Kurt has a clash with a flashy singer (guest star Adam Lambert), while the New Directions bicker over Katy Perry and Lady Gaga

By Marc Snetiker
Updated November 08, 2013 at 06:02 AM EST
Adam Rose/Fox


S5 E4
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“Applause” vs. “Roar”! “Roar” vs. “Applause”! It’s the question we were defiantly asked all summer, a real pop music Sophie’s choice (if Sophie had to choose between playlists instead of her progeny).

Tonight’s return episode of Glee addressed summer’s LadyPerryGate 2013 head-on with the aptly named “A Katy or a Gaga,” which found the New Directions and New Yorkers both celebrating their love of the world’s biggest pop queens. (Elsewhere, Rihanna is crying in a hopeless place.)

After last month’s Cory Monteith farewell “The Quarterback,” things have mostly returned to normal for the Glee characters. Everyone appears to have re-adjusted to the way things were, except for Rachel, who’s still in a dark place despite recently winning the lead in the Broadway production of Funny Girl. Understandably so, Rachel decides to sit out when Kurt proposes that he’s going to start a band, but of course, Santana and Demi Lovato’s Dani are both on board.

In Lima, Mr. Schue tells the club the other teams they’ll be competing against at Nationals: the Rust-Belters, the Thunder Showcats and Throat Explosion, a “supergroup” that only admits students who log 10,000 hours of show choir rehearsal (which is 416 days, because math). They live their art, see, just like mini Lady Gagas.

Unfortunately, Tina thinks that McKinley lost their biggest Gaga when Kurt graduated; instead, they’re a room full of Katy Perrys. Unique disagrees: “You best check your spectrum, Queen T, because orange is the new black and Unique is the new Gaga.” Tina outs Marley, Sam and Blaine as Katy Perrys, while claiming that she, Unique and Kitty are pure Gagas. (Ryder asks for a third option, but nobody acknowledges his existence.) Rather than put a pin in the argument and continue planning for Nationals, Mr. Schue gives the kids an assignment. The Gagas will do Katy songs, and vice versa. And we’re off!

In the hallway, Sam is chilling out, maxin’, relaxin’ (all cool) at his locker when Nurse Penny arrives. (Now, it should be noted that I don’t approve of a relationship between a school nurse and a student, especially a man-child like Sam and a child-nurse like Penny.) Sam inquires about her gigantic arm tattoo, but she calmly explains, “I like to tat up when I go to Skrillex concerts.” Penny says she has a musical dark side, and Sam’s intrigued, but Penny seems put off when she notices that Sam has a poster in his locker of the 2008-2011 Nickelodeon series True Jackson, VP. Well, Nurse Penny is flat-out disgusted by this. “This is not how I saw you at all. Weren’t you a stripper?” she asks, as if that’s more acceptable somehow. “We prefer the term erotic entertainer,” says Sam. Ha. He asks her out, but she demurs because she already has plans with her ex to go to a Nine Inch Nails concert in 1997 Columbus. She glances at the poster again, because that’s her dealbreaker of dealbreakers, and then just like that, Nurse Spring Awakening trots off.

NEXT: Kurt books a rehearsal space!

At auditions, Kurt has only managed to secure a table for two, leaving Demi-Dani to sit on the stage looking bored like a Judy Blume character who wandered into Hot Topic and bought a leather jacket just to spite her mom and her heinous new boyfriend Jerry. “No one’s going to try out for a band that doesn’t even have a name,” says Santana, looking fabulous. “We’re not naming it Apocalipsticks,” says Kurt, as if that’s not absolutely something he would have suggested in season three. Only one person has signed up for the auditions, but he’s a no-show…until Kurt calls out his name! “Who names themselves Starchild?”

Ta-da! It’s Adam Lambert! The American Idol alum pops in with steampunk goggles, fingerless Fagin gloves, a jaunty hat, and high boots that look like that one Spice Girl who wears high boots (Paprika?). His name is Starchild, and he’s late because people kept stopping him on the street to ask for his picture.

Starchild takes the stage, prefacing his audition song: “It’s by one of my favorite artists, somebody that always inspires me to be myself, no matter what other people think.” Is it Raffi? No, it’s Gaga! Cue “Marry the Night,” in which Lambert sounds freaking incredible and all sorts of hilarious things happen.

Starchild sings and wails, swinging from the chandelier and hitting the ground to make sweet hardwood (hehe) love to the floorboards. Demi-Dani is jamming with her mouth half-open like she’s in a girl power romcom during the let’s-clean-the-house montage. Santana is also loving it, and busts out her phone to Vine the whole thing. But Kurt is Not. Having. It. Much like McKayla Maroney or Grumpycat, homeboy is simply not impressed. He tells Starchild that he’s not a fit for the band, prompting Santana’s best line of the night: “Are you insane? I’m sorry, would you mind just stepping outside for a moment while I bitch-slap some sense into my friend?”

Kurt says Starchild has a striking aesthetic, but is “a little outré” (o͞oˈtrā/ adjective 1. unusual and startling) for the team that he’s assembling. (Suddenly, I have a vision of Chris Colfer as Nick Fury, and I never want to forget it.) And then Kurt drops the bomb of bombs, the un-Kurtiest of Kurtisms: “If you’re willing to tone down your look, maybe I’d reconsider.” GIIIIIIIRL! Did you just say that? You, who has worn things like a sheriff belt and Beetlejuice pants and whatever this was? Kurt is waxing hypocritical, which can only mean one thing: He’s threatened.

NEXT: I don’t spend one page on a single scene

Back in Lima, Bree enters Sue’s office wearing a dress made entirely of caution tape. She’s dressed like Lady Gaga, but strangely so is Sue, wearing a stylish and elegant yet practical face cage (Saw IV by Ann Taylor Loft). Bree tells Sue her plan to “throw a little Gaga” Jake’s way, in the hopes of seducing him away from Marley and just generally screwing with the Glee club. Sue calls Schuester’s Katy-Gaga week “the most annoying thing they’ve ever done,” which is just hilarious. “Why must we always choose between female pop archetypes?” Sue cries out. “Why can’t we be them all!?”

Let’s check in with Marley and Jake. See, Jake has been feeling a little bored (read: horny) lately doing the same thing over and over again with his super vanilla (that wasn’t a racial thing) girlfriend. Case in point: Marley wants to go to Breadstix for a Julie Andrews movie marathon. Jake begs her to shake it up a bit, so Marley suggests they go to something called orchid mania, or to a mobile cat adoption at the mall. “You are such a Katy,” says Jake. “Why, because I like cats and flowers and Julie Andrews?” asks Marley. And suddenly, it starts to become apparent that nobody on Glee’s writing staff actually knows who Katy Perry is.

Horny Jake wants more edge, so Marley suggests a John Mayer concert, and Horny Jake reluctantly agrees because he thinks there’s the slim chance that she’ll finally let him into her skinny jeans. And then in comes Bree, dressed in her cheer uniform instead of the Gaga caution tape dress (maybe she realized Yellow is the new Nothing, Ever). Bree asks Jake for help choreographing a number for the Cheerios, and Marley insists he do it, because boring old Marley doesn’t realize that Bree is a maniacal she-bitch, and because maybe that’ll free up more time for boring old Marley to do boring old things like admire her collection of glass animals or read Silas Marner on her Nook SimpleTouch.

In the auditorium, Sam has taken control of the Gagas to create a “scary and weird and controversial” show so he can win over Nurse Penny. He decides that in order to guarantee a sold-out show, he has to recruit some Little Monsters, so his first target is Becky, whom he stops in the hallway. “Bug off! I don’t do handies,” she says as my jaw unhinges and crashes into the floor. Sam pleads his case, and it turns out that Becky has no idea what a Gaga (“Who?”) or Katy Perry (“The Governor of Texas?”) is.

Becky quickly learns, because she’s in Sue’s office for morning announcements, interrupting a lesson in which Mr. Schuester is teaching students about the Iroquois origins of the word Ohio (remember when he was a Spanish teacher?). Becky instructs the school to open their laptops, which they all do (that would never fly in my high school, which once banned yo-yos), and Sam has somehow found a way to override every single media device at McKinley High, but nobody is worried about that because they’re captivated by Sam’s super wacky teaser video instructing everyone to go to the auditorium after school. Sam personally invites Nurse Penny, who says she can’t attend because she’s getting her ears pierced (she’s edgy like that).

NEXT: Sam becomes a cyber-criminal mastermind

In New York, Santana shows the video to Rachel, who confronts Kurt about his selfishness. “If I was afraid of sharing the limelight with someone, I would do a solo show at the Duplex about my obsession with Broadway divas,” says Kurt, referencing an actual Off Broadway show about exactly this. Kurt tells Rachel that he doesn’t like Starchild’s look because it reminds him of the “weirdo, quirky” thing he used to do, and if Kurt ever wants to find success, he has to be accepted by a mass audience. It’s actually a gigantic realization for Kurt, even if it feels very sudden. Rachel assures Kurt that he is a true talent — and Starchild is as well.

Meanwhile, the Gaga group is struggling with their Katy ideas since they’re only coming up with Gaga ones (“Let’s re-enact a baby’s birth on stage!” shouts Unique). Frustrated Horny Jake ditches the brainstorm to go help Bree and the Cheerios, but Kitty calls him out. Unique pulls Marley aside and warns her that Jake may be on the verge of cheating, quoting her Aunt Felicia: “A tiger can’t change his stripes, especially when the tiger’s a man slut.” Then Unique calls Bree a penis flytrap and suggests that Marley go full Gaga to surprise him.

Cut to the second number of the night, “Applause,” which was suitably hilarious on all counts. Ryder is in a cage. Sam is wearing skeletal angel wings and no shirt. Blaine bursts out of a vat-thing wearing a blonde wig and a blazer from Cruella de Vil’s crocodile collection. Artie is doing Gaga’s album cover, with some sort of inflatable mattress behind him. As ridiculous as the performance is, I love every single second. But suddenly, here comes Marley. She’s eschewed Unique’s advice and enters the stage with giant lollipop in hand, wearing an outfit that’s clearly Katy Perry circa “California Gurls.”

After the performance ends, the guys turn on Marley. “What happened to the seashell bikini!?” Sam cries. Marley stands up for herself, saying she didn’t feel comfortable in it, and suddenly I’m always and forever on Team Marley because of what happens next. Mr. Schue actually scolds her for putting her “personal agenda” before the team, and SUSPENDS HER FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK. Because she didn’t wear a seashell bikini TO SCHOOL. Like…I don’t even know how to react to this. Neither does the rest of the club, except Becky, who turns to the camera with an “Oh snap!” because Becky just gets me that way.

NEXT: The Gagas can’t get their ARTPOP together

Sam tracks down Nurse Penny, who bolted after the “show.” (Wasn’t the entire school supposed to be there?) Like the heartless wench she is, she tells him that she “didn’t hate it” but that Gaga just isn’t her thing. Then she confesses: Her musical dark side is actually something she pretended to have because of her bad boy exes, and she’s done with it. She admits that she prefers Carrie Underwood, Bruno Mars and (TA-DA!) Katy Perry. They’re both Katys! Sam loves it, Penny loves it, and the two start tongue-jousting in her office.

In the choir room, the Gagas are still fighting. It’s the day of their performance and they still don’t have a plan for their Katy song. Unique tried to break into the zoo to steal tigers, but there is no zoo, so instead she dressed Jake up as an Andrew Lloyd Webber nightmare (“I look like a gay Thundercat,” says Mungojake). Tina insists they need to lose the gimmicks and spectacle, arguing that people love Katy’s music because it’s “fun and kind and real and girl-next-door.” (Let me remind you that Katy Perry’s hit songs include the one where she sprays whipped cream from her boobs and the show-me-your-genitals anthem “Peacock.”)

The quartet decides to perform “Wide Awake” with just a piano and some stools, and it’s pretty beautiful. Good work, team! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the show can do a damn beautiful ballad.

At the diner, Kurt is serving Starchild, who has toned down his look and transformed into Elliot Gilbert, an average college kid from Paramus who came into the city specifically to audition for Kurt’s band (let’s just pretend we forgot that he goes to NYU). Elliot confesses that one of the items on his artist bucket list is being in an indie band. “If Starchild’s too much for you, I can be whoever you want. I just wanted to make an impression,” he says, and Adam Lambert actually does well at making this believable. Kurt decides that Starchild is the best of the best, and invites him to join the band…

…which still doesn’t have a name! In the loft, Demi suggests the Nipslips. “Boob lovers of all genders will show up.” Santana suggests Areola 51, to entice the sci-fi geeks. Kurt isn’t happy with any of the choices, though. Rachel serendipitously arrives from Funny Girl rehearsal and, for absolutely no prompted reason, suggests the name Pamela Lansbury. And Kurt LOVES IT. “A band with the raw sex appeal of Pamela Anderson and the quiet dignity of Angela Lansbury!” he screams. Now Rachel just has to join, and of course, she does, because what Broadway headliner doesn’t have time to moonlight in a band?

NEXT: Jake tries to give Marley his Breadstix

After their performance, Jake consoles Marley, who wasn’t allowed in the auditorium for the performance because she’s suspended (yet she’s still at school, and in her “California Gurls” dress, so she’s not too suspended). Horny Jake, being adorable, suggests that she come over to watch Mary Poppins. Aww. He just wants to spend time with her and do what she wants to — WAIT A SECOND. They’re not watching Mary Poppins at all!

Instead, they just make out on Jake’s bed, which Marley seems into, but then he tries to cop a feel and she just about flips out on him. Finally, he confesses that he’s been bummed out about not being able to touch her boobs, and has tried to not pressure her to touch her boobs, and she won’t even consider letting him touch her boobs, even though he’s the most patient and sooo understanding. (Straight boys, ladies and gentlemen.) Marley is pissed, though, and suggests that if he wants it so badly, he can go get it from one of his former ladies-o’-the-evening who gives it up so freely. Cut to: Jake goes back to school and finds Bree, then asks her if they can go someplace private (or at least, someplace private that’s not the quiet, empty dance room they are currently in). Que scandale!

In the choir room, Tina relays the sad news that Throat Explosion will be doing “Applause” at Nationals. Mr. Schuester says there’s a lesson to be learned, though: Just like the New Directions and Throat Explosion, the friendly rivalry between Lady Gaga and Katy Perry inspires both of them to work harder and be bolder and better. (Ohhhhhhhhh.)

The tender moment is ruined when Principal Sue bursts in and suspends everyone for a week for wearing ridiculous Katy Perry outfits (oh, did I mention they’re all wearing ridiculous Katy Perry outfits now?). Sue threatens Mr. Schue, who seems skeptical that she’s actually starting up a feud with Glee club again. But the New Directions won’t have it, and they immediately direct a spirited performance of “Roar” in Sue’s direction…

…and then we’re in the auditorium, where the stage has been decked out in Swiss Family Robinson jungle chic. The boys are dressed as Tarzan, the girls as Jane, and Van Pelt Artie is serving up some major Jumanji realness. In New York, the newly-formed Pamela Lansbury also sings, though they’re decidedly less jungle-y and decidedly more Brooklyn-y. Everything’s great, except Marley arrives…and so does Bree…and they both wave to Jake. Ahhh!

If anyone managed to count the number of times the words “Katy” or “Gaga” were said on tonight’s episode, please submit your findings for scientific study.

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