In a lot of ways, tonight's episode of "Glee" was an entirely more touching tribute to Corey Monteith's character, Finn, than the actual tribute episode from September.
The kids of McKinley High paid their respects to their fallen leader through song, memories and a very touching flashback. I personally feel justice for Finn after tonight. There were no fake tears, no forced performances, no questions such as "Where is this character?" or "Why didn't so-and-so come back for this?" The episode wasn't forced and for that very reason, Corey Monteith's Finn Hudson has been officially laid to rest.
New Directions take a trip to Los Angeles for the National Championship along with Finn's parents acting as chaperones. There's a lot riding on this because a long time ago Sue told Will and Nene Leakes that one of their programs would be cut at the end of the school year due to budget issues. Whichever team takes home the National Championship will be the team that would continue on in McKinley.
Unaware as to what is at stake, the kids are loving sunny L.A., so much so that they break into Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." Once at the hotel, Will learns that "Detective Sue Sylvester" has called and told front desk that a 50-year-old man with a perm by the name of Will Schuester has kidnapped 12 emotionally disturbed kids and set off for L.A., and that he should not be granted a room. Oops.
While Will straightens things out, an old face shows up ... Mercedes Jones! Yup, fresh off her "Dancing With the Stars" win, Amber P. Reilly shows up in her best drag queen getup and a "fauxhuahua." No, really.
Shortly after her arrival, we find out that while she was peddling her album in a 7-11 parking lot, a stranger who wound up being Kanye West's maid bought the album and gave it to West (who then gave it to Kim, who gave it to Ryan Seacrest, who gave it to Sony Records, who then offered Mercedes a songwriting contract.)
And then we meet Throat Explosion. Dun dun dunnnnn! And the actor from "Pitch Perfect" (Skyler Astin) is the lead singer. The two groups exchange some words, and then go separate ways. Will had had a special talk with Sam about taking Finn's leadership role over for his last hurrah and Sam took it incredibly serious against the rival choir.
Love triangle 2.0 known as Marley, Ryder and Little Puck finally have lines again! Did anyone miss this? Anyone? OK, me neither. Marley talks about how she's lost her mojo for singing because no one has praised her songwriting abilities. Ryder and Puck make up and take her stuff to Mercedes to talk some sense in her. Basically this was more storyline closing. It was cute to see everyone kiss and make up after not thinking about them in four months, said no one ever.
The night before competition, New Directions sneak into the theatre for one last midnight practice as a team. Sam, who is taking his new role as Finn's successor very seriously, brings out Finn's plaque and begins to remember him with kind words meant to ignite fires in the souls of the New Directioners.
Unfortunately, this is cut short when Throat Explosion, who obviously had the same midnight practice idea, interrupts the impromptu memorial and kicks them out of the theater. The next morning, as Tina and Artie are hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. Hummel, they are laughing and carrying on about how glee club is almost over for them and that Tina, in particular, doesn't know what she's going to do with her life afterward.
To this, Mrs. Hummel retorts, "At least you have a life." After shooing the kids off, Mrs. Hummel admits that seeing the kids makes her miss her son even more. After a very strategically placed "Laguna Beach" reference, the adults decide that it's too much to handle being around all of this and decide to leave.
Onto the competition. The judges always take me by complete surprise, mainly because they're so random. First judge up: Marlee Matlin! I don't mean to be rude or insensitive, but I'm wondering if "Glee" is punking us with a deaf judge. (Can she judge a singing competition?) Judge two (and my personal favorite) is TV's Jackee Harry! Or just Jackee, if you're nasty. And finally (and this one is the kicker) the third judge is Joanna Rohrback. Who is Joanna, you ask? Just the creator of Prancercise LLC. Yup, it's a real thing.
The Amazons sing the Go-Go's "Vacation." Throat Explosion does an interesting mashup of Styx's "Mr. Roboto" and One Republic's "Counting Stars."
Finally it's time for New Directions. As they sing songs like Boston's "More Than A Feeling," Neil Diamond's "America," I think to myself, "Why these songs? These aren't powerhouses." But as they start U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," the camera catches Finn's parents who are back in the audience to find Mrs. Hummel exclaim, "Oh my God. They're doing all of Finn's favorite songs!" Well played, Ryan Murphy. You got a couple tears out of me. As the Directioners pump their fists on the last note, Sam is holding Finn's drum sticks. More tears.
Knowing how this would play out because of the common knowledge of Lima's storyline being nixed from the show, I still hoped for first place. When it didn't come, my heart still sank. Second place. New Directions just performed their last competition.
It wasn't until Sue's heartfelt speech to Will at the end that I really knew it was over. She told him to be proud of what he's accomplished. That he's a better man than he was four years ago. She ends with something that really stuck with me: "You didn't lose, William. The game's just over." Powerful stuff.
In the last minute Kurt runs to Santana and Rachel to let them know that glee club has been disbanded and that the choir room is going to be turned into a new computer lab. This is the perfect set up for everyone who is set to return in next week's 100th episode. I'm sure it's going to be wonderful and sad. The show is making such a smart move by focusing on the original characters in The Big Apple, but I sure am going to miss that perfect little choir room that has brought so many people joy these last five years. I hope you'll join me for this big occasion.