‘Glee’ Recap (Season 4, Episode 2): “Britney 2.0″
As Rachel and Brittany face identity crises, Britney Spears gets a second tribute ep–with significantly diminished returns.
One of Glee’s bigger internal issues is that the show achieves its nasty comic thrust by being maximally flippant about anything in American society it sees as a ripe target for its rubbery satire. But the show has to stay weirdly reverent toward the thing that people are usually catty about—dispensable pop culture, especially music—because they need to stay on the good side of whoever holds the licenses for whatever songs or movies or viral nonsense they need to rip off/cover for their sincere musical moments, the accent marks of the show’s twitchy drama. “Britney 2.0” is a sequel to season 2’s second episode “Britney/Brittany,” and when, within a minute of its start, Brittany faces the camera, says “it’s Britney [Brittany?], bitch” and launches into some newer Britjam that I’ve never heard before, I feel beyond ready to move on, annoyed at the show for trying to meld its undeniable, prodigious momentum with its frustratingly unambitious artistic ideas.
Anyway, Brittany shortly gets kicked off the Cheerios for being so hilariously dumb. (I’m glad that they’re only using Sue Sylvester, new baby and all, in the most minimal, functional way possible; perhaps the writers have joined us in having no clue what dramatic purpose she’s supposed to serve anymore.) Schue concludes that she’s depressed, and decides to redo Britney week as a pick-me-up (though didn’t the last one end with a riot or something?). As Artie and Blaine launch awkwardly into some terrible half-rapped tune from one of the latter day Britalbums, all I can do is sit tight and hope for a rendition of that one song with the pan flutes that’s at least good-bad.
Over in New York, Kate Hudson’s Ms. July is still giving Rachel a hard time, telling her she’s too chaste and timid to dance the tango. With the help of her new heartthrob friend Brody—who, despite being a handsome 20-something New Yorker at an intense performing arts school, doesn’t seem to have anything better to do than hit on some 18-year-old—she performs “Oops!… I Did It Again” in a scene which, as my roommate put it, mainly serves to exhibit the sexiness of her backup dancers. After being told off once again, she chews out the hard-bitten dance instructor, who turns out to have had a Britney-esque career meltdown years earlier. All of this really serves only as a lead-in to the predictable tough love talk, where July begrudgingly relents and gives her character’s bitchiness some relevant dramatic heft, mumbling mournfully about the cruelty of the stage–whcih will probably be forgotten by next week, when they all do an arm-flailing number in Central Park or whatever. Rachel, supposedly still the ostensible hero of this whole outsized vessel, doesn’t have much to do here other than romanticize the five-ton headache that is moving out of your hometown, as she rents a huge Bushwick pad with Kurt—a steal at just $1800 a month!—and pines some more for the as-yet-unseen Finn.
Back in Lima, the “tribute” takes an interesting twist when Brittany’s downward spiral culminates in a grotesque lip-synching incident, an attempt to shave off her hair and a hallway paparazzo assault. (Yes, somebody yells the line from that YouTube video. Sigh.) At first I’m almost excited at the prospect that Ryan Murphy and co. would Gleefully (sorry) burn their bridge with the embattled star who once graced their little show with an approbatory cameo, but Brittany reveals her intention to “make a glorious comeback” and then references The X Factor, so it’s all okay, I guess?
“Britney 2.0” can’t help but seem like a step backward for a show that was annoying people with these theme episodes a full two years ago. I was a fan of “Britney/Brittany,” with its enjoyably demented device of dentist John Stamos’s hallucinogenic laughing gas, and its suitably alarmed take on the often skin-crawling nature of tackling teen sexuality. It’s hard to think of anyone but the die-hardest Brit-fanatics (of which, I suppose, this show may share a large contingent) clamoring for another round of homage. The problem isn’t exactly that it’s predictable—I would’ve given up on this show long before the conception of theme nights, were that such an issue. It’s more that, straining to connect its aesthetic compulsions with enough story to satisfactorily fill forty minutes, it all becomes so routine—everything the outré showbiz binge of Glee, even at its wooden-cheesiest, can’t be if it wants to thrill. Marley has a crush on Jake? Oh, here’s Unique to warn her what a “Womanizer” he is. She relents and agrees to a romantic rendezvous at the bleachers? “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” No matter what stirring turns the plot might take—and I actually find these newbies’ flirtation more promisingly grounded than most other such subplots here—I still feel as though I’m playing connect-the-dots through the running time. I think of Glee in much the same way as I imagine many super-fans do Britney Spears: as a melodramatic living conduit for the messy reality of being alive. As much of a train wreck as it often is, I’m down with the show as long as I can hear the voice of a writer—a hot-blooded, pop-deranged human—at the helm. Sometimes, as in the case of this week, it feels like whole episodes are written by Murphy just hitting shuffle on his iTunes, setting up the players and letting Britney take care of the rest.
Image courtesy fox.com
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