‘Glee Project’ Recap: Amber Riley Teaches Tenacity

Amber Riley on The Glee Project (Oxygen)

Ex-Rufio is now an Ex-Contender.

After a risky last-ditch move that came across as more desperate than tenacious, Abraham failed to be called back this week on “The Glee Project.”

It’s not clear if he would have been saved if not for his stunt after the Last Chance Round, but it didn’t seem to help matters and basically only served to allow him to be schooled a second time by Ryan Murphy.

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The events leading up to Abe’s departure showed he wasn’t the only one of the remaining seven (half the initial number of contenders) with weaknesses, but nothing new and surprising was revealed. We’ve heard these notes before.

Because they’d made it this far in the competition, the contenders were all deemed to know a bit about the week’s theme of tenacity. They performed “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child as their homework assignment for guest mentor Amber Riley, who is apparently tenacious for, among other things, continuing to work despite stress fractures in her feet due to repeatedly performing in heels.

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Shanna was excited to have a fellow girl who could “belt to Jesus” in the building. She wasn’t able to reach holiness with this number, though, because the beat of the song is mostly too clipped for a good, long belt. The performance was “meh,” with Riley wanting more vivaciousness from Abe and a physical connection from Lily. Ali won her second challenge in a row for a featured spot in the video.

Oh, that video. Perhaps director Erik White thought, “If OK Go can do it, I can do it.” Or maybe he just wanted to punish himself and everyone around him. Either way, a one-take video of a gym class obstacle course was the most ambitious shoot “The Glee Project” has ever seen, and I’m not even sure that the end result was that rewarding.

The contenders had to sing or lip sync to “Eye of the Tiger” as they whipped around a gymnasium jumping through hoops, clearing hurdles, changing clothes, building human pyramids, and much more. Each activity had to be completed smoothly in time with the music, all in one long unbroken succession, for the video to work.

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Did I mention that the very last obstacle was for Ali to make a one-armed basketball shot backwards over her shoulder from her wheelchair? Because that’s the kind of reliable, easily achieved activity you want to culminate with in the event that everyone has managed to do everything else perfectly up to that point. That doesn’t put unreasonable pressure on Ali at all.

It’s no wonder they eventually switched to the contenders lifting her chair into the air to make a much easier shot, but not before she missed several times and wigged out. I’m not sure if the judges saw her lose it, but the contenders were super supportive and soothing, which makes me think they actually like her.

You guys, like I said last week, you’re not here to make friends! Whatever happened to the good old days of reality competitions where weaknesses were exploited and human decency was called into question?

Anyway, Ali really was a trouper—again—and earned her early call back later on. Shanna also managed to keep her struggles within the contender circle and away from the eyes and ears of the judges. Girl knew to barf backstage and not whine about it; it was the meat dress all over again.

Abraham, however, flailed around in a doorway when he hurt himself. Yes, he later continued to do take after take on his now-weak ankle, but something tells me Amber Riley wouldn’t have been so praised for her perseverance through pain if she’d been all dramatic about it at first.

Yet Abe, along with Lily, Michael, and Aylin, had an even bigger stumbling block to face. Once you get the hang of it, both turning and jumping double Dutch jump ropes become like clockwork, but if you’ve never done it before, that might take some time. Add lip-syncing and acting like a badass to the mix, and you’ve got the biggest nemesis of the shoot.

None of the four could remotely handle double Dutch while performing the song, and they all let it negatively affect their attitudes. Once they seemed utterly defeated, Erik switched to a single rope, and even then that section was one of the sloppiest and least appealing parts of the final video.

The gang nailed it on the 34th take, and their laborious effort and exhaustion unfortunately came through in the final product, making it not as fun to watch as four band members singing and playing on treadmills.

Shanna and Blake followed Ali into callback bliss, while the jump ropers faced the mentors’ criticism yet again. This established pattern of the same people being safe week after week has become rather anti-climactic. Aylin the Hurdler Extraordinaire made the cut and booked it off stage while Lily, Michael, and Abraham were given their Last Chance songs.

Lily, who had already been told she was kind of less bad than the boys in the shoot, blew the judges away with her performance of “I’m the Greatest Star.” And she enjoyed herself to boot. Murph told her she’s better than being rattled by some minor comment from Aylin and sent her on her way.

Michael and Abraham gave decent but forgettable performances of “Brick” and “Man in the Mirror.” I was sure it was Michael’s time (I was wishing and wishing for it), especially because Zeus delivered the low blow of responding to his performance by declaring that Blake is probably a better jump roper and overall human being than Michael. This was particularly unfortunate considering Michael’s confessed goal for the week was to ask himself what Blake would do and then do it better.

But Abraham was dressed down by Ryan as well for making excuses. After everyone had performed and the judges were deliberating, Abe marched back onstage and announced he wasn’t leaving until he’d won and Zeus had made him a home on Mt Glee.

Errrr… nice try? No, not really. As Ryan pointed out, tenacity would have been acknowledging a bad performance and asking to sing again instead of just stubbornly declaring his talent. There’s a slight difference between Rachel Berry’s desperate actions after she choked and Abe’s ultimatum, but that difference – Rachel’s—eagerness to earn her reconsideration—seems to be pretty important to Murphy and Co., because Abraham got the boot.

A Shanna-Ali-Blake showdown finale seems inevitable, but we’re still a couple of weeks away from that, so next week the most we have to look forward to is Darren Criss in an appearance that was clearly filmed before he became a doppelganger for Joaquin Phoenix in that fake documentary.

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


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