Though the show’s most beloved (for her unapologetic hatefulness) character, Sue Sylvester (played with all the purposefulness and empathy of a power drill by Jane Lynch) was pretty much absent from tonight’s Lady Gaga themed episode of Glee, the show still had a lot of great moments. Unfortunately, none of those great moments were musical. Tonight’s show was useful not only in demonstrating the essential commonality between the artistry of Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, and KISS – that is, in a word the show beat us over the head with tonight, theatricality – but also in explaining the symbology behind the KISS members’ made up personae. Who knew, right?

It also boasted two of the season’s most dramatic and surprisingly uncartoonish plot developments. Kurt’s father’s confrontation with their potential future stepbrother/son over Fin’s use of the “F” word (not the four letter one) was powerful and moving, and suggested a new layer of complexity in the three characters’ relationships with each other.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s thwarted reunion with her birth mother – rival glee club coach and disappointed former Broadway aspirant Ms. Cochrane (played by real life Broadway star Idina Menzel in a brilliant bit of lookalike-soundalike-no-way-these-two-don’t-share-genes casting) – felt almost underplayed. It was emotionally three-dimensional, as the relief of confession turned not into a happily-ever-after ending, but into a sort of relationship limbo. Moreover, when Rachel (Lea Michele) admitted with some degree of regret that she just didn’t feel a daughterly need for her mother, the show seemed to honor her relationship with her adoptive dads in a way the show, which has never really shown us her adoptive dads (which, as an adoptive dad, infuriates me!), never has before.

Unfortunately, the show’s musical numbers tonight were uniformly duddish, from strictly imitative versions (in both staging and arrangement) of Streisand’s “Funny Girl”, KISS’s “Shout It Out Loud”, and, of course, Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, a performance so synthesized and Autotuned that the show momentarily felt like a trailer for RockStar: Lady Gaga Edition, to a boy-band-on-stools rendition of KISS’s “Beth”, similar to their take on Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For a Girl” a few weeks back. But at least in that performance, there were, y’know, harmonies and stuff. Here, the Glee boys couldn’t be troubled to throw in even the most rudimentary harmonies, instead singing key lines of the song’s chorus in an emotionally empty unison. It was like Kidz Bop performed by teenagers. Or rather Kidz Bop performed by 28-year-olds playing teenagers.

But the show, sadly, saved the worst for last. Seriously, what were the writers thinking when they had Rachel and Ms. Cochrane (biological mother and daughter, remember) sing a duet on Gaga’s “Poker Face”? Confoundingly, this was the one musical number in tonight’s episode that did anything new with the song. In this case, it was given a cutesy, playful, old-timey vaudeville melodic treatment that rendered the song virtually unrecognizable – quite a feat given its 18-month pop-cultural omnipresence – while preserving the song’s aggressively graphic sexual innuendoes. It wasn’t just disappointing. It was sort of disgusting. Let me clarify: if this were a duet between Rachel and one of her peers – say, Quinn Fabray, her longtime rival for Fin’s affections – the song would have had a fun, kinky, but ultimately harmless, sexual tension. But the Michele/Menzel duet on the song had an unintended (I hope I hope I hope) incestuous undertone. It was just all kinds of wrong.

Compounding my disappointment is the fact that there actually is a Lady Gaga song that could have served the scene well, and though it’s not one of The Lady’s hit singles, it’s no obscurity either. She’s performed it in numerous television appearances, and it even makes a cameo in tonight’s Glee episode – in an early scene, Kurt’s got it playing on his stereo. “Speechless”, from The Fame Monster, is a big Elton John-style ballad (which she performed with Elton John at this year’s Grammys) that she says was inspired by her own relationship with her father. The song is a full-throated, gut-wrenching emotional plea pounded out with big arena-rock power chords, and seems made for a moment like the one Rachel had with Ms. Cochrane at the end of tonight’s show – a moment full of conflicting emotions, a moment that was neither hello nor good-bye but rather “see ya ’round, I guess”. Unfortunately, especially after their gorgeous duet on “I Dreamed a Dream” (i.e. that Susan Boyle song from Les Mis) in last week’s episode, I can only imagine what Lea Michele and Idina Menzel could have done with “Speechless”.

I could say, to the tune of “Speechless”, “I’ll never watch again.” But that would be dishonest. I still love the show. But as tonight’s episode has proven, it can be wildly – wildly – off the mark.