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Warning: The following article contains spoilers from Thursday's episode of "Glee."
"Glee" fans likely wouldn't rate the show's Cory Monteith tribute episode — titled "The Quarterback" — by stars or thumbs up, but rather in the number of tissues they had to keep pulling from their Kleenex boxes.
The episode, which marked the series' official goodbye to the late Monteith and his Finn Hudson character, was heavy handed at times; we got multiple reminders that it didn't matter how Finn (and by extension, Monteith) died, and the episode ended without the audience being privy to the character's cause of death.
"Everyone wants to talk about how he died, too, but who cares?" said Finn's stepbrother, Kurt (Chris Colfer). "One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived, and anyone who has a problem with that should remember that he was my brother."
And though the various characters' reactions to Finn's (and, again, by extension, Monteith's) death played out like an old school afterschool special — Puck (Mark Salling) felt lost without Finn to steer him, Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) couldn't cry because he felt he had to be strong for everyone else, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) was being mean to hide her guilt about not being nicer to Finn — it was an affecting send-off to the character, and the actor, who died from an accidental drug overdose in July.
The episode was also a ratings winner for Fox, drawing 7.4 million viewers, which is a 40 percent increase over ratings for the fifth season premiere, and a whopping 75 percent increase in the 18-49 demographic versus last week's "Glee" episode.
Lea Michele's "Make You Feel My Love"
Michele's haunting cover of the Bob Dylan-penned tune was a complete tearjerker, all the more so because it came in the final third of the episode, when her Rachel made her first appearance.
"I don't know what to say either," Rachel told her fellow Finn mourners. "I loved Finn, and he loved me, and he loved all of you guys. I know he did. I like to sing in the car, and before Finn I used to sing alone, and this was the first song I sang with him when we would drive around together, so this is for him." She also left a plaque in the glee club room, with a photo of Finn and his quote, "The show must go … all over the place … or something."
Michele, whose character was once engaged to Finn on the show, dated Monteith in real life. Series creator Ryan Murphy said most of the performances in "The Quarterback" were filmed in one take, making her emotional ballad — and her ability to get through it — all the more impressive.
Chord Overstreet and Kevin McHale's "Fire and Rain"
The duo's cover of the James Taylor classic — which he has said was inspired by his own struggles with drug addiction — was a poignant nod to Monteith. Unlike several other characters, neither Overstreet's Sam nor McHale's Artie got individual storylines covering how they were dealing with Finn's death, but their musical number was a fitting tribute.
Ditto the Amber Riley-led "I'll Stand By You," which stood in for her character, Mercedes, bidding Finn/Monteith an individual goodbye, as well as the cast cover of the "Rent" classic "Seasons of Love," which opened the episode with a photo of Finn in his football uniform.
Finn's Football Jacket
Tying together that Finn was the quarterback of the football team and the leader of the glee club, and that Monteith's co-stars had called him their quarterback for the series, the writers used Finn's football letterman jacket to tie together the characters' grief. Kurt first staked a claim on the jacket, wearing it to feel closer to Finn, while helping his dad and Finn's mom pack up Finn's belongings. Puck, who was dealing with his best friend's death by drinking a lot and stealing Finn's memorial tree, asked Kurt if he could have the jacket as a reminder of Finn. Kurt gave it instead to Santana (Naya Rivera), after she broke down while trying to eschew her mean girl ways and tell everyone about all the nice things Finn had done for her.
But when Santana laid down for a brief "grief siesta" (there were a few moments of levity during "The Quarterback"), the jacket went missing, and Puck was the main suspect. In the end, Mr. Schue went home, sat on his couch, pulled the jacket out of his bag, and began to sob into it, finally expressing his sadness about losing one of his favorite students.
"The Quarterback" ended with a PSA for addiction hotline 1-800-662-HELP, as "Glee" star Lynch said, "Our friend Cory didn't look or act like an addict. He was happy, successful, and seemingly had it all," while co-star Morrison added, "Addiction is a serious disease that can hide in plain sight."
The cast's reaction to the episode:
Michele asked fans to make a donation to Chrysalis, a charity she and Monteith supported. She tweeted, "TEXT CHANCE to 50555 to give $10 to @ChrysalisLA an amazing org that Cory and I supported together #chance2change pic.twitter.com/mcmAyVQDEK," along with one of her favorite photos of the couple.
— Lea Michele (@msleamichele) October 11, 2013
McHale tweeted, "Tonight's Glee was made out of a lot of love & a lot of tears by our incredible crew, cast & creators for our friend Cory. We miss you Cory."
Tonights Glee was made out of a lot of love & a lot of tears by our incredible crew, cast & creators for our friend Cory. We miss you Cory
— Kevin McHale (@druidDUDE) October 11, 2013
And Mike O'Malley, who plays Kurt's dad/Finn's stepdad Burt on "Glee," called the tribute "one of the most beautiful episodes they've ever written on that show," during an appearance on "Ellen" on Thursday. "You realize when doing this episode, it's about someone who's gone … you wanted to honor him. You wanted to honor his life. It's really emotional for an audience, whether you knew him personally or not."
As for reaction to the decision not to reveal how the Finn character died, fans were split on Twitter.
— Brian Cantor (@cantorpedia) October 11, 2013
Without knowing the cause of death and not seeing the funeral, it kind of feels as if Finn didn't actually die... That's probably just me.
— Forever Montourage (@FinchelFanatic) October 11, 2013
And @Luvvie said:
I get why they chose to not address Finn's cause of death but it feels like a giant pink elephant in the room. #GLEE
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) October 11, 2013
But @alicepoint said:
#FarewelltoFinn Well done glee writers for focusing on remember Finn Hudson/Cory Monteith & not his cause of death. May he rest in peace :)
— Alice (@alicepoint) October 11, 2013
And added @ThizNameSux:
I like that they didn't say the cause of Finn's death I didnt want them to make up some cliche thing but I also didnt want the real reason
— Om ૐ (@ThizNameSux) October 11, 2013
What did you think of "The Quarterback"? Do you feel like you got to say a proper goodbye to Finn Hudson?