‘Glee Project’: Few Sparks Fly in Romanticality Week

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Shanna Henderson, you have just been “von Bleickened.”

Last year I defined this term, named for contender Marissa von Bleicken, as “when a consistently praised contender wins a homework assignment and then gets prematurely ousted in the same week on ‘The Glee Project.’”

I’m taking out the homework part, because it doesn’t matter much, but adding that to be von Bleickened you can’t have ever been in the Bottom 3 before. This was true of Marissa, Season 1’s Hannah (von Bleickened right before the finale), and now Shanna.

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Basically, when there’s a von Bleickening, you don’t see it coming.

Not only has Shanna not been in the B3, she’s almost always been among the first callbacks, meaning she’s been spared even having to stand in Tear-Stained Row to receive criticism that could send her to sing for Ryan.

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It was Aylin, who has done plenty of time on Tear-Stained Row and in the B3, who seemed poised to exit stage left. She and Shanna got the same notes throughout the week, each failing to connect truthfully with their partners in the homework performance and then as each other’s partner in the video.

So what happened?

Shanna was struck down for failing to comply with the single most important commandment from the gods atop Mt. Glee: Thou shalt embody uniqueness and be proficient in inspirational underdoggie style.

When Zeus asked the rosy-cheeked and golden-haired Shanna what kind of fresh, effective character she would play on “Glee,“ she blinked her sparkling blue eyes and said, “I would be, like, the athletic girl that’s involved in everything and that can sing her ass off.”

Far be it from me to side with Murph, but OMG, Shanna, you just described the exact girl who graduates high school with a full ride to her state university in softball/volleyball/basketball/track/soccer. Why didn’t you add, “And she has tons of friends and a steady boyfriend and teaches vacation Bible school every summer in the suburbs”?

And no one wants to watch her on TV ever because we do not tune in every week to watch nice, well-rounded people. At least not in this century.

So it actually didn’t come down to “romanticality” at all, which was the week’s theme. The homework assignment and video both required the contenders to pair off and portray convincing budding romances.

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Not only did the show bring in Darren Criss to guest mentor, but Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme accompanied the gang on acoustic guitar as they performed the ultra-famous rock ballad “More Than Words” for their homework assignment.

Ali and Blake shone as a playful duo, with Criss picking the latter as the “earnest and nice” winner. Ali and Lily way overshot their depiction of longing-turned-somber-togetherness, and Michael and Shanna were “a little stiff” in trying to find a balance of light and serious.

As president of the Send Michael Home anti-fanclub, I was quick to assume that Shanna was right and that Michael didn’t understand how to work off one another, thus bringing her down with him.

But then two significant things happened that forced me to re-examine my opinion of him. One was the “We Found Love” video shoot, in which the “hopeless place” was a Saturday detention session a la “The Breakfast Club,” where as soon as the principal leaves, the students run amok.

Speaking of the principal, Iqbal Theba was at his usual best in his cameo. But for future reference, Figgins dancing? Yes, please. Figgins dancing while peeing? No thanks.

Anyway, Michael and Lily took to the football bleachers to get their flirt on, and they worked great together, earning callbacks. Robert and Co. agreed that both of them (yes, including Michael) did a good job of adjusting their own energy to blend nicely together. So while Lily was toning down her brassy boldness, Michael actually rose up from his typical blandness. And he also nailed his recording session for the first time.

But what really struck me was the behind-the-scenes bit that gets tossed between commercials in the last break of the episode every week. In case you fast-forwarded through it, you missed Lily and Michael having a practice date the night before their video shoot so they could transition their just-friends chemistry into a believable new romance.

The result was silliness. She gave him the prettier plate of food to show she liked him, and he ad-libbed a song on his guitar narrating their evening. He was really likeable and relaxed and I finally understood why people like him.

I still don’t want him to win, but I’m not mad at the judges for calling him back this week.

You know who was mad? Shanna. She didn’t throw an undignified fit and only commented on the situation when Ryan asked about it (again, admirable in real-life, boring on TV), but she was unafraid to throw Michael under the bus for getting the same critiques and not improving. She wasn’t wrong and I can’t blame her for speaking the truth while fighting to stay in the competition.

Back to the video – Ali and Blake were praised for continuing to be adorable together, but honestly I thought it showed no progression and was pretty one-note.

Besides, why would you ask someone to prom in a broom closet? Is prom that night? Can you not wait until detention is over and you’ve moved on to the infinitely more romantic Dairy Queen parking lot?

Ali was safe but Blake wound up in the bottom, though, because he could not harmonize to save his life in the recording booth. Nikki, who usually loves Blake, was clearly disappointed and kept saying she’d “found the crack in his armor.”

Shanna and Aylin shared an auditorium twirl-and-flirt session that Zach thought looked like a dance class. It was noted that Shanna’s default setting was “bubblegum” and “Disney princess.” No one believed the girls were falling for each other, despite them trying to interpret a variety of notes from Erik and Zach.

In the end, Blake was a walking bundle of nerves when he came out to perform “Losing My Religion,” for the panel. That made his more relatable than usual. Murph complained that Blake usually coasts on charm and that he wanted to see more vulnerability, which would make writing for him interesting.

Aylin gave what was called the best vocal performance of the three with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” which she forgot many words to. Ryan talked with her about possible backlash within her family for kissing her way through Season 2 and being on “Glee” in general, and she expressed a willingness to stand up to the criticism and be a role model for sassy Turkish-American Muslim girls. Cue the thought bubble above Ryan’s head that says, “I heart you.”

Shanna didn’t deliver a “she should stay” performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” and Murphy told her he saw the other girls as easier to write for. She gave the kind of impassioned answers that he usually responds to favorably, but it wasn’t enough this time.

I don’t see Michael or Blake (whom I believe I’ve referred to as The Dull Twins) becoming wildly inspirational in the coming week, so I predict one of them will go next before the Final Four are revealed.

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

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