Recap / Glee S 1 E 1 Pilot


What do you get when you take High School Musical, pump it full of antidepressants, and have it run by a Production Posse with some of the most unique choices in storytelling? You get Glee, an instant "Future Classic" that loaded its cast with some of the purest talent you'll find anywhere; Broadway was the stomping ground for the bulk of them.

Lima, Ohio. September 21, 2009. We open with a routine by William McKinley High School's cheerleading squad, the Cheerios!. Explosive, high energy, and intricately choreographed, it's clear that this squad knows what they're doing. Unfortunately, their coach believes otherwise...

You think this is hard, try being waterboarded, that's hard!

Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is the Devil with the tracksuit on. The Cheerios! coach whose ruthlessness is legend establishes herself in the opening moments already as the nasty and abrasive Politically Incorrect Villain of Glee.

Following the Title Card, we cut to Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), former National Show Choir Champion, arriving in an alleged car. He then walks by Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), resident fashionista and secret Deadpan Snarker who has the ability to switch between falsetto and baritone almost instantaneously, being surrounded by the McKinley football team — Alpha Dogs of the school. Among them is quarterback Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) and his best friend Puck (Mark Salling). Kurt manages to get Finn to let him remove his expensive jacket, tosses his bag over, and then gets acquainted with the contents of a dumpster.

We then see one of the Cheerios! posing in the air. This is Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), Head Cheerio and HBIC. This then cuts to the McKinley trophy case, as Will glimpses the trophy his glee club won in '93, alongside a portrait of its late director, Lillian Adler, implied to be Too Good for This Sinful Earth. As Will stares, it cuts to him in class, teaching. You may notice Finn in this class — albeit not totally paying attention, as the shot now cuts to the school's choir room, home of the dilapidated glee club "Rhythm Explosion". Its director is Sandy Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), and he's at the piano, trying to teach Hank Saunders, the current leading man, "Where is Love" from the musical Oliver!. As they harmonize, Sandy's hand begins to go where it shouldn't, and it is revealed that somebody saw this, giving it a Death Glare. This is Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), self-professed ingenue and bully-resiliant aspiring triple-threat.

In the teacher's lounge there is no coffee pot, made so by cost-saving extraordinaire, Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba). Sue, however, brings in some fresh java that is in no way from Starbucks for four members of staff, the only ones she presumably likes. This introduces us to Coach Ken Tanaka (Patrick Gallagher), the racially diverse and emotionally awkward football coach, and Emma Pilsbury (Jayma Mays), the school counsellor, who prefers pamphlets to confrontation and is crushing on Will whilst Ken crushes on her. Emma reveals via well-placed snark that the coffee was probably paid for out of the exhaustive Cheerios! nutritionist budget that Sue coerced Figgins into giving her (whether true or not that's a little rude), all the while cleaning individual grapes whilst wearing rubber gloves. Ken, clueless as to Emma's germaphobia, tries to hit on her unsuccessfully while Will succeeds unintentionally, causing Ken to begin to view him as a spiteful love rival. They discuss how someone tattled to Figgins about Ryerson being inappropriate and so the glee club currently doesn't have a director, Will's face being the image bridge that takes us to him in Figgins' office.

Will offers to take over. Figgins laughs, asks if he also wants to captain the Titanic, then looks at the money and says $60 a month from Will's own pocket is the bill to keep it running. Will has a slight Blue Screen Of Death, as we cut to him in bed with his wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig), who's a little bit crazy. They were high school sweethearts who unfortunately went sour after putting rings on it. Plus, as we'll see, Terri's insane. It is in bed that Will comes up with the name "New Directions", because even though it is a law of the universe that show choir names must be ridiculous, the previous name was a little too much.

Will posts a sign-up sheet in the hall and the first we see to brave adding their name is Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley). Immediately following is her audition song, some of Aretha Franklin's "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." accompanied by Glee's real life musical director, the forever omnipresent and infinitely talented Brad Ellis. This reveals her booming voice of soul. Next up is Kurt, singing "Mr Cellophane" and Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), a wallflower who dresses as a Goth, though she herself is outgoing and happy. She signs up, writing her name with stuttering 'T's to represent her Verbal Tic, and also adds the name of her boyfriend, Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) who's in a wheelchair and can't reach. Tina sings Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl", and Artie's audition is not shown until the Grand Finale. After this we come to Rachel signing up and putting a trademark gold star next to her name — then falling victim to a face full of corn syrup and crushed ice, the first of the trademark Glee slushies. (Let the records show Puck threw the first, and in a case of Book Ends, will also throw the last.)

She begins to monologue over her audition tune of "On My Own", and we see her in Figgins' office providing her best distraught acting performance as she outs Sandy's dirty little secret, her real motivations being spite at Sandy's obvious and disgusting reasons for favoring the rather weak-voiced Hank over her, blabbing and blabbering in Large Ham fashion. Then we get her backstory: she's not homophobic, in fact she's the daughter of interracial gay couple Hiram and LeRoy Berry, who provided every advantage to their little performer. She then honed her talent by recording and uploading to MySpace, despite her audience being mostly hateful in the form of her classmates and led by the demeaning comments of the Cheerios. There's a short clip in Rachel's narration of the cheer squad watching her videos in the gym, laughing and commenting together. Quinn is at the helm with the laptop, flanked by her number two, Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), the resident Snark Knight.

When Rachel is done auditioning, she asks when rehearsals start. After Will answers with a lengthy commercial break we see the newly-assembled glee club's ill-practiced rendition of "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat", complete with jazz hands, white gloves, and choreography even a infant beauty pageant wouldn't touch. As you would expect, ego plus lameness equals a need for more members. Not that we're going recruiting again just yet: first to Will and Rachel out on the bleachers. Rachel, tired of being laughed at, laments about how she can feel the clock ticking and how she doesn't want to graduate without something to show for it. She tells Will about her ambitions, her drive to mean something, ending with a line that would define at least part of what the show was about.

Being a part of something special makes you special.

Will offers to find her a male lead who can lead with her, before being summoned to Figgins' office. Figgins decrees that if New Directions doesn't win Regionals (time to explain: it's the clubs from the section that face off first, at Sectionals, and the winners there face the best in the region, at Regionals, and a win there pits them against the best in the nation, at Nationals) then they're getting cut.

We go to Terri's job at a linens store. After berating a coworker, Will comes in with a sandwich; having mayo on it displeases Terri, because she doesn't want to get diabetes, because that means she's less likely to conceive. As we've established, she's insane. After more demonstrations of this, the gist of it being Terri wanting Will to work as an accountant, we then see Sandy Ryerson berating a different worker (who doesn't know what a thread count is?), now a dealer of medical marijuana (to the staff of McKinley) try to sell some to Will, slipping him a free sample to help him cope with having the glee club as his new charges.

There's now an intercut sequence of Will, Slasher Smile abound, in Sue's office attempting to convince her to let him recruit cheerleaders and talking to Emma after she steps in some gum that's still fresh and now spawning on her little shoe. Will brushes Sue's ego by calling the cheer girls "performers" and "talented" (undoubtedly true, but nobody else at McKinley seems to recognize this), and brushes Emma's shoe with a credit card to clear it off and accidentally win her heart. Sue lays out the caste system WMHS uses (Jocks and Popular Kids = Penthouse, Nerds = Bottom Floor, Glee Club = Sub-Basement). Meanwhile, Emma suggests finding a leader, someone who kids will follow anywhere. Since the Cheerios! are out, Will tries to get the football team to join, reactions ranging from "if I don't look, he won't know I'm here" all the way up to farting an audition (Puck, getting laps for the service). The sign-up sheet that he leaves behind returns the most uninventive of names and Will's disappointed. That is, until his ears tune in to the showers. Having stage presence and a voice that is only out-performed by his air-drumming skills is none other than the quarterback! Will establishes a plan to get Finn to join the glee club that isn't just asking nicely again: he calls Finn to his office and produces the pot he was given by Sandy.

Finn protests, obviously, and we see his monologued backstory, too: his dad died in the Gulf War, mom Carole (Romy Rosemont) had to struggle, you get the point. Only cool thing was Carole's boyfriend, Darren, a landscaper who let Finn help. That was the first time Finn really heard music, and after the bf dumped her, Finn made a vow to make her proud. Will offers Finn a choice of being given six weeks detention (that would go on his permanent record), or something ("please") else.

Cut to him on stage with the rest of New Directions, singing some Grease with Rachel. Unfortunately, Rachel, so happy at having a stage partner, invokes the crazy eyes; we even get a POV shot of both of them and the poor boy looks terrified whist Rachel is clearly smitten with him. Mercedes, invoking her Catch-Phrase (Hell to the No!) for the first time, steps up and decries her lack of spotlight. Kurt calms her down by saying it's one song. Will hangs his head at how little his team is working, resorting to asking his wife for help. This happens when they're in their craft room, doing a puzzle. Will brings up wanting to take ND to Akron, specifically to Carmel High to visit their glee club, "Vocal Adrenaline". Terri asks how much it will cost, reminding Will of the financial strain just running glee has put them in — until Will tells her that he knows she spends her paychecks on frivolous purchases, even while she blames him for not having money, pressuring him again to quit teaching. However, she diverts from the argument a-brewing to shine a light on something that will get Will to drop it, for now, calling him out for wanting to relive his glory days, a problem that is implied to be the base for his more dubious decisions, a trait that will be underlying for the bulk of the series.

In the teacher's lounge, Ken is shredding while Emma is staring at Will putting up a chaperone sheet. Emma promptly signs it (after wiping down the attached pencil). On the field, Ken is ripping Finn a new one for wanting to go with ND. Puck asks what's up, so Finn, demonstrating a considerable lack of knowledge of anatomy, claims it's to help Carole recover from prostate surgery.

Insert: You think this is hard, I'm living with hepatitis. That's hard.

Back in the lounge, Will gets an eyeful of Ken's crazy eyes, the coach accusing him of stealing his quarterback and screwing up his life, Will countering that Ken hates football, so this is really about Emma, Ken then biting back that Will didn't talk Ken up to her not because he forgot but because he wants her for himself, storming off before Will can remind him that, uh, he's Happily Married (well, sort-of happily).

The glee club arrive at Carmel, and Rachel asserts to Finn in the line for snacks that they should get together — as leading man and lady, they need to for the club. Finn doesn't really get it, but catches the word "dating" and begins to tell Rachel all about his summer with Quinn, who's sort of okay; we cut to him and Quinn making out, his hands sliding towards her ass before Quinn catches it and cockblocking by way of praying ensues. Also in the line is Wemma (let's establish the Portmanteau Couple Name now, many will follow) deciding that nothing looks particularly edible, and they keep their flirting game strong by splitting a PB&J. Will moans at the delight, having cut nuts from his diet at 18 because Terri's allergic. Then the lights flash and the bells ding, the curtain goes up and we quickly see why Vocal Adrenaline would become ND's personal boogeymen for half the series.

Back at McKinley, a steel pan band is among the list of other clubs that are being funded at the school, shown as Finn walks right into a paintball firing squad. Puck was apparently concerned about Carole and googled her troubles, learning something about basic anatomy and Finn is summarily "executed". Back at his place, Will walks in to see Terri, bubbly in hand, congratulating Will because she's pregnant. Surprise, surprise, she's not, it's an hysterical pregnancy (body produces the symptoms, tests say positive, but there's no actual fetus), one she will milk in order to keep Will in line. At the moment, she does manage to get Will to quit McKinley. ND are naturally aghast.

After a random dose of Will doing a little Peter, Paul, and Mary (including Emma drawing hearts on his yearbook picture while having a BSOD and Will doing accountant training), we cut to him packing up when Emma comes in and convinces him to have one session with her.

Cut to Finn's locker. Rachel has "assumed" control of ND and is trying to get Finn back, but Quinn and Santana appear, make with the names, then bid their goodbyes, calling Finn to come running. Finn quits ND, but not before Rachel says he shouldn't care what others think. In the meantime, Finn's happy that he can rejoin the football team, as are the rest of the team. Their way of welcoming him back? Kidnapping Artie, shoving him in a port-a-potty and offering Finn the first flip as they plan to roll him around. Finn, demonstrating that Rachel's words got to him, pulls Artie out, then lays down his "The Reason You Suck" Speech:

We're all losers. Everyone in this school! Hell, everyone in this town. Out of all the kids who graduate, maybe half will go to college - and two will leave the state to do it! I'm not afraid to be called a loser, because I can accept that's what I am, but I am afraid of turning my back on something that actually made me happy for the first time in my sorry life.

As Finn is wheeling Artie away, he sees Darren touching up the green on the football field, accompanied by a familiar song. This gives him an idea. Cut to a bickering ND, as Finn and Artie arrive, Artie willing to procure his friends in the jazz band (AKA John Locke & Scott Henson, who along with Brad Ellis made up the musical backbone of Glee), Mercedes has the costumes, Rachel has choreography, Tina has a stutter, Kurt has sass, Finn has the music. They still need a director, though. So in Emma's office, it's time for that career guidance appointment, and she pulls up a clip of Will's glee club winning Nationals. Unfortunately, instead of motivating him to stay, it reminds him his time's gone by and he needs to grow up. Emma tells him that the only life worth living is one you're passionate about.

As Will leaves, we get a reminder of that passion.

Starting softly, then increasing in volume, we hear the now-Glee-trademark "Dadadada", forming the opening chords to the song that would go on to define the series. Cut to the auditorium and there they are, in all their glory. Red t-shirts, blue jeans, black sneakers. This scene could be said to put Glee on the map, and is now considered the signature moment of the show. As Will stands in awe, we cut to Sue, Quinn, and Santana at the balcony, staring down the group improved enough to be a threat. We also cut to Puck, dismissive for now, all three students unaware that what they glare at and dismiss so easily will give them something more precious than a trophy.

Will: From The Top.

For the members of the William McKinley High School Glee Club, and the faculty close enough, the journey has just begun...

Next Time: New Directions' first public performance, the group gets some "Unholy" new recruits, and Terri gets some news that will define her insanity.

Songs from the episode

  • "Where is Love" from Oliver, performed by Sandy Ryerson and Hank Saunders.
  • "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, performed by Mercedes Jones
  • "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago, performed by Kurt Hummel
  • "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry, performed by Tina Cohen-Chang
  • "On My Own" from Les Misérables, performed by Rachel Berry.
  • "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" from Guys and Dolls, performed by Artie Abrams and New Directions
  • "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon, performed by Finn Hudson
  • "You're the One that I Want" from Grease, performed by Finn Hudson, Rachel Berry, and New Directions
  • "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse, performed by Vocal Adrenaline
  • "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul, and Mary, performed by Will Schuester note .
  • "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, performed by Rachel Berry, Finn Hudson, and New Directions.

This Episode contains examples of

  • Actor Allusion: Rachel sings "On My Own" as her audition song. Lea Michele, who plays Rachel, made her Broadway debut in Les Misérables, and was going to be in the revival, but instead decided to be in Spring Awakening.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Finn mentions he is dating head cheerleader Quinn Fabray.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Finn's lie to miss football practice so he can go on the glee club trip is that his mom has to have her prostate out.
    • Puck has to look it up to find out "chicks don't have prostates".
  • Blatant Lies: Rachel says that she was not the one who turned in Sandy Ryerson. Cue a cut to her in Figgins' office.
    Rachel: He was touching Hank, caressing him. It was 'so wrong.
  • Call-Forward: New Directions' attempt at "You're the One that I Want" forsees its being played in its entirety during the Season 4 episode Glease, but s4 has couples breaking up instead of getting together.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: One of the a capella songs that plays in the background is "When I Get You Alone", which later appears in Season Two.
    • The episode in general. It premiered months before the rest of Season 1.
    • The Cheerios perform "You Keep Me Hanging On", more famous as a Quinn solo from episode 7.
  • Five-Token Band: New Directions, especially before Finn joined. Rachel is Jewish, Kurt is gay, Mercedes is black, Tina is Asian, and Artie is in a wheelchair.
  • Name's the Same: Stephen Tobolowsky plays Sandy Ryerson. Seventeen years prior, he played Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. Word of God said it was a genuine coincidence.
  • Neat Freak: Emma, who is shown eating grapes and wiping each one before she puts it in her mouth.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Lampshaded by Terri. "I'm on my feet four hours a day, three times a week here. Now I have to go home and cook dinner for myself?"
  • Star-Making Role: Outside of Broadway stars, the cast's pre-Glee careers compiled as:
    • Cory Monteith, The Cameo guy
    • Jane Lynch and Jayma Mays, veteran character actors
    • Naya Rivera, Former Child Star turned Abercrombie model
    • Mark Salling, mid-twenties attempt at singer-songwriter
    • Kevin McHale, former Boy Band breakout
    • Amber Riley, turned down for the X-Factor
    • Chris Colfer, cast straight out of high school
    • Jessalyn Gilsig, imported from another Ryan Murphy show
    • Dianna Agron, prolific roles stunted by the writers' strike.
      • Agron, Lynch, Gilsig and Mays were the only working actors hired, and it was still the SMR for the first two! The Broadway lot are Matt Morrison, Lea Michele, and Jenna Ushkowitz, for whom Glee was certainly the SMR for Ushkowitz and the film-based SMR for Morrison and Michele.
  • Stuffed into a Trashcan: Kurt, early in the episode.
  • Urine Trouble: A bed-wetter returns sheets to Terri's store.

Alternative Title(s): Glee Pilot