I think I kind of love that "Mash-Off" was a bullying episode that snuck up on us. With both the Troubletones and New Directions heading to Nationals, things were becoming quite heated between the students, particularly Finn and Santana. On a bigger scale, Sue was stoking that aggression fire as she pummeled Burt with some outrageous TV ads. The whole thing had a very mean spirit about it underneath the usual breeziness. It was against that backdrop that the first annual McKinley High Mash-Off occurred and Santana's life changed.
Meanwhile, the "very charming and surprisingly sweet" Puck declared his love for Shelby but sort of straddled the fence by implying to Quinn that he was still on board with the whole steal-Beth-from-Shelby plan. And while we cleared up the issue of his age (18, so it wouldn't be illegal), Shelby was right that at the very least she'd get canned for messing around with Puck. But to be honest, I can see how hard it would be to withstand the full-scale onslaught of Pucktasticness, like the seemingly un-rebuttable argument for why they should be together: "You're hot. I'm hot. Beth needs a father." He even went so far as to reveal Quinn's plans to sick Child Protective Services on the single mother. Yet again, Puck had the perfect amount of edge and sweetness.
Even before Puck volunteered that information, Shelby trusted her gut when Quinn asked to join the Troubletones. She didn't immediately welcome her in and would later have a very hostile confrontation with the untrustworthy blonde. Even though Quinn threw Shelby's own teen-mom history in her face, the teacher remained firm about casting Quinn out of Beths life for now. Trusting her gut also came in handy for Shelby when she had a lovely mother/daughter moment with Rachel, who was seeking a killer letter of recommendation for college. It was a lovely moment of maternal support and love. It was also a chance to see all that Shelby has to offer young Beth that she may not have been able to offer Rachel when she was younger.
Shelby's spirit of of honesty and fairness led to her joint idea with Schue to have the two glee clubs face off in spectacular mashups. But one of the Troubletones was all about making trouble, particularly for Finn. Santana just could not get enough of antagonizing the jock. When it came to the insults, he was no match. (She was raised on insults. You can almost see her grow as if she were feeding on them. Yum.) They had a dodgeball face-off that had the Troubletones totally owning New Directions. After a final blast of insults, Finn called Santana out in the middle of the hallway, cluing her in that it's no secret around the school that she's in love with Brittany. And he called her a coward for not living her life honestly. I know that this will be divisive because he essentially outed her, but I don't think it was done out of meanspiritedness (yes, Finn is still the complicated "hero") and I do think everyone in the school does know of their "special" relationship.
NEXT: Kurt and Rachel make nice