SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers from Thursday's "Shooting Star" episode of "Glee."
The students and teachers are forever changed when the sounds of gunshots echo through McKinley High's halls.
The tense emotional episode featured many harrowing moments, like a tearful Brittany silently standing on a toilet. But there are also many "I love you's" -- from Mr. Schue to Coach Beiste, from Blaine to Tina, from Jake to big brother Puck, between Brittany and Sam, and from Artie to everyone in a taped video message.
The episode was highly divisive. A contingent of fans and TV critics on Twitter believed "Glee" handled the shooting with delicacy.
I'm glad they made this episode though. That's what I love about Glee. They cover actual events that could happen to anyone. Bravo #Glee— 2 days til my b-day! (@LopezRichtrArmy) April 12, 2013
#Glee tackled an issue. Did it do it perfectly? No. Did it try, and deliver strong performances? Yes. And that sometimes needs to be enough.— damianholbrook (@TVGMDamian) April 12, 2013
Creator Ryan Murphy declared on Twitter that he was "so proud" of the "most powerful emotional 'Glee' ever."
But there were others who believed the subject matter was too close to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Before the show aired, one victims' advocacy group warned viewers not to watch. Some Twitter users agreed that it was exploitative:
The problem with this ep of #glee is that it felt like a stunt, not an attempt to deal with a real issue.— Hannah Ellison (@hanellison) April 12, 2013
#glee crossed a line tonight. A school shooting or the appearance of one is not for entertainment value.— Nina Gardner (@NinaintheChi) April 12, 2013
One parent whose children survived the Sandy Hook tragedy wished Fox had at least warned the community about the episode.
"We have no problem -- at least the parents I've spoken to -- that they aired an episode that had a school shooting. It's reality, it happened. It happened here, it happened at Columbine, it happened in many other places," he told CNN. "What's really upsetting is that no one -- none of the producers -- reached out to the town of Newtown to let us residents who are so close to this know that this episode was airing."
This is a particularly sensitive time when it comes to the issue of guns -- the Senate recently opened debate on background check legislation, and other lawmakers are considering proposing improvements to the mental health system.
On "Glee," no one is hurt in the shooting, though the incident brings about one shocking event: Sue Sylvester is fired when she claims responsibility for bringing the gun to school. She tells the principal that she kept a gun in her office for safety reasons, and that the "Uma Thurman" (as she calls it) accidentally went off when she was checking it. But from a flashback, we see that she's lying -- it was Cheerio Becky who brought the gun to school to protect herself from bullies.
As much of a jerk Sue is, she really has a good heart deep down and will do anything for the people she loves. #Glee— Marie Atchley (@marieyelhcta) April 12, 2013
Still, Sue is ousted, leaving us to wonder what will happen to Jane Lynch for the rest of the season. Is she completely off the show? Will Mr. Schue find out the truth from Becky and get Sue rehired?
Aside from the shooting, the episode had a "catfish"-type storyline, and no Rachel (or any of the other kids in New York).
Better yet, why am I still watching this show? Where's Rachel and Kurt? #Glee— Amanda(@ohhmenna) April 12, 2013
Check out our full recap:
The End of the World As We Know It
Brittany enters the glee club declaring that a deadly asteroid/meteor/comet thingy is heading to Lima to wipe them all out. And she wants to make sure a special someone knows how much she loves them -- Lord Tubbington!
Mr. Schue decides to use the possible destruction of the Earth to set up a theme for Regionals: "Last Chances." "Bruce Springsteen plays every show like it's his last," he says.
After the meeting, Ryder tells Jake that he saw his online crush Katie at school. A cautious Jake first warns him to slow down, but when Ryder insists on trying to find her, helps him come up with a plan. So, Ryder finds Katie and serenades her with Elton John's "Your Song" (dreamy sigh).
A stunned Katie asks, "Why me?" Well, duh because she's been texting, Facebook-ing, and messaging him for weeks! Or not. Katie isn't Katie after all! She's Marissa, and he's been catfished!
An upset Ryder accuses Jake and Marley of pulling the prank on him. They deny it, but he storms off. When he texts "Katie" demanding to know what's going on, she promises to meet him after school the next day to explain.
In the auditorium, Sam, Brittany, and the rest of the club light a candle as they sing a haunting, soulful rendition of Extreme's "More Than Words" to -- of course -- Lord Tubbington. Well, at least the cat gets some love before the meteor strikes.
Someone not getting the love? Coach Beiste. She prepares a lavish spaghetti feast for Will (cooked in the hot tub, which is gross, but it's the thought that counts). "I have punched a charging hippo square in the face and not been as scared as I am right now," she admits, and then professes her feelings for him. An apologetic Will is flattered, but says he's back together with Emma. Beiste leaves in tears. Awww!
At astronomy club, Brittany makes a discovery: The comet thingy was actually a dead ladybug at the end of her telescope, and her telescope was really a Pringles can. When the club disbands, Becky comes up to her and pleads with her to not graduate so they can both stay together at McKinley High.
A sympathetic Brittany says she has to move on, and so does Becky. "If you really prepare yourself, the world won't seem like such a scary place," Brittany says.
I love when the writers let Brittany be smart and sincere. She's been too much of a joke lately. Sweet scene between her and Becky :) #glee— Brianna (@MissBriannaJD) April 12, 2013
Mr. Schue gathers Beiste and everyone together for a "thank God the world isn't ending" glee club meeting when they hear two gunshots followed by screams. Everyone in the room scrambles, shutting off the lights, locking the door, hiding behind instruments.
The room grows quiet, and the atmosphere is tense and frightening. People start to cry. Will encourages them to text and tweet their loved ones. "I love you guys," he whispers.
An emotional Sam tries to leave to find Brittany, who went to the bathroom. Blaine's also worried about Tina. Marley is hysterical because she can't reach her mom (who's hunkered down in the lunchroom far from her phone). Artie is filming video messages. Ryder tells his dad he loves him. Jake sends his love to his mom and Puck. Ryder calls Katie -- and is shocked when a phone starts ringing in the room. Everyone whisper-shouts at him to end the call before he can figure out whose bag it's in.
Outside, a horde of students leaves the school, but all Tina wants to do is get back in to be with her friends. In the bathroom, Brittany is standing on a toilet, with tears threatening to spill. Suddenly, someone comes in and she holds her breath. Just when she's about to start sobbing, she hears her name -- it's Mr. Schue!
He shepherds her and a few others back to the music room. Then, they hear "all clear!" and everyone is safe. Nobody in the school was hurt.
NEXT: Who brought the gun to school?
The next day, police are combing the lockers and have set up metal detectors. They haven't found the gun, though, so Will says they're going to interview every student.
When she hears this, Sue goes to Principal Figgins and 'fesses up: It was her gun. She kept one in her office because she felt safer with it there. While checking "Uma Thurman," it accidentally went off. A stern Figgins tells her his hands are tied -- there are zero-tolerance policies in place.
Sue knows. Sadly, she recounts how many Cheerios she's sent to the Ivy League, how many have gone on to become CEOs, Olympians, etc. Yet, "All I'll be remembered for is this one thing." No, Sue!
I cannot believe this is really happening right now!!!! Sue's gun?!?! She accidently set it off?! SHE'S FIRED!! This is too much!! #glee— Marissa Sackrider (@marissa519) April 12, 2013
In the halls, friends are reunited and bond over the terrifying experience. Tina tells Blaine that he's her family and she was upset that the last thing he heard from her was a snarky comment about not getting solos. He laughs. "I love you, Tina," Blaine says.
Will shows Shannon an online dating profile he made for her. She is touched by how much he knows about her and they hug.
And then there's Brittany and Sam. They confess they couldn't stop thinking about each other during the shooting. Then, Sam says because they already had a fake wedding, they should start a fake family. He opens a bag to reveal Lady Tubbington! Cute! (Though, poor thing was in that bag in a locker all that time.) They exchange kisses and "I love you's."
In Sue's office, Will confronts her about the gun. It doesn't seem like her -- and that's because it isn't! In a flashback, we see that it was Becky who brought the gun to school (taking Brittany's advice too far). When Sue tried to take it from her, Becky dropped it and it went off. So, Sue's taking the blame! As she packs up her stuff, she asks Will to keep an eye on Becky, who's "tough, but like all the kids, she gets scared sometimes." You can say a lot about Sue, but she's always been there for her students.
As the rest of the glee club gathers together, singing John Mayer's "Say," Ryder is waiting for his catfish. Earlier, he'd confronted Kitty about it, but she denied being "Katie." He waits, and waits -- and she never shows. He runs to join his fellow gleeks. Whoever "Katie" is, we'll find out another day.
I'm so mad that "Katie" didn't show up. That's the chicken way out. Give Ryder some closure so that he can move on! #Glee— Cassandra Haines (@11Cassaroo11) April 12, 2013
As the song ends, we see a few more video messages, including one from Artie: "I just wanted to say I've had the best experience of my entire life in this room. I love these people more than anything."
What did you think of "Shooting Star"? What's next for Sue? Did you miss the original cast members? Share your reactions in the comments.
"Glee" airs Thursdays at 9 PM on Fox.