One of the golden threads that runs consistently through ‘Glee’ is that one should follow one’s dreams, wherever they may lead. This idea has given us the dizzying highs of Kurt’s refusal to compromise who he is and Rachel’s refusal to take “no” for an answer from NYADA. It’s also given us crashing lows like Artie’s inability to walk even with a ReWalk device and Finn’s heartbreaking decision to set Rachel free to follow her own dreams in New York. This episode, aptly titled “Sweet Dreams”, gives the New Directions their theme for Regionals — “Dreams”. (You may have noticed that subtlety is not one of this show’s strong points…)
Some of our favorite graduates are finally learning how to turn their dreams into reality – Rachel is auditioning for a revival of “Funny Girl”, and Finn has enrolled at the University of Lima to become a teacher. He’s even noticed that working at something you love doesn’t really feel like work at all. (To be fair, I’ve never thought that Finn was as dim as some of ‘Glee’s writers make him out to be.) Puck shows up to ‘work on his screenplay’ and to keep an eye on Finn; as he tells his friend, “Dude, I’m just here for my bro, some brews, and the bountiful Bettys. I love college!”
Things are a little more tense at McKinley High, where teachers and students alike are still recovering from last week’s gun incident. Tina’s gone all steampunk, Unique is popping birth control pills like candy, and Sam now has a “smarter twin brother” named Evan. Mr. Schue decides that the Regionals theme calls for a fairly literal interpretation, and unveils a set list that would have been dated a decade ago. (Seriously, the last time I heard “Dreamweaver” was in the first “Wayne’s World” movie!) Marley suggests using one of her own original songs instead, but Mr. Schue turns her down cold. On the upside, he has the good sense to take Coach Beiste’s advice about making amends with Finn. Schue tracks Finn down at a fairly killer dorm party and tries to apologize, but Finn’s having none of it. After watching Schue be a complete jerk in most of this episode, I found it quite satisfying to see him get blown off because of it.
Meanwhile, Rachel is doing her “hello gorgeous!” best to channel Barbra in preparation for her “Funny Girl” audition. The shrine she’s built to her Broadway idol (complete with hats, props and photos of Babs’ husbands!) is disturbingly amusing. This is the driven Rachel Berry we all know and love. She’s at a piano in one of NYADA’s practice rooms, getting ready to rehearse a Barbra standard, when she’s greeted by her birth mother, Shelby (Idina Menzel). Shelby reminds Rachel that the reason Barbra is a legend is that she’s an original. She didn’t reach stardom by being a clone of anybody else, and Rachel won’t either. Shelby implores Rachel not to sing a Barbra song for her audition, and they share a lovely duet.
Back at the high school, Blaine invokes his power as the “honorary Rachel” to call a secret meeting of the glee club to figure out how to talk Schue out of his ridiculous Regionals set list. Marley again suggests using one of her original songs, and Kitty takes full honors for line of the night with her hilariously offensive use of the word “octoroon”. They take their ideas to the next glee club meeting, and Schue blows up at all of them. He stalks out of the choir room and leaves the New Directions to contemplate musical oblivion if they stick with his ideas.
Finn and Puck are finding their footing at school, and manage to get invited to join the party fraternity on campus after providing live music for one of its parties when the sound system breaks. After this party, Finn gets a call from Rachel. She wants to check in with him, congratulate him for enrolling in school, and to pick his brain about her upcoming audition. Again, this is the driven Rachel we’ve all grown to love. Finn still loves her too, and proves it with the advice he gives her. He doesn’t tell her what to sing, just reminds her that she’s at her best when she does something that’s at the root of her passion. She takes this wonderful advice in the best possible way, and goes back to what made us all fall in love with ‘Glee’ and Rachel Berry in the first place. “I’ll be singing a classic,” she says, and then the opening piano chords of “Don’t Stop Believin’” ring out on the audition stage. She begins to sing, and we’re transported into her imagination. All the original New Directions are there with her for a recreation of that iconic first number that cemented them as a team. When she finishes, one of the producers asks her what she was thinking during her performance. She explains that she was thinking of her friends and how she wouldn’t be where she is today without them.
In an echo back to that original glee club performance, Schue watches a small group of the kids perform Marley’s original song and seems to realize that he’s been wrong. He apologizes to them, and offers to change up the set list. Finn also accepts his apology after being called out (by Puck, of all people!) for partying too hard and not setting high enough standards for himself. Puck has decided once and for all that he’s not going to be a Lima Loser, and he’s not going to sit by and watch Finn settle for being one, either. So Finn’s back as co-leader of the New Directions with Mr. Schue, this time for college credit. Not too shabby for a kid who took most of this season to figure out what he wanted to be when he grows up…
Back in the Bushwick loft, Kurt is baking cookies and generally being sweet while Rachel dies a thousand deaths waiting for the results of her audition. She tells him that she doesn’t regret not singing Barbra, but seems resigned to what she thinks is her fate (rejection). She even starts telling Kurt about a production of “Sweeney Todd”, when her phone rings. She doesn’t have the part yet, but they liked her enough for a callback. She and Kurt jump around the loft with sweet abandon, and all is once again right in the ‘Glee’-verse. Now if they can just put my Finn and Rachel back together for good, I’ll be a happy little shipper!