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February 26, 2014 at 08:45 AM EST

Oh, welcome back, you dedicated Glee fans, you! If you were hoping for a return to form after the couple of kind of cracked-out pre-hiatus episodes – Puppets! Previously unaired sexy Santas! – then you got your classic Glee showing last night. Sue Sylvester-instigated rivalry? Check. Rachel Berry’s ambition driving her to extremes? Definite check. A Kelly Clarkson song as valedictorian speech? All the checks. (OK, that last one isn’t technically a well-traveled Glee trope, but you probably could have assumed it would happen at some point.)

With the new knowledge that Glee will soon be moving to New York full-time, this post-hiatus episode does a nice job of beginning to mentally prepare the audience for that transition. Graduation is drawing near, and the littlest McKinley students took a backseat in lieu of storylines focused on the remaining original cast members. The bulk of the plot is reserved for New York, where the fierce duo of Rachel and Santana are finding themselves in a very Smash-season-one rivalry – Rachel even made the comparison herself a few episodes back, didn’t she?

Santana is feeling down because she was hoping to spin her yeast infection commercial into more successful ventures, but instead she’s just become that girl who was in a yeast infection commercial and works at a diner (and, let’s not forget, still has a sex tape floating around out there – “Santana Lopez” must yield one hell of a Google search). And there at that diner with her is her former enemy, current friend and roommate, Rachel Berry, the most successful Broadway ingénue to ever slap on a pair of leg warmers. In addition to her lead in a Broadway musical revival, Rachel informs Santana that she’s going to be on the cover of New York Magazine, and she’s going to try to score her a gig as a background model for the photo shoot. An uncharacteristically supportive Santana coos, “I really hope I can be as cool as you when the roles are reversed.” That, my English major friends, is what we call FORESHADOWING.

Back in Ohio, Artie and Tina are going to be on the cover of Lima Magazine. Just kidding, everyone can’t be a famous teenager! No, they’re just having their weekly Tuesday lunch and singing Kenny Loggins’ “Whenever I Call You Friend” to each other. It’s super sweet. These two don’t always get that much interaction these days, what with the girlfriends and the costume making and the Blaine-vapor-rubbing, but don’t forget, they were one of Glee’s very first love stories. I really bought that sweet love was showin’ them a heavenly light. B

That is, until Sue revealed to the lunch buddy biffles that they were tied for valedictorian and would have to speechify to the death to win the spot as their own. Tina needs the title to officially be accepted at Brown and tries to convince Artie to hand it over by calling his girlfriend the “biggest bitch at McKinley.” Surprisingly, that does not work. Mr. Shue helpfully suggests a sing-off and – oh, hot damn, is that En Vogue?! Yes, they sure do sing “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It)” and no, it is not even close to the Funky or Diva levels that an En Vogue cover should be. The vocals are good, the **breakdown** is appreciated, but the choreography is mostly just Tina being way too physically aggressive with Artie, ultimately resulting in her knocking him out of his wheelchair. Oh, Tina. C

Rachel and Santana have arrived at the photo shoot and Santana is still being very supportive, but the jealousy that’s bound to erupt when your friend is doing exactly what you wish you were doing is beginning to seep into her eyeballs. As everyone dons their evening gowns and parasols, they break into “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. “Honestly,” after listening to those incessant Nokia Lumia commercials for the last two months (it’s the bravest phone in the world!), I didn’t think I’d ever want to hear this song again, but it’s a winning number. The vocals are lovely, and the parasol dancing, Santana’s gorgeous dress, and Rachel’s ode to Barbra Streisand’s 1969 Oscar suit don’t hurt. B+

Rachel is certainly enjoying her time in the spotlight and isn’t looking to share it with anyone else, going so far as to say she doesn’t need no stinkin’ Funny Girl understudy. Nonetheless, she’s skipping Pamela Lansbury rehearsal in favor of sitting in on the understudy auditions. *dramatic donning of sunglasses* “It’s just really hard being a star.” *Santana thoughtfully looks into the distance, as though formulating a plan*

With the ladies busy on Broadway, Kurt decides it’s time for some man-to-man band bonding time with Elliot/Starchild and a tray of cucumber sandwiches. You see, these kids can’t breathe without getting a magazine article written about them, and in a recent interview with Village Voice, Elliot called Pamela Lansbury “his” band, which did not please the band’s leader, Kurt (I tried to think of any other way to refer to a band you’re in besides “my band” and I could not, but my hands-on rockstar experience is minimal). Blaine tells him **Episode Theme Alert** to keep his friends close and his enemies closer, so he decides it’s time to “break it down, Andy Cohen style.”

Keeping Elliot close somehow leads to Kurt saying he wants to learn guitar, Elliot saying that means he needs to buy one, and this bonding session quickly relocating to the Fender store. The sales guy seems a little judge-y about their rock credentials (or something?), so Elliot asks the nearest axe-wielding patron, “Hey man, do you know that song by The Darkness, ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love,’” and surely Adam Lambert’s pretty face is the only thing that keeps the guy from slapping him (that comes later, anyway). Oh boy, do I love this song and oh boy, do those two well-coiffed boys put their Glee spin on it. Literally, Kurt spins on a pole. Lambert’s got the glam-rock and you know Chris Colfer’s got the falsetto. A

NEXT: Santana rains all over Rachel’s parade…

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