One hundred episodes is a lot of “Glee”, and as the focus shifts it’s the time to start the grieving process for the club, which Sue is eliminating after their Nationals loss. As much as “Glee” is about ambition and future, it’s also bound by the limitations of the past, and this week takes a look at whether certain club members can go backwards to go forward. “Glee” has skirted these issues before, but the impending demise of “Glee” club -- and the devastating year they’ve had -- brings that all more sharply into focus.
No one ever has said, “Hey, how about you take ‘Raise Your Glass,’ one of the classic Warblers numbers, and instead have Will and April take lead on it as a spunky and relatively useless group romp.” But that’s what “Glee” decided to do with the throwback number, and sure Blaine is cute throwing in his old Sectionals moves from time to time, or the glorious moment where Ryder grinds on Unique in the background and you’re reminded that, oh yeah, there could have been a really interesting trans character storyline there that they dropped like a hot potato after the Season 4 finale, but who needed this? Not “Glee”.
Much more enjoyable is the reunion of the Unholy Trinity of Quinn, Santana and Britt to perform Britney Spears’ “Toxic” for the club. With no regard to time, they go from suggesting the idea to full on Cheerio costume choreography, with bonus gratuitous fantasy flashes to the trio. Not that we’re complaining, it’s nice to see them all grown up and having a good time together, even if all three of them face the challenge of if going back to their past is the right path for their future this episode. First we turn to Quinn, who has brought her rich private school boyfriend back to town because he’s insistent on knowing more about her before he introduces her to Mother. She’s been keeping her past hidden -- applying heavy makeup to cover her Ryan Seacrest tramp stamp and not mentioning the existence of Beth. Puck, when he learns of this, decides to sing her “Keep Holding On” in the auditorium with the rest of the club. They first performed this for Quinn (and Finn) in Season 1, as they were wracked with worry over her unexpected pregnancy.
As Puck sings, first the originals stand up to perform the first performance choreography, later joined by the newbies, as Quinn sits and cries. It’s one of the most emotionally nostalgic things “Glee” has pulled off, and even more so by the cuts to Rachel that remind you who is missing. It ends and they leave Quinn and Puck alone so Quinn can admit she’s crying because until that moment she’d forgotten all about this performance. A few years pass and she’s forgetting her past. Puck urges her to hold on, and she says she wants to look forward only.
Another past love entanglement to get the spotlight is Britt and Santana. Back from MIT, Britt can’t shut her brain off and has been struggling with her new identity as a genius, which keeps her from her passion of dance. Realizing this, Santana tries to jolt Britt back to her true love with an encore performance of The Zutons’ “Valerie,” which was originally performed as Season 2 Sectionals. Britt is reluctant at first, but joins in, with backup from Mike and Jake.
The third challenge of the past is Mercedes vs Rachel. The girls return to McKinley under the assumption they are the biggest and more important star from the school, and their past competitiveness rears its head on Britt’s web talk show, resulting in Mercedes joining in on Kurt and Rachel’s reprise of “Defying Gravity.” They turn it into another Diva-Off, while unfortunately completely ignoring that Kurt is also part of the song. Maybe the optimistic view is Kurt is already a winner and doesn’t need this petty diva-off, but man does he deserve a win. (Kurt, by the way, has no struggle of his past as he’s still happily paired with Blaine, and bares witness to the best line of the episode where April bestows hootch on him and Blaine to take the edge off their wedding night sodomy. No one told her about “The First Time,” we guess).
The girls campaign to the crowd before the vote takes place, but before ballots can be passed out Santana stands and cuts Rachel down, her anger still brewing over from their ongoing feud in New York. She goes as far as to reveal that Rachel’s Prom Queen win was a lie, and Rachel storms out of the room. Mercedes finds her in the bathroom, where Rachel is sobbing about how New York just feels like she’s back in high school again with Santana lurking around to cut her down. They bond over feeling like the ghosts of high school are always the voices of people hacking them down, and Mercedes urges her to do what she does and use those voices as motivation. After all the drama with Rachel and Santana, it’s nice to see Mercedes and Rachel realize that their shared ambition doesn’t preclude the other from success -- Rachel has different goals from Mercedes, and they might wish to be more popular than the other, unlike high school there’s enough popularity to go around in the real world. They return to tell the club they don’t care who wins, just as Will tallies the votes and declares a tie.
Will’s past returns in the form of April, who once again gives him false hope for a better future. She thinks she can save the club by using a loophole through her funding of the auditorium, but Sue uncovers that her money has run out and she’s breaking. Past ghost number two takes the form of Holly Holliday, who April brings in as a last ditch effort to cheer the club (the pair stay connected on a former “Glee” guests Facebook group along with Blaine’s brother and “that Mexican guy” Ricky Martin). Holly has been doing guerrilla pop up substitute teaching, and has no time for silly rehashed songs. She breaks into Pharrell's “Happy” and leads the gang in a twirling number that’s pretty much the same as April’s number at the start of the episode. It’s a great feeling once an episode, twice is perhaps overdoing it. The song doesn’t stop Will from being mad that April gave him hope when his situation was hopeless, and he leads the original club members to the auditorium to show them the final location of the treasured “Glee” club plaques.
Hope, however, is not out of reach for some of our characters. Quinn has come clean to Biff, who reacts about as poorly as you’d imagine. When he starts aggressively calling Quinn a slut for her past, she defends herself sufficiently, but Puck also swoops in with fists and a dumpster toss for good measure. Quinn sends Biff on his way back to Yale, and connects with Puck as they look at Finn’s retired jersey, wondering what their future holds now. Puck tells Quinn to ask him to stay, that he’s the only person she’s been herself with ever. He leaves her, and as he walks down the hall she chases him and they embrace, and kiss, and she asks.
Britt leaves Santana with a similar directive. Britt tries to kiss Santana, and although Santana pulls back and says it’s a bad idea, Britt doesn’t give up hope. She says it makes her feel like a girl again to be around Santana, and that you can recreate what they had with someone else. If Santana wants her, Britt is there. Britt kisses her on the cheek and leaves Santana sitting alone, thinking.
We cliffhang straight into Episode 101 as Holly and April vow to save the club. The problem is, it seems like a lost cause. Everyone is here, and ready to say goodbye. Who knows if the romantic hopes of Quinn and Puck and Santana and Britt are lost causes too? It’s very difficult to go back, but “Glee’s” allowed many pairs to grow and return to each other, as Klaine is evidence. We’re a little less optimistic about these four. It’s nice to wrap up Quinn’s story with a Puck-shaped bow, or believe that Santana and Britt are forever, but it’s been amazing to watch Santana grow in New York -- and she still has a lot more growing to do. Puck has matured, but Quinn still doesn’t seem to be settled on an identity. Who knows if a single episode is enough to tie up all the loose ends, but at least there will be more throwback songs.