‘Glee Project’: Naya Rivera Helps Contestants Explore Awkward ‘Sexuality’

The Glee Project (Oxygen)

When Robert announced this week’s theme of sexuality on “The Glee Project,” I groaned to myself while the contenders squealed with delight on my TV.

Actors—especially “Glee” actors playing hormonal teens—find themselves flirting and making out with all kinds of folks onscreen. The results can be sweet, sexy, funny, whatever.

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But seeing behind-the-scenes footage of inexperienced actors flirting and making out is less like witnessing a romantic Brittana smooch and more like being visually assaulted by people getting freaky in a hot tub on “The Bachelor”… or “The Real World”… or anything on VH1. AWK-ward.

Last year the contenders learned quickly that to be sexually daring (whether or not they felt comfortable at it) in any performance was usually a shortcut to resounding praise from Murph and Co. Some of the results were squirm-inducing.

This year we—er, they—were subjected to a spin-the-bottle video shoot early on. So I warily proceeded through the episode wondering how icky this could get since first base had already been rounded so quickly.

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For the record, I don’t mind the portrayal of teens as sexual beings, because that can be realistic, even if it’s not always the case (a la Nellie). But getting to know the contenders and then watching them have to push their own envelopes feels a little more complicated than when you don’t have the actors’ real personalities in mind when you see them perform.

Again, I say AWK-ward.

Anyway, the contenders got to work on their homework song, Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up,” which I’m pretty sure hasn’t been popular since most of these guys were in utero, yet they seemed excited about it. Maybe the Acafellas made it successful with a new generation?

Important side note: Abraham had Tyler dye the red patches out of his black hair. This would later lead Robert, Zach, and Nikki to whisper about how he was like a different, more open person who was now owning his masculinity. I’m sorry, but who is more manly than Rufio?

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Before the homework number, “less is more” was the advice from seriously luminous guest mentor Naya Rivera (“She’s so sexy I can see it,” quipped Mario). I braced myself for a “more is more” performance and was pleasantly surprised when the kids kept the creepy humping-each-other stuff to a minimum.

Naya told Blake he could be more playful, Nellie to be more confident, and Aylin to tone it down a little. She picked Charlie as the winner because he seduced her with his beatboxing skills. No, seriously. The win and their subsequent mentoring session, during which it was determined he was like a stalking lion, proved to inflate his confidence to a detrimental level.

Despite the contenders’ success at being somewhat conservative early on, the concept of the music video to “Moves Like Jagger/Milkshake” had me nervous for more awkward over-sexiness. However, it was cute that Robert kept saying they were having a “sexy-off” like that’s a totally normal thing.

Fortunately, it was Captain Adorable to the rescue! Zach explained they should look like they had a secret and tried to help them “find a balance between overt sexuality and no sexuality.”

But then he made Nellie drop it like it’s hot, which almost gave her a heart attack. So it was a complex lesson. Butt-extending and pointed staring are not overt in some circles, it seems. (I kid because I love.)

The resulting video was not worth my sense of dread. It was fun and hot, with way more bark than bite… until the last few seconds, which were utterly traumatizing. Apparently the prey Charlie the Lion was stalking was WMHS’s Mrs. Hagberg (who taught a different subject every time she appeared on “Glee”), who wagged her tongue at him before they ran off together.

Robert felt that everyone was prepared and on fire for the video shoot. He and Zach privately praised Lily for managing to make her smoldering body language subtle enough for the cameras.

But Nellie was the standout performer, even confessing that she got over her nerves after five minutes and had fun. And it showed – she looked awesome in the video and became a definite frontrunner. She was first on the callback list.

The four left in the trouble zone of the callback process were Charlie, Shanna, Michael, and Tyler.

Shanna had struggled with being believably sultry instead of conveying her usual perkiness. Tears poured down her cheeks while Zach gently cautioned her to develop different shades of her happy, glowing nature. She was revealed to be safe from the Last Chance Round.

Charlie was given “I Get a Kick Out of You” and once again scored a homerun with a refreshingly hatless Ryan Murphy. That is, his performance was stellar. But Zeus shamed him quite thoroughly for being unprofessional in the recording booth and on the shoot. He was too flirty to be focused during vocals, and on the set he basically tried to take Erik’s job.

So he was “amazingly creative” according to Robert but hard to work with according to everyone. From his tearful conversation with the contenders while awaiting the final cut, it sounded like he gets this note a lot. He was frustrated with himself. But because Murph admitted to loving a hot mess, he was safe for another week.

Michael was assigned “Lucky” by Jason Mraz. He started off well and proceeded to forget like half his lyrics. He recovered somewhat by adlibbing a few lines acknowledging the situation, but it as still a second-degree choke.

Michael was in the bottom because he also forgot his lyrics in the booth, so much that Nikki had to regretfully kick him out of the recording session. She clearly believes in him, because during the final evaluation she defended his improvement every week and ability to apply directions. Zach also declared himself to be Team Michael.

In the end, Murph saved him with a warning that he needed to be aware of how good he was.

And that means Tyler got the boot. He sang “Smile” beautifully, but he did so while barely moving and keeping his eyes closed most of the time. It was a fitting example of how he’s talented but just kind of doesn’t stand out compared to the more electric performers.

The judges appropriately felt that they couldn’t criticize him for being where he is in his process of evolution, but cut him because he basically just wasn’t the best at this point. Zach clearly wanted to keep Tyler on as his personal teddy bear.

Thankfully, Tyler was sad but accepting of his fate. But Ex-Rufio sobbed openly at the news that his friend was leaving.

And yet again the judges made another completely justifiable cut, making it increasingly difficult to ridicule them. But I’ll keep trying.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.
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