Heads (and plenty of eyes) may have rolled in the post-Super Bowl episode of “Glee” that aired a scant forty-eight hours ago. But if the show had really wanted to put its best foot forward, it would done itself far more justice had it aired tonight’s edition, “Silly Love Songs,” instead. Had the football team simply been doing well, Finn’s stock could have risen equally as high, putting the basic premise at work tonight in perfect position to wow the largest set of eyeballs that show will probably ever see. Oh well. No one ever accused “Glee” of doing things the easy way.

“Silly Love Songs” is a companion piece to Season 2’s “Duets,” albeit unofficially. But the same basic structure exists in both episodes, and that structure had yielded two of the three strongest episodes this season (the other one, to my mind, being “Furt”). The structure is incredibly simple, so simple that it must bore the writers of the show, forcing them to create concept canons that resemble the physical cannon Sue brought into play during the last go around. Here’s the structure: keep the adults out of the way, and let the kids play. Done and done.

Any major problems that come from people acting strange, out of character, or having convenient memory loss can almost all be explained by the simple premise that the show never chooses to emphasize: these are hormonal teenagers that pinball back and forth on an almost weekly basis. Moreover, high school is often a four-year play, acted out by people continually trying out new characters. The problems with “Glee” usually stem from how the show chooses to present that ongoing play, unable to discern what the “rules” are about this world and choosing wild moments over world-building. Maybe a story about a bunch of teenagers struggling to find their own voice, both in and out of glee club, isn’t enough for the writers. Maybe they need episodes dedicated to Britney Spears and “The Rocky Horror Picture” show. But that simplicity is certainly enough for me.

The biggest contrast between “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle” and “Silly Love Songs,” as already intimated, was the almost complete lack of adult figure in tonight’s hour. The show’s in a bit of a bind, in that they introduced the show through the figure of Will Schuester and have created a Mercutio-esque character in Sue that threatens to topple the show asunder every time her character appears onscreen. Pushing these two characters off to the side, and I mean WAY OFF to the side, might be the smartest move this show could do. The show won’t do this in a million years, but “Silly Love Songs” stands as a testament to how interesting this show can be when parents and teachers function in this world not unlike they do in those old Charlie Brown cartoons.

Without time needed to show another Scheuster/Beiste powwow, tonight’s hour gave characters that have been hurting for screen time their needed room to breathe. Episodes like this emphasize just how large this cast is, but also serves as a reminder that many of them get a cameo at best on most weeks. Not only that, but it gave them time to arrange themselves in new and interesting formations. Having Puck chase after Lauren may have seemed out of the blue, but gave us more insight into her character than at any point thus far in the series. (Not only that, but retroactively gave context to the rushed way in which she was thrust into the glee club in the first place.) Having Artie perform with Mike as a duo emphasized both of their strengths in a new combination, yielding a really fun Michael Jackson cover that I may ultimately prefer to the big number from Sunday. (I’m a “P.Y.T” guy though, so I was always gonna be a homer for a number like this.)

Beyond that, the show also tried to reforge/restir some dormant relationships to see where they might go now. Finn’s rather a-hole attitude at the outset of the hour had me despairing, as my prediction that the smart, sensitive Finn from “Shuffle” would disappear seemed to be coming true. But the show smartly showed that the bluster masked lingering pain over his break-up with Rachel. Whether or not you like that couple, at least the show strove to give added complication to the Finn/Rachel/Sam/Quinn quadrangle by accentuating positive, and not negative, attributes to each. (And if nothing else, it yielded a pretty sexy scene between Finn/Quinn, in which they danced around both their guilt and a single stage light in a dim auditorium.)

Of course, they are teens, so they will screw up. It could be the accidental contraction of mono, or it could be a performance in The Gap that hands a would-be boyfriend his walking papers. The Warblers as a whole, and Blaine/Kurt in particular, really got a chance to be more than an afterthought with the time afforded an adult-less episodes. We got some backstory about their horrific public performance past (courtesy of the Spirit of St. Louis), got some zingy one-liners (“You MOCK us, sir!”), and, most important, got to see the heretofore completely perfect Blaine reduced to something appealingly human-sized.

Honestly, I get why people have gone gaga over Darren Criss since his arrival on the scene. But I only got it intellectually. That has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with the fact that his character was written as if his smile cured cancer. Nobody as perfect as him could ever capture my attention, and it’s a testament to Criss’ charisma and talent that I didn’t audibly groan every time he appeared onscreen. But just as Finn’s bravado in the kissing booth was a façade, so too has been Blaine’s perfection been a construction. And seeing his hopelessly romantic plan go down in flames gave me hope for his character for the first time.

It wasn’t a perfect episode by any stretch: Santana’s apparent immunity to mono was a plot point as outlandish as any of the show’s past offenders in this department. And after an episode filled with small, non-flashy performances (some with live audio to aid in the auto-tuned illusion), Rachel’s “Firework” completely violated the musical rules established in the hour in favor of some cheesy back-projection. But there was so much good stuff tonight, in a season in which such stuff has been in short supply, that none of these minor issues overrode what amounted a thoroughly enjoyable hour of “Glee.”

That’s not to say that “Glee” has righted the ship in any way. It’s unclear that the show actually knows what makes the show work on a consistent basis. They’re right more often than a broken clock would be at telling time, but not THAT much more. But there’s enough drama in simply trying to survive high school (just ask Buffy Summers and friends) that focusing more on them and less on the adults in this world will probably mine positive results. In musicals, you’re supposed to sing at the point in which words are not enough to convey what you feel. And these kids are feeling a whole lot right now. Let them sing, by God. Let them sing.

 

Did tonight’s episode return “Glee” to glory, or just continue the downward descent? Should this episode have aired after The Super Bowl? Would you be OK if Sue never returned, or is she the only reason you watch? Sound off below!