High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has delivered another excellent episode in “What Team?.” After Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders) is discovered to have fudged her resume, the school board is forced to hold a hearing on whether to retain her as a teacher or not. The show is nearing its premier and the students of East High are not confident they will be able to go on without her.
At its heart, HSMTMTS is all about the relationships between its characters, much like high school theater is often a family for its participants. In “What Team?” the relationships between the show’s main characters have been shuffled around. EJ (Matt Cornett) and Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) are pretty much not on speaking terms, despite EJ’s best (meager) efforts at apologizing for all he’s done wrong. Meanwhile, Gina (Sofia Wylie) and Ricky (Joshua Bassett) are suddenly really close after an intimate experience in the previous episode.
I did not dislike Gina before her current heel-turn, I think she perfectly embodied the maelstrom of emotions that an underclassman in her umpteenth new school has all the right to go through, but I really like her as a “good guy” now. She is emblematic of what makes HSMTMTS so fantastic as a series: the fact that almost all of its characters grow in healthy was not usually represented in children’s television. Gina completely seems to own the fact that she was acting out in the first half of the series, that she knows it was wrong, and that she genuinely wants to be better. Reaching out to other members of the cast besides just Ricky would help that a lot, but she’s only a high school sophomore, and latching onto the one friend you’ve made is totally reasonable of her.
Where I worry though is where she and Ricky’s relationship is going. Ricky clearly has the typical boy problem of being infatuated with any girl that he shares emotions with. In the previous episode, Gina had a line that, to me at least, made it sound like she was clearly disinterested in a relationship with anybody, let along Ricky. Yet, this episode layered on thick the tension Ricky feels between them, Nini’s jealousy over their relationship, and EJ’s, well, total lack of understanding of what’s going on or how to cope with his emotions.
Fortunately, the tension is only one-way and Gina has not shown any sign of romantic interest in Ricky. Hopefully this remains the case and this chapter of their saga ends similarly to Nini and Ricky’s situation with everyone remaining good friends and perhaps in later seasons allowing new relationships to blossom. Or, if Nini and Ricky get back together. That would be pretty much earned at this point, as long as their communication remains as open and honest as it has been so far in this series. Gina suddenly being romantically interested in Ricky just would not fit her characterization as a fiercely independent individual who until only so long ago, didn’t even want to be friends with anybody at school.
“What Team?” provided possibly the best song and scene of the series so far, a major feat considering I have felt that way about the songs in nearly every episode so far. “When There Was Me and You,” the episode’s first original song was certainly a good acoustic piece, but “Truth, Justice, and Songs in Our Key,” was fantastic. While the lyrics were not the most crisp, the emotion behind the song was just perfect. HSMTMTS has been excellent at blending its musical moments seamlessly into the plot, for the most part, making them feel entirely natural rather than a random song and dance. This number did that perfectly.
Easily the best dance scene in the show so far, it also gave pretty much every actor in the show a moment to shine, which has yet to happen in a single episode. It was also fun to see some of the actors who don’t usually dance, like Bassett and Larry Saperstein (Big Red) do some dancing too (they were quite good!). Unfortunately, the fact that EJ took part in all of the comradery and activism to save Miss Jenn felt out of place. He’s friends with none of the other cast at this point, and while if you think about it sort of makes sense that as one of the main characters he would probably have been invited to partake, not enough attention is paid to the awkwardness of his presence.
It is also a bit confusing that not all of the cast seems to be on Miss Jenn’s side but their objections are never taken into account when it comes down to it. It’s hard to tell how many months have gone by since the series’s start, but the level of love and affection the cast and crew have feels just a bit undeserved. With even the recurring background characters involved, there just feels like a disconnect between how everyone suddenly feels like a Wildcat together and how dysfunctional basically everyone has been during rehearsals every time we see them.
Overall, “What Team?” hits all the right feelings, even if some of them aren’t entirely well preambled. The uniqueness of the show’s approach to character growth and relationships more than compensates for the gaps in some of the developments themselves. I just hope that the relationships continue to move in this direction and don’t suddenly fall back into outdated romantic comedy or teen movie tropes of falling in love with the first person that’s nice to you.
The sixth episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is available now on Disney+.
'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,' Episode 6 - What Team?
Overall, “What Team?” hits all the right feelings, even if some of them aren’t entirely well preambled. The uniqueness of the show’s approach to character growth and relationships more than compensates for the gaps in some of the developments themselves.