Ivy continues her downward spiral. At least there's light at the end of the tunnel -- in the form of some unexpected bonding with Karen

By Hillary Busis
April 03, 2012 at 06:03 AM EDT
Eric Liebowitz/NBC
S1 E9
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You know what? Forger Marilyn — er, Bombshell, I guess. I want to see an entire episode of Smash that focuses on Heaven on Earth. This musical has everything: a script that’s (presumably) actually finished, awesome gospel-tinged numbers, sweet dance moves, and the one and only Norbert Leo Butz as St. Peter. Plus, at Heaven on Earth, you never know when a drugged-out chorus girl might take a tumble during a giant production number. It’s like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, but with fewer unitards!

What I’m trying to say is that while tonight’s episode had its share of head-scratchers — Julia, did you seriously write a song about your affair, then leave said song’s sheet music by the side of your marital bed?! — it was, generally speaking, about as entertaining as Smash can get. The drama, the laughter, the tears just like pearls — they were all in “Hell on Earth”‘s repertoire.

During one of the show’s signature Morning Montages™, we learn that Tom and Boring Lawyer John are two handsome ships passing in the night. John mentions a fundraiser he’s attending, and Tom brightly asks if he can come too. John doesn’t think Tom would be interested, since it’s a Republican event. And, oh yeah, John himself is also a member of the GOP. To Tom, this admission is tantamount to running an underground dog-fighting ring, or maybe committing a few third-degree murders.

Ivy, meanwhile, has suddenly blossomed into a full-blown junkie. She’s taking Klonopin, Lorazepam, Ambien, and Jugie Boogie Boy along with her habit-forming Prednisone. This bums me out, mostly because I feel like I’ve already used up my best Valley of the Dolls and Judy Garland jokes. In any case, the drugs make Ivy foggy, and she’s late for a big commercial audition. Ivy does, however, get to the studio just in time to find that Karen has also auditioned for the spot — and, predictably, its producers think Iowa is “perfect.” Smash is sort of like an series-long extension of “Lisa’s Rival,” in which Ivy plays the part of Lisa and Karen plays Allison. Just wait for the sax scene.

Eileen is still determined to get a star to front the musical formerly known as Marilyn, even though Julia and Derek are pretty pessimistic about the likelihood of signing someone like Anna Paquin or Kate Winslet. Derek, in fact, doesn’t want to even think about working on the show any more until he sees a finished script. An entirely reasonable request! Why isn’t anyone talking about how reasonable he is?

The sound of angelic harp strings welcomes us to Heaven on Earth, the completed Tom/Julia musical that’s currently playing on Broadway. We don’t know much about its plot, though it seems to concern recent pearly gate admits — including one who’s dressed like Seth Green in Can’t Hardly Wait. Ivy, who’s back in the chorus, is clearly not jazzed about rejoining the ensemble. She’s not even excited to share the stage with Fiyero! That’s what prescription pills do to your brain, kids.

NEXT: A surprisingly compelling confrontation

Frank is not just a science teacher and a terrible Guitar Hero player. He’s also an amateur pianist — and when Julia arrives home, she finds him playing a certain tune with quiet rage. This plot point is so ridiculous that I have to explain it one more time, using excessive italicization to convey my incredulity. Julia wrote a song about her adultery, then left the song on her end table. And Frank revealed that he knew about the affair by playing the song for Julia.

All joking aside, the scene that follows is well-written and well-acted — even if what prompts it is crazier than Ivy’s Prednisone addiction. Frank guesses that Julia’s been sleeping with Michael, and when Julia tries to tell him it was nothing, he flat-out won’t accept her apology. You go, Frank! Feel free to take a verbal swipe at your wife’s vest if you want to get extra-harsh.

Karen of course books the orange juice commercial, which turns out to be a CGI-ified affair that involves only two real props: a pair of sunglasses and a carton of OJ. We’re treated to the sight of Katharine McPhee wearing a skintight green screen suit. She looks like a sexy iguana. No, wait — she looks like Will Forte in my favorite SNL sketch. Somebody throw a pie!

Frank’s Jilted Science Teacher Tour has only just begun. His next stop is the sidewalk outside of New York Theater Workshop, where he confronts Michael mano-a-jerko. Michael manages to worsen the situation by revealing that this wasn’t just an affair — it was the rekindling of a long-dormant relationship. Then Frank punches Michael in the face, immediately making him my new favorite character. Can we get this guy in the same room as Ellis?

Oh hey, speaking of His Terribility: Ellis enlists Eileen’s old assistant to give him the names of a few industry contacts. They do this in Eileen’s office, even though they’d be less likely to get caught by Eileen in literally any other location. After making a list and checking it twice, Ellis sets up a meeting with Randall Jones, the guy who manages not-made-up Hollywood star Rebecca Duvall. Later, Ellis will meet with Randall again at yet another gorgeous penthouse apartment. He tells the manager that he really, really wants to make sure Rebecca considers Marilyn… and then totally pulls a Tyler Barrol. Thank you, Smash, for finally confirming that Ellis is ambisexual. That is, he’ll sleep with whoever his ambition deems appropriate.

Ellis’s employer, meanwhile, is doing some wheeling and dealing herself at the Creepy Face Cafe. She’s chatting with straight play director Doug Hughes when New York Post columnist Michael Riedel saunters on up. Tonight’s show is really killing it on the cameo front. Riedel writes about the meeting in the paper, and word eventually gets back to Derek. The director soon storms into Eileen’s office. He thinks Eileen informed Riedel she’d be at the restaurant, and he’s right. Still, Derek ends up falling for Eileen’s manipulation anyway, and he confirms that he’s still going to direct the show. And that, Ellis, is how the game is played.

NEXT: A “Midwestern moon face” and a drugged-out starlet go for a night on the town

Even a night out with the chorus gang can’t cheer up glum Ivy — especially when Bobby lets slip that Karen booked that OJ commercial. Thankfully, we’re spared another psychedelic soul number when Ivy snaps, calls Karen a “Midwestern moon face,” and storms out of the bar. There are only two things to do now: Take her misplaced ire out on Karen’s innocent Midwestern sunglasses, then down a bunch of downers. A tinkly version of “Let Me Be Your Star” plays, indicating how far Ivy has fallen. And as we’ll see soon, she hasn’t hit bottom quite yet.

Ivy gulps so many dolls that she passes in her Heaven on Earth dressing room. She manages to rouse herself when a stagehand bangs on her door, then heads out to perform in the same Norbert Butz number we saw earlier tonight. But this time, Ivy isn’t just going through the motions — she’s having a ball, thanks to her chemically altered state. Karen, ever the good Samaritan, arrives at the Shubert Theater bearing a pair of Ivy’s sunglasses. She’s just in time to see Ms. Lynn bound around like a crazy person before falling her face and personally being asked to “get off the freaking stage” by Butz himself. And when a Tony winner speaks, mere mortals listen. I can’t wait until clips of this moment appear on YouLenz.

Ivy storms out to Times Square, still clad in her extravagant angel costume. Karen, of all people, follows her; great, pity from her rival is exactly what Ivy needs right now. The two would-be stars have words, and for once, Karen actually lobs some digs of her own. Ivy tells Iowa that she’s nothing special, and that she didn’t get to be Marilyn because she didn’t want the part bad enough. “Yeah, okay, I didn’t sleep with Derek,” Karen says coldly, before telling Ivy that she wasn’t the director’s first choice for bed-warmer. Point: Cartwright.

Once again, an Ivy meltdown is getting Tom out of a boring party with Boring Lawyer John’s boring friends. Sorry: Boring Republican friends. The composer explains that Ivy needs him, and John, sensibly, tells Tom that he’s kind of treating Ivy like a child; she should be able to handle her own messes. Even so, Tom leaves — though not without first yelling that he really likes John and doesn’t like Republicans. Not even of the Log Cabin persuasion?

When Tom gets to Ivy’s apartment building, he finds Sam waiting outside. The chorus boy explains that Ivy is safe with Karen. It’s very telling that Derek isn’t on the short list of people Ivy calls when she gets in trouble.

Except, wait, back up. Ivy and Karen are still hanging out, even after their Times Square bitch-off? Yep, it’s true: Karen accompanies Ivy to a liquor store and, against her better judgment, buys a bottle. Soon, the two are bonding while breaking open container laws and reciting orange juice jingles. What the what?

NEXT: “Like a bombshell.” Or, you know, like a bomb.

Kivy cement their new-found friendship with the help of some buskers, who just happen to be familiar with Rihanna’s catalog. The ladies burst into an impromptu, harmony-filled rendition of “Cheers (Drink to That),” and the number is genuinely fun. They’re not even trying to out-sing each other! I’m especially fond of all the slo-mo shots of pedestrians grooving along with the girls.

When Karen eventually drops Ivy off at her apartment, she offers to make the angel some tea. (An important detail for your Smash Bingo card/drinking game.) Ivy declines, then warns Iowa that they’re not, like, BFFs just yet. Still, it’ll be tough for their relationship to go back to its previous state of frostiness. Hooray for character development!

Also bonding tonight: Sam and Tom, who are getting some 5am burgers. Tom hasn’t been up this late since he camped out for Rent tickets! Sam hasn’t been up this late since sports sports sports! Set your watches, everyone — it’s almost Makeout O’Clock for these two.

Eileen asks Ellis to watch the phones while she’s out, and Ellis makes a bold declaration: He doesn’t want to answer phones anymore. Instead, he wants to be a co-producer — and he thinks that practically signing Rebecca Duvall should be enough to get him the promotion. But as the phone starts ringing, Eileen coolly makes Ellis realize that he doesn’t have a clue what producers actually do — and his dreams are momentarily dashed. Is it me, or is Ellis getting shut down more and more each episode?

As other characters are forming new relationships, Julia is watching her most cherished relationship fall apart. After learning that her affair is old news, Frank packs his bags and leaves their gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone — even when Leo tries to get him to stay. Heartbroken, Julia meets with Michael outside of their favorite diner to… well, I’m not exactly sure why they meet, but they do.

Michael confesses that his wife still doesn’t know about his extramarital activities. He tries to apologize to Julia, but Julia won’t let him; they did what they did together, she says, and it “exploded [her] whole life, like a bombshell.” Or, you know, like a bomb. But “bombshell” is shoehorned in because Tom and Julia still need a new name for their show — and it happens to double as a very Marilyn-appropriate title. At least one good thing came out of Julia and Michael’s life-ruining relationship, right?

NEXT: Footlights!

Footlights

– Ivy reveals her pill dependency by obliviously pulling prescription bottle after prescription bottle out of her purse. Subtle.

– Among the names Ellis initially suggested for Marilyn was one that sounded like “Chelsea Wood.” I don’t recognize the name, and some quick Googling didn’t immediately turn anything up. Is Chelsea Wood real, or is she a future Smash character?

– That Heaven on Earth song has some bizarre lyrics. To wit: “Welcome, welcome, recently deceased / be you Democrat, Republican, chorus girl or priest.” Why are those the four options they give? And how are chorus girls the opposite of priests?

– The back wall at Eileen’s Creepy Face Cafe will haunt my dreams forevermore.

– Before officially getting back on board with Bombshell, Derek reads a TV pilot about “a JD/MBA/PhD who solves crimes.” Ivy asks if there’s a part for her in it; Derek answers, “How’s your dead hooker?”

– Another great Derek moment: He calls Ellis a chihuahua!

– Derek and Ivy’s relationship, by the way, is also developing. Though she doesn’t call him in a crisis, it does seem like at this point, there’s definitely more to it than sex.

– Ivy. Girl. You have to take those Marilyn pictures off your mirror. Looking at her this much cannot be healthy.

– Boring Lawyer John is redeemed a little when he tells Tom that a giant stuffed bear at the fundraiser is “one of our largest donors.”

– Michael Riedel fully enjoyed guesting on Smash. Here’s an article he wrote about the experience.

Next week, we’ll meet Bombshell‘s new star, Rebecca Duvall — who will be played by Uma Thurman. She’s got it, and she’s gonna flaunt it! But first, let’s talk “Hell on Earth.” How’d you like the episode, especially compared to last week’s?

Hillary on Twitter

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