RECAP: Glee S6 Ep1 “Loser Like Me”

The final chapter of a story – the final act of the play – gives the writer the chance to tie up the final bow on their world. There may be surprise revelations or shocking denouement, or we might revisit where we began, to measure the distance traveled and the lessons learned. The final – truncated – season of Glee does the latter, in bittersweet and triumphant fashion, as we return to the halls of McKinley where it all began.

We do more than physically show up – more on that in a second – we watch Rachel Berry step into a pair of shoes previously worn by Will and even Finn. When all your dreams seem like bad decisions, how do you find your purpose?

McKinley couldn’t hold Rachel; she burst into the New York scene, conquered NYADA and bitchy teachers and escort boyfriends and broken hearts, all on the path to her dream role on Broadway. Even the heartbreak of Finn’s death couldn’t defeat her. But her decision to forgo Broadway for Hollywood – the assumption Broadway’s open arms would always be there for her tucked into her safety net – diverted her from her path. And boy, did it kick her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Glee - Rachel Berry, S6We open on Rachel at a place we haven’t seen her for a few seasons – rock bottom. Without a support system (beyond a publicist whose already looking for her next job), Rachel sits in her trailer hearing the horrible news. “That’s So Rachel” is an unqualified disaster, a hot mess of badness that somehow managed to get a zero share and insult every special interest and human being ever including NAMBLA.

Lee Paulblatt delivers the bad news – he’s been fired. The show is dead. But hey, it’s okay, he’ll just get a job running another network – but Rachel’s Hollywood career is dead.

“Do what everyone else does when they fail. Blame everyone else,” is his advice. “And then go home.”

“I don’t know where that is anymore,” says Rachel, before launching into “Uninvited” by Alanis Morrissette, a hauntingly beautiful, sad and appropriate way to take us into “Loser Like Me.”

Driven off the lot, left on the sidewalk with her belongings – and gold star – Rachel cries.

After hiding herself away for a few months, Rachel finally returns home to Ohio where she is met with more bad news. Her father, Leroy (Brian Stokes Mitchell) drops a bombshell of his own – he and Rachel’s other dad have split up and are divorcing. Things were bad for a while and then they fell apart (remember that for later). The house is being sold but Rachel is welcome to stay with her father for as long as she needs to.

“They say you have to lose everything before you can really find yourself,” Dad tells her, a perfect sign post for this episode.

At the Lima Bean with Blaine, Rachel hides behind dark glasses and a hat, only to be called out by the now barista, former principal Mr. Figgins. He takes some solace in his own fall from grace thanks to Rachel’s even bigger one. Her drink is on the house!

Rachel and Blaine play catch up. She keeps repeating it’s good, she’s getting her life back together but clearly those are words and not anything concrete. Blaine promises he’s going to help her.

Glee - Blaine Anderson, S6So Blaine – what’s up with you?

Seems Rachel missed another break-up – Kurt and Blaine’s. Like many high school relationships, they succumbed to “too young” for that sort of commitment, something that brings out some steam in the dapper man’s usual demeanor. Following the break-up, he fell into a depression and got kicked out of NYADA, returning home to pick up the pieces. His therapist advised him to focus on his true love – music – but even that couldn’t bring him out of his dark place. However, it was Dalton to the rescue! Thanks to the faculty advisor with Ebola, Blaine is now the head of the Warblers!

Blaine takes Rachel’s hands and makes her a promise. From now on, it’s the two of them, turning these lemons into lemonade.

And now, time for one of the highlights of Glee – Lea Michele and Darren Criss singing a Broadway showstopper.

Blaine leads Rachel to the local music store, where he sits at the piano (yes!) and launches into a live (yes!) first stanza of the magical “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors. A song about finding strength in someone believing in you (in a show about a killer plant from outer space), this is Rachel’s first moment of clarity while simultaneously unleashing Lea’s pipes in a way that’s glorious. Music is going to lead her where she needs to be.

Also, it’s perfect.

Hey, what’s going on at McKinley (since we know that’s our next stop).

Sue Sylvester is on top of the world. Her three-point plan (involving only kale in the cafeteria, fat shaming and no spec of the arts anywhere on campus – also attack dogs) has transformed McKinley into an academic powerhouse full of hungry, dazed and tight-lipped students, whose test scores justify the gulag-like conditions.

Sue has proven that “young minds do not need the humanities or the arts.”

Side bar: I’ve finally realized what Sue Sylvester represents in the Glee universe. She is Life. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense – sometimes it’s cruel and unfeeling, or surprisingly gentle and caring, often without a break in between. It challenges, corrupts, confuses and complicates your every desire and whim. That is Sue and it’s why she never makes sense. Because life doesn’t either.

Anyway, Sue’s machinations don’t sit well with Rachel, who is about to pack on the protective gear, whether she’s realized it or not.

Glee - Kurt Hummel, S6Hey, where’s Kurt?

Kurt’s in NY and from his voice over we find out he’s fine. No, really. Tough few months but he’s back on the horse. Year three of NYADA means work-study (nothing about this school makes sense so just nod, thank you) and you are encouraged to leave the city (what? sorry, nodding) and spread your wings. Because nothing teaches you about the arts like leaving the arts capital of the world. Nodding.

Kurt’s plan is to direct original works at his favorite nursing home so he’s good there. And he’s joined speed dating because he’s over the break-up and it’s time. The pickings are slim but one of his potentials – the pirate re-enactor – senses Kurt just broke up with someone. Wow, he’s good. No worries tho, says Kurt, he’s fine. Blaine’s a great guy, he proposed, Kurt ended it, he’s fine. Okay?

Psychic guy doesn’t seem convinced. In fact he tells Kurt he isn’t over his ex and walks out of the cafe.

Huh. That’s so weird on account of Kurt being fine.

Hey, it’s Dalton!

Blaine brings Rachel to his home base, because he needs advice to go up against Mr. Schue and Vocal Adrenaline. So his Warblers are going to do a number and she can chime in.

Ed Sheeran’s “Sing” is dished out by a group of new Warbler boys, all of whom seem both an echo of Season 2 Warblers and also vague clones of a dapper gel-inflicted gentleman… The new head Warbler is charismatic and charming, the dancing is energetic and synchronized and Rachel can’t help but be delighted.

Then in a moment that can only be described as meta-rific, two Warblers remove a jacket from a lighted glass cabinet and slide it onto Blaine, who joins in the song like he’s never been gone.

Side bar: For your homework, go watch season 4’s “Dark Side” when the bad Warblers attempt to seduce Blaine back into their midst with seductive two stepping and harmonies. Then watch this again. I’ll wait here.

If Broadway show tunes peaks Rachel’s mood, show choir makes her shine. She’s caught the bug!

Glee - Sam, S6Hey, has anyone seen Sam?

Back at McKinley, Rachel finds Sam helping Coach Bieste run the Titans practice. A handsome young player using a gay slur and Rachel immediately steps in to dress him down. When they were in school, they worked very hard to make that unacceptable! Spencer – the student – isn’t interested in her speechifying. Seems he’s gay – a post-modern gay to be exact. Positive representation in the media has given him the personal fortitude to be himself, which is apparently a jerk. Woo representation!

Sue – it seems – spent the summer recruiting football players from all over the state, moving their families into a near-by apartment complex she bought, which is probably legal. Rachel wants to know about the other kids – the singers and the artists and the musicians. Where is their place at McKinley?

“Go talk to Sue,” says Sam.

Rachel puts on a cup and heads over.

Where a mean looking woman in a prison jumpsuit is sitting at the secretary desk (chained to it actually). Who’d have thought you’d miss Mean Becky at a moment like this?

Rachel makes her plea for the arts but Sue cuts her off. Rachel Berry was the best the arts had to offer at McKinley – which means the arts have nothing to offer anyone. Ouch.

“There will never be a Glee club as long as I’m in charge,” says Sue. And here’s where Life (Sue) runs into an interesting paradox. She’s pushed Glee Club and its members down so many times they’re used to falling – it doesn’t mean anything any more. It just signals them to find a new way to get up. Something Sue taught them to do. So her words are Rachel’s challenge, much like they were to Will and Finn in the past.

Hey, Kurt’s on a hot date. I’m sure since he’s fine, it’s going to go great. First, let’s have a flashback.

It’s raining, Kurt is annoyed and Blaine is late as per usual. As they sit at the restaurant, Blaine tries to talk weddings while Kurt stews. Actually he’s been distant and aloof lately, Blaine has noticed. Kurt counters with an argument they had over a towel. Things escalate and clearly the agenda is big and ugly and unspoken – brewing for some time.

Blaine asks if Kurt still wants to marry him and Kurt blurts out – “maybe I don’t” and thunder crashes have nothing over the sound of everyone’s heart hitting the floor. Blaine thinks it can work because they love each other and Kurt counters with them being too young. And maybe they should end it now before they start hating each other…

“I will never forgive you for this,” Blaine says, betrayed and furious in a way we’ve never seen him before.

Side bar: Go watch the Central Park scene from “The Break-up” and the hallway “I don’t trust you anymore” scene from “Glease.” I’ll wait here.

The acting is painfully on point – Darren Criss and Chris Colfer have got these characters down to a science, and the rhythm of their dialogue is so natural – infuriating and frustrating as you imagine the characters to be in that moment. Everything is wrong and there’s no clear path for fixing, just two people who aren’t speaking the same language. It’s also Super Couple 101, complete with metaphorical pouring rain outside. Four stars, all around.

Back in present day, Kurt is not fine, tears rolling down his face as his hot date arrives. Looking shocked and horrified, as if his emotions have just caught up with him regarding the break-up, Kurt runs out of the restaurant.

Glee - S6, Homecoming - WillHey, it’s Will Schuster! And his little baby! Who is a ginger – congrats to Emma’s parents.

Baby Daniel – who is precious adorable – watches his Daddy spin around the floor. He can’t use his old tricks with Vocal Adrenaline. No last-minute set lists, no Mercedes to park and bark, no Journey. He has to break out a whole new set of ideas to win Sectionals. But why worry about anything when he has his sweet little boy to come home to?

Side bar: The journey of Will Schuster has come full circle. As Rachel wanders around McKinley, looking for answers, Will found all of his. He has a job, he sings and dances every day then comes home to his perfect family. It’s a bittersweet reminder that this is the completion that Finn’s journey will never have. Now it’s up to Rachel to make the final connection of the circle, the torch Will passed to Finn. Fitting, no?

Rachel’s next stop is Mr. Schue and the Vocal Adrenaline practice. She hides in the shadows as the perfect lock step enthusiasm plays out to Van Halen’s “Dance the Night Away” with Max George (of The Wanted) as the lead singer.

Rachel takes the metaphorical reins from Mr. Schue - and steps into his journey from season 1.

Rachel takes the metaphorical reins from Mr. Schue – and steps into his journey from season 1.

Will compliments his students who wander off the stage. They’re not interested in sharing his time or bending his ear, despite his offers of an open office door. Hey, no worries dude. Rachel’s here and she needs both.

Rachel isn’t thrilled he’s now leading the most famous glee club in the world! But McKinley doesn’t have a club, his students are gone and Carmel pays five times more. With a baby and a desire to coach, Will is where he needs to be. Besides – his fight is gone.

Usual platitudes aside – cause being a part of something special makes you special ain’t gonna cut it – Will tells Rachel that life is like a bow and arrow. The more the bow bends, the more potential energy is created. The bigger the challenge, the more potential to create something special. So Rachel needs to find her arrow, bend the bow and make something happen.

“You still got it,” Rachel says

Intervention time! Leroy, Blaine, Sam and Will bring Rachel into a cozy living room for the purpose of facing her greatest demon – “That’s So Rachel.” She has to watch the show so she can realize it wasn’t so bad, and then she can get over it! I’m not sure if this is sound advice but let’s be real – we all want to see the train wreck.

Premise: Cert (Jim J. Bullock) and Rachel arrive at their new NYC loft, inherited from his dead gay grandmothers, to find versions of Mercedes, Brittany and Artie (Carrot Top) already living there. Seems promising.

There are cats who have cancer who begin spraying things, courtesy of Britt. Cert says, “I fed my worm to a Warbler” and then gets hit by a falling light. (Is that brilliant meta?!)

Carrot Top is a terrible Artie because yelling “line!” during a live show is super unprofessional (as is crossing his legs in the wheelchair).

The boys all try but there’s no sugar coating it.

Will pauses the show and the pep talking begins. No, it wasn’t the beginning she wanted. Yes, it was terrible. But it can’t define her because she has never been someone to do things the easy way.

“You are not going to be defined by this failure. The future will judge you by what you do to come back from it.” Have another sign post folks!

Taking Will’s advice to heart, Rachel goes to the Superintendent. While Sue’s boss would love to reinstate the glee club, the budget has been set and there’s nothing he can do. But Rachel isn’t ready to give up. She offers up the last of her television money to fund it! Sue’s boss wants to take her down a peg so he agrees – on one condition. She has to run it.

Rachel returns to her room to find Kurt, sitting weeping on her bed. Hey guys, I don’t think Kurt is fine.

Turns out Kurt went back to that spot in front of the Bushwick loft, the one they said they would all meet at because their friendships were so important? And he was the only one there. (It was also raining, which seems to be the worst weather for Kurt right now.)

She was clearly off having a nervous breakdown and Blaine…

Kurt: “I blew it. I blew the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Side bar: “Dynamic Duets” – Blaine and Sam discuss Blaine’s cheating and his realization that Kurt was exactly what he wanted out of life, which he realized too late. I’ll wait here.

Turns out it’s not loneliness fueling Kurt’s tearful Ohio return; Kurt has come to a few pretty big realizations. First off? Blaine is truly the love of his life. Also – thanks to therapy – a big ole spotlight on his own problems with love, manifesting in him picking fights in order to feel connected. But Blaine wasn’t like that – Blaine wasn’t afraid of intimacy.

Kurt wants to know if Blaine has mentioned him to Rachel, who thinks that he’s handling the break-up pretty well. This gives Kurt a spark of hope. Maybe if he could speak to Blaine – hey, Rachel could help with that! And he doesn’t want to do things long-distance, he wants to be in Lima with them. If only he could find a place to do his NYADA internship…maybe they can find their redemption here together!

Hey, that’s a really great idea for a season long arc you guys! I’m gonna stick a sign post on it.

So Rachel and Kurt clear out the choir-room-turned-computer-lab, with the help of the AV Club (and they’re totally going to learn their names this time around!), rolling in the piano just in time for the arrival of Sue.

Not surprisingly, Sue is furious that Rachel went over her head to the Superintendent, and launches into a quiet take down of both she and Kurt. “Gay cartoon walrus” shows up before she focuses her anger on Rachel. Seems like Sue hasn’t forgotten that time Rachel ripped her a new one back in New York, and she quickly assures them both that they will beg for death by the time she’s done with them. Then she trashes the room and storms out with an Internet Safety poster in her arms.

Side bar: Sue has promised to rain down hardship on the kids but at this point, they are both mired down in pain and disappointment. They’re crawling – just because she makes it harder doesn’t mean they’re going to stop. Oh Sue, you’ll fail because you taught them how to succeed!

Oh hey, Scandals! Clearly arts funding doesn’t extend to the Lima gay bar community because they’re playing the same music they were the first time we were here. Does the jukebox only have two songs?

Kurt is nervously waiting for Blaine’s arrival, vibrating and pep talking himself. Just be cool, keep your words straight as an arrow! (Will’s advice to Rachel has clearly gotten passed along.) Blaine arrives, late again, but this time Kurt is delighted to see him – not checking the time. Who cares about arriving first when you aren’t sure the other person is going to show up? They move to embrace but the muscle memory of a kiss seems to mix them up for a moment before they hug.

Side bar: Ouch. But perfect.

They attempt to make small talk. Kurt is grateful to not have been told to screw off, Blaine wants to chat. Going well so far. Kurt blurts out he’s there to get Blaine back – no preamble. Just a simple announcement, for clarity’s sake.

Kurt: “First I’m going to get your forgiveness, then I’m going to get your heart back.”

Blaine pulls his hand back and let’s his own arrow fly. He’s seeing someone.

Kurt’s internal monologue is frantic. Don’t cry, smile, he’s going to be sick. When Blaine announces it’s someone Kurt knows, he inwardly begs it not to be Sebastian Smythe.

Sorry, he’s too busy being The Flash. No Kurt, it’s your former nemesis Dave Karofsky!

“Hey Kurt!” he calls, before going all soft and googly-eyed over Blaine and kissing his cheek.

Side bar: See I knew what was coming and yet felt Kurt’s complete shock and horror. He assumed it would be not easy, but viable. Come back, apologize, make some effort, get Blaine back. Blaine loves him, is always waiting for him, always believes in them. Right? Instead, Blaine is dating a man who Kurt helped put back together, a man he encouraged to seek out love and share his life with. Who knew it would come back to haunt him at the worst possible moment?

Kurt pretends he’s fine with this living nightmare. Blaine and Dave discuss how they met (Bear night! Line dancing! Eyes meeting across a dance floor full of burly guys doing the Electric Slide!) while Kurt nods and smiles and tries not to vomit on their shoes. Ironically, Kurt really did bring them together! Blaine was venting about the breakup, Dave pointed out how helpful Kurt was during his darkest time and then they just kept talking! Isn’t that amazing?

Dave is clearly over the moon for his “Boo Boo” while Blaine looks earnest and Kurt tries not to die.

Interior Monologue Kurt: “I’m going to be sick, I’m going to throw up. And when did Blaine start liking bears?”

Side bar: If you had a flashback to season three when Blaine asked Finn if he was hiding behind a bear in the diagram to kidnap Puck, ten points for being a fierce Gleek with a long memory. After you’re done laughing, enjoy the meta.

Blaine wants them to be adults about this, Dave wants them to be friends and hang out and Kurt can’t take another second. He smiles and excuses himself to the bathroom, where he locks the door and sinks down to the floor in tears, his heart broken.

Side bar: Let’s all take a moment and breathe into a bag, shall we? The acting is both subtle and sharp, everyone playing their own version of making the best of a terrible situation. Dave prattles on happily as Blaine watches Kurt carefully and Kurt maintains the illusion of holding it together. Much like the break-up, it’s as if you’re watching the train unhitch and begin careening down the track untethered…and it’s Super Couple 101, and I wish there was accompanying melodramatic organ music.

Rachel takes her first step as the head of New Directions. She sets up her gold star in the office, filling the seat of Will and Finn – who is brought into the scene when Mr. Schuster shows up.

Will: “I always thought one day Finn would take this place over.”


Side bar: So did we. Season four was Finn’s entrance to this office, settling into this role with his own set of kids who needed guidance, and who would guide him into the next stage of his dream (and his eventual reunion with Rachel). But that never happened, will never happen and it becomes a stark reminder of reality at this moment. Glee is a cracked out dramedy equal parts Broadway musical and Normal Lear sitcom – but it’s rooted in real life. For now, Rachel is picking up the torch, finishing Finn’s journey and making up a new ending for herself.

It’s only for a few months, says Rachel, until she gets her feet back under her. Her dream is still Broadway – she lost it but she wants to get it back. He has a gift, the folded paper which reads “Priority #1: Help the Kids” and secures it to the bulletin board, where it belongs. It’s the official passing of the torch.

Time to start recruiting, Rachel.

And what song better to end this first episode? This transition for Rachel from star to bottom of the heap to taking another try at the mountain? From the movie Frozen, the anthem “Let It Go” which perfectly encapsulates what this moment needs. Oh right, and Lea Michele nails it, hard.

So at the end of the first hour, we’ve seen our major players – Rachel, Blaine and Kurt – with their dreams shattered – and not just dreams unrealized, but precious things they were holding in their hands. Rachel’s Broadway and Kurt and Blaine’s love, all in pieces on the ground. Now they have to decide how to get up and which step to take next so they can get those things back – and how history will remember them.

I feel pretty secure they’re going to do fine.

Next up – “Homecoming!”

(Coming later!)

Tere’s Episode Round-up:

What made me laugh: Figgins and Rachel, “That’s So Rachel,” I fed my worm to a warbler. Blaine and Bears.

What made me sniffle: Rachel singing her soul out, the unhitching of Klaine, the separate lonely heartbreak of Kurt, Blaine and Rachel, the echo of Finn…

What made me side-eye: Nothing. Not a thing. Seriously.

What I’m listening to on repeat: “Suddenly Seymour,” “Sing” and “Let It Go” which is the tri-fecta of Rachel Berry finding her sea legs again – with the help of Blaine Anderson.

What I’m looking forward to next week: “Homecoming” is awesome and I can’t wait to talk newbies and meta with you!