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TV Recap

'Smash' Recap: Episode 14, 'Previews'

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'Smash' Recap: Episode 14, 'Previews'
Photo Source: Will Hart/NBC
First Bollywood and now gospel. That Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee) can sing anything! At least it seems that way in the weird parallel universe of "Smash," where chorus kids are willing to get up early on a Sunday morning after drinking all Saturday night. On this week's episode, the cast of "Bombshell" suddenly gets religion and heads for the Boston house of worship frequented by Sam (Leslie Odom, Jr.) so they can pray for the recovery of their star Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman), who's in the hospital after ingesting peanuts. She's allergic, remember? As if we could forget after hearing it mentioned every other minute. I think the real reason for this sudden conversion of the cast and creative team is that the producers of the series are saying to America, "See, gays and show folk go to church just like you guys in the heartland. Please watch our show!"

But the episode opens about as far from church as you can get, as Karen's boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) wakes up in a strange hotel room and finds her rival Ivy (Megan Hilty) in his bed like the horse's head in "The Godfather." Speaking of awkward, Julia (Debra Messing) has an uncomfortable moment as her former lover Michael (Will Chase) meets her in front of her husband Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) and son Leo (Emory Cohen). Even more awkward and unbelievable is the frosty greeting Julia has for her writing partner Tom (Christian Borle). Evidently she's angry with Tom for not fighting hard enough to keep Michael out of the show.

As the final rehearsal before the first preview in Boston starts, goody two-shoes Karen does a stupid thing by mentioning to Rebecca (who is sleeping with director Derek (Jack Davenport)) that Ivy is kinda, sorta dating him. "I just don’t want anyone to get hurt," Karen sweetly says. "Then let's get outta show business, Karen," Rebecca wisely replies, instead of telling this little nobody to mind her own freakin' business.

The first preview begins and producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) tells Julia and Tom she'll meet them at the interval. Interval? What is she, British all of a sudden? The show finally starts and we see Tony nominee Marc Kudisch is playing Daryl Zanuck and doing a great job with the steambath number we saw Tom do a couple of episodes ago. Then we get a totally new number - maybe the one Tom wanted to add last week? - featuring Ivy and Karen and the other "shadow Marilyns" called "Smash." Either they wanted to add a title number or they had to give Megan Hilty another song. There's no other justification for this song since it doesn't further Marilyn's story in "Bombshell."

The preview ends with Rebecca-as-Marilyn drifting off to a pill-induced suicide and the audience not applauding. The creative team assembles to solve the problem. Eileen suggests they end the show with Marilyn having a reunion with her younger self. Julia points out that was done in the HBO movie with Ashley Judd. It was also used in the flop 1983 Broadway musical "Marilyn."

In an after-hours bar, Ellis (Jaime Cepero) mouths off to Eileen and her bartender lover Nick (Thorsten Kaye), who tells the arrogant pest to take a powder, an expression last used in 1947. Eileen then sings "September Song" with the cocktail pianist. This moment was not just an excuse to give Eileen, like everybody else on the show, a solo. Huston's grandfather, the actor Walter Huston, introduced "September Song" in the original Broadway production of "Knickerbocker Holiday" and the cocktail pianist was played by "Smash" executive producer and songwriter Marc Shaiman. A nearby bar patron was enacted by Scott Wittman, Shaiman's partner in life, songwriting, and executive producing.

The next day, Rebecca chokes on her smoothie - obviously someone put peanuts in there and suddenly we're in an attempted murder mystery. Eileen even asks Randall (Sean Dugan), her manager if he thinks he's Miss Marple after he suggests foul play. Rebecca winds up in the hospital and the show cancels two weekend performances. Dev meets with Ivy to tell her he left the wedding ring he meant to give to Karen in Ivy's hotel room. God, how drunk were they? Michael tries to kiss Julia, and instead of spraying mace in his face and getting a restraining order, she runs to Tom and blames him for letting Michael back in the show. This is all so the writing partners can have a tearful reconciliation scene at church.

And why would Karen have such an extended solo at Sam's house of worship? Wouldn't it be Sam, a son of the parish, who would get the spotlight? Karen's nice but not riveting performance of the gospel number puts me solidly on Ivy's team. This girl has a nice voice, but she wouldn't inspire all these standing ovations she keeps getting in bizarro "Smash" world. Evidently Sam's prayers work, because Rebecca recovers. But she quits the show anyway, leaving the question of who will play Marilyn: Ivy or Karen? Next week's season finale will answer the question. I'll bet they split the role between the two, with Karen playing the more innocent Norma Jean and Ivy getting the sultry Marilyn.

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