Karen gets seduced by Rebecca's allure and her own brain's awesome, ridiculous, Indian-flavored fantasy

By Hillary Busis
April 24, 2012 at 06:14 AM EDT
Will Hart/NBC
S1 E12
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Readers, if you care to find me, look toward the Eastern sky. After jamming to “A Thousand and One Nights,” I have half a mind to book a plane ticket to Mumbai — as I understand, it’s a magical land filled with bright colors, skilled dancers, amazing Anjelica Huston cameos, and (for some reason) Arabian imagery.

Sure, a Debbie Downer could point to this ridiculous production number and complain that it was totally irrelevant and mildly culturally insensitive. Still, I was 100 percent on board with it — as I’ve said before, when it comes to Smash, crazy is better than boring. A show that bounces between color-saturated Bollywood pastiche, after school special-style drama, and riveting smoothie-making is bound to feel just the teensiest bit schizophrenic… but as long as Smash keeps giving me endless rivers of ridiculata occasionally punctuated with snappy dialogue and stellar singing, I’m going to go to bed each Monday with a smile as big as Iowa.

In case you’d forgotten, Derek has had a few epiphanies: Karen should play Marilyn, and also, he should probably stop rummaging around in Ivy’s medicine cabinet. He makes a point of telling the understudy before rehearsal that she’d be brilliant as Bombshell‘s lead. If unsolicited compliments were legitimate currency, Karen would have enough savings to buy all the yoga pants in the world. Because his curls conceal a cranium that’s covered in extra ears, Ellis manages to overhear Karen and Derek’s exchange. He promptly reports the news to Rebecca’s manager. Whoa, did somebody finally realize that dirt doesn’t mean squat unless it’s shared?

Rebecca reacts to Derek’s disloyalty in a curious way: by stopping Karen after work and saying, essentially, “You’re sweet. Wanna hit the street? Wanna wail at the moon like a cat in heat?” Naive Iowa never learned to be suspicious of movie stars bearing gifts, so she agrees to go out with Rebecca that night. Before she knows it, Karen’s going to yet another club with a stage and singing yet another pop ditty to yet another crowd of immediately adoring fans. When she’s done, people fall all over themselves offering her recording contracts and orange juice commercials and their firstborn children.

Karen is having a blast hanging out with a real, live celebrity, even if the tabloids are convinced that she and Rebecca may be more than friends. The rest of Bombshell‘s cast and creative team, though, aren’t so enamored with Ms. Duvall. Tom is furious at the way she keeps insisting on cutting songs in favor of scenes. Derek is fuming at the way she keeps undermining him during rehearsals. Ivy is probably pissed that Rebecca didn’t want to be her insincere bestie.

And Julia… well, Julia’s got bigger things to worry about. Her son, Leo, has been pulling the classic “tell Mom you’re with Dad, and tell Dad you’re with Mom” trick. In reality, Leo isn’t with either of his parents. Uh-oh! Think he went to China to find his hypothetical sister? Maybe Julia should check to see if anyone’s been digging a giant hole in her backyard.

NEXT: Why’s the song set in Agrabah? Just go with it.

Julia bows out of rehearsal so that she and Frank can concentrate on locating their missing son. She tells a policeman that her lost kid is smart and studious. Julia, he can’t help you if you don’t tell the truth. At school, she and Frank interrogate Mason, Leo’s shaggy-haired best friend; though he initially pleads ignorance, Julia has a hunch that Mason knows more than he’s letting on. Perhaps he’s discovered Leo’s terrible secret: He’s really just an ambulant pile of scarves.

In next week’s episode, Bombshell officially begins its out-of-town tryout in Boston. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to add some new songs to the show… right? Right?? Anyway, this most recent tune will be given to one of Marilyn’s “shadow-selves” — the formerly mute ladies who stand in the background during “Let Me Be Your Star” — because Marilyn’s real self still can’t sing. When she gets wind of this, Rebecca immediately suggests that her BFF4EAE Karen perform the number, because she has “a real rock star voice.” Just the thing for a tender ballad about Monroe’s relationship with her mother!

As Karen practices the tune — she sounds gorgeous — Ivy can barely find the energy to brood in the hallway. By this point, she must be resigned to the fact that everything always seems to be coming up Karen. But all that is going to change — because Ellis has suddenly decided that he wants to see Ivy take the spotlight. Is forming an alliance with Terrible Ellis better or worse than developing an addiction to eight different prescription drugs?

Eileen’s had enough of downing $7 martinis at The Bushwack while making eyes at Bartender Nick. She’s finally ready to show off her accented stallion at a schmancy BAM event. Jerry is also present, and though he makes a point of hissing that it’s a little late for his ex “to start dating the pool boy,” Eileen gets through the evening without dousing him in alcohol. She and Nick then leave the performance early, go back to his place, and do what birds, bees, and even educated fleas do. (Sex. They do sex.)

Karen, Dev, and Rebecca, meanwhile, are having a much less satisfying three-way date at an Indian restaurant. After condescendingly asking for bottled water and making a quip in a cringeworthy, caricature-y Indian accent, the movie star picks a fight with Dev. The two begin arguing about whether he has his girlfriend’s best interests at heart, and whether he’s acting strange because he thinks he’s losing her. But Karen isn’t listening. Instead, she’s staring at a TV in the restaurant, where a Bollywood movie is playing…

And you know how I feel about what comes next. I’m not sure why “A Thousand and One Nights” is an Indian cinema-style song set in Agrabah, but I’m prepared to go with it anyway. Things worth noting: Raza Jaffrey is a great dancer. Katharine McPhee looks amazing in her slinky, belly-bearing getup. Terrible Ellis’s cameo (he steals a necklace from Eileen as she’s smooching Nick) is absolutely fantastic. Leo, spoiler alert, should never be allowed to participate in a production number. This may be a controversial proclamation, but I’d put this sequence right up there with “Let’s Be Bad.”

NEXT: The End of the Bollywood Affair

Alas, all good things must come to an end. When Karen’s reverie ceases, she and Dev are still stuck in their increasingly unhappy relationship — and Rebecca has taken off. Time to switch back to Julia, who’s decided to track down her son by becoming a Master of Disguise. (Guess she rejected the Ashley Judd approach.) Julia accosts Mason and gets him to spill the beans by bragging about how famous she is. Seriously! Anyway, Leo’s totally fine; he’s been hiding out at his pal’s place. And after tiring of the wild rumpus, he makes his way back to Julia and Frank’s gorgeous brownstone. Hooray! Periodic Table flashcards for everyone!

Rebecca ducks out of rehearsal to grab a bag of potato chips and some alone time with Karen. While she’s gone, newly designated smoothie monkey Ellis gets to work concocting a brew for the movie star. As he’s juicing, Ivy approaches and asks if he’d do something for her. Ellis slyly replies that he’d do anything Ivy asked. If you’re like me, you immediately assumed that Ivy and Ellis would slip peanuts into Rebecca’s drink; Ms. Duvall is deathly allergic to them. I’m glad this didn’t end up happening — sending someone into anaphylactic shock would be insanely evil, even for Terrible Ellis and Again-Villainous Ivy.

Instead, Ellis simply borrows a phone from Rebecca’s manager and texts Karen, telling her that she’s done for the day. Iowa scampers home. Rebecca, meanwhile, comes back to rehearsal after a lengthy break and discovers that Derek has finally had enough of her shenanigans. He tosses a paparazzo’s expensive camera to the ground, then yells that Rebecca’s going to have to stop messing with both her understudy and her director. In a nice touch, after his outburst, Derek and Rebecca have to share an elevator upstairs.

It’s time to practice that new song, “Second Hand White Baby Grand.” But since Karen is nowhere to be found, the tune gets reassigned to wicked Ivy. And honestly? She sings it so beautifully that it’s tough to be angry about the underhanded methods she used to get the solo. “Baby Grand” has some sappy lyrics and a melody that’s a touch generic, but the whole somehow adds up to be more than its parts. When Ivy finishes her ballad, even Eileen is wiping away tears.

But there’s someone who didn’t love the performance: Rebecca, of course. She thinks Marilyn should get to sing the song. And… curtain. Something tells me that this Rebecca business might come to a head next week.

NEXT: Footlights: Let’s take bets on when that peanut allergy flares up

Footlights

Bombshell has found a new DiMaggio. His name is Ted, and he’s played by Tony Yazbeck — a Broadway actor who’s had the distinction of appearing in not one, not two, but three revivals of Gypsy. But don’t get too attached; next week’s previews indicate that Ted isn’t long for this world.

– I’d be furious if Tom and Julia cut “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” But “Lexington and 52nd St.”? That I can do without.

– Karen made the iPad edition of Page Six! Her parents must be so proud.

– This week, Linda the Stage Manager learns how to make kale-coconut smoothies. Glad Ann Harada is getting something to do.

– Did you get a good look at the various Bombshell posters Eileen was considering? How do you feel about the one Derek picked out?

– Okay, how long until Rebecca’s peanut allergy leads to her getting incapacitated?

– Nick’s bachelor pad features whales and a large photo of Keith Richards, his role model. Congrats, Eileen, you’re dating a college student who’s time-traveled here from 1970.

– I love, love, love the way Jerry greets Eileen, Nick, and the couple they’re chatting with: “This is a merry crew!”

– Line of the night might go to Leo’s friend as he’s putting Julia in her place: “You screwed up your life so bad you have to run around threatening loser teenagers.”

– Updated to add: Also, Tom and Sam are still characters! They cry, they smooch, they maybe have some holy sex. I hope next week gives them — or at least Tom — more to do.

– So why did Leo really run away? Well, according to the boy himself, “I don’t know what anything is anymore!” Yep; sounds like a kid acing his AP classes.

– Public service announcement: Smash‘s soundtrack hits stores on May 1.

Next week, the show travels to Boston, Karen rejects Dev’s marriage proposal, and Michael Swift may make an unwelcome return. Think Season 1’s third-to-last installment will be as entertaining as tonight’s episode was?

Hillary on Twitter

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