Bombshell gets a preview, Hit List gets a rave review, and Ivy gets naked

By Hillary Busis
April 14, 2013 at 02:00 PM EDT
Will Hart/NBC
S2 E11
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As the old superstition goes, a bad dress rehearsal all but guarantees a great opening night. And if the opposite also happens to be true, I would keep expectations low for next week’s Smash — because tonight’s episode, “The Dress Rehearsal,” was season 2’s best by far. The main reason: For the most part, its plot focused on backstage intrigue rather than dull relationship drama — and when the latter did intrude upon the former, the result was more than just a bunch of people yelling at each other. (Petulant yowling, incidentally, is the one thing that isn’t more charming when done in a British accent).

Oh, and the other reason “The Dress Rehearsal” ruled? That cameo. THAT CAMEO! The English language has no words to describe how truly, utterly fantastic it was, though “transcendent” may come closest. Here, just go ahead and watch it on loop for all eternity.

What, you want me to actually recap it anyway? Fine: On the day of Bombshell‘s invited dress rehearsal, first-time director Tom is suffering from surprisingly pedestrian stress dreams. After “waking up” from a “being naked onstage” nightmare, he breathes a sigh of relief… only to discover that Terrible Ellis is lying in bed next to him, smiling his demented little smile and no doubt dreaming of all the lives he’ll ham-fistedly attempt to ruin that day. Brilliant. And props, too, to Jaime Cepero for having the balls to return to Smash despite the way he was crucified by fans (and, uh, recappers) last season.

Honestly, I would have been content if the show had immediately cut to black then and there, Sopranos finale-style. Instead, after Tom recovers from his nested dream, we head to the Lyceum Theatre — where everything that can go wrong during Bombshell‘s last run-through does. The sets are malfunctioning; the fog machine is going nuts; Ivy’s zipper doesn’t cooperate when JFK is trying to undress her during “Let’s Do It For Our Country” — sorry, I meant “Our Little Secret.” And when he does finally get her dress off, Marilyn’s negligee comes with it… exposing poor Ivy’s spotlights to every cast member’s friends and family. Man, Ivy’s Humiliation Diary must be a long read.

Clearly, the show is in no shape to begin previews tomorrow. But Tom’s got a terror-fueled can-do spirit that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would admire — and in spite of enormous odds, he pledges to Eileen that he’ll have Bombshell ready to detonate (in a good way) by 3pm on the day of its first scheduled preview. Eileen responds by saying that maybe Ivy should show her boobs on purpose this time. Hey, we’ve all got our priorities.

NEXT: Off-Broadway, here we come

Meanwhile, back at the subterranean dungeon where Hit List festers, Unpleasant Energizer Bunny Jimmy has tweaked out an entire act’s worth of songs so that Derek won’t be tempted to give any of Karen’s material to Ana. His plan seems to have worked… until Derek has a stroke — of genius! — about re-staging the show’s opening. Instead of fading in on a girl with a hunger for fame, he wants to begin Hit List with what used to be the end: The Diva slowly walking past a bunch of ensemble members pretending to be sea anemones, singing a few lines of “Broadway, Here I Come” a cappella, and raising a gun in the direction of an unknown target. When Hit List draws to a close, its audience will learn that the fallen star has actually killed Amanda at one of the latter’s concerts.

It’s a cool idea that’s engagingly staged, and “Broadway, Here I Come” does sound pretty haunting when sung by a crazed gunwoman. But Karen and Jimmy, naturally, hate the new staging because they think Derek has essentially given Amanda’s anthem to Ana. Come on, guys; she barely performed 16 bars of the song. Are you really that petty? (Jimmy, with a sneer: “You bet your ass I am!”)

It doesn’t take long for Jimmy to accuse Derek of changing things just because he’s jealous of the dynamic relationship that is Jaren. Derek responds with a burn that actually resonates: “I left Broadway for your little show. I should be at my first preview. Instead, I’m back in high school with you.” If I didn’t know better, I’d think he had read last week’s recap. Anyway, Jimmy refuses to do the new opening, while Derek refuses to let Jimmy stymie the show. The tie-breaking vote is Kyle’s to make… and wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, Greenpoint’s chief elf actually decides to side with the director over his master. Holy hell, it’s like Jimmy accidentally handed him a sock or something!

As Jimmy stews about Kyle’s Rebellion — oh, how the poets will sing of this day! — Sam tries to convince Ivy to keep the girls covered up in Bombshell‘s preview performance. This leads to what may be Smash‘s most intentionally funny exchange ever:

Sam: “I was in Take Me Out. Do you remember the plot?”

Ivy: “I remember… penis. I see your point.”

Sam: “Everyone saw my point!”

Heyo! They’ll be here all week, ladies and germs; try the veal.

The Hit List gang prepares to do a “stumble-through” for Richard “Ask Me About My Journalistic Ethics” Francis, which is sort of like a dress rehearsal minus the dress part. (The players are generally clothed, though; what do you think this is, Bombshell?) Karen, ever the good friend, decides to feed Ana’s method performance by making her roommate actually want to kill her: “[Derek] only gave you that song because he was pissed at me,” she says blithely. Mission accomplished, Iowa.

NEXT: The naked and famous

Though Karen and Ana’s friendship may be a shambles, Hit List is, well, a hit — at least, in Richard Francis’s all-important eyes. When the metaphorical curtain drops, he heads off to write the world’s most quickly-composed feature article. (Did Jimmy share some of his magical composing dust or what?) Tom Collins Scott, meanwhile, heads to Broadway to see the second act of Bombshell, which, against all odds, has come together in time for Preview Day.

The bad news: For some reason, “Dig Deep” didn’t get cut as soon as Rebecca Duvall made her exit, pursued by a peanut. The good news: Everything else about the show seems to be going smoothly. The creative team is a little disappointed when Ivy decides to keep the girls covered in “Our Little Secret” — but they’re delighted when they see what she’s done with JFK and Ms. Monroe’s morning after scene.

Bombshell‘s script has the president kiss Marilyn, then dismiss her as “not exactly first lady material.” (Anyone else having flashbacks to Legally Blonde: The Musical?) Ivy throws in an additional wrench when her Marilyn asks JFK to come back to bed — then drops the sheet she’s wrapped around herself, giving the audience the Full Monty after all. Thematically, it’s much more meaningful for Marilyn to get naked at this point in the show (something something vulnerability something something)… especially since JFK still ends up leaving her in the end.

Everybody’s happy with how the preview went — but even so, Tom can’t help obsessively Googling to see what people are saying about his show. And that’s when he discovers Richard Francis’s big article: a feature that raves about Hit List and slags on Bombshell, saying that the latter show “rakes over the past” while the former “opens our eyes to the present, and the inevitable future.” Perhaps worst of all, Richard posits that Julia is more invested in Hit List than she is in Bombshell, because he spotted her at Scott’s theater while Tom was working on getting Marilyn and co. ready for previews. This is news to Tom, who didn’t even know that Julia was serving as an informal dramaturg. We will soon learn that “dramaturg” is actually an ancient Sanskrit word that translates roughly to “destroyer of worlds.”

And so even though the gang at Hit List is ecstatic over the article, the episode ends with a bunch of breakups (or at least major breaks). Richard and Eileen, obviously, are through. Julia and Tom could be done as well. Even Jimmy and Karen seem to be on the outs, though this has nothing to do with backstage dramz; she’s upset that he still hasn’t told her the truth about his past. (Clearly, Jimmy believes that what happens in Korea stays in Korea.)

But there’s one couple that appears to be on solid ground, despite the plaintive wails a certain starlet must be able to hear even from her perch inside the television: “Ivy!!! Nooooo! What, what, what are you doing?!” That’s right: Derek and Marilyn the First are back on. ‘Scuse me while I roll my eyes.

NEXT: Footlights

– Thing I learned tonight: You can show a human butt on NBC. This shouldn’t be surprising in our post-NYPD Blue age, but I was sort of shocked by it all the same.

– Wait, there’s an 8-year-old Norma Jeane in Bombshell now? Why have we never seen her, and why did we only learn of her existence tonight?

– Kyle’s big Jimmy kiss-off, for your reading pleasure: “I know this might be really hard for you to believe, but I’m good at this now. It’s the right idea. So you can bitch all you want — I don’t care anymore.” [drops mic] Sure, the effect is mitigated by the fact that he and Jimmy make up at the end of the episode, but I’m still very glad that this happened.

– In a truly Mama Rose-esque turn, Leigh is all for Ivy going topless onstage. After all, you’ve gotta get a gimmick.

– After another swing is picked to perform over him, Sam officially leaves Bombshell, telling Tom that he’d rather be unemployed. Ouch. Now who will tell us about the sports?!

– At least we’ve still got precious, precious Bobby: “Theah’s nothing quite like live theatah!”

– I still hate “Dig Deep,” but I do like Julia’s idea to have the cast perform it while crawling through the audience. To make it even more fun, imagine that all the ensemble members are actually Gollum.

– Karen: “Did you give me Marilyn because of my talent or because you wanted to sleep with me?” Derek, not even bothering to try to sound convincing: “Your talent.”

– Your full Dick Whitman update: Jimmy Collins isn’t Jimmy Collins’s real name, and he doesn’t have a Social Security number, and Slim Shady is apparently still looking for him. Also, Slim may or may not hook up with Ana. Oo, maybe he’ll also get her a job at the Cat Scratch Club.

– The moment Richard decisively revealed himself to be a grade-A sh–: “Bombshell is on the cover of the arts section, just like you wanted!”

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