As his first act as Schue-appointed Nationals leader, Sam sneaks everyone into the auditorium at night. He reminds them how much Finn was rooting for them to make it to Nationals, unveiling the plaque that Rachel had made for the choir room as a physical representation, there with them in L.A. But in the middle of that sweet moment, that damn Jean-Baptiste comes striding in – “existentially yes, Blaine, perhaps we are all alone” – and in a few moments, the rest of Throat Explosion (seriously, they’re still going with that name) to steal the auditorium for their own rehearsal. Jean-Baptiste offers his condolences for the loss of Finn, but says at Nationals, there will be no mercy: “We are Throat Explosion – expect us!” (He said it. I used closed captioning and everything.)
In this week’s ‘16 is Too Early to Give Up On Your Dreams, Wait Until You’re 25 Like the Rest of Us': Marley has revealed to Ryder that she’s planning on quitting Glee Club after Nationals. She’s been entering her songs into tons of songwriting competitions (a thing!) only to get rejected or not hear back at all. But Ryder is the kind of guy who wears skintight neon hoodies under skintight graphic tees, so he can’t just let her settle for Accounting Club. Naturally, he decides to team up with her ex-boyfriend Jake to try and get her “very good” songs (just trust Ryder, OK, he knows his stuff) into the hands of some record label execs. Or at least Mercedes.
The night before they take the stage, Sam and Tina are working on some last-minute costume alterations in the Hudson-Hummel's room, looking back on their past competitions. Tina casually says, “My life’s going to be so empty from now on,” and Carole just as casually lets out, “At least you get to have one.” She immediately apologizes, she knows that’s not what Tina meant (“Tina always does this”), but after the kids leave the room, it’s enough to make her realize that maybe she's not up for this. “I thought it would make me feel close to him, but…when those kids leave McKinley, it will be like the last of him leaving too.”
The next morning, loading the bus to Nationals, Sam discovers that Finn’s plaque is missing and confronts Jean-Baptiste, who doesn’t seem to have it, but reminds the New Directions that they’re only there on a technicality. Blaine tells Sam to get it together for the team, so Sam gets back on that bus, and dammit, he LEADS. He says he knows Finn is watching them and thinking, “The show must go all over the place.” And that's really something that Finn would have said, isn't it?
Finally at the competition, the judges are introduced: Marlee Matlin, Jackée, and Prancercise inventor, Joanna Rohrback (Blaine’s excitement over this really sells the moment). They get straight into the competitor performances, for some quick songs from people we know nothing about. First, the "Amazonians" sing the Go-Go’s “Vacation” in fashions that can only be described as “Ronald McDonald meets a Vegas showgirl in a ball pit.” I would have preferred to see a sampler of the whole “Belinda Carlisle tribute,” but this is mostly just background music for Burt and Carole deciding to leave L.A. without going to the competition. B-
And, of course, a lead-in to those who cannot be expected, Throat Explosion. On the real though, I was not expecting Styx’ “Mr. Roboto,” and Skylar Astin sure does kill every bit of it, followed up with an exciting transition from camouflage into a Blaine-worthy blue suit and One Republic’s “Counting Stars.” It is a show! Like Vocal Adrenaline before them, Throat Explosion are stone cold (high school show choir) professionals, with 11 Hour Energies pumping through their veins. A
NEXT: 'This was Finn's favorite song.' Gulp.