Glee 321 Recap: Nationals Smashinals

Well, if there’s anything I like more than being trapped in an attic with a dozen 18-year-old fraternity pledges being force-fed cheap beer from a dog bowl while Enya’s “I’ll Fly Away” plays on infinite repeat, it’s Celene Dion. No wait! It’s Meatloaf. Definitely Meatloaf. The man, not the meal.

meatloaf sees finn for the first time

No but seriously — this episode was okay! Granted, I’d declared a new Glee drinking game before the episode  – “If you’re going to watch Glee, drink beforehand” — and in that festive spirit, dramatically over-imbibed to the point where I probably would’ve laughed and cheered for a seal in a tutu singing “Run Joey Run.” But I watched it again on Wednesday and felt pretty good about it. Sober.

Anyhow! Lizz recapped “Props” for you and now I’m gonna recap “Nationals” for you.


We open in Chez Hotel Extravaganza Chicago, where Mercedes Jones, following an unsavory snack experience at Señora Salsation’s Taco Shack, has fallen ill with cholera/black plague/the H1N1 supervirus, thus concerning Sue & Schue regarding who will do Mercedes’ part in the Troubletones number.

it's finn. he seems to make everybody really nauseous. i don't know what to tell you.

Schue surveys his motley crew of lovely lilting ladies and determines that that chick who got hit by a truck and just barely managed to stand up last week with the help of a microphone stand can take over the Mercedes song/dance, because Will Schuster is an idiot.

the girls admire mercedes' impressive rack

Spoiler alert: If you’d been hotly anticipating a Chicago-centric montage similar to Season One’s Journey to New York City, as I was, you’ll be sorely disappointed. No such thing occurs. Blaine will not be belting “My Kind of Town” while Brittany does handstands in Millenium Park. No acoustic Sufjan Stevens numbers will awkwardly find themselves at the Navy Pier. Nobody will cover “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” at Wrigley Field. Nope. None of that.


We thus journey to an Unidentified Banquet or Conference Room of Some Kind at the St. Chicago Chateau Drive-In Motel, where the Glee children are engaged in some kind of PG Fight Club that involves everybody making faces, pushing each other and growling.

okay teen jesus it's time for you to meet the true death and everybody knows it

Brittany’s pillow and sheets have somehow fallen in the pool and Sam’s peeved that Puck’s obsessing over the patterns of rain on various European geographical plains rather than, um, whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing and Finn’s being, SURPRISE, a self-righteous bale of hay, and all of this is somehow related to aggravation regarding Mercedes Jones’ impending absence in the National Contest Olympics of Singing Life.


Santana: “Hey! I don’t wanna hear any of this ‘We can’t do it without her,’ because guess what? We don’t have a choice. So be warned: if you are not giving this everything you’ve got, I will go all Lima Heights on your sorry asses.”
Will: “Listen, you guys –”
Santana: “I know, I’m sorry, I always go to the yelling place. I have rage.”
Will: “No, it’s a good thing. A great thing. There is so much passion in this room. Even all your arguing, it’s about the work. You guys really want this.”

Tina and Quinn take turns delivering exposition: New Directions have the first slot “aka the death slot” and they’ll be singing “Edge of Glory,” aka “the slot couched by the labia majora.”

and by the way, unlike you, i get brittany off every single time

Rachel says something about how important this is to her bla bla, Artie wheels onscreen with a giant bucket of popcorn in his lap and then, in a rare sensical moment, Schue orders Brit-Brit to get everyone back into practicing the choreography — and SCENE.dotted-divider2

We cut to an indeterminate but definitely overnight period of time later, where the children have crowded the Chicago Show Choir Auditorium of Greatness for the Nationals Finals Foreverafter Contest and Jesse St. James mills outside, searching for buttons to push.

I mean music's like the one thing I can even get at all. And those breasts. I mean, God please just let those apples fall.

Jesse spots Rachel and attempts to psych her out by ragging on her failed audition and riffing on her foolish illusion that Sister Mary Clarence might flee the fluffy fields of Oberlin Hippie College for the afternoon to witness Rachel’s Big Day/Night.

Rachel, no doubt endeared to Jesse St. James after five years of nightly right-breast grabs, dismisses his cruelty as nervousness, calling out his tell: a Danny Zuko-esque hair-touch. Jesse admits he’s nervous about the contest and will be devastated if Vocal Adreneline flops and SPEAKING OF FLOPS, suddenly a potted plant comes to life, morphs into a Finn Hudsonish life form, and ambles over to St. James to address his lady-love.

Jesse: “Heard you two are getting married.”
Finn: “Yeah.”
Jesse: “Good for you. Good luck today.”

one two three four i declare a thumb war


Cut to the extravagant dressing room, where Rachel’s admiring her eyebrows in the mirror when Finn arrives, gleefully clutching a Chicago souvenir glass cooler mug for Rachel to crush on their wedding day, as it was commanded by G-d in the Torah, except not like that at all.

just because you drink boone's farm out of a plastic mug doesn't mean jews don't require a proper wine glass for their Manichevitz, shmuck

Finn: “This is the town where everything’s gonna change. We’re gonna go from losers to National Champs.”
Rachel: “Your optimism is very sexy.”
Finn: “Well, I’m so optimistic I put my money where my mouth is.”

Apparently the allegedly-happy couple has scraped together a $500 honeymoon fund, which I imagine will cover gas, sandwiches, two bottles of Fanta, two day-passes to Cedar Point and one romantic evening at the Sandcastle Suites, but now Finn’s put that $500 down on New Directions with plans to double it and obtain “an extra two nights in Niagra Falls.”

Finn: “Carmen Tibedoux is coming and we’re gonna be perfect and then we’re gonna get married and I’m gonna smash this glass and the we’re gonna live happily ever after.”
Rachel: “I love you.”

Ok, ugh, that was almost endearing.

Mr. Schue arrives to ‘pump up the team,’ but is swiftly interrupted by Finn The Great, who recognizes Mr. Schue’s moment to inspire the team as an opportunity for Finn himself to inspire the team, because Finn is a douchebag.

Finn: “Hold on Mr. Schue, hold on. You’ve given us a lot of pep talks over the years, but remember, you told us one that you know, a teacher’s job is done when his students don’t need him anymore?”
Mr. Schue: “Okay, Finn. The floor is yours.”

i love mark salling's pretending-to-care face in this shot

Apparently after Mr. Schue was all tucked in, the Gleeks circle-jerked all night long regarding why they wanted to win this, and everybody said they wanted to win this for Mr. Schue because he’s been inspiring them year-round with fantastic decisions like doing absolutely nothing at all, ever.

Finn: “You’re like, our teacher of a Lifetime.”

Oh, the naivete of youth. Oh bonus — thanks to Sue’s witch doctor magic or something, Mercedes shows up, ready to rock. GAME ON.

get yourself an alka-seltzer and you'll feel better fast


We cut to the Chicago Auditorium of Music and Laughter to meet this year’s overwhelmingly homosexually-inclined judges — “America’s sweetheart, Lindsay Lohan,” “Hollywood gossip legend Perez Hilton” and “Democratic City councilman representing the new North Side and the West Loop corridor, 51st Ward Alderman Martin Fong!”

hello, homos!

Hey remember that time I convinced Perez Hilton to stop being a douchebag? Unfortunately, I remain uninterested in his website and all-around existence despite all that, and am unmistakably troubled by his existence on my television screen and also, I admit, somewhat troubled by his weight loss situation, though I suppose it’s none of my business. ANYWAY.

Backstage The Troubletones are preparing for their opening number, the aforementioned “Edge of Glory”:

Santana: “The unholy Trinity, starting together, ending together.”
Brittany: “Just the way it should be.”

You can tell HeMo practiced that line in the mirror for an hour and eventually resigned to the fact that it would never sound cool or natural and just to you know, wing it.

now make out

Thus the Unholies open the contest with a fantastic and neatly choreographed “Edge of Glory.” They don’t take any risks here, but they don’t need to — this is a strong group of performers, any which way.

gay eyes for everybody!

Sister Mary Clarence got held up at the rectory, leaving a conspicuously empty seat Rachel eyes with the eyes of a very hungry tiger —

Finn: “This is your moment. It’s three years in the making. Forget about everything else! Take it!”

let's be real: if i can sing, you can definitely sing

— and thus Rachel Berry bursts onto stage like a Jewish strawberry wrapped in a chocolate bow, singing the insufferable Celine Dion number “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” except we’re supposed to call it, I think, the insufferable Meatloaf number “It’s All Coming Back To Me,” as he too recorded this song and it was maybe originally written for him but really WHO CARES the point is that it’s Meatloaf Day, and if Meatloaf counts as “vintage,” I’m officially a fossil and should stop watching teevee shows about high school students.

and then i felt both breasts and determined that the right was slightly bigger than the left

Despite this insufferable song now being stuck in my head for the rest of the year, just like it was for all of 1996, it’s got so much going for it — it’s got these fervent big emotional parts about the past and tough love that swallow the room and then it’s got these gentle secret parts about the familiarity of a lover’s touch that draw the room forward and into the singer’s memory and tactile sensations. It’s one of those songs that makes you wanna cry sometimes, and Rachel kills it.

this is a fairy accurate representation of my posture on each impending flight of stairs in that sixth-floor walkup apartment i lived in that one summer

Sister Mary Clarence, dressed like a gypsy psychic, late-adds herself to this spectacular spectacle, and Rachel spots her and for a moment you worry she’s gonna freeze, but she doesn’t — she grins, she gets even bigger and even better and more self-assured in a way that has more to do maybe with Lea Michele the Woman than with Rachel Berry the girl.

brought her own snacks

Then we segue into “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” unfortunately fronted by what appears to be a mutated turnip who really can’t dance.

yup, it's a miracle bra

The highlight of this number is the homosexual quadrant of Brittany/Santana and Kurt/Blaine that manifests itself mid-song after Kurt and Blaine totter onstage together snapping their fingers like gay babies, only to be interrupted by Rachel Berry’s “Stop right there” which makes you wish she was dressed like Olivia Newton-John in “You’re The One That I Want.”

look at all the gay faces

For the duration of this number I hate Rachel & Finn slightly less than normal. Anyhow, it was good, despite the baffling decision to feature Finn, rather than Blaine or Kurt or even that fuckknob from The Glee Project.


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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. If this had been real life, Vocal Adrenaline would have come out above them. I mean, for serious. LOOK AT THEIR DANCING. I would pick the team with the stunning vocalist and the professional quality dancing. I’m just saying.

    Of course, I recognize that Glee has no space in reality. And I liked the Brittana kiss. And I hated the Meatloaf number, except for the gay bit.

    • I was thinking the same thing during the Vocal Adrenaline performance, but I was also thinking that the Nude Erections were going to win because this is fucking GLEEEEEEEE and Glee is fucking horrible and doesn’t have enough self awareness for its characters to have imperfect lives. And it was making me pissy.

      Every time I talk/write about Glee I sound like I have serious rage issues. I promise I don’t. The only person who can even approach making me as angry as this stupid TV show is my sister and that’s why we don’t talk. I just really, really hate Glee.

  2. I liked the songs and the plot and Santana and the awkward way HeMo said that stupid line and not even Finchel were able to annoy me as they usually do. And everything. Also cute (and kinda sad) that Brittana only kiss in the episodes Ali Adler writes.

    When Finn approached Jesse and Rachel like a bulldog and Jesse just looked at him and smiled, I whispered at my computer “Jesse you are so superior”.

    Also, *Whitney Mixter’s voice* I’m not gonna lie, that Tongue Tied montage at the end made me feel a strange sense of pride?! I hate that they wait until the last episodes to make Glee cute again and force in me these feelings.

  3. I can’t make out Brittany in the graduation gif. Problem. If they don’t let her graduate I will riot and set my TV on fire.

    I also can’t make out *with* Brittany. Second problem.

    • Upside- if Brit Brit doesn’t graduate there are tiny molecules of hope for scenes of Santana visiting from college next season.
      Must find bright side, even though this is glee… :/

  4. Unique: “I tell you what, Unique might need to transfer schools next year.”

    Be a bit more subtle glee

    On the bright side
    The irony they employed with Lilo was really kitsch
    It was perfect, you know?

    Mr Shue getting sex as an award for being a winner = PUKE
    I’d only have sex with someone as an award for the first time if she was a really cute Tom boi… He’s so slimey and ew
    It’s like he won. And now he earned the prize that is his wife…. So objectifying afuhisfhqsivpdwid jwdf

    • I completely agree – I was really disgusted by them making Emma the “prize” for Will’s nationals win. Ugh.

      • Ditto. It automatically drew up horrible flashbacks to First Time and how Rachel offered up her virginity as a pity prize for Sack of Shit. Shitty parallels, Glee. Awful. Sex is not a reward, ever, that’s disgusting.

        • And also it’s like she’s “cured” from her OCD, you know?

          Like, she’s finally doing what she should be as a woman. And he’s just like WAHEY I AM STRAIGHT WHITE CIS ABLEBODIED AND MALE I WIN AT NATIONALS AND LIFE.


    • Tumblr has named her either Gabrielle or Avery, depending on who you ask. I like Avery, personally.

  5. did anybody else notice that quinn lifted santana up (twice!) when they won nationals? like who is in charge of this show?

  6. I appreciate how breast-centric all the captions were.
    and “gay eyes for everyone”

  7. I laughed so much at the photo captions that my roommate thought I had started happy hour early. :)

    • i feel like this episode was a test balloon for how many episodes worth of terrible writing can be made up for by one santana/brittany kiss.




  9. “Unique, inspired like Jesus on the cross, is ready to kill and eat dinosaurs onstage and then light the room on fire. Or, um, win Nationals, and then move to Lima and set Teen Jesus on fire. No wait! Gah, I keep getting my own fantasies mixed up with this show.”


    Good recap, and this episode made me super emotional and nostalgic for Season 1’s Sectionals episode and just why. Why, Glee. Why was it so impossible to do this for an entire season again? It was good. I didn’t hate people. I actually squeed for minutes on end. It wasn’t offensive. And the worst thing that Finn did (besides exist) was be a complete douchebag in making that bet with Rick the Stick, but honestly? That was Stupid Finn, not Horribly Inappropriately Self-Righteous Misogynist Finn. And I can live with Stupid Finn’s existence.

  10. I was really uncomfortable that Perez Hilton was one of the guest judges. For one thing, Glee has preached in the past about how outing people is wrong (Santana’s storyline aside obviously).So why are they showcasing the person who has made a career of outing people?

    Also, Perez has harassed quite a few of the Glee cast, both in person and on his website.

  11. I absolutely love your recaps your descriptions of Finn never fail to entertain me. Aside from the multiple uses of he/she and Emma having sex with Will as a reward, I really enjoyed this episode. I was so excited to see the kiss and thought all the musical numbers were good and I didn’t even find the ending that cheesy. I am expecting a good amount of Santana next week so I am looking forward to it, I’m interested in seeing Gloria Estefan as her mother too but, mostly Santana.

    • I can’t hear their name without hearing “Nude Erections” and then giggling like a second grader.

  12. “And Jesus Christ, Lohan! I’m so Team Lohan, and I’m so against the obnoxious trainwreck celebrity media machine situation, but my heart aches for that girl in such a special way and every time she gets a new gig and doesn’t knock it out of the ballpark, I get prematurely sad for the inevitable backlash. I just want her to be happy.”

    …so, so exactly how I feel.

    Plus, for a stupid reason bulldog clips have played an unnaturally large role in my life this week (I didn’t even know they were called that before) so for a very, very long time I could only see a giant bulldog clip on Whoopi’s nose in that second picture of her.

  13. Did anyone else feel like Vocal Adrenaline was robbed? New Directions and Vocal Adrenaline both have great singers but VA had awesome dance moves! ND pretty much just ran around on stage. On another note, I’m kinda sick of Glee picking and choosing when its funny to be a bully and when its not cool. Sue constantly insults Beiste but gives her a hug when she tells her she left Cooter? I was expecting her to roll her eyes. What message does it send to kids? If people are your friend you should totally be cool with whatever they say but if its just an acquaintance then they are assholes? I don’t get it.

    • Yes and no?

      Vocal Adrenaline killed it but Starships was a horrible choice. It’s not the most vocally challenging song there is. If I were a judge I would have deducted points for that.

    • Totally agree about the bullying. I think we’re supposed to be extra-touched when Sue is nice (like 1 in every 10 episodes) b/c she’s actually a super snarky person. Instead it just sends the message that being an asshole is almost always funny except when it’s Not Acceptable: PSA Time.

  14. I spent the entire episode annoyed because ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me’ got stuck in my head and I couldn’t remember who sang it. Eventually I remembered it was Celine Dion, but I was so confused that for a while I thought it might be a Whitney Houston song.

  15. Carmen Thibodeaux’s headwear is bringing me back to Oda Mae Brown.

    This comment has been edited by the Autostraddle Community Managerettes because you need more Whoopi Goldberg in your life.

  16. Honestly, it kind of hurt my ears hearing Corey Monteith sing during “Tongue Tied”. Idk what his next job will be, but he should stay away from singing… & playing a teen because it’s getting creepy.

  17. I’m having a really hard time coming up with an acceptable joke that involves the freaky-friday style of the props episode, with Lilo and her throwaway “I was robbed for Freaky Friday” line. Like, I’ve been trying to do this since Tuesday and thus far I’ve only succeeded in laughing awkwardly to myself about it.

  18. VA had better dance moves, but with all that “Higher than ANY OTHER” shouting I figured they deserved to lose – it nearly gave me a seizure.

    Just pick non-explicit songs, ‘kay Glee?

      lulz sorry, that annoyed me so much too. it’s not like they picked an amazingly gorgeous/vocally challenging song even though it was explicit, which would have made sense i guess. it’s just like…fun.
      besides that, VA was really good though/probs better than new directions, i think.

  19. meatloaf is an alumni of the university of north texas, where i am working on a music degree. i can only hope i turn out as well as him.

  20. I pretty much loved this episode although I constantly question why I watch this show. Lindsay Lohan was so perfect, just as if all the shit that has happened since Parent Trap vanished.
    Also, isn’t Mr Schue a history teacher now?

  21. Also, did anyone else notice that alternative lifestyle haircut on the girl from the Starlight Express rollerskating group? I feel like she’s also on our team, guys. Also that cheerleader extra from a few episodes back. Can’t there just be an episode dedicated to them?

  22. A few small items:

    1. Glee, every time I see you, I want to stab you in the neck.

    2. Finn, this goes double for you.

    3. Perez Hilton? EW.

    4. Meatloaf is vintage? 1996 is vintage? I now understand when I was 16 and my dad said, “Hilary, I feel like you’re saying “Dad, you’re an old fuddy duddy'” and my brain would only say “well, it hadn’t occurred to me until you said ‘fuddy duddy’, but . . .” but I wouldn’t let the words pass my lips because he would have beaten me fucking senseless. I just realized that I might be an old fuddy duddy. Weird.

  23. I live in Akron Ohio, the fake hometown of Vocal Adrenaline. My hometown is kind of shitty, but Glee is making it look even more ridiculous.

  24. That Brittana kiss lasted half a second, I feel like there is probably at least 3-4minutes of kissing on a reel somewhere, now to find said reel of film.

  25. Thank god you recapped this, once Santana and Britney kissed my brain melted and the entire space that had been occupied with the episode was filled with images of that instead.

  26. I watched this thinking it was the finale and got a bit of anxiety when they giving Will the “McKinley’s Most Inappropriate Teacher Award” like, “how are they gonna fit graduation in with 5 minutes left?”

  27. the ecstatic, jumping cheerleader in the brittana kiss gif makes me laugh hysterically. I don’t know what is it…it’s like she’s a representative of the brittana fandom right there on our screens. also, i completely missed the subsequent so-called finchel kiss and the wemma gross prize sex because i was too busy hopping around in excitement over the brittana kiss…kinda like that cheerleader.

  28. wait, I really don’t know what’s going on with Unique. I don’t watch the show, but people keeping telling me there’s a new trans character. When I read about the part, it’s presented more as in drag-queen way?

    Should I be angry? I’m reflexively angry, and I don’t know if that’s merited.

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