Sectionals gets underway, Sam returns, Quinn has an epiphany, and Mike struggles with his future.
Kurt and Blaine worry about Sectionals at the coffee house as Sebastian joins them. After Sebastian flirts with him, Blaine gets up for more coffee. Kurt stakes his claim when it comes to Blaine, leading him and Sebastian to square off.
In order to help their chances at Sectionals, Finn and Rachel track Sam down at a bar he works at. They discover it's a strip joint and that Sam is dancing under the name White Chocolate. They meet him backstage and he explains he needs the job to help his family. Finn and Rachel urge him to come back to McKinley to rejoin the glee club. He wants to but has to ask his parents first. Finn and Rachel follow him to the house where he asks his folks if he can go back to Ohio to help with Sectionals. They'll miss him, but they allow it.
At McKinley High, Sam gets reacquainted with the glee club and bursts into Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup." Kurt seems a bit perplexed by the cup's appeal, as the rest of the gang gets into the spirit. As they walk the halls, Tina talks to Mike about applying to school for dance, but he tells her he's already applied to Stanford because of his parents. Tina urges him to pursue his passion, but Mike gets upset and walks away. In the rehearsal room, the men of glee club practice their dance moves. Sam tries to teach his cohorts how to dance sexy and not like boy band members. Blaine doesn't think they need to go that route and storms out when he and Sam get into it. Finn follows him and finds Blaine getting out his frustrations on a boxing bag. Blaine wants to know what Finn's problem is with him. Finn admits he's jealous of and threatened by him. He apologizes and they agree to work together in order to kick butt at Sectionals. Elsewhere, Sam finds Mercedes, who tells him she's moved on. Sam declares he will fight for her, which makes Mercedes smile as she walks away.
Tina visits Mike's dad to give him a DVD of his son's performance in "West Side Story." He ignores it and tells her there's only heartache and pain ahead if they pursue their creative paths. Tina urges him to let Mike honor his gift.
In the rehearsal room at Sectionals, Mike rails at Tina for talking to his dad, while the Trouble Tones mock New Directions. Quinn in turn makes innuendos about Shelby and Puck. As the first group performs on stage, Rachel finds Quinn in the hall and begs her not to tell Principal Figgins about Shelby and Puck. She wants her to talk to Shelby first. Quinn finds Shelby in the rehearsal space and tells her she's going to Figgins about her and Puck. Shelby swears she's ending it. She talks about time moving so quickly and admits she thought being with Puck would make her feel younger, but it did just the opposite. She heads out to watch the performances and suggests Quinn enjoy her time on stage.
In the auditorium, The Trouble Tones perform a mash up of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and Destiny Child's "Survivor." Next up, New Directions performs the Jackson 5's "ABC," as Mr. Chang sits in the audience. Kurt also notices Sebastian cheering in the crowd. New Directions transitions into Janet Jackson's "Control" and then Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." When they're done, a beaming Mr. Chang stands and claps along with the rest of the crowd. Afterwards, Mr. Chang gives Mike his blessing to apply to the best dance schools. Mike hugs his father, but thinks he missed the deadlines. Tina tells him she applied for him. Mike tells her how much he loves her. Back on stage, New Directions win Sectionals, leaving The Trouble Tones crushed.
The next day at school, Quinn tells Rachel she's keeping quiet about Shelby and Puck because she loves Beth and thinks she deserves a wonderful life. She thanks Rachel for helping her avoid ruining her own life and says she's considering applying to Yale. Later, Quinn asks Mercedes, Brittany and Santana to rejoin New Directions. She wants to hold on to and enjoy this time for as long as she can before they all split up. She asks them to meet them in the auditorium for a performance and they, along with Sugar, join New Directions for a rendition of "We Are Young."
While The Trouble Tones were more dynamic and entertaining, New Directions won Sectionals by performing three songs while the other teams were only allowed one or a mashup of two. Seems a bit unfair. Of course, they had to win so the whole group could get back together in order to compete in the next round. Shelby's show choir is pretty much caput now since even Sugar joined New Directions at the end. Looks like all that's left for Shelby is to break Puck's heart and leave town with Beth. Mr. Chang's acceptance of his son's passion was sweet, as was Tina having Mike's back by applying to dance schools for him. That, as well as Sam returning, was all part of the theme of "Holding on to Sixteen," which Quinn thankfully realized was what she should do. Even Shelby wanted to go back in time, but figured out sleeping with a teenager wasn't the way to do it. Moving on and getting older can be a bitch, but embracing each stage in life is what it's all about. All in all a decent message conveyed in tonight's episode that was thankfully free of Sue's over the top mean-spirited interference and Will's sappy optimism.
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- Lori Wilson