Kudos to Smash for resisting the urge to draw out the Battle of the Would-Be Bottle Blondes. By the end of tonight’s episode, we learn who will play Marilyn Monroe in Tom and Julia’s workshop: Broadway baby Ivy Lynn, an enormous talent who’s somehow been laboring just outside the limelight for 10 years. But can the series sustain our interest now that a choice has been made?
Based on “The Callback,” I’d definitely say “yes.” This installment wasn’t as zippy as the premiere — and that adoption plot is still about as exciting as a middle school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof — but it still had plenty of belting, intrigue, and juicy backstage drama. Oh, and scarves. Oodles and oodles of scarves. (At one point, Ivy even compliments Karen on her neck cozy. It’s like they already know what we want to see!)
Just like last week, we begin inside Karen’s head. Frustrated by the creative team’s silence, she’s imagining plaintively singing Blondie’s “Call Me” to Derek, Eileen, and the rest of the gang. Katharine McPhee’s voice sounds great, as always, but overall, her performance is pretty anemic — if you’re going to do Debbie Harry, you should maybe move a little more, right? In any case, a fellow waitress quickly yanks Karen back to reality — oh, there goes gravity! — by reminding her she’s still got tables to serve.
While Karen stews, Tom and company debate the girls who would be Marilyn. Despite how well she fits the role, the composer’s the only one who’s firmly in Ivy’s corner. Derek name-checks Karen’s innocence and freshness (“innocence” and “freshness” here being synonyms for “face” and “butt”), while Julia and Eileen talk up the neophyte’s chops. As they deliberate, Terrible Ellis stands just outside, literally pressing his ear against the door. Who knew he was secretly a refugee from Downton Abbey?
The team’s temporary solution to their quandary? More callbacks! Ivy explains the situation to a pair of chorus pals, Kicky Dennis (the dancer who had a fling with Tom) and a girl we haven’t met yet; I’m going to call her Jessica, since that’s her name. Anyway — both possible Marilyns are going to be brought back to read scenes, while Karen’s also going to do a dance audition. After her friends reassure her that she’ll get the part, Ivy says she sure hopes so: “I really don’t want to put on those feathers anymore. I’m so sick of going out on that stage looking like a demented duck!” It could be worse, Ivy — at least they don’t strap a giant bratwurst to your head every night.
As Dev and Karen meet for a quick lunch and commiseration session, Social Worker Rene tells Frank and Julia what they have to look forward to: an arduous process that’ll probably take two whole years. I can’t wait to follow them every step of the way! Rene empathetically says she knows the waiting is the hardest part. Because we’re watching Smash rather than Glee, the scene thankfully doesn’t segue into a Tom Petty number.
NEXT: Dennis the Menace