This week’s installment of Glee raised the lightweight pop-culture question, “Are you a Katy or a Gaga?” But as the tornado of charisma known as Adam Lambert swept into Season 5 of Fox’s musical dramedy, a more crucial debate began to percolate beneath the surface: “Are you ‘Lima, OH’ or ‘NYC’?”
OK, to be fair, there should be an “all of the above” box on the ballot, but as a long-standing Gleek, the divide between the story arcs from William McKinley High and those of its NYC-based alumnae felt more pronounced than usual. That executive producer Ryan Murphy is currently weighing the idea of moving all the action to The City That Never Sleeps isn’t especially surprising. Once the kids of New Directions succeed or fail at Nationals in the next few weeks (or months) — followed by the graduation of Tina, Artie, Sam and Blaine — the forecast for the Ohio-set action is uncertain.
Can Jake and Marley’s will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic, or Sue and Schue’s Culture Clash 7.0 keep us as engaged as Kurt, Rachel and Santana exploring a new band, new career paths and new love interests? Only Glee‘s writing staff can answer that question definitively. Until then, let’s recap the action from “A Katy or a Gaga”:
LIVING FOR THE APPLAUSE | With the fearsome Throat Explosion — a show choir that requires 10,000 hours of practice just to audition — qualiying for Nationals, the kids of New Directions expeirence a crisis of confidence. To help them hone their mastery of the edgy and the mainstream, Mr. Schue decides to make the Gaga fans cover Katy tunes — and vice versa. Wackiness ensues on the Little Monsters side when Sam uses the assignment to impress school nurse Penny — let’s just say drag is not a good look for Blaine — while the more outré kids eventually settle on a stripped-down rendition of “Wide Awake” that turns out to be one of the season’s best musical moments. In the end, though, new principal Sue suspends the entire club for violating school dress-code (loin cloths and candy bustiers apparently didn’t make the cut in the student handbook), causing an angry Schue to boast that New Directions will win Nationals — and quash its tracksuit-wearing rival in the process. Oh, it is ON! (Again?) (Again.) (Even if Sue’s rancor in the very recent wake of Finn’s death doesn’t quite compute.)
BREE IS THE NEW QUINN | Under Sue’s direction, vicious Bree decides the best way to distract New Directions is to cause a rift between Marley and Jake. The bitchy Cheerio invites Jake to help choreograph a routine, and Marley decides not to play the jealous type and tells him to go for it. Trouble is, though, Jake’s getting bored of Breadstix-and-a-movie dates, and when Marley shuts him down in his efforts to go past first base, he makes a play for Bree. Last we see, the cheating duo heads for a “private place” to presumably do the waah-chicka-waah. Meantime, Marley’s fear of going full Gaga causes her to wear Katy Perry drag during a performance of “Applause.” Mr. Schue — furious that a high-school underclassman who recently had a bout with bulimia ignored his instructions to wear a seashell bikini in school — promptly suspends her from New Directions for a full week.
BRACE FOR ANOTHER FACULTY-STUDENT ROMANCE | Sam tries to act edgy to appeal to school nurse Penny, but eventually she admits that she’s as mainstream and sweet as he is. They wind up making out in front of her office window, and then hold hands walking into the auditorium — in full view of Schue. To which I ask: If Marley or Kitty was in the same scenario with a twentysomething male on the McKinley payroll, wouldn’t there be a heckuva lot more outrage? (Sorry…Cranky McRighteousness here cahhhhhhhn’t with any romance between impressionable kids and the adult authority figures in their lives.)
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE CITY… | Kurt holds open auditions for his new band (which includes Santana and Dani). Only one person shows…but he turns out to be a force of nature named “Starchild” (played by Lambert). Kurt gets skittish about sharing the lavender limelight and rejects the bedazzled dude, but Rachel makes him realize that his dream of mainstream success doesn’t mean he needs to water down his vision — or run away from similarly freak-deaky-fabulous playmates. In the end, Kurt invites the newbie into his band — as Starchild or Elliott or whatever middle ground the mindblowing singer wants to be. Rachel, still reeling from the loss of Finn and trying to focus on Funny Girl, initially declines the invite to join in, but later reconsiders — and even comes up with a new band name: Pamela Lansbury.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Is there a third option?” –Ryder, responding to Mr. Schue’s query to the glee club if they’re Katys or Gagas
“I don’t think he plans that much ahead. I’m pretty sure he makes up these rand-o lessons a split second before he writes ‘em on the board.” –Kitty, responding to Artie’s worry that Mr. Schue created Gaga-Perry week to keep them apart
“The glee club you specifically asked me to try to mess with is doing some Katy Perry-Lady Gaga week, in an attempt to get 100 percent of America to not like them.” –Bree, explaining to Sue the latest happenings in the rehearsal room
“Is it a seizure or just hardcore, next-level breakdancing?” –Sam, reacting to Artie’s fear that the strobe lights he’s brought in for their rendition of “Applause” could cause health problems
“Bug off! I don’t do handies.” –Becky, irked by Sam’s request for her help
“I look like Siegfried and Roy, and I still did it.” –Blaine, complaining that Marley didn’t don Gaga drag
“You had me at Ladybird Johnson.” –Rachel, agreeing to join Pamela Lansbury after a pep talk from Kurt
“Oh, please, let it be another Journey song: There’s got to be one left!” Sue, taunting Will and New Directions
“This practice of referring to oneself as a Katy or a Gaga — the glee club will be doing this the entire week?”
“It’s super annoying, right?”
“It is the most annoying thing they’ve ever done.”
Sue pumping Bree for more intel about New Directions’ theme week
GRADES FOR TONIGHT’S MUSICAL PERFORMANCES
Starchild/Elliott, “Marry the Night” — Grade: A+ | Holy hell, Adam Lambert can sing his freakin’ face off — but makes it look so effortless. I loved how Santana whipped out her phone to tape the craziness — which included chandelier-swinging, upward floor thrusts and massive notes that redefined the adjective “glory.” No wonder Santana and Dani were ready to sign the dude on the spot!
Sam, Artie, Blaine, Ryder and Kitty, “Applause” — Grade: B- | I love Gaga’s recent single more than most, but I kinda wish that the show’s musical reenactments weren’t always such literal rehashes of the artists’ videos, and instead somehow were used as mechanisms to advance the plot. Which is another way of saying Artie and Blaine in Artpop drag proved deeply, deeply unsettling.
Tina, Kitty, Unique and Jake, “Wide Awake” — Grade: A | Simple, honest, and a surprising improvement on the original track — from four voices I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to put together.
The NYC and Lima Kids, “Roar” — Grade: C+/A- | The literal reenactment of Perry’s jungle-themed video felt a little forced on the Lima side, but I loved the effortless giddiness Lovato and Lambert had with Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Naya Rivera in the NY-centric half of the number. That youthful chemistry and rope-swinging somehow felt authentic for five crazy kids forming a band in the big city.
And with that, I turn it over to you…
What did you think of “A Katy or a Gaga”? Did you like Adam Lambert’s Starchild? What was your favorite musical number? Sound off in the comments!