After all the glitter and excitement of last week’s episode, “The Rise and Fall of Sue Sylvester” feels like a let down when we’re treated to a full-on attack of our favorite evil cheerleading coach on Glee. Thankfully, she is vindicated in the end and the revenge does appear to be very sweet indeed, complete with cameos from Carnie Wilson, Michael Bolton and Carol Burnett.
The first thing we see is a reminder montage of all of Sue Sylvester’s (Jane Lynch) antics over the past several years, including her declaration of “World War Sue” on glee club. After that, the episode gets right to it with the first song, “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit. And for the first time in forever, the entire focus is only on glee club members actually enrolled in high school.
Blaine (Darren Criss) shows up partway through looking distraught. With Kurt (Chris Colfer) comforting him, a shell-shocked Blaine tells Will (Matthew Morrison) that Dalton Academy has burned to the ground.
This prompts Will to call an emergency glee club meeting. He informs New Directions they’ve decided to merge with The Warblers to form a glee super group. Rachel is apparently in NYC on show business. Everyone seems cool with this new development except former Dalton Academy student Jane (Samantha Ware.)
The meeting comes to an end when Sue steps into the rehearsal room wearing a festive lavender track suit and an enraged expression. She tells them, “Fly away, Warblers,” but learns from Will that Superintendent Bob Harris (Christopher Cousins) has already sanctioned the union.
We abruptly cut to Becky (Lauren Potter) screaming something unintelligible at Sue in her office. Her suspiciously perfect boyfriend translates that she’s upset with Sue for trying to kick out The Warblers after the sudden and devastating loss of their school. Before storming off, Becky yells, “You’re evil, Sue Sylvester. And you’re not my friend anymore.” Sue is clearly both unnerved and pissed to see Becky go.
Meanwhile, Rachel (Lea Michele) walks through the halls of NYADA to ask for a second chance from Dean Carmen Tibideaux. It’s not looking promising.
Back in Lima, Sue strides confidently into Superintendent Harris’ office but stops dead in her tracks when she finds Will already there. Superintendent Harris tells her he’s seen her “hurt locker.” It’s not clear how he knew how to find it but whatever with trying to understand plot here.
Harris claims that the thing that most unnerved him was the strange voodoo doll Sue made of his nephew, Myron (J.J. Totah.) Speaking of whom, we haven’t seen nearly enough of that sassy gay baby this episode. However, we are treated to the nugget that Sue was featured in a spread in Penthouse. Then Harris drops an even bigger bomb: Sue is fired!
Geraldo Rivera holds a special report on Fox News about Sue’s firing. He calls her out for false allegations, including playing tambourine for Wilson Phillips and having a love child with Michael Bolton. The Sue-bashing continues via interviews with glee club members from over the years talking about her past exploits. It only serves to make me love her more!
Sue is about to storm off when she finds out it was Becky Jackson who blew the whistle on her. Sue is clearly betrayed and hurt. She tells Geraldo that she did what she did out of tough love and calls him out for his “weird, shirtless selfies.” Sue’s not pulling any punches in this interview.
In one of the few positive portraits, Coach Beiste (Dot Jones) outs herself as a Sue supporter. Then, Carol Burnett shows up as Sue’s mom, giving Geraldo the exclusive that Sue was “the daughter that I just couldn’t love.” To this, Sue cold-cocks Geraldo in the nose before storming off. It’s all very retro.
Will’s gives an interview, in which he calls Sue a “fighter” and says she has made them all work harder: “She is not a nice person” but she “deserves a second chance.”
In the auditorium, Sue has a meeting with her “mother,” a title that she herself air-quotes. They both agree they weren’t nice to each other during Sue’s childhood. The ousted principal grudgingly admits, “My earliest memories are trying to light you on fire.” We see the origin of her hatred of musicals. But at the end, as a peace offering, Sue sings “The Trolley Song” with her mom, as made famous by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis.
Rachel meets with Mercedes (Amber Riley), Sam (Chord Overstreet) and Blaine to tell them about how she is writing a letter to try and convince the dean of NYADA to let her back in. Rachel is interrupted by a call from NYC. The call was from the producer for the Russell Simmons show she auditioned for and she learns she got the part.
Will runs the combined glee club members through their newest choreography and they bicker over costumes. The Warblers resist giving up their blazers, asserting, “It elevates anyone who wears it to sex symbol status.” To this, Myron interjects, “Wait, I’ll take one.”
This discussion is interrupted by Coach Beiste, who announces that Sue is the new coach of Vocal Adrenaline. From there, we venture to Carmel High to see Sue show up and immediately start negging Vocal Adrenaline hella hard. She runs them through “the Barftron 2000,” a five-hour workout routine intended to make them vomit with exhaustion.
They kick it off with “Far From Over” from Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive. It’s ’80s fabulous, complete with leg warmers and Vocal Adrenaline crushing the over-the-top workout. This is more like it! I love a triumphant Sue. They tell her they’d be honored to have her for their coach. I’m confused — am I not supposed to root for them?
Rachel tears through costumes when Sam walks in to tell her he thinks she should reconsider trying to go back to NYADA. They’re interrupted by yet another phone call on Rachel’s phone. Conveniently, Rachel learns in that moment, she’s been allowed to return to NYADA. She doesn’t want to go but Sam insists that she should re-enroll. I’m not sure why exactly. Rachel storms off. There’s been a lot of storming off this episode.
Will and Sam discussing Rachel in the hall is interrupted by Sue jamming “The Final Countdown” on a giant church organ in the auditorium. She fumes about betrayal. This segues into Sue and Will facing off for a performance of the Europe hit, complete with giant ’80s hair.
After this display, the glee club coaches learn that Myron found out that if New Directions don’t win, all funding for the arts will go away. His outraged response is, “But what am I going to do with all my sequined jackets?” After their initial shock, the glee club powers that be gird their loins for another fight.
The last song of the episode is a performance from New Directions/The Warblers of “Rise” by Shawn McDonald with all the glee club members donning new customized red blazers with white trim. And I have to say is, for a club faced with potential financial ruin, they sure have no problem dropping cash for some new costumes.