Glee Recap: A Very Special Cliffhanger

new directions season 3 regionalsEven a die-hard Gleek will tell you that Fox’s high-school musical can be patently ridiculous. Ginger supremacists, gym coaches who eat whole chickens like bite-sized snacks, educators who join their under-age charges for performances of sexually suggestive ditties — they’re all par for the course in the halls of the fictional McKinley High.

And yet there are times when Glee‘s audacity — its willingness to hit the empty dance floor and boogie with unselfconscious abandon — allows it to tackle some of the most important issues of the day with a headiness and honesty that aren’t merely refreshing, but absolutely necessary in these crazy, contentious times.

Seriously, how could even a hardcore homophobe remain unmoved by this week’s Glee? The sight of football jock (and former bully) Dave Karofsky getting outed and humiliated in a high-school locker room, and then heading home to tearfully dress up in his best suit and prepare for his own suicide, was as devastating as anything I’ve seen on TV this year. And while I’m always a bit reluctant when my favorite fictional shows try to double as PSAs, I’ll give a pass to Ryan Murphy & Co. this time around. After all, Karofsky’s journey over Glee‘s three seasons has not only been a wakeup call to a nation that is seriously considering a presidential candidate who equates homosexuality with bestiality, but it’s also made for some damn good television.

Glee Post Mortem: Max Adler on Life After [Spoiler] and a Possible Kurt/Karofsky Romance

Oh, and if Karofsky’s suicide attempt (emphasis on attempt; thankfully, he survived) wasn’t enough of a boom-boom-pow ending to Glee‘s winter season — the show won’t return with new episodes until April — we also had (cliffhanger alert) Quinn getting into a scary texting-while-driving accident, Rachel and Finn about to get into a married-while-immature accident, and (not so surprisingly) New Directions taking home first prize at Regionals.

If I’ve got any complaint with the episode, it would have to be that for a show that’s billed as a musical comedy, there certainly weren’t many laughs, and the musical interludes seemed like something of an afterthought — all the more perplexing for an hour that purported to focus on the 2012 Midwest Regional Show-Choir Championships.

But enough of my kvetching — let’s fast-forward to a quick breakdown of the central story arcs:

* Karofsky’s suicide attempt — mercifully thwarted when his dad found him before it was too late — sent waves of shock and guilt throughout the community. Kurt lamented not answering phone calls from his unwanted suitor. Sue, Schue, and Emma wondered if they should’ve seen the warning signs. Even Sebastian was contrite, admitting he’d callously told Karofsky he was too heavy to find love and that he should stay in the closet. All of this made Kurt’s subsequent visit to see Karofsky in the hospital more poignant. When Karofsky wept that he’d been abandoned by his best friend and been told by his mother than he had a disease that needed curing — we also found out kids had posted “better luck next time” and “try, try again” on his Facebook page — Kurt helped him visualize a future with a great job as a sports agent, a loving husband, and an adorable child of his own. Karofsky’s response to the dream sequence — “I’m so happy right now” — felt like an apt place to leave the character. I’d love it if Ryan Murphy & Co. let us see more of this complicated kid’s journey, but if they don’t, at least they’ve left Karofsky in a hopeful place.

* In a move that Rachel equated to “show-choir terrorism,” Sebastian used Photoshop to create filthy photos of Finn — which he threatened to post on the Internet if Rachel didn’t drop out of New Directions’ performances at Regionals. The threat created some trumped-up tension between the couple, but when Karofsky’s suicide attempt resulted in a kinder, gentler Sebastian, Rachel and Finn giddily decided to move up their wedding date and make it a post-Regionals shindig. Carol and Burt and Hiram and LeRoy all looked for ways to stop the wedding without direct confrontation about the awfulness of the idea — and the cliffhanger ending (more on that in a moment) left Rachel and Finn moments away from a date with the Justice of the Peace. (Surely, some parental figure will step up and do his/her job when the action resumes, yes?)

* The episode was also heavy in the Quinn department, with the formerly troubled teen seeking to regain her spot on the Cheerios before nationals, and encouraging her God Squad buddies to pray for Karofsky’s family moreso than Dave himself, since she felt his suicide attempt was an act of selfishness. (Wouldn’t this have been a great opportunity for Mercedes to drop The Golden Rule in Quinn’s face?) Quinn’s alarming position led to an uncomfortable exchange where Kurt (in an awful side-button sweater) dismissed Quinn’s problems over the last three seasons as pretty much inconsequential. This turned out to be neither character’s finest moment, but we’re talking about teenagers here — so it’s not as if all this self-absorption and/or lack of perspective were unrealistic. Before the hour was done, though, Quinn had finally convinced Sue to let her rejoin the cheerleading squad, reconciled with Rachel and agreed to be one of her bridesmaids, and then — terrifyingly — been sideswiped by an uncoming vehicle in an ugly texting-while-driving accident. Will she survive — and if so, how? We’ll have to wait till Glee‘s April 10 return to find out.

* Alas, the worst moment in the episode came when Schue gathered the New Directions kids to work through their feelings about the Karofsky situation, and shared his own strained story about how he once contemplated killing himself in high school after he’d been caught cheating on a test. The utter lack of context — had Will been struggling with other issues or depression at the time of his crisis? — gave the anecdote a vibe of desperation, of Will making up a story to better connect to his students as opposed to being a genuine revelation. And combined with another groaner that found Will revealing that Rory had never tried peanut butter — I thought our exchange student been living in Ireland, not dwelling in a cave? — I’m now almost convinced someone in the writers’ room is purposely sabotaging any/every Schue-centric scene in the show.

* Oh, and Sue is apparently “with child,” and the sudden rush of related hormones got her in the mood to help New Directions with its quest to win Nationals. “I don’t think there is a catch,” she wondered to a suspicious Mr. Schue. “I just wanna help you.”

* Product-placement line of the night: “We’re taking an Edible Arrangement to the hospital. Do you want to come with us?” –Mercedes to Kurt

And now let’s hit our letter grades for this week’s performances:

“Cough Syrup,” Blaine To be honest, it was hard to focus on Blaine’s Young the Giant cover juxtaposed against images of Karofsky descending into the depths of emotional despair. But taken on its own, Blaine’s vocal was strong and passionate — perhaps better than the original? Also: Did anyone get a slight Morrissey vibe from Blaine on this performance? Grade: A-

“Stand”/”Glad You Came,” The Warblers Oh, Sebastian, you’re a gem when it comes to delivering spicy one-liners. But your work as lead vocalist on this pair of Warblers’ Regionals performances? As bland as a bowl of plain lasagna noodles, I’m afraid to say. Grade: C+

“Fly”/”I Believe I Can Fly,” New Directions Solid vocals from Artie, Finn, Rachel, and Mercedes, and some not terrible rapping from Blaine and Santana, but this mashup lacked the epic scope you want from a Regionals showdown. And let’s be honest: “I Believe I Can Fly” is kind of the worst.Grade: B-

“Stronger,” the Troubletones If Ryan Murphy is still brainstorming what to have McKinley’s seniors do for Season 4, how about a girl group fronted by Santana, Mercedes, and Brittany? I have no idea who all those other chicas were supposed to be — or where they’ve been hiding out during rehearsals — but the vocals were fantastic, and it’s clear Mercedes no longer needs booty camp! Grade: A-

“Here’s to Us,” Rachel and New Directions Hard to find any fault with Lea Michele’s vocal performances, though I do wonder why New Directions always seems to be performing songs with choruses about drinking. Is it possible Mr. Schue doesn’t know how to read? Grade: B+

And with that, it’s your turn to hit the comments with your thoughts on the episode. Did you appreciate how the Karofsky story line was handled? What did you make of the wedding shenanigans? And what’s your prediction for Quinn when the show comes back with new episodes? Sound off below! And for all the Glee news, interviews, and commentary your heart desires, follow TVLine on Twitter @TVLineNews. Now ready, set, sound off!