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This article is about the episode. You may be looking for the show choir competition level with the same name.

Nationals is the twenty-first episode of Glee's third season and it is the sixty-fifth episode overall. It premiered on May 15, 2012.

The New Directions are stressed with Nationals approaching and as they all try to come together, things quickly unravel. Mercedes is sick in bed, Quinn's struggling with the dancing, Puck's trying to cram in his studying, Rachel fears her dreams aren't coming true, while Will is doubting the last three years, and even the star of Vocal Adrenaline is on the verge of backing out. If they want to win this, New Directions are going to have to work together.

The episode was directed by Eric Stoltz and written by Allison Adler.



In Chicago for Nationals, Will is distressed to find Sue and the Glee girls tending to an ailing Mercedes, who has a nasty case of food poisoning, to which Santana Lopez says that they had gone to Chipotle and had food poisoning when trying a new soda thing. Sue overreacts with healthcare tough-love, but at least she shows a continued dedication to the show choir's nationals bid. Meanwhile, Will drafts a nervous, reluctant Quinn to sub for Mercedes in the Troubletones number. When she expresses her reluctance, Will also adds a supportive Tina.

Emma finds Will sitting outside their hotel room, fretting about the prospect of losing the competition. He worries that the New Directions never get to score their biggest victories, and he imagines what just one major win could do for their confidence and pride throughout their lives. Then coach Beiste calls them down to manage a new crisis: Will and Emma discover the students in the midst of chaotic bickering, with Sam and Puck about to come to blows because Puck's studying for his crucial geography exam rather than focusing on mastering the choreography.


Everyone seems to be in the midst of a meltdown after relentless rehearsing, but Santana calls for an end to the "we can't win without Mercedes" whining, demanding that they embrace reality and give it everything they've got. She's afraid Will's going to scold her for yelling at her friends, but Will's actually impressed at the amount of passion he sees in all of them. Quinn says she was going to be dancing for Nationals, but she was worried about dancing Edge of Glory. Will knows that they really want this, and though he offers them a break, they decide to keep practicing. Artie helps Puck practice for his Geography Exam retake, while the girls rehearse Edge of Glory. Quinn has some trouble dancing and trips, and Will makes sure she's okay, and they continue to practice.



runs into Jesse outside the hall, who taunts her by somehow knowing that she's scanning the arriving crowd for NYADA's Carmen Tibideaux in hopes that she'll get a second shot at getting into the arts college. As he tries to get under her skin, she points out that they dated long enough to know that when Jesse gets nervous he gets mean. He relents and admits that Vocal Adrenaline's loss at last year's Nationals broke their eight-year winning streak. Another loss would mean the end of the school's show choir dynasty and spark a reboot of the program. He's struggling with the new rules, but Rachel reminds him that his past performances (Bohemian Rhapsody) set the gold standard for show choirs for years.

Rachel's words ease Jesse's nerves. When Finn arrives, she walks away, and he and Jesse share a tense moment until Jesse ultimately congratulates Finn on his engagement to Rachel, resulting in the two shaking hands.

Backstage, Finn reveals to Rachel that he's bought a glass mug from Chicago for them to smash during the Jewish portion of their wedding ceremony - he wants it to symbolize the city where everything changed and New Directions went from losers to winners. Finn also made a $500 bet with hockey jock Rick "The Stick" Nelson that New Directions would win nationals - money they'd saved for their honeymoon. Rachel's worried they'll lose it all, but Finn is confident he'll double their money. And he says that Carmen Tibideaux will show up, then they'll get married, smash the glass, and live happily ever after.

When Will goes backstage to provide a final pep talk, he's taken aback when Finn speaks on behalf of all the students, telling Will they want to win Nationals for him after they had all talked about it the night before while Will was in bed. Finn says that while Principal Figgins awards a Teacher of the Year honor, they consider Will to be their Teacher of a Lifetime.

Mercedes makes a surprise arrival, healthy and ready to perform, thanks to Sue's intense regimen. Quinn's relieved that she won't have to dance; she's still feeling nervous since getting back on her feet. But Mercedes insists that because it's their last time sharing the stage together, she wants Quinn and Tina performing alongside her.

As he settles into the audience with Emma, Sue, and Shannon, Will worries about the odds stacked against the glee club. They have the first slot in the competition - the "death slot" - Mercedes is still feverish, Quinn's dancing is still shaky and Carmen Tibideaux remains nowhere to be seen. Emma calmly reassures him that everything will be fine.

Santana,Tina and a Troubletones member in "The Edge of Glory"

The judging lineup is an eclectic assembly: actress Lindsay Lohan, gossip blogger Perez Hilton, and Chicago assemblyman Martin Fong. New Directions' performance begins with the Troubletones singing Edge of Glory, with Santana initially taking center stage. Then Mercedes, Quinn, and Tina each take a turn in the spotlight.

The audience's enthusiastic reception doesn't help Rachel from noticing that Tibideaux's seat remains empty. Finn tries to rally her spirits. No matter what, he says, this is her moment, three years in the making, and she should embrace it.

As the crowd noise fades out in her ears, Rachel takes center stage for her solo, belting out a powerful rendition of Jim Steinman song by Céline Dion's It's All Coming Back to Me Now. The crowd is spellbound, and Rachel spots Tibideaux taking her seat in the audience halfway through the performance. Emboldened, she finishes strong with a smile on a

Rachel sing "It's All Coming Back to Me Now"

face and the crowd in a frenzy. Next up, New Directions delivers Jim Steinman song by Meat Loaf's Paradise by the Dashboard Light featuring a variety of members in solos. The performance is dazzling, and the audience explodes with applause - even Carmen Tibideaux can't

"Paradise By the Dashboard Light"

resist rising to her feet and whistling in appreciation.

Kurt and Mercedes then head to the dressing room of Vocal Adrenaline's Unique, hoping to deliver a white rose.  They find Unique in a frazzled state, unable to summon up confidence. She's feeling too much pressure to perform, combined with the worry of people not accepting her true self. It's not the same as when she was just trying to be who she is inside - now, she tells them, she feels like "the poster child for anyone who's different, and I just can't handle it."

They give her the rose and remind her that a real star will be able to push through the nerves and insecurity. Unique wonders if they are supposed to be enemies, but Kurt tells her that's not really New Directions' style. As they leave, Unique suggests that she may transfer schools next year, making them turn in surprise.

The Adrenaline star is Unique. She sings "Starships"

Unique takes the stage at the center of Vocal Adrenaline, delivering Nicki Minaj's Starships. Even the New Directions students are stunned by the performance, as Unique segues into The Who's Pinball Wizard from the rock opera "Tommy" and continues to knock out the audience.

In the judges' conference room, Assemblyman Fong rambles on about how much of a show choir junkie he is, while Lindsay Lohan is irritated with Perez Hilton for blogging about her during the performances. Perez challenges Lindsay's love of show choir, but Fong reminds him that she was a 12-time Teen Choice nominee. Lindsay agrees that she knows what it's like to chase a dream, and she wants to support the students.

The judges begin trying to narrow down the contenders, with Perez impressed by the Portland Scale Blazers' "haunting medley homage to 'Starlight Express'" - on roller skates, even. Fong was taken by New Directions' energy, though he remembers them choking in New York the previous year. Lindsay doesn't think New Directions were the best singers and dancers - but she found them likable and favors a team on the brink of a major comeback. However, Perez hated them - he's for Vocal Adrenaline and believes Unique is a star- "like Tina and Ike Turner together." He wants to send a message to the outcast kids watching - though Fong points out that nationals isn't televised, prompting a surprised Lindsay, in "full image rehab mode," to want to fire her manager (a detail Perez instantly posts). With time ticking away, they decide to cast their final votes. Jesse stops Carmen in the lobby, reminding her that when he auditioned for her a few years ago, she told him he showed promise. She acknowledges that she probably did say that, but adds that she auditions hundreds each year and attempts to blow off what she thinks is going to be a professional appeal. Jesse insists she listen: he wants to tell her that Rachel is the most talented person he knows, she'll definitely be a star one day, and she'd be an excellent addition to NYADA. Tibideaux responds by recalling Jesse's audition with "Giants in the Sky," a flawed but passionate and admirable attempt at what may be Stephen Sondheim's most challenging song. She wishes him good luck.

The judges present the individual MVP award, which goes to Unique. Third place goes to the Portland Scale Blazers, leaving New Directions and Vocal Adrenaline to vie for the top prize. After an agonizing wait, the winner is named... New Directions! Will and the club are overwhelmed with happiness and emotion as confetti falls, the audience cheers and three years of hard work have finally paid off as the new national champions are given their trophy. As the show choir returns to McKinley carrying the Nationals trophy, they enter the hallways and find themselves surrounded by indifferent-looking fellow students. The hockey goons march toward them, slushie cups in their hands. The glee kids brace to be slushied, but instead the cups shower them 


with confetti. New Directions is then given a hero's welcome while Tongue Tied plays in the background, with everyone suddenly finding themselves to be the most popular students in school. The whole day becomes one of celebration, as students line the halls to congratulate the Glee club on their achievement while Will is congratulated by his fellow teachers while Emma reveals that New Directions' victory made the front page of the Lima News. McKinley High receives the $10,000 prize money, Sue usurps Roz Washington and regains her Cheerios, Emma shows Will that she's finally ready to get physically intimate (with the two consummating their relationship that evening), Finn collects his $500 from Rick "the Stick," Rachel signs her first autograph, and the trophy is placed in the display case for everyone to see.

Principal Figgins calls Finn and Rachel to his office, where for their role as co-captains of the glee club he gifts them with McKinley bumper stickers and mini-pompons, as well as cash ($5) to help celebrate their impending wedding. He also tells them that the school will be hosting a very special event, and he wants New Directions to perform. When asked what the event is, Figgins grins and asks "Can you keep a secret?"

As Emma tenderly helps Will dress for the McKinley event, Will thanks her - not just for their first night of passion, but for standing by him throughout the long road to nationals. They're interrupted by a top hat-sporting, formal black track-suited Sue.

As they enter the school, Sue tells them that according to her source - Becky Jackson hiding inside a fake filing cabinet she installed in Figgins' office - Sue is once again the likely shoo-in for Teacher of the Year, for helping New Directions win nationals, fending off Roz Washington, and regaining control of the Cheerios, all while never missing a day of work while being pregnant "for an indeterminate number of months." Will gives Sue the credit he feels she deserves, and she gladly soaks up the praise.

At the ceremony Figgins introduces "the so-called 'Finchel,'" and Rachel and Finn take the stage to announce the winner of the 2012 Teacher of the Year Award... is Will. In the audience, Will is overwhelmed as everyone cheers him and Sue turns around to congratulate him, seemingly having known the truth.

Will as the Teacher of the Year

Before Will takes the stage, Finn wants to make a speech. He recalls how three years ago he thought he had everything, until he met Will and realized all that he was missing. He praises Will for teaching his students how to dream, adding, "As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more important than that."

Rachel tells Will that she's headed to New York "come hell or high water, and I can honestly say I couldn't have done it without you." New Directions performs Queen's We Are the Champions as they pull Will onto the stage, who tearfully thanks every member of the group before being presented with the Teacher of the Year Award as the crowd give him a standing ovation.


Song Title Original Artist Performer(s)
Edge of Glory Lady Gaga Quinn Fabray, Tina Cohen-Chang, and The Troubletones
It's All Coming Back to Me Now Celine Dion Rachel Berry with New Directions
Paradise by the Dashboard Light Meat Loaf New Directions
Starships Nicki Minaj Vocal Adrenaline
Pinball Wizard The Who
(Elton John version)
Tongue Tied GROUPLOVE New Directions
We Are the Champions Queen

Unreleased Songs

Guest Cast

Special Guest Stars

Guest Stars


  • This episode aired right after Props, making it the first time two episodes have aired on the same day, and also making it the shortest time gap between two episodes.
  • This is the second competition to feature real celebrities as judges, the first time was in Journey.
  • This episode contains Glee's 400th musical number. Source The 400th musical number is Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
  • Two versions of the victory scene were filmed. Vocal Adrenaline's win was filmed first but they didn't get confetti, whereas New Directions did get confetti.
  • In this episode Vocal Adrenaline sing more than one song for the first time.
  • During this episode, a few new things were introduced, specifically awards that are mentioned to be given out every year but has been only seen in this episode such as:
    • Will's Teacher of the Year award that Finn mentioned before their performance at Nationals. He said Figgins gives it out every year, but this is the first time it's heard and seen on Glee but in the directors cut of the Pilot you can see a photo of Will accepting it from Figgins in the copy of the yearbook Emma is looking at (a copy of that photo also hangs on the back bulletin board in Will's office).
    • Rachel mentioned a Nationals MVP award given out every year, which in the year 2012, was awarded to Unique Adams.
  • This is the first time New Directions performs first in a competition.
  • The yearbook that Rachel signed at the end is available in published form in bookstores everywhere.
  • In theory three female performers from New Directions should have had impaired singing and/or dancing abilities, but this didn't happen. Mercedes was still ill with food poisoning - it had just been repressed by Sue's remedies - Tina suffered a concussion in the previous episode - just days before Nationals - and Quinn had just learned to walk again after having been hit by a truck in On My Way.
  • The photo of Will on his award plaque is the yearbook photo seen in Mattress.
  • The songs from this episode and Props concluded the First Listen Fridays for Glee.
  • A copy of the programme from the 2011 Midwest Regionals hangs in Will's office.
  • In Latin America, the part where Santana and Brittany kiss, is cut in the dubbed version of the episode, only in the TV version. In ClaroVideo Latin America, you can see the full episode in the dubbed version.
  • This is the last episode that BrittanyMikeQuinn, and Santana sing for the rest of the season.
  • This is the first episode from a season that doesn't have a competition in a season finale. The next episode is City of Angels.
  • The dedication and remarks that Finn says in this episode are heard in the fifth season episode New Directions, as Will finally says goodbye to the now disbanded club.
  • This is the only Nationals episode where the title doesn't refer to the city where the competition is held. It is also the only Nationals episode where New Directions don't sing a song related to the city where the competition is held.
  • It can be assumed that Emma made her own way to Chicago as she was not seen on or boarding the bus to National with the others.


  • After the show circle cheer Mercedes dress straps come unloose and you can see her grabbing and fixing them before the scene cuts.
  • During the scene with the Unholy Trinity, as Santana walks away you can hear one of them say "I love you guys" or something similar to it. However, none of their lips were actually moving. 
  • After New Directions finishes their performance, Mercedes' dress straps are undone again and tucked in, which means they probably kept coming undone so she just settled for a strapless dress look. 
  • After the announcement who won Nationals, Santana was hugging Artie but in the next shot she was with Quinn and Mercedes.
  • The previous episode, Props, shows the New Directions setlist, and includes Quinn and Tina singing Edge of Glory beforehand, and not because Mercedes had food poisoning.
  • After the announcement who won Nationals, we see the same clip of Quinn lifting Santana up twice. Almost immediately after the announcement, and then after Rachel's and Mr Shue's hug.
  • When the teacher of the year award is being announced, Mr. Schuester appears to have a small lipstick smudge on his cheek. After, while hugging each glee member, Quinn, wearing red lipstick, kisses him on the cheek. This probably means the scene where the award is announced was filmed after the New Directions performed We Are The Champions.
  • When The New Directions arrive back at McKinley, Emma shows Will a newspaper with a picture of Will holding the Nationals trophy in the choir room. However, this is impossible, considering the New Directions hadn't been back to McKinley or the choir room until the scene after and Will is wearing the same outfit in the photo as he is in this scene.


You know what? You know what? Hey! I don't want to hear any of this "We can't do it without her," because guess what? We don't have a choice. So be warned: if you are not giving this everything you've got, I WILL go all Lima Heights on your sorry asses.

Santana to New Directions

Mr. Schue, when I met you I was just an annoying Jewish girl with two gay dads and a very big dream. Today, I still have two dads, and I'm still Jewish, and I'm probably just as annoying.

Rachel to Will

There's a lot of teachers at this school who teach their students important things like how to drive and fractions, but you teach your students how to dream.

Finn to Will




Glee - Nationals (Vintage Theme) (Full Performance) (Official Music Video)

Vintage New Directions


v - e - d

Glee Episodes

Season One
PilotShowmanceAcafellasPreggersThe Rhodes Not TakenVitamin DThrowdownMash-UpWheelsBalladHairographyMattressSectionalsHell-OThe Power of MadonnaHomeBad ReputationLaryngitisDream OnTheatricalityFunkJourney

Season Two
AuditionBritney/BrittanyGrilled CheesusDuetsThe Rocky Horror Glee ShowNever Been KissedThe SubstituteFurtSpecial EducationA Very Glee ChristmasThe Sue Sylvester ShuffleSilly Love SongsComebackBlame It on the AlcoholSexyOriginal SongA Night of NeglectBorn This WayRumoursProm QueenFuneralNew York

Season Three
The Purple Piano ProjectI Am UnicornAsian FPot o' GoldThe First TimeMash OffI Kissed a GirlHold on to SixteenExtraordinary Merry ChristmasYes/NoMichaelThe Spanish TeacherHeartOn My WayBig BrotherSaturday Night Glee-verDance with SomebodyChokeProm-asaurusPropsNationalsGoodbye

Season Four
The New RachelBritney 2.0MakeoverThe Break-UpThe Role You Were Born to PlayGleaseDynamic DuetsThanksgivingSwan SongGlee, ActuallySadie HawkinsNakedDivaI DoGirls (and Boys) on FilmFeudGuilty PleasuresShooting StarSweet DreamsLights OutWonder-fulAll or Nothing

Season Five
Love, Love, LoveTina in the Sky with DiamondsThe QuarterbackA Katy or A GagaThe End of TwerkMovin' OutPuppet MasterPreviously Unaired ChristmasFrenemiesTrioCity of Angels100New DirectionsNew New YorkBashTestedOpening NightThe Back-Up PlanOld Dog, New TricksThe Untitled Rachel Berry Project

Season Six
Loser Like MeHomecomingJagged Little TapestryThe Hurt Locker, Part OneThe Hurt Locker, Part TwoWhat the World Needs NowTransitioningA WeddingChild StarThe Rise and Fall of Sue SylvesterWe Built This Glee Club2009Dreams Come True