Oh, Glee, just when I think I’m done with you, you suck me right back in.
At the beginning of this season, I’d pretty much determined it would be my last with the misfits of McKinley High. Rachel, Finn, Kurt, Blaine, Mercedes, and the rest will be graduating come May, and their story will be finished. These are the characters I’ve fallen in love with, but unless the show picks up and follows their lives across the scattered parts of the country, there’s not much reason for me to stick around.
At least, that’s what I thought until last night’s “Hold on to Sixteen.”
The midseason finale saw Mr. Schuester and the New Directions facing off against rival instructor Shelby Corcoran (played by the ever-amazing Idina Menzel) and the splinter-glee-group, the Trouble Tones. Tensions mounted in an episode that saw the resolution of several of the season’s first arcs and the return of a former flame.
After coming to full terms with her sexuality in a string of equally well-written episodes, Santana is still snarky as ever as she rubs the Trouble Tones’ impending victory in the New Directions’ faces, especially with Rachel banned from sectionals for having stuffed the student elections ballot boxes. However, with her hatred of Shelby coming to its head, Quinn has a plan to secure the New Directions win.
Shelby, who adopted Puck and Quinn’s baby girl at the end of season one, has been sleeping with the 18-year-old Puck. While the relationship is legal, it is an inappropriate one between a student and a teacher, and by reporting it, Quinn knows Shelby will be fired before sectionals, securing the Trouble Tones’ defeat and the eventual reclaiming of her baby.
Having been raised by amazing fathers after Shelby gave her up for adoption years ago, Rachel knows that Shelby is the best and only mother for baby Beth and implores Quinn not to go through with the plan. But if she has to, at least be an adult, tell Shelby first, and let the New Directions win on their own merits. To strengthen those merits, Rachel and Finn track down the sorely-missed Sam Evans in Kentucky, and together the three persuade Sam’s parents to let him move back to Ohio and finish his senior year with his friends.
Sam’s had to grow up faster than anyone, dancing in a male strip club to make his siblings comfortable while his parents have done all they can to keep food on the table. After his father assures him that they are settled and secure, Sam returns to see his friends trying to get to adulthood as fast as they can. He spends the episode telling them to just enjoy their youth and “hold on to sixteen.” Shelby echoes Sam’s words as Quinn confronts her just before showtime, telling Quinn she’s ending it with Puck and not to be in such a hurry to be a grown up: the age Quinn is at is exactly the one where she’s supposed to be.
After much confrontation, the groups face off with some of the best performances of the season. The Trouble Tones’ mashup of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” provided both Mercedes and Santana with their best solos to date and some stellar choreography for the group of girls. But, New Directions’s ending their Jackson family medley with Michael’s “Man in the Mirror” had me clapping just as proud and teary-eyed as Mike Chang’s “you’re-supposed-to-be-a-doctor-not-a-dancer” father.
Sometime after their sectionals win, Quinn tells Rachel that she was right. She loves baby Beth, and Beth needs her mother: Shelby. Shelby’s speech made an impact, and Quinn seeks out Santana, Mercedes, and Brittany, not to give them a pep-talk after their loss but to let them know that losing something is a part of growing up. It’s what you do after that affects the rest of your life. She invites the Trouble Tones back to New Directions, and the episode ends with yet another amazing arrangement: this time of Fun’s “We Are Young.”
If “Hold on to Sixteen” and the past few episodes mark Glee’s return to much simpler times where musical numbers are chosen to enhance the story, instead of the story written around the number, then I might stick around for season four. The new members still haven’t persuaded me not to graduate with Rachel, Kurt, and the rest, but if Glee keeps things up like it did this week, there’s a good chance I will.