The kids are off to the competition we've been waiting for -- sectionals. Shue invites Emma to sectionals to be their good luck charm. But Emma quizzes him: has he become predictable? Now that they’re not the underdogs, do New Directions need to bump it up a notch?
Shue takes her words to heart, and decides New Directions will go in a new direction: for sectionals, Quinn and Sam will solo, with dance performances by Brittany and Mike. Rachel is furious. When her fury becomes too annoying, Santana drops the bomb: “That’s right, hobbit.” She and Finn totally got it on last year.
Kurt is inducted into the Warblers, where he’s welcomed with his own canary. The glow fades almost immediately when his ideas aren’t welcome -- because he doesn’t have seniority. But his good attitude wins him the opportunity to audition for a solo.
Rachel and Finn turn to Emma for relationship help. Erm ... can they sing about it, she wonders? Rachel begins to spin into a downward spiral of resentment and fury -- her solos! Her boyfriend’s virginity! -- egged on by taunts from Santana. Puck turns up with an extremely firm shoulder to cry on. Uh oh.
Brittany is paralyzed with fear from the pressure of having the fate of sectionals on her shoulders. Artie gives her what he calls a magic comb -- if you comb your hair with it, you can’t lose! She buys it, like you knew she would.
Shue asks Puck to be the glee club’s ambassador -- or bad-ass-ater. Puck uses Springsteen as an example to give the football team a pep talk. This earns him an ass-whupping and a 24-hour stay in a porta-potty, from which he is rescued by Lauren Zizes, a mash-up of goth and parade-balloon, whom he invites to join glee club.
Meanwhile, Tina becomes convinced that Brittany and Mike are having une affaire.
Kurt asks Rachel for help on his auditions for his solo. He suggests “My Heart Will Go On,” but for her, there’s only one song that expresses the pain of trying to escape your past and move on to an uncertain future: “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from Evita. And let me say this. Rachel has a fantastic voice. And I know my Gleecaps read like the fevered scribblings that might be found in a notebook with “Kurt Fan Club President” written in pink bubble letters in the front. But for pure purity of sound, Kurt blows it away with a sort of thin ribbon of pure beauty.
Unfortch for Kurt, it qualifies as trying too hard. He stands out too much -- which isn’t good for the team. He may have had to scream to get attention back in New Directions, but here, he’s got to ratchet things back for the good of the group. Ohhh. Rachel didn’t think of that!
As the team gets onto their bus, Emma comes out with some bad news: She can’t go to sectionals. It wouldn’t be fair to Blackie. Will Schuester’s face is etched with misery.
So here we are at sectionals! The first number goes to that random old-people chorus, who do a totally weird dubbed number that lasts about 30 seconds, “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics. Wah-waaaah.
The Warblers then come in with a really nice, extremely glee-clubby version of “Hey Soul Sister” by Train. It’s peppy, beautifully arranged, and harkens back to the early episodes of Glee, when the songs really did sound like choral arrangements done by an ensemble. Remember?! Kurt may not be the standout star, but he’s part of a great, tight group, and that, it turns out, has its own charms, as the audience rises in an ecstatic standing ovation.
New Directions chooses the precious moments before they go on to mount a full-scale freak-out. Artie confronts Brittany, who admits she’s been committing adultery; Tina overhears and snaps at Mike; Rachel storms in, demanding to know who knew about Finn and Santana, and is horrified to find that everyone knew; Finn defends himself, giving the Ross Defense: they were on a break! Lauren goes all Comic Book Guy, declaring this “the best green-room ever,” and I have to agree. Various people try to refuse to go on. Finally, Shue comes in with a manly “Enough!”
But wait. Brittany thought adultery meant being stupid, like an adult. What she was upset about was losing his magic comb. She didn’t cheat. She was avoiding him because she felt so bad. But there’s no such thing as a magic comb! Artie and Brittany are reunited.
The performance begins: “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, opened by Quinn and Sam. To which I say a resounding “meh.” There’s too much showboating, too many solos, not enough ensemble singing, plus it’s a corny song from a corny movie. It leads into “Valerie,” by Amy Winehouse, sung by Santana, and we finally get to see Brittany and Mike Chang do their thang. It’s pretty great! Britney mostly keeps Mike Chang too busy to do his usual spastic extra annoying moves, and let’s face it, Brittany can do no wrong. The audience laps it up. Me, I kinda preferred the Warblers.
The winner of the sectionals is ... a tie! Both the Warblers and New Directions are going to regionals! Cheap, but I like it! New Directions return as conquering heroes.
But what’s this? AAAUGH!!!! Emma spent the weekend in Vegas -- getting married to Blackie! My heart won’t go on. And there’s more heartbreak on the horizon: When Finn and Rachel declare “no lying,” she comes clean about a make-out session with Puck. He can’t take it, and breaks up with Rachel.
But none of this can change the fact that they won. Schuester asks Rachel to solo in a celebration, but she defers to this week's unsung heroes: Tina and Mercedes. They sing a terrific rendition of “The Dog Days Are Over,” by Florence and the Machine, a song that is impossible to screw up. The drama of the past week dissipates in a joyous song-and-dance. Who doesn’t love that?
Next week, a very special Christmas with Glee.