After Puck made the mistake of making Quinn feel horrible, she decides to report Shelby's inappropriate affair with him to Figgins and get her fired. This is because she doesn't like Shelby because she hurt Rachel, the love of her life, and if Shelby gets fired she'll have Beth taken off her. Quinn tries to get Beth back, Rachel gets her not to.
Then they make out. We like to imagine that Rachel is not only the only person that could melt her heart but also offered for Quinn and Shelby to basically switch girls for a little while... Anyway, Rachel reiterates that all Q's doing if she succeeds is wrecking Beth's life as we hit the Title Card.
Sam, after not being seen due to contract hangups with Chord, is a stripper in Kentucky. Finchel brings him back to McKinley. This is not because they don't want him to be a teen stripper: they didn't know or care until they remembered that they need 12 members but Rachel's suspended. Even though Sam is the breadwinner of his family, his parents thinking that he gets loads of tips at Dairy Queen, he wants to actually enjoy being a kid and leaves them to stay with Finn and Kurt. He gets called Magic Mike, which is not only a new film starring Channing Tatum that Mike will hate, but also Dianna Agron's actual then-boyfriend as the teen stripper. He then starts singing 'Red Solo Cup', which is a song about how a cup is his friend. This is the emotional depth of the blondes of this show now, and it'll only get worse come next season for reasons already spoiler tagged in previous recaps. Santana then comes in to welcome Trouty Mouth back with a book full of fish lip insults, which is her way of showing that she cares and this boy actually seems to recognize that. She's precious. Season 4 will change her opinion of him, and ours too.
Quinn now thinks that a perfect bleach blonde white chocolate boyfriend would help her case with Shelby into letting her see Beth, and for any Child Services agents to see that he's great at looking after little blonde children (was it ever properly acknowledged how selfless and generous it was of Quinn to help Sam babysit last season because of how painful it would have been for her on top of how unnecessary and genuinely kind it was?). Sam tells her that she's only got what-he-calls Rich White Girl Problems. This is, if we're honest, totally understandable, even though Puck's already said, and the audience are fairly certain, that she really has a lot more problems. As tumblr will occasionally restore your faith in humanity by reminding you, just because you're rich and white doesn't mean you can't have the indiscriminate problems that anybody else can.
The other two members are Scott Henson and John Locke, members of the band that provide loads of funny pictures on the internet and are, to many fans, gems that, along with Brad Ellis, should have been used more on the show. They get the helpful advice that if they forget the words to do what Sam does and just keep moving their mouths.
In a flash, Meerkat spies Klaine in his Lima Bean and scampers over to tell them that the Warblers won their Sectionals. Or, to be present when they tell him that for some reason. The tensions with Kurt and meerkat get higher and Blaine escapes this to get more coffee, leaving the pair alone to rip each others voice boxes out. Kurt warns the meerkat to stay away and meerkat decides that it's on. This causes his attempts to steal Blaine to get dirty, slushy dirty. Eye for an eye and all that.
Mike tells Tina that he's applied to Stanford for pre-med (didn't his dad want Harvard? And while we're on the subject, how come no one suggested he do something combining movement AND medicine, like kinesiology?) When Tina tries to get him to ignore his dad, he says that if she can't understand his motivations then they can't date. They don't actually break up, yet, give it a season. In the choir room, Sam thinks that the New Directions need sexier moves to beat the Troubletones at Sectionals but Blaine thinks that they shouldn't cheapen themselves and that his body isn't for sale, which is uncalled for and pisses off Sam. Blaine goes to beat up the punching bag in the gym, because the fangirls like Darren's arms, as if he's the one who has reason to need to beat his feelings up. We get it, writers, you love Blaine as much as those fangirls, but surely you must know when he's in the wrong. Finn goes to try and be the hero, suddenly liking Blaine as much as the writers, but Blaine gets mad at him for treating him like shit. The writers don't have Finn apologize, they have him say how Blaine's presence intimidates him and other bullshit that isn't realistic or fitting of his "characterization" this season (unless Finn's like super retarded, and even then it's a coin flip). Sam says that he plans to win back Mercedes, even though her boyfriend is a literal bulldozer and another nice guy.
Sectionals. It's in the McKinley auditorium. Before it starts, the Troubletones offer for the guys to join them when they lose, and the offer is returned in an epic stare-off. Because New Directions are down to two girls and Quinn's voice is awesome, guys, she gets to sing enough to make up for the episodes she misses and does the talking intro to "Control" in a way that could send chills down your spine and cause the bottom to fall out of Rachel's undershorts. Before she performs (Harmony on first), dear Lucy sneaks out of the auditorium and is followed by Rachel. Rachel says she knows that Quinn's going to tell Figgins but if she does before the Troubletones perform then they'll be immediately disqualified because that's a rule now, too. Quinn says surely Rachel must want that because then they have a better chance of winning, and we would honestly expect that from Rachel. However, Rachel appeals to her good side. Quinn realizes that even though it would actually be the adult thing to report a serious misconduct, she does want the best for her daughter, and maybe sees that Rachel fighting on Shelby's behalf shows that even though the diva never knew her biological mom she still loves her more than she loves Quinn. Quinn instead goes to talk to Shelby, who says that she'll save her reputation and is resigning. Back to the competition, Quinn having relented, the Troubletones are equally good, but Finn looks so smug fist-bumping the guys and saying that they've got this. Of course, that means that ND wins. We expect this is because the judges don't judge on talent and last year they didn't vote for the Warblers explicitly because they looked a little gay - they know Santana's gay and having back up from a load of girls romantically dancing with each other isn't helping keep this out of their minds. This has got to be the only reason why they lose. (That and we don't see Idina Menzel again until next season).
Mike's dad finally approves of his son's choices. Tina brought him a bootleg of the school's West Side Story, the second time she tried to convince him to let Mike do what he wants. She mentioned he should be honoring Mike's gift because it is honoring family, which is important to Mike Senior. Some stereotypes are positive ones. Mike becomes sad when his dad says that he can only apply to the best dance colleges, because he's missed a lot of the deadlines (dance schools needing auditions), but Tina says that she already sent off applications for him. The couple are good again, at least for now.
From there we begin the home stretch with Rachel relieved of her suspension, Quinn sitting outside Figgins' waiting for her. Awww, it's not like Finn should be the one doing that. Quinn thanks Rachel for keeping her from hurting everyone, and for getting her to talk with Shelby who advised her to make the most of her youth whilst she's still holding on to it. Quinn, sanity magically restored now, reveals that she's applying to Yale to study theater. Rachel is so proud of her and they hug
, then make out. Rachel goes to perform the victory song, and asks Quinn to walk with her, but Quinn has to stop by the bathroom first - without Rachel!? Lucille Quinn Fabray, are you cheating, again!? No, she's getting the girls to come back to New Directions so they can be together and winning during their senior year. The Troubletones are reincorporated back into ND, appearing partway through the song.
"Hold on to sixteen as long as you can."
- "Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith, performed by Sam with New Directions
- "Buenos Aires" from Evita, performed by Harmony with the Unitards
- "Survivor/I Will Survive" by Destiny's Child and Gloria Gaynor, performed by the Troubletones
- "ABC" by the Jackson 5, performed by Tina, Kurt, Mike, and Quinn with New Directions
- "Control'' by Janet Jackson, performed by Quinn, Artie and Blaine with New Directions
- "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, performed by New Directions
- "We Are Young" by fun feat. Janelle Monáe, performed by New Directions (inc. the Troubletones)
- Actor Allusion: Quinn's boyfriend (well, who is called that) being called "Magic Mike" because he was a teen stripper, Dianna Agron's then-boyfriend being the one who played the teen stripper in Magic Mike.
- Best Years of Your Life: The message is perhaps not that being an adult isn't as good as being a kid, but that you should make the most of being able to be young and your high school days.
- Foregone Conclusion: The Troubletones rejoining New Directions.
- Growing Up Sucks: Shelby telling how youth will just suddenly leave you.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Mike at Stanford and Quinn at Yale.
- Mr. Fanservice: Sam with a side of Blaine.
- Opening Narration/Spoken Word in Music: The intro to "Control" by Quinn.