The existence of God, the seat-filling power of a Hollywood star on Broadway, and even the health benefits of a kale and flaxseed smoothie (insert a churn of the tum-tum here) were up for debate on this week’s episode of Smash. Yep, Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) — she of
Sack Lunch Casual Friday 2 — dove right into rehearsals for Bombshell, and kept getting “inspired” with “ideas” she wanted to share in “pow-wows” with Derek, Eileen, Tom, and Julia. Too bad she didn’t have actual vocal ability to go with all that inspiration!
The good news, though, is that Smash didn’t take the easy route in making Rebecca a total cartoon buffoon. Sure, her early insecurity — mixed with a healthy portion of ego — had her cooing that the show might be better with “a little less singin’ and dancin'” and complaining about her character breaking into song at inopportune moments, but ultimately, she didn’t make a name for herself in
terribly titled action comedies Hollywood without knowing her own strengths and weaknesses.
When Rebecca finally copped to needing Bombshell‘s songs in a lower key, fewer solos, and (to everyone’s relief) a vocal coach, it was clear that despite her breezy diva antics (and specific demands for smoothies and chewing gum) that she was taking her role seriously, that she wanted to be as great as the show’s writers, director, and producer wanted her to be. “It’s a musical,” she conceded (condescended?). “People want to hear a bunch of songs.” That was a major shift from the woman who opened the episode with a wretched sing-speak twist on “Let Me Be Your Star” that had Julia suggesting “group suicide” as the next step in workshopping.
Still, as if we didn’t all know there have to be more problems afoot, Rebecca went back to casual diva-with-demands mode after not ruining a new production number called “Dig Deep.” Sure, she sold it with charisma and a decent voice — she’s no Ivy Lynn or Karen, though — but then she turned on that Hollywood smile and told Eileen: “I’ve got lots more ideas.” Uh-oh. But oh, oh…Rebecca’s vocal issues gave Derek an opening to get Ivy Lynn back in the chorus, despite her Heaven on Earth meltdown. Come on now, dude has to have somebody to step in for Rebecca should she not have the chops for the role, and it ain’t gonna be “the Cartwright girl,” as Derek refers to Karen when he’s trying to negate whatever personal and/or professional longing he feels toward her.
With the central story arc covered, let’s list the remaining plot points from “The Movie Star” in order of most to least appealing:
* Julia, exasperated by Tom and Sam’s flirtation, booked them a dinner reservation with eye-rolling brilliance. But when Tom tried to take things in a wah-chicka-wah-wah direction (see scene, embedded below), Sam revealed his religious beliefs — and his opinion that sex is holy. Which led to my favorite exchange of the episode:
Sam: The Republicans don’t own God. You know that.
Tom: (all high-pitched-like): Do I?
I’m still not 100 percent sold on the Tom-Sam chemistry — and one more reference to Sam’s love of sports and I will throw a basketball at my TV set — but I loved our butch chorus boy calling out Tom on his glaringly obvious intimacy issues. Hey, Julia’s only been trying to point ’em out for a decade now!
* We got some more Ivy-Karen bonding, with the former revealing more of her tart bitchery to “midwestern moonface.” I loved how conspiratorial Ivy got in rehearsals, whispering to Karen that Rebecca’s singing was “the sound of 1,000 ticket-holders demanding their money back” and telling her rival she was in the wrong business if she wasn’t rooting for the Hollywood interloper to implode. “She stole our part. We hate her!” That’s the Broadway spirit, girl! Later, after ditching Rebecca’s move screening in favor of drinks — and I like that it was drinks, not coffee — Ivy did that boasting-by-assocation about Bombshell’s workshop: “I’m sleeping with the director: I basically blocked the whole show.” Alas, though, Ivy’s jokes about Dev skipping the premiere to have a dalliance with another woman hit too close to home for Karen. “You need a thicker skin, Iowa!” Indeed!
* Speaking of Dev, he had draaaaanks with that reporter chick who apparently never has to be at work, skulking around city hall and flipping her carefully straightened hair instead. Naturally, rival brunette was on the scene when Karen discovered her man hadn’t gotten his promotion, although I have to admit: Katharine McPhee’s acting in this scene was flatter than an Iowa cornfield. “Is there anything else I should know about?” she asked wanly. Um, yes, the dude who’s presumably paying the lion’s share of the rent on your apartment is quickly drifting away. Act now while supplies last, grrrrl!
* Derek had another Karen-as-Marilyn fantasy, where the latter sang “Our Day Will Come” and writhed on his lap. Is it just me, or should these sequences be Rated I…for I Cahhhhhhn’t?
* Frank showed up at lunch with adulterous Julia just to tell her he had nothing to say — he didn’t even order fries! — but when he tried to keep mum in front of Leo’s principal — blah blah blah, the kid is failing some of his classes (OBVIOUSLY HIS ACTING CLASSES!) — Julia laid the family secrets on the table. “I had an affair, which was totally and completely wrong on every level,” she confessed. “Did I leave anything out?” Only the laugh track. I have to admit, now that her affair has ended, I’m back to loving our saucy, doesn’t-have-time-for-eggshells playwright.
* Ellis continued to exist, huffing about having to carry out assistant duties and accidentally blowing up a major connection when he had a call-waiting fail during a chat with Rebecca’s manager (the one he sexed up a couple weeks back) and blurted “I’ve got to suck up to that loser again.” Whoops. Now someone on Smash other than Julia hates Ellis as much as the rest of us, and even got to tell him off (“I hate users”) when Ellis tried to explain himself. As much as this character infuriates me, it’s fun to watch him get his comeuppance. Maybe the writers can keep him around just for weekly scenes where he pays for his dreadfulness, getting run down by a bicycle messenger, being overcharged at the dry cleaners, having to endure a painful root canal. Fun!
* Oh, and Eileen got her smooch on again with Nick. So what if his money’s a little dirty? Eileen can pay her own automobills anyhow!
What did you think of this week’s Smash? Are you digging the Hollywood diva-takes-Broadway story arc? How about the Tom-Sam dynamic? Sound off in the comments!