On the list of "Glee" tributes, Stevie Wonder definitely ranks at the top for both likability of the catalog and ability to use it to accent moments and highlight underlying emotion. This week the gang explores fear and doubt while outwardly celebrating -- a juxtaposition that strikes to the core of "Glee."
In New York, Rachel's elated to find out she has her "Funny Girl" callback, only to be quickly brought back down to earth by the shark-like gays of NYADA, who after failing to crush Kurt Hummel earlier this year are out for blood. They inform her that her competition is Sutton Foster and Meryl Streep's daughter who may or may not be able to sing. They also let her in on the info that NYADA students can only audition with professor permission and since Cassandra has been looking for a way to destroy her this could be her opportunity. The boys then run to Cassie and inform her of Rachel's callback as an attempt to curry favor. In turn Cassie threatens to. It's all a ploy, though, for Cassie and the nameless NYADA dance crew to sing "Uptight" and cheer Rachel on pre-audition. As a thank you Rachel bring Cassie a walking stick and they embrace, Cassie admitting that she was hard on Rachel all year long because she saw something special in her (and that random Brody hookup was all about his abs. Whoever knows what happened to him.)
Rachel's audition also sets the story in motion over in Lima, where Schue has been so inspired by Rachel's audition fortune that he themes the week on Stevie Wonder (because it's wonderful) and dispenses with a handful of exposition -- he re-proposed to Emma off screen and they're gonna get married for real, Brittany is MIA because she's at MIT interviewing, and everyone is starting to officially get into college. Kurt's exposition is all about his father (whatever happened to Adam? Do male love interests at NYADA just fade into the walls eventually never to be heard from again?) and his pending test results about his cancer status. Kurt reveals that he's amped up OCD tendencies and also amped up his fabulous sweater game as he plans to return to Lima to see everyone, and also Blaine. They're not sleeping together this time around, but they are looking at each other across rooms and heavily flirting. Also back in town this week are Mercedes, who's working on a music video for her upcoming album with Mike as choreographer, but mostly they spend their time hanging around McKinley like always.
They arrive just in time to see Kitty sing "Signed Sealed Delivered" and rat out the fact that Artie has been accepted to Brooklyn Film Academy, something he asked her to keep secret since he doesn't plan to attend. Next stop is the Lima Bean, where Blaine is extremely excited about marriage equality and what it means for his future, and also calls Kurt "dirty cute" before they sit down to talk life. While Kurt obsessively re-arranged sugar packets and can't handle much smalltalk and awkward reminiscing when he's got much bigger things on his mind. Luckily we're quick to find out that Burt's cancer is in remission and he'll be able to watch Kurt get married someday and have "old people sex" with Carol. Burt Hummel is sheer perfection.
In choir-land, Mercedes begins her vocal coaching my hitting poor Marley in the chest with a maraca because she can't keep her breath control and do riffs. To prove this point she school the entire club with a rendition of "Superstition," joined by Blaine and some Marley. The group dances around the stage, during which Mike and Mercedes notice Jake's skill and corner him to convince him to be a leader and embrace his triple threat status. Since Kurt must have booked his return flight for way later than he needed to, he's still around the school and has time to bring his dad in to dedicate "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" to celebrate second chances. Then Jake solos to "I Wish" with Mike as his dance partner, proving that Jake should get to dance on Glee forever.
Artie's been lying to Kitty about his reluctance to move to New York, claiming that his mom is freaking out and would miss him too much. Of course, Kitty sees right through that bullshit and goes to Artie's house to suss out the real deal -- Artie's the one who's freaking out and scared of being on his own. His mom refuses to let him doubt himself and convinces him to head to New York, putting us one step closer to pure NYC "Glee," the dream. Mercedes, on the other hand, is finding the west coast difficult. Her dream record producer is turning into a nightmare, demanding she show more skin to secure her deal or use other people's images to sell her music. The record deal is off, but Mercedes vows to sell CDs at her church and on her own to maintain her integrity. This conveniently let's Schue segue into saying she took the "Higher Ground," cueing her solo on the number. Mercedes reminds the whole group to stick to what they love, and Artie demands they "don't run from [their] passion" like he isn't running from his.
Then it's time for a bit of a well-meaning trainwreck of emotions. Blaine requests and audience with newly-well Burt to present him with a rainbow pin to wear in Congress and ask for Kurt's hand in marriage, despite the fact the duo are still broken up. Blaine thinks this is a grand gesture needed to win Kurt back, Burt thinks Blaine is nuts. From Burt's end he dispenses all sorts of well-meaning and valid advice about not rushing into things, about how you marry a person not an idea, the specialness of vows and the fact that Blaine's worries are unfounded -- if the love each other then it will all work out. As this is happening it's hard to watch Blaine's petulant eye-rolling and defensive quips for two reasons -- you just don't eye-roll Saint Burt, but also because parts of his frustrations are founded. Burt doesn't know what it's like to be Blaine, a queer kid who is finally realizing that his life isn't lesser than in the eyes of the law and who wants to celebrate that and achieve something else he thought was impossible, a reconciliation. However, faced with Kurt he can't actually pop the question -- at least not yet -- and instead stumbles through a nervous request for Kurt to stick around for Regionals. Of course Kurt will, and they head down the hall arm-in-arm as we close on a group performance of "For Once In My Life," a finale song that finally makes sense after so many weeks of lackluster attempts.
For an episode thematically dominated by fear -- of your own success, of your loved one's resilience -- the tone was so pleasantly upbeat thanks to Stevie. This was the kind of "Glee" that strings you along, keeps you dancing, and doesn't let you realize that you just saw a lot of intense emotion until much later. Next week things will amp up as this season concludes and we figure out where everyone stands -- is freedom from McKinley all it's cracked up to be? Are these kids really adults just yet? Is their potential for triumph collectively and as individuals enough to balance out the losses they've suffered to get here? Everything is set for a million cliffhangers, the biggest question is what will the edge look like exactly?