Sue Sylvester isn’t sure what to think when the motley assortment of freshman football players usher Mercedes Jones to Cheerios practice, and the little thug with the mohawk announces, “Just try her. You’ll see.” Sue snorts and tosses her head in a manner not unlike that of a prized thoroughbred shortly before the starting bell of the Kentucky Derby, then opens the door to direct Mohawk, Babyface, and Teen Beast out into the hallway, holding up a hand to prevent Mercedes from leaving.
“And don’t set foot in my office again without a personal invitation,” Sue barks at the boys as they swagger down the hall. She wheels on Mercedes, who fails to cower adequately – that’s the first mark against her, in Sue’s book. “Well?”
Mercedes looks in the direction of the boys leaving for a split second before turning back to Sue. “I’m going to be your newest Cheerio,” she says after a few more seconds pass.
“Oh are you? Because I don’t remember seeing your name on my roster this morning,” Sue says, narrowing her eyes.
“Newest,” Mercedes repeats, “and the best freshman on the squad. Maybe best of the freshmen and the sophomores.”
“Let’s get real here, Boston Cream,” Sue says. “I’m sure everyone would appreciate your smooth chocolatey coating, but underneath, your fatty cream-filled deliciousness could crush half the girls in my pyramid to death.”
“Then I guess they aren’t as strong as everyone says they are,” Mercedes counters, speaking slowly.
“And you are?” Sue counters.
“You won’t know unless I’m on the squad,” Mercedes says, her chin lifting. Sue props her fists on her hips and leans forward to stare Mercedes down, but Mercedes maintains eye contact without looking away.
“I’ll give you a week,” Sue says. “First tremor in your ankle and you’ll wish you’d never even looked at my squad.”
“If my ankles shake, I’ll kick myself out,” Mercedes says. “They won’t.”
Nearly a year later, during August Cheerios tryouts, Sue has to note that she absolutely made the right choice by taking the risk on Mercedes Jones, who has turned out to be even more demanding and unforgiving than Sue could ever have hoped for in a protege. It’s true that her entourage of inbreeding helmet-monkeys—which has now increased to four members—shows up at every practice and only have eyes for Mercedes, but it’s good for the other girls to get used to being ignored.
While Quinn Fabray leads a group of hopeful-but-mostly-hopeless Cheerios is a round of exhausting warmups, Sue walks by Mercedes, who has some of the more promising girls lined up for the hard sell.
“That is no excuse!” Mercedes is yelling at them. “If you are a Cheerio, you are not working against your fellow Cheerios! You have two enemies: the competition, and Coach Sylvester.”
“Exactly,” Sue adds, “and if I can’t break you, Jones here might.”
One of the girls looks like she’s about to burst into tears. “But I’m only five-foot-two,” she says. “I can’t be on the bottom of the pyramid!
“Want to bet?” Mercedes challenges, looking over at Santana and Brittany and snapping her fingers. Santana and Brittany immediately appear, each taking a knee and interlocking their fingers. Mercedes uses one pair of hands as a step before planting herself squarely on one foot on the other pair of hands. Santana and Brittany stand together, with Mercedes balancing perfectly on the foot, with not a single wobble in her ankle or in Santana or Brittany’s.
Mercedes looks around the assembled potential Cheerios pointedly, and her entourage hoots and whistles from the sidelines.
“That’s enough,” Sue shouts in their direction. “Or I’m instituting my policy on muzzles!”
Mercedes mutters something to Santana and Brittany, then turns to Sue. “That’ll just encourage them, Coach!”
“Now shake it, ‘Cedes!” the tallest of her goons yells. Quinn Fabray stops leading the warmups and glances over at Mercedes with her lips unattractively pursed.
“Smile, Fabray!” Sue snaps at her. “I want to see the payoff on that investment I made in that professional-grade tooth bleaching equipment.” Quinn immediately snaps a smile back on her face, turning to the warmups again, while Santana and Brittany lower Mercedes from the pyramid.
“See?” Mercedes challenges the wanna-be Cheerios. “Size is no excuse.”
“Easy for you to says when you’re on the top of the pyramid,” one of the girls grumbles. Mercedes turns to the girl, eyebrow raised, and stares. Sue watches with pleasure as the complainer visible pales and starts to shake. “I didn’t mean it! I’m so sorry! I’ll do twenty push-ups!”
Mercedes raises her other eyebrow.
“I mean fifty pushups!” the girl stammers. “I’ll bring you coffee every day!”
“I like a white chocolate mocha,” Mercedes answers. “My boys like lattes.” Mercedes looks amused by that. “Vanilla, caramel, and vanilla-caramel. Oh! And my boyfriend takes plain black coffee.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the girl says. “I’m so, so sorry, ma’am.”
“I can see you have everything under control here,” Sue says. “Excuse me while I go yell at the custodial staff for the state of the area underneath these bleachers. I’m sure there’s condom wrappers and used needles hiding under there somewhere.”
All in all, Mercedes Jones has proven to be Sue Sylvester’s wisest investment in Cheerios history. That girl is taking them places.