GLEE 2×02: Britney/Brittany

Like some sort of truth in advertising campaign, this week’s GLEE focused on the homonyms Britney and Brittany – showcasing the music of one and the dancing of the other. The story focused on the power of fantasy, and several of the production numbers were like a dream come true.

While Will (Matthew Morrison) wanted to focus on easy-listening icon Christopher Cross, the kids – especially Kurt (Chris Colfer) – wanted to perform a Britney Spears number for the homecoming pep rally. But Will was completely against it, because he did not consider her a solid role model. And, strangely enough, Brittany (Heather Morris) was against drawing from the pop princess’ catalog. That’s because Brittany’s full name is Brittany Susan Pearce, making her Brittany S. Pearce, or “Brittany Spearce.”

Brittany took the spotlight and had hella more lines than usual, which Morris continued to deliver in Brittany’s trademark sotto voce, slightly daffy yet low-key manner. Hearing her speak more than just tossing off the occasional funny non-sequitur, I was struck by how timid her tone is. Brittany really does seem shy – or maybe she believes what people tell her about being stupid and thus believes what she has to say isn’t worth hearing. (I personally love the nonsense she spouts each week. This week, it was tough to choose, but I think my favorite Brittany Line o’ the Week was: “This room looks like the one on that spaceship where I got probed.”

Will got to meet Dr. Carl Howell (John Stamos), his rival for Emma’s (Jayma Mays) affection. A dentist with his own dazzling smile, Carl began treating the New Directions teens for their dental woes (“I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist,” Brittany admitted.) at Will’s suggestion (“Kids can’t sing without teeth, right?”) Carl must have some power nitrous gas (I understand that in some parts of the country it’s referred to as “sweet air”?), because combining it with a Britney tune from the office Pandora, it induces vivid (and well-produced) music videos. Brittany was the first to experience Carl’s dentist suite dream state, and under the influence she performed a killer version of “Slave 4 U” while wearing a selection of the real Britney’s sexiest costumes, including that “Toxic” body stocking and the pneumatic red number from “Oops!…I Did It Again.” I did not think Morris’ vocals were quite up to the task of matching Britney’s power, but Morris’ dance skills are beyond question. She is an amazingly talented dancer, and it was wonderful to see her brought out of the shadows and allowed to cut loose for a change. Britney herself had cameos in several fantasies, where she mainly had to endure adulation and fire off a couple of lines.

Rachel (Lea Michele) also experienced a Britney fantasy under the influence – living her own version of “…Baby One More Time” that felt like a shot-by-shot remake. Michele had no problem duplicating Brit’s vocal range, but then again, there’s never been any question about her vocal power. And after the experience, Rachel unleashed her own feminine power, adopting Britney’s tarted-up schoolgirl look and reducing the boys to gibbering idiots. She felt empowered by the attention, while Finn (Corey Monteith) felt powerless next to her – especially since he lost his position on the football team and his symbolic power clothing, his letterman jacket. Finn copped to not feeling cool anymore and Rachel admitted that while she didn’t want Finn to feel bad about himself, she did want to be the only reason he feels good. The guys got into the act, as well, with Artie (Kevin McHale) performing a fine version of “Stronger” with the football team.

Rachel’s power play highlighted one point the show was trying to make about the power of dreams – or, more accurately in this case, fantasies – to effect change in one’s life. Heck, even Will decided he had to go out and buy a fancy car (well… a hybrid, at least) to live up to what he assumed were Emma’s dreams of male power symbols. Britney’s fantastical depictions of female sexual power in her videos helped several of the students to embrace their inner images of themselves in a positive way. But that’s not how Sue (Jane Lynch) saw it. To her, it was all depravity and horror. (Or would that be “whore-or”?) Sue called Britney a “gateway drug” to “sexual depravity.”

Of course, Sue was overreacting, but there was no denying how sexy everyone looked in their heightened states; but that’s kind of the point of fantasies. What woman wouldn’t want to look like Brittany? And what guy wouldn’t rather trade faces with Stamos? The overt sexiness was often played for comic effect, and did not come across as lascivious. I think the double-entendres, such as Santana (Naya Rivera) telling the dentist, “You can drill me anytime,” were racier.

I have, unfortunately, spent a whole heck of a lot of time in dentists’ chairs this summer, and nothing even remotely like these experiences has happened to me. But then I realized: I haven’t been getting the gas during my procedures. What was I thinking?

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