Glee (Hour 2) Recap: The Prize Winners of Lima, Ohio [Updated]

jane lynchApparently, Ryan Murphy & Co. decided to approach Glee‘s third season with a “save the best for last” mentality. “Nationals,” the year’s penultimate episode, turned out to be a spectacular hour of jaw-dropping musical numbers and satisfying plot developments. And not even a Perez Hilton cameo could cramp my enjoyment.

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If you happened to be suffering from Amazonian dengue fever or the H1N1 supervirus and weren’t able to tune in, here’s what you missed on Glee:

* After a series of slight setbacks — food poisoning for Mercedes, a fist fight between Puck and Sam over committment to choreography, and a “death slot” of having to go first — New Directions took the stage at Natioals and completely killed it with a 1-2-3 punch of “Edge of Glory,” “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” (Yeah, that last ditty is dreadful, and awfully sexual for a high-school show-choir set — then again, Glee is never too worried about age-appropriateness of its musical numbers — but Finn and Rachel pulled a Tim Gunn and made it work.)

* Vocal Adrenaline lived up to its name, too, putting Unique front and center for renditions of “Starships” and “Pinball Wizard” with choreography so dazzling poor Rachel was left with her mouth agape in the audience. Of course, the transgender teen wouldn’t have even taken the stage had it not been for an emotional boost — and lipstick advice — from competitors Kurt and Mercedes.

* The good karma from that act paid off when judges Lindsay Lohan, Perez Hilton, and 51st Ward Alderman Martin Fong chose New Directions as the National Show Choir Champions over Vocal Adrenaline (while giving the MVP prize to Unique).

* NYADA dean Carmen Thibodeaux succumbed to Rachel’s pleas and showed up for New Directions’ performance, rising to her feet and whistling with delight along with the rest of the audience when their set came to an end. Plus, Vocal Adrenaline coach/Rachel’s ex Jesse put in a good word for Ms. Berry with La Thibodeaux (for whatever it was worth). Looks like Rachel might be heading to her dream school after all, though let’s hope that Kurt being relegated to sub-supporting-player status at Nationals doesn’t hurt him any.

* Mr. Schue got a double reward for his efforts: Being named Teacher of the Year at McKinley High (with an emotional glee club performance of “We Are the Champions” as part of the ceremony) and finding a pamphlet from Emma titled “When It’s Finally Time to Have Intercourse.” Plus, New Directions returned to their school as hometown heroes, receiving a confetti slushie from members of the hockey team! Who’dve thunk it?

Anyhow, now that we’ve covered all the pertinent plot details, let’s review the best quotes from the episode:

“This sniping is as expository as it is wrong.” –Sue, responding to Schue’s comment that she only wanted to help New Directions win Nationals so she could present the $10,000 prize to Figgins and get back sole coaching responsibilities for the Cheerios

“I always go to the yelling place: I have rage.” –Santana, apologizing for shouting to end the Sam-Puck fight

“Most people don’t realize I lost 10 pounds during that performance.” –Jesse, discussing his legendary Nationals rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”

“Wait? This thing isn’t even televised?” –a game Lindsay Lohan, appalled to discover that her gig as Nationals judge wouldn’t do much to boost her public image

“I wish everyone would wait until they were at least 29 years old, with solid employment and a 401K retirement plan.” –Principal Figgins, offering his views on teen marriage

“Thank you, Mrs. Hagberg: Go softly into that good night.” –Principal Figgins, offering unintentionally ominous good wishes to a retiring colleague

Plus, Mrs. Hagberg touting her upcoming episodes of Intervetion and Hoarders in her retirement speech

And now, onto letter grades for the episode’s musical numbers!

The Troubletones, ‘Edge of Glory’ Grade: A-

Rachel and New Directions, ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ Grade: A+ (One of Glee’s five best vocals ever? I say “Yes!”)

Finn, Rachel and New Directions, ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ Grade: A

Unique and Vocal Adrenaline, ‘Starships’ Grade: A

Unique and Vocal Adrenaline, ‘Pinball Wizard’ Grade: B+

New Directions, ‘Tongue Tied’ Grade: A-

New Directions, ‘We Are the Champions’ Grade: A

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of “Nationals”? Was this the best night of music in Glee history? What were your favorite moments? And did New Directions deserve the win? Hit the comments with your thoughts!