Oh girls, I’m standing right there with you at center stage, mouth agape, contemplating a pretty unexpected conclusion to this week’s Glee. Then again, there’s more than one way to write a happy ending, and so, regardless of whether or not you agreed with the judges’ decision at Sectionals, you prrrrrobably ended the episode with a smile on your face.
Before we get to the grades for this week’s musical numbers, let’s run through the key plot points of “Hold on to 16″:
* We kicked off with a tense lockerside chat in which Quinn told Rachel she planned to report Shelby’s affair with Puck to Principal Figgins. I really didn’t need another reminder that Puck is 18 and therefore the whole icky, morally reprehensible pas de deux is legal, but I practically pumped my fist with delight when Rachel, encouraging Quinn not to succumb to her vindictive side, said what I’ve been waiting for somebody/anybody to say for weeks: “Shelby is [Beth's] real mom.” Ding ding ding ding ding!
* Anyone else feel a surge of white-hot rage when Mr. Schue reprimanded Finn by noting, “Too much talking; not enough looking for songs for sectionals.”? Why is it that New Directions never has their set list prepared weeks, if not months, before their major competitions? Infuriating!
* Kurt and Blaine’s coffee date was rudely interrupted by Kurt’s oversized denim collar and gold-studded ridiculata a flirtatious Sebastian, and led to a choice lobbing of insults between the boys competing for the attention of the Talented Mr. Anderson. “I don’t like your smirky, meerkat face. I don’t like your obnoxious CW hair,” hissed Kurt, to which Sebastian responded, “One of us has a hard-luck case of the gayface, and it ain’t me.” Bring on the bitch-off!
* Looking to bolster New Directions’ numbers (and chances) against the Troubletones at Sectionals, Finn and Rachel tracked down Sam at a strip club where he performed as White Chocolate (not exactly The Justin Bieber Experience) and then convinced Sam’s parents to let him move back to Lima and return to McKinley for the rest of his senior year. Worst part of that scene: Sam’s parents barely asking a question about where their son would stay, who would be his guardian, or how he’d fare academically with a mid-year transfer, before going in for the group hug and saying “yes!” Best part of that interlude: Rachel telling Mr. and Mrs. Evans that Sam wouldn’t be homeless, then remembering the family’s predicament from last season, perkily adding “not that there isn’t a quiet dignity in that.”
* Santana served a piping hot dish of insults to celebrate the return of baby-head polisher Trouty Mouth, while Quinn unsuccessfully attempted a romantic reconnection with her onetime beaux. Sam, for his part, was having none of Quinn’s “rich white-girl problems” and encouraged her to heed the Book of Mellencamp and “hold on to 16 as long as you can.” Of course, it turned out Sam really passed on Quinn because he wanted to reunite with Mercedes. We can all agree the lady protested a bit too much about having moved on from their “summer fling.”
* Somehow Blaine and Sam got into a fight over whether or not to use crotch-thrust choreography at Sectionals — “I’m not for sale!” huffed Blaine in Judgey McJudgerson mode. This led to a very weird scene where Finn and Blaine worked out their differences as the latter teen wailed on a punching bag. Then again, at least it led to this plum line from Blaine: “I started the Dalton branch of Fight Club, which I obviously can’t talk about.”
* After discovering Mike was applying to med school instead of following his dancing dreams, Tina went to confront Mr. Chang and asked him to “help your son honor his gift.” And while I actually thought Mike’s dad had some pretty practical advice for the starry-eyed teen about a future in show-biz, I can’t lie and say I wasn’t touched when the stern padre showed up at Sectionals and eventually wound up on his feet cheering for his son’s New Directions successes.
* Depending on your viewpoint, the Troubletones either got a little cocky or rather generous before Sectionals, boasting that once they took home the crown, they’d allow any member of New Directions to join their cause at Regionals. When Finn whined that Santana was being rude by making the offer, she countered with this doozy: “It would be rude if I followed you around and every time you took a step, I played a note on a tuba.” Oh snap!
* Despite the fact that, in my humble estimation, the Troubletones should’ve triumphed over New Directions for the Sectionals title, it was the latter show choir that took home first prize with the judges, including Tickles the Clown. (Anyone else notice the immediate and enthusiastic way Sugar recognized the red-nosed entertainer? One of the episode’s best moments by far!)
* As Sectionals kicked off, Rachel once again approached Quinn and tried to stop her from reporting Shelby, or at least to get her to go to Shelby before she went to Figgins: “I got a taste of what it’s like to do the wrong thing, and it feels awful,” Rachel explained. This led to a slightly stilted scene between adoptive mom and birth mother where the former woman explained that youth fades all too quickly, and that Quinn should try to enjoy being a kid, performing with New Directions, and other age-appropriate pursuits. And sorry, but Shelby’s “sleeping with Puck made me feel older, not younger” didn’t make me any more sympathetic to the fact that she’d broken the boundaries of a student-teacher relationship.
* The day after Sectionals, Quinn recruited Mercedes, Santana, and Brittany back to New Directions by promising (with Rachel and Schue’s blessing) that the Troubletones ladies would get at least one lead vocal per competition. (Let’s see if the show’s writers remember that edict in another four weeks or so.) She also had a sweet exchange with Rachel outside Figgins’ office — nope, what happened in Shelby’s boudoir did not make its way to the principal’s ears — where Quinn started thinking about Yale. (Yeah, because that’s the kind of school you apply for on a whim. But whatever.)
* Things ended with New Directions’ celebratory performance in the auditorium — with special guests the Troubletones. Some minor character named Mr. Schue oversaw the action. Honestly, adults on this show are thisclose to being relegated to “Peanuts parents” status.
And now, let’s rate this week’s musical numbers:
‘Red Solo Cup,’ Sam and New Directions
A cute little countrified return for Trouty Mouth, if not the most memorable musical moment in the history of the rehearsal room. (Question: Was that an actual bottle of champagne that Finn popped open?)
Musical grade: B Relevance to the plot: C+
‘Buenos Aires,’ Harmony and the Unitards
Lindsay Pearce has a heckuva set of pipes, but this felt less like a show-choir performance than a showcase for a soloist with some jaunty backup dancers. I do, however, love Harmony’s “Rachel x 10″ boundaries-free bravado: “I’m only a sophomore, and I’m already this good. Next year’s gonna be a bloodbath.”
Musical grade: B+ Relevance to the plot: C+
‘I Will Survive’/’Survivor,’ Santana, Mercedes, and The Troubletones
Was that full-fledged waacking or just some disco-eggbeaters gone awry? Who cares! I loved that the Troubletones broke free of the standard-operating glee-club choreography, and that there’s another legendary duet to add to the Sancedes oeuvre. Maybe this one didn’t have the emotional power of “Rumour Has It”/”Someone Like You,” but I felt Santana’s exhilaration when she ended the number collapsed on her back with a huge grin on her face.
Musical grade: A Relevance to the plot: A
‘ABC’/’Control’/’Man in the Mirror,’ New Directions
Look, I understand this is a story about New Directions, but if they’re supposed to be the Sectionals champs, their Jackson Family medley should’ve felt more like a cohesive performance and less like three individual numbers hastily patched together. It was nice to see Tina get the lead on “ABC,” but nothing about that number felt like the stuff of competition legend. “Control” was an unexpected choice with some good dancing, but “Man in the Mirror” proved to be a tonally jarring ending to the performance. What do these three songs have to do with one another? And after last week’s Michael Jackson theme on X Factor, is it possible Fox purchased from his songbook in bulk?
Musical grade: B Relevance to the plot: A
‘We Are Young,’ New Directions/Troubletones
Totally joyous fun, especially with all the kids finally back in one room, but how come Schue — who’s dealt with the bad effects of alcohol on his students — allows a ditty with lyrics about helping one’s inebriated friend stagger home from a bar?
Musical grade: A- Relevance to the plot: B+
Now I turn things over to you: What did you think of “Hold on to 16″? What was your favorite musical number this week? Hit the comments with your thoughts, and take our poll below. And for all my Glee recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!