High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 2 Episode 5, “The Quinceañero,” instills confidence that this season (albeit a little later than desired) embraces its ensemble. Specifically, the last two episodes made this seem like a significant possibility, but “The Quinceañero” confirms it right away. This episode lets Carlos stand in the spotlight, even though he’s still learning to be comfortable with that, as we learn more about him through the people who love him most, Gina and Seb.
Additionally, it’s an excellent way to branch out from HSMTMTS‘ usual source of entertainment — drama between Ricky and Nini. Though that drama is still very much present (for some reason) in this episode, it takes the backseat for a much more exciting story that lets HSMTMTS‘ secret weapons, Gina and EJ, share center stage.
Through it all, HSMTMTS finds that balance of heart and humor that hits the sweet spot where you laugh so hard you cry and then feel so much you cry along with these characters. If the series can sustain that momentum for the rest of the season (and the series as a whole), there is no telling what the show will be able to pull off by the time it comes to an end, whenever that may be.
It’s so sweet to see such a genuine reaction of pure joy from Frankie A. Rodriguez when Seb calls for EJ and Ricky to pull the barn door open. It makes all the unresolved drama around holiday gift budgets fall to the wayside because HSMTMTS finally shows us some depth of Carlos and Seb’s relationship. Though, hopefully, the show will circle back around to that conversation at some point.
In easily one of the most memorable moments from this season so far, Joe Serafini delivers a stunning performance of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” as a birthday gift from Seb to Carlos. That performance puts Serafini’s incomparable talent on full display, ensuring that it would be a mistake to let Seb become an entirely secondary character again. Additionally, its context makes me root for Seb and Carlos in a way I never have before.
There’s something beautiful about Seb knowing and admiring Carlos from afar before getting to know each other. It’s sweet that Seb sees the best in Carlos when Carlos can’t see it in himself. If that’s not a beautiful love story, I don’t know what is. Now, I want to see even more of their dynamic. I want to see if or how Carlos turns the tables and shows up for Seb because we see plenty of the former in this episode and prior but not much of the latter.
Though not an original song, Serfanini’s performance of “The Climb” is the second time I’ve been stunned by a musical number this season. The instant nostalgia knocked me off my feet, but Serafini’s rendition is what brought tears to my eyes. This season’s other musical performances have been great, but none of them have been as memorable as “Wondering” or “All I Want” from Season 1 until now. If you’re wondering, the first time is Sofia Wylie’s performance of “Dancer’s Heart.” Wylie’s star power and phenomenal dance moves make up for what the lyrics of this song lack.
Let Ricky and Nini Be Happy
“The Quinceañero” loses me with its decision to manufacture drama with Ricky and Nini when there doesn’t need to be any. Ricky going behind Nini’s back to get her a spot in the production is selfish, and the truth will come out at some point. Miss Jenn is the one who comes to Nini with the proposition, but it would be naive to believe HSMTMTS won’t reveal Ricky’s role in the idea at a pivotal moment. It will be even more obvious that HSMTMTS is trying to force drama onto this couple without a bigger plan in motion if the truth isn’t revealed.
Ricky’s fear of losing Nini or simply not being able to spend enough time with her would be valid if we ever saw that as an option. First, Nini attends rehearsals for a production she’s not even in to spend time with Ricky and her friends. Second, she pointedly tells him that it’s not as deep as he’s making it. That’s when we get the very meta moment of Nini saying she wants to focus on creating new music and doing her own solo thing. Ricky can’t take Nini for her actions or her words, and that’s a problem.
On HSMTMTS Season 2 Episode 4, “The Storm,” Ricky reinforces the need for transparency and trust, but he falls short of respecting that from Nini this week. Ricky and Nini aren’t going to be perfectly fine and happy every week because they’re teenagers but also because that’s not very realistic. Although, it wouldn’t hurt if HSMTMTS let them be happy for a little while before it gets wrecked if that’s what they’re planning. They’ve only just reunited after getting together and being separated. The show is full of rich characters who deserve to have their stories told. Let Ricky and Nini live in the bliss of their new relationship while everyone else gets a chance to shine.
EJ & Gina Are Exactly What HSMTMTS Needs
HSMTMTS doesn’t give its other romantic pairings, other than Rini, nearly as much time as they need to be compelling. It’s a shame that most of Big Red and Ashlyn’s cutest moments happen in the mid-credits scenes. “The Quinceañero” is the most we’ve ever gotten from Seb and Carlos. Kourtney and Howie are an exception because we’re still getting to know Howie alongside Kourtney. Though, I do have high hopes for them. All of this makes it overwhelmingly exciting that the show appears to be pairing up its two secret weapons to make one incredible power couple.
Season 1 tees up a tremendous fake dating to real dating trope with EJ and Gina this season. Now, after this episode, HSMTMTS looks like it may venture down this path. Both Sofia Wylie and Matt Cornett’s performances in this episode are so brilliant and so nuanced that I’m genuinely giddy to see where Gina and EJ go next. The potential for this relationship may jar some viewers, but it works for me. That whole fake dating thing from last season works for me. EJ being the one who bought Gina’s plane ticket to Salt Lake works for me.
What tops all of that is the way EJ looks at Gina when he finally turns the camera away from himself to truly see people, to see her. I wish this revelation could have come through EJ being the Beast in his final East High production, but I’ll take what I can get. It’s evident that Gina is aware of EJ’s interest in her wellbeing and appreciates that. You can see the relief wash over her at that moment. But it’s just as evident that she doesn’t see EJ the way he sees her…yet. Not once but twice does EJ have to be snapped back into reality because he’s so caught up in his awe of Gina. Tell me this doesn’t feel like the beginning of a love story. The way the camera lingers on their smiles while the heartfelt music plays is a big enough sign.
Despite Gina making that devastating call to her mom at the end of the episode, this feels like HSMTMTS is starting something they intend to follow through on with Gina and EJ. This is ideal because there is chemistry there, and Gina and EJ are standouts on this show. It’s the best of both worlds. When EJ records Gina’s message to Carlos, the scene is so charged, and it’s the first time I’ve been so invested in a scene and a couple on this show since last season.
Gina wears her heart on her sleeve a lot of the time, but especially so during this episode. It’s obvious she’s going through something. Gina’s dropping hints about “goodbyes” and “goodbye parties,” but she shakes off any questions. It isn’t until EJ asks her how she feels (and then asks her if that’s okay!!!) that she lets it all come to the surface. Gina is incredibly vulnerable in this scene, and it doesn’t backfire like it usually does with Ricky. It’s because she feels so seen and, honestly, probably safe that she permits herself to be vulnerable, however fleeting that moment may be.
It’s so good and has me on the edge of my seat so see what happens next. Honestly, I could write a thousand words about how Sofia Wylie and Matt Cornett took my breath away in “The Quinceañero,” but I’ll refrain from doing so. I’m optimistic this isn’t the end for Gina because this can’t be the end for Gina and her friends — and whatever is happening with EJ.
Other Fabulous Moments:
- Ricky’s dad and Miss Jenn are kind of cute. So I’m here for it.
- Nini being proud of Big Red and Kourtney for taking chances and doing the thing.
- Mr. Mazzara and Michael judging each other but pretending not to judge each other is very funny.
- Lili chugging, scolding hot coffee did make me giggle, but it also made me fear her a bit.
- “Everyone should have people who just get them.” – Carlos
- Miss Jenn’s reaction to Carlos choosing her as his godrina is so pure!
What did you think of “The Quinceañero?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop weekly on Disney+!