At the end of “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project,” Rachel, surrounded by all her friends except Santana, says, “If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you guys are my life.” Which actually does put a nice bow on the last two seasons. She came out to New York all on her own, and over that time, there have been two constants: absolute success in everything she does no matter how absurd, and the support of whichever subset of her friends is available to shoot that week. It doesn’t snap everything into place—that would take some kind of epiphany that Blaine is Keyser Soze or something—but it does apply a simple moral with a light touch. What’s Glee without McKinley? It’s about pursuing your dreams with the support of your friends.
It doesn’t take a steel trap to call that bluff. Santana gets written out of the finale, and finally, we see Brittany, and there’s still no update on the state of their relationship? How tight is this group really? Nevertheless, “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” is an intimate, moving, funny season finale, and it’s so good primarily because it’s so simple.
The plotting wraps up every arc without a lot of contortion. Kristen Schaal’s Hollywood writer, Mary Halloran, writes Rachel an awful, quirky, ironic pilot script, and Rachel hates it. So she sings her a song (Pink’s “Glitter In The Air”) to convey the feeling of a Rachel Berry show, and it works. The network loves it, and Rachel’s off to L.A. Blaine rips off the Band-Aid about Kurt being out of June’s showcase, and Kurt’s upset, but he still wants to support Blaine. Then at the showcase, Blaine defies June and invites him on-stage. June starts snorting fire, but she can’t help but get swept up by their chemistry. In both cases, the simple Glee ideal that some things are more convincing in music bears out, and not only for the characters. Rachel’s rendition of “Glitter In The Air” conveys exactly the kind of feeling I’d expect from a Rachel Berry show, and I bet it could make a pretty good pilot. Then there’s the simple, drama-free plotting. Like Blaine’s immediate confession, Sam walks in and puts his head on Mercedes’ lap and tells her he cheated on her. They have an interesting back-and-forth, and while they end up where they were always going to end up, there are moments where it could go either way. The plots are predictable to a certain extent—personally, I expected June to eviscerate Blaine quietly under the din after his stunt—but they’re all sturdy, tried-and-true Glee perennials. Be yourself, believe in yourself, lean on each other. It’s awfully rich for Mary Halloran to come in and be some caricature of ironic detachment on this show of all shows, but “The Untitled Rachel Berry Project” reminds us that Glee does have values deep down under all that glitter.
Just look how democratic the set list is. On a mall tour, Mercedes performs an original number, “Shakin’ My Head,” which is sadly not a duet with Santana but at least features the welcome return of Brittany’s dancing as well as the line, “How come Jesus looks like a white guy when he’s from Palestine?” Sam sings “Girls On Film” on a seductive shoot that isn’t very seductive but does feature one of the few fantasy bits, where the whole slew of auditioning models suddenly sports colored ‘80s suits, with or without shirts. But the real winners are the songs the characters just feel compelled to sing. In addition to Rachel on Pink and the Kurt spotlight at the showcase, Blaine sings “All Of Me” to himself, a fairly minimalistic piano ballad. He doesn’t crack the way he does in “Teenage Dream,” but it packs just as much punch. It’s the perfect set-up for the following scene: Kurt walks in, and Blaine just hangs his head. “June doesn’t want you in the showcase. She never did.” That’s another thing to love. The characters confront one another and attack their own problems. Nobody needs a knight.
It’s not perfect, for reasons above and beyond not actually getting Sam’s junk on the side of a bus. Mary Halloran’s an entertaining cartoon (“Is that Chinese food? Just the smell of it gives me the Lady Dis”), but that is some limp parody by Glee standards. Santana’s an unfortunate absence given the episode is about friendship and communal support, and lately, she’s trying to remake herself in that mold. Most significantly, Rachel’s new dream role is not Fanny at all. It’s herself on a TV show. Dreams change, and she’s already achieved Fanny, but why such unadulterated optimism? Is there no part of this show that sees the danger in what Rachel’s doing and what it means—not for her career but for her, for her development and personality—that she’s turning her back on NYADA and Broadway so suddenly?
At the end, they’re all scattering to the wind. Sam’s achieved his dream of getting his junk on the side of a bus (by which he means his chest?), so he’s going back to Lima where things are slower. Tantalizing! What’s in store for him there? Off-screen-dom? Kurt, Blaine, and Artie are still in school in New York. Rachel’s going to LA. Mercedes is going on tour with Brittany as her star back-up dancer. (Santana’s shooting a Yeastistat commercial this week, but presumably, she’ll wind up back in New York or with Brittany on tour or perhaps seeking a new career move.) It’s an exciting way to end the season, because the future is so open. Season six could be all New York or all Los Angeles; it could jump to Lima; it could be all over the country. To say the show’s been inconsistent is to say the sky’s blue, but it’s episodes like ‘The Untitled Rachel Berry Project,” simple, funny, heartfelt musicals, that give me hope for the future.
- Rachel’s describing her life for Mary to write a script about it. “We can’t use that. The a cappella thing is so over.”
- At the shoot, Sam’s snapping a rubber band on his wrist because he and Mercedes aren’t having sex, and he’s trying to keep from “popping a robe chubber.” Some model totally gets it. “It’s been like nine hours since I got laid. I’m going nuts.”
- They’re there because the original model for Treasure Trailz manscaping products got arrested for running an underground teacup dog fighting ring in Miami.
- Mary interviews Blaine for the pilot. “We’re gonna have to change your name though. Do you prefer Slaine or Faine?” “I’m sorry, are you an actual writer from a real-life television network?” P.S. I’ve heard of Slaine, but were there Finn-Blaine shippers too?
- Kurt’s name has to change too. “Cert? I’m Cert. Like the breath mint.” Great delivery from Chris Colfer. In fact, everyone’s on fire this episode.
- We get to see scenes from Mary’s original pilot, with Cert dressed in a dinosaur outfit at peak sullenness and Rachel in a bathtub saying, “OMGROFLWTH, my stupid gay NASA dads forgot that today was my birthday.” It’s not very funny, in either the way Mary intended or the way the writers intended. Bring back the Glee version of Friends!
- The final number, before Sam, Mercedes, and Brittany leave town, is a full street performance of “Pompeii.” This is how you do a closing celebration. At the end, Rachel gets a call. “That was the network. They, uh, they loved the script, and they want to make it into a pilot. I’m going to L.A.!” The season ends just right: Rachel suddenly looks up right into the camera and smiles before turning her head and walking past. I always knew she could see the cameras.