Previously on Glee, Brittany tried to convince Santana’s grandma to reconcile her centuries old religious piety with her modern day love for her lesbian granddaughter and RSVP to their gay wedding, but Santana’s grandma couldn’t/wouldn’t do it. Kurt and Blaine continued to be in deep and abiding love with each other but kept telling themselves they were only kissing for “science” and so “Sue’s demonic murder puppet didn’t chop them into pieces.” Mercedes came to town and pep talked Rachel into trying out for a new Broadway show because Rachel + NYC = OTP. And but most importantly, there was an Emma Pillsbury stunt double that we only ever got to see from behind and it was one of the top ten moments in Glee history, easy.
Will Schuester is livin’ The Life, y’all. Being the coach of Vocal Adrenaline means that he’s got a massage therapist, a nutritionist, a company car, a million dollar paycheck, sweater vests made of real gold, champagne in his coffee mug, sharks in his swimming pool. And best of all, he doesn’t even have to come up with lessons on the spot anymore because Vocal Adrenaline starts and finishes practice before he ever even arrives at Carmel High. Unfortunately, The Life is not everything Will thought it would be. Sure, he was poor at McKinley and Sue was always trying to systematically destroy his life, but at least he felt like he was making a difference with New Directions. He tells Emma he wants to figure out how to have all the money and power and get treated like a hero for his insufferable and mostly offensive lessons on morality. She tells him to become a United States Congressman.
Their conversation is derailed when Blaine and Rachel show up at the park covered in breakfast. Turns out the Vocal Adrenaline kids ambushed them in the parking lot with eggs like the Jessie St. James-led days of yore. Like some hoodlums from an ’80s movie about karate, or dancing your truth.
Mr. Schue decides to teach Vocal Adrenaline a lesson by singing “Same Love” and it’s as awkward as you’re imagining, and only made bearable by the voice and presence of Unique, who walks onto stage looking fierce as hell and warming the cold, cynical cockles of my Gleecapping heart. Unique! I thought you were gone forever! Vocal Adrenaline doesn’t care, though. About Unique or Will or having a soul or not being 45 years old and in high school. The leader of the group — an elderly man named Clint whose accent keeps changing from like Australian to a caricature of a person from to the Bronx to maybe Ukranian to Bostonian back to Australian — is inspired by Will and Unique’s performance. He says they’ll stage some kind of intolerant act to sabotage New Directions’ preparation for Regionals.
Coach Bieste returns to McKinley, presenting as male, and is met in the hallway by Sam, who is eager to begin guy talk with Sheldon immediately. Topics include: His crush on Rachel. His crush on Mercedes. The list of pronouns he wrote down to make sure he doesn’t misgender his favorite football coach. Bieste feeds him a treat and pets him behind the ears until he falls asleep on the floor, all tuckered out from such an exciting morning. Sue also meets Bieste when he arrives, wrapping an arm around him and talking about how she has destroyed the scourge of cis-normativity and trans misogyny at this school because she has always stood firmly against bullying. (HA!) And then she scampers off to do the morning McKinley High fat-shaming ritual.
As promised, Vocal Adrenaline shows up to act like a bunch of assholes, covering Beiste’s car with jock straps and spelling out slurs and screaming ignorant, offensive shit at him. So Sue calls Will into her office to explain the situation. And Will apologizes and promises that no one gets away with going after his friends. And Sue LOLs at that because she’s been going after his friends and getting away with it since literally the pilot episode.
Rachel’s Dads sold her childhood home, despite the fact that she has been actively sabotaging all the realtors by dressing up as that woman from The Ring and hanging around in the shower growling. She is kind of losing her mind about it. In the teacher’s lounge, Sam tries to explain that home isn’t really where the house is, and he should know because there were plenty of times when he was living out of his car, but Rachel will not let him shame her into feeling guilty about moving from one fancy house to another fancy house just because he was a homeless teenager who was forced to strip to buy food for his family at one point. #ThatsSoRachel
And so Sam calls for an intervention hosted by himself and Kurt in Rachel’s basement to help her let go of being a child and embrace being a grown-up. Mercedes rolls her eyes like a Liz Lemon, but agrees to join in on the shenanigans. Artie too. And Blaine. There’s no explanation for why these three are hanging out at their old high school but the current students have accepted it as fact and have stopped asking about it. When Kurt announces in choir practice that afternoon that this week’s lesson is about helping Rachel move past her hangups and transition into adulthood, the kids are like, “So, this week’s lesson is for … Rachel?”
Clint’s plan worked! All Vocal Adrenaline had to do was commit a hate crime against a trans teacher at McKinley and immediately New Directions stopped preparing for their upcoming competition and began practicing songs about a how the theme of that crime is very loosely related to a thing going on in the life of their teacher! Diabolical!
Artie has prepared a gameshow-style wheel with everyone’s names on it to determine who will sing a duet with whom at the upcoming basement party. Sam doesn’t want to play because he doesn’t want to chance not getting to sing with Rachel, so that’s that. Mercedes spins Roderick, who just about pees his pants for the chance to perform with her. Kurt spins Artie, but gives the wheel a liiiiiitle nudge so it looks like he really spun Blaine. He’s like, “Oh. Huh. Okay, I guess. What a completely innocent surprise that required no cheating and contains no larger meaning.”
Blaine: [Walks down the hallway smiling and shaking his head]
Kurt: [Gallops up beside him like a pony]
Blaine: What are the odds that wheel would land on me and not Artie, right?
Kurt: Math-wise, I’d say one in ten times I land on you. Fate-wise, I’d say ten billion out of ten billion times I land on you.
Blaine: Just don’t tell Dave, if you see him. He thinks there’s still something going on between us.
Kurt: Oh, come on. He can’t get mad about us just singing together.
Blaine: Yeah. “Just” singing together. ‘Cause singing with you is definitely not a more intimate experience than half the sex I’ve had in my life.
Kurt: Right, me neither. It’s not like we’ve (homo)sexualized the entire canon of Christmas music.
Blaine: For sure. And we’ll sing something up tempo, anyway. Or slow tempo. Either way. We won’t gaze into each other’s eyes with longing and silent promises of eternal affection, whichever tempo we choose. I’m going to awkwardly hug you now and run to my car to cry.
Kurt: Okay cool bye.
GAH! These two still get me every time! It’s very fashionable in fandom circles to trash talk Kurt and Blaine, but I’ll tell you, I got a little drunk at brunch the other day and carried on about them for like an hour. I can love these guys and Brittany and Santana, too, you know. There’s enough room in my heart for them both!
At Vocal Adrenaline practice, Mr. Schue gets into a brawl with Clint Many-Accents about how he can’t just go around bullying people. Winning isn’t the most important thing in life, he says. Will finally kicks Clint off the team. Clint yells about how he is the team and storms off the stage in his leather jacket to go ride his motorcycle down to the docks to smoke cigarettes and feel misunderstood, while Will goes home to repair a baby stroller and whine to Emma about how having a bunch of money makes him feel like a man but not having constant affirmation from teenagers makes him not feel like a man. It’s an existential puzzle! Emma tells him to quit his job and they’ll live off the earnings of her Pamphlet of the Month club, but Will says they can’t feed themselves and a growing baby with only three dollars per month.
Basement party! “Blame it on the Alcohol” throwback! Mercedes and Roderick sing “All About That Bass” and Amber Riley slays as usual. During the first song, Sam and Rachel sneak upstairs to stare at the wall of photos that she can’t bring herself to pack up. It’s just that it used to be her and photos of Barbara Streisand and Bernadette Peters alone in this room, and then she found this group of stray, golden-hearted friends to be in pictures with her, and she’s scared that taking down this wall is symbolic of losing those relationships. Sam tells her to remember exactly where all the photos go on the wall because one day her room will be recreated in a Broadway museum, and then they full-on do it on Rachel’s childhood bed. My goodness!
Back downstairs, Kurt and Blaine duet on Betty Who‘s “Somebody Loves You” and the props come out and it’s all feather boas and pink cowboy hats and astronaut helmets and angel wings and scepters and lightsabers and True Love. Blaine leaves right after the duet because he and Dave have to get up early to go to a football game the next morning, but Kurt walks him out so they can talk about the history of their duets/relationship. They chat easily about how they got together despite Blaine’s crush on some guy whose name neither of them can remember. Kurt starts to say something about the fleeting, ephemeral nature of affection, but Blaine shushes him right the heck up by grabbing his hips and leaning into him and smooching him right on his mouth. He runs off without saying anything and Kurt woozily weaves his way to the sidewalk to watch Blaine flee.
Rachel and Sam duet on “Time After Time” in a montage that includes everybody packing up Rachel’s childhood bedroom and putting her wall photos into a leather-bound album where they become GIFs of the show’s earlier seasons. It’s a cheesy, sweet trick that made me a little bit teary, I’ll tell you the truth.
In the McKinley High locker room, Unique appears from the shadows like an angel to talk to Coach Bieste about coming out as trans. Unique has a grace I cannot even fathom. If I were her, and this school treated me the way it treated her, with that fucking Riddler bathroom and all the transphobic jokes and goddamn Will Schuester, I wouldn’t come back here unless it was to rain down brimstone from the back of a flying shade wolf. But not Unique! She wields only aplomb, not only pep-talking Bieste about how his differences make him special, but also assuring him he’s not alone, a thing she will prove to him if he’ll just come to the auditorium with her.
Meanwhile, two completely not-believable things: 1) Will tells Vocal Adrenaline he’s going to help them hecka prank New Directions tonight, so dress like A and come with him to McKinley. 2) The apartment Blaine and Karofsky share.
I mean, I get it, Blaine was trying to recreate with Dave what he had with Kurt, but no way he ever would have moved in with this guy. And Dave knows it. That’s how come when Blaine spills the beans about snogging his old beau, Dave goes, “Yeah, that was inevitable, but it was fun dating you for a little while!” I think the point here is that when Karofsky conquered his internal homophobia by coming out, his rage went away. And the best way to make up for the bullying he did to Kurt is to not put up a fight when the love of Kurt’s life wants him back. So, okay, I suppose.
Anyway, Blaine runs like a wild thing to McKinley, down the halls, and stops short when he finds Kurt and Aaron Echolls getting ready to go on a double date with Rachel and Sam. Kurt says Blaine should bring Dave next time, for a triple date, and Blaine says yeah okay and throws up.
What Will leads Vocal Adrenaline to at McKinley is an ambush of love. It is Unique singing “I Know Where I’ve Been” for Coach Bieste with a trans choir of 200 people! Coach Bieste joins them and sings and cries and everyone holds hands. This motherfucking goddamn show. Making me want to spit fire one week and making me cry like an inconsolable little baby the next week. I have watched this five times and sobbed every time. It’s Coach Bieste finding out that he’s not alone, that there’s this whole giant community ready to support him; but more than that, it’s this slick misdirection where you think Rachel & Co. (or, horribly, Will) are going to rush on stage to do that thing they always do (horrible Will, especially), like with the deaf choir, but then the curtain goes up and it’s trans folks speaking to a trans person about trans experience, with Unique in the spotlight — literally and metaphorically — the whole time.
Season six is Glee‘s apology tour, and of course the show has borked that up because it can’t even say “I’m sorry” without flipping you off in the next breath. But Riese was saying yesterday that we should take some time to celebrate the actually really wonderful, groundbreaking things this show has done for the queer community. And I think this moment was one of the best.
Sue adds to the ambush of love with an ambush of angry dogs, chasing Vocal Adrenaline back to Carmel High to think about how they suck as human beings.
Unsurprisingly, Will quits his job and joins Kurt and Rachel as the coaches of New Directions. He’s not back in the position for three seconds before he starts condescending to them about What Really Matters when you’re a teacher and calling them his best friends.
Next week: Glee breaks Tumblr.