There's an awful lot of singing in this episode, but not actually a whole lot of plot -- although the plot's that there is pretty juicy. Okay, first -- Mr. Schue assigns the kids to pair off and sing ballads to each other. Because Matt (a.k.a. "Shaft") is out of school with an aural spider infestation, Mr. Schuester has to put his name into the hat so there'll be an even number of singers. And he ends up paired with Rachel, who develops an insane crush on him while the two of them are singing "Endless Love." And when I say insane, I mean it -- she goes to his house and lets Terri put her to work cooking and cleaning to prove her worth. She also completely misses the point when Will tries to use the power of music to get her to back off. It's only when an older student who formerly had a crush on Will shares her Guatemalan-insanity-pepper-inspired wisdom that Rachel comes to her senses.
And speaking of crushes, Kurt finally tells the world (in voice-over) that he's madly in love with Finn. Luckily for him, the two of them are paired up for the ballad assignment. His plan seems to be to help Finn and Quinn stay together just long enough for Quinn to drive Finn crazy and make him give up girls completely. He also encourages Finn to express himself with song, to disastrous effect. First, Finn's mother catches him singing "I'll Stand By You" to a video of a sonogram, thereby realizing that he's an expectant father. And then Finn's plan (hatched in Kurt's brain) to tell Quinn's parents about the pregnancy by singing "(You're) Having My Baby" at dinner goes awry when Quinn's parents freak out and her father throws her out of the house. So now Quinn is living with Finn, because his mother is cool like that.
We don't get to see any of the other ballad pairings (and I feel cheated to miss out on the song stylings of Brittney and Santana) because the other kids have been preparing a song to sing to Finn and Quinn to tell the two of them how everyone feels about them. And that song is "Lean On Me." And it's pretty damn awesome.
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Mr. Schue writes "Ballad" on the whiteboard in the music room, telling the kids it's from the Middle English, neglecting to tell kids that Middle English stole it from Old French, which stole it from Old Provençal. Look at the Man, whitewashing history. He asks if anyone knows what it means. Brittney: "It's a male duck." Oh, Brit-Brit -- you just keep on trying. Kurt tells Mr. Schue that a ballad is a love song. Will tells him that a ballad can be a love song, but that a ballad is really a story set to music. He thinks they're the perfect mode for self-expression, since "stories and music are the way we express feelings that we can't get out any other way." He reminds us that sectionals are in a few weeks. I thought they were in a few weeks a few weeks ago. Is McKinley High trapped in some kind of time loop, forced to repeat the same week over and over again until they get it right? Anyway, Will tells the kids that there's a new rule this year that requires each choir to sing a ballad. He can claim it's a new rule, but I think he just sat down and finally read the rule book last night. To get the kids in the ballad-singing mood, Mr. Schue is going to pair them off; each member of the pair will pick a ballad and sing it to his or her partner. Finn tries to pick Quinn, but Will says that fate will pick their partners -- he wrote everybody's name on pieces of paper and he's going to pick them out of a hat. Brittney whispers to Santana, "I bet the duck's in the hat." Santana tells Will that Matt is out sick -- he had to go to a hospital because they found a spider in his ear. I have to believe that actually happened to someone in the writers' room, because I just don't see how somebody could just make that up. In any case, after overcoming his gag reflex at the thought of a spider in the ear, Will says that he'll take Matt's place until he gets back. The kids pick names out of the hat. Puck gets Mercedes, Artie gets Quinn, and Finn gets Kurt. Kurt looks like his wildest dream has just come true. Finn tells Mr. Schue that he can't sing to a dude, but Will tells him that fate will not be denied. Tina gets "other Asian," and Santana gets Brittney -- who looks even happier than Kurt did when Finn picked his name. Hmmmm. Which means that Rachel is left with Will. He thinks that maybe they should wait until Matt gets back, and Finn throws his fate line right back in Will's face. Artie asks for some clarification about what kind of song they're supposed to sing, so Rachel volunteers herself and Will for a demonstration. She also finally reveals the piano player's name, as she tells him, "Brad, 'Endless Love' in B-flat, please." He'll always be Tinkles to me. Will doesn't think "Endless Love" is really an appropriate song, but she points out that it's a perfect ballad. Egged on by Finn and the other kids, Will assents, and Tinkles starts to play the song. As Will starts to sing, we get internal monologues from some of the kids. Kurt: "I could totally sing this song with Finn. But screw him if he thinks he's taking the Dianna Ross part from me." Puck: "I love the days when I don't where underwear. Full commando." I think I can safely say that we all love those days. Finn: "I never noticed how nice Rachel's butt is. Oh crap, I think Quinn knows I'm staring at it." Indeed, Quinn is giving him the stink eye. As Will and Rachel sing, he realizes that he's at the receiving end of one Rachel's very intense looks -- the one that says, "You're the one that I want." She starts circling around the piano to get closer to him. He makes increasingly disturbed faces as he circles around to keep the piano between the two of them. He's not fast enough, and has to jump behind a stool that he uses as a shield to keep her away. Rachel gets her own inner monologue: "Wow, I never noticed this before, because he's always trying to destroy my career, but Mr. Schue has really pretty eyes. And really nice teeth. He's obviously invested in good oral hygiene, and that's important to me, it shows wonderful self-esteem." Will: "I don't like the way she's looking at me. I shouldn't have sung this song to her. Crap, she looks crazy right now. I know this look." The other kids are waving their glowing cell phones in the air as the song wraps up. Rachel: "Okay, this is amazing. When I'm singing with him, it's like I'm seeing him for the first time. And what I'm seeing is super, super cute." Title card.