Bombshell's team worked hard to find a celebrity to headline their show. Too bad they ended up with one who can't sing
Faithful recap readers will be pleased to know that our very own Terrible Ellis — Earl of Eavesdropping, Sultan of Smug, Grand Poobah of “Oh God, why is he still on this show??” — topped EW’s recent list of TV’s most annoying characters. Happily, tonight, we had the pleasure of watching one of TE’s plans finally blow up in his face. And after hearing Ellis call him a “loser,” it seems likely that Rebecca Duvall’s manager Randall might be ready to take some revenge on our least favorite sentient sweater vest.
But beyond that brief, shining moment, “The Movie Star” was a bit of a dud. The episode was heavy on relationship drama and light on musical theater; maybe that’s why it felt like overall, nothing much really happened. Add in another hallucinatory Derek dream sequence and storylines for both Dev and Leo, and you get an hour that was more snoozeworthy than scintillating. But hey, how about that peek at Casual Friday 2?!
Everyone at Bombshell is pumped to begin rehearsing with the great Rebecca Duvall. Karen’s celebrating by wearing lip gloss, a luxurious cosmetic embellishment unknown in her native Iowa. (Folk there are humble and honest; plus, they aren’t allowed to wear makeup unless it’s made of corn.) Tom and Sam are so excited that they’re flirting even harder than usual, finally prompting an exhausted Julia to go ahead and plan a date for them. Ha!
But when Rebecca swans in and starts performing “Let Me Be Your Star” to the cast and crew, they simultaneously have a nasty revelation: The lady can’t sing. Like, at all. Her breathy, talky performance is so bad that when Tom, Julia, Eileen, and Derek meet to discuss it, the lyricist suggests that their best bet at this point may be “group suicide.” Julia, you’re killing it so far tonight! If only I didn’t know it’d be downhill from here. Anyway, Derek makes a bold suggestion: Bring Ivy back to the show. Though as Ivy’s boyfriend, he’s clearly got ulterior motives, the team doesn’t disagree with his idea. By the next day, Ivy’s back in rehearsals as a member of the
chorus ensemble, apparently.
Unfortunately for Karen, this means that her big understudy break is over before it begins. Derek calls Iowa over to deliver the bad news — but when he speaks to her, he has another vision of Karilyn MonCartwright. And this time, she’s sitting on his lap while cooing “Our Day Will Come.” Derek, come on — you’ve got to lay off the Prednisone! The takeaway: Derek’s subconscious is still convinced that Karen is the Once and Future Marilyn, and also he definitely wants to scratch her Seven Year Itch, if you know what I’m saying. (If not: I’m making a reference to sexual intercourse.)
But as Derek’s ardor burns hotter, Dev’s seems to be cooling. He still hasn’t told Karen that Other Guy got the press secretary job; before Karen can learn the truth, she has to schlep all the way down to City Hall. That, alone, is a break-up-able offense.
NEXT: Frank is still mad; Leo is still sullen. Can we move on now?
Let’s dispatch of this Leo plot as quickly and painlessly as possible. The long and short of it: Julia’s son is flunking history and calc because of his broken home. (Er… and maybe also because he was never that smart to begin with?) Frank’s still too mad to talk to Julia rationally about this issue; at a meeting with Leo’s guidance counselor, though, he acts like everything is fine. But Julia comes clean — rather hilariously, it must be said — and then manages to broker a tentative peace between her estranged husband and Leo. Great! Wonderful! Can we please watch some singing and dancing now?
Tom and Sam ditch the restaurant reservation Julia got for them in favor of going back to Tom’s gorgeous apartment and discussing their favorite Sondheim musicals. Sam picks Into the Woods, but only because Stephen didn’t write a show called Sports! Tom goes with The Frogs, proving that he likes deep cuts more than radio hits. For a certain subset of people, talk of Sondheim counts as foreplay; Tom and Sam are in that subset. But before things can go too far, Sam puts on the brakes. See, he’s a Christian, and he thinks that sex is holy; also, he knows Tom has a penchant for moving too fast. Let’s be charitable and take this as character development rather than a stalling tactic.
Eileen gives Ellis some nonsensical advice: “Keep your enemies closer, and celebrities even closer, and their assistants even closer yet.” But what about their makeup artists and favorite key grips? Bombshell‘s star, too, isn’t making sense. She stops rehearsal to complain about the material she’s working with; Rebecca wants the show to delve further into Marilyn’s psyche. Also, she thinks it’d be great if there weren’t quite so much singing and dancing. Did… did nobody tell her what happens in a musical?
And then, all of a sudden, chaos reigns. A tall guy bursts into the studio and starts yelling about Rebecca. His name is Colin, and he’s… her boyfriend? Her ex-boyfriend? A stalker of some kind? An overzealous Casual Friday 2 fan? Before we can get any answers, Eileen is threatening him with pepper spray and Derek is throwing the guy out. That was sudden. And strange.
The takeaway: Rebecca’s personal life is as much of a mess as her singing voice. But the actress herself seems pretty unconcerned about both issues. The next day, she swings by Eileen’s office, but she isn’t there to talk about Colin; as she tells the producer, “He does this about every four months.” Right, so there’s nothing to worry about! The real reason she’s visiting is because the star has read the new, longer scene Julia wrote in response to Rebecca’s complaining, and she thinks it’s “inspired.” In fact, it’s inspiring her to have a bunch of other ideas about how to “deepen” the show, and she wants to share them with the team at a “powwow” that night. You’ve got to use a lot of scare quotes when relaying the words of Rebecca Duvall.
NEXT: When did Ivy turn into Gollum?
As the team gathers at Tom’s apartment, most of Bombshell‘s cast and crew is at a screening for Rebecca’s new movie, an awful-looking thriller called Casual Friday 2. (Squint, and you’ll see a billboard for it hanging in Times Square in “Hell on Earth.”) En route to the screening, Ellis — thinking he’s talking to Cyn — accidentally refers to Randall as a loser he has to suck up to; even better, Ivy gets Karen to ditch the movie and get a drink or four with her. I love Ivy as Karen’s id, and I also love the idea of these two as permanent frenemies; there’s something wickedly satisfying about watching Ivy try to turn Karen over to the dark side.
A real friendship, though, might not be in the cards for Kivy. Ivy tries to goad a reluctant Karen into joining in when she makes catty comments about Rebecca: “She’s annoying. She stole our part. We hate her.” When did Ivy turn into Gollum? Later, the two reach a comfortable place when they both admit that they’re still desperate to play Marilyn. But Ivy ruins everything when she notes that Dev hasn’t made it to the screening. She cuttingly ribs Karen about his absence, wondering idly if he’s with another woman — like, say, a certain dark-haired New York Times reporter who may or may not actually work at the Times, since she always seems to be either a) at a bar or b) hanging around Dev’s desk.
Anyway, Ivy strike a nerve, and Karen grabs her stuff and storms off. But when she goes home to Dev, she finds that her BF is MIA… because he’s getting a dialogue-free drink with RJ. A song about desire scores their flirting and sipping. Subtle, Smash.
Tom, Julia, Derek, and Eileen are waiting for hours before Rebecca arrives fashionably late at their powwow. When she finally gets there, Derek wastes no time gently telling Rebecca that they want to keep Bombshell‘s musical numbers in their entirety. Rebecca says she understands: “It’s a musical! People want to hear a bunch of songs!” Glad she had the time to look the term up on Wikipedia. And when Tom alludes to the fact that she sounds like one of the rejects who gets pilloried during an American Idol audition show, Rebecca suddenly does a 180. She tells the team that they can’t be worried about telling her the truth, then suggests lowering the key on all her song and cutting back on her solos. Wait, when did Rebecca get rational?
When the meeting finally ends, Eileen heads to dinner with Nick. (Can you imagine what her dining budget must be every week? Especially considering we’ve been told over and over again that she has no money?) Eileen has given in to curiosity and read the bartender’s colorful file; as a result, she’s ready to break things off with him. But Nick won’t let her pull the plug. He readily admits to misdeeds — apparently, committing crimes is a given if you run a bar in New York City — but smooches Eileen before she can continue protesting. Ah, now there’s a sustainable dynamic.
We close with a fully-staged new number from Bombshell. The song’s called “Dig Deep,” and it takes place in The Actors Studio, where Marilyn is learning method acting from the famous Lee Strasberg. While the number’s happenin’ beatnik beat reminds me of West Side Story‘s “Cool” in a far-out way, its lyrics are kind of unforgivable. The best/worst couplet comes when Rebecca as Marilyn croons, “I’ll finally get to use my mind’s interior / and not only just my bust and my posterior!” Also, it’s tough to tell whether we’re supposed to be impressed by her performance or think she’s still not up to Karen or Ivy’s level.
NEXT: You ahh tearing me apart, Marilyn!
According to Eileen, though, Rebecca sounds great. When she praises the star, Rebecca beams and announces that she has a lot more ideas about how to change the show. Ruh-roh!
– Is Rebecca too old to play Monroe? Well, as Sam points out, Marilyn died when she was 36 — and according to Tom, Rebecca is “36…ish.” Draw your own conclusions.
– Eileen defends Rebecca, saying her performance isn’t bad: “It’s just, what’s the word?” Cuts in Tom: “Bad?”
– I’m confused about the reasoning behind bringing Ivy back into the show. There’s some discussion of turning “shadows” into songs for her; huh? What the heck is Julia talking about? Is this some device Bombshell is using that we just haven’t seen described yet?
– Tom can’t handle dating a Republican, but he’s only mildly disturbed at the idea of dating a guy who’s religious. Um… progress?
– Eileen helpfully explains the formula for achieving fame: “Rebecca Duvall did not get to the top of the A-list by being simple or having healthy romantic relationships.” As a matter of fact — all together now — “neither did Marilyn.”
– Footage of Colin the Mystery Guest bursting into rehearsal doesn’t make it onto YouLenz, but there is a story about it on Page Six.
– I love when Karen smilingly calls Ivy unstable, and Ivy just brushes the comment off with a “who isn’t?” Seems our fragile basket case has developed some thick skin. And according to her, Iowa had better do the same if she wants to survive in this business.
– I know I said we weren’t going to talk about Leo anymore, but here’s his reasoning for not bothering at school: “Why? So I can go to a good college and meet someone nice… and have it all blow up in my face?!” Yikes. At least he didn’t say anything about how much he wants a baby sister.
– While I wasn’t that impressed with “Dig Deep” on the whole, I did love the number’s Brando/James Dean stand-in — but mostly because his “You’re tearing me apart!” reminded me of The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau.
– Bombshell is apparently going to do an out-of-town tryout in Boston. What Beantown-inspired songs should we see performed there?
Were you tapping your toes throughout “The Movie Star,” or were you — like me and EW’s Ken Tucker — annoyed by an episode that seemed to be treading water?