Glee Recap — Season 3 Episode 20 & 21 — New Directions Win Nationals – Hollywood Life

‘Glee’ Recap: Did New Directions Finally Win Nationals?

With only one week until the season finale, everyone's dreams are on the line: Does Rachel get a second chance at NYADA? Will Puck get to graduate? Read on & find out. On this week's Glee double header ("Props" and "Nationals"), McKinley High morphed into an episode of The Twilight Zone after Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) experienced a nasty fall. Her untimely injury caused her to slip into a dream-like state -- where everyone switched bodies. (Yup, you read that correctly.)

Reading Time: 9 minutes

All the while, New Directions continued to prepare for the second biggest event of their high school careers (behind only their dinosaur-themed prom, of course): Nationals! In the second half of the night, ND headed to Chicago to compete. Lindsay Lohan, Rex Lee and Perez Hilton guest starred as judges. (More on that later.)

Find out how they did — and what songs ND performed. Also, check out the best one-liners and musical performances of each episode.

Episode 1: “Props”

Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) are pulled into Sue Sylvester’s (Jane Lynch) office; she isn’t too pleased with the rise of Unique (Alex Newell) of Vocal Adrenaline. Jesse St. James (Jonathan Groff) — the new instructor of the choral group — has been labeled a “visionary.” It seems Unique is getting quite the media buzz. Sue is worried New Directions will be “trounced” at Nationals. Sue urges Kurt to dress in drag for their performances (just no), but he was not about to have any of that. Mercedes points out he’s flaunted what his momma gave him before. Flashback to: Kurt dressed as Jersey Shore’s Snooki — with Finn as “The Situation” — for Halloween (an image I never want to experience again!)

Somber Rachel (Lea Michele) is still dealing with her bombed NYADA audition. To ease her pain, she contemplates life and chronicles all her musings in her trusty journal. She then breaks out a lovely rendition of “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. She’s finally found her thick skin, and she’s not about to give up on her dreams. “God knows we’re worth it,” she belts. In case you were wondering, she contacted the NYADA judges and left an impressive amount of voicemails (14 to be exact). She makes one last desperate attempt to snatch back her sanity and informs Carmen Tibideaux that “what happened in [her] audition was a fluke.” (This is the career-driven Rachel I’ve been missing!) Later on, after Tina’s quite enlightening fantasy, she advises Rachel speak to Tibideaux in person. It doesn’t quite go as planned, as Tibideaux is rather annoyed at Rachel’s persistence. That only makes Rachel more determined than ever to see her dreams come to fruition. She plans on auditioning every year until she gets in. (That’s the spirit!)

Will (Matthew Morrison) seems to have made a safe landing back to his inspired way of thinking. (It’s been a long season without it.) Tina, however, doesn’t agree with his pep talk. She’s realized that the glee club doesn’t need her. (Note: Over the course of three seasons, her character has gotten little to no storyline development. Tonight, the writers seemed to poke fun at themselves). Mike (Harry Shum Jr.) isn’t too thrilled with her blatant disregard for the rest of the Glee club members. “All I want is one moment to feel like you,” Tina confesses to later on to Rachel.

During a day trip to the mall with Kurt and Puck (Mark Salling), Tina is determined to become a carbon copy of Rachel. When she gets distracted juggling her cell phone and her supplies, she trips and falls into a fountain. (Oh no!) When she emerges from the pool, it appears that she has spiritually switched bodies with Rachel. But that’s not all the Freaky Friday switcheroos that go down:

Mike switches with Joe (Samuel Larsen), Artie (Kevin McHale) switches with Santana (Naya Rivera), Will switches with Sue, Blaine (Darren Criss) switches with Puck, Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) switches with Quinn (Dianna Agron), Sam (Chord Overstreet) switches with Rory (Damian McGinty), and Mercedes switches with Brittany (Heather Morris).

When Tina (as Rachel) returns to McKinley, she finally gets her shining moment! I’ve almost forgotten what a terrific voice she possesses. Her fabulous rendition of Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” is a definite highlight of the episode. (This girl needs more solos! Here’s to season three!) After much hugging and advice, we quickly learn that it was all an in-between-limbo kind of fantasy, and Tina returns to her body.

As we saw last week, Coach Bieste was abused by her husband Cooter. When everyone believed she left him, she, in fact, gave him a second chance. Santana, Brittany and Mercedes confront her when they learn this devastating tidbit. Interspersed with shots of Bieste’s continued unfortunate circumstances at home, the trio beg her to move out immediately. “We just want to see you safe,” Mercedes pleads. Bieste refuses. (NO!)

Back in the choir room, Sue makes one last attempt to forcefully convince Kurt to take on his drag queen role. No such luck, however. Unexpectedly, Puck enters dressed to the nines in a blonde wig and purple dress. (Never again, please.) This sends Will into a tizzy and he declares that all props and gimmicks will be removed from their performances. The focus needs to be on choreography.

After Puck’s ridiculous charade, Rick the Stick and his merry men confront him in the hallway. (Noticing a confrontational trend here?) A fight is about to go down out by the dumpsters. After a bloody brawl, Puck is defeated (and not without an admirable attempt) and goes dumpster diving. This is where things take a turn for the worse — as he re-emerges with a switchknife drawn (albeit fake, as we learn). Luckily for him, Bieste is right there to save the day. “You don’t know what it feels like to be worthless,” he screams at her in the lockerroom. (Oh, if he only knew.) They share a heartfelt embrace. (Even amidst ridiculous show tunes and storylines, this show manages to pull at my heartstrings)

This chance encounter gives Bieste exactly the push she needs to stand up to Cooter. “I always feel like I’m disappointing you,” Cooter tells her. She proceeds to take out Puck’s switchknife (it’s fake, FYI) and then reveals that she’s been sleeping with a real one under her pillow. She then musters up every fiber of strength she has, pulls off her wedding ring and tearfully says goodbye. “Who’s gonna love you?” Cooter yells. “Me,” she replies.

(Bring your tissues folks!)

Joined by Puck on guitar, he and Bieste deliver a chilling (yet powerful) cover of Taylor Swift’s “Mean.” Simple, yet effective. Bieste, a big ol’ softy at heart, has scored Puckerman another chance at his geography exam. (Maybe he can graduate after all!)

To close out what is one of the best episodes to-date, Rachel — standing center stage — breaks out “Flashdance…What a Feeling.” She is then joined by Tina, and the two have a great moment on stage together. As the song progresses, they dance through the halls and make their way to the bus…to head to Nationals!

Best One-Liners:
“It’s tuckin’ time” – Sue to Kurt (about doing drag)
“It’s exhausting being me” – Rachel
“I believe trees are born the same as babies” – Brittany
“I can taste your Axe body spray” – Sue to Will

Best Musical Performances:
“Because You Loved Me”

Episode 2: “Nationals”

Resident powerhouse Mercedes comes down with food poisoning — which leads to a few additions to the Troubletones. Quinn and Tina gladly step in to fill her shoes. Yes, Quinn is (mostly) fully recovered from her near-fatal texting-while-driving accident. Gleeks, you can rest at ease now.

(But my heart is still racing)

It is down to the wire for New Directions as they head to Chicago to compete for the national title. They battle against long-time revivals Vocal Adrenaline — featuring delicious drag-diva Unique and Jesse — and the Scale Blazers. After mayhem breaks out over “jazz squares,” as Kurt points out, Will and his go getter attitude come to the rescue. Oh, and Mercedes has made a speedy recovery, thanks to Sue’s witch doctor. The Glee club regroups and continues to rehearse (they’ve been at it for three grueling hours already).

Before we know it, it’s time for New Directions to hit the stage! They begin their impressive set with a cover of Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.” (What better way to live in the moment and take it in, right?) As was my hope, Santana and Mercedes get one of their last shining moments. Also, it wouldn’t be a competition without a Rachel power ballad; she follows with the mountainous Celine Dion song “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Unexpectedly, NYADA’s Tibideaux arrives just in time to witness Rachel in all her glory.

(Maybe things are turning around for the young Broadway-bound starlet?)

Admittedly, this is Rachel’s best vocal. (She’s gonna be sorely missed next year, well, sort of.) ND closes out their set with a rowdy version of Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” — which gives Finn his turn to rock out.

Then, it’s Vocal Adrenaline’s turn. Just before the moment of truth for Wade (Unique), Kurt and Mercedes wish him well and give him a single rose. “Break a heel,” Kurt quips. As suggested by their name, Unique and her crew of backup singers/dancers are a force to be reckoned with. Unique first leads the group in a fun performance of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj. She’s finally embraced who she is! (Like there was ever any doubt.) They smoothly transition into their second song. They razzle and dazzle with “Pinball Wizard” by The Who — which garners them a standing ovation. Unique has an incredible set of pipes and I can’t imagine anyone else taking on the lead vocal on that song.

Deliberation time! Who will win?

Lindsay Lohan — who is certainly on her way up — makes a fantastic appearance alongside Perez Hilton and Rex Lee. “Is there anything better than someone making a comeback?” Lindsay asks in regards to New Directions. (No, no there isn’t.) After taking some notable jabs at The Voice and America’s Got Talent, the unlikely trio have made their decision! Just before the the verdict, Jesse implores Tibideaux to rethink her decision about Rachel. “She’d make an excellent addition to NYADA,” says Jesse. (How sweet is that?)

With the thought of victory dangling in front of them, everyone makes their way back. The MVP of awards goes to Unique! Then, it’s down to business. Placing in third is…the Scale Blazers! That means, the winner of Nationals is…New Directions!

(Who saw that coming, huh? That leaves Vocal Adrenaline in second.)

Back at McKinley, the Glee club is greeted warmly with a performance of “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove. After hugs, kisses, and tears of joy (oh, and don’t forget a tremendous amount of confetti), it’s the start of something new for this group of misfits.

Bonus: Emma has decided that it is time to seal the deal with Mr. Schuester.

Second Bonus: Rachel signs her very first autograph.

Will adds their huge trophy to the display case, and Principal Figgins presents Rachel and Finn with a very appealing (cue eye roll) envelope of cash, mini pom poms and bumper stickers.

(Feels good to be appreciated). He also teases:

“Can you keep a secret?”

(Um, what?!?!)

(Not as scandalous as you’d imagine. He wants them to make a special appearance.)

Back in McKinley’s auditorium, Finchel presents Will with the award for “Teacher of the Year.” “He teaches students how to dream,” Finn says in his moving opening speech. The Glee club then takes the stage for a bring-the-house down performance of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

Yes, they truly are. They began three years ago as the underdogs, and after a roller coaster ride, they proved victorious. They dusted off all the baby-drama, cat fights, and slushy facials to emerge stronger and more willing to fight for their dreams.

Best One-Liners:
“We are entering ‘The Hunger Games’ of show choir competition” – Sue
“I will go all Lima-Heights on your asses” – Santana
“I may turn into the incredible Hulk if you piss me off” – Mercedes
“Did you just blog about me during that last performance?” – Lindsay

Best Musical Performances:
“It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”
“We are the Champions”

Hollywoodlifers, did you cry as much as I did? What was your favorite performance of the night? Sound off in the comments!

— Jason Scott