Glee's tribute to late actor Cory Monteith aired on Thursday night, and it was just as heartbreaking as we imagined. Perhaps the saddest part of "The Quarterback" took place near the end of the hour-long episode, when Lea Michele, Monteith's real-life girlfriend, performed "Make You Feel My Love."
Monteith's character, Finn Hudson, was killed off the series during Thursday's episode, and many of the main characters gathered to say their goodbyes. Unlike her real-life counterpart, Michele's Rachel Berry was not dating Finn at the time of his death. But she clearly still loved him, and performed for the glee club the first song she sang in the car with Finn. Lea Michele was in tears throughout the performance in the Glee tribute episode, though her voice sounded as beautiful as ever.
Watch Lea Michele's tribute to Cory Monteith below.
But this was just one of several devastating scenes in Glee's tribute to Cory Monteith. "The Quarterback" took place a few weeks after Finn's death, so, as expected, there was no mention of how the character died. Monteith died of a lethal combination of drugs over the summer, but it's unclear if Finn met a similar fate. Creator Ryan Murphy has said we may never find out how Finn passed away.
"Everyone wants to talk about how he died, too, but who cares?" Finn's stepbrother, Kurt (Chris Colfer), said during the episode. "One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived, and anyone who has a problem with that should remember that he was my brother."
Only at the very end, during the closing credits, did the series mention how Monteith had died. Several of the show's stars appeared in a public service announcement urging those with drug problems to get help. Other similar messages were posted on Glee's YouTube page after the tribute episode aired.
Watch the PSA from the end of Glee's Cory Monteith tribute.
The episode followed Finn's former classmates as they gathered to pay their respects one last time. In one of the night's most powerful scenes, Kurt helped his parents (Mike O'Malley and Romy Rosemont) clean out Finn's dorm. Burt, Finn's father, lamented not hugging his stepson enough, while Finn's mother, Carole, cried as she realized that she is still a parent, just one who no longer has her son.
Some of the characters, notably Santana (Naya Rivera) and Puck (Mark Salling) struggled with their anger during the episode. The former attacked Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) for constantly berating Finn. At the end, Sue felt guilty that Finn never knew how much she really cared about him.
Puck, meanwhile, stole a tree that the school had planted in Finn's memory. But after a pep talk from Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones), he gave it back, carving the word "Quarterback" into the bark. He also decided to honor his friend by joining the Air Force.
The other major plot revolved around Finn's letterman jacket. Kurt gave it to Santana during the show, but someone stole it from her while she napped in the nurse's office. Teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) actually took it, and the Glee tribute ended with the teacher sobbing into the jacket after he spent much of the episode trying to hide his grief.
Lea Michele's Rachel only appeared in the final 15 minutes of the episode, coming back to her old school to attend Finn's memorial. She later presented the glee club with a memorial plaque, including Finn's quote, "The show must go ... all over the place ... or something."
There were plenty of musical highlights in Glee's Cory Monteith tribute, as well. Rivera and Salling each had powerful solos, and Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes Jones, gave an encore of "I'll Stand By You," which Monteith performed in the show's first season.
Watch Amber Riley's version of I'll Stand By You."
But one of the most touching moments came at the start of the hour, when both new and old Glee cast members (minus Lea Michele) sang "Seasons Of Love" from the musical Rent. The song was staged similarly to the Broadway show, with the actors singing on an otherwise-empty stage. At the end of the number, they all looked behind them, where a projector showed an image of Monteith's Finn Hudson in his high school football uniform.
Watch "Seasons Of Love" from Glee's Cory Monteith tribute.