Smash recap: Aw, Nuts
Real talk, Smashbrowns: If next week’s finale doesn’t divulge, once and for all, who is going to freakin’ play Marilyn Monroe in Bombshell, I might just have a Mama Rose-style musical breakdown. (Okay, I’d probably do that at some point in my life regardless — but it’s the principle of the thing, damnit!). I’ve got a nasty feeling that Smash is planning to end Season 1 with a shot of the new Marilyn as viewed from the back — which would delay the “Karen or Ivy” reveal until September, or the Monday after the 2013 Super Bowl, or whenever this exasperating, lovable oddity comes dancing back onto our TV screens.
If you think about it, it’s sort of amazing that Smash‘s writers managed to tease out the show’s central question for a full 15 episodes. But if you think about it some more, you’ll realize that watching Smash feels an awful lot like jogging on a hamster wheel — you think you’re making progress, but in reality, you’re just running in place, with nothing but some unidentifiable food pellets and a bed of wood shavings to look forward to at the end of your journey. Also, your house is filled with poop.
That analogy may have gotten away from me.
No matter: on to the formal recap. We open in Venice. Just kidding! We open on naked Dev, who slowly awakens to find the severed head of Karen’s favorite My Little Pony figurine (it’s Fluttershy) lying on the pillow next to him. Kidding again! His bedmate is a rumpled, hungover Ivy. So much for staying together for a lifetime of delights, or even a thousand and one nights. The jig is almost up when Jessica uses Karen’s phone to call Ivy, and Dev nearly answers — but the crisis is averted, and the two resolve never to speak of their dalliance again. Good luck with that, guys.
Upsetting things are happening at the theater: Derek’s smooching Rebecca in her dressing room, while a just-arrived Julia is determined never to speak to Tom again. But the cast and crew are going to have to forget their hangups for now — because tonight is their first preview performance. Hey, break a leg, Ellis! Seriously. Nick the Bartender knows a guy.
Hooray, another “Workshop”-style montage of Bombshell‘s musical numbers! Rebecca barely manages to hold it together during a neutered “Let Me Be Your Star,” then misses the spotlight in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” We get another peek at “Don’t Say Yes,” and though the musical’s real Darryl Zanuck can’t hold a candle to Christian Borle, it’s still a great number. And then, after a nifty onscreen costume change, the song segues into a tune we haven’t heard before. It’s called — wait for it — “Smash.” And it’s about how Karen and Ivy both want to be stars. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to stop rolling your eyes.
Welcome back! This meta-number is actually pretty good — I love the slinky choreography, and the way more girls keep appearing from different corners of Zanuck’s office. I’m not totally sure, though, if this is the song Tom was talking about adding to the show last week; wasn’t that one supposed to be a cut number from Heaven on Earth? How in the world would “Smash” the song fit into that other musical?
NEXT: Bombshell‘s downer dud of an ending
Throughout the show, Karen keeps rushing back to the dressing room and obsessively checking her phone. Dev hasn’t responded to any of her texts since they had their blowout. The depressing sight of Karen throwing herself at a cheating asshole is compounded by the depressing sight of Rebecca as Marilyn in her last moments, warbling a weak reprise of “Secondhand White Baby Grand” before straight-up dying onstage. This is how Bombshell ends: not with a bang, but a suicide.
That concluding scene is a stone-cold bummer — so much so that when the lights dim, the audience isn’t sure whether or not to applaud. Later, the creative team consults in the theater’s lobby. Tom argues that a musical can’t end with a suicide. A double murder, a gang-related shooting, and a guy appearing in a concentration camp uniform, though, are all acceptable. Eileen suggests having Marilyn reunite with her younger self at the musical’s conclusion; unfortunately, it’s been done already. There’s no way around it: Tom and Julia are going to have to come up with a new final scene.
As the team is quarreling, Karen discovers that Dev is waiting for her by the stage door. She immediately runs over to him and apologizes for being a jerk, adding that she trusts him. Then she takes this opportunity to introduce her boyfriend to one of her chorus pals: “Oh, Ivy, this is my boyfriend, Dev. You guys have never met!” she says brightly, like a naive girl who’s sixteen going on seventeen. Palm, meet forehead.
Anjelica Huston is more of a Rebecca Duvall than a Megan Hilty — but she still acquits herself pretty nicely in her first musical number, a gentle rendition of “September Song” performed in a Boston piano bar. She gets some assistance from both a pianist who looks an awful lot like Marc Shaiman — probably because he’s played by Marc Shaiman — and the spirit of Walter Huston, the man for whom this song was written. Young-ish Bartender Nick’s presence also gives lyrics about it being “a long, long while from May to December” some extra cheek.
And as the song plays, Dev and Karen officially reconcile. Afterwards, they lie in bed and remember how they met: in a bar in London. What a great story! Karen, master of the accidental guilt trip, tells Dev that she loves him, that she doesn’t want to lose him, and that she wants to marry him if his offer is still on the table. Because Dev might just be the worst — though he’s in a three-way tie with Ellis and Michael Swift — he re-proposes to Karen instead of unloading the secrets of his cheatin’ heart. Could Dev possibly sink lower? Actually, yes: Soon, he realizes that he may have left Karen’s engagement ring in Ivy’s boudoir.
Bumping uglies may have cursed both Dev and Ivy forever. The chorus girl finally approaches her maybe-ex-boyfriend, chewing him out for telling her he loved her and then ignoring her for three days: “That was the last time you spoke to me, other than to say ‘places, please’ and ‘stay out of my way, I’m about to have sex with a movie star.” Derek doesn’t seem to see an issue; he tells Ivy that Rebecca needs his attention, and that he’s giving it to her. “Is there any other approach?” the director asks Ivy. Why, yes, Derek; yes, there is!
NEXT: The Telltale Smoothie
Then comes a moment we’ve all been waiting for since Rebecca first revealed her pesky peanut allergy. Karen stops by the movie star’s dressing room and finds her complaining to her shrink about dying onstage. Then Rebecca hangs up, starts spouting some All About Eve/Showgirls “there’s always someone younger waiting” stuff, and takes a sip from her kale smoothie. That’s when her throat starts to close. Someone slipped evil legumes into her gross health drink! Who might it have been?? (Ellis. The answer is almost certainly Ellis.)
While Rebecca recuperates, the show’s going to shut down. This gives Karen plenty of time to freak out about possibly having to replace the star, and Tom and Julia plenty of time to work on their new ending… theoretically. But first, Julia is accosted, yet again, by Michael Swift. He seems to think that she wants to rekindle their relationship; so much for that family he was supposedly devoted to. Michael Swift may actually be the devil. He nearly kisses Julia before she escapes into the theater, where Tom is picking out a tune I don’t recognize.
There, the two of them finally have it out. I hate watching Mommy and Daddy fight! Julia’s all, “Who are you to tell me what I know, what to do?” Tom: “A friend!” Julia: “But who, Tom, are YOOUUUUU??” (And yes, Will Chase is in that clip.) But seriously, folks. Julia’s still pissed that Tom let Michael back into the show, and she basically threatens to break up with him over it… even though, as Tom rightfully points out, the whole Michael affair is completely and totally Julia’s own fault.
All these guys could use some uplift — even the Jewish ones. So the whole Smash crew heads to Sam’s family’s conveniently located church, a gospel-tinged place with a minister prone to outbursts like this one: “And that. Makes the devil. MAAAAD!” Quick, someone check to see how mad Michael is! Partway through the service, Sam gets up to perform a spiritual ditty… and invites Karen, who is clearly Bombshell‘s most soulful ensemble member, to sing along with him. Sam steps back after one verse and lets Karen try to let loose with the majority of “Stand,” a number originally sung by Donnie McClurkin. She’s as much a gospel singer as she is a redneck woman.
And lo, the power of Karen’s lily white voice does bring peace to the Smash cast, and Tom and Julia make amends. Julia also has just had a great idea for how to end Bombshell, which we’ll presumably see next week. Karen’s beautiful, true inflection also inspires Not-So-Perfect Dev to confess his infidelity… but he’s interrupted when Karen gets a call from the now-recovered Rebecca Duvall.
NEXT: The return of that hamster wheel analogy — plus, Footlights!
Shocker: Rebecca immediately knew that her smoothie contained peanuts, but she drank the thing anyway. That’s because she’s decided that she doesn’t really want to be inBombshell. Which means the role of Marilyn Monroe is, once again, up for grabs. Gentlemen, start your hamster wheels.
– Tonight’s biggest WTF moment: Leo, after spotting Michael Swift, turns to his parents and asks, “Okay. Am I the only one who enjoyed that?” It’s clearly meant to be a funny line… but why on earth would anyone enjoy watching their mom’s male mistress (mister?) walk by?
– Derek tells his cast that the show is in pretty good shape, and they cheer. He immediately shushes them: “You know how I hate enthusiasm.” I’m also a big fan of the way the director says “Twitter.”
– Nick the Bartender has a broken arm from some sort of altercation. Please, please don’t let this mean that mob hit men are going to appear in Bombshell‘s audience next week. Well, unless they end up onstage in a delightful Kiss Me Kate-esque mix-up.
– Zanuck’s really into tomatoes: “Heirloom. Cherry. Plum.” This makes a lot more sense now that I know “tomato” is old slang for a fine lookin’ lady.
– Very little Ellis tonight, but when he does appear onscreen, it’s comfortingly terrible. Who would dare insult Eileen’s producing skills to her immobile face?
– So, wait — in Derek’s mind, he and Ivy are still dating. Is this how relationships work in Britain?
– Tom, on Derek entering a church: “He’s going to burst into flames, you know.”
– Karen, of course, makes a point of saying that she loves church. No comment.
– Eileen, after Randall proposes that peanutgate may have been the result of foul play: “Who are you, Miss Marple?”
– Seems like the ring isn’t in Ivy’s room after all. So where is it, and how will Karen discover it in the most ludicrous, melodramatic way possible?
Next week, we’ll find out who will be Bombshell‘s star. Maybe. Probably not. But we will, at least, see the ending Julia cooked up for the musical — which is hopefully transcendent enough to salvage a so-so season. What do you want to see happen in the finale? And at this point, are you Team Ivy, Team Karen, or Team Someone Who Isn’t Either Evil Or Boring?