Episode 6.11: "We Built This Glee Club" (Air date: March 13, 2015)
“I don’t care what the body is doing,” Will (Matthew Morrison) says to a joint session of the Warblers and the New New Directions for the show’s cold open. “Just make sure the face is doing something special.” Except he pronounces “face” as “fa-chay,” so I automatically want to slap him across the fa-chay. They begin rehearsing a dance, saying the steps out loud as they perform them, and...erm, this dance doesn’t look terribly complicated. But hey, I’m no dancer (or as Will would say, danseur), so whatever. Rachel (Lea Michele) applauds for her students and tells them to take five after all that strenuous stepping and finger-snapping. The Head Warbler (Myko Olivier), however, protests. “My feet are like an outtake from 'Black Swan,' but you don’t hear me complaining,” he snaps. Another nameless Warbler finishes for him: “Because my fellow Warblers and I understand the stakes involved.” And even though the “previously on” bit that aired literally seconds before this scene reminded us that the New New Directions will be disbanded if they don’t win at Sectionals, we get another reminder of this fact. You know, in case we’d forgotten.
Head Warbler also reminds everybody that Sue is now coaching Vocal Adrenaline, and is hardly letting the Carmel High students take breaks. In fact, they’ve been walking over hot coals to prepare for this. We get a quick flash to this feat (and the burning feet), complete with Sue (Jane Lynch) reminding the kids that if Oprah can do this, they can, too. “We suck!” Head Warbler wails. “You suck!” Myron (J.J. Totah) snaps back, and everyone is bickering until Kurt (Chris Colfer) assures everybody that they’re all “improving.” Head Warbler dismisses the “well-meaning teachers” and says that they need to be pragmatic, and insults Will’s choreography skills. Madison (Laura Dreyfuss) and Mason (Billy Lewis Jr.) defend their coach, of course. Head Warbler wants to adjust who stands in front during the performance, but Jane (Samantha Marie Ware) immediately declares that she and the only other two females in the New New Directions will not be pushed to the back. Right on, Jane. But Head Warbler (whose name, we finally learn, is Skylar) means “the deadweight.” They all look over to Roderick (Noah Guthrie), but Spencer (Marshall Williams) assures his colleagues that Rod will learn the choreography. Several Warblers pipe up to point out that Spencer isn’t exactly the smoothest dancer himself. “You dance like a blind man with a back brace who hasn’t taken a dump in three weeks,” one (Mason Trueblood) laments, and I’m going to save that description for use in a review one day. (Thanks, episode writer Aristotle Kousakis!)
“I have to agree with Super Gay Warbler,” Kitty (Becca Tobin) cuts in, and I laugh, because that’s what the nameless character is called in the cast list. “I love you guys, but we just can’t afford to lose. So unless you magically get better, like, this second, then I think you should take one for the team and maybe just stay hidden in the back row.” Ouch. Both guys look wounded, but move to the back of the bus choir. Roll credits!
In the hall, Roderick opens his locker and a bunch of stuff falls out. Spencer checks up on his friend, and Rod laments his lack of coordination. “I feel like a hippo trying to do ballet like some strange nightmare out of 'Fantasia,'” he sighs. They commiserate about their mutual lack of grace as they walk down the hall, and Spencer suggests getting extra lessons from Will. “We need his moves,” Roderick agrees, “but he’ll just tell us he’s proud of us even when we’re doing a subpar job.” Ah, this show knows itself so well! Kitty, they decide, would be the best dance teacher, even though she’s bound to make at least one of them cry. My money’s on Spencer. Roderick’s tougher than he acts, methinks. In the choir room, Rachel is selecting sheet music for Sectionals when Sam (Chord Overstreet) comes up with a list of performers who graduated college before beginning their careers. Rachel tries to protest, but Sam begins to read: “Patti LuPone! Carrie Underwood! Meryl Streep!” And that, ladies and gentlemen, will probably be the only time those three names are ever read together in that order. (Also, Sam pronounces “Meryl” as “Mariel,” which is actually pretty adorable.) Rachel, having anticipated this move (...really?) counters with her own list of performers who dropped out of college or never went to begin with: “Lady Gaga. Coco Chanel, and Miss Barbra Streisand herself!” Um, that’s Ms. to you, Rachel. Ah, but Sam knew she would make such a list (oh, for God’s sake) and made yet another list of “people that dropped out and were huge for five minutes, but then were never heard of again: Ke$ha.” “Ke$ha’s still performing,” Rachel says. (She is? Good for her.) Anyway, Rachel thanks Sam for his concern, but she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore unless Sam offers unconditional support. Sam goes to walk away, but then suggests that Rachel imagine herself in the future and consider if she’ll regret dropping out. And Brad the Genius Pianist (Brad Ellis), who has apparently been there the whole time, smiles at Rachel and leads a suddenly-appearing band in Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart,” which Rachel begins singing before she is interrupted by none other than Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff), whose long locks have been shorn so that he now looks like he should be starring in an HBO soap opera or maybe riding reindeer in Norway. Rachel doesn’t even blink as she sees her old love who betrayed her, so they wail their way through the duet and actually sound pretty good together. The song ends, and at a nod from Rachel, the band runs off so that the former couple can reunite.
Jesse, it turns out, has come home to take care of his mom, who is getting some plastic surgery. But he also wants to know why Rachel hasn’t officially accepted the role in Russell Simmons’ new Broadway musical. And how does he know about the job offer? Because he’s been cast in the show, too! Gasp! Jesse is, apparently set to play Tino, an “Iraqi war vet who was discharged for covering the American embassy with the graffiti that he used to make him[self] a famous Philly street artist, and when he comes home crippled with PTSD, it’s only his love of hip-hop that can save his life.” Sounds like a sure-fire Tony-winner, there. Not just that, but Jesse also encouraged them to cast Rachel as Segovia Shade. Rachel assures Jesse that she will definitely be returning to New York after sectionals, but she doesn’t know if it will be for college or a new Broadway show. Jesse, in turn, tells Rachel that her mistake was not leaving NYADA to do Funny Girl, but leaving Funny Girl to do "That’s So Rachel." “We make really great music together, Rachel,” he says softly. “We always have. Think about it.”
In a rehearsal room, Kitty and Will are trying to teach choreography to Roderick and Spencer, but the boys are four left feet. (Will, as predicted, does his best to keep their egos up.) Kitty dances with them, and they’re just starting to get the hang of it when Spencer falls and we hear a sickening crack from his ankle. Uh-oh. Quick, someone get Morales to sing “What I Did for Love!”
In the locker room, Will, Roderick and Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) look at Spencer’s ankle, which is red and ugly. It’s just a sprain, Spencer assures everybody, but Beiste says it’s one of the worst sprains he’s ever seen. Spencer is determined not to miss Sectionals, but Beiste says that the only way he can put any weight on his foot is with a cortisone shot--which may ease the pain, but won’t help the damage. The coach shows off his own knees as evidence of what ignoring sports injuries can do (“Looks like a jacked-up c-section,” Sam opines helpfully), but Spencer is determined to perform. “I’m an athlete! I’m the one that’s supposed to be tougher than everyone else!” he argues. He’ll get his shot and win, he promises, and deal with the consequences later. Okay, Spencer, but please don’t say you weren’t warned.
Backstage, Rachel is organizing stage makeup when Kurt comes up to discuss her New York decision. He reminds her that they had this fight last year, and all he wants is to see her happy. “But I remember you last year, and you weren’t happy,” he adds. Last year was hard, Rachel acknowledges, but Kurt isn’t accepting that as an excuse. “It was hard for all of us,” he says, alluding to Finn’s death. Rachel keeps fretting about committing career suicide by turning down a Broadway show (no, Rachel, you commit career suicide by walking away from a hit show before your contract is up and trying for Hollywood instead). Kurt’s tone becomes more comforting as he assures her that she will have plenty of opportunities, and that her work with the Glee Club these past few months has inspired him. “What we’re doing really matters,” he says, and they should appreciate their chances to be inspired. He plans to return to NYADA, and Blaine has been accepted into NYU for next semester. “We get to start over again,” he says. “How many people get the opportunity to go back to the crossroads they faced a year ago and choose the other path? It could all be different.” For some reason, they do not break into any songs from If/Then at this moment.
Choir room! The kids are gathered around the piano, which has several small packages on it. Kurt notes that it has a return address for GLAAD. “Maybe they’re gifts for hosting the trans choir,” he muses. Madison suggests opening all of the gifts together on the count of three, but as they start to count, Will looks nervous and dives to take the package from Rachel. (The expression on his face as he turns to her is just priceless.) He knocks the package from her hand and it skids across the floor for a second before it pops open in a spray of confetti. The other kids look at their own boxes—which all promptly explode in confetti. It’s like the gayest grenade ever. Everyone screams in terror as though the confetti was made of acid, and one Warbler spits out a mouthful of paper pieces. After the screaming stops, Will hears a ticking noise, which I’m going to guess is a shoutout to the crocodile in Peter Pan and "Finding Neverland." The noise is coming from one last unopened box. “Take cover!” he yells, and everyone jumps away from the piano, hugging one another for safety. This box explodes with enough force to break the piano, and if someone had been standing next to it and had been seriously hurt, the sender would be guilty of a lot more than an annoying prank. “Who would do this” Kurt asks, because after six years of dealing with Sue Sylvester, he still doesn’t know her MO. Will whispers his nemesis’ name, especially as he sees a note in the box: “It’s not fun to be glitter bombed, is it?” He runs out of the room screaming her name. Kurt looks at the ruined piano and wrings his hands. “Please tell me that was insured,” he says. “Oh, it’s not,” Blaine (Darren Criss) replies. Heh.
In the hallway, Sam vomits right on Will’s shoes. (Emetophobes, look away.) Will asks if Sam’s OK, and the young coach says that he must have eaten some bad meat loaf, and promptly retches again. Lovely. Will runs to get the school nurse, but finds Sue hiding in the faculty lounge instead, where all the teachers are vomiting just like Sam. She put teardrops in the McKinley water system, so now everyone is experiencing what she likes to call “Monte-Sue-Ma’s Revenge.” It’s another flare-up of her “chronic hate disorder,” she explains, and it won’t quit until he quits. A woman yells that someone’s car is on fire, and Sue giggles like a schoolgirl. Will already knows whose car it is, but runs down the hallway (under a sign that says “Quit, Will Schuester”) and makes it to the parking lot just in time to see the car explode. Shall we count the number of years Sue would spend in prison for her “pranks” in this episode alone? I think we’d be well into the triple digits, here. Sue walks into a salon, bragging of her triumph at McKinley and of her soon-to-be victory with Vocal Adrenaline, and asks “Mylene” for her usual “Carol Brady blowout.” But when the camera pans up to Mylene, we see that it is, in fact, Will in drag. He ties Sue down and duct-tapes her mouth closed, and no one else in the salon sees fit to intervene or at least call the police. Maybe Will and Sue can be cellmates together. It would be like Sartre’s No Exit, but not quite as funny.
In a locker room, a newly egg-bald Sue shows footage of Nazis marching to Vocal Adrenaline, and compares the Carmel students to the German military machine in the 1930s and ’40s. Sheldon Beiste walks in, and we realize we’re in the McKinley locker room, not Carmel. “How did you get in here?” Beiste wonders. “You’re not even allowed on property!” “Let’s be honest, Sheldon,” Sue sighs. “If history has taught us anything, it’s that this school is remarkably easy to break into.” ...She’s got a point, there. Sheldon is pissed, especially considering that he and Will were the only two who stood up for Sue during their Geraldo interviews, and Sue has brought Vocal Adrenaline—the kids who trashed Beiste’s car—into his locker room to screen Nazi footage. “Do you know what those guys would’ve done with a guy like me,” he asks Sue, his voice full of hurt. “They’d have shipped me off.” “Or made you the centerpiece of an awesome zoo!” Sue counters, and oh, good, we can now scratch “Nazi Jokes” off our list of Really Horrible Things that "Glee" Treats Lightly. Sheldon yells at the kids to leave, and they all file out, as Sue “Lex Luthor” Sylvester promises to see Beiste at Sectionals.
Speaking of which, it’s finally time for Sectionals! The judges are introduced: Ohio’s favorite vice-comptroller Donna Landries, Rod Remington (both previous judges from the first season, I believe) and Westminster Kennel Club’s 2014 trainer of the year Butch Melman (Fortune Feimster) with her champion standard poodle Trixie. The first school is called up: From the John James Institute for Rehabilitative Ornithology (ha!), the Falconers (HA!) sing Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” (HA!!) complete with cloth wings in their costumes and real falcons on their arms. It’s the kind of bizarre humor that reminds me of season one, before the show got alternately preachy and mean-spirited. I miss those days. Simpler times, man. Anyway, getting back to mean-spirited, Sue appears behind Will to encourage him to quit again. She has a full head of hair again—“It’s the best human hair wig money can buy made by my very own Malaysian hair slaves.” The song ends, and she sneaks away. Will looks worried.
After commercial, Vocal Adrenaline is up. Lead by Clint, they launch into a Starship’s “We Built This City” with fantastic choreography and movable scaffolding that they can dance on. (Because every sectional competition has a backstage space to accommodate that. But whatever, it’s a fun number.) They tear off their silver costumes and switch to what looks like blue athleticwear for Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” and now Rachel looks over at Sue in horror. It’s very much like the beginning of the season when Vocal Adrenaline performed beautifully at the invitational competition and Rachel and Will glared at each other across the auditorium. The song ends with two performers being shot out of cannons (a shout-out to the planned stunt that drove the Unholy Trio away from Sue way back when), and the audience stands and cheers.
In the green room, Spencer limps in on his crutches and demands “enough cortisone to numb a horse.” Will leads Kurt, Blaine and Rachel into the room and the combined choir circles up for the pre-performance pep talk, which Will hands over to Rachel. Naturally, she makes the pep talk all about herself and her goals before she finally acknowledges that there are other people in the room. “All that matters to me is you guys and the strength of this circle we’ve created.” She tells them to go out and enjoy the performance and the cheers they’ll hear, and they end with an “Amazing!” cheer.
In another room, a doctor (or nurse? Or some kind of medical professional?) is about to give Spencer his cortisone injection when Roderick comes in to stop him. “I have an idea!” he says—the four most terrifying words ever uttered on this series. Commercial!
Backstage, Roderick looks anxious as the announcer announces the New Directions. The curtain opens and the choir begins with Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” with Roderick singing lead and the rest of the group dancing behind a scrim. Their choreography is simple but effective, and Rachel looks relieved. The next song is Sia’s “Chandelier,” performed by Madison and Kitty backed by dancing Warblers. At the “One, two, three, drink” section, Myron—in a bodystocking and blonde wig like the video—dances up the aisle. The kids onstage step in place just fine, and Madison wails out the chorus beautifully, so the song works, and a few blackflips from some Warblers doesn’t hurt, either. Myron, however, begins writhing on Donna Landries’ chair, which she doesn’t seem to appreciate. At the end of the song, Spencer rides a chandelier onto the stage like a bus-and-truck production of Phantom of the Opera—but at least he’s sitting on it rather than putting pressure on his ankle. As Styx’s “Come Sail Away” begins (with Mason singing lead), Spencer limps out on his crutches and the choreography is still mostly just stepping and turning. Madison joins her brother and it’s kind of icky as they look into each other’s eyes on the line “so climb aboard.” The dancing picks up with the tempo and those who can dance do and those who can’t sort of rock out in place and it actually looks pretty good. The song (and scene) ends on a standing ovation, and on Sue’s worried expression.
In the judge’s room, Donna Landries kvetches about having to adjudicate a choir competition again. She had thought that the groups could not be worse than the last time. “And then they were! I don’t know which group I hated more. The Vocal Adrenalines, that was like sitting through Fallujah. You’re gonna point a cannon at me? Hell no!” ...Yeah, a lot of people died in Fallujah. Not really good joke material, there. “And what is up with this bird school?” she continues. “Is that a public school? Is that where my taxpayer dollars are going?” When she starts to rip on the McKinley students, however, Rod Remington stops her. “They may not be able to dance and sing,” he acknowledges, but he thought the girls were hot...especially the naked one with the “Pam Grier afro. Sister’s got it going on! She got me hankering for a piping hot cup of cocoa,” he continues, looking right at Donna as he says this. “What the hell did you just say to me,” she snaps back. Butch cuts in, noting that she’s not supposed to be judging. “The invitation was addressed to Trixie, so really, it’s up to the dog.” Trixie, who a title card tells us is a racist poodle, barks in agreement, and Butch quickly explains that Trixie is not, in fact, racist but is, in fact, male, so he can help them choose a winner. Trixie taps his paw on a photo when asked for his favorite, but Donna keeps arguing about both Vocal Adrenaline and the New New Directions. “By the time fattie was singing ‘Take Me to the Church,’ I’m like ‘Okay,’ provided the service we attend is my funeral.” Rod wants to take his time and consider his vote, but Donna wants them to hurry. “I got piles!” Ugh. Next scene. Onstage for the awards, the Falconers take third place. When it comes time to announce the winner, all the kids (and coaches) close their eyes and pray. And the trophy goes to...the New New Directions! The kids hug and jump around in slow motion while Sue and the VA kids glower. Will looks over at his former boss and smiles, not entirely unkindly. He’s magnanimous in victory, that one.
Later that night, or the next day, or whenever, Sue greets William in the McKinley hallway. “Looks like it finally happened,” he crows. “You lost.” She agrees—in a manner of speaking. “You’re welcome,” she says coolly. “I didn’t say ‘thank you,’” Will replies, and she agrees, noting that it’s rather rude for him not to. “I handed your glee club a victory on a silver platter,” she explains, “guaranteeing that the New Directions will be a part of this school long after you and I are gone.” After six years of trying to destroy the Glee Club, it seems that Sue has had a change of heart after Geraldo tore her down and Will stood up for her. In return, she took Vocal Adrenaline down from the inside and made them lose. Will argues that her choreography hardly looked like she was trying to lose...but, it turns out, the choreography was “specifically tailored to the deep background I performed on all three judges.” The acrobatic spectacle would remind Donna of the “fateful day” in 1964 when she went to the circus and witnessed “the most notorious mass clown stomping in the history of elephant husbandry.” Ha! The Starship song was to remind Rod of his “acrimonious group marriage with all seven members of Jefferson Airplane.” HA! And the dog trainer? “That chick’s rockin’ an IQ in the low 80s,” Sue replies. “She’s an actual idiot.” The eyedrops that made everyone sick helped them lose a few pounds (still on the fat-shaming, Sue?), and the glitter bombs were to trigger the stress hormone cortisol, which boosts alertness and takes three days to exit the system. The hormone would give them a sense of “relaxed euphoria” right as they went onstage. And the car-burning? “That was just for fun.” They stare at each other for a long moment until Sue starts kvetching that she deserves thanks for all her machinations to help the New New Directions win (including burning Will’s car, Sue?), so she’s back to her old ways of finding plans to destroy Will. Better hurry, Sue. You have one week left.
In the auditorium, Rachel finds Jesse, who laments his lost high school glory. But he’s looking forward to working with Rachel on Broadway, and offers to let her stay in his apartment in New York until she finds a place of her own. “No strings attached, of course,” he says flirtatiously. “He said flirtatiously,” he amends at her expression. But Rachel has decided to turn down the part and go back to NYADA. It’s not a step backwards, she explains, but a step in the right direction. Jesse assures her that he isn’t mad, just sad that they won’t be working together, but proud that she went with her gut and avoided the easy road. She promises to attend his opening night...with an egg in her purse if he screws up. “You’re really not going to let me live that down,” he laughs, referring to the time when he made her think he loved her and then humiliated her in public by egging her in the face. No, Jesse, people don’t usually forget things like that. They promise to meet up again once they’re both settled in New York, and kiss. No, Rachel, don’t fall for it! He’ll just get you pregnant and let you die of an illegal abortion!...Oh, wait, wrong show. Anyway.
In the choir room, Will puts their trophy in the display case and promises that the next one will be for regionals. He then starts waxing rhapsodic about how wonderful the high school years are (...what?) and how the Club put all their differences aside to come together as a team and win. The advisors may be returning to New York and this may be the end of one era, he says, but it’s the beginning of a new one. Rachel looks sadly at some previous trophies on display, and Kitty suggests adding them to the case. We get flashbacks of each victory the Glee Club has had over the last six years with some sad-yet-triumphant music and archive shots of other alums, including Finn. From the doorway, Sue watches, smiles, then walks away.
Next week: It’s All Over
* Episode 6.11: "We Built This Glee Club"
Jonathan Groff as Jesse St. James
Patricia Forte as Donna Landries
Bill A. Jones as Rod Remington
Fortune Feimster as Butch Melman
"Listen to Your Heart" by Roxette (Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele)
"We Built This City" by Starship (Vocal Adrenaline)
"Mickey" by Toni Basil (Vocal Adrenaline)
"Take Me to Church" by Hozier (New Directions)
"Chandelier" by Sia (New Directions)
"Come Sail Away" by Styx (New Directions)
"Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister (The Falconers)