Two weeks into its third season, and I almost feel like the creators of Glee have reached right into my mind and begun to work on so many of the issues and problems I’ve had with the series over the year to try and correct them one by one. I’ve made no attempt to hide my opinion that Glee can be the most uneven show on television (well, True Blood took that crown and then some this season) and for all of its strengths, it’s had a million flaws trying to weigh it down. Last season tackled some of the flaws and then added some more for good measure. So far this season, Ryan Murphy and company have taken noticeable steps to improve on the most common complaints, and we haven’t hit any mind-numbing potholes in the path yet. Of course, we’re only two episodes in so that gives the show plenty of time to screw things up, but I’m going to stay optimistic and hope that Glee is able to pull off all of the shots for this season which will be the last of many of the main cast members.

This week, Glee‘s plot was considerably more focused than usual as we mostly only got stories that involved Kurt, Rachel, Shelby Corcoran, Puck, and Quinn, which I’m realizing in retrospect doesn’t sound focused at all (but for Glee, it really is). After deciding they needed to fluff up their extra-curriculars for college, Kurt and Rachel audition for the school musical which this year will be West Side Story, where Rachel wishes to play Maria and Kurt to play Tony. Shelby Corocan has returned to town as a new teacher at McKinley and she wishes to find a place in Beth’s (the baby Quinn gave up for audition in Season 1) life for Puck and Quinn, although she wants Quinn to clean up her act first. Puck, who seems to have matured immensely since last season, desperately wants to be a part of Beth’s life and is willing to do anything to gain Shelby’s approval. Quinn is a little more hard-headed and doesn’t want to abandon her new Skank persona. At first, it seems a verbal smack-down from Mr. Schuester and finally seeing a picture of Puck with Beth is all it took to bring Quinn back to the light side of the force, but alas a last minute comment to Puck shows that she’s only pretending so that she can try and regain full custody of Beth. Isn’t Quinn just a bitch?

As for Kurt and Rachel (who let’s face it are the beating heart of the series), Rachel takes a minor back-step in this episode although she gets some great moments with Shelby Corcoran, her birth mother. Back in Season 1, Rachel and Shelby had to accept that although Shelby gave birth to Rachel, she simply wasn’t able to be her mom. Now that Shelby is back, Rachel is going to have to accept that Shelby can help her with her music and stage success and they may be able to finally bond. Kurt auditions for West Side Story but because he is so feminine, the three directors of the play (Coach Bieste, Artie, and Emma) have trouble believing him in such a masculine role. Kurt becomes obsessed with the way the school views him. He doesn’t want to be seen as only gay (which manifests in his campaign for President where Brittany designs extremely girly campaign posters for Kurt) and wants to be able to come across as straight for the great roles. Eventually, Kurt has to accept who he is, but trouble starts to reign in paradise when Blaine is offered to try-out for the role of Tony (when he had agreed not to for Kurt) because Blaine blew away the play’s directors.

In the last half of season 1 and for a good portion of season 2, Glee  was doing way too many musical numbers an episode. While I love a good song and dance routine as much as the next guy, it was taking away from the show’s ability to tell a good and cohesive story. This episode only had three musical numbers and the show excelled because of the restraint. Shelby and Rachel sing a duet version of “Somewhere” from West Side Story and just like “Funny Girl” in the past, their voices work together and the performance is the current best of the season. They have a natural musical chemistry and I got chills during the song. Kurt’s rendition of “I’m the Greatest Star” from (ironically enough) Funny Girl was also good. Chris Colfer is going to have a big career on Broadway once this show ends. The choreography for the number was the highlight as his gallivanting up and down the scaffolding on stage as well as the sais at the number’s end was just deliciously over the top. For once, I was actually disappointed with Blaine. He sang another West Side Story number, this one being “Something’s Coming”. The performance was still good. It just wasn’t excellent which is what I’ve come to expect from Blaine. There was just something slight about it.

In terms of writing, I’m really excited that they’ve brought Shelby Corcoran back to the cast. Glee completely forgot about the Quinn baby drama in its second season as well as Rachel learning about her birth mother and I’m glad they’re bringing it back around for these characters’s final season. Glee will often inexplicably abandon storylines (what the hell happened to Karofsky?), and it’s nice to know they haven’t completely given up on this one. Also, it was lovely for Glee to not over-extend itself too much by coming up with increasingly ridiculous scenarios to place these characters in. With the exception of Sue’s Congressional run, nothing about this season seems especially over-the-top. So far, it all seems to be grounded in some layer of reality, with that nice Glee touch of humor. Also, another plus has to be Mr. Schue finally giving Quinn the verbal smackdown she’s had coming for the last two and a half seasons. Unfortunately, it appears to not have worked since she’s still the super self-centered bitch she’s been the whole series. I’m starting to dislike Quinn more than Terri and that’s really saying something.

The buzzword around the blogosphere for this season of Glee has been a general consensus that we’re going back to basics and while I don’t generally agree with the hate train that follows around the second season, it is nice to see the show scaling back some of the more extravagant aspects of last season and returning to the things that we know work. While there are still some things I would love to see fixed like Emma and Will’s relationship which has simply been teased to the point of torture and I forgot how much I miss Sam as I was rewatching some of last season this weekend, this season is on a good track. I’m not sure how excited I am to here that Mr. Schue is covering Coldplay next week as well as there being 6 songs in the episode. I just hope that the series doesn’t start getting lost again in an exorbitant number of subplots that it isn’t going to take the time to conclude rationally.

Episode Score: B+