Glee Recap: Nationals, Treasured

511GLEE_Ep511-Sc29_085Raise your hand if you weren’t emotionally prepared for what went down on tonight’s installment of Glee.

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In the spirit of complete honesty, I didn’t think I’d feel particularly wistful when New Directions took the stage for their final competitive performance at Nationals, and I didn’t care that much if they lost to the thrilling (albeit cocky) Throat Explosion. (“Mr. Roboto” was inarguably amazing, no?)

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But what I hadn’t counted on, of course, was Romy Rosemont breathing palpable pain and regret into her brief scenes as Carole Hudson, mother of former glee-club star and erstwhile glee-club adviser Finn Hudson, a character who, like the actor portraying him, left us much too soon. When Carole pondered aloud that the McKinley High kids’ final show-choir moments felt “like the last of [Finn] leaving, too,” I could feel a lump forming in my throat. And by the time New Directions launched into their set-closing cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” — interspersed with scenes of the late Cory Monteith as the show’s gentle, goofy, musical quarterback — I had to reach for the Kleenex.

Cynics might argue that footage of Monteith provided a cheap and easy shortcut to the bittersweet moment the show was trying to achieve, but I like to think of it as a fitting tribute to an actor and a character whose shadows still loom large over Fox’s high-school musical.

If you were too busy shopping for a Fauxhuahua to catch the episode, here’s what you missed on Glee:

NATIONALS! | New Directions faced stiff competition from Throat Explosion — led by Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin as the charismatically awful Jean-Baptiste. Mr. Schue deputized Sam as the glee club’s leader — it’s got to be “a real dude” who takes up the cause, of course (ugh) — while Finn’s mom and stepded Burt and Carole agreed to chaperone the event. But despite almost getting psyched out by Jean-Baptiste’s treachery, New Directions pulled it together — after a pep talk from Burt and Carole that included the latter growling, “Go out and wipe the floor with the other team!” — and delivered terrific performances, even if they were only good enough for second place.

MERCEDES! | Ms. Jones (fresh off a writing deal due to connections with Kanye’s cleaning woman, Kanye himself, Kim K and Ryan Seacrest) showed up at Nationals (in her adopted city of Los Angeles) to offer support — and a little diva attitude — to the proceedings. When Ryder and Jake revealed to her that Marley was quitting glee club due to losses in several song-writing competitions, Mercedes intervened and convinced the fragile girl that she was too young and too talented to give up on her dreams — and also that she’s young enough to choose singledom over a hookup with Ryder and/or Jake.

THE SOFTER SIDE OF SUE | With New Directions failing to win at Nationals, Sue was forced to make good on her threat to pull the plug on the club’s funding — despite admitting she’d grown fond of Will and his merry band of misfits and was impressed by the group’s resolve and success (despite facing the “world’s biggest nemesis”). “You didn’t lose,” she told Will as she cut funding for the extracurricular activity that he loved the most. “The game’s just over.”

But is it, really? Next week’s 100th episode — a farewell to McKinley of sorts — will tell the tale. In the interim, let’s jump into grades for tonight’s musical performances:

And with that, let’s get to Letter Grades for Tonight’s Performances
Will and the New Directions guys: “I Love L.A.” – Grade: B
The Amazonians: “Vacation” – Grade: B-
Throat Explosion: “Mr. Roboto”/”Counting Stars” – Grade: A
New Directions: “More Than a Feeling” – Grade: B+
New Directions: “America” – Grade: B+
New Directions: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – Grade: A

What did you think of this week’s Glee? What was your favorite musical number? Take our poll below, then hit the comments and expand on your thoughts!