Rachel comes to Quinn for advice about Finn's proposal. Quinn, who thankfully isn't crazy anymore but somehow applied for and got into Yale in less than a month, tells Rachel she can't do it, and reminds her that college is next and high school romances aren't something to take on to the bright lights of her future. She highlights this with "Never Can Say Goodbye," dressed stunningly in the auditorium where she dances with each of her high school loves, before putting things into her locker that's decorated with all the memories of high school, then shutting that way and finally closing in the choir room as she gives a speech to her fellow glee clubbers about how they helped her become the person that she is today. With that, Quinn's entire storyline for three years is wrapped up with several episodes to go in the season. Maybe she'll just leave for college early.
Santana finds Kurt alone in a classroom, where he's frustrated and wishing for revenge on Sebastian. Santana suggested they forcibly get Sebastian an amazing tramp stamp, but Kurt has fought against violence at McKinley and can't condone it no matter what. Santana, amazingly, agrees, but ominously vows that they're going to beat Sebastian anyway. Meanwhile, we get another Immortal Tour namedrop when Mercedes meets Sam in the auditorium while he propositions her for a "Human Nature" duet by putting her name in lights across the stage. Even though she says no, he starts to play anyway, and the two sound great together, finishing the number with a sweet, simple kiss. Perhaps we're in for another clandestine love affair this season.
Video: Mercedes & Sam, "Human Nature"
Burt shows up at school to pull Kurt out of class, and Kurt reacts as one would who only gets pulled out of class when someone is in the hospital -- in a panic. Blaine is okay, but Kurt's NYADA letter has arrived and after a frantic search for the perfect classroom, Kurt turns away from his father to read it himself, spinning around overcome with emotion because he's a finalist. Burt scream his joy, his excitement about telling Blaine, and his pride in his son all in quick succession. Kurt slow-motion runs down the hall to find Rachel and show her his letter, but when he realizes she hasn't gotten hers yet he stands there trying to console her with words as she outlines how her future plans are falling apart, and all she has left is her boyfriend. When nothing works he just hugs her. Kurt and Rachel's journeys through ambition, acceptance and relationships are the heart of the show, and even though sometimes the intersection of those things push them apart, they're always best when they're supporting each other, because in the real world they're not going to be competition for each other like they are at McKinley, but instead each other's best supports.
Blaine Anderson has an eyepatch. Other things happen in these scene, but that's all you can really notice. Kurt reads Blaine gossip mags, Rachel brings chicken soup and Finn provides various eyepatch themed films for Blaine's enjoyment. Then Blaine makes everything awkward by pulling champagne glasses out of his drawer to toast Kurt's NYADA finalist letter. In turn, Finn and Rachel explain that even if Blaine loses an eye he can still be a fine performer. It's super strange, and they round it off by bringing the Michael Jackson to Blaine, singing "Ben." Despite being a song about a rat, it's actually a sweet moment, especially between Kurt and Blaine, since Blaine manages to give heart eyes even with only one eye.
Video: Kurt, Rachel & Finn, "Bad"
The immediate transition is to Santana, who's gone to Dalton on her own to confront Sebastian and the Warblers. They seem somewhat surprised that Blaine was really hurt, even though they walked out on him sprawled on the parking lot floor in obvious pain during the "Bad" scene. Sebastian is unapologetic, and admits he was aiming for Kurt, and when Santana questions his honor over what he put in the slushie, he challenges her to duel, clearing the room except for the two cellists.
"Smooth Criminal" is a song about assault, and Sebastian starts it off after Santana seats herself. Glee has a lot of villains, mostly comical. The last presumably truly dangerous one, Karofsky, was swiftly given motivation that made him more of a sympathetic character. Sebastian is the first who's remained dangerous, calculated and remorseless as long as he's been a featured character. He's the real world, finally looming beyond McKinley's halls. Sebastian snakes around the room and onto Santana in a sexual way that's about power and violence, and sex as a tool of that, something both these queer characters have used as weapons before. Together, however, we finally see where Sebastian, as a man, still holds the power over Santana, a woman. As much as she holds her own, there's fear in her eyes that never grace Sebastian's, in part because Santana has gone through a humanizing journey these three seasons and, as she admitted to Kurt earlier, does have limits because she values her future. When they finish singing Sebastian admits to putting rock salt in the slushie, and as Santana's bravado breaks down and she yells at him over putting Blaine in the hospital, he takes another, un-salted slushie from the returning Warblers and throws it in her face. He's even managed to corrupt Glee's queer fantasy land of Dalton.
Video: Santana & Sebastian, "Smooth Criminal"
Santana, of course, had ulterior motives for going to Dalton. She strapped a recorder her underboob and got his admission on tape. Despite it not being a violent revenge, Kurt still objects, wanting to teach the Warblers a lesson instead of getting revenge, and has reserved the auditorium. Before they all go there, Finn pulls Rachel aside and proposes to her again, this time through music. Finn sounds the best he's sounded on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," and Rachel, because she's Rachel, has to join in. She fell in love with him the first time because they sang together, and so it's a smart move for Finn to upgrade his proposal in this way. She seemingly can't help but say yes to him.
In the auditorium the group explains that they are not doing Michael for Regionals, and are taking the high road. They perform "Black Or White" to prove to the Warblers that they really get MJ, showing off their resilience and giving Kurt the pointed "kicking dirt in my eye" line, played joyously. The Warblers can't help but join in, until the stage is filled by the time the song segues to the iconic Michael Jackson face morphing portion, leaving only villain Sebastian in the audience. Santana pulls out her tape of Sebastian's admission, and Kurt points out that Regionals will only be worthwhile if Sebastian is there to suffer the defeat. He's off the hook for now, and in theory the Warblers are his minions no more, but it's hard to believe Sebastian will be bested this easily.
Video: New Directions, "Black Or White"
We cap the show with Rachel's letter finally arriving -- she, too, is a finalist, and her joy is much more muted than Kurt's moment, and even more so when Kurt asks excitedly if Finn knows yet, and Rachel's face affirms that her acceptance of Finn's proposal was not about them being in love, but about her feeling like she was out of options. With this back on the table, Rachel might not need that ring to feel like she's got a future.
And the future, it looms. Quinn might be set, and Kurt and Rachel are on a path that will lead both of them to take losses for what they hope to gain. Ryan Murphy has said the end of this season will be heartbreaking, following these more lighthearted episodes. They're only finalists for their dreams so far, and they likely won't get an easy road. The others, too, don't have any clear paths. Santana, Britt and Mercedes haven't outlined anything yet, Mike might not be good enough to dance like he hopes. Parents, who continue to play a greater role in this season, will have to let go of their children as they become adults. "Glee" payed homage to Michael Jackson this episode, but now it's time to leave Neverland for the rest of the journey.