After last week’s less-than-stellar episode, last night’s Glee was a welcome return to form, like slipping under a warm, comfortable blanket. Unfortunately, because this was Glee’s second-to-last episode, it was like slipping under a warm blanket that someone is going to come to your house to confiscate and probably burn in a week, but, hey, we can’t have everything.
It’s finally Sectionals week, which means lots of serious conversations about choreography, arguably one of my favorite things about Glee. We learn that Mr. Schue has dance moves called “Mother, may I point to you?” and “hit your friend,” which says pretty much everything you need to know about him. The Super Gay Warbler (that’s the character’s actual name — what it says on his contract and everything) calls out the New Directions boys for their subpar dancing skills. Spencer tries to pin the blame on Roderick, but then they both admit that they need practice, and spend most of the rest of the episode trying to improve a little. It sounds like a really simple story line, and it was, but it was oddly moving, too. It’s clear when you watch Spencer and Roderick together that they never would’ve been friends without the glee club (like Kurt and Finn, way back when), but it’s equally clear how much they care about each other now.
Meanwhile, Jesse St. James turns up in the McKinley auditorium to duet with Rachel on Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart,” and even though I still have the Spring Awakening soundtrack on regular rotation, I’d forgotten how good the two of them sound together, even after TWO key changes. Jesse’s not just there to sing — he’s been cast as the lead in the musical Rachel was offered a role in, and he’s come to talk her into finally accepting. Jesse describes his role as an “Iraqi war vet who was discharged for covering the American Embassy with the graffiti he used to make himself a famous Philly street artist,” which was too incredible not to reprint in full.
To be fair, this kind, compassionate, invested Jesse doesn’t seem anything like the Jesse we knew in the past, who had a soft spot for Rachel, but a killer instinct overall. This version of Jesse seems like, well, Jonathan Groff, but if Rachel wants to move to New York City and date Jonathan Groff, who among us should stand in her way? She kisses him good-bye after telling him she’s decided to go back to NYADA and put off Broadway for now, but it’s pretty clear they’ll be seeing more of each other soon. I approve. Thrown into Rachel’s negotiations about her future are asides about how Kurt is going back to NYADA and Blaine is headed for NYU (but which school?!), and while it would be great for those moments to be expanded on a little bit, I’m glad to know what’s coming next for them. But the three of them aren’t just going to leave Sam in Ohio, are they?
Oh, at some point, Mr. Schue duct-tapes Sue to a hairdresser’s chair and forcibly shaves her head. It’s fine.
And just like that, it’s competition time! In one of Glee’s nicer throwbacks, the judging panel includes Rod Remington and the Ohio state vice-comptroller, both of whom were judges at season one’s sectionals, too. The requisite “joke choir” gets things started – the Falconers, who perform Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings,” and who brought actual falcons. It’s actually a really cool performance, but it’s a shame that a show with two characters with a canonical bird fetish doesn’t find a way to get a few more winks in about the whole affair.
Vocal Adrenaline, fresh off weeks of watching Nazi videos and walking over hot coals with Sue, is up next, and their performance is everything I’ve been saying I want out of a big production number all season. Tons of lifts, acrobatics, tear-away pants, and scaffolds to climb. Plus, Sue finally achieves her long-held ambition of shooting students out of cannons. It’s definitely fun, although someone will have to explain to me why this group of teens has so been so devoted to eighties ‘80s all season.
Honestly, if you told me Noah Guthrie was cast on Glee solely so he could eventually sing “Take Me to Church” at Sectionals, I’d believe you. It’s that good. Their whole set is, really. Spencer, having sustained an ankle injury trying to become a better dancer, swings in on a chandelier while Madison and the girls sing “Chandelier,” and Myron pulls his weight by putting on a wig and bodysuit and writhing through the audience. And it all gets wrapped up in a surprisingly emotional rendition of Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” So, if this is a glee club helmed by Kurt, Blaine, and Rachel, I’m assuming they each chose “Chandelier,” “Church,” and “Sail,” respectively? In true New Directions fashion, they’re maybe not the best singers and dancers, but they certainly seem to be enjoying being around one another the most. And they win! Of course they win. Surprisingly, that matters to me. Don’t get me wrong — throughout the season, I’ve wanted these kids to succeed because I wanted success for Kurt, Blaine, and Rachel. But this episode made me root for THEM. That’s a place I never got to with the last batch of newbies, and I’m glad Glee was able to accomplish that, here at the end of all things.
Once the competition is over, Sue reveals that her participation in Sectionals was all just a long con to thank Mr. Schue for sticking up for her on the Geraldo special by making sure New Directions won the competition. It’s actually pretty hilarious — I’d have a little more goodwill toward it if I hadn’t been so frustrated with last week’s episode — if only because it ends with Sue being legitimately surprised that Mr. Schue won’t thank her.
After the big win, Kitty catches Rachel looking longingly at all the old New Directions trophies, tucked away in a corner of the choir room, and she suggests they add them to the trophy case alongside the brand-new Sectionals trophy. (Kitty’s really transitioned beautifully from a one-note insult machine to the actual heart and soul of the glee club.) The kids start moving them, and it’s intercut with footage of the old glee kids receiving the trophies at past competitions, ending with Rachel handing the Nationals trophy to Finn. There are a lot of moments this season that have felt a little bit like an ending but this? This is it.