First, some good news: This week’s episode of Smash provided plenty more ammo in the delicious war between #TeamKaren and #TeamIvy. And now for some more good news: The show refuses to give simple answers to the question of which character deserves to be the heroine of our ongoing melodrama, and (to a lesser degree) which of these flawed, ambitious, enormously talented women is more deserving of the lead role in Marilyn the Musical. (Side note: At the end of the day, it’s possible to root for both ladies — if you’re willing to unite against the common enemy known as Ellis!)
Ivy Lynn’s ongoing insecurity — a frequent side effect of sleeping with the director before you’ve landed the lead role in his play — began to percolate in not-so-flattering ways, as she used her position as the star of Marilyn to get Karen benched for not one, but two of the numbers being workshopped. (Her smile when Karen had to sit out “History Is Made at Night” was downright vicious, no?)
That said, after at least a decade in the business, Ivy must be shrewd enough to know that Derek casting her former rival in the ensemble might be a not-so-subtle backup plan — both personally and professionally. Can you blame her for putting the kibosh any potential scheme Karen might have to All About Eve her way into the lead role Ivy’s dreamed of during all those grueling years in the ensemble? (I do, however, blame Ivy for using the word “chorus” in front of all her buddies. Watch who you step on as you climb the ladder, girl!) What’s more, Ivy’s birthday-party performance of “Howl” was so mesmerizing, I didn’t even snicker when a wistful Eileen threw a clump of dirt on the coffin of her own marriage and declared to Ivy that “you’re my happiness now.” On a related note, Karen has yet to headline a number that comes anywhere near to matching “Howl” or even “National Pasttime.”
Speaking of Karen, her (failed) callback for the Marilyn role seems to have gone to her head. Iowa’s been hired to be part of the ensemble in a workshop of a major Broadway production — a huge break for a total neophyte — and yet she’s already stroming into hallways and snapping at her castmates when things don’t go her way or people aren’t nice to her. Seriously? How would she handle a tough review from a critic or a dearth of applause from an unenthusiastic audience? Plus, shouldn’t she have already made it her business to learn basic stage-blocking techniques and the fine art of not upstaging the lead actress? And yet while I was a little incredulous about Karen winning over Jessica by telling her castmate she’d been “horrible,” I will say this: Karen actually seemed fun and lively and not so gosh-darn doe-eyed annoying while she was learning some trade secrets and throwing back shots with her newfound work buddies. Plus, she had a point that not sleeping with the director, and not getting the lead, didn’t make her “stupid, lame, or untalented” — a point she proved with a solid/partial cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It.”
The Ivy-Karen rivalry played against the backdrop of Nick Jonas showing up as slightly skeevy former child star Lyle West, who was either discovered by Tom or Derek or both (depending on who you ask), and suddenly had $80 million in sitcom syndication money in his pocket. Derek threw Lyle a party. Lyle sang Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and hit on Ivy Lynn. Eileen popped in to offer some investment advice — put your money into art or gold bullion — and an offer Lyle couldn’t refuse: Buy her Degas for $200,000, which she’d use as seed money to get Marilyn off the ground. After Ivy Lynn (backed by Michael, Julia, Dennis, a singing waitress, and — ick — Ellis) gave the aforementioned rendition of “Howl,” Lyle decided to take points on the show — and the painting — giving Eileen’s a bold-faced name to add to the show’s list of producers. The show — or at least the workshop — will go on!
And now for a few points of discussion:
* Did anyone other than Ivy buy Derek’s exceedingly ridiculous explanation for fondling that fine lady’s behind? (“Everyone at this party was a potential investor!”) Since when did prostituting oneself become a key component in directing and choreographing a Broadway musical?
* Who else is loving Julia’s burning hatred for Ellis? I chuckled when she asked the woman setting up the rehearsal room if she could put Tom’s assistant at a separate table, and absolutely roared when she blatantly ignored his overzealous “Derek’s having a big party, huh?” That kid is going to stir up some terrible trouble — and 1,000 smarmy facial expressions — before Season 1 is over.
* Michael needs to stop coming up to Julia with his cryptic messages and goo-goo eyes already!
* Also, note to Smash writers: We need more Eileen and Julia hang-out sessions, please! In fact, maybe there’s some kind of spinoff or after-hours show that could focus on nothing but Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing’s characters sharing some booze and chatting it up.
* Exchange of the night:
Caterer: “I’m an actress and a dancer.”
Elieen: “Not now, sweetheart.”
What did you think of this week’s Smash? Sound off in the comments!