Glee

Ryan Murphy's got a plan for Glee this year. It includes a full-time writing staff and a focus on stories over artist tributes. He even knows how it all ends for the McKinley High School seniors (though not all of the kids in New Directions are seniors.)

"The season ends with the core group, with many of them graduating and figuring out what their futures are," Murphy told reporters Thursday after a screening of the Season 3 premiere. After acknowledging that he made the mistake of prematurely talking about which actors he thought about writing out after graduation — "I've learned my lesson! I'm never doing that again!" — Murphy said he's refocused.

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"I have my passion for it back," he said. "Things took a bit of a nasty turn and now I feel great about it again." No word on who is coming or going, you'll just have to wait and see where things end up in the finale. And that spin-off you heard about is still on the shelf — and if resurrected, it might not be what you thought (originally, it centered on Rachel and Kurt making a go of it in New York.) "I don't know what it would be and I don't know who would be on it," Murphy said.

But let's talk about this season already! Spoilers from the premiere and beyond... read at your own risk:

Rachel will reunite with mom Shelby (Idina Menzel) — sorta. Shelby's got a new gig as a teacher at WMHS who arrives in Episode 2. Murphy said she'll be involved be a "juicy" story with Quinn (Dianna Agron)... who, by the way, has a whole new look and group of friends this year. (We know you've already seen the pink hair.)

Not only will we be seeing Mike Chang's (Harry Shum) parents this season, we'll also be hearing him sing! That's right, not dance... sing! By the fourth episode, he'll have performed two numbers, Murphy said.  

Tina's not the only junior in New Directions. You'll find out who the other one is in the first couple minutes of the premiere.

Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Emma (Jayma Mays) are together. But they could be closer. A lot closer. Make of that what you will.

Lauren Zizes (Ashley Fink) isn't gone. Yes, maybe she'll be in slightly fewer episodes, and yes, she does cut ties with the group — for now. In later episodes, Murphy said she "has a major story with Chris Colfer." So there you go.

Quitting time. Zizes isn't the only one leaving the glee club, but there will be a new addition as well.

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They mean it: No guest stars! It might seem like the show has been casting up a storm — between new student Sugar, Mercedes' boyfriend Bubba, Mike and Emma's parents — but these are minor roles that will be used "sparingly," Murphy said. Well... Gwyneth Paltrow, who just won an Emmy for her guest-starring role as Holly Holliday last weekend, could be back. Maybe.

They mean it, Part 2: One tribute episode! If all goes according to plan, a special two-hour tribute episode will happen in the spring and it's an act they've been trying to license for a year and a half.

Damian + Brittany? Damian McGinty, the Irish lad who co-won The Glee Project with Samuel Larsen, enters the picture in Episode 4 as a foreign exchange student who Murphy said is "shacking up with Brittany [Heather Morris]... she thinks he's a leprechaun with magical powers." Whether or not they're hooking up remains to be seen, but so far Murphy likes what he sees. McGinty's character is no hotshot sophomore either -- he's already been shoved into a locker 25 times.

As for Samuel... he's more of a man's man. As in, he's going to be a relative of Puck (Mark Salling) — "which will be fun," Murphy said -- who arrives much in later in the season.

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One more Glee Project tidbit: There is a surprise guest from the show in the season premiere. And it's pretty amazing. Sorry, nothing else. Okay, one more tease: He or she will be the star of a rival choir in sectionals. Last thing: No plans for Cameron Mitchell on the show — at least this season. (He quit, people!)

Tom Jones anyone? Mr. Vegas gets a nice nod in the premiere, but who and where one of his songs is sung may be a little unusual.

Glee premieres Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox. What are you most looking forward to seeing? Or hearing? Sound off in the comments.