Previously on Glee, Riese pointed out the faulty logic of the lyrics to that song “Cool Kids” and now every time it comes on the radio I start yelling. Also, the New New New Directions all got storylines, for the first and last time ever, because this thing is done in two weeks and surely to God the last few episodes are going to give Rachel Berry — the main character since day one — the ending she deserves.
This episode is called “The Rise and Fall of Sue Sylvester” and it makes less sense than most things Glee has ever done, and I am including: Tina losing her stutter, Terri Schuester faking her pregnancy, Quinn plotting to kidnap her baby while the father of her baby sleeps with the woman who adopted their baby who is also Rachel’s birth mom and the leader of the rival show choir, Quinn getting paralyzed one second and dancing at prom the next second, the Acafellas, Kurt not getting into NYADA on his first try, and Teen Jesus getting a boner helping Quinn do physical therapy. Okay, fine. That last thing is valid.
As a story, especially as a story at this point in the final season, it feels like a dumb filler episode. But as a farewell for Jane Lynch, it feels justified. She has sold every single line of dialogue they have thrown at her right up until the very end, and she snagged some well deserved trophies along the way. Remember when she was a guest star on The L Word? Remember when she was Nurse No. 2 on Gilmore Girls? She’s come a long way! She’s played opposite of Meryl Streep! She’s been on real Broadway! She hosts her own gameshow! She’s voiced so many cool animated characters! She’s already signed on to headline a new CBS comedy! Sue’s schtick should have been tired after half a season, but Jane Lynch is a once-in-a-generation talent and she made it work. And so here’s to you, Jane Lynch. I wouldn’t recap this episode for just anybody.
With nary an official New Directions leader in sight, Will Schuester has taken over practice today and the kids are singing a hippity-bippity version of Clean Bandit‘s “Rather Be.” They don’t have time to celebrate performing with nearly enough kids to go to Sectionals, though, because Blaine and Kurt arrive back from their honeymoon and Blaine is devastated because Dalton Academy has burned to the ground. No deaths, no injuries, even the blazers made it out intact — as we will soon see — but Blaine is still devastated. All that money. All those white guys. That school would be back up and running in a castle in three months, and in a megachurch in the meantime, but no, that is not what happens.
Will invites the Warblers to join New Directions. Jane, obviously, is like, “Are you kidding me with these sexist wankers?” But she’s not as mad as Sue, who clomps right into the choir room and gets in Will’s face, going back and forth about who got permission from whom to do this Warbler thing, and finally Sue says she’s taking it to “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who I met recently on the Cayman Islands at a leadership retreat and turtle hunt.”
She and Will take turns screaming, “Leave!” “No, stay!” to the Warblers.
Becky gets wind of Sue not letting the Warblers join New Directions, and for some reason that sets her off more than she’s ever been set off, more even than whatever thing xylophones did to her to make her so mad at them all the time. Becky is on the school superindetent’s side, but Sue has a letter from “the president pro tem of the United States Senate, Orrin G. Hatch,” who find the fact that rival show choirs are combining forces “both morally repugnant and convenient.” Becky yells and yells, while her boyfriend Darrell patronizingly “translates” for her, and Sue tells her over and over to calm down. Becky finally storms out, after saying she can’t believe Sue would do this to her after all the things she’s done for Sue, including perjuring herself in front of a grand jury.
Sue goes to see the school superintendent, wearing Barbie pink lipstick and one of her cheerleading national championship gold medals, assuming he’ll be as accommodating to her as he always is, but nope. He found her hurt locker, thanks to Becky. The voodoo dolls, the wheels of torture, the match-making map of Operation Reunite/Terrorize Klaine, but what really sets him off is he finds one of those old Penthouse magazines Sue posed for. (Maaaaan, remember that storyline? Which straight white guy saved the day that time? Artie, I think.) (Oh, speaking of which, Will Schuester is here for some reason, overseeing this confrontation.) So Sue gets fired.
Her first stop after her firing is an interview with Geraldo Rivera. It’s a thing that takes up the entire second act by rehashing all of Sue’s most audacious claims. It turns out Michael Bolton is not the father of her baby, that she didn’t sleep with any/all of the members of Boy Eats World, that she didn’t fight in the Falklands war, or take part in the extradition of Panama dictator Manuel Noriega. Then the kids of New Directions give their testimony. Artie says she slashed the tires of his wheelchair 17 times. It’s a lot of good jokes, I guess, but I like to think Sue actually did do all of that stuff. She exists on that Adrenalized Hyperreality plane like Mona Vanderwaal. I’m happy to believe their evil genius allows them to bend space and time with their minds. And anyway, it’s as believable as any of the other stuff on either of those shows.
Well, Coach Bieste defends Sue in a video interview. And so, inexplicably, does Will. And then Sue’s mom, Carol Burnett(!!!), is back, talking about how Sue was born with a full set of teeth and she and Sue’s dad lied to her about being Nazi hunters, and also they never really loved her.
That does it. Sue stands up and punches Geraldo in the mouth. (It’s my favorite part of the episode.)
Sue goes back to McKinley and asks the band to be the soundtrack for her melancholia, and they agree to do so. Carol Burnett arrives, and guess what? She never loved Sue because Sue never loved music. I guess that settles that question (that none of us were actually asking). They decide to make up and try to love each other by performing “The Trolley Song” (because Sue’s parents met on a trolley?). I mean, it’s Carol Burnett and Jane Lynch singing together. They don’t need an excuse. They should be able to do that on broadcast network television whenever they want.
However much Sue hates music, she loves winning and crushing Will Schuester more, so she goes on over to Carmel High and decides to coach Vocal Adrenaline, even though she unleashed wild dogs on them like three weeks ago. She tells them she’s in charge now, and they don’t push back against her like they do against Will, because she doesn’t want to sit in a circle and hold hands and talk about everyone’s feelings; she wants them to do CrossFit from the 80s. And they do, while singing “Far From Over” while she yells at them about what’s hard and not hard.
Sue goes back to McKinley to get into a Battlebot singing competition with Will. They do “Final Countdown” with ’80s costumes and big hair and pyrotechnics and everything. But! Then New Directions bust them and it turns out all the costumes and the band and stuff where only in their minds. Ha! I feel like that could be true for literally every performance this show has ever done. I feel like this whole show is happening inside Sue’s mind at Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
The B-Story this week is about Rachel finding her way back to New York. First, she hits up NYADA, and all her friends seem pretty convinced there’s no way Carmen Tibideaux is letting her back in, not after the way she left. But then, Carmen does invite her back. But also, Rachel lands the lead in that Richard Simmons musical that Mercedes got her the audition for a couple of episodes ago. What will she do? What will she do? Sam knows exactly what she should do and that is go back to school and get a degree, and he is so used to all the dudes on this show making decisions for Rachel Berry that he is shocked right down to his very marrow when she pushes back and says she’s gonna do what she wants to do.
So of course he goes to Will, like, “Uh, I told Rachel to do a thing and she won’t, so I guess it’s time for a full penile intervention.” But Will goes, “She’s a big girl; she can make up her own mind about things.” And both mine and Sam’s eyeballs pop right out of our heads.
The Warbler/New Directions merger isn’t smooth, mostly because no one can decide on a uniform. The Warblers aren’t giving up their signature look, and the New Directions are not wearing those damn blue blazers. So they compromise! They decide to wear red blazers! They actually look really good and not at all like they’re staging an American Revolution reenactment, which is what I thought would be the case when I heard about it. Their first task as a united, uniformed team is to perform Darren Criss’ “Rise.” It’s the first time a song by a cast member has been performed on Glee, and it’s great! It’s peppy and inspiring! I’d put it on a workout mix! Or in a Faberry fan video! And anyway, I’m going to assume this song is about Fawkes the Phoenix because of Darren Criss’ Starkid roots.
New New New New Directions is gonna rise above the ashes, both literal and metaphorical, and win Sectionals, is what they sing.
Next week: Jesse St. James returns to tell Rachel what to do with her life.