...and here it is. Though we obviously weren't aware at the time, this is the swan song, the final curtain, the last appearance of a man who by all accounts was one of the nicest people to be around, and one who sadly fell prey to his own personal demons and left this world before his time.
We start Cory Monteith's final episode at the University of Lima, where a final Finn V/O reveals that while he deferred to the Army to clear his dad's dishonorable discharge, he admits to avoiding enrollment due to his insecurities, but now he's in a better place to try. However, this is college, which by design has a more free wheeling enviroment, such as one made to date this episode. Yes, in the middle of studying, Finnegan comes down with a case of the Harlem Shake, one he can't seem to avoid. Finally making it to his dorm, he says he has the rest of his life to be a grown-up...
(hour-long sobfest ensues).
As he clears out the sudden partiers, he notices a lump in a sleeping bag; upon awakening it, we find out Finn's dorm comes complete with its own Noah Puckerman. And we should add, one with a full head of hair, visually signifying his near completed Character Development. We'll get the full result next season, as a byproduct of Finn no less. Puck is there not for classes because Puck is Puck is Puck, but for the fringe benefits and mostly to give Finn motivation to be the best. They chest bump as we hit the Title Card.
Bushwick. Rachel is preparing for her Funny Girl audition, as we get a V/O straight out of Season 1, though not really that ego-fueled, as it basically spells out how this is the culmination of her entire life, and if that's the case then lawd is she peaking young. We then get a visual metaphor, a vision of young Rachel, knee socks and loafers, first seeing Funny Girl at five. She starts channeling Barbra for this purpose, as we see various and sundry mementos. It's funny. She's a funny girl, especially when she claims she's sworn off men. Well, after Brody we don't blame you, however as we are all too aware, there is one exception to any rule. From there, it's to the lounge where Will and Beiste are eating as they are interrupted by the new Cheerios! coach and we all knew it's be Roz Washington for the sole purpose of finding someone worse than Sue to serve as a reason for Sue to return. To serve this purpose, Roz has basically become a Sue Expy right down to rants which of course Crosses the Line Twice. As she leaves, Beiste asks Will if he's tried to contact Finn. Will of course won't even try, using the excuse of people drifting apart. Beiste offers the counterpoint of her sister being estranged from her for years, but the whole Cooter The Recruiter BS last year helped to patch things up. Beiste convinces Will to go to the college and make good with Finn before it's too late.
— — Time out. Does Murphy have a fucking crystal ball?
Anyway, Will ponders as we cut to a Marley V/O. See, in the trauma of last episode, Marley made mention of a hidden folder full of her own songs. Apparently the ordeal gave her the courage to at least try and offer them as material for Regionals. However, it seems everyone is still understandably recovering in their own ways: Tina is trying out Steampunk, Trouty is pretending to be his own twin - Evan Evans - who is a genius (so we know he's pretending), Unique is going on the pill to get more estrogen in her system (and we can't really yell at her for that, besides she's already got the perfect body type), and Brittany... okay. Apparently, the fine people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the finest Ivy League schools in the US, found out about her SAT score and want her admitted. Huh. Okay. Anyway, as poor Brad Ellis sits and questions why they roped him back into this madness, Will tells them that the Regionals theme is "Dreams", and he's going to take it literally so the judges don't have to have a brain by doing songs with the word "dream" in them. You know, like in season 1's episode 19 when Neil Patrick Harris guest starred. At least this time they managed to wait three seasons (to the episode!) before re-using the idea. He wants to do Dream Weaver, Title Drop (duh), and You Make My Dreams Come True (one they've already done). None of these are performed this episode as you'd expect. Marley tries to ask if they could use original songs, but it's clear that Will is still preoccupied with Finn just enough that rather than reuse a tactic that won them Regionals two years ago, he externalizes his issues, going into into Jerkass mode and saying "er, nope!" before he gets Brad to start playing.
After the break, Blaine does something we're actually thankful for, and that is finally realize that Will is going to destroy their chances so hosts a secret meeting to come up with a better setlist. They think that Will's ideas are becoming unoriginal. When Marley hops on suggesting doing original songs for originality, Kitty immediately says that nobody will listen to a song about having a fat mother, barfing, or a love octagon. Ooh, very unoriginal Wilde, clearly Murphy needed token insults. That or he wasn't trying. It's a coin flip. Anyway, Marley is shut down again as we cut to Puck in a speedo and I Need a Freaking Drink. He and Finn are engaged in more college debauchery, Finnegan having convinced two girls to go topless (oh Finnegan how we've "matured") when Will comes in to apologize, the buzzkiller. He makes an attempt at amends, but as you'd guess this early in the episode, it falls on deaf ears. Will is disheartened, and as we're establishing, he's not good at dealing with this. We then see how bad it gets when he returns to the choir room. ND say they've come up with other songs to try, but Will's memetic jerkassery has seeped into canon as he snaps at them all to shut up and sing what he tells them, no complaining. Okay, Will? Finn fucked up, and he tried to apologize. You didn't accept, so you can't expect him to accept yours. Thusly, you're an idiot.note Cut to the NYADA dance studio, where Rachel is rehearsing for her audition. This being the biggest she's ever had, it's always helpful to have moral support. Especially from the woman who brought you into the world. Yes, apparently having patched up their issues last year, Shelby arrives. Now, remember Shelby saying she was going to move out East with Beth? Guess that neither Rachel or Quinn have used their train passes to see them, let alone meet up and have a big family dinner, ending up sharing the guest room together after drinking too much, waking Shelby and Beth up with their... Hum, well, Shelby, who started a daycare center for Broadway performers who have kids, is there to give similar advice as last time: not to sing a song from the musical. In fact, don't sing Barbra at all. We agree that the producers will want to see a girl with talent that can carry the role rather than just Barbra 2.0, but Rachel is Barbra 2.0 - and so she's at her very best when singing her. (Except that time she choked.) They then of course sing Emeli Sande, because you might as well get Idina Menzel to sing when she's around.
After the break, the tears begin to increase flow, as we have some Beastie Boys for Cory's final song; say what you will, but at least he goes out rockin'. Afterwards, the fraternity chair offers them places in the brotherhood for the act, and without needing to do any crazy recruitment stuff. Obviously, they're in. Across town from the fictional University of Lima, we're in the McKinley auditorium where Marley has gathered Unique, Trouty/Evan, Unique, and Blaine for one of her original songs (which in a subversion was in fact a real not-made-for-Glee song); at least she's better than Rachel when it comes to songwriting. Afterwards, we find a Will in the wings; this cues the Heel Realization as it's clear he's beginning to realize maybe he was a bit of a dick (NO. REALLY.), and that glee club is all about the kids having fun. As it has been since the first episode. Boy we're off track here.
After the break... excuse us.
(two-hour crying fit ensues).
And we're back to the most heartbreaking scene of the entire episode, the final time real-life couple Cory Montieth and Lea Michele have a scene together. Finn's in his dorm, when he gets a call from, okay let's say it before we can't, the missing piece of his soul. He tries to apologize for his last chance at the ol' ultraviolence, but as this was against the Disposable Love Interest, Rachel doesn't care about that. Instead, she asks about him and he raves about the college experience, saying how Puck's there and he's loving everything. Rachel is of course nervous about her audition, and asks for advice. Finn, knowing Rachel better than anyone, reminds her that she's at her best when she's doing something to showcase her passion. Song choice doesn't matter, but it's the passion that does. Rachel promises to call him when it's over. She never does.note
Cut to a random stage, where we hear opera. At a Funny Girl audition. Hmm. Next of course is Rachel, and we're about to see that she took Finn's advice to heart. See, passion drives her. And as much as she postures and struts, she's still a Lima girl. Therefore, if she's to have a future, she needs to remember the past. As such, we hit the Call-Back and in a moment both heartwarming and heartbreaking, she goes back to her, and Glee's roots, as we hear a song not heard since the end of Season 1, but still very much the Bootstrapped Theme of the series. As Rachel sings, we then notice that though she's alone on that stage, she's never alone in her heart, as she proceeds to imagine the original New Directions with her, complete with red t-shirts, blue jeans, black sneakers. She pours everything into this, the spirit of her family guiding her. Afterwards, one of the auditioners, whom we'll see again next season, asks Rachel about her performance, noting that it looked like she was imagining something. She, in a moment both surprising for her to this point, and frustrating in regards to her next season, acknowledges how her friends helped her to this spot.
After the break, we see Puck wake up Finn. Who is hungover. (grits teeth). He then gets a What the Hell, Hero?, which coming from Noah Puckerman speaks volumes. He starts starts whipping Finn's ass into shape, actually forcing him to work like he said he would. Puck, in a move which would give everyone in Lima a coronary, enrolled himself and is going to work on writing screenplays, his own motivation being to show everyone he can be better than he everyone thought he would. Events to come will lead to him proving everyone wrong in a way not even he suspected. His writing is shit, but that means there's definitely room for improvement. College is where you improve. He tells Finn that he wants him (Finn) to make something of himself, and will keep checking to make sure that he becomes a great teacher. As Puck leaves, Finn ponders and we can pretty much guess what he's pondering. Cut to what is now and we know will be temporarily Roz's office, where she decides to keep Becky and Blaine co-captains of the Cheerios! because she thinks Blaine needs more extras for his University application no I mean put a hex on Sue. Becky, already tired of Roz and wanting Sue back, tries to tell the truth but of course immediately demurs because she doesn't wanna cheapen Sue's sacrifice. Blaine begins to suspect something's not right as Roz rants. Afterwards, Blaine tries to get the truth out of Becky, but she responds with a broken xylophone. Cut to Will on stage, briefly reliving the Nationals win, but regretting his standing with a member of that team. Said member arrives, Finn telling Will that the dean of UoL is willing to give him credit for his teaching to make up for missing a bunch of tests when he was in a state that we dare not elaborate on for fear of not completing this recap. Finn then makes clear that he wants to be treated as an equal, and Will just wants to move on. They embrace as we try to keep steady. Cut to the choir room for a tearful homestretch, as Will enters the choir room and apologizes, invoking the beloved Lillian Adler as a example of how teacher sometimes had their quirks and issues, but it shouldn't detract from the experience. He then brings in Finn, who gives one final peptalk, also serving as his Famous Last Words:
Will then calls on Marley to start teaching them an original song, while in New York, in a very obvious Foregone Conclusion, Rachel gets a callback. From there, we end with what is arguably one of the best original songs Glee ever did. Much like "DSB" and "Loser Like Me", "Outcast" serves as an anthem, a way to embrace your traits, positive and negative. Because after all, sometimes it's the Outcasts that become the in-crowd. Will then enters to do a cartwheel as New Directions dreams of the future... all while unaware that the dreams of one of their own will soon fade out.
Next Time: Glee on the cheap.
- Next To Me by Emeli Sande, performed by Rachel and Shelby
- Fight For Your Right (to Party) by The Beastie Boys, performed by Puck and Finn with the Delta Kappa Chai
- You Have More Friends Than You Know by Mervyn Warren and Jeff Marx, performed by Marley, Blaine, Trouty, and Unique
- Don't Stop Believin' performed by Rachel with an imagined version of the original New Directionsnote
- Outcast, Glee original, performed by New Directions
- Actor-Shared Background: Finn needs the credit from coaching glee for his degree because he missed exams to party. Cory got kicked out of school for skipping exams to do drugs under the bleachers.
- Adorkable: Even if you don't like Trouty, Chord Overstreet playing Evan as a one-off was really entertaining, a much better character for him, and actually cute in the background as well as a "character" that's likeable.
- Finn vs the Harlem Shake
- Book-Ends: This ends up being the last episode to feature Cory Monteith as Finn, and so the last with the original six kids from the Pilot. They perform Don't Stop Believin' together one last time.
- Double-Meaning Title: Several people are finding their dreams, Rachel is achieving hers, and Sue is going through dreams. The theme for Regionals: Dreams. With added meaning in hindsight.
- Fake Twin Gambit: Not that Trouty uses it for anything but to quash his own insecurities and maybe get some girls.
- Harsher in Hindsight:
- Finn starts working towards his dream. Then he dies.
- The realization that it was probably Puck who found Finn dead between now and 5.03.
- I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Puck and his "hello jiggles".
- Ivy League for Everyone: Brittany, the literal poster child of The Ditz, gets an offer for MIT.
- Meaningful Name: Only in hindsight does one notice that the last episode Cory appeared in was called Sweet Dreams.
- "Not Important to This Episode" Camp: Sue, Joesus, Sugar.
- Put on a Bus & Real Life Writes the Plot: Both tropes apply here, though at the time, Cory was just entering rehab. Unfortunately of course, it turns into a Bus Crash after Cory's death.
- Shot-for-Shot Remake: The Don't Stop Believin performance to the one in the Pilot. Just look at the page image.
- The Cameo: Mark Salling as Noah Puckerman, Idina Menzel as Shelby Corocan, Amber Riley as Rachel's hallucination of Mercedes Jones.
- UnPerson: This was the last time Finn was mentioned until 5.03.
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinks
- What Could Have Been: In addition to the rewrites needed to accommodate Cory entering rehab, the common consensus was had Finn lived, he would've continued his job as Will's assistant, eventually helping ND to a Nationals win, and leading to the original ending with Rachel saying "I'm Home".
- Wild College Party: Finn and Puck's parties, full of fratbros and college chicks.