The title of the episode actually works on multiple levels as many of the characters are learning new skills. Kurt learns something about giving back, Santana has re-invented herself as a publicist for Rachel, and Sam reminds us that he can be a responsible adult as he actually shows an old dog how to do new tricks. At the heart of the story, however, is a terrific guest cast comprised of more mature stars than generally feature on the show who nonetheless prove that they can still teach the younger people new tricks.
Among the fabulous guest cast is recent Oscar nominiee June Squibb (Maggie). She was nominated this past year for Nebraska. In fact, Squibb didn’t start acting in front of the camera until she was in her 60s, having spent most of her career on Broadway – just like her character! Rounding out the cast are Billy Dee Williams (Andy), who many will know as Lando Calrissian from Star Wars, and Tim Conway (Marty), who many may recognize from The Carol Burnett Show.
The main story centers around Kurt’s feelings of being left behind as all of his friends seem to be making successes of themselves. After learning from Maggie about her production of Peter Pan, he decides to check it out only to find that their Peter Pan has died – literally in harness. Naturally, Kurt auditions and gets the role. When Kurt tries to get Rachel to commit to coming to the one performance of the show, she tells him she’s too busy with her new charity Broadway Bitches. Kurt points out that Rachel treats him like the dogs – she’s only his friend when it’s convenient for her.
Rachel finally comes to her senses when a woman accuses her of only using the dogs for her own benefit when Rachel won’t adopt a three legged dog to the woman who will give it a good home because Rachel needs it for a photo op. When the woman calls her a fraud, Rachel finally realizes that she has been being one – she finally learns her new trick.
Meanwhile, Sam has adopted a dog and Mercedes (Amber Riley) is not happy. He lets the dog destroy their house and a lot of Mercedes things, but when she insists, he does take it and train it and clean it up. She still doesn’t believe he’ll be able to keep it up though and points out that it’s not fair to bring the dog into their unstable relationship. Sam reminds her that he was the one to look after his whole family when they were homeless – something the show has seemingly forgotten about too. I really liked that they moved away from the “stupid-Sam” just a little bit here.
Meanwhile, Kurt discovers that Maggie is estranged from her daughter Clara (Melinda McGraw) and takes it upon himself to try to reunite the two. Clara is bitter, telling Kurt that Maggie was a terrible mother. Kurt tells her that her mother got lost in a dream, but really regrets it now. Kurt also tells Clara that he lost his own mother when he was 8 and spent his whole life pretending he had one. He tells Clara that she can heal the rift, that even if Maggie couldn’t look after her when she was little, Clara now has the opportunity to look after Maggie. Clara seems to be unmoved when Kurt leaves.
The rehearsals with the old Broadway crew are hysterical, but the production itself, to which Kurt has to add updated music! – is great. I loved the sequence with Kurt on the wire. Kurt tells Maggie that the production and helping her are the first time that he’s felt like he’s been doing something with purpose since coming to New York – which makes me wonder about what the larger ramifications will be for Kurt – will he give up his own Broadway dream? He does suggest to Maggie that they can be each other’s family.
Kurt makes up with Rachel – and I loved him calling to forgive her from backstage only to find her sitting in the house. Rachel also gives Kurt a chance to shine at her fundraiser. Kurt is also successful at teaching Clara to forgive her mother. Certainly, Maggie has learned her lesson and wants to know all about Clara’s life.
I thought this was a solid episode with a good story and a spectacular guest cast. It certainly had a message – or two – running through it – be nice to dogs and old people! - don’t take either for granted or throw them away. But it didn’t feel heavy-handed or “preachy” to me. What did you think of the episode? Do you think Kurt and Santana are destined to leave show business proper? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to vote for your favorite song in the episode!