I love it when they divide the episode up into three neat little subplots, don't you? In the subplot of most importance to the episode but of absolutely no importance to the overall series, an old Glee Club rival of Will's named Bryan Ryan has just joined the school board, and has made as his sole goal the immediate and permanent elimination of all arts funding throughout the district. Why so draconian, I pretend to hear you ask? Because Bryan Ryan was the star of the old McKinley High Glee Club, of course, and after graduation, he ended up sinking even lower than Orange April until he abjured all artistic endeavors whatsoever, started a used Hummer dealership, and began a show choir conversion group filled with 12-stepping "glee club survivors" like Molly Shannon and John Michael Higgins.
Now he's determined to remove the arts as an option for everyone, and goes so far as to point out to the Glee Club kids that, despite their dreams of show business success, 91% of them will end up living their entire lives in Allen County, most likely working in the medical billing or elderly care industries. Happily, Will takes Bryan Ryan out for a few cocktails and, thanks to alcohol's well-known tongue-loosening properties, gets Bryan Ryan to admit that he actually misses performing every single day of his life. One quick audition for a community theater production of Les Miserables and a hate-filled jaunt up to Sue Sylvester's Secret Annex later, and Bryan Ryan no longer has a problem with arts funding for high schools. You know, more or less.
And in the primary of the secondary subplots (i.e., the one of most importance to the overall series), Rachel confides to Jesse St. James that finding her birth mother has always been her most cherished dream. Jesse St. James vows to help Rachel make that dream come true, but when they rifle through the boxes of documentation Rachel's dads have kept on her since the day she was born, Jesse St. James slips a very suspicious audiotape in among the papers, then claims to have just found this astonishing mix-tape entitled "Songs From An Unwed Mother To The Daughter She Abandoned 15 Years Ago." Or something like that. Rachel freaks and initially refuses to listen to it, then finally caves to Jesse St. James's caring pressure and listens to her supposed mother singing some song from that awful UK-based talent show with the crazy cat woman from Scotland with the eyebrows and the hair and the weekly nervous breakdowns.
And guess what? Rachel's supposed mother is really her actual mother, Idina Menzel, who sent Jesse St. James on his mission to New Directions not to destroy Rachel, but to lead her to seek Idina Menzel out. We'd consider this to be a shocking plot twist were it not for the fans who'd been baying for Idina Menzel to play Rachel Berry's birth mother ever since the show premiered last May.
Finally, in the secondary of the secondary subplots -- yep, the one of least importance to the overall series, because it involves two tertiary characters who are lucky to get four lines between them during a normal week -- Single-T Tina learns Artie's secret dream is to dance, so she researches a bunch of whackjob holistic therapies on the Intertubes and needlessly gets his hopes up for a cure to the irreversible spinal cord damage he suffered in that car accident. They kiss and make up in the end, though, just in time for Artie to snag the solo on the episode's closing number.
By the way, this evening's numbers included "Dream Weaver," sung by Gary Wright in the background of a bar scene; a drunken karaoke version of "Piano Man" from Will and Bryan Ryan; a feisty "Big Spender," provided by a community theater hopeful; a scorching duet of Aerosmith's "Dream On," offered as a dueling audition by Will and his archrival; "Safety Dance," starring Artie Abrams and the Allen County Mall Dream Ballet Dancers; "Song For The Crazy Cat Woman With The Eyebrows And The Hair," featuring Idina Menzel and Rachel; and, finally, "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" to close out the episode, courtesy of Artie.
Previously on Pee-Wee's Playhouse: "Voice."
Will, having been summoned to the Maharishi's lair, pokes his portable Superfund site of hair-care products through the principal's door to wonder waht gives. Maharishi Figgins wastes not an instant in introducing Will to the school board's newest member, and it's that beloved international star of stage and screen Neil Patrick Harris! Well, it's actually "Bryan Ryan," but Bryan Ryan is being played by that beloved international star of stage and screen Neil Patrick Harris, and I don't think I really needed to spell it out for you like that, but whatever, and where was I, again? Oh, yes: Beloved International Star Of Stage And Screen Neil Patrick Harris pivots in his chair to offer Will a chipper, "We've met!" and Will instantly finds himself hurtling headlong into a...
...FLASHBACK! "Bryan. Ryan!" Will's voiceover narrates, positively dripping with loathing and contempt as it reminisces, "We went to school together, and he made my life a living hell. He was two years older, dated every girl I liked, got every solo..." And by now, the visual's caught up with the flashback's piano vamp to reveal a bemulleted Bryan Ryan dueting on The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" with a perkily permed blonde atrocity who's sporting some rancid black acid-wash jeans beneath one of The Limited's deathless takes on early-'90s plaid grungewear, and she's accessorized this with a black braided belt I've no doubt she picked up with her employee discount at The Gap, and I'm so distracted by the sheer hideousness of her outfit and hair-don't that I nearly miss the amateurish sleight-of-hand Flashback Bryan Ryan pulls to yank a colorful bouquet of feather flowers out of his nasty grey-on-grey checkerboard-patterned Cosby sweater, and oh, my God, make it stop! Make it stop! Though to be fair, no one else in the Flashback McKinley Music Room's looking any better, what with the veritable cornucopia of trashy Baja hoodies and eye-searing print button-downs on display, not to mention the various Ohndrea Zuckerman wannabes liberally sprinkled about the scene. (And no, I had no idea Original Recipe Link Larkin was featured in that 90210 clip when I chose it, but his presence does make the selection seem rather serendipitous, don't you think?) One of the unfortunate Ohndrea Wannabes is, in fact, seated right next to Flashback Will, who's grinning through a mouthful of braces like the pimply fourteen-year-old idiot he's supposed to be at the moment until Flashback Bryan Ryan's mighty feat of prestidigitation leaves him gape-mouthed with awe. "What's the matter, Schuester?" Bryan Ryan snides. "Cat got your talent?" Um. What?