Oh, my little Smashbox 20s, I feel as though my whole world’s upside-down. Julia and Frank had an off-camera reconciliation, and nobody bothered showing it to us? Derek, who has been enjoying a perfectly lovely and stable relationship with Ivy, is suddenly boning Rebecca Duvall in her dressing room? Ellis has arbitrarily decided to be Miss Lynn’s champion? And finally — Ivy and Dev? Ivy and Dev?? Stop the world, I want to get off!
In a film class I took in college, we learned that the perfect plot twist must be simultaneously logical and surprising. Smash‘s writers sure have the latter down — but they could use a little work on the former. There have to be reasons why the characters act the way they act. Derek hasn’t been lecherous for weeks, and he hasn’t even been getting along with Rebecca (and not in a “they hate each other but secretly love each other” sort of way) — why in the world would he decide to sleep with her now? A week ago, Frank could barely stand to look at Julia. When and why did he decide to play the role of Happy Househusband again? As for Ivy and Dev — well, they’ve both got motivation for doing what they do, and their random tryst is certainly surprising. But I still can’t be on board with it, because: ewwww.
Let’s think back to the beginning of “Tech,” when the promise of a Smash that wasn’t infuriating seemed tantalizingly attainable. It’s sad but true that this show features real, honest-to-Hammerstein show tunes all too infrequently. So I was tickled when Tom kicked the night off with a new spin on “Another Op’nin, Another Show,” even if his arrangement was a little odd. And the song doubled as a meaningful mood-setter: The Bombshell gang has temporarily relocated to Boston, where their out-of-town tryouts are scheduled to begin in just a few days.
But before they can finally premiere a fully-staged production, they’ll have to suffer through a series of tech rehearsals. This means that everyone’s even more on edge than usual; the lighting’s a disaster, the set’s components are too heavy, the composer wants to add in yet another new song, and, oh yeah, a principal has just jumped ship to film a pilot. (“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” “To Las Vegas. Peace out!”)
Ted’s abrupt exit means that the creative team may have no choice but to bring Michael Swift back to the show. So Marilyn’s the only character who gets an understudy? Whatever; this is just an excuse to give a storyline to Julia, who’s currently enjoying a remedial pancake-flipping class in Brooklyn. See how her neck is unencumbered, now that her world is free of lies? Julia, predictably, is not down with the Swift news — even though Eileen travels all the way back to New York so she can deliver it personally. Admittedly, since Anjelica Huston has the power of flight, this wasn’t much of a hassle for her.
NEXT: Terrible Ellis + self-awareness = not-as-terrible Ellis
Rebecca also freaks when she learns that Ted has pulled a disappearing act. Though her storming offstage is good for Ivy — guess who gets to play stand-in? — it’s bad for the show, and Derek follows his new star to her dressing room. There, he gives her a pep talk that’s equal parts classic Marilyn psychoanalysis and no-duh statements: “If I were you, I’d think about using your star power.” What the heck has she been doing until this point?
As they chat, Ivy casually listens at the door. Her spying draws Terrible Ellis like a theater kid to a Rent quoting contest. “That’s usually my thing,” he smirks as he catches Ivy in the act. Ha! Though he assures her there’s nothing going on between the director and the movie star, he agrees to keep an eye out for Ivy. What are the chances he’s got a few telescopes stored in that sweater vest?
Despite last week’s truly excellent fantasy sequence, something is still off between Karen and Dev. When he calls, she avoids him; Jessica assures her that this is normal tech behavior, but there’s clearly more to it than that. And Dev can tell as well. He’s so depressed by the whole thing that when RJ shows up at his apartment bearing bourbon, he welcomes her inside, helps her drink up the bottle, then kisses her back when she finally makes a move. I really, really wish I could have seen a certain commenter’s face when this scene was going down. Eventually, Dev regains his senses and tells the reporter that he can’t do this. “Feels to me like you can,” she answers, forcing viewers to shudder at innuendo that’s definitely uncalled for.
Derek is busy stressing when, to add insult to injury, there’s an unscheduled blackout. Then a spotlight appears, illuminating a Marilyn’d out Rebecca — who proceeds to coo “Happy Birthday” to Derek in her best Karilyn voice. (Earlier in the ep, she overheard Ivy saying that Derek’s b-day was coming up.) The cast claps, and Derek’s charmed in spite of himself… but backstage, Ivy glowers. So much for that mature, adult relationship, eh?
Because Julia’s busy yelling at Eileen and threatening to leave the show, Tom is forced to write a new scene for Bombshell. And, God bless him, it’s absolutely terrible. This really nailed the cheesy dialogue that plagues a lot of period-set musicals — I love when Smash gets meta. And then Dev shows up unannounced, bearing flowers and acting wounded when Karen can’t suddenly drop everything and leave work to hang out with him. Man, remember when I used to call him Perfect Dev? I can smile at the old days; he was beautiful then.
Turns out that Sam, fervent lover of all New York sports teams, is actually from Boston (or a nearby town). Maybe that’s the real reason there’s some tension between him and his father — well, that and the fact that his dad,
Mr. Chang Ron, doesn’t want him to be a dancer. Oo, a family dinner with his new boyfriend Tom is gonna be fuuuun.
NEXT: Plaaaay Sam the music, give him a chance to come through!
Actually, the meal doesn’t go too badly. Tom tells a story about an actor going onstage in someone else’s corset; Ron limits himself to one crack about how Sam’s brother Paul has “a solid, long-term profession.” And then Tom surprises everyone at the table by revealing that he understands where Ron is coming from; dancing’s an incredibly uncertain profession. Sam gets upset that his S.O. isn’t supporting him, so he storms outside in a huff. Tom sheepishly apologizes, and Sam responds with a ready-made “God, I’m a dancer. A dancer dances!” speech. Snark aside, it’s a genuinely nice moment — as is the sweet kiss between the two that follows. And Brother Paul’s hooting catcall is just the icing on the melodramatic cake.
Derek’s really a sucker for the old “Happy Birthday” routine. He shows up in Rebecca’s dressing room, then starts sharing some unsolicited thoughts about Marilyn: “She glowed in the light. Some photographers said it was because she had lots of little hairs on her body, but that’s not it.” Real sexy stuff there, Derek. He calls Rebecca luminous, starts rubbing her shoulders — what, did he learn seduction from The Sims? — and before you can say “STOP STOP STOP,” the two are going at it like Eileen and Nick.
Ivy’s infidelity senses are tingling, especially since Derek never showed up to meet her for their birthday dinner. When she arrives at the theater and finds that Ellis has been purposefully sent away from Rebecca’s room, her suspicions are confirmed… and it only gets worse when she approaches the scene of the crime and can literally hear her boyfriend cheating on her in the next room. I hope she’s still got a bottle of sweet, sweet Prednisone stored in her carry-on.
Now that rehearsal is over, Karen can finally enjoy some one-on-one time with her beloved boyf. Unfortunately, Dev is acting shaky and nervous — but instead of confessing what he did with RJ, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an engagement ring. Karen is totally shocked and more than a little flustered, which leads to this immortal exchange:
Karen: “I don’t know what to say.”
Dev: “Say yes!”
Karen: “I’m in tech!”
Dev: “… Is that the same thing as a yes?”
No, Dev; no, it isn’t. Karen’s under too much pressure to concentrate on anything but the show. She apologizes to him, then leaves him at the restaurant.
Back at her hotel room, she finds that the ensemble — plus Ellis — is enjoying an impromptu party. Suddenly, Bobby realizes tonight’s episode hasn’t included a single fully-staged musical number. He decides that Karen and Ivy are going to have a sing-off; nice synergy, NBC! Drunk, surly, and just-spurned Ivy wastes no time belting out “I’m Going Down,” a soulful R&B tune that lets her express her despair and righteous fury. It’s the rare non-Bombshell number that simultaneously a) makes thematic sense, c) makes sense in the context of what’s happening onscreen, and c) sounds utterly fantastic. I bet Karen’s secretly glad that Dev catches her at the party right when Ivy finishes; it would have been pretty tough to follow that performance.
NEXT: Worst spring break ever; plus, Footlights!
Dev is peeved that Karen ran off to a party after he popped the question. Her protests open the floodgates, and soon, he’s telling her that he’s sacrificed far too much for her stupid — sorry, brilliant — show. Also: He almost slept with RJ. But wait, Dev’s slip-up just made him realize he wants to be with Karen! Shockingly, that last bit doesn’t exactly win over Karen, and she storms away.
Absurd visual of the night: Julia sitting in bed, surrounded by a bunch of bananas and a very large jar of peanut butter. Her son and husband interrupt this monkey business to let her know that she has to accept Michael’s re-casting and head to bean town… and that they’re coming along as well. This ought to make a good story for Leo. “What’d you do on spring break?” “Oh, you know, just went with my mom to see her ex-lover rehearse a musical.”
And then comes the moment that had us all gaping like Katharine McPhee. A depressed Ivy meets a depressed Dev in a Boston bar. As soon as they introduce themselves, each must realize who the other one is; after all, they both know Karen pretty well. But despite that, they clink glasses and start drinking… and the rest is unfortunate history. Good luck trying to make Derek jealous by hooking up with a washed-up government employee, Ivy.
– Small quibble: The Bombshell crew leaves New York via a train at Grand Central Terminal. I know it’s a lot more photogenic than Penn Station, but Grand Central’s Metro North trains don’t go to Boston.
– Though we don’t see it this week, Tom’s adding a discarded Heaven on Earth tune to Bombshell; it’s going to be sung by Karen and Ivy. Watch them perform it for the first time after Karen learns that Ivy slept with Dev.
– I love the behind-the-scenes detail about how Rebecca’s sweaty hands make her gloves tough to take off. Weird, yes, but seems very true to life.
– Thank you, Eileen, for informing Julia that it’s not fair to put an entire show in jeopardy because of her own dumb mistake. She’s gotten much more tolerable lately, but it’s still difficult to have much sympathy for Julia where Michael is concerned.
– Second gross innuendo of the night: Nick telling Eileen to take care of her business now, since she “won’t have time later.”
– Unnecessary addition to Ivy’s gorgeous closing song: That montage of Derek touching other ladies’ butts and eating cake off Rebecca’s fork.
– This is the first time in history that discussion of tiny hairs covering a person’s body has led to sex.
– Whose adorable suburban home is more picturesque: Sam’s or Karen’s? Smash‘s location scouts are awesome.
– Hey, Smash‘s soundtrack is out as of today! Think you’ll buy it?
Just two episodes left until the end of Season 1, Smashers! What do you think will happen as the show races toward the finish line?