Glee Review / Recap Season 4 Episode 2 ‘Britney 2.0’: They Did It Again

A soulful salute to Britney Spears? No way?

Way. “Britney 2.0,” Glee’s second stanza of the pop princess’ music and first since the second episode of Season 2, took bouncy trifles and converted them to meaningful triumphs.

And they all served a story more Lima-centric this time than last week’s “The New Rachel,” as New Directions holdover Brittany S. Pearce sank to new lows when banned from the Cheerios for a 0.00 GPA (what took so long?), somberly succumbing to rock-bottom excesses (lip-synching on stage, chomping junk food anywhere) that bore a striking —  if not snarky — familiarity to her famed almost-namesake.

Yes, Britney, you’re on The X-Factor, Glee’s evil empire lead-in (well, it’s from Simon Cowell), and we love you for that and hope you deliver carryover viewers. But we’ll also poke fun at you — or use you for a message — because when you get down to it (you’ll never hear me chant the hopelessly hackneyed “at the end of the day”), Glee is what counts on Glee, not you.

So thanks for the songs and the twisted inspiration. But let’s get one thing straight: On this show, you served Glee more than Glee served you. And now let’s get on with its characters.

Get on — or get it on — Glee did, both with Brittany’s crisis of confidence (ably resolved by a warmly supportive Sam) and with Lima exes Rachel and Kurt moving in together as the perfect roommates at an absurdly large Brooklyn loft. With Kurt also heading toward a fashion-frenzied Vogue.com job, this is the most fun setup Glee ever has had, proving that the pair’s bold dreams outside Tiffany’s at the end of Season 2 can become quite real.

Rachel’s latest show-down with badgering NYADA dance teacher Cassandra July (Kate Hudson) also worked well, with Cassy revealed as an embittered next-hot-thing turned has-been whose freak-outs earned her obscurity, but who still recognizes — and respects — talent, even if she doesn’t say so. I’m thinking she and Lea Michele’s big-mouthed Rachel (you just don’t say things like that) will bond soon enough — as they almost did in “Britney 2.0.”

And give Glee credit: Even with two settings and a huge cast to juggle, it’s telling tons of story so far in Season 4, including the fact that Finn truly has let Rachel go (“accept it,” Kurt advises) while beefy Brody (Dean Geyer) is ready to rumble in his place. What’s a girl to do?

Meanwhile back in Lima, we glimpse Naya Rivera’s Santana in the season’s first Skype-fest, with Brittany. (Distance seems to be making the heart grow yonder.) And even Mark Salling’s Puck popped up — unrealistically, since there’s no reason to fly home from LA — to meet and counsel his angry but talented half-brother, Jake (Jacob Artist), about finding himself as a man via Mr. Schue and glee club.

But best of all — and this surprised me — was newcomer Melissa Benoist, whose Marley is perhaps Glee’s first truly sweet girl, openly proud of her morbidly obese mamma, quietly defiant about her relative poverty and aching in her heart of hearts for new hunky boy Jake — whose head has been turned, womanizer that he is, by Becca Tobin’s bitchy Kitty.

Musically, best of the bunch for me were Marley’s plaintive Everytime to end the episode; the rousing natural percussion (a trend) and voice arrangement of 3, with some of Glee’s best harmonies ever; and the flashy dance-class sexcapade of Oops! I Did It Again, in which an exalted Rachel may not have proven she’s a dazzling dancer, but did prove she can be sexy — and deserves to get to tango.

The more faithful versions of  up-tempo pop songs also worked well, from the Cheerios’ Gimme More to Unique and friends’ cautionary Womanizer to Artie and Blaine’s Boys-Boyfriend mashup.

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much musically from Glee’s second stab at Spears’ music, but I was wrong. These songs not only soared, but served the story.

No, they weren’t Marty Casey’s unplugged yet galvanizing (Hit Me) Baby One More Time on Rock Star INXS (still my favorite Spears interpretation ever — Google it), But as so often happens on this show, Glee did make the music sound better — at least for one magical night.

Gawd, I’m glad Glee is back. Within its limits as a musical fantasy with scant regard for logic, the show still entertains, and does so with the best music ever for a scripted TV show, week after week.

What are we up to now — 400 songs done on Glee? And how many are truly potent? I lost count of that high number a long time ago — somewhere long before Glee reached a remarkable 40 million downloads.

Oops — Glee did it again. It took modest material and made it magical. I know 3 is at the top of my playlist until further notice. And I know Glee’s Season 4, even after only Episode 2,  is heading in the right direction.

This show isn’t stalling, killing time or taking up space. Unlike any series I’ve ever seen enter its fourth season, it’s changing, big-time, but without sacrificing its identity or its heart.

Thanks, Glee. No bloom is off this rose — at least, not for me.

— Bruce Westbrook

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