New Directions competes at Nationals; Tina and Rachel switch bodies; Lindsay Lohan appears as herself

By Erin Strecker
Updated May 16, 2012 at 06:10 AM EDT
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Adam Rose/Fox

Glee

S3 E20
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It turns out you need two hours, a ton of props, and an impromptu roadtrip to Oberlin College — not to mention a way-more-awesome-than-I-was-expecting body-swap subplot — to get a bunch of Lima teenagers ready for Nationals in Chicago for the unique privilege of being judged by America’s sweetheart Lindsay Lohan. I snark, but only to cover up my tears: Last night’s double-episode extravaganza was for the most part a spectacular return to form for the show, with plenty of emotional moments and soaring notes that made me leap to my feet and cheer. Or, at least, post an approving Facebook status. Same thing.

The two-for-one Glee-fest kicked off with “Props” which found Rachel not processing her NYADA debacle as well as she had seemed to the previous week. She sadly sang to herself, as she does, and decided to throw herself into Nationals prep, seeing it as her last chance to be a star. She had also left 14 messages on Carmen’s machine begging her to reconsider and come watch her Nationals performance, but so far, no response. Note to high school students/everyone: This is stalking. You shouldn’t do this.

Human prop Tina finally hit her limit with everyone catering to Rachel getting yet another solo at Nationals and stormed out of the choir room. These were super-valid feelings (loved the shout-out to “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat.” They were so innocent then!) but no one was very supportive. Even her boyfriend Mike was Team Rachel. Ouch. I expected a “Rachel, Rachel, Rachel!” Brady Bunch moment from Tina, but instead we got one better: She hit her head on the fountain at the mall when she was racing around getting fabric for Nationals costumes and imagined she switched bodies with Rachel. She also saw everyone else body swap: Kurt as Finn, Puck body-swapped with Blaine, Santana was Artie, Joe was Mike, and Brittany switched it up with Mercedes. Great: Sue and Schu swap! Best shot: Finn and Puck all snuggly together, holding hands and dressed up like Kurt and Blaine. The entire cast deserved an MVP award for their completely on-point mannerisms. That group has clearly spent the past three years together.

As Rachel, Tina finally got a solo and sang a Celine Dion power ballad — complete with the patented Berry original hand-on-stomach move. After getting her first standing O moment in the spotlight, Tina and Rachel (both as the other one) had a heart-to-heart. Tina-as-Rachel thanked Rachel-as-Tina for her valuable contributions to the chorus, which allowed Rachel to sound even more spectacular…if that’s even possible. There are no small parts, only small actors. Right, guys? Rachel returned the favor by telling Tina-as-Rachel to not give up on her dreams. She’s incredible! NYADA would be lucky to have her! The two hug it out and, conflict over, Tina woke back up at the mall with Blaine and Kurt — as themselves — standing above her. Everyone was back in their correct body and no one was (outwardly) sad anymore. On with the show!

NEXT: Unique returns, plus Masks! Fire! Flashdance!

Sue had completely taken over Nationals rehearsal and decided that the way to win would be to distract the judges with fancy props. Or helmets. She came to the conclusion that unless Porcelain Kurt decided to cross-dress (what Sue wanted), New Directions might as well hand over that champion trophy to Vocal Adrenaline. Sue explained: “High school judges are proven idiots, and they love props, and Unique is the ultimate prop.” Kurt wasn’t having it, but a struggling Puck saw an opportunity to be a hero and went all-in on the cross-dressing. Just call him Lola. Santana was turned on, and Artie got concerned that there were some things you couldn’t unsee. Schu wasn’t having it, though, and decided that all they were doing from now on was learning choreography for Nationals. Better late than never!

Without cross-dressing to fall back on, Puck accepted an invite to fight Ricky outside by the dumpsters. Ricky was giving him a hard time about not graduating, but Ricky was also rocking a mullet, which led me to believe that he’s been in high school since the mid-’80s and maybe should leave Puck alone. Of course that didn’t happen, so after school Puck joined Ricky for a very Sharks vs. Jets showdown — Puck even brought the (fake) knife from McKinley High’s production of West Side Story! The two were really going at it, but when Puck pulled out the knife, Beiste appeared and broke it up.

Beiste and Puck then had a locker room heart-to-heart where Puck broke down and admitted he was scared he’d never amount to anything. Beiste comforted him and explained, “We’re badasses. No one thinks anything can hurt us, but it does.” While she was giving her speech to Puck, she realized the person who most needed to hear her advice was herself. Later, she went home and confronted her husband. The scene was painful to watch, in the best possible way. Waterwork Alert Number One. Seeing Beiste stand up for herself, and put herself first, was a really great moment. The fact that Beiste has been sleeping with a knife under her pillow was a chilling addition, but her final word to him, after Cooter asked her who would love her if not him, was perfect: “Me.” Cue a quite-literal duet of “Mean” with Puck on guitar. Added bonus: Beiste negotiated for Puck to have another go at the geography test. He’s not going to flunk after all. Well, probably not.

Meanwhile, back in their normal bodies, Tina and Rachel took a roadtrip to Oberlin College, where Carmen teaches, so that Rachel could ask her face-to-face to reconsider her NYADA decision. In the car, the duo listened to “Maniac,” so 100 cool music points to Tina. Tina confessed that all she wanted out of the rest of the school year was to sing one duet with Rachel. Just wait a few minutes, Tina. Your moment is coming!

Unfortunately, things went downhill after the chitchat in the car. Rachel attempted to talk to Carmen, but Carmen (rightfully) wasn’t having it. “What makes you think you’re entitled to any more attention than any of the hundreds of other people I see with the same hopes and dreams?” Carmen asked her. Rachel said that she didn’t think that, but explained she wasn’t going to give up her dreams. She invited Carmen to come see them perform in Chicago, and told her she planned on auditioning year after year. Carmen was clearly secretly a little impressed, or at least intrigued, and then Rachel dropped her research bombshell: Didn’t Carmen audition for Juilliard four times? She isn’t going to give up either. I have no doubt that Rachel meant every word of her little speech, and I bet it’s going to pay off.

Waterwork Alert Number Two: Back at school, Rachel and Finn reminisced about a scrappy group of kids who “cling desperately to their own kind,” while they looked on at Sam, Brittany, Kurt and Artie laughing in the hallway together. Rachel started singing in the auditorium, then was joined by Tina, and then they all sang their way onto a bus to Nationals. This felt like such a finale song. It was the beginning of the end for our group of misfits, and I was a mess. I also just really love ’80s music.

NEXT: A little event called Nationals, perhaps you’ve heard of it?

They might not have gone through Platform 9 3/4 , but the Glee kids were off — via bus — to a magical place! But as soon as they arrived in Chicago, and the episode “Nationals” began, things went south. Mercedes came down with H1N1 food poisoning, and it looked like Quinn was going to have to step up for the Troubletone number. Jesse St. James showed up, as we knew he would, as he’s Vocal Adrenaline’s coach. He may have Unique, but his conversation with Rachel showed he was pretty nervous. Also, he was running his hands through his hair a lot and questioned what the heck the requirement “33% of the numbers must be vintage” even meant. You and me both, Mr. St. James.

I need to pause real quick and give a shout-out to Jesse/Jonathan Groff. I think he’s my absolute favorite part of this show, and this episode, even though ONCE AGAIN HE DIDN’T SING, showed me why: His reaction shots were, as always, priceless. Whether it was his barely concealed smirk for everything Rachel did, or his angry shifty eyes during a quick cutaway after New Directions’ showstopping performance — we’ll get there in just a sec — I couldn’t stop cracking up. Nationals apparently crowns an MVP each year — singing is like a competitive sport! — and if I got a vote, Jesse would have another award to add to his already impressive resume. Plus, Wade performing in drag was a pretty inspiring idea that he created implemented.

Mercedes made a miraculous recovery in the time it took Jesse and Rachel to have that conversation, and the show went on. New Directions had the unenviable task of performing first, but they absolutely killed it. From the Troubletones’ version of “Edge of Glory” to Rachel’s incredible Waterworks Alert Number Three performance of “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now,” this was perfect. And yes, Carmen showed up just in time to see her bring the house down. Girl is totally NYADA bound.

Vocal Adrenaline was up next, featuring a wonderful Unique. Unique may have had some nerves pre-performance, but classy Kurt and Mercedes talked her up and that meant Unique was out in full force. The only negative I thought was that the performance was all Unique — no one else got a chance to shine.

NEXT: And the winner is…Plus! Judge Lindsay Lohan mugs for the cameras

Jesse St. James knows when he’s been bested, and before the winner was announced, he found Carmen and, finally making up for the whole throwing-an-egg-in-her-face incident, told her that Rachel was the most talented person he’d ever met. Bar none. He turned to leave, and Carmen told him she did remember him: His own NYADA audition two years prior. He sang “Giants In The Sky” from Into the Woods, and although his diction needed work, she was impressed by his passion. Internet Gods, please allow video of Jesse St. James performing to surface online. Also, is this laying the groundwork for Jesse to inevitably join Rachel at NYADA next season? Because I want it known I would watch every episode of that.

While Jesse was finally being a good guy, the judges deliberated, and they were as random a crew as ever: America’s sweetheart Lindsay Lohan, Perez Hilton and Rex Lee. I know I’m supposed to groan at Lindsay’s Comeback 2012, but A.) I love her. Sorry I’m not sorry and B.) The lines they gave her were pretty funny — if not a bit sad. “Is there anything better than someone MAKING A COMEBACK!?!?!?” 12-time Teen Choice Award nominee Lohan asked straight to the cameras, explaining why the judges shouldn’t hold New Directions’ 12th place finish last year against them.

With all the top teams gathered onstage, the moment everyone had been waiting for had finally arrived…almost. Ryan Seacrest must have snuck in and told them to drag this announcement out, because first we learned that Unique, deservedly so, got the MVP award that Rachel assumed was hers. As soon as that happened, I felt even more confident that New Directions would definitely take home the trophy for their team effort — and they did! Waterworks Alert Number Four. They got a homecoming party fit for an American Idol. The slushies in the face were full of streamers, there was champagne (non-alcoholic, let’s assume) and hey! This apparently was just the push Emma needed to have sex with Will. So that happened too! Congratulations all around!

But there was still one more surprise to go — and I’m not talking about Sue’s still-maybe-happening pregnancy. Principal Figgins prepared a special assembly where Schu would be given the Teacher of the Year award. Exciting stuff, and more than a bit surprising, when you consider Schu quit his job teaching Spanish class a few months ago when he discovered that he wasn’t so good at it. But he sure does love the Glee club! And with a national championship now to their credit, apparently that’s enough.

NEXT: Musical grades and top quotes

Musical Grades

“I Won’t Give Up”: Sad times for Rachel. She talked a big game about being fine about the NYADA “incident,” but to the surprise of no one, she was still struggling. Classic Berry power ballad. B+

“Because You Loved Me”: Oh, Tina. She just wants someone to love her. Or even notice her. And dressing up like Berry got things done. She sounded lovely, but I’m sorry, she doesn’t have Rachel’s powerhouse pipes, and a Celine Dion song is all about the vocals. B+

Flashdance…What A Feeling”: Okay, I love cheesy over-the-top ‘80s music. And this allowed Rachel and Tina to finally get their duet on. Any word on where I can buy Rachel’s purple dress? I think I’m coveting that more than anything I’ve ever seen on this show. “Let’s go to nationals!” Schu exclaimed. I’m so on board that bus. Sing us to Chicago! A-

“Mean”: Emotion central tonight. No one warned me to have my guard up. This Beiste/Puck duet (with Puck on guitar) was lovely and thematically perfect. Although I’m shocked it took three seasons for Glee to do a Taylor Swift cover. B

“Edge of Glory”: Along with “All Coming Back” and “Paradise” this was part of New Directions’ Nationals routine. I absolutely love this tune, and this arrangement was nice and also (props to them!) different. The Troubletones got a chance to shine, and it kicked off what was a truly an all-time great performance. A-

“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”: In my notebook for this song all I wrote: “She. Has. It.” And then I rewatched three times. Outstanding. A

“Paradise By The Dashboard Light”: The real group number of the trio of New Directions performances. The vocals, choreography and energy were all top-notch. A

“Starships”: This combined with “Pinball Wizard” was Vocal Adrenaline’s Nationals offering, with lead vocals by Unique. Unique rapping even gave Minaj a run for the outrageous wig money — is there anything she can’t do? A-

“Pinball Wizard”: For the vintage part, V.A. went with this Who classic. Dancing on the giant pinball machines was a bit much for my taste, and this arrangement wasn’t too different from just karaoke of the original. But it still made me want to dance. B+

“Tongue Tied” Mostly background for their awesome homecoming. Montage music! B

“We Are The Champions”: Excellent song choices all around last night. Like their other Queen cover “Somebody to Love” from last season, it really showcased the group’s harmonies. A-

NEXT: Top quotes + other moments

Top Quotes

Kurt as Snooki and Blaine as The Situation: Best. Couples Costume. Ever.

Emma’s brochure: “When It’s Time To Have Intercourse”

File under: Things I never thought I’d see. Lindsay Lohan and Perez Hilton head-bopping together to the music. There can be miracles! When you believe!

“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be me?” –Rachel

“If we want to beat Vocal Adrenaline at nationals, it’s tucking time.” –Sue

“Sparks in your face is how you get freckles.” –Brittany

“Rachel is a pain in the ass. “ –Tina

“I prepaid for the little people.” –Sue

“Pretty as a picture with a booty that won’t quit.” –Sue about Unique

“Why black and white?” “Because I worship The Artist.” –Finn and Kurt

“Jennifer Beals is spinning in her grave.” –Sue (Jennifer Beals is very much alive)

“Cocky all of a sudden. I like it.” –Jesse St. James. I like you, Mr. St. James

“When you get nervous you start running your hands through your hair like Danny Zuko.” –Rachel re: Jesse

“Most people don’t realize I lost 10 pounds during that performance.” –Jesse, discussing his incredible “Bohemian Rhapsody” number

“We’re entering the Hunger Games of show choir competition.” –Sue, who would totally dominate in the arena

“Break a heel” –Kurt to Unique

“If you have to ask why a 12-time Teen Choice Award nominee is a celebrity judge, then you don’t understand what the word celebrity means.” –Rex Lee

“I was robbed for Freaky Friday.” –Lindsay Lohan discussing her Teen Choice nominations. And yes, she was.

Wow! A ton happened in this two-hour extravaganza! Are you happy New Directions won Nationals? What about Unique as MVP? Who else was excited for the return of Jesse St. James? Tina finally got a solo! Lindsay Lohan made fun of herself (again)! Will and Emma finally had sex! Tell me what you enjoyed, and get ready to brace yourself next week to watch the McKinley high crew graduate and say goodbye. There. Will. Be. Tears.

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Glee

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