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SOUND OFF: GLEE En Espanol (With Ricky Martin!)

Completing the Lima Sound Machine in a truly terrific way, Ricky Martin made his highly-awaited GLEE debut last night and the word on the tips of tongues wagging across the country today is undoubtedly duende. Dwarf, you say? No, not dwarf - to paraphrase the idea of the term: a passion for performance. The work of art and the joy we find in that work. That being the definition, no show currently on TV packs more duende into each and every minute than GLEE does each and every week, it seems. A dramatic and musical marriage to beat the band and infusing the show with some spine-tingling spark and verve, Ricky Martin made his musical moments really matter. Both Ricky's cover of LMFAO's international smash hit, remixed and sung alongside none other than Madonna on Sunday night's Super Bowl, "Sexy And I Know It" - in a new bilingual iteration - and Madonna's own "La Isla Bonita", in a moving and exceedingly pleasing pairing with Season 3 standout Naya Rivera, allowed for Ricky Martin to make his musical mark on the GLEE universe in much the same way Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Gwyneth Paltrow and many other featured guest stars have done in leaving indelible impressions that still linger in the memory. The Ian Brennan-penned "The Spanish Teacher" occasionally may have lapsed into Season Two variety show territory, but acted as an enlivening - and, eventually, surprisingly poignant - episode to occur at this point in the show's history. Will David Martinez return to McKinley High to guest lecture a glee club rehearsal or two? We will have to stayed tuned to see - and hear - but, until then, this episode went a long way in furthering Sue's development as well as giving Finn and Kurt a welcome bonding scene. Beyond all that, though, Matt Morrison played a hard-to-swallow storyline about a non-Spanish speaking Spanish teacher with finesse and ease, letting Martin shine - or, should I say, twinkle. Like teeth - or stars - that is.

Duende

Spanning the modern Spanish popular song catalog, with Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Gypsy Kings given musical nods, "The Spanish Teacher" episode of GLEE also incorporated some traditional and contemporary Latin-themed tunes, as well - "La Cucaracha" and Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" both were given GLEE-riffic airings. Yet, it was Ricky Martin's positively caliente cover of LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" - with some help from Artie Kevin McHale and the rest of New Directions - that served as the tastiest tamale of the evening's succulent buffet of offerings. So, too, did Ricky and Naya Rivera's "La Isla Bonita" strike an emotion chord and provide Martin with the opportunity to show his spunky and more sincere side simultaneously in a delightful character arc. Chord Overstreet and Mark Salling were committed leads on an all-male "Bamboleo" and "Hero" mash-up, while Will Matt Morrison certainly made "A Little Less Conversation" his own - for whatever that was worth given the conceit of the song's presentation {with or without bull. Truly, GLEE has given some unplayable storylines to some characters before, but Will's plight as the almost completely Latin-clueless Spanish teacher goes even further than the most outlandish storylines in my memory. Even in this episode, Sue's absurd pregnancy fever was more realistic than the idea that a teacher wouldn't know even the basic, conversational terms of the language that they teach - even secondary to their main function, whatever that may be. Logic is not necessary in the GLEE universe, but dreaming only goes so far sometimes. Nevertheless, the frothy and fun overall tone of the episode - with some exceptionally acid-laced lines courtesy of Sue and Santana, as always - made the more outrageously outlandish story elements more palatable. Just for the stirring and stylishly presented "La Isla Bonita", Mercedes and her movingly sung "Don't Wanna Lose You", and, aforementioned show standout, "Sexy And I Know It", made "The Spanish Teacher" fine enough to stand alongside some of the lesser episodes of the season so far - Ricky Martin's appearance being the foremost take-away memory of the experience, no question. Season Three remains the most consistent yet in GLEE's high and low trajectory, and, as always, the balance of comedy, drama, music and surrealism was on full display in this subtly amusing entry.

As for the drama of "The Spanish Teacher", Will and Emma's relationship was tried and each respective partner's insecurities laid bare and addressed, but, one suspects that the engagement may not be as smooth a ride as envisioned at the romantic, swoon-worthy outset two episodes ago. The hilarious interjection by the always-reliable Dot Jones as Coach Beiste was a nice balance to the more meddlesome and, I suppose, metaphoric nature of Sue Sylvester's burning desire to conceive a child to carry on her name - going so far as to acquiring "baby gravy" from a teacher or student to do so. Perhaps Sue and David could conjure something up? Haven't we all yearned to see Sue do "Livin' La Vida Loca", really? Admit it. Again, I sincerely hope we see more of MR. Martinez in the future since the creators have made so much out of previous guest teacher storylines for the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Gwyneth Paltrow, and, just this season, Idina Menzel as Shelby Corcoran, Rachel Lea Michele's biological mother. Perhaps a Martin/Menzel could be in the ether, as well? One hopes so. An EVITA homage, perhaps? Let it be so - and sung! Plus, this was the first time Martin and Michele have shared a musical stage since they appeared together in the original Broadway production of LES MISERABLES in the 1990s, so perhaps we could have "A Little Fall Of Rain" sometime soon, too? So many songs to consider!

So, while the kids got the short end of the dramatic development stick in the episode and focus was on the administration - Sue, Will, David and Emma the focal points; additionally, REAL HOUSEWIVES notable NeNe Leakes continued her hilarious arc as Sue's nemesis, Roz. Next week shall apparently prove to be an all-New Directions focus, complete with further development of Rachel and Finn's tenuous engagement plans plus, the first appearance of Rachel's two dads, played by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell, as well as what the oft-tumultuous ties of Finn and Emma - without even mentioning the strained heartstrings tying together Sam and Mercedes - will spell for their nuptial intentions. Plus, "Love Shack", more Sugar Motta and the yearly Valentine's tribute.

Thanks to stupendous guest star casting such as that of Ricky Martin, GLEE continues to hit almost all the right notes - and some unexpected ones, as well - week in, week out, season after season. Always attempting something new, pushing political buttons and defying traditional dramatic devices - and, from time to time, sheer logic, too; admittedly - GLEE is daring and bold. It's a slushie splash in the face - and, once in a while, there is that extra added spice provided by something special and new and just right.

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