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Smash recap: Understudy

In true Smash fashion, an episode advertised as “The Uma Thurman Show” is actually all about Karen

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During last week’s thoroughly entertaining episode, Ivy asked a simple question that cut to Smash‘s core: “Why can’t I be the star?” Tonight, her answer was reinforced in a none-too-subtle fashion — Ivy can’t be the star of Bombshell because come hell, high water, Cuban Assistant Crises, or dull politician boyfriends, Karen Cartwright is going to play Marilyn Monroe. She just is. The rest of us might as well sit back, grab some period-appropriate snacks (Bugles! The rest of someone else’s ice cream sundae!), and wait for the inevitable.

Of course, since it’s Episode 10 and not the season finale, Karen couldn’t clinch the role just yet. Instead, we watched her get tantalizingly close to stardom once more — only to see it snapped away in the show’s last ten seconds, when famed, absent actress Rebecca Duvall finally waltzed into the rehearsal space.

NBC advertised Uma Thurman’s arrival as though it’d be a major part of tonight’s show. Those promos were as misleading as the ABC spots that promised Roger Daltrey would say more than three words on a recent episode of Once Upon a Time. Even so, I’m excited to see what Thurman brings to the table; though Smash is starting to get some real momentum, throwing a(nother) temperamental diva into the mix can only help. Plus, there’s a very real chance that Uma might go all Bride on Ellis, which might be just what the show needs.

Tonight’s pre-title sequence is more Waiting for Godot than 42nd Street. Though the cast, the creatives, and Eileen’s hard-won investors are ready to hear a full read-through of Bombshell, new star Rebecca is stuck in Cuba with Sean Penn. Poor thing; she’s in for so many lectures about Jude Law.

Things can’t really move forward until Rebecca gets back to the Isle of Manhattan. Still, the show — or at least rehearsals — must go on, meaning that the team will just have to find a temporary Marilyn stand-in. They need someone lively, energetic, witty, quick — someone who really understands La Monroe’s soul. But even though Bobby’s available, Derek and co. go for Karen instead. When she hears about her rival’s latest triumph, Ivy takes the news surprisingly well… especially considering her well-established moodiness. Has Ivy’s drug problem gone the way of Judy Winslow? Are the days of Prednisone hallucinations and ruining Norbert Leo Butz’s night over? Say it ain’t so!

As Karen gives Dev the good news and Julia dines on The Grilled Cheese of Sadness with her sullen son, Tom and Sam are having — pardon the pun — a gay old time gossiping about Ivy. The only problem with their chatter? It’s happening while Tom is actually on a date with Boring Lawyer John. Man, can’t anyone on this show have a functional relationship? John uses his gorgeous eyes to surmise that Tom might just be into Sporto, and he ends up quietly breaking things off with the composer. Farewell, Boring John! You were never even the slightest bit interesting, but you sure were fun to look at.

NEXT: I don’t know what we’re yelling about! Loud noises!