An episode called "The Break Up" can only mean heartbreak, and even though you know from the title going on that things can't go well for our favorite relationships, when "Glee" wants to gut you, it will you gut you. It's a ruthless machine in that way, taking into account the power of music to add that extra dagger to our already fragile hearts. This week we see what havoc the reality of separation and divergent ambition wreaks on our favorites.
Things are tense between Finn and Rachel, after he showed up on her doorstep out of the blue at the end of the last episode. When they finally do start talking, Finn explains his absence -- he started basic but ended up shooting himself in the thigh while cleaning his gun (that he named Rachel, ouch) then spent the last few months backpacking through Georgia, reinforcing what we have always known about Finn -- he's lost. He's still trying to find his place, and while Rachel suggests he follow along after her to NYADA for the week to see what her life is like and make a plan for his, we already know this is doomed from the start. Meanwhile, Kurt is still making efforts to connect with Blaine, but his job and life in New York continue to get in the way. A phone call is interrupted and even when Blaine tries to explain how he's feeling, it's not registering for Kurt as a priority over the promise of his new career -- he expects Blaine to be patient for him. As Finn watches Rachel practice and realizes he has no place here, at the same time Blaine is realizing that he's losing Kurt in some ways: their closeness, their everyday. This leads to Finn and Blaine duetting on Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing," as Finn lurks around practice rooms and Blaine is haunted by a vision of Kurt in the auditorium. The biggest moment during the song is Blaine, flicking through his Facebook feed on his phone and poking a boy we've never heard of before. When the boy suggests that he come over as the "I'm thinking it over, anyway" line plays, we already know this means doom.
Back in reality, Kurt and Rachel excitedly ready themselves and Finn for a night out at Callbacks, the NYADA piano bar, when Blaine appears at their apartment with an excessively large bouquet. Kurt's excited, they're all together again like old times, and off they go to the bar, where Blaine is distant and shifty. Rachel tries to talk Finn into singing with her, but he demurs and passive-aggressively pushes her into a duet with Brody since they're both NYADA students. Their cover of Demi Lovato's "Give Your Heart A Break" is a refreshing turn at "Glee" doing straight up karaoke -- no fantasy, just what it really feels like to be out for a night and watching your friend sing. While Rachel and Brody have chemistry, it's not as explosive as their duet last episode. The song is setting the stage for what's to come: the breakdown of these two relationships.
They finish and Blaine wants to sing next. He starts off okay enough with his acoustic piano reprise of "Teenage Dream," dedicated to his one true love, Kurt. But by the second verse he's losing it. Kurt, Finn, everyone figures out something is wrong, but consummate showman Blaine Anderson just keeps powering through, the song more and more manic with each verse. It's one of the most affecting uses of songs Glee's had in its four years, the exact opposite of the joyful moment of this song's original appearance. Blaine was Kurt's teenage dream, a bright light of hope, and now as Blaine sings it it's despondent. When Blaine sings about hands on him in his skintight jeans it's not about the hope of young love, but the regret of youthful mistakes. The sexualization of the song is haunting, the reversal of everything they've built, and it's delivered live and not matching to the track for sale, a rarity for "Glee" (in addition to the other rarities of it being based off actor Darren Criss' arrangement of the track and featuring not only his vocals but also his piano playing).
After the two pairs walk through Battery Park, their individual emotional breaking points begin to overlap. Finn calls Rachel out about her closeness with Brody and she tells him she kissed him, but only because Finn had abandoned her and told her to be free. Finn admits he doesn't feel like he fits in New York at all. Kurt calls Blaine out on how weird and sad this whole visit is, and Blaine admits to him he was "with somebody." Kurt's immediate reaction is the who (Sebastian is, of course, his first guess) while Blaine harps on the why, on feeling alone and needy and how he's so sorry. Kurt says he's had temptation too but he's never acted on anything because he knew it would mean something horrible, and as he runs off in tears, the foursome breaks out into