Smash Recap: Ellis Learns Julia's Secret

debra messing smashSay what you want about Smash‘s Ellis, but the Creepy Little Assistant That Could(n’t Quit Lurking in Hallways) has at least one impressive accomplishment he can put on his résumé: In the course of just three episodes, he’s managed to place himself near the top of the list of TV’s most annoying characters ever.

Bad enough that the guy thinks he’s entitled to payment for coming up with the idea for Tom and Julia’s musical — even though he did nothing more than grab a book about Marilyn Monroe off his boss’s coffee table and casually mention she’d make a good topic for a Broadway show. Come on now, it’s not like he imagined the idea for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind out of thin air. But this week, Ellis continued his best impression of a Downton Abbey servant with irrational entitlement issues, hovering in the shadows and collecting information to advance his station in life.

“Why do you not like him?” Tom asked Julia this week. Dude, let me help your BFF count the ways! There was Broadway newecomer Ellis playing the sycophant, telling Tom his melody was “amazing” when Julia (a seasoned songwriter with several hit musicals to her credit) suggested some tweaks. There was Ellis playing the spy, rifling through Julia’s bag, “borrowing” her notebook, and taking it home to scour it for intel. There was Ellis playing the tough guy, telling Julia she should “be careful about what you say next” during a heated exchange in Tom’s hallway. (Oh how I wished she’d called his bluff and fired him on Tom’s behalf once more.) And there was Ellis playing the eavesdropper, listening in as Julia confessed to Tom that she’d cheated on her supercute hubby Frank with the actor they were about to cast as Joe DiMaggio. (Also: Ellis is straight? I guess Julia’s gaydar is better than mine!)

But wait, let’s go back to that needle scratching across the record from a few sentences ago. Yep, Julia cheated. Five years ago or so, but still. You could see immediate panic in Julia’s eyes the minute Director Derek and Producer Eileen brought up stage star Michael Swift as a candidate to play DiMaggio, but that scene where the former lovers bumped into each other in Eileen’s office was fantastic. Debra Messing conveyed a deep pool of regret, discomfort, shame, and desire — all with the simplest of surface dialogue and one eye fixated on the slow-to-arrive elevator door. I just wish I’d been more impressed with Michael’s rendition of “Grenade” in that Bruno Mars musical. Dude was processed-cheesy enough that I half-expected him to come packaged in a cellophane wrapper. I know the show’s writers are setting things up for Julia to once again be tempted to stray  — Michael’s “you smell good” told us where he stands on the issue — but I’m really hoping Julia tosses his advances into the dumpster along with the discarded swing beat of the “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” first draft. (Burning question: Are we really supposed to believe established actor Michael is getting the same $200/week rate to workshop a lead role as neophyte chorus girl Karen? I’m no Broadway expert, but that seems somewhat dubious.)

In other storyline developments from the week in Smash:

* Has anyone noticed the alarming way Derek uses the word “darling” to play mind games with poor Ivy Lynn? I couldn’t believe that moments after sex, he coldly joked to his new lover that their romp was his idea of working on her character together. Later, when she tried to have a real moment about why they always met at her place — “I thought you didn’t want me in your home or something.” — his flip response (“Darling, I want you everywhere.”) filled in all the missing pages in his hard-to-believe story about his gas being switched off due to building construction. Bottom line: When your man never has time to call, but still manages to swing by to noisily knock boots in your dressing room, it’s time to exit the relationship stage left.

* Ivy Lynn and Michael’s duet on “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (embedded below) was positively lovely — and I’d go so far as to say it proved that Tom and Julia and Derek and Eileen picked the right woman for the job. Seriously, is there a place I can pre-book tickets on the off chance this show ever does make its way to Broadway with Megan Hilty as the lead?

* It’s pretty clear Derek likes to keep his irons in more than one fire — if I’m not being too subtle. What other reason would he have for one-on-one cocktails with a memeber of the ensemble in his Marilyn the Musical workshop? And no, he doesn’t really seem like the type to spend his off hours nurturing young talent. Anyhow, Dev’s surprise arrival and huge kiss during Derek and Karen’s meeting may have been inappropriate, but nothing was worse than Derek asking Karen’s beau if his mom and dad were “just off the boat.” Would someone actually say that aloud in 2012?

* Karen going all the way to Iowa for her BFF’s baby shower seemed like just an excuse to let Katharine McPhee show off some surprising country chops on “Redneck Woman,” no? Okay, maybe the trip also reiterated her small-town girl roots and her parents’ concerns about her fiscal well-being, but the whole experience felt a tad disposable. Get the girl back to New York City, and get her scheming or dreaming — or doing something to advance the plot!

* Please, please, please tell me Anjelica Huston’s Eileen is going to throw a Manhattan into the face of her cheating/estranged hubby every week. (“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know why that keeps happening. I’m such a klutz.”) I don’t know why I find this visual so delightful, but hey, even Jerry  seems to kind of enjoy the splashy way they end every conversation, ordering a drink for Eileeen and telling her “It’s for throwing,” then later giving an “ahem” and waiting a beat so Eileen could give him his punishment before he made his way out the door. Dude needs to realize: Whether or not their romance is completely dead, the woman is producing this show on her own.

* Did Dennis really not think it was a big deal to tell Tom about his bestie Ivy Lynn having sex in the dressing room with Derek, or is he such an opportunist that he’d use gossip as currency to climb his way into a bigger role in the show/Tom’s bedroom?

What did you think of this week’s Smash? Are you hooked in for the entire season? Sound off in the comments, and for all my TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!