Seniors graduate; relationships are tested; NYADA results are revealed -- with a twist

By Erin Strecker
May 23, 2012 at 07:06 AM EDT
Mike Yarish/Fox
S3 E22
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WOW. That’s the only word I can think of having just a bit ago finished watching Glee — a season finale that sure felt like a series finale, with McKinley High saying goodbye to its seniors in an episode with the perfect amount of flashbacks and revelations — and even one out-of-nowhere twist in the final act.

It was graduation time, which meant the tears got started nice and early, if that sort of thing embarrassingly happens to you each May with finales left and right. Emotions were running high as the show kicked off with Schu in the choir room thinking back to the very beginning, as he remembered Kurt, Artie, Rachel, Mercedes and Tina rocking out in a spectacularly unremarkable fashion to “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat.” Three years later, and they just wrapped up a Nationals win. Unbelievable. Schu started the night off right with “Forever Young” on guitar. Gosh, he’s really going to miss those kids. In all the talk about who is going where next year, people forget about Mr. Schuester: What is he going to do next year with all of his favorite students/best friends gone?

Much like in the first few episodes of the show where Rachel would provide inner monologue voiceover, last night’s episode highlighted several of the Glee members’ journey, one graduate at a time. The whole thing kicked off with Kurt as he headed to the auditorium to talk with his dad. It’s no secret Kurt and Burt’s heart-to-hearts are some of the show’s most emotionally powerful scenes, and last night was no exception. Burt spoke to Kurt about how “Around your seventh birthday, I lost you…But I’m proud of what you and I did together.” “I’m proud too, Dad.” UGH. Waterworks Alert! I’m proud too, you guys! You make me tear up every time you guys speak to each other — and just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Burt told Kurt he had a gift for him: Burt donned a sparkly glove and  performed the “Single Ladies” dance onstage with Tina and Brittany, and the show flashbacked to when Kurt had performed the dance early on. Remember when that dance was everywhere? Remember when Kurt performed it on a football field? Memories! To quote Kurt: “Best. Graduation Gift. Ever.”

But the emotional roller coaster was just getting started: After Beyoncé impressions with his dad, Kurt and Blaine had their relationship talk about the future (based around watching The Notebook, natch.) Blaine didn’t think long-distance relationships worked, but Kurt didn’t care: Kurt told Blaine he couldn’t picture a future without him, no matter how old they were. They decided they simply weren’t going to talk about it anymore; it was just going to work. No goodbyes for them. High school love: Awww.

NEXT:  Finn auditions, Quinn and Puck kiss!

Even though graduation was only a few days away, Rachel learned the NYADA (and Pace University) decisions would be sent out that week, and she made Kurt and Finn pinkie-promise they would all open their letters together. This was a horrible idea for all the obvious reasons, as evidenced by what happened later in the episode. But before we talk about that devastation, updates on the other seniors: Thanks to Sam posting a YouTube video of “Disco Inferno,” Mercedes got discovered and is flying to L.A. to be a backup singer; Mike earned a scholarship to the Joffrey in Chicago; and Brittany, with a 0.0 GPA, will not be graduating, and will be senior class president two years in a row. Santana had doubts about going to college at all instead of going to NYC, and discussed her hesitation with her mom (guest star Gloria Estefan) and Brittany at Breadstix.

In the meantime, Finn finally had his Pace University audition for NONE OTHER THAN JAMES LIPTON. Lipton admitted this was an unusual case, but seemed open to admitting Finn — although the show cut away before we got to see his dramatic monologue… or his Proust Questionnaire answers. Afterwards, Schu signed Finn’s yearbook — “Dear Finn, Great knowing you! Will Schuester” — and after three years of essentially no guilt, the fact that Finn might be moving away and Schuester was going to lose his Best Man/Sort Of Best Friend finally caught up to him, and Schu confessed to Finn that the pot he found in his locker all those years ago, that he’d used to blackmail Finn into joining glee club, was actually his. Surprise! You were framed! I got briefly annoyed they were bringing this drama up now, but instead of being angry, Finn just told Schu: “You are so much cooler than I ever thought you were.” Ends justify the means!

Finn had bigger fish to fry than whether someone illegally forced him to join a voluntary after-school activity: In his research about his Dad being dishonorably discharged from the army, Finn discovered a lot of good things his Dad did, like saving kids from burning buildings.  It made him question his plans about wanting to be an actor and what kind of good it was possible to accomplish. The wheels were turning, and it sure looked like the writers were hinting that Finn’s next big move might not be to New York, but to a military base.

Next up for the voiceover inner monologue was Quinn, who by most anyone’s standards has had a very difficult high school experience. She had a nice chat with Rachel, telling her she truly thought Rachel and Finn were good together, and then, thinking back on her relationships, decided to help out Puck. It’s so weird to think that when this show started, they were secretly hooking up. (Side note: Who hasn’t Quinn at least shared a flirtation with in glee club?)  Last night things came full circle, going back to where it began, as Quinn kissed Puck to motivate him to study (despite how silly it sounds written out, it mostly made sense!). And something must have gone right, because Puck passed his test — C-! — and he got to graduate with all the other seniors.

And what a graduation ceremony it was, albeit brief, with everyone singing and getting their moment onstage. Bonus: Finn rocked out on drums. It looked like a lot more fun than any graduation I’d ever been to — except for this shockingly similar soiree. (Complete with red robes!) McKinley High also took the cake for the most enthusiastic audience. Sue even gave Schue a hug!

NEXT: NYADA decisions are revealed…

I hope you stocked up on warm fuzzies during the graduation ceremony performance, because Glee was about to go real dark — and I’m definitely still processing what happened. Like they promised,  Kurt, Finn and Rachel opened their letters together. Finn went first, and found out he wasn’t admitted to Pace. Okay, I thought to myself. That stinks, but makes sense — he applied three weeks ago and we didn’t see his audition. Then Kurt opened his letter; of the three, I assumed he was the shoe-in. But he wasn’t. He didn’t get into NYADA, despite having had a wonderful audition and earning praise from Carmen. Then the big twist: Kurt may not have been NYC bound, but Rachel was. She got into NYADA. Apparently that Nationals performance — and her persistence — really blew Carmen away.

Despite the fact that going to NYC and working towards Broadway is all Rachel Berry has ever wanted, she announced she would be deferring her decision for a year, staying in Lima, and helping Finn and Kurt prepare for auditioning again. NOOOOO, I screamed at my TV — even though I didn’t totally believe her. But thankfully, Finn did the smartest thing he’s done in the past three years and didn’t listen to her.

Rachel thought Finn was taking her to the chapel so they could get married, but instead he took her to the train station to board a train to New York. He told her her dads were waiting in NYC for her to help her pick a dorm room and get settled: She was going to NYADA. She and Finn were both crying and hats off to everyone involved because I think it may be one of my favorite non-singing scenes of the year, possibly the series (Sorry, Finchel fans). I just so felt for Rachel choosing between the guy she loved for a while, and the dreams she’s loved since she was a child. Finn asked her if she had any hesitations about marrying him, and she replied that no one could be 100 percent sure about something like that. “I want to marry you so badly I can’t go through with it,” Finn told her. Bru-tahl. And just when I was recovering from this break-up, Finn dropped another bombshell: It looks like he’s joining the army after all. He’s headed on a midnight train to a military base in Georgia. Another twist I didn’t see coming.

It hasn’t been announced yet how exactly next season is going to work, so it’s not totally clear if Rachel will be regularly on the show or if we’ll just be getting sporadic updates. Will Kurt still find his way to New York? I sure hope so. Although we didn’t get any more info about it tonight, Will and Emma’s wedding still seemed on, and Sue still seemed pregnant — celebrity father announcement still pending.

The episode ended with Rachel boarding the train, and everyone waving good-bye as Lima’s shining star arrived in New York with pink suitcase in tow. Walking down the streets of NYC with a big smile on her face and spinning around taking in all the sights, she looked like Mary Tyler Moore in her show’s theme song — she’s going to make it after all.

NEXT: Musical grades and top quotes!

As we go on, we remember; all the songs we sang together:

“Forever Young”: Schu kicked things off with a song to the club that wasn’t a rap. It sounded lovely, and I’d like to make a personal appeal to the writers to have more of this in season 4. B+

“Glory Days”: The Glee seniors put their choral spin on the Bruce Springsteen classic as they jammed their way through a gradation ceremony that doubled as a performance. B+

“I’ll Remember”: Waterworks Alert! Chris Colfer sold it singing this goodbye song to fellow Glee club members. Song choice is everything, to quote American Idol judges, and this number delivered. Nice arrangement for his voice as well. A-

“In My Life”: The underclassmen sang my favorite Beatles song to the seniors Finn, because he was popular before he joined the club. B

“Roots Before Branches”: I feel like a broken record here, but I’ve yet to see a power ballad Lea Michele couldn’t sell. Waterworks Alert! Powerful finish to the season and I didn’t not rewind the tune three times while silent tears rolled down my face. A

“You Get What You Give”: The Glee seniors’ swan song to the underclassmen. This was the moment when it really kicked in that the show will never be the same. B+ 

Some Lingering Thoughts:

–Favorite cutaway: At the beginning of the episode, the whiteboard that has this week’s assignment simply said the episode title: Goodbye.

–Other favorite quick moment: During graduation, Blaine was ready with tissues for Kurt. Cutest couple 2012!

–Sue and Roz joining forces sets up a great plotline — and lots of laughs — for next season: Taking down the incompetent Principal Figgins.

–New life regret: Not doing a high kick as I walked across the stage at high school graduation. Good call, Kurt.

–Santana went as Uncle Jesse for Halloween? Where was that flashback photo?

–Speaking of Santana, her mother gave her money she’d saved over the years and said to do what makes her happy — and right now, it sounds like Santana will be joining new BFF Rachel Berry in New York.

–Quinn’s chat with Sue was another Waterworks Alert! It was nice to see Sue be so encouraging to one of her Cheerios.

–Can we safely assume there will be a reunion come November where everyone returns to Lima for Schu and Emma’s wedding? Do you think the wedding will still happen?

NEXT: Top Quotes

Top Quotes:

“Not a bad legacy for someone who once pretended to be in lust with Rachel Berry, so he wouldn’t have to date Mercedes Jones.” –Kurt

“Is Elaine Stritch here?” –Kurt

“We know how hard relationships can be — we both saw The Notebook.” –Blaine

“In this room, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight; what matters is that we’re friends.” –Kurt

“What did you think was going to happen to me? I have a 0.0 GPA.” –Brittany

“You are so much cooler than I thought you were.” –Finn to Schuester

“One of those letter-writing campaigns, like for Friday Night Lights.”–Finn

“Funny thing about a kiss: If it comes at the right time from the right girl it can be like magic. It can bring you back to life, like CPR but with tongues.” –Puck

“I’m going to miss you so much.” “I don’t see how that’s possible, but thank you.” –Quinn and Sue

“If I don’t pass, it’s open season on all faculty tires.” –Puck

“C-! That’s a Puckerman A+! I’m graduating!” –Puck

Alright. I’m going to go back to quietly tearing up while rewinding and rewatching “Roots Before Branches.” Tell me: Did you like the decisions for Rachel, Finn and Kurt? Who else was totally shocked Kurt isn’t NYADA-bound, at least not right away? Finn and Rachel essentially broke up! Anyone else disappointed we didn’t get a big final Glee number, or did you have your fill at Nationals last week?   Who are you most excited to check in with next year? It’s the end of an era — tell me what you thought of “Goodbye,” and season 3, in the comments!

Erin on Twitter

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Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.
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