We open the show with a news story. Evil Warbler Hunter is coming out of a courthouse. Apparently, show choir doping is a matter to be decided in a courthouse. At first, Hunter calmly says he looks forward to his day in court, but then loses his shit on a reporter who says Hunter looks too old to still be in high school. It cuts back to Rod Remington, who I have missed dearly. So, Dalton has in fact been stripped of their Sectionals win and New Directions is going to Regionals. Rod’s co-anchor should possibly also be tested for steroids, as she begins to lose her shit over the idea that a show choir competition is newsworthy enough to be the lead story on the nightly news. Actually, I kind of understand her pain. Anyway, she loses her shit and leaves the desk. It’s kind of hilarious.
Naturally, the glee club is overjoyed to be back in competition. However, it’s not all fun and games. They’ve lost prep time for competition, but it’s not like they ever prepare anything until the day of, so I don’t know why Finn is worried about that. The bigger worry is that they need to raise $400 to get a bus to Indianapolis. Finn proposes a bake sale, but Artie reminds him the only reason their last one was successful was because Puck got the student body high and everyone had the munchies. Joe offers to sell his hair, but this very strange gesture is also shot down. Sam offers to sell more of his semen, which no one acknowledges. Then Tina comes forth with the idea to make a “Men of McKinley” calendar. They’ll have the glee club guys pose in very little clothing and make a calendar to sell to everyone. Seeing as Finn is an idiot, he agrees to let this happen. Look, there’s no denying there are some smoking hot guys in that club, but there is no way a school would actually let that happen. None whatsoever. Artie asks why only the men are getting objectified, but Kitty brings up the excellent point that women are the ones who buy things. Teenage guys would definitely buy a calendar filled with sexy girls, though. So, because Finn is a total idiot, he praises Tina’s brilliant idea and they start planning the calendar.
This episode brings back Brittany’s awesome Web show Fondue for Two. Today’s guest is Marley. We’re continuing the complete insensitivity toward Marley’s eating disorder, as Brittany mentions that Marley ruined Sectionals for everyone by passing out. Then she asks if Marley was late to the Hunger Games because she was hungry. I seriously hope we get some actual closure on this storyline soon because the way it has been handled is beyond horrific. Marley tries to deflect attention by trying to read Lord Tubbington’s mind. Brittany brings the conversation back around to Marley and Jake’s relationship. Brittany encourages Marley to tell Jake she is in love with him.
Principal Figgins apparently has no problem with the Men of McKinley calendar because he is too busy personally telling Sam and Brittany their SAT scores. Apparently, Brittany is a genius and got a 2340. I call so much bullshit. She admits to just making designs in the answer sheet. However, the SAT has 800 points that are determined by an essay. There is no way she got a high enough score on the writing portion to make that overall score even halfway believable. Sadly, Sam only got a 340. Once again, I call so much bullshit. Figgins goes on to tell him that Sam’s score is routinely beat by monkeys. Why is this man in education? Brittany tries to make Sam feel better by reminding him that he has a gorgeous body and can just depend on that.
In the New York world, Rachel is auditioning for a fellow NYADA student’s senior project. It’s an art film about a grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s, so it’s going to be pretentious and awful. For some reason, the script requires that Rachel be topless in one scene, setting up Rachel’s central dilemma for the episode. Rachel has a brief breakdown moment as she tries to remind herself that se is strong and confident. Season 1 Rachel comes to remind Season 4 Rachel that she used to have standards and also tells S4Rachel she looks like a porn star. They decide to sing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” to work through their feelings. I’m so over everything to do with Rachel. She is by far my least favorite character on the show and is just a generally awful human being. In the end, she agrees to do the stupid movie.
This was a very exposition-heavy set-up. Everything that just happened was in the first seven minutes. Now that we know how everything is set up, let’s break it down by individual storylines.
Sam is having a total breakdown after finding out his SAT scores. He’s decided he doesn’t really need school and will just be shirtless all the time. Blaine wonders if Sam is overcompensating for his SAT scores, but Sam is super freaking out. He hosts a seminar for all the guys to get them centerfold ready. They do some broga and manscaping. Artie is very worried about being shirtless, but no one really listens to his worries. This all leads into the single most hilarious dance number I have ever seen on the show, a mash-up of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” and The J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold.” They are legit doing arm curls using Kitty instead of dumbbells. As the episode progresses, Artie voices his discomfort with being shirtless in the calendar. Being in a wheelchair, Artie doesn’t feel comfortable showing off his body and worries it will just be a picture of his chair. Finn says they can put him in sweats and have him lying on a bed surrounded by pillows, but Artie points out that scenario is even more emasculating. Finn finally understands that Artie doesn’t want to be in calendar and tells him he’s brave for admitting he’s uncomfortable with the idea.
We get to the actual photo shoot and Sam is being a total dick. He calls out the other guys for not being as fit and says they should have just done a Sam Evans calendar. He storms off when he says all the arguing made him “lose his pump,” so he’s got to go work out really quick. Blaine follows him and they have a totally precious heart-to-heart about Sam’s behavior. Sam tells Blaine that he could never understand what it’s like because Blaine can sing, dance, and be charming. Sam believes that all he has going for him is his body. He goes on to say that he will only make it in this world if he’s special. Blaine tries to get him to understand that he is special, but Sam fully believes he is not. Sam says he’s exhausted from working out all the time and constantly watching what he eats, but if he lets his body go, he’ll have nothing. Blaine tells him that he can let go every now and then, and his friends will still love him. Chord Overstreet is totally bringing it in this scene. He’s tearing up and everything. He has come so far as an actor since he started on the show and this scene between him and Darren Criss is just phenomenal. Later, Sam gets called into Emma’s office where Blaine is also waiting for him. Apparently, Blaine decided to call in Emma’s help. Emma has found a few colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores for admission. Sam says that even if he gets into college, he won’t be able to afford it. However, Emma reminds him that there are tons of scholarships out there. She says that he’ll need an essay about his accomplishments, but Sam thinks his only accomplishments are his abs and face. Blaine reminds him about glee club, student council, and synchronized swimming, but Sam is so down on himself right now that he doesn’t see those as accomplishments. Blaine sees that Sam needs a bit of encouragement and so, he compiled a video of various people talking about how Sam has helped them. Tina mentions the two times that Sam has saved Sectionals. Artie brings up how Sam saved their Nationals trophy. Brittany says Sam was the first person in America to do a Sean Connery impression. Santana says Sam inspired her to become a songwriter and goes on to sing the phenomenal “Trouty Mouth.” Mercedes says Sam gave her the courage to move to LA and become a singer. Finally, Finn brings up how Sam supported his family after his dad lost his job and they were living in a motel. Sam is in tears at this point, as are most viewers, at least those with a heart. He gets up to hug Blaine and thank him for everything. I can’t begin to describe how much I love their friendship.
Later, Sam goes over to Artie to apologize for being such a massive asshole. He asks Artie if he’ll consider still being in the calendar, but Artie says he doesn’t want to be the only one wearing clothes. Sam assures him that he won’t be the only one because Sam is not going to take his shirt off, either. At this point, we get a glimpse at each of the months. January features Blaine holding a giant champagne bottle while shirtless and in tuxedo pants. February has Ryder with only a giant heart box covering himself. March has Artie as a leprechaun holding a pot of gold. April has Joe as a shirtless Easter Bunny. May also has Joe, but this time as a sexy farmer. June features Jake posing shirtless next to a surfboard. July has Ryder as a “sexy Uncle Sam.” August has Sam as a fully-clothed lifeguard. September also features Sam, wearing a school uniform. October has Jake wearing only a “Jake-o-lantern.” November has Artie has a fully-dressed Pilgrim, holding a giant turkey. We close out the year with Blaine as December, wearing Santa pants and no shirt. The photos are absolutely hilarious and I really want a copy of the calendar. The calendar is selling like hotcakes and every girl at McKinley seems to be buying a copy. A few of them are also offering themselves up to the various guys. They end up making $350 off the calendar sales, putting them only $50 away from Regionals.
All is definitely not well in the Hummelberry + Brody household. Kurt is not happy with Brody putting his bare ass on their kitchen furniture, which I totally get. Kurt also doesn’t support the idea of Rachel doing nudity in this film, but Brody says women have to show their boobs in order to get an Oscar. He goes on to describe Rachel as “Slutty Barbie” and calls Brody “Misogynist Ken.” Look, I’m not cool with the slut shaming, but this storyline actually does a decent job of exploring when it is okay for a female actress to do nudity. I was super worried when it seemed like Kurt and Brody were just going to debate if it was okay for Rachel to be nude, but they brought in Quinn and Santana to have an actual conversation with Rachel about whether she was doing the film for the right reasons. Quinn asks Rachel how she’s going to feel about the scene two weeks, two months, and two years from now. Quinn gets Rachel to admit that she’s not okay with the long-term ramifications of this and doesn’t necessarily want to be known as an actress who does nudity. Rachel argues that some women find it empowering to be naked on film, but Santana and Quinn tell her a student film is probably not going to be empowering. My general belief is that when nudity serves a purpose to the storyline in a non-objectifying way, it can be very empowering. However, this director just wants Rachel to be topless in a scene for the shock factor. That is not empowering and I’m totally on Quinn and Santana’s side in this one. However, Rachel decides she’s going to go through with it, until she gets to the film set and can’t actually drop her robe. First, Rachel asks that the crew also take off their shirts, in order to make her more comfortable. In the end, she just can’t do it. She realizes that she’s not ready to be naked. So, she decides to celebrate this realization by finding Quinn and Santana as they all sing Sara Bareille’s “Love Song.” As nice as it is to hear Dianna Agron and Naya Rivera sing again, this song makes absolutely no sense in the storyline.
Marley and Jake are freaking adorable throughout this whole episode. I really love them together. Marley calls Jake to the auditorium under the pretense of working on a song for Regionals. They go on to do a beautiful rendition of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.” Just as it ends, it seems like Marley is going to tell Jake she loves him, but she just says she loves the song. Jake and Ryder have a great conversation in the locker room about whether Jake is ready to tell Marley he loves her. Granted, the conversation is after them comparing their shoulders while shirtless, so that’s super hot. Ryder urges Jake to “get naked emotionally” and tell Marley that he loves her, but Jake says the idea is terrifying. He decides instead to show it through song and sings Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself).” It’s the best song of the episode and actually gave me chills. Jacob Artist is such a phenomenal singer. At the end of the episode, Jake gives Marley a personally signed calendar. On one of his months, he wrote a message telling Marley he loves her. It’s very adorable and they are such the stereotypical high school couple. It’s all so precious.
There’s also a very small storyline between Finn and Sue. Apparently, Sue is not okay with the idea of a “Men of McKinley” calendar, but Finn says she is a hypocrite because Sue once posed for Penthouse. Finn sets out to track it down. Further showing that Finn is a complete idiot, he asks his high school student Artie to pore over vintage Penthouses to try to find Sue’s centerfold. Later in the episode, Finn comes back to Sue and lays down a manilla envelope on the table. Sue opens it and says she’s not ashamed of her centerfold. However, inside is a copy of “Highlights for Children.” Sue calls Finn an idiot, but he pulls out a voice recorder and tells Sue he now has her confession on tape.
The episode ends with all of New Directions singing A Great Big World’s “This Is the New Year.” It’s honestly one of my favorite full glee club performances of the series. It’s just a really fun number between all of them. They’re all just having fun together and singing. A lot of people have complained about the focus on the new characters, but a show set in a high school needs to bring in new people in order to survive. The new people are really growing on me and I legitimately enjoy their presence. I truly like the way this show is going. People shouldn’t be so quick to write it off.
Next week: Everyone’s a diva.