Little did we all know, Lima has a local college that is somehow trapped in a few-months-old time warp where people are still doing the Harlem Shake. It also allows random mid-semester transfers and for non-students like Puck to take up residence in already occupied dorm rooms. They also somehow magically avoid water damage issues even though students host dorm hallway slip-n-slide parties where girls are charged with removing their bikini tops for admittance.
When Schue finally appears in the midst of this raging college stereotype and tries to apologize and befriend Finn again, Finn no longer has any interest. Instead he and Puck go to a frat party, where they inexplicably find instruments and perform Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” effectively saving the party when the stereo breaks. The frat dudes decide that even though Puck and Finn are apparently gay because they sing music, they can join the frat now. Puck and Finn are not at all offended or weirded out by that assumption and celebrate their ascension to college royalty.
If this is how “Glee” treats the standard version of college in the episode titled “Sweet Dreams,” we’re incredibly thankful for the magical arts world of NYADA with it’s neverending dance classes and copious rehearsal space. In the fairyland of New York City, Rachel preps for her “Funny Girl” audition by trying on a lot of hats, then fantasizing about her 5-year-old self, the age at which she began her fixation on Barbra Streisand. She goes into preparation overdrive trying to learn Barbara’s entire repertoire, only broken from her daze when Shelby arrives. Her birth mom is back to teach Rachel to be original for her audition, not a carbon copy of Barbara. Over the piano they sing Emeli Sande’s “Next To Me,” which is slightly more appropriate than their last mother-daughter Lady Gaga “bluffin with my muffin” duet.
Apparently not inspired enough by her mom, she calls Finn asking for advice on an audition song. He tells her to find the roots of her passion and do something personal. “Don’t Stop Believing” is of course the song that fits this bill, and so for the third time on the show we get a version — this time Rachel’s solo until fantasy versions of the original club members (Kurt, Finn, Mercedes, Tina and Artie) joins as backup, complete with their signature red shirts.
Kurt bakes cookies while Rachel obsessively waits for a call from the casting agents. As she rants about how special her audition was and screw them if they don’t get her, her phone begins to ring with the news that she got the Fanny callback. The two twirl and celebrate, while at Lima College Puck suddenly has a conscious and warns Finn about slacking off too much and becoming a failure of a teacher. Finn finds Schue and accepts the position back with the glee club for credit, which takes us back to the land of McKinley, where Marley has decided to become a singer-songwriter. Instead of being concerned that her friends seem to be weirdly affected by last week’s shooting — Tina is really into steampunk, Sam is roleplaying a fake version of Sam’s “smarter twin brother” named Evan, and and Unique is taking birth control pills because “trans kids everywhere are doing it” — she’s much more concerned with them letting her sing her own original songs. Schue blatantly ignores the request, wanting to take the Dreams theme literally and make sure their songs all have the word “Dream” in the title.
Unfortunately all his suggestions are songs from the 80s, and so Blaine, as honorary Rachel, holds a secret glee meeting to think of new songs. When he puts forward their group-decided new song ideas to Schue instead of being excited by the kids’ commitment and excitement, Schue gets sassy about them openly defying him and lashes out at Unique about her gender identity and Sam’s clear weird split personality issue.
Unique and Blaine talk about breasts and Sam is still being a fake twin as they meet Marley in the auditorium at her request to try out one of her original songs, “You Have More Friends Than You Know.” It’s definitely a more impressive turn at songwriting than Rachel’s hair brush ballads, but it ain’t winning anyone Regionals. It could be a great midpoint Disney song though, and this foursome is pretty great and should get to sing together more often. Schue overhears the rehearsal, which obviously gives him a change of heart about his sassy judgement of their disrespect earlier. He brings Finn back into the fold and reveals to the club that he’ll be open to Marley’s songs instead of his original picks.
Roz returns to take over the Cheerios and is immediately suspicious of Blaine as co-captain, especially since he’s never done a cheer routine in his life. She thinks it might be “fruity voodoo” and to stay on board he and Becky both have to take a blood oath. It’s sort of confusing why Blaine is still doing cheerios when his only reason for being on the team was taking Sue down, except that now we guess he has to save Sue’s reputation since he’s getting suspicious of Becky.
In parallel to Rachel’s callback triumph we get the Ohio kids performing Marley’s second number, “Outcast.” It’s a much better contender for Regionals, reminiscent of “Loser Like Me” of two seasons past. As the kids do their much practiced joyous freeform bopping around the auditorium stage to close the episode, we see Ryder and remember — oh yeah, isn’t someone Catfishing him? He seems pretty calm despite knowing that one of his fellow glee clubbers is the culprit as of last week.
It’s also a bittersweet moment knowing that Finn the character has opted to come back to the McKinley fold, but Cory Monteith the actor will be sidelined for the rest of the season due to a stint in rehab. We do have a modest bow on the Finn arc for Season 4, and his departure clears up some of the most-likely Finchel reserved space for other storylines in the final three episodes of the season.
Mostly though this “Glee” closes and you’re left with a feeling of, “what did this just accomplish?” Coming off such an attention-grabbing, heightened episode like “Shooting Star” leaves a lot of room for a tumble, and while this episode knit together several useful threads — Rachel’s audition, the original intention of Finn’s college moment that will go to waste, the song-choices for Regionals — it just can’t help but be a letdown.