It is a tribute episode to the artist Madonna, only featuring songs by her. After Sue uses her love and inspiration for Madonna, she begins to train and ask her Cheerios to emulate her. Mr. Schuester is concerned that the girls in the glee club are being disrespected and bullied by the guys. Looking at Madonna and her musical message of equality as inspiration, he challenged the entire team to choose Madonna songs as their assignment in the hopes that the girls embrace her strength, independence, and confidence and that the guys will see the error of their misogynistic ways. The Glee Club takes the assignment to heart as they perform some of Madonna's greatest hits.
It is the first tribute episode the show has produced and also the first episode with an Extended Play album created for the episode.
The episode was written and directed by Ryan Murphy.
Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester is revealed to be a major Madonna fan, praising her powerful example and asking her Cheerios to emulate Madonna (including dating younger men and using their first names only, "A La Madonna") so that they will be more empowered in their performance as cheerleaders. By blackmailing Principal Figgins, she arranges for Madonna tunes to blast through the school intercom (except in Emma's office, with Sue justifying that Emma does not have the confidence to take control of her body and sex appeal like Madonna does).
Will Schuester sees the Cheerios performing a routine with stilts to the tune of Ray of Light after overhearing the girls in New Directions discussing difficulties they are having in relationships and life. Rachel, for example, asks the other girls for advice if a guy (who vaguely implies she is still dating Jesse St. James) is pressuring her to have sex. Quinn shows her feminist side and says females still earn less money for the same job men do. She also adds this attitude starts in high-school. Will is inspired to declare a Madonna-only assignment for the week, to boost the girls' confidence and personal empowerment. The boys dislike the idea, with the exception of Kurt, who announces he will be doing a multimedia presentation along with Mercedes, honoring Madonna.
The girls sing Express Yourself with most of the male members remaining unimpressed, except Kurt who applauds at the end of the performance. Meanwhile Santana, decides to bring it upon herself to take Finn's virginity. Initially Finn is hesitant to accept because he still has feelings for Rachel. Santana informs him that Rachel is already planning to have sex with Jesse, who she is still dating. Furious, he confronts her and after resigning himself to the fact Rachel is dating Jesse, agrees to do a mash-up of Borderline and Open Your Heart that also recaps issues in their relationship.
A music-video cover of Madonna's Vogue video starring Sue Sylvester in the Madonna role (which also features Kurt, Mercedes, Santana and Brittany) is intended as a makeover after Sue admits to Kurt and Mercedes that she is secretly jealous of Will's hair after an incident that happened to her as a child.
Three people decide to have sex for the first time and, with their respective partners, (Finn with Santana, Rachel with Jesse, and Emma with Will) they sing Like a Virgin. Rachel and Jesse decide not to go ahead, but Finn pushes through to losing his virginity with Santana, and he later hides this from Rachel because "it meant nothing." Will and Emma don't go through with it - despite wanting to, Emma loses her nerve and runs out of Will's house with no shoes on.
Meanwhile, Jesse surprises Rachel and New Directions by transferring to William McKinley High School so that he and Rachel can openly be together. There is resistance from the group, especially from Finn, as he has feelings for Rachel. Kurt and Mercedes are resistant as well because this will mean even fewer solos for them. There is also suspicion that Jesse is a spy for Vocal Adrenaline.
In retaliation for Jesse joining New Directions, Kurt and Mercedes accept Sue's offer of membership of the Cheerios. They want to add their musical talents to the Cheerios' cheerleading performances (further undermining Will) and perform 4 Minutes with them during a school assembly. They tell Will that they were unhappy about never having solos, and will be in both groups.
The boys sing What It Feels Like for a Girl, although Puck is uneasy with the song choice. They decide to treat the girls better and Artie, in particular, apologizes to Tina for his prior misogynistic behavior towards her. The two kiss for the first time since their fight about Tina's stutter.
The episode ends with Finn apologizing to Rachel and admitting just how much he liked her. Rachel is shocked and surprised, but before they can discuss the issue further, Jesse enters. Finn welcomes Jesse into New Directions and tells them both that he will not interfere in their relationship. The entire Glee club, now with Jesse part of the group, sing Like a Prayer, and are backed by a gospel choir, with Kurt and Mercedes each having a solo.
|Song Title||Original Artist||Performer(s)|
|Express Yourself||Madonna||New Directions Girls|
|Borderline/Open Your Heart||Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry|
|Like a Virgin||Emma Pillsbury, Finn Hudson,|
Jesse St. James, Rachel Berry,
Santana Lopez, and Will Schuester
|4 Minutes||Madonna ft. Justin Timberlake||Kurt Hummel and Mercedes Jones|
|What It Feels Like for a Girl||Madonna||New Directions Boys|
|Like a Prayer||New Directions|
|Burning Up ‡||Jesse St. James with Vocal Adrenaline|
- ‡ denotes that the song was cut from the episode entirely.
- Ray of Light by Madonna - Danced to by Cheerios.
- Burning Up by Madonna - Played during Santana and Britanny's conversation.
- Frozen by Madonna - Played during Marcedes, Kurt, Will and Sue scene as well as Finn and Santana scene.
- Justify My Love by Madonna - Played during Figgins and Sue scene.
Special Guest Star
- Iqbal Theba as Principal Figgins
- Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez
- Josh Sussman as Jacob Ben Israel
- Heather Morris as Brittany S. Pierce
- Harry Shum Jr. as Mike Chang
- Dijon Talton as Matt Rutherford
Absent Cast Member
- Chris Colfer commented that this episode was one of the cast's favorite but the hardest to work on.
- Dijon Talton stated that Like a Prayer was his favorite song from this episode.
- Ryan Murphy was eager to do a tribute episode to Madonna, having worked with her in the past. Madonna gave her full co-operation and allowed the show to have access to her entire music catalogue.
- When Emma is talking to Will about role models she mentions that Britney Spears and her "shaved head" is a bad role model for the kids. This is funny because in the episode Britney/Brittany Emma talks of how she is a great role model for rebirth and defeating adversity.
- Brittany's line, "Mr. Schue, is he your son?" was ad-libbed by Heather Morris.
- When Quinn is doodling Rachel, there are hearts around Rachel's name for some unknown reason.
- Amber Riley's mother was one of the members of the choir during Like a Prayer.
- At Comic-Con, Ryan said the original plan was to have Tina sing a mash-up of Justify My Love and Erotica, but it didn't make the final cut - it was also said there were plans to have a second Madonna episode in Season 2. Source
- The pamphlets in Emma's office include the titles "Congratulations You're Pregnant!," "My Mom's Bipolar and she Won't Stop YELLING," "Help! I'm in LOVE With My Stepdad!," "I Still BREASTFEED …but How Old IS Too Old," "Radon: The Silent Killer." Other titles begin with "LOOSE," "Toxic Shock," "YUK! My Privates," and "Why is There Blood."
- This is the first episode where Santana and Sue sing.
- This is the first time we see Sue in something besides a tracksuit or something tracksuit related.
- Emma mentions Lindsay Lohan. Lindsay later guest-starred in the season three episode, Nationals.
- This is the first tribute episode on the show.
- This is the first episode ever where all the main characters present in the episode (all but Terri) sing a song.
- Santana calls Finn "A Cabbage Patch Kid", ironically, Naya Rivera who plays Santana, did ads for Cabbage Patch when she was younger.
- When Rachel is talking to the female Glee members about her date with Jesse you can see Brittany rubbing Santana's hand and when the angle switches back after the flashback of the date Brittany isn't rubbing her hand, but when the angle switches again she is still rubbing her hand, indicating they never dropped hands.
- When Will and Emma are in Will's office, he pulls out her shoes and places them on his desk. She never picks them up and in the next shot of the desk the shoes are gone. However, Emma's hands aren't shown, either, and the camera is at an angle where she could be holding them, but out of the audience's eyesight.
- When Brittany is suggesting that Santana should date Finn because he is younger, she said his birthday was three days before hers which would mean he is actually three days older than her, not the other way around. This is probably scripted to be a Brittany error, which is characteristic for her.
Mr. Schue, is he your son?
Just come out so we can talk. Or sing about it.
Somewhere in the English countryside, in a stately manor, Madonna is weeping.
You think this is hard? I'm passing a gallstone as we speak! That's hard!!!
As Madonna once said, I'm tough, I'm ambitious and, if that makes me a bitch, okay; pretty sure she stole that line from one Sue Sylvester. No, really, I said it first.
Lindsay Lohan looks like something out of the Lord Of The Rings.
I mean for me. Its win-win for me.
You took ownership of your body when you said you didn't wanna sleep with me... and then ran out of my apartment with no shoes on.
I've noticed it takes about 20 times until a feeling of accomplishment really kicks in.