We begin on Christmas Eve…err, Saturday night, with Tom standing naked on stage while the entire "Bombshell" cast points and laughs at him. Welcome to Tom's final dress anxiety dream. (At least it's more interesting than ours, which usually involve the totally wrong text going live in an advertisement on a major web site...)
A few blocks away, Ivy is waking to find Derek has slept over, while across a river in Brooklyn, Karen is taking a motherly tone with Jimmy who's been using drugs to stay up for days and write lots of new songs in the hopes that'll keep Derek from cutting his and Karen's parts down.
"Bombshell" is in final dress hell at the Lily Hayes – because we couldn't possibly call it the cursed Lyceum, y'all, then everyone would already know your show is going to... wait for it... bomb – where everything is going wrong and Ivy's clothes are spontaneously falling off. Downtown, Derek's distance from Karen is giving him fresh perspective and "Hit List" is about to take off. Well, that is if Karen and Jimmy don't ruin everything by complaining about their parts being cut down first.
After "Bombshell's" first preview doesn't fail miserably, Tom, Eileen, Julia, and Scott attempt to celebrate. At least until that gushy article about "Hit List" interrupts their night by storming the Internet and the cover of the Times Arts and Leisure section. Now Tom's eyes tell us he hates Julia for helping make "Hit List" better and Eileen and Richard are donezo. Meanwhile, Jimmy has decided he'd rather protect the secrets of his past than bone Karen in the future, and Ivy and Derek are still casually getting it on tonight.
In other smashing theatrical developments...
"Smash" Points Its Hate in the Right Direction – at Karen
For those of us who are just exhausted by the notion of a sainted, superstar Karen, this week's episode offered some relief. At last, "Smash" starts doing some justifiably bad things to her – taking away her songs, subtly insinuating that Ana is a lot more talented, exposing her relationship with Jimmy (excuse me, "Jimmy"), for the shallow charade that it is. Maybe that's why Katharine McPhee is rumored to be distancing herself from the show. Meanwhile, Megan Hilty is making the most of her character's more sympathetic emotional (and occasionally literal) makeover this season. For those of us – aka everyone – who can see where the real talent lies without spending an hour on IBDB, it's hard to be sad about it.
Kyle Tells Jimmy What's What
Sweet Kyle gets to wear a suit in this episode – a genuine improvement over the Mr. Rogers style he's been rocking – but he also gets to tell Jimmy off. And it feels so, so good. Jimmy is pouting, you see, because Kyle likes the version of the show that downplays Karen's character. Jimmy aims low by implying that Kyle is upset because he's jealous and in love with him, but Kyle fires back, asserting that he too knows what's best for "Hit List." It's a great moment, especially because we get to see bratty Jimmy get a dose of real talk.
Karen and Ana Finally Get a Long-Awaited Snipefest
Everbody's fighting in this episode, and nowhere is it more satisfying than when Ana tells Karen what's what. With her part blown up 400 percent and a Times critic all swoony over it, Ana has a right to feel pretty good about the situation with "Hit List." Karen, however, can only manage sour grapes, because she's emotionally four years old and can do little more than mumble, get touchups on her ombre hair, and sink further into profound denial about her drug-doing fraud of a boyfriend.
Ellis is a Nightmare, We Get It
We all remember how horrible Ellis was, you guys. Nothing – not even Tom's literal nightmare – justifies bringing him back for even four painful seconds. Our terrible fear? That the show will find reasons to bring back the human stain that was his character again. And again. Like, maybe they'll have him setting booby traps under the stage at the Tony Awards. Actually, that might be kind of awesome.
Our Favorite Theater, The Lily Hayes
The Lyceum Theater, in this episode, is transformed into the Lily Hayes. But our question is why? Why Lily? Because it fit on the sign? In one of those typical Smash moves that strives for authenticity so hard that it totally loses sight of things like subtlety and seamless storytelling, we now have a totally glaring piece of Broadway unrealism – spelled out in neon lights on a sign.
The Nude Scene of Obviousness
The fuss over Ivy's nude scene would have felt like an actual fuss if the whole affair weren't completely hackneyed and dull in its handling. Having Marilyn show a little skin has always made sense, but putting it at the end of the JFK number clearly didn't. How will "Smash" fix this? By giving that wily Ivy Lynn the emotional sensitivity and profound talent to correct the issue herself. This whole plot thread was supposed to make our jaws drop, we know. Instead we were just rolling our eyes.
Ivy Lynn's Immovable Hair
And then there was that amazing moment where Ivy Lynn rolled out of bed, fresh from a shag with Derek Wills and the ensuing hours of sleep, and her hair was an utterly perfect mass of individually sprayed banana curls that are literally the color of bananas. Never mind Ivy's performance as Marilyn. That tougher-than-Teflon hairstyle should win its own Tony.
Not all Men from Boston Need to Look Like Mark Wahlberg
Nor should JFK sound like he's speaking with a French accent. We know New Yorkers have a difficult time embracing the Beantown ouvre in general, but it sort of seems like this JFK is about to break into "Kennedy Talks to Farm Animals" at any moment. This is probably not the effect that "Smash" is going for.
Derek, the Creator
It's sort of amazing that it's taken "Smash" this long to show Derek doing what Derek presumably does all day – directing. And for the first time, he seems credibly good at it. Rather than faux Fosse or endless flying lifts, his little moment with Ana and the gun seems like it could work in a real musical, and it hints at some actual edge. Up until this point, we're sure that the "Smash" writers convinced themselves that the mechanics of directing a musical are so dull that the audience would rather watch Karen stare catatonically into space for 40 minutes a week. Turns out they were wrong. Besides, Karen's still staring catatonically into space anyway, so hopefully everyone's needs are being met.
The Times Article That is Obviously Not from the Times
Hey guys, it's your favorite theater newspaper, The New York Times, wherein the editors (?) review shows (??) in previews (???), and use language that makes Michael Riedel's writing sound like a cross between Pauline Kael and Chekov. The paper's gushing preview of "Hit List" left us howling, not just because of its aggressive commitment to non-reality, but also because the writers of "Smash" are so far down the ladder of literary greatness that they can't even mock the Grey Lady in a way that feels authentic. Either that, or they genuinely believe that their viewing audience can't handle the sound and sensibility of a real Times article. Just because Karen Cartwright needs help with any phrase longer than "double-stick tape," doesn't mean the rest of us do, too.
Laura Motta and Aileen McKenna blog as Lucky and The Mick on their Broadway-themed blog of insanity, The Craptacular.