In Short: All the graduating seniors come to terms with their post-graduation plans.
Recommended: Hell, yes!
BLAINE: You know how hard long distance relationships can be. We both saw The Notebook!
This episode performs a “switcheroo” on us very well. Maybe too well. The Glee Club has just won Nationals, the seniors are about to graduate, and most importantly, everyone is happy. So, this episode should, by all reasonable measure, be a gentle walk toward the season’s end. And the weird thing is that, aside from some major drama at the end, it actually is gentle.
The main example of this gentleness is Coach Schue’s assignment for the kids: they have to sing goodbye to everyone. And oh boy, do they ever. Coach Schue himself goes all acoustic guitar over “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart. Not bad, also not memorable. Finn and Puck, in one last hurrah of a Finn and Puck song before school ends, play a rock song and pretend it’s not slow and dull (in this case, “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen). The non-graduating classmates manage to ruin the Beatles with “In My Life”.
The reason why their version didn’t work is fairly clear. In the Beatles song, Lennon’s vocal is reminiscing about the past, but trying to convey the isolating distance he has from that past at the same time. In Glee’s version, it’s like they’re doing a camp sing a-long or something. Like most of the homework songs this week, they felt very polite and distant. And the song montage took up a lot of time.
There were some standout songs that broke the mold. The most unique was Kurt’s dad, dancing along to “All the Single Ladies”, to show Kurt how much he appreciates him. If only all the numbers could’ve been this personal! Kurt had a decent number himself, crying to the group with “I Remember You”.
Enough musicology. This is Glee, which for once this season, is actually about dynamism in relationships. It is the season finale, which means that people suddenly have a desire for change, as opposed to the usual preparation for Nationals, or some such stuff. There’s mild drama, like Kurt telling Blaine that he won’t dump him, even though Blaine has another year of high school left. But they didn’t really give that story closure (I smell more exciting plot stuff for next season!).
[And, wait, didn’t Blaine refer to himself as a “Junior” in Season 2, when he was still at Dalton? What, did he have to repeat a year when he changed schools this season?]
Then stuff starts to get a little more complicated. Santana’s mom (Gloria Estefan!) shows up, to congratulate her on going to Louisville. But Santana doesn’t want to just go to college, and Brittany (in what should be no surprise) has to repeat her senior year (with a 0.0 GPA, no less). So, Santana decides to stay in Ohio, and her mom trusts her enough to give her a “graduation present” (i.e. money in an envelope).
While it was nice that Santana chose love, and stood up to her Mom’s desire for her to go to college, a lot of the episode went through the motions. It wasn’t necessarily bad (ok, musically, it was pretty close), but a lot of the relationships, despite their uncertainty, kind of felt like checking in, providing adequate screen time for the different characters, many of whom are at least leaving school, if not the show.
The tide of relationships starts to change with Puck and Quinn. Puck is cramming for the history final he gets to re-take, and he’s struggling with his self-esteem. Quinn helps him study, and tells him that she loves him, and they kiss. This was a really sweet moment, as Quinn, who worked really hard to rebuild herself into an upstanding student, was able to love Puck again, on her own terms. And Puck had what, in most episodes, would be the hallmark moment, as he passes the test! Yay!
And there’s a graduation ceremony/Glee Club concert, which is more politeness. Kind of like, by the way, the senior class singing “You Only Get What You Give”. Despite being an “energetic song”, the performance looks very static in the Glee room (like an actual concert). An attempt at an honest farewell, I guess.
But let’s get to the real heart of the matter, the stuff that makes this episode legendary: the NYADA letters. Any fan of the show has probably been dreading this moment to some degree. Does Kurt get to go to New York? Could Rachel handle any other result? Wait, did Finn really apply to the Actors Studio? So many questions! I think Finn put it well (really well, given the outcome), when he described not wanting to open the letters, to enjoy the moment before their lives change forever.
The results? Rachel’s in, Kurt and Finn are out. It was probably the most realistic outcome, as even Kurt and Finn’s applications were really bi-products of Rachel’s desire for traveling companions. Rachel’s application was the only one that mattered. So of course…Rachel wants to wait a year? And not only that, to help them apply next year? What better gesture to encapsulate not just the season, but the show, than that she’d be willing to give up her own dream in a foolish attempt to help the group.
In spite of common sense from the viewer, Rachel’s gesture seems perfect, more so as she discusses it in the car, on her way to marry Finn. Then Finn starts talking funny. First of all, when Rachel admits to having some natural doubts about their teen marriage, Finn says that she shouldn’t have doubts, and that he never did. Then Finn admits to a ruse, a big one: he’s driving her to the train station, so that she can go to New York, and not marry him or stay in Ohio! And Finn’s joining the Army, to find out what happened to his Dad, when he died in duty.
Needless to say, Rachel is upset and confused, and Finn appears ready to disappear from Glee forever. Rachel and Finn sing an amazing duet (“Roots Before Branches”) as they walk up the steps to the train, with Rachel crying and looking around scared, as she goes to New York. And as Rachel walks around Manhattan, all alone, it’s like she’s living the exciting, scary uncertainty that all of the Glee characters, maybe even all real high school grads, must feel as graduation comes to pass.
Brit’s Wit: [on living in the Glee rehearsal room forever] “Wastebasket for toilet, then eat Joe for food, because he’s been here the shortest, and we know him the least.”
Best Song: I feel like this is the Oscars, three big ones to choose from! Kurt’s “I’ll Remember” was really personal, and fit Kurt’s mode of emotional expression. The flashback infused “All The Single Ladies” was a lovely graduation present to Kurt from his Dad, and was a sight to behold. But I have to go with Finn and Rachel’s swan song, “Roots Before Branches”. For such a cheery person, Rachel has a knack for the resignedly depressed song. Some amazing music in this episode!
Relationships: Just about everyone had something going on in this one. Santana isn’t moving to Louisville, KY for college, and is instead staying in Ohio (where her girlfriend, Brittany, has to repeat her senior year). Quinn and Puck kissed, so they’re at least a “maybe” for getting back together, one would think. Kurt insists that Blaine’s junior status won’t ruin their relationship. And,of course, Finn dumped Rachel on the way to the altar and joined the army, so that Rachel can chase her dream.
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