In 'Born This Way,' lessons from Lady Gaga guide the gang as Rachel considers a major makeover and everyone has a make-under

By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated April 27, 2011 at 11:23 AM EDT
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Credit: Adam Rose/Fox
S2 E18

That’s more like it, Gleeks!

After having an off week last week, Glee was back — and with an extra 30 minutes for our troubles. And you know what? It was muuuuuuch better. Let’s break down this lesson about “acceptance.” (Luckily, Mr. Schue’s spelling was better than his math was last week.)

The episode began with something we’ve all wanted to do at one time or another: Rachel was punched in the face — except this was an accident (or “accident”?). Poor Finn and his clumsy dance moves. Oh, and poor Rachel’s nose. Not only was it punched and bruised, but it was insulted by the most horrible doctor I’ve ever seen, who suggested the 16-year-old get a nose job to fix her, um, prominent, signature feature. Blasphemy! To be fair, he also claimed it would improve her voice, which got her attention. Of course, the man knew the angle would work. It is quite obvious to anyone who has met Rachel that the girl would buy magic beans if she was promised enhanced talents. (Note: I hope someone tries to sell her magic beans one day.)

The doc’s proposition, which most of Rachel’s glee-mates found outrageous, spurred a whole conversation about things the kids didn’t like about themselves. Finn admitted that he hated his dancing, and Santana did the work for everyone else, rudely pointing out what she thought their flaws were. (Seriously, though: Santana, I know you take permanent residence on Bitch Lane, but enough with the jokes about Sam’s mouth. “Trouty Mouth” was funny the first time, but my heart just can’t take any more sad expressions from him.) Over in the cafeteria, Will complained to cleanybug Emma about the kids’ low self-esteem, but was struck by inspiration while cleaning her fruit (that’s not an innuendo): He would call upon the lessons of Gaga.

In the process of teaching “acceptance” (and making nifty T-shirts), Will hoped Emma would own up to her OCD. But she apparently thought being a “ginger” was a bigger problem, which displeased Will because he knew she wasn’t being honest with herself about the severity of her problem. He even put her to the test later by trying to make her eat unwashed fruit — which she didn’t. Although I don’t blame her for that one. While eating that unwashed fruit, Schue, why don’t you run with scissors and chew your food lying down. (P.S. I’m a square.) Anyway, his display caused Emma to seek help for her disorder, and despite some initial resistance, she ended up taking the help/medication offered to her by her new therapist (played by Kathleen Quinlan, who was fantastic). She didn’t even scrub the anti-crazy pill before she took it.

NEXT: Santana, queen of the damned

Meanwhile, Santana was working on her campaign to get the prom-queen crown and get Brittany back, but she knew she didn’t have the popularity juice to win the votes. So she decided to team up with Karofsky (eewwwwww). If she tamed him (well, if she pretended to), she could convince Kurt to come back to McKinley, possibly woo Brittany back, and have the votes to win (jock votes + being a glee hero). So they agreed to be the beard and the beast.

They even went so far as to set up a parent meeting, explaining to the adults in the room (Burt, Karofsky’s dad, Figgins, and Schue) how much Karofsky had changed. The bully even gave a little speech to the glee club about what he’d “learned” from Santana about the dangers of bullying and told them about their new club, the Bully Whips, who had the best outfits known to man. It would have been rather sweet, actually — had it not been a total ruse. Kurt, of course, saw right through it all, and leveled with his former tormentor: He’d return as long as Karofsky educated himself and helped him start a chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Surprisingly, Karofsky agreed. Kurt. Was. Back.

Santana wasn’t the only crown seeker, though. Lauren, a former pageant baby, also had her eye on the prize after Puck encouraged her to do so. I’m still loving this pair with the force of a thousand baby pull-ups, by the way. Especially since Puck managed to go the entire conversation without sounding like a horny teen. I know “horny teen” is part of the character’s DNA, but that’s what we call growth, people!

Midway through the episode, I couldn’t say the same for Lauren, who pulled a stunt as evil as Santana is bitchy, as underhanded as Sue is tough, and as cruel as Mr. Schue’s chin is buttlike. She uncovered, via private records, that Quinn had a secret past at another school under the moniker “Lucy Q. Fabray.” Turns out “Lucy” was not only Goosey, she was ugly (an extra 70 lbs., zits, and quite the honker). Mortified, Quinn thought her chances for prom queen-ness were over, until she noticed that others were identifying better with Lucy than Quinn — even Finn, who had put a photo of Quinn as Lucy in his wallet. This pleased Quinn, who had spent much of the episode jealous of Finn’s support for Rachel. (My time machine worked! We’re back in season 1!) To be honest, I was really upset that Lauren had taken this step into bully territory, and I was pleased that she quickly apologized for the stunt. I really hope they don’t mess up Lauren’s likability by making her do many more acts like this. I feel like her wit is above petty stunts.

Two questions while we’re on this subject: (1) Was anyone else annoyed when Rachel showed her photo composites to the glee club, then declared that it “wasn’t up for discussion!”? Um, Rachel, you brought it up for discussion! I have to give the show credit, though. That was a very teenage-girl move. I would know — I was once one. ( 2) Who were those three oddly dressed chubby girls fawning over Lauren’s and Quinn’s photos? That must have been a pop culture reference that I don’t understand, and I’m not ashamed to admit my possible oversight. Please, educate your recapper. (If I believe someone’s answer enough, I will add a note here for those who don’t comb through comments!)

NEXT: Grading the performances

In the end, everyone accepted their insecurities, and wore awesome shirts as they performed “Born This Way.” (Best one? Puck’s, which said “I’m with stupid,” and had an arrow pointing down to his Little Puck.) Also, seeing Santana wearing her “Lebanese” shirt, even though she wasn’t on stage, was a pretty significant moment. I’m rooting for her.

THE PERFORMANCES

“I Feel Pretty”/”Unpretty”

Loved the song choices, and while part of me would have said that pairing Rachel and Quinn for a duet would vocally be like putting a pit bull in a cage match with a Maltipoo, it actually worked! There was a surprisingly balanced and incredibly lovely tone. Not to mention, the entire scene was edited to achieve maximum goose-bumpage. A

“I’ve Gotta Be Me”

The presence of Mike Chang dancing always increases the stock value of a song, and in this case, it was the heart. Watching Finn and Mike work through dance moves = adorable. B+

“Somewhere Only We Know”

I’ve already gushed about this song on EW’s Music Mix blog, but let me repeat: I love this song, and I’m going to miss the Warblers. Blaine, switch schools soon. Actually, ALL the Warblers should switch schools and form a supergroup with New Directions. NKOTBSB did it; why can’t they? A+

“As If We Never Said Goodbye”

Kurt apparently picked up a few helpful notes (pun!) from his Warbler brothers and emerged an even better solo singer than I recall. (Wow, was the hiatus that long?) Most enjoyable, however, was a tenderness Kurt added to the song that I don’t think could have been duplicated by any other member of this ensemble. Also, who else loved that they apparently kidnapped the orchestra for this episode? A-

“Barbra Streisand”

Sorry, I didn’t get the point of this. (Yes, obviously, there was the Streisand thing, but this felt sort of unnecessary.) Yes, there was that cute moment where Kurt told Rachel she was “one in a billion,” but even that didn’t shake my feeling that they simply had no time to prep a REAL musical number. Is this a built-in promo for Mobbed? Where’s Howie Mandel? Gross. Forget I asked that last question — I don’t care, which is sort of how I felt about this number. C

“Born This Way”

Reading the T-shirts that accompanied this song was half the fun of this group number. It’s not my favorite group number by any means, though, but I attribute that to my disconnect with the song. (I’m among the little Monsters who felt this wasn’t her best effort.) B+

Now for some talking points: What did you think of the mega-size episode, readers? Better than last week? Were you as pleased with the music as I was? What did you think of Quinn’s dark (albeit very random) secret past? Whose shirt was your favorite? And are you deathly excited about Sue’s costumes next week (per the preview)?

NEXT: The week’s best lines

QUOTABLES

“I hear Rachel’s got a bit of a schnoz. I wouldn’t know since, like Medusa, I try to avoid eye contact with her.” — Santana

“You have weird, puffy, pyramid nipples. They look like they’re filled with custard. You could dust them with powdered sugar, and they could pass for dessert.” — Santana (but we all know the best part of this was when Sam pulled back Finn’s jacket, as if he was going to check)

“I really don’t like that term; it sounds too scientific. I prefer neat freak or cleanybug.” — Emma, re: the term OCD

“Jack Ryan, you’ve just boarded Red October — Sean Connery” — Sam (well, I laughed)

“I’m a closet lesbian and a judgmental bitch, which means one thing: I have awesome gaydar.” — Santana

“Those crowns are a crock. You know what I found out? Not real jewels.” — Puck

Santana: “First of all, I saw you checking out Sam’s ass the other day. You really need to be more careful about your leering.”

Karofsky: “I was not. I was just seeing what jeans he was wearing.”

Santana: “Like that’s any less gay.”

“Look, I’m not ready to start eating jicama or get a flattop, either. Maybe in junior college.” — Santana

“The only straight I am is straight-up bitch.” — Santana

“And you know what? Even though it’s easier to make out with them without getting constantly stabbed in the eye, they’re not as hot.” — Puck, re: Jewish girls with nose jobs

“…because you’re Lebanese, and I think I’m bi-curious.” — Brittany

READER QUOTABLES

[Talking about Barbra Streisand]

Rachel: “Is she here?”

Kurt: “This is a mall in Ohio”

(Suggested by Karen)

“It’s cool. I checked the peephole I drilled last year and no one is going.”–Puck, explaining to Rachel why he thinks it’s fine for him to be in the girls’ rest room

(Suggested by MollyB)

“Maybe she uses it to pick seeds.” — Santana, re: Rachel’s nose

(Suggested by Morgan)

“If you wanted to breath better why not get Karl Malden’s nose?” –Puck

(Suggested by natkellogg21)

There’s plenty of room here for your suggestions, too. Nominate in comments, and I’ll comb through later for some great add-ons! See you next week!

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @EWSandraG

Episode Recaps

Glee

Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, and high school anxiety star in Fox’s campy musical.

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