Phillip Parker, a 14-year-old who hung himself in his foster parents’ bathroom. Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old who had been taunted and bullied repeatedly before hanging himself in 2010. Justin Aaberg, a 15-year-old Minnesota high schooler who hung himself after being bullied and breaking up with his boyfriend in 2009. Jeffrey Fehr, 18, who hung himself at his family’s home in Granite Bay, Calif. Rafael Morelos, a 14-year-old who hung himself last month, Jan. 29th.
The list can continue, unfortunately, and before we jump into recapping this week’s song and dance in “On My Way,” it’s important to pay attention to the real-life stories that inspired Tuesday’s focus on “Glee,” where Dave Karofsky attempts to take his own life in the face of homophobic bullying. And that’s not the only tragedy that befalls McKinley as the club continues to barrel on to the end of the season.
There’s another plot in this episode, the wedding of Rachel and Finn, that continues to feel exhausting and, in this instance, small in comparison to the other threads going on. The pair makeup from their brief fight, and, inspired by the Karofsky incident reminding them how short life is, Rachel decides she wants to get married right after Regionals, which is such a terribly Rachel reaction to a tragedy that’s not about her. But it’s also indicative of people needing to find positive to focus on when everything else around them is too depressing. Even if that supposedly positive thing is its own train wreck.
The gays of McKinley (Kurt, Blaine, Santana and Britt) go to talk to Sebastian at Lima Bean, and for the first time we get a Sebastian who isn’t consumed with petty and catty plotting. Even he is hit by the Karofsky tragedy, and while Blaine and Kurt are obviously wary of his intentions (wait for the punch, Kurt says) Sebastian apologizes and admits that he, too, was part of the bullying that broke Karofsky down by treating everything like a big joke. At Scandals, Dave’s admitted safe space where he’s accepted, Sebastian shoots him down harshly, telling him to lose weight and just go back in the closet. To make up for this, Sebastian suggests they dedicate the whole Regionals performance to Dave and collect donations for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. We’re led to believe this is genuine, but if Sebastian’s character returns after this episode, there will likely be some other motivation up his sleeve, perhaps a real play at Kurt or Blaine’s affections now that he’s softened somewhat. While this development might not be manipulative at it’s core, it could be useful in the future.
Back at school the club gathers in the auditorium, where Schue feeds Rory peanut butter since he’s never had it before, using the moment as a teaching lesson to impart the kids have so many new experiences to look forward to, and no matter how bad it gets they should imagine all that’s ahead of them if they’re ever feeling depressed. Mercedes says she doesn’t think anyone in their group would consider taking their own life, but Schue admits he did in high school, emphasizing that each of them has something that might take them right up to the edge. It’s the least annoying Mr. Schue has been in a Very Special Episode ever, and as the kids admit all the things they are looking forward to in the future, a mixture of jokes and true desire, that reminds you why you’re rooting for this ragtag bunch. Sam wants to buy his parents a house, Finn wants to clear his dad’s honor, and Tina just wants her damn solo. Unfortunately, that dream is still on hold for this week.
The episode packs all its music into 15 minutes of the episode, starting with the Warblers’ performance of “Stand,” which is lackluster and mild. Luckily it’s followed by “I’m Glad You Came,” which is the strongest Warbler number since Blaine’s defection to McKinely. It’s catchy and well-choreographed, and if Sebastian’s addition to the Warblers spurred them to finally take their in-Dalton dance-heavy and exuberant performance style to competition, then it’s a welcome one. These are the Warblers we know and love. The New Directions stand in support of their competition because, as Finn says, life’s too short.
The group starts their set with a mash-up of Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” with R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” and while normally Glee’s strength is in its stellar mash-up skills, this one is just off. It’s better visually than it is just to listen to the track, thanks to the inclusion of the fog machine and actually interesting dance moves. However, the rapping. Stylistically it’s good to see the queer characters of Santana and Blaine take on the rap lines they selected, but it’s that they selected rapping at all that gives pause. Thankfully we get that taste out of our mouths with the return of the Trouble Tones performing “(What Doesn’t Kill You) Stronger,” complete with the whacking-style dance moves they used in their previous competition performances, and solos by Santana, Britt and Mercedes. Rachel closes the show with “Here’s To Us,” and while it’s pretty it would be nicer if more of the group was on stage in general. The girls join her, and the boys go sing from the balconies, which is cute but not really compelling as a staged performance. Rachel almost forgets to sing, she’s so doe-eyed over Finn. We get a McKinley win and another trip to Nationals, although that’s so secondary to the point of this episode that it feels completely anticlimactic. Regionals? What are those? Were they important for some reason?
Quinn goes to see Sue again, and she tells her she always admired her for all the ways she’s not like Sue. She lets Quinn back in the Cheerios, and puts her uniform back on and finds Rachel to tell her that she’ll come to the wedding after-all. Everything is coming up positive for Quinn, which means she’s about to have a fall.
Kurt comes to visit Dave in the hospital, telling Karofsky he’s happy he’s alive, and that he’s sorry for not returning his calls. Dave says why should he, that he made Kurt’s life hell for months and he couldn’t even take a week of the rejection — his best friend never wanting to talk to him anymore, his mother saying he has a disease and maybe he can be cured. Kurt tells him it’s not going to be easy, and there will be some days when life just sucks, but he’s going to get through this because he’s going to help him, and so is everyone else who loves and accepts him for who he is. Kurt asks Dave to do Mr. Schue’s exercise in imagining what life could be like in 10 years, gets Karofsky to imagine he’s a big sports agent in the city of his dreams with his son and partner (who sort of looks like Tall Blaine, interestingly). Karofsky says he’d like to be friends with Kurt, and they clasp hands. As always, Kurt and Karofsky’s scenes shine as the strongest in whichever episode they’re featured. For the first time we see them coming together on the same page about what they both need — support.
Sue comes to Rachel and Finn’s wedding and congratulates Will on the glee club’s performance, and then tells him to congratulate her on getting pregnant. Sue wants to help him win at Nationals, and when he asks what the catch is she says, “I don’t think there is a catch, isn’t that weird?” We have no idea where the Sue plotline is going, but we don’t trust it. The Berry and Hummel-Hudson parents gather to discuss how they can put a stop to this crazy wedding, and decide that when the Justice of the Peace asks if they have any objections they’ll object and run interference to keep them apart. Rachel and Finn are five minutes away from their appointment, but Quinn hasn’t arrived. She went home to get her dress, and we watch Rachel pace and text her inter-cut with Quinn driving and reacting to her text messages. As everyone hustles Rachel to start the wedding without Quinn (Finn says, “it’s now or never”) Rachel frantically texts her to hurry. As Quinn responds, she takes her eyes off the road and is hit by a truck on her driver-side door as the screen cuts to black.
“Glee” takes seven weeks off now — an eternity — leaving Quinn’s fate hanging in the balance. Her type of accident isn’t one you can walk away from without real damage, and her voicing the opinion of not understanding how someone can be driven to such depression in this episode might come back to haunt her if she survives. This is one of the few times on “Glee” we see someones fate that’s so directly out of their hands. No amount of ambition, gumption and upbeat songs could have saved her. Sure, she could have put down her phone, but the car could still have hit her beyond her control. The episode spent all its time reminding us about the shortness of life, but Quinn’s crash emphatically highlights that truth. Karofsky tried to take his final moments into his own hands, and now he has a second chance at embracing his life as the person he was afraid to be before. Quinn is having her life as she knows, the one she’s fought to regain and embrace, it ripped from her hands, and we’ll wait to see if she gets a second go and what she makes of her circumstances.