I want to give you a head’s up that I’m going to get emotional. Yes, this is a silly show about competitive show choirs, it has continuity errors, it forgets who its characters are at times, and they need to can the auto tune forever. But then there are really moving moments (Rachel finding her mom, Finn breaking down when he thought he got his girlfriend pregnant, everything with Kurt and his dad) and then there are moments like in this episode where I really need a moment. I have a special needs sister who isn’t in the best of health, and this one hits a little too close to home.
Fortunately there were some very funny moments to offset the punches to the solar plexus. No festive cocktail today, I’m afraid. It doesn’t feel appropriate. Pop a Guinness (or beer of your choice) and take a swig at the right moments, if you’d like.
It’s the week before Nationals and there’s no set list, no choreography, and no black leggings. But there is something new: Jesse St. James has been hired by Will to help whip them into shape! Only Rachel claps at this. Finn automatically assumes he’s spying for his former school. Or worse, “How do we know that he’s not going to trick us into doing something stupid?”
Jesse replies, “I don’t think I have to trick you to do something stupid.”
He tells Will they should do more original songs, that was a clever idea, but no more of this duet business with Rachel and Finn, he’s not a good singer, in fact, every other male singer in the club is better than him, and Finn’s dancing looks like a zombie trying to poop. There’s only one way the New Directions can win this.
“Poison darts?” [DRINK]
Will says they’ll have auditions for a featured soloist, and everyone else can back them up. The whole show will be built around this person, so… no pressure.
In Sue’s office, she is beyond angry as she tries to get Terri to help her sabotage the Glee Club’s airline tickets. They hack into Figgins’ email account and reroute the plane to Tripoli. Terri wants to know if Sue’s looking to get the club killed. “Kidnapped, killed, po-tay-to po-tah-to.” She’s lactating with rage and she doesn’t care who knows it. Terri scoffs, “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.”
Sue looks off in the middle distance, “You have no idea.”
Becky and her mom find Will and ask if they can speak to him. Sue has kicked Becky off the Cheerios with no reason given. Flashback to Sue telling Becky, “You’re off the Cheerios. I don’t want to see you anymore.”
Becky asks her “Did I do something wrong, Coach?”
Becky just wants to belong to something. She and her mom as if she can she join Glee. Will is sorry, but they’re a week out of nationals and there’s just not a place for her. (Really? You couldn’t have her collate sheet music or something?) Becky’s mother thanks him for his time, puts an arm around her, and leads her off as Becky whispers, “I hate this school.”
Will finds Sue and rips into her about cutting Becky, as all Becky has ever been to her is loyal. Sue says curtly that she did it because Becky reminds her of her sister Jean. “But you love your sister!”
“I do, William, but she died yesterday.” Oh my…. what? It’s true that people with Downs Syndrome don’t often live beyond their thirties, but she lived to 40. And then 45. And then 50, and Sue thought they’d grow old together. Jean got pneumonia, and instead of letting Sue stay the night with her at her home, she sent Sue home. And Sue was awoken at 2am to be told her sister died in her sleep.
Will tries to take her hand, shock all over his face, and tells her that he’s sorry, but she pulls back and asks to be left alone, please. No cutting barb, just a woman trying to climb on top of her grief and breathe.
Rachel signs up for the audition under Santana, Mercedes, and Kurt’s name. They’re the only ones looking for the spotlight, it seems. She asks Finn to hurry and sign up, but he’s not interested. Jesse really shook his confidence. He’s been working as hard as he can for two years, and Jesse destroyed that in ten seconds. He knows he’s Lima good, not New York City good.
Emma helps Will pack up his things, as it seems he is going to Broadway after all. (Last we heard he was crying in the teacher’s lounge about wanting to go.) Emma whips up fourteen boxes for Will’s vests, marked “Keep – Donate – Burn – What? – Fugly – LeatherBoy – Waistcoat, not Vest” and pretends to be interested when Will shares a story about each one.
“This one I wore when I first ate yogurt. Oh, that one was what I wore when Terri lied to me about having a baby. That one? Hmm, I think it was just a Tuesday.” But she perks up when he mentions that one in particular was the vest he wore the first time he met her. She pauses for a moment, then shakes off the emotion she won’t allow herself to feel.
They talk instead about how the show is going to bomb instantly (way to be positive, Will) and he’ll be back before anyone notices he’s gone. Also, he doesn’t want to say anything to the kids about it because he wants their focus to be on Nationals and maybe figuring out what the hell they’re even going to sing. I say they all wear Will’s vests as costumes, a sort of “To Sir, With Love” homage.
Kurt and Finn bring Sue flowers the next day. They both have lost loved ones and know how it feels. She’s closed off and bitter, scoffing at their feeble attempts to “make her feel better,” which they shouldn’t be doing anyway, seeing as she’s actively made their lives a living hell for the past two years.
And there’s the rub: she’s the worst person they know, she acknowledges it, and Jean was the best person, so why did she have to die? And she certainly can’t bring herself to go to Jean’s home and sort through her things. She certainly can’t plan a funeral. Her grief is practically rolling off of her in waves. Let’s take a moment to praise Jane Lynch, who can really bring it when needed.
In Glee, Finn tells them that he wants them to help with Jean’s funeral. Jesse scoffs at this, because they need to be focusing on Nationals. Finn looks to Rachel, reminding her that she wanted him to take a more active leadership role, so here he is doing it. It’s not about Sue, it’s about Jean. She was just like them, an outsider her whole life. He puts the boom down: we’re doing this.
Will sees Sue in the hallway later and says the club is honored to help with the service. Sue only agreed to let Frankenteen and Lady Trousers run this show because it’s free labor and saves her the trouble of going through Jean’s personal things. Mm hmm. Will wants her to know that she can lean on him, if she needs to.
“Oh, William, I wouldn’t dare to lean on you. There’s so much grease in your hair, I’d probably slide right off.”
It’s the start of auditions for lead soloist and Santana is up first. I have to comment on the horrid denim jacket they’ve put my girl in, with the peplum ruffle at the bottom. [DRINK] The Rule: no denim aside from a shirt or a pair of jeans. That means no jumpsuits, no dresses, nothing else, Costume. She starts to sing “Back in Black” by Amy Winehouse, and let’s face it: Santana sounds like a sober Amy. I love her voice on these numbers, they’re a perfect fit. [DRINK]
Jesse, who took a Simon Cowell class on blistering and unhelpful criticism at college, lays it out there for her after he first only thanks her for stopping by. He says she didn’t capture the emotion, which pisses her off. Don’t make her get Lima Heights on your ass, her hair is full up of blades, pinche gringo!
Next is Kurt who does yet another number from Gypsy. (I want them to branch out. He doesn’t always have to sing from the Liza playbook.) It’s “Some People,” and it starts off a little flat, but then he warms into it. The boy has stage presence and really needs to get his butt on Broadway stage, ASAP. Although I have to point out again: the clothes. What is going on, and why do they insist on putting him in skulls all the time? And the vest with the ties in the back… No me gusta. [DRINK] But he’s got flair and panache, and wraps it up with a dramatic knee slide.
Jesse reminds him that’s a woman’s song (uh, been there, done that) and does Kurt really think he’s lived up to the legends of Merman, Lupone, and Peters? Those are big heels to fill, and Jesse just doesn’t think he did it. (They should have given him a song with more emotion, like from Les Mis. Then again, the point is for him to not win, so ignore me.)
Kurt keeps a smile plastered on his face, though his eyes are screaming, “Bitch, please!” He complains offstage about it, “I make my living singing girl songs!” and is it just me, or does it look like there’s a hickey on his neck? No, really, look at that scene. (Did Blaine sneak in to offer support?)
Rachel is nothing but a true believer in anything that Jesse says, because he gets how important Show Choir is. Ahaha. Mercedes smooths her bangs and snaps her mirror shut and tells Rachel to not bother warming up, because she’s going to wrap this up like a Christmas present. [finger snap, head roll!]
My Girl steps on that stage and tears the roof off the sucker with Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” and I’m not kidding, she makes me tear up when she sings, she’s just that good. (Although, tiny critique, she needs more quiet moments to make the big ones resonate more.) [DRINK]
Will and Jesse look like their socks were blown off, Will says it was amazing and then Jesse says something that… I hate to say it, but he’s right. She’s not a star (well, I don’t agree there, but keep reading) but that she’s a girl that can really sing. Mercedes starts mentally writing another verse to Hell to the No. “Excuse me?”
He wants to know how long she practiced. Oh, Miss Thing doesn’t practice, she feels her music, Mr. St. James, and she gets in the moment. Well, hate to break it to you, but stars practice. A lot. All the time, in fact, and that’s what’s needed to lead this team to a win, and Mercedes comes off as lazy. (I agree with that. Amber Riley? No. Mercedes? Yes.) She walks off stage and mutters to Rachel, “I hate him.”
Rachel takes the stage and will be singing from the Barbra Playbook, which duh. And it’s “My Man” from Funny Girl, and let’s just get this out here: Lea Michele knows her Barbra. Like the back of her hand knows her. As she starts singing (and after telling Jesse that she’s not thinking of anyone in particular, when he asks, sure it’s about him) the other competitors sit in the audience to watch her perform. She starts singing and of course it’s about Finn. Of course it is.
She sings and nails it, and I get chills from her performance. She’s outstanding, she really is. And here’s the difference between her singing and the other girls: for Lea it’s one note, one pure note. She doesn’t need runs or tricks, she can hold a note pure and clean and then move into something even more powerful, and that, friends, it what it takes to really sing.
Kurt is moved to tears as he watches, and Rachel has tears on her face as she sings [DRINK] and when she’s finished, Kurt says to the other girls, “She may be difficult, but boy can she sing.” Jesse says she was “brilliant’ and Will is just blown away by the talent he gets to work with. Santana thinks this whole thing is rigged in Rachel’s favor, but Will says he doesn’t know for sure who’s won, he’ll tell them by Friday.
Kurt and Finn are with Sue at Jean’s home sorting things into various piles for Sue to decide on later. Sue says everything, save a stuffed doll that Jean had since she was 6, is worthless and to toss it, including her favorite VHS tape to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Finn worries that throwing everything away is a bad idea because of all the memories the things hold. (That’s hoarder speak, bro.) Sue assures him – icily – that she’s not short on memories of her sister, thank you.
Sue later tells Will that she had the Glee arrange the funeral because she worried that no one would come, otherwise. Jean didn’t know many people, and at least the Gleeks will be there to prevent an empty service.
At the service, Sue takes a few moments before getting out of her car to stare at a picture of herself and Jean. Will has been waiting in the lobby for her and assures her that the room is filled. “Jean touched a lot of people” – from the home, their families, the church she went to. Sue walks in and sees that Kurt has designed it to look like the Chocolate Factory and this will be a celebration of her life, not her passing. Sue tells them it’s lovely. It really is.
She takes the podium and tells everyone that she misses her sister. “I miss my sister. Every night at ten pm she would call me, and I asked her why. She said that her body told her…” she’s visibly losing control over her emotions at this point and tries to power through her prepared words. “Her body told her that she wanted to hear my voice.”
She begins to openly cry, and Will moves to stand with her. He puts his arm around her and takes her notes and reads in her place. The beautiful and heartfelt eulogy in its entirety:
“I miss my sister. Every night at 10 or so, she used to call me on the phone; and when I asked her why, she told me her body told her… she wanted to hear my voice. I miss my sister. The smell of her shampoo. The way she could always convince me to read her another book. When you love someone like I loved her, there’s a part of you… it’s like you’re attached by this invisible tether, and no matter how far away you are you can always feel them. And now every time I reach for that tether I know there’s no one on the other end, and I feel like I’m falling into nothingness.
And then I remember Jean. I remember a life lead with no enemies, no resentments, no regrets and I’m inspired to get up out of bed and go on. I miss my sister so much it feels like piece of me has been ripped off. Just one more time I want to hold her. Just ten more seconds— is that too much to ask? For ten more seconds to hold her? But I can’t and I won’t and the only thing keeping me from being swallowed whole by sadness is that Jean would kill me if I did.
So for now I’m just going to miss her. I love you Jeanny. Rest in peace.”
Openly crying, here, sorry.
The Gleeks stand and sing “Pure Imagination” sweetly and, if I may, reverently and it’s a lovely tribute to Jean. I know when this first aired that critics mocked the Willy Wonka theme, but really, it’s perfect. My sister has a fixation with Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, so I understood. It doesn’t need to make sense to YOU if it makes sense to THEM. And if someone loved something, that’s what you honor when they pass, not some stupid rule that says a funeral should be such and such.
I swear to whoever, when I die, I better have a massive party thrown with people cracking jokes at my expense and I want to be cremated and turned into three black diamonds to be given to my kids, and they’ve been instructed to make up curses and pass them down through the family. I don’t want some maudlin church service where people dress in black and won’t let themselves laugh or smile if they feel like it.
Anyway, some of the snotty critiques I read were upsetting to me, especially after being so moved by what Sue says about her sister. Some of my most special times with my sister are the times she comes to have a “sleep over” and we read stories. She always manages to get me to read her at least two more stories than we originally planned, and because she is touch and noise averse (she doesn’t interact with people and she’s non-vocal, save about 10 – 15 words) there’s not much sweeter in this world than her telling me that she loves me and asking for a good night kiss.
People can really be hateful in this world, and it’s little moments like this with someone you love, pure, sweet moments where you’re just happy to be in someone’s presence – that’s what you treasure. And knowing there won’t be another one of those moments is almost too much to bear. Just knowing that time is coming one day can lay me low.
Basically I’m saying that this part of the show hit me hard, and it’s not a show where I expect to be laid out emotionally like this did. Bravo, Glee, you had yourself a Very Special Moment without it being ridiculous. In my opinion, at least, I’m sure there’s someone that hated it. I don’t want to hear about it.
In the parking lot after the service, Finn sits in the cab of his truck, tears running down his face. Quinn gets in beside him and praises him for having done such a wonderful job. She wants to know why he’s crying. “Because I’m breaking up with you.” Listening to Sue talk about a tether to someone you love, he realized he doesn’t have that with her. He thought they could fix everything that went wrong last year, but it’s not working and he just can’t keep trying.
Quinn just smiles benignly and says he’s just confused, and she’s willing to wait until he gets over this Rachel thing. And then next year, when they’re Prom- “I don’t want that life! Don’t you feel anything anymore?” She finally lets a single tear run down her cheek and says, “Is this ‘feeling’ enough for you?” and gets out of the car. Finn sits with his misery for company and watches Rachel leave the building.
Will and Jesse talk about the auditions the next school day as Brittany video tapes them. Will feels like he’s telling one of his children that he loves them more. Jesse responds, “Well that’s what my parents told me in front of my siblings. Sure, some might say it led to my brother’s whip-it addiction and my sister’s bulimia, but my parents owed them the truth.” Oh, Jesse, you are bringing much needed levity, grazie.
Jesse lays out the straight dope: Santana is too mean, Kurt too controversial, and Mercedes is a lazy bones. Will asks Brittany to shut it down, and she asks Jesse if he’d like to come on Fondue for Two and interview her cat? [DRINK] Jesse answers, “Rock-n-Roll!”
Becky shows up in Sue’s office to turn in her pom poms and megaphone. She says, “I’ll miss our time together.”
“Let me strop you right there, Becky. You ever hear of something called menopause? I fired you in a fit of womb rage.” She then tells Becky that next year she’ll be the Cheerios captain and brings her over for a hug. Sue wraps herself around Becky, rests her cheek on Becky’s head and just takes a moment to remember Jean and give Becky some much-deserved love.
In the teacher’s lounge, Sue wishes Will good luck at Nationals. She just can’t be mad at him anymore, not after what he and the kids did for her and Jean. Will has a pure heart and intentions like Jean, and she’s going to honor that. Besides, she has her sites on something new: running for the US Congress on a platform of Special Needs. Well, I can support that. She also apologizes for rerouting their plane trip to Libya, but Terri is here to fix that.
Terri claimed to have gotten monkey pox on an American Airlines flight and worked a deal to get first class tickets for all of the Gleeks to NYC. Also, she’s moving to Miami with Sheets -n- Things. They have no regrets, and they wish each other well (even though you can tell she misses him.)
Will runs into Emma, who tells him that she hopes he’s successful and stays on Broadway because it’s his time to shine. She kisses his cheek and turns away, fighting back tears. Also, she’s wearing the vest he wore when they first met. She jazzed it up with a broach in true Emma style, however.
Rachel is on stage, her back turned to the wings when Jesse walks out. She asks, “Jesse?” He smiles and says, “That’s sweet! You remember the masculine click of my boots!” He says that she should be very excited right about now, because Jesse was very involved in the selection process. He tells her how much she means to him and as he leans in for a kiss (she’s still, it should be noted) we see that Finn has come in to give Rachel a tulip (he bent the stem!) but sees Jesse kissing her.
They go to see the set list and who won, and it’s not there. Instead is a call for an emergency meeting. Will tells them that he’s changed his mind about this solo business. He wants them to go back to what brought them there, original songs, Rachel with a solo, a duet with Rachel and Finn, and Mercedes sweeping in at the end with a power note. Except he says “We’re a team, and we work best when we work together.”
The solo competitors all complement one another, now that the pressure’s off, and Rachel wants to know how Santana gets that raps in her voice. “That’s so nice! I smoke cigars.” Ha. Now Will demands they get two hit songs written before the wheels hit the tarmac. Oh, okay!
Finn tells Quinn he’s glad she didn’t quit, to which she says (cryptically) that it would have ruined her big plans for New York, and he’ll just have to wait and see what that means. Um, us, too.
Next Stop: NATIONALS OR BUST! New York, the season finale.