At this point, Mr. Schue gave a speech. Again, minor wince: how many inspiring speeches has this guy given this season? (Since there have been 22 episodes, I'm going to ballpark it: 22?) But by gum, this one actually was inspiring! ''One day, all of you are gonna be gone, and all of this, all of us, will be nothing but a hazy memory.'' I always find it interesting, and sad, when characters in fiction briefly pause to consider the possibility that everything they've experienced while we've been watching them will fade away into memory. (Not to get mega-meta, but some of what Will was talking about almost sounded like a unified theory of television: ''Life only really has one beginning and one end, and the rest is just a whole lot of middle.'')
It's the journey, not the destination, and so, friends, there was only one way the New Directions gang could take Regionals:
Journey Medley (''Faithfully,'' ''Any Way You Want It,'' ''Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin','' ''Don't Stop Believin')
Those goons from Aural Intensity got the judge lineup ahead of time: how else to explain the Olivia Newton-John/Josh Groban mash-up? Nerves backstage ran high. Mr. Schue made a funny about Finn's dancing, so at least someone has noticed besides us viewers. (The black-and-gold outfits: I want them.) [More on the finale's costumes here]. Finn and Rachel prepared for their big entrance. Rachel, adorably: ''Break a leg.'' Finn, adorably: ''I love you.''
It's difficult for me to imagine when Journey was an actual famous band. I've only known them at various stages of their retro-resurrection: their semi-ironic rebirth as the Great American Drunk-Singing Band (as portrayed brilliantly on Family Guy), the fully ironic choice to make them into the apocalyptic chorus at the end of The Sopranos, and their ecstatic re-rebirth as the first Glee megahit. I have the vague sense that Journey are fading back into the mists of pop culture: I just attended a wedding where more people sang along to ''Bad Romance'' than ''Don't Stop Believin'.''
But man, did this medley freaking rock, or what? (I thought about grading it in three parts, but every part would have just gotten an A, except for ''Faithfully,'' which would get an A+.) This episode was directed by series co-creator Brad Falchuk, and he clearly took some notes from Joss Whedon: note all the long takes, like the one which followed Finn into the auditorium, then tracked over to find Rachel awaiting him.
The little touches were great here, too. the Bearded One's red piano. The intermingling of ''Any Way You Want It'' and ''Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin''' as a boys vs. girls song fight. Puck momentarily taking over Finn's solo. Brittany spinning Artie. The brief cut to Quinn's mom in the audience. (If I wasn't already bawling, that would've done the trick.) The way that everyone in the audience stood up to clap along. And that key change in ''Don't Stop Believin'''! Swoon.
NEXT: The best ''Bohemian Rhapsody'' since Wayne's World? Maybe.