I swear to god, Glee if you are teasing me, it may permanently ruin my relationship with this show. The first half of season 3 of Glee was, to put it lightly, problematic. Characters were acting in absolutely insane ways, stories that no one in the fandom enjoyed were lasting way too long, and the show was just starting to not feel like the Glee we knew and loved anymore. The mid-season premiere was a strong (if not amazing) return to form for the series as every character seemed to be operating in the frame of reference of how these characters have been behaving all series rather than just during their manic detours. Well, it’s the time of year again for the show’s “tribute” episode, and without a doubt, this was the best tribute episode of the series because it managed to tell several vastly important tales that contributed to the season long arcs of the show (unlike say “The Power of Madonna”) and it was actually a good episode with awesome performances (unlike “Brittany/Britney”). All in all, “Michael” was a resounding success and maybe Glee has finally found its footing again.

After the New Directions decide to do Michael Jackson numbers at Regionals (after kicking so much ass with Jackson family songs at Sectionals), there plans are ruined when Blaine accidentally lets slip to Sebastian the New Directions plans and the Warblers decide to do MJ tracks (since they’ll be performing first and they want to steal the New Directions’ thunder). The New Directions decide to challenge the Warblers to a sing/dance-off in a parking garage that takes a turn for the worse when Sebastian splashes a slushy in Blaine’s face filled with rock salt. While the gang initially wants to return violence with violence, cooler heads prevail and instead Santana tricks Sebastian into admitting what he did with a hidden tape. For whatever reason (that I’m literally unable to comprehend), the New Directions decide not to release this information of felonious assault to the police and instead just use it to show the Warblers (who are mostly good people) just what kind of man Sebastian really is. Since Sue has taken such a minor role this season (especially after losing her election to Congress), Sebastian seems to be the new villain in town, and even Jessie St. James wouldn’t have stooped so low as to hurt one of the New Directions.

That may (with the exception of the Sebastian stuff) seem very self-contained but it was the episodes various subplots that tied it all together with the season’s biggest stories. After Finn proposed to Rachel last week, Rachel needed time to think about it (which Finn gives her because even if he’s dumb, he’s a nice guy). When Rachel consults Quinn, we discover that Quinn has been accepted to Yale and Quinn gives Rachel some cold, hard truths that if she ever wants to achieve everything she’s wanted in life, she’s going to have to break up with Finn. It looks like that’s Rachel’s plan when suddenly Burt Hummel arrives at McKinley with Kurt’s NYADA acceptance letter. Kurt’s a finalist (that scene with Burt reminds me why Burt is my second favorite TV dad of all time behind Phil Dunphy), and when Rachel finds out, she can’t be happy for her friend because she now believes this means she didn’t get in. In her grief (and this is truly what I believe caused this decision) and insecurity about her future in life, Rachel accepts Finn’s proposal (after a genuinely romantic duet). Trouble looms though because the very next day Rachel gets her very own letter from NYADA and this can only spell trouble for Finchel.

Time to grade the musical performances. For the first time in a while, Blaine got a legitimate solo with “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and it was like being reminded of why we all fell in love with him in the first place. He’s got the voice and the moves to pull off this iconic number, and Darren Criss was just awesome as usual. The choreography and the singing for their rendition of “Bad” was fun, but that whole scene of them having a West Side Story dance-off in the parking garage was just a little too ridiculous for me to take. We got to see Kevin McHale dance this week! Artie and Mike Chang took on the Michael/Janet duet “Scream” and it was awesome. Kevin McHale can dance nearly as well as Harry Shum Jr., and it’s really a shame his character is in a wheel chair. Diana Agron sounded beautiful on the Jackson 5 number “Never Can Say Goodbye.” She doesn’t get many solos and her character was Queen Bitch for most of the season, but she sounded fantastic last night. Mercedes and Sam had their first duet with “Human Nature”, and now I can’t wait for the chance to hear them singing together some more. I couldn’t get into the performance of “Ben” because A)it’s about a mouse and B) it was just so boring and stale compared to everything else from the episode. The best performance of the night (and almost of the season) was Santana and Sebastian with “Smooth Criminal.” This was the season that Naya Rivera truly came into her own, and the performance was just on fire. Also, the cellists playing during the number almost stole the whole show as well. It was just phenomenal. Lea Michele and Corey Monteith sang a wonderfully romantic version of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” that helped sell me on their love story a little more than in the past. The episode ended with a show-stopping rendition of “Black or White” that managed to incorporate the face-morphing tech from the actual video and it was all very cool and well done.

There were plenty of laughs this episode and Glee struck that perfect balance between comedy and drama that it rarely seems to nail. Whether it was Santana comparing the different reactions between taping a hidden mic to her “underboob” and what would have happened if Kurt had taped it under his junk was a laugh riot (really Naya Rivera has become an all around talent for the show). Matthew Morrison was able to make lines about slushie injuries with a completely straight face (which I would have been physically incapable of doing). Naya Rivera’s line about the “Bitch Town Express” was also great. Yet, the episode also managed to effect me emotionally. I nearly cried after Kurt got accepted as a finalist for NYADA (thanks to Mike O’Malley’s performance) and when Rachel accepted Finn’s proposal, it was very, very obvious why she was doing it thanks to Lea Michele’s nuanced and powerful performance.

Glee is a lot like True Blood and The Walking Dead. It can build up a narrative head of steam, but it seems almost inevitable that it will shoot itself in the foot at some point. I’m getting into a groove with the writing, acting, and song selections for now, and I just want Glee to keep things up. I don’t want any Sugar Motta, Shelby sleeping with students, or splinter show choirs cropping. Our time with these characters who have come to mean so much to me over these years is starting to come to an end, and I just don’t really know how the show is going to survive once they leave (though it’s rumored they’ll be back in some capacity in the future). The show just needs to stick to basics and be the Glee we fell in love with until it clears this senior year stretch. That’s all I’m asking Ryan Murphy.

Final Score: A-