breeding ground on the whole premises). Mr. Schue appears in a painful white tuxedo with tails and a top hat. He dives into the pool – thankfully ruining the suit with chlorine stains – and approaches Emma with a sweet, if novel-length, proposal. Emma performs the requisite fanning maneuver as if she needs her smelling salts (has a girl ever NOT done this when being proposed to?) and then says yes.
Brrrrrrrring! Proposal’s over and everyone’s dried off and heading to class. Arty gets up the nerve to tell Becky they shouldn’t date. “Is it because I’m too intimidating?” she asks, and Arty nods. Then she slams her locker and Dame Mirren takes over: “I didn’t ask him if he wasn’t interested in me because I had Down’s, because I knew the answer was yes... Don’t let them see you cry, Becky.” And then I wanted to cry. Happily, Sue is there to pick up the pieces, and they share a pint of ice cream and turn on Lifetime. Just like I deal with rejection. Only I have a pint of bourbon and watch Fatal Attraction.
We reach a harrowing denoument when Finn and Rachel meet in the auditorium. There’s a lot of talk about becoming a better man, and how Rachel is so important to Finn. He actually says “You’re like a beacon of light, guiding me through the darkness.” Someone’s been paying attention to those English classes on simile and metaphor. Then he gets down on one knee and proposes.
Cut to Rachel’s shocked face. And scene.
All images and video courtesy of Fox.