Following in the footsteps of last season’s tributes to Madonna, Lady Gaga, and (ostensibly) Journey; last night’s episode of Glee wrapped itself around the music of Britney Spears and used this music to inspire some of the characters to try different things in their lives. While I had my doubts early in the episode, and while there were some unnecessary deviations in the story threads, I thought this was another decently strong episode for the show.
The first storyline was driven by the emerging love triangle between Will, Emma, and her new boyfriend Carl the dentist (JOHN STAMOS!!!). Inspired by the music of Spears and the advice of Carl (“you gotta get ridiculous, bro”), Will decides to make some drastic changes in his life such as buying a new car and fully embracing the glee club’s love of Spears to impress Emma and compete with Carl.
This story worked well because the actions of the characters made sense and because it is (hopefully) setting up things to come in future episodes. I also loved how it took a small twist on the standard television love triangle storyline when Carl said, “If she leaves me for you, do you really want me coming around after you?” Hopefully, Glee will take a slightly different approach to this and not have the two fighting with each other every week (kind of like the Cold War of love triangles).
The second primary storyline of the episode delved deeper into the relationship between Finn and Rachel (or at least it tried). From what I could follow, Finn is sad that he is now a loser because he is no longer on the football team and Rachel doesn’t want him to re-join the football team because he will be cooler than she is (and she “wants to be the only thing that makes him happy”). This is compounded by the fact that Rachel does not dress like a slut.
As I wrote last week, I think this relationship is really poorly developed and these characters are rarely shown to like each other and almost never show affection for each other. That problem was again pervasive through this episode as Rachel acted like a complete bitch and Finn acted like a Nick Saban-esque emotionless robot. Rachel is inspired by the music of Spears to dress as a slut and Finn is inspired to rejoin the football team, creating inexplicable and poorly developed drama between the two.
The storyline looked like it was about to careen off a narrative cliff when Quinn approached Finn and a new love triangle was being formed, but then (shockingly) it saved itself and the entire Rachel-Finn storyline when we found out that Quinn was just testing Finn for Rachel to see if he really “loved” her. I thought this scene was excellent not only because it gave some much-needed depth to Rachel and Finn (depth that didn’t come from football uniforms and slutty clothing), but also because it showed that Quinn and Rachel might actually be friends that wouldn’t stab each other in the back.
I think these character and story developments were definitely a step in the right direction for the show, even if most of the Finn-Rachel plot was pretty weak. The thing about Glee, however, is that there were still a lot of other things going on, so we move to the bullet points:
Other Quick Thoughts:
-I love the fact that John Stamos has been brought on as Emma’s new love interest. As we all remember* Uncle Jesse was a musician in Full House, and Stamos himself has done some touring with the Beach Boys. I only hope that at some point in the coming weeks we hear Stamos sing a Beach Boys ballad to Emma, that would be fantastic.
*Actually, I’m highly concerned that the average Glee fan does not remember Full House as it finished its run over 15 years ago! Do current high schoolers see Stamos as “that guy from E.R.”?
-The most unnecessary tangent of this episode was Artie again trying to join the football team. As a one episode gag, it was annoying but tolerable. For this to make it into another episode is inexcusable. Now that Artie is evidently going to be ON the team, we’re probably going to be stuck with more episodes of this. Jason Street is rolling in his grave.
-Was it really necessary for them to bring back Terri? They were doing a pretty solid job with the Will-Emma-Carl storyline, and Terri adds absolutely nothing to that. If they want to bring in a new love interest for Will, great, but they shouldn’t bring back Terri unless it’s inside Sheets and Things.
-I was worried for a bit that Sue Sylvester wouldn’t be appearing in this episode at all, but her scenes in the second half of the hour were glorious. So many amazing lines (the story about the 1968 Democratic National Convention was one of her best ever) that it was hard to keep track. I was however a little confused about her opposition to Britney Spears when she was such a supporter of Madonna last season. I guess Madonna songs didn’t cause a “sexual riot” though.
-One nice thing about this episode was it showed that the writers are now willing to put some of their characters (Puck, Mercedes, Tina, Quinn, and Kurt) in the background for an entire episode to focus on a few solid (or at least decently thought out) storylines with other characters. All too often last season I felt that scenes existed in episodes just so that characters had something to do.
If Glee is really going to work long-term, they need to allow characters to be focal points while others take a back seat. Lost did this exceptionally and it was the characters that kept the quality of the show so high even when the mythology was sometimes lacking. First season episodes of Glee relied too much on the music being the only thing worth watching and that can’t last forever without strong characters.
Sue Sylvester Quote of the Episode:
“I want you to feel the beads of your own sweaty depraved stank dripping down your buttcrack.”
-I’m a Slave 4 You: Heather Morris did such a great job with the singing and dancing in this song that for a while I wasn’t sure if it was actually her or if it was the Spears cameo we had heard about. As a cover (or even imitation) of the original song I think it went very well, but I like Glee more when they put their own twist on the music which this song clearly didn’t. The song had nothing to do with the plot of the episode, and was seemingly just used because this was a Spears tribute episode.
-Me Against the Music: Again Morris and Naya Rivera (Santana) did a great job looking hot and imitating the lyrics and music video for this song, but it too had no connection to the rest of the episode aside from the fact that it was another Britney Spears song. The imitations certainly show that these background characters have vocal prowess and dancing ability, but in Glee I like to see something more than a blatant copy.
- . . . Baby One More Time: While the first two songs were ostensibly trying to showcase the background characters, this song brought Lea Michele back to the forefront and tried to connect to the plot by being the impetus behind her decision to dress like a slut. It was a decent enough rendition, but like the early songs it did little to change or alter the original song. As an imitation, Rachel might not have even been the best character to perform it (Quinn would have been).
-Stronger: If the producers of the show really needed a male-sung version of a Spears song, I suppose this was probably the best route they could go with it. The song was nothing special, but it did allow the boys a chance to sing and they did a decent enough job with it. If anything, the song was most disappointing because it brought the ridiculous wheelchair football player storyline back into the show.
-Toxic: Far and away the best song of the hour, this had everything that I want from a Glee performance. Their rendition of the song was more than just an imitation of Spears and included most of the cast either singing lead or background vocals (and the background vocals were incorporated very well). The song also moved the plot forward throughout as it was linked to Sue’s fears of a sex riot at the school as well as Will’s attempts to impress Emma by letting loose a bit. The song’s greatness almost made up for the less than heartfelt imitations early in the episode.
-The Only Exception: I suppose this song is the only exception to the Britney Spears theme this week, and it did a decent job of connecting and closing off the two main storylines from the episode. Michele did a fine job with it, as usual, and she even brought on the tears at one point.
Best Quotes from another Character:
“I’ve lived my whole life in her shadow and will never be as talented or famous.” Brittany
Last week I wrote extensively about how Heather Morris (Brittany) is probably the worst actress I have ever seen on television, and while she was featured extensively in this episode, most of her lines (and there were a lot of them) fell completely flat again. I don’t know if she is the product of poor writing, if she is trying to sound like she is sleepwalking through her scenes, or if it is all just a result of her inexperience as an actress, but she was again terrible with line delivery.
From a story perspective, even though it was supposedly a big episode for her, she didn’t really have any sort of storyline at all. Other than a laundry list of one-liners, Brittany continued to be one of the most one-dimensional characters on the show when she was supposed to be featured. I’m not sure if the writers thought they were featuring her with “big storylines”, but they clearly didn’t.
As far as the song and dance numbers went, however, Morris did a fantastic job. She is clearly a really talented dancer and she did an awesome job with her singing in the early going. The music video dream sequences (while completely unoriginal) finally got her out of that ridiculous cheerleader uniform and she looked amazing. I can only hope that they were being serious when she said that next week she’ll be performing a song by Ke$ha because that would be excellent.
My vote is for Take It Off, but until then. . .
Read my review of last week’s “Audition” Here