This week marked Glee‘s second full tribute episode to the Princess of Pop herself, Britney Spears. Like “Britney/Brittany” of season 2, “Britney 2.0″ focuses around the music of Ms. Spears and the life of Ms. Brittany S. Pierce. Meanwhile, Kurt and Rachel settle into their new life together in New York City. See our full recap below.

“My name is Brittany S. Pierce, and I finally know how Jesus feels in his house way up at the North Pole because I am on top of the world. Senior year was awesome and now I get to relive every minute of it. I’m head Cheerio, vice-Rachel of the glee club, and now I’m planning a Middle East style sham election that will install me as senior class president for life.”

“Brittany, who are you talking to?” Blaine Warbler interrupts, as we see that this was not so much standard Glee inner monologue and more Brittany actually talking out loud as she walks McKinley’s halls. “I thought I was doing a voiceover,” Brittany replies. Blaine processes this, shakes his head and walks off. I still can’t decide whether this moment is brilliant, subversive lampshading of Glee‘s tropes, or shoddy and lazy humor, but either way, it very much sets the tone for this Brittany-focused episode. Brittany continues her live voiceover and we then cut to the Cheerios performing ‘Hold It Against Me,’ complete with color guard rifle spinning. Brittany and new girl Kitty seem to be competing for the lead position, but apart from that the performance seems fine, but Sue deems it garbage, and calls Brittany to her office.

Perhaps the ‘Hold It Against Me’ performance was just an excuse to call Brittany in, because the topic at hand is actually the head cheerleader’s GPA. Finally, the pedantic fans have a major discrepancy addressed: how was Brittany allowed to remain on the Cheerio squad when her academic performance was too weak to graduate? Allegedly, Sue’s pregnancy hormones made her too soft to enforce such things, but now, she’s back to her old self and showing Brittany some “tough love.” She kicks Brittany off the Cheerios, citing that Brittany’s recent and unprecedented F- makes her a bad role model for the rest of the team, some of whom are also starting to deteriorate academically. Brittany tries, via iChat, to gain comfort from Santana (whom we see for the first time this season, albeit on webcam) but it’s quickly established that Santana is incredibly busy due to her cheerleading scholarship at university. If anyone would like to leave theories as to how “scissor-Skyping” works… probably best you don’t do it in the comments here. We’re not that kind of website.

A revolutionary scene change later and we’re in Cassandra’s dance class at NYADA, where Rachel – or Schwimmer – as in David, as Cassandra calls Rachel – has been told that she’s not allowed to learn the tango, due to having no sex appeal and lack of body confidence. At this point, I’m starting to question the legality of Cassandra’s teaching methods – surely it is her job to teach all the students what she’s assigned to teach them – but whatever. Rachel is once again disheartened by the class as she is sent to practice jazz hands alone in the corner. Meanwhile, Emma and Will have a chat to Brittany – who’s now dressed in orange crocs, mom jeans and an oversized t-shirt she got in the lost-and-found – about her depression and the impact being held back has had on her. Brittany rejects the idea of daily counselling, as she’ll be too busy eating bacon and watching The Client List, and after she leaves (continuing to commentate her movements with voiceover) Will and Emma discuss her decline. Will is struck with an idea to help Brittany rediscover her identity, and bursts into glee club rehearsal to announce to the group that they will be performing at the annual back-to-school pep rally, and in the lead up to this performance that they will be revisiting the music of Britney Spears. He reminds Brittany – who’s disinterested and chomping down Oreos – how much she came into her own during the last Britney week, and how she inspired the rest of the club. Blaine and Artie, at Mr Schue’s request, start the assignment off with a duet had clearly and realistically been prepared and choreographed sometime between now and Brittany’s counselling session earlier that day. They sing a mash-up of Britney’s ‘Boys’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Boyfriend.’ The performance is boy-band swoon-worthy and it’s criminal that these two powerhouses haven’t sung together before now, but just saying – if I was a young lady in a lesbian relationship, I probably wouldn’t appreciate having these songs sung to me by a gay male and my own ex-boyfriend who had been weirdly emotionally abusive and misogynistic to me in the past. I can only imagine the looks (or slaps) Santana would be giving these clowns if they’d sung this to her to cheer her up. Anyway, Brittany nods along absently and tells Will that she’s “once again inspired by the awesomeness of Britney.” She says it like a soulless robot, but Will looks proud of himself, like he’s achieved something, because he’s an idiot.

New York: Rachel and new roomie Kurt are house-hunting and have decided to go with value for money as they ride their bikes around inside a giant, somewhat dirty open-plan warehouse apartment in Bushwick. They later eat Domino’s on a pallet on the floor (Domino’s? In New York City? Really?) and discuss their situation – they haven’t heard from Finn, Kurt’s going to reapply for NYADA’s next semester but in the meantime is applying for a job at Vogue.com – but when Rachel starts to complain about her dance problems and Kurt learns Cassandra’s name, he fills Rachel in on a scandal surrounding her teacher. Ten years ago, Cassie July was set to become Broadway’s new It Girl when she flipped out at the first preview of a new show she was opening. She abused an audience member whose mobile phone went off, and another attendee caught the incident on video. Allegedly it spread on Youtube (despite the fact Youtube was founded in 2005) and Cassandra was never hired for Broadway again. Kurt advises Rachel that Cassie is crazy and that Rachel cannot give in to her – if Cassandra says Rachel can’t do sexy, Rachel must keep fighting and prove her wrong.

McKinley: New girls Marley and Unique begin bonding over – what else – boys. Marley reveals that she finds Jake cute, and Unique pulls out a flawless “oh honey no” while telling Marley how Jake is bad news. Marley’s reluctant to accept this, saying Jake is a sensitive artist, but apparently, since being at the school, Jake has already left a trail of broken hearts behind him, Unique explains, and in case Marley didn’t get the message, she spells it out – Jake is a womanizer. In case Marley STILL didn’t get the message, Unique then sings ‘Womanizer.’ I’m not usually a fan of the ‘singing in the hallways to reinforce a point in conversation’ aspect of this show, but the number is really well done – it looks great, it sounds great, especially when Tina and Marley blend their voices with Unique’s. The girls follow Jake around the school as he does his womanizing, and it’s actually quite funny, particularly as they roll past judgementally on the library cart. Despite all of the warnings and evidence, Marley agrees to meet up with Jake and hang out after he’s lurked her gym class, and new BFFs Tina and Unique stare at her in disbelief.

Rachel finds her new friend Brody working out in the park. “I miss seeing you in the showers!” he exclaims, and somehow just – just – manages to make it not sound creepy. She explains her predicament with Cassandra and being deemed unsexy – “You’re crazy sexy,” Brody interjects, which is a little more creepy, but mostly just bold and confident. Rachel, because she’s a big girl now, takes this in stride and brushes it off, saying she knows she’s not but she would like Brody to help her in dance class as she has no partner. Brody explains that Cassie won’t allow it – but when Rachel looks disappointed, he says he will do it because defying her will be fun.

As part of the Britney assignment, Sam, Tina and Joe perform an acoustic version of ‘3.’ Because there’s three of them singing, right? No other reason. Everybody loves counting, after all. I have genuinely no idea how or why Glee chose to use this song and make literally no comment, joke or even a background facial expression about the implications of the lyrics. Everyone’s just bopping happily. Come on. Really? Nothing? Nothing? Can this performance at least launch a thousand Joe/Tina/Sam fanfics? Did the other two tell super-Christian Joe that this song is REALLY about counting? Anyway, mid-threesome, Brittany gets bored, walks over and plugs some clippers into the wall outlet, and begins to shave her head. Schuester and the club prevent it, screaming at her to stop. Brittany is then followed through the halls of McKinley by Jacob Ben-Israel, who is trying to get a statement on camera about her meltdown. “Leave me alone, JBI. Leave me alone, JBI,” she chants as she tries to get him to back off, and when he persists, she turns on him, attacking him with a green umbrella, a la Spears and the paparazzi.

The glee club seniors look on in horror. “Should we do something?” Blaine, good to see you’re back to your compassionate puppy self. “No.. he deserves it,” Tina states, and the girl has a point. Blaine clarifies that he meant doing something about Brittany’s downward spiral, before uttering the most truthful sentence of pure clarity ever spoken in the past 4 years of this show: “I think the whole singing at her thing isn’t really helping.” Artie states that, with losing her position on the Cheerios, she probably misses being in the spotlight, and that the club should give her that. All three of them wince as Brittany starts to club JBI violently with the umbrella as a random sobbing onlooker screams “LEAVE BRITTANY ALONE.” It had to happen.

Jake Puckerman scoots past this scene on his very bad-ass tough guy Razor scooter, and is apprehended by Mr Schuester. Schue, one of your students is literally bludgeoning someone right around the corner, maybe you should see to that? But he pulls Jake aside – he’s been creeping Jake’s schedule and it turns out Jake is missing most of his classes. Schue tries to talk Jake into joining glee again, referencing Puck and how much worse he’d been, how glee had helped him find a community and friends. Jake blows Schuester off, saying he doesn’t need friends, and immediately goes out to the bleachers to make friends with Marley.

Marley immediately does the nice-girl-falling-for-bad-guy thing of stating how soft and sensitive she knows Jake is and how his tough exterior, including his (normal) guitar, (normal) jacket and (super normal boring) hair are all walls he’s built to hide his inner pain. The topic shifts to glee and as he teases her about Britney week while strumming his guitar, they start to sing to each other – Marley begins with Britney’s ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ and Jake counter’s with Aerosmith’s ‘Crazy.’ This turns into a mash-up and they take over one another’s songs as they stalk each other around the bleachers, staring into each other’s eyes. They end up sitting, still staring and are potentially about to kiss, but Marley sits back and sighs, claiming she’s cold. Jake puts his jacket around her and then takes his guitar and leaves.

Back in the choir room, the rest of the club (minus Sugar – Sugar isn’t in this episode at all, I guess she only comes to school when she feels like it, or something) stares at Brittany as she sits alone nursing a comically huge 70oz coffee and talking to ‘Kiki’ – an app that Brittany claims is Siri’s older cousin that comes in the super-cheap phone she found at the laundromat. Can I just say, this scene really makes it clear that there’s about 30 chairs in that choir room and this club is the only one that ever uses the room. When have they ever had 30 people in there? Seriously? Anyway. New Directions gently express their worry about her and their wish that she start performing again. They offer her the lead spot at the pep assembly, and Brittany accepts on the condition that she can lip synch. The group tries to dissuade her from this, but she claims her voice is too weak to sing live and that if they record the song in advance, she can choreograph the number and mime along. The club is unhappy with this solution but seem to have no other option in order to help get Brittany back on her feet.

Back in New York and I’m certain this isn’t how a class is normally run, students don’t just come in and say ‘I’m going to do what I want and you have to watch,’ but this is what Rachel’s doing – she’s brought Brody along to help show Cassandra that she can be sexy. Cassandra – after snarking at Brody about how much he loves helping people, especially new ingenues – calling it now, Brody has a Past, possibly a Past that involves being sexy with Cassandra – magnanimously allows Rachel to show off what she’s prepared – which is a routine of ‘…Oops I Did It Again.’ I kind of rolled my eyes at the person running across with the smoke machine and the dancers creating lighting with flashlights – how has Rachel got them all this whipped? Cassandra studies the routine intensely – you can almost hear her thinking ‘why does this girl keep singing in my dance class,’ and at the end deems the routine as nothing special. Brody defends Rachel, saying she was incredible, but Cassie states that no, he himself had danced incredibly – Rachel was merely ‘okay.’ Oh yeah, these two have something going on. Cassandra taunts Rachel again about her lack of sex appeal and how she won’t get any roles because of it, and Rachel, armed with her information from Kurt, lashes out at Cassandra. Brody interjects, trying to stop Rachel calling her out,  but Rachel persists, saying that the teacher is jealous of all her students’ potential due to her own failure. Cassandra throws Rachel out of the class.

In the lunchroom at McKinley, this season’s Mean Jocks are being served lunch by Marley Rose’s mother, and they start to mock her. Marley steps in and tells them to stop, and the jocks begin to taunt Marley as well. Jake overhears and reprimands the jocks, asking them to apologise to both Rose women. They look at him like he’s joking, so he says ‘screw it’ and starts tackling them and slamming their heads into the food trays. Mr Schue intervenes and pulls Jake off of the other boys, hustling him out of the lunch room. Jake tries to defend himself, saying how unfair it was that the other guys were the ones in the wrong yet he’s getting dragged to the principal. Schuester tells Jake that he’s not being taken to see Figgins.

“He’s taking you to see me,” a disembodied voice says, and Glee fans who care about brilliant character depth and progression give an almighty cheer for the return of Noah Puckerman, the best-developed, best-handled and most delicate character growth this show has ever done. Will leaves the two alone – yeah, that’s a good plan, though I think Puck has earned his trust by now – and the boys literally start to circle each other, pacing around the choir room slinging insults at each other about their parentage. It’s established that Puck’s dad had a baby with “some slut waitress” – that’s a nice 9pm timeslot word for you there – while still married to Puck’s mother, which puts everything in place for canon fanatics screaming about Puck and his little (younger than Jake) sister that we’ve seen before. Jake claims that Puck doesn’t need to be there to ‘straighten him out,’ he’s perfectly fine and, FYI, Puck is not his brother. Puck tells Jake that he’s not as tough as he thinks he is – that there’s no way he’s as much of a bad-ass as Puck was himself but that none of that mattered and none of that behaviour – beating people up and ‘nailing chicks’ – made him a man. “What made me a man was sitting here in this room, singing songs I hated next to the biggest collection of losers you’ve ever seen.” BRB, sobbing. He tells Jake that if he comes into glee, it will do the same for him. Puck asks him to think on it for a couple of days, saying he has to get back to LA – something about that seems a little contrived and makes me wonder if his whole LA life is a lie, and that perhaps we will see him again soon. As he leaves, he tells Jake with authority: “whether you join glee club or not – you’re my brother.”

I am genuinely shocked that Iqual Theba, who plays Principal Figgins, has never received any recognition or awards for this role because in the moments we’re not screaming ‘how is it possible this is allowed to happen in a school’ he absolutely knocks it out of the park. His speeches at public assemblies get better and better (or worse and worse) and his opening of the pep rally is one of those moments where you think ‘wow, someone actually sits down and writes those words, screws them out of some twisted corner of their brain.’  While he talks, the club prepare to go on, and while the others warm up and stretch, Brittany sits in the corner eating Cheetos. The number is, naturally, ‘Gimme More,’ spoofing Spears’s poor performance at the 2007 VMAs, and Brittany gives a lackluster show, continuing to eat Cheetos she’s stashed on the back of Artie’s wheelchair, drinking soda, barely dancing, and eventually making it obvious that she’s lip syncing. Kitty stands and calls them out, and the rest of the crowd begin to boo the group, with Stoner Brett having the line of the night simply by shouting “J’accuse!” Stoner Brett, can you be the new Lauren Zizes and eventually join the glee club? Please? Unique manages to wrestle the soda bottle from Brittany and Blaine pulls the curtain around the stage when it becomes apparent that Brittany cannot continue the performance. She collapses to the ground amidst a sea of spilled Cheetos.

In the choir room, Schuester reads them all the riot act. He’s screaming like this is the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the glee club. He’s wrong, because we remember him joining in on ‘Toxic’ in the last Britney episode. That was a crime against humanity. In all seriousness, apparently lip syncing was pretty bad, not only for their reputation as performers at McKinley – if the show choir board got ahold of this information the New Directions could be banned from competition. The others shamefacedly apologise and explain they were only trying to help Brittany, and the girl in question resigns from the club. She removes herself from the choir room, and Sam looks thoughtful to himself. Let me guess – Sam is going to be the one to help Brittany. I know, I know. I’m psychic.

Rachel visits the dance studio and finds Cassandra staring at herself as she writhes in front of a mirror. She tells Rachel to stop talking, when she tries to apologise for her outburst, and she proceeds to drop some truth bombs on Rachel – that if all it took for her to snap was some honest criticism in class, that she isn’t going to make it on Broadway where all there is is scrutiny and judgement. She asks Rachel to think about what would have happened if someone taped an incident like that and spread it around – Rachel would never get cast, like Cassie can never get cast. As Rachel helps Cassie stretch, Cassie explains – in a reveal that shocks precisely no one – that the reason she picks on her students is to help them cope in the real world, in this industry, where things are a lot tougher. She says that – although she doesn’t believe in second chances because she knows they don’t exist – the school policy dictates that Rachel gets a warning before being permanently expelled from a class, so she’s back in Cassandra’s class, on probation.

Brittany receives a note including a map of the school and a misspelled message: “Meet me hear.” It’s from Sam, who has Brittany meet him in the auditorium. He tells her that he knows her game – the lip syncing, the outbursts – that she’s intentionally hitting rock bottom in order to make a glorious comeback – so he’s giving her ‘the last stop on the trainwreck express’ – an intervention. Apparently he’s the only one to have picked up on what Brittany was up to, because he says they think alike. Maybe it’s because Sam spends most of his time being a brilliant, beautiful, logical, rational, subtle and sensible human being, but I kind of forgot until this point that he was meant to be a bit dim? I seem to remember it being a factor way back when he was introduced, that he was kind of ditzy, but I haven’t seen that from him in such a long time that I was a bit confused by his apparent ability to relate to Brittany. That being said, the interaction was sweet and adorable and it’s kind of cool to see Sam Evans: Every Girl’s Platonic Best Male Straight Friend – last week Marley, this week Brittany. She admits to him how much she misses Santana – how Santana knows the way she thinks and would have understood what was going on – and Sam assures her that she has a new friend now who gets her. “I’m talking about me,” he says, when she looks confused. Seriously, can I vote Sam for the New Rachel? Or for President? Of the world? He’s just such a perfect human. She then reveals that she has an elaborate plan to get back on the Cheerios – all part of the comeback.

She goes to Sue and demands to be put back on the squad, citing Sue’s legal requirement to    obey her due to her research proving that she’s still class president. I don’t think Sue technically had to obey her as class president last year, but whatever. “This is clearly the plan of an idiot,” Sue states, “but a plan nonetheless, and one that required the barest modicum of human logic, which frankly I thought was beyond you.” Apparently this effort is good enough for Sue though, as she reinstates Brittany under the condition that Brittany works towards graduating this year, a plan that Brittany is already undertaking as she receives tutoring from Will and Emma.

Kurt and Rachel are painting their warehouse apartment – Rachel starts out testing potential colors and ends up painting a giant FINN inside a loveheart on the wall. Kurt once again assures her that Finn hasn’t called her for her own sake, that Finn loves her and is giving her freedom as a gift. Rachel retorts that so much freedom is starting to feel more like loneliness, prompting Kurt to offer to go out and get cake. All of these New York Hummelberry scenes are so brilliant and natural, the way Chris Colfer and Lea Michele interact is like something out of a different show or film. It’s more realistic in a way – most of Glee feels very scripted and caricatured, but their interactions have come so far past that – it’s the realest part of this show. As Kurt goes to leave, there’s a knock at the door and he opens it to find Brody. Kurt looks incredibly impressed with the NYADA junior and is thrilled to leave Rachel alone with him – I’m strongly reminded of Regina’s mom in Mean Girls. “Do you guys need anything? Some snacks? A condom?” Brody presents Rachel with an orchid as a housewarming gift, and when Rachel is surprised that he took the 45 minute journey to see her, he says that he wanted to tell her something that didn’t seem appropriate over text: that he really liked dancing with her and that he finds her very sexy. He tries to kiss her, but she stops him, and he sees the painting of Finn’s name on the wall. He realises that Rachel is still in love with Finn and says that he will respect Rachel’s boundaries, but that she should know no matter what, now, that if they’re together, Brody will be thinking about kissing her. Rachel nods in acceptance and Brody takes his leave.

Jake approaches Marley at her locker and asks if he can sit next to her in glee. She seems surprised that he’s joining, coyly saying she didn’t know her argument was that powerful. Jake explains that he’s found out that it may help his impulsive issues, and Marley is very pleased, becoming more confident in flirting with Jake. When she reminds him that she’s still wearing his jacket, he admits that it looks good on her – and they’re interrupted by Kitty, who asks for the jacket from Marley as apparently she and Jake are dating now. Marley is taken aback and Jake tries to play it down, and does not appear to particularly want to be dating Kitty. This is feeling very Rachel/Finn/Puck/Quinn already and I don’t think this twist is really necessary. Marley puts on a brave face and leaves the couple, and Jake doesn’t look too happy with himself. The afterschool bell rings and Jake heads to his first glee rehearsal.

Jake’s entrance to the choir room is one of the funniest things in the history of the show, because we see the club through Jake’s eyes with almost a fisheye lens, as the incredible mouth-breathing losers he takes them to be. I particularly loved Sam’s “hey dude, me and your bro were practically best friends, is it weird that I know him a lot better than you?” Jake basically looks terrified of everyone, including Brad the Piano Guy, but nevertheless, he takes a seat as a teary Marley requests to sing one last Britney song. She comes to the front and sings ‘Everytime.’ As she sings, we cut away to a montage: Rachel, sitting at the side as others practice the tango. Cassie directs one of the boys to release his partner and take a turn dancing with Rachel, and she delightedly joins in the tango lesson as Brody watches from the doorway. Brittany, reinstated into her Cheerio uniform, lies on her bed motionless staring at her computer, staring at Santana’s offline contact. Marley herself pretends to read in the bleachers as she watches Jake walking and playing guitar for Kitty, and Rachel again, back at the warehouse. She reluctantly paints over Finn’s name on the wall as we focus in on a closing shot of the symbolic orchid.

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