Optimistic high school teacher Will Schuester tries to refuel his own passion for the performing arts while reinventing McKinley High School's Glee Club and challenging a group of outcasts to realize their star potential. Going up against McKinley's cruel high school caste system and facing harsh criticism from everyone around him, Will is determined to prove them all wrong. This episode introduces major plotlines such as Will's motivation to build the New Directions, Rachel and Finn's relationship, choosing between Football/Cheerios and Glee Club, Sue's motivation to tear the Glee Club apart, and Quinn desperately trying to get Finn back.
The McKinley High Cheerios are practising a difficult routine by their relentless cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester. Spanish teacher Will Schuester parks his car, which has a loose exhaust pipe, and then walks passed several members of the football team, including Finn Hudson and Noah "Puck" Puckerman, surrounding flamboyant student Kurt Hummel by the dumpster. Will greets them fondly and passes by them without a clue as to what the jocks have in store for the small teen. As he leaves, the jocks grab Kurt and unceremoniously toss him into the dumpster, after allowing him to take off his expensive, name-brand jacket.
Will gazes at the school trophy case where a tribute plaque to the late Glee Club coach Lillian Adler reads, "By its very definition, Glee is about opening yourself up to joy." Later, Will is teaching verbs with his Spanish class, where a bored Finn is struggling to concentrate.
Current Glee Club coach, Sandy Ryerson, and his lead soloist, Hank Saunders, are practising Where Is Love, from Oliver together in the choir room, where Sandy proceeds to touch Hank inappropriately on the stomach as a jealous Rachel Berry watches from outside the door.
In the teacher's lounge, Will asks his co-worker, and McKinley High football coach, Ken Tanaka where the coffee pot is. Ken remarks that Principal Figgins got rid of it due to budget cuts and suggest they strike because of it. Sue enters the room with lattés for the two just as guidance counsellor Emma Pillsbury enters the room with her lunch, which is stored in Tupperware, and she also uses disposable gloves and wet wipes to clean the table she eats at, implying that she is a perfectionist and mysophobic. Emma politely greets Ken and Will, with Ken eyeing her as she eyes Will, both clearly interested. Emma asks why Sue bought lattés, to which Sue remarks that she felt bad that Figgins cut the coffee budget to pay for a nutritionist for the Cheerios which leads to small banter between the two. Ken tries to flirt with Emma, who is uninterested, and Emma eventually brings up that Sandy got fired. Will then asks who will take over Glee Club.
Will meets Principal Figgins in his office and asks to take over Glee Club, but Figgins is cynical. Figgins mentions that it'll take $60 a month to keep the program and that if Will wants school support, then the Glee Club would have to bring in the same kind of money that the Cheerios bring in. While sleeping with his wife, Terri, Will tries to think of a way to hide the money from Terri while subsequently getting the kids motivated to join. During his thought process, he jolts up after coming up with a name for the club: New Directions.
At a billboard with a sign-up sheet for the Glee Club, various students secretly apply: Mercedes Jones, a diva-ish student, sings a powerful rendition of Aretha Franklin's Respect; by Aretha Franklin. Kurt Hummel auditions with Mr Cellophane from the Broadway musical, Chicago during which he hits an impressive high note (D5); Tina Cohen-Chang, a shy Asian-American student, and wheelchair-bound student Artie Abrams sign up and Tina comically auditions with Katy Perry's recent hit I Kissed a Girl; and finally, talented Rachel Berry auditions with a moving version of On My Own from Les Misérables.
During a voiceover, Rachel mentions that she signs her name with a gold star because it is a metaphor of her being a star. After she signs up, she is hit in the face with a slushie by Puck. Rachel also reveals that she was the one who reported Sandy to Principal Figgins about touching Hank, to which she dramatically cried to Figgins about how wrong it was. However, Rachel smirks suspiciously after this admission but asserts that she didn't do it because Sandy gave Hank the solo she felt she deserved. Rachel reveals that she has two gay fathers via surrogacy and mentions that she was given dance and vocal lessons since her early childhood to give her a competitive edge. She reveals that posts a MySpace video every day to keep her talent alive and growing, but her videos are viewed by the Cheerio squad where the head cheerleader, Quinn Fabray, leaves cruel messages to her.
After the audition, Rachel confidently asks when they start rehearsals. During rehearsals, the New Directions put on a disastrous performance of Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat from Guys and Dolls. Rachel is upset that Will has cast Artie as the lead, especially since Artie is in a wheelchair. After Artie defends Will's choice by saying that he chose irony to enhance the performance, Rachel storms out of the choir room, claiming that "there is nothing ironic about show choir."
Will finds Rachel sitting alone on the bleachers, watching Sue yell at the Cheerios, and she tells him she needs a male lead who can follow her musically and physically. She also reveals that she is tired of being hated and laughed at, and doesn't want to make a fool out of herself. Ken pops by to tell Will that Figgins needs to speak with him. Figgins tells Will that they are going to use the choir room for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but Will convinces him to keep it running until they win Sectionals but at the cost of running detention for free.
At a home goods store called Sheets-N-Things, Terri is teaching an incompetent employee how to fold a sheet, to which he says he can't do it because he's dyslexic. Will drops by with Terri's lunch to which Terri nags that Will had put mayonnaise in her sandwich and mentions that if her diabetes returns then she would be unable to get pregnant. Will then reveals to her that he is going to be running detention and that he'd be home late, which displeases Terri. Will then runs into Sandy Ryerson in the store who tells him that he is now a drug dealer and offers to let Will join in, who declines but not before Sandy gives him a pack of medical marijuana in his shirt for free.
Will seeks out advice from Emma about how to get more kids to join Glee Club, to which she mentions that they would follow the popular crowd. So, Will asks Sue and Ken to get some of the Cheerios and football players to join but is shot down by Sue and is disappointed to learn that the football team vandalized his sign-up sheet. Will is just about to give up until he hears a student sing Can't Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon in the showers. It is revealed to be Finn Hudson. Will is mesmerized by the boy's talent and decides to do something rash.
Will brings Finn into his office and accuses him of possessing marijuana that Will claims to have found via a bi-weekly afternoon locker check. Finn denies that it's his, but Will counters that just being in possession of it is a felony. Will states that Finn will get kicked out of school and his football scholarship. Finn begs him to not tell his mother and Will reveals that he sees a lot of himself in Finn and mentions that he knows what it's like to struggle with life choices and expected more out of him.
In a voiceover, Finn reveals that Will's words really got to him and talks about his past. In a flashback, Finn reveals that his father died at a young age and that his mother, Carole, struggled with being a single parent. He mentions that she was her happiest when they splurged to buy Emerald Dreams, an industry that colours her yard to look green. The worker, Darren, got Finn into singing as they sing along to Journey's Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'. Darren and Carole eventually start dating but things end on a sour note when Darren runs off with a beautiful blonde, leaving Carole devastated.
Back to the present, Will tricks Finn into joining the Glee Club by giving him the option to attend six weeks of detention or join New Directions. Finn chooses to join.
The New Directions perform You're the One That I Want from Grease together, to which a flirtatious Rachel tries to woo Finn during their duet. Mercedes breaks up the duo and states that she is not okay with singing back-up as she is "Beyoncé, not Kelly Rowland." Will tells her that it's just one song and that there will be others, which sates Mercedes who then compliments that Finn is good, but he better "bring it."
At their apartment, Will and Terri are doing a puzzle together in Terri's craft room and Will tells her that the New Directions are working hard and was thinking about taking them on a field trip to Carmel High, whose Glee Club is the team to beat at Regionals and asks Terri to come chaperone with him, who declines. This eventually leads to an argument about Will's future and Will claims that he does not want to be an accountant and that his passion is teaching.
Later, Will puts up the sign-up sheet in the teacher's lounge for chaperones to which an eager Emma quickly signs up for. High school bully Puck overhears Ken chewing out Finn for missing practice Saturday to go on Will's field trip to Carmel High and asks him what it was about. Finn lies and says that he has to help his mom around the house because she had her prostate removed. Despite the fact that women do not have prostates, Puck believes the story and leaves it at that.
At field trip to Carmel High, Rachel compliments Finn that he is very talented and mentions that the rest of the team expects the two of them to become an item, to which Finn deflects by saying that he has a girlfriend, Quinn Fabray who is the captain of the Celibacy Club, whom he has been dating for four months. Will and Emma share a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and talk about Will marital problems and Will mentions that Terri rides him all the time, but believes it's because she wants him to be better except he doesn't know what is he needs to be better at.
Will, Emma, and the New Directions all sit down in the school's auditorium where Will confidently states that Vocal Adrenaline, the Glee Club's rivals and last year's winner at Nationals, don't have the talent the New Directions have. They watch Vocal Adrenaline perform an impressive rendition of Amy Winehouse's Rehab that leaves the New Directions dumbfounded with Tina stating that they are "d-d-doomed."
At school, Finn is surrounded by his football teammates where Puck tells him he looked online to learn that women actually don't have prostates. Discovered, Finn admits the lie and is paintballed by the team.
Will comes home to find Terri holding two glasses of champagne with a banner that reads "Congratulations" hung up. Terri then reveals that she's pregnant and Will is left ecstatic.
Will gathers the glee kids in the auditorium where he tells them that he is resigning as Glee Club director and that he'll find them a replacement, much to their disappointment. Despite their promises of working harder, Will mentions that sometimes they have to give up the things they love and that they'll understand that one day when they grow up. After Will found out that his wife Terri is pregnant he decided to be left alone on stage and starts singing Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver. Emma catches Will in the teacher's lounge applying for an accounting spot at H. W. Mencken. She tells Will to come to the career centre for guidance, much to his resistance but agrees for her.
Rachel meets Finn at his locker and questions his absence at Glee Club. Quinn and Santana Lopez interrupt and ask Finn why he's talking to her. Rachel covers that they are working on a science project and the two cheerleaders leave them be. Finn says that he can't do Glee Club anymore and Rachel tells him that he's got a gift and that he shouldn't worry about what people think of him.
Finn and Puck are walking through the football field where Puck says that he's not going to apologize about the paintball incident. He then questions Finn's motives for joining Glee Club which Finn lies by saying Will was going to give him extra credit for Spanish class. As a "welcome back gift to the normal," Puck reveals that he trapped Artie in the port-o-potty with the intent to flip it and lets Finn have the first roll. After thinking things through, Finn finally decides to do the right thing and help Artie. Disappointed, Puck tells him that he is a loser but Finn counters that they're all losers. Over Puck's protests, Finn tells him that both the football team and Glee Club need him to win, so he'll do both. While pushing Artie to practice, he sees Darren spraying the football field singing to Journey's Don't Stop Believin'.
At Glee Club rehearsal, the New Directions members are growing frustrated with a controlling Rachel as Finn wheels Artie into the backstage with the group. Finn then apologizes to them for all the bullying that he and the football team had done to them and says that they're all here for the same reason: to be a part of something special. Finn then unites the Glee Club together to put on a showstopping performance.
In the teacher's lounge, Emma shows Will a clip of the 1993 McKinley High Glee Club at Nationals, performing a mash-up of two KC and the Sunshine Band songs. Emma tells Will that that's the happiest she's ever seen him and Will reveals that that was the greatest moment of his life because he loved what he was doing. He reveals that he was also felt that happy when he found out he was going to be a father and that he had to provide for his new family. Emma asks him what he's providing them with, the understanding that money is more important or that the only life worth living is one he's really passionate about.
As Will is getting ready to leave, he overhears the New Directions in the auditorium performing Journey's Don't Stop Believin'. Following the sound, he steps into the auditorium to discover that the Glee Club has improved greatly and are getting better. Unbeknownst to Will and the Glee Club, an envious and competitive Sue along with Quinn and Santana are watching from above. Puck also watches the performance from the entrance, observing Finn. After the performance is over, Will gives them applause and gives them advice on how to improve. Finn asks if this means he is staying, to which Will says it would kill him to see them win Nationals without him.
|Song Title||Original Artist||Performer(s)|
|On My Own||Cast of Les Misérables||Rachel Berry|
|Can't Fight This Feeling||REO Speedwagon||Finn Hudson|
|Rehab||Amy Winehouse||Vocal Adrenaline|
|Leaving on a Jet Plane||John Denver||Will Schuester|
|Don't Stop Believin'||Journey||New Directions|
- Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat by Cast of Guys and Dolls. Sung by New Directions
- Where Is Love? from Oliver! Sung by Hank Saunders and Sandy Ryerson.
- Respect by Aretha Franklin. Sung by Mercedes Jones.
- Mr Cellophane from Chicago. Sung by Kurt Hummel.
- I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry. Sung by Tina Cohen-Chang
- One from A Chorus Line. Sung by Rhythm Explosion.
- Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' by Journey. Sung by Darren and a young Finn Hudson.
- You're the One I Want from Grease. sung by New Directions.
- That's the Way (I Like It)/(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band. Sung by The Singsations.
- You Can Do It/You Keep Me Hanging On by Ice Cube/The Supremes.
- Shining Star by Earth Wind & Fire.
- Flight Of The Bumblebee by The Swingle Singers.
- Soul Bossa Nova by The Swingle Singers.
- Golliwog's Cakewalk by The Swingle Singers.
- Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head by 101 Strings Orchestra.
- A Fifth Of Beethoven by The Swingle Singers featuring Shlomo.
- Chewing Gum by the Cast of Annie.
- Moonlight Sonata by The Swingle Singers.
- Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.
- Looking Back by Kerry Muzzey.
- Stephen Tobolowsky as Sandy Ryerson
- Patrick Gallagher as Ken Tanaka
- Iqbal Theba as Principal Figgins
- Romy Rosemont as Carole Hudson
- Ben Bledsoe as Hank Saunders
- Justin Gaston as Football Player
- Kent Avenido as Howard Bamboo
- Jane Galloway Heitz as Lillian Adler
- Melanie Henderson as Barb
- Aaron Hendry as Darren
- Jerry Phillips as Young Finn
- Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez
- The episode achieved 9.6 million viewers and a 5.6 rating on its first broadcast and 4.2 million when the Extended Director's Cut was aired.
- This episode features the most songs with fourteen, including unreleased songs. Of these fourteen, only five were released, one of which was only featured in the Extended Director's Cut.
- As an in-joke, there is a flyer next to the glee club auditions list that says, "Lima: You know? Like the bean?"
- Lea Michele and Amber Riley revealed in an interview that Glee originally had a theme song that was never used. They did not record it because FOX still has rights to it.
- Dianna Agron joined the cast just a day before the start of the filming. On her first day, she had to do a make-out scene with Cory Monteith where director Ryan Murphy told her to look sexy, but she was so nervous that she couldn't focus.
- The original script had Artie's name spelt like "Arty". This is made evident when Tina is signing hers and Artie's name on glee club sign-up sheet and it's spelt like "Arty".
- In the original script, there was supposed to be an Indian kid named Rajeesh, who had intended to be Mercedes's love interest, but he was replaced with Kurt Hummel.
- In the Extended Director's Cut, the stars were billed by importance rather than alphabetically.
- In the original script, Rachel uses YouTube to upload her songs instead of MySpace.
- The Vocal Adrenaline dancer who is putting on his suspenders and stretching out his leg was the head choreographer, Zach Woodlee.
- This was Lea's favourite episode to shoot. Source
- This is the first episode ever written by all three co-creators, the other six being Showmance, The Quarterback, Loser Like Me, 2009, Dreams Come True.
- This is the first episode where Time for Some Girl Talk doesn't play in the end credits. The second time is in "Shooting Star", and the third time is in "The Quarterback".
- However, it is included on the Netflix release of the episode.
- Glee's pilot episode is discussed and reviewed in tandem with Smash, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist in episode #213 Musical TV Pilots Get Broadwaysted!
- This is the only season premiere in which a main cast member or main character speaks the first words.
- In the Extended Director's Cut, the opening flashback scene shows the then-choir director Lillian Adler welcoming The Singsations to Nationals. However, the sign on stage reads "1993 Glee Club Invitational".
- When Tina signs her name on the sign-up sheet, she writes the letter T several times, as a sign of her stutter. However, when Rachel comes to sign her name on the same piece of paper, Tina's name is written without the extra T's and with different ink colour.
- Sandy reveals that he got medical marijuana to treat his nervous breakdown. Ohio has not legalized medical marijuana yet. The closest state would be Michigan, but bringing it across state lines would be a felony.
- Inside Rachel’s locker, we see a strip of photos with her and two men, presumably her dads. However, when they make their first appearance on the show, they are portrayed by two other actors, not the people in the photo.
Sue: You think this is hard? Try being waterboarded. That's hard!
Rachel: (voiceover) My gold stars are a metaphor for me being a star.
Rachel: Being a part of something special makes you special, right?
Mercedes: I'm not down with this background singing nonsense. I'm Beyoncé, I ain't no Kelly Rowland.
Finn: Don't you get it, man? We're all losers. Everyone in this school. Everyone in this town. Out of all the kids that graduate, maybe half will got to college and two will leave the state to do it. I'm not afraid of being called a loser because that's what I am. But I am afraid of turning my back on something that actually made me happy for the first time in myself.
Will: I need to provide for my family.