Nationals arrive in a melancholy 99th episode as the New Directions heads to Los Angeles to defend their national championship with the future existence of the Glee Club on the line. Armed with a mission to win one for Finn (Cory Monteith), whose parents (Mike O’Malley, Romy Rosemont) accompany the team as chaperones, and rising to the challenge presented to him by Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison), Sam (Chord Overstreet) leads the team into competition against Throat Explosion and The Amazonians.
With the New York group getting only a cameo in the episode’s final scene, and Marley getting a subplot involving her serious consideration of leaving the club after Nationals but no solo, several of the show’s best singers aren’t highlighted. However, the episode works in furthering the arc of Sam who rises up to help Blaine (Darren Criss) lead the team to a second-place finish that’s almost, but not quite, good enough to beat Jean-Baptiste (Pitch Perfect‘s Skylar Astin) and Throat Explosion from taking home the trophy this year. If we don’t get much musically from the show’s bigger performers, it is a pleasant surprise to see Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) offered a chance to shine on stage in the senior’s last big moment at Nationals.
The epilogue features a dejected group unable to enjoy their second-place finish and Sue (Jane Lynch) making good on her threat to cut the funding of the club at the end of the year. Moving forward to next week’s 100th episode featuring the return of Quinn (Dianna Agron) and 13 musical numbers (most of them fan-chosen), morale is at an all-time low. Seeing how the show will be returning for a final season next year I’m betting the quest to save the club begins next week and will likely culminate in the season’s finale.
For their performances at Nationals Blaine and Tina lead the group in Boston‘s “More Than a Feeling,” and the group also performs Neil Diamond‘s “America” and U2‘s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Throat Explosion delivers an impressive (and award-worthy) performance of Styx‘s “Mr. Roboto” and One Republic‘s “Counting Stars.” And The Amazonians offer up The Go-Go‘s “Vacation” (along with an unseen Belinda Carlisle mashup). The episode also includes a montage set to The New Directions’ performance of Randy Newman‘s “I Love L.A.“