William McKinley High School is back in session! Video blogger Jacob Ben Israel interviews the glee club for the "Dish You're Dying to Know" from the summer: Rachel and Finn are still happily dating and working on her control issues; Will is broadening the club's repertoire; Puck's still hung up on Quinn; Artie's lost his girlfriend, Tina, to Mike Chang; Santana's sporting a newly enhanced chest; and Kurt's ready to take a stand against the club's detractors, insisting that anything they have to say be said to his face . . . a face that immediately finds itself on the receiving end of Azimio's slushie. Welcome back!
Will frets in front of the wall of sign-up sheets for extracurricular activities when no one signs up for glee club, even though anyone is allowed to join. Sue tells him that the club needs greater selectivity and competition - just check out the line of Cheerio applicants streaming out the door.
Both Will and Sue are shocked however when Principal Figgins announces budget cuts for both their programs, with some of their funds earmarked to bolster the flagging football team under the just-hired female coach, Shannon Beiste (aka "The Panther"). Sue finds a new archenemy in the imposing, intimidating Coach Beiste, and she eventually recruits Will to help her push the coach out and reclaim their lost budgets.
With no additional students signing up to join New Directions, the glee clubbers worry that they won't have the numbers needed to go note-for-note against rivals Vocal Adrenaline at regionals in New York this year. Attempting to lure new members, the club sings and dances to "Empire State of Mind" in the school courtyard but are mostly ignored.
Finn discovers a hot prospect when he overhears transfer student Sam Evans singing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" in the locker room's shower. Rachel attempts to recruit Sunshine Corazon, a foreign exchange student from the Philippines, by promising opportunities to "sway in the background" during Rachel's solos. However, when Sunshine joins her in an impromptu ladies room duet on Lady Gaga's "Telephone," Rachel is blown away by her talent - and is not-so-secretly worried that her own glee club spotlight might be stolen.
Will and Sue prank Coach Beiste with a plethora of pizzas delivered to the locker room, hoping to rattle her. Instead, assuming one of her players is responsible, the coach pays for the pizzas and instructs the football team to eat no less than four pieces each, then prepare for wind sprints; the first ten to puke are off the team.
Artie urges Finn to help him get on the football team in a bid to reclaim Tina's affections, revealing that Tina dumped him after falling for Mike Chang at "Asian Camp." Artie had neglected Tina in favor of his own self-centered pursuits, and Tina likes Mike because he's into things that SHE's into, like his abs. Finn is sympathetic - and inspired - when Artie explains his potential as a human battering ram. Sam's also going out for football and maybe glee club, impressing Finn and Artie with his confidence as he sings "Billionaire" with the boys.
Rachel tells Kurt and Mercedes about Sunshine's amazing vocals, clearly threatened but claiming she's worried that the "lesser glee clubbers" will lose solos - not her. She reveals that she's secretly paid off Azimio and Karofsky to traumatically slushie them in front of Sunshine to scare her off, but Kurt and Mercedes think Rachel is being awful. Anyone who can help them beat Vocal Adrenaline is automatically in, they insist. Rachel relents and promises to show Sunshine she's welcome, giving her directions to the audition.
Sue continues to harass Coach Beiste, who tries to sit with Will in the teachers lounge, but he, too, refuses to be welcoming. Beiste calls him out, saying how hard it's been at other schools for a female football coach - she'd heard that Sue was a bully but Will was a nice guy, and now he's shown her otherwise. Later, Beiste cries in the locker room, but claims it's only because she saw the team's last-season stats.
Finn brings Artie to football tryouts but enrages the coach. She cuts Finn, thinking it's a setup to make her look bad by denying Artie a spot on the team.
Quinn tries out for the Cheerios again, but Sue won't have her until Quinn suggests that Sue might get her budget-cut confetti cannons through donations from church groups excited to see a reformed pregnant teen endorsing abstinence education in a Cheerios uniform. Santana, meanwhile, is demoted from head cheerleader to the bottom of the pyramid, literally, after Sue berates her for getting a boob job - evidence of a lack of self-esteem that Sue will not tolerate.
An angry Santana ambushes Quinn in the hallway, assuming that she's spilled the beans to Sue about the surgery, but Will breaks up the fight. Another Cheerio applicant is Finn, who feels that without football, he's nothing. Will argues Finn's case to Figgins and Beiste, but he fails to convince them that Finn meant no harm. Meanwhile, neither Sam nor Sunshine show for glee club auditions.
In Sue's latest anti-Beiste scheme, Brittany shows to Figgins the locations on a cheerleader doll where she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the coach, but Will urges Brittany to tell the truth. Brittany does (with an additional TMI revelation about who actually wanted to touch whom), and Sue turns on Will.
Will learns that the reason Sunshine never came to tryouts is that Rachel's directions took her to a local crack house (a low-traffic crack house, Rachel insists, but still . . .). Although Rachel says that she was protecting the other glee club members, Will insists that she make things right with Sunshine. Rachel invites Sunshine to the auditorium, where the new girl unleashes a mind-blowing rendition of "Listen" from "Dreamgirls."
Will apologizes to Coach Beiste for his behavior. Even Sue shows up with a peace offering: a batch of cookies, although they might quite possibly be dog poop cookies. Having had enough feuding, Will calls for an end to the harassment.
When Finn asks Sam why he didn't show for tryouts, Sam reveals that he was worried about starting out "three touchdowns behind" at his new school by joining the low-prestige glee club. Instead, he's opted for the football team, where, in Finn's absence, he's been named the quarterback.
Will welcomes Sunshine to New Directions but is interrupted by Dustin Goulsby; Dustin's the new coach of Vocal Adrenaline, and he's secured Sunshine for his team with a new condo and green cards for Sunshine and her mom. Sue alerted Dustin about Sunshine in retaliation for Will abandoning the hate campaign against the coach, but Sunshine also confesses that she was reluctant to join New Directions because she felt the jealous, over-ambitious Rachel couldn't be trusted.
After the glee club finds out why they lost Sunshine, Finn lets Rachel know how upset they are with her. Rachel prepares herself for a break-up with Finn, but Finn's been expecting her to split from him after being deposed as quarterback. Instead, each pledges that they'll never dump the other. But Finn insists that Rachel drop her excuses and admit that she sabotaged Sunshine's chances with the club because she was jealous about sharing her spotlight. Rachel promises to apologize to the glee club, but needs alone time in the auditorium, where she sings "What I Did For Love" from "A Chorus Line." We see several glee clubbers contemplating the questionable acts they committed to hold on to the things they love. Finally, Rachel enters the glee club room, prepared to face the music from her friends.