The title “Swan Song” gives somewhat of a hint at where this week is going — the kids are facing various aspects of their failures and are faced with the finality of their dreams. Of course, this is “Glee,” and we know that every crushing failure is just a new door for them to open.
This week’s episode picks up where last week left of, with a woozy Marley rushed back to the choir room, effectively disqualifying the team from a sectionals win since they all left the stage. As a result, Sue claims the choir room for a Cheerios side project and since the kids have no competitive season left, they’re homeless. While Sue contemplates what will happen to the kids (Artie has sold his legs, Blaine is performing the bathhouse circuit), Brad the piano player comes in to thank her for ending his long-suffering imprisonment with the club. She’s defeated them, but it’s not as sweet as she had hoped. The kids themselves are coping in various ways. Sam lures Brittany to a classroom (by making her eat cheerios off the floor — unsanitary!), to sing a romantic duet to Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Something Stupid.” They almost kiss, but Brittany says she can’t because the lesbian blogger community will turn on them if she dates a boy.
Within two days, the rest of the glee club joins a variety of new clubs to fill the competition void (Artie is in band, Blaine and Tina are Cheerios, Ryder and Jake join basketball) much to Finn’s dismay. The only club member holding strong is Marley. Disillusioned, Finn writes a letter to the group as Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” plays over it arriving in each student’s inbox. But it’s cheap to pull a “Breakfast Club” moment that doesn’t do a direct parallel. While it’s still a rallying moment for a band of misfits, it’s less of a “screw you” to the authority that doesn’t believe in them (maybe if Sue and Figgins were CCed on the email?). Still, at least Finn is giving it one last shot to keep the club together despite their obstacles. A growing and maturing Finn is a Finn we enjoy seeing.
Over in New York, Rachel gets her big invitation to perform at the winter showcase, one of the first freshman to do so in years. Back in Cassandra’s class she stops practicing for a water break, earning her teacher’s ire. To prove her improvements, Rachel battles Cassandra in a performance of “All That Jazz” from “Chicago.” Her voice, as always, is exceptional, but her dancing still doesn’t compare to Cassandra. At least “Glee” meshes with reality for once and admits that fact, but Rachel decides that her voice is all she needs for the showcase and leaves the class. We don’t think she gets to get a college degree without that course, but best of luck! Kurt comes to see Whoopi Goldberg about his audition tape, a version of
At the winter competition, following a tender hallway moment with Brody that includes a brief kiss, Rachel makes good on her promise to Cassandra and simply sings, and kills it, on “Being Good Isn’t Good Enough” from “Hallelujah, Baby!” It’s quintessential Rachel — she’s never good, she’s great. So great, in fact, that she gets called to perform an encore, opting for “O Holy Night,” which is interspersed with visuals of Finn packing up the choir room awards. Maybe the entire hour could just be the Rachel and Kurt variety hour (with special guest Blaine Anderson)? Whoopi Goldberg agrees, because after Rachel finishes she congratulates her and then springs on Kurt that he’ll be performing after the intermission. Sometimes your last chance isn’t really your last chance after all.
In the hallway he has an understandable meltdown, longing for his props and bemoaning that he’s not prepared. Rachel reminds him these are the things that Whoopi doesn’t like about his performances, and he should just sing from his heart. She points back to his “I Want To Hold Your Hand” performance and Kurt counters that his father was sick, that was dedicated to him. Rachel tells him to dedicate it to himself, which he does with “Being Alive,” from “Company.” Finally, Kurt Hummel has learned how to audition. “Being Alive” is as much about his longing for love in the wake of his heartbreak with Blaine as it is about his longing for the instruction of somewhere like NYADA to let him shine, to finally become the performer he’s destined to be. While Rachel can make you gasp when she performs, Kurt can really gut you.
The hour ends with an abandoned Finn and Marley singing Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” in the snow as the rest of the club slowly appears and joins in, clearly moved by Finn’s email. As the song ends we see Kurt in New York with his NYADA letter, an acceptance this time around. Which means we can assume if Kurt Hummel can get another chance and still succeed, we shouldn’t count the glee club out just yet. Until then, it’s commendable to see their ability to come back together even without the cache of a competition season, just like Kurt was able to build himself a New York life without NYADA only to be rewarded with NYADA after he’d endured what he needed to get him there. “Glee’s” current swan song might be a fake out, but we’ll enjoy watching them all remember the joy of their club without competition pressure, and for the ones who’ve already succeeded like Kurt and Rachel, the joy of a triumph.