An episode can still be good even if bad things happen to the characters that take over our screens once a week. Obviously we don't actually like seeing our favorite fictional people go through all that, but it can still be good TV. In many ways, Choke was a prime example of this.
The storyline this episode takes its title from, ie. Rachel and Kurt's NYADA auditions, was possibly one of the more anticipated parts, especially due to the fact that we had known prior to the episode that something would go wrong. Someone would choke.
Puck isn't exactly known for his academic prowess nor his willingness to put tremendous effort into something. And yet, he finds himself having to pass an important test in order to graduate from high school.
When a joke is made at Shannon Beiste's expense for having a black eye, no one suspects that there could more to it than meets the eye. Only later do we find out that her injury is the result of domestic violence.
Choke continues to do what Glee has been doing lately. It tackles some serious issues and even though it is more of a drama/dramedy at this point as opposed to a light musical comedy, it may actually be that the show has found its true value here; not only has it been dealing with serious topics beyond the usual PSA level of awareness that most shows never stray from, it has done so in a legitimately good and realistic way every time. As I stated in a comment a few days ago, "dramas have a better way of dealing with serious topics because they don't have to rely as much on momentum as, for example, comedies do. A storyline gets to develop and only later on does it hit you how important and deep a certain plot/arc actually was. That's the true value of dramas/dramedies and I think Glee is starting to see it can do much greater things if it goes down a more dramatic (while still as realistic as possible of a) path".
Yes, Rachel choking on her go-to song despite having been born to do Broadway is sad. Watching her audition fail like that was downright heartbreaking. So was seeing Puck fail on a test he desperately wanted to pass in order to graduate and make something of himself, or learning how Shannon decided to give her potentially abusive husband a second chance despite the fact she had claimed otherwise. But, in the end, it reflects the way things are in real life. As heartbreaking as it may be, that way of dealing with storylines gives Glee much more value than an instant "deus ex machina" solution for everyone's problems.
It's for these reasons and the sheer level of quality Glee met this week that this episode deserves nothing shy of a 9.5/10 score-wise, together with the recogntition of being a standout episode, therefore continuing what has been one of the best arcs on Glee yet.
Quite a few songs were featured in this week's episode, although two of them were only heard briefly and/or weren't released together with the rest of the music.
First such song was "Music of the Night" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, the last few verses of which were seen performed by Kurt when rehearsing for his NYADA audition. Even though the performance barely reaches one minute in length, I am thoroughly convinced that Kurt would sound just as impressive if he sang the entire tune. Even if that many candles are a safety hazard. 9.5/10.
The first full performance of the night and subsequently the first song to be released was Alice Cooper's "School's Out", sung by Puck. It had been a while since the last Puck number, which made this one all the more memorable. Admittedly, some of it was also the motorcycle bit and the guitar in flames. Either way, it was an explosive fest of Puckerman badassness that we admittedly don't mind seeing every once in a while. "School's Out" also showed that Noah Puckerman, and subsequently also Mark Salling, can sound good on both tender, emotional ballads as well as high-octane, adrenaline-raising numbers such as this one. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but Mark did a good job either way, despite occasionally forgetting to move his lips during the performance. 9/10 for vocals, 8.5 for the performance. Final score: 8.8/10 (B)
Some have argued that Glee writers must be fans of the SIMGM Glee spoofs for including this one, but either way, it's definitely one of the most interesting songs Glee has done so far. "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago might not be a typical song to be covered by teenagers and in retrospect probably not the best choice for a song about female empowerment in abusive situations, but when are we really going to have a better opportunity for a song about "crazy women in their panties killing their husbands for chewing gum"? This was probably as close to that as it gets. Not to mention how hard it is to argue against the song when the performance was really one of the most intriguing ones in a while. It was dark, it was smooth, it was sexy. Vocally, Glee's cover might have lacked a hint of the original rawness, but that hardly gets in the way; the only major problem I had was the fact that Glee cut down the studio version to some 3 minutes when this truly compelling cover could have gone on for twice as long. Vocals: 9.5/10, performance: 9.5/10. Final score: 9.3/10 (A)
"Cell Block Tango" would admittedly have become my favorite showtune from Choke and my new preferred musical number in general if it hadn't been for what I am officially dubbing as one of Glee's defining moments. Feeling that it would be a good idea to go from a cape and a dangerously high amount of candles to gold lamé pants and killer dance moves for his, Kurt gave us a performance of "Not the Boy Next Door" that confirmed once again how insanely talented both Chris Colfer and his character are. Not only was Carmen Tibideaux right word for word, this was easily Chris' best performance on the show so far. It was edgy, sexy and just downright impressive. Not to mention Chris was vocally impeccable on this one. A full 10 on all accounts. Final score: 10/10 (A+)
The main problem, at least in-universe, with "The Rain in Spain" is the fact that the song is not entirely about geography. It's not about that at all, actually. In the musical it originates from, My Fair Lady, the line that goes "the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" is merely one of the speech exercises that help Eliza Doolittle overcome her Cockney accent. It's therefore not recommended to use it as a mnemonic device, unless you want to get it wrong (in Spain, it actually mostly rains in the northern mountains). Whether or not Glee forgot to do its research is beside the point; Puck arguably wouldn't have passed either way presuming that the rest of the questions were in fact harder than the first two. "The Rain in Spain" remains a fun little number either way and Glee introduced a completely new take on it that some liked and some didn't. There's nothign wrong with it vocally and the performance was just one of the many Glee "broments" we've been enjoying recently. The technical issue with it, however, does take away from the effect it was going for. 8.5 for vocals, 9 for performance. Final score: 8.8/10 (B)
Many people were angry due to the fact that "Shake It Out" wasn't a Tina solo, and Glee's cover of the Florence and the Machine song received some backlash because of it. While it was dissapointing that Tina didn't get a solo, it hardly matters in the end. I will say once again that as long as the cover is good, I don't really care all that much who's singing it. This was one of those times; I feel like many people failed to appreciate Naya and Amber's contributions to the song due to the Tina "incident", which is definitely a shame for such a beautiful song. The vocals were good, and the performance was simple, yet lovely. Overall, it was a nice cover of a nice song. 9.5 for vocals, 9 for performance. Final score: 9.3/10 (A)
Last, but certainly not least, Kelly Clarkson's "Cry", sung by Rachel in the episode's absolutely devastating closing scene. Lea Michele really does showcase her amazing vocal ability with this cover; "Cry" is quite possibly one of her best vocal performances yet and it goes to show just how much emotion one can express in a single song. The cover by Glee captures an entirely different moment than the original, but the raw stays the same. Props to Lea for concluding the episode with a beautiful performance that summed up the feelings that had crawled up un os by the end of it. A 10 for both vocals and performance. Final score: 10/10 (A+)
It was easily one of the best episodes of the season and there's no doubt that Choke was just the first in the string of particularly powerful episodes with a high score on the emotional scale that will conclude season 3 of Glee and pave the way for a new chapter come the end of summer.
Episode score: 9.5/10 (A)
Average musical score: 9.4/10 (A)