Smash Recap: A Defense of Marilyn Act

smash season 2 megan hilty christian borleThe question posed in the series premiere of Smash — who will play the role of Marilyn Monroe in the fictional Broadway musical Bombshell? — was finally and definitively answered tonight in Episode 7 of Season 2, the aptly named “Musical Chairs.”

If the title wasn’t already a dead giveaway, Smash has been telegraphing changes to its troika of central musicals — Bombshell, The Hit List and Liaisons — for several weeks now, so it’s not as though anything felt particularly explosive. But along the way there were some laughs (intentional and otherwise), some drama, some suspension of disbelief and a couple of really stilted line readings.

Let’s go ahead and check in with the week’s central shenanigans.

LIAISONS GETS DANGEROUS | Sean Hayes’ Terry realized that Ivy Lynn’s harsh guns of truth from last week were fired a little too late to save the show — and propel him to a triumphant comeback — especially when the dreary first preview of Liaisons was met with blank stares, fidgeting and lipstick reapplications. Instead of reaching for the Klonopin, however, the show’s two stars decided they might as well party while the ship went down, with Terry hopefully suggesting, “the mirrors and the sheep and the full-frontal nudity.” (Two out of three ain’t bad.) All we got to see was an unhinged and occasionally unsettling solo of Terry’s — anyone else feel cringe when he repeatedly slapped his costar’s breasts? — which ended with him falling painfully off a swing, then having to resign from a show that would close down at the end of the week anyhow. Ivy Lynn, who’s coveted a breakout Broadway role for years, didn’t seem too upset by the turn of events, but maybe deep down she had a premonition of what was to come? Otherwise, you’d think the working actress in her would’ve wanted Liaisons to continue bringing in the paychecks — regardless of how abysmal the work was, no? (It’s not as if she wasn’t garnering great reviews!)

EAST VILLAGE BASEMENT TRUMPS BROADWAY | Karen, meanwhile, struggled to adjust to Tom taking over from Derek as director of Bombshell (and seemed surprisingly surly/unenthusiastic in the process). “[Derek is] petty and sadistic…ooh, maybe that’s how I should connect with Karen,” Tom naughtily said to Julia. “Or speak with a British accent.” Derek, meanwhile, teased Karen that “Gwen Verdon would’ve bailed if Fosse quit,” prompting one of the few saucy retorts that Ms. Cartwright has uttered all season: “Ohhh, so now you’re Fosse, huh?” The idea stuck in Karen’s head though, along with the insane idea that she’d somehow wronged arrogant Jimmy by not being able to continue with The Hit List (which would probably be stuck in a basement in Greenpoint, Brooklyn if it weren’t for her involvement). “There was nothing to let [Jimmy] down over. You have a job!” cried Karen’s astute (and soon-to-be screwed-over) roomie Ana. “You were never gonna leave Broadway for some East Village basement.” And yet, after attending Liaisons with Tom — and watching Ivy Lynn grasp all of his shorthand (i.e. “you were very Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth“) during their post-show chat, “Iowa” had an epiphany: “I’m not your Marilyn; she is.” Okay, okay…there’s not a wannabe actress alive who’d turn down a lead role in a buzzy, multimillion-dollar musical for a chance to workshop a musical by two untested dudes (one a flighty drug addict, the other with marginal talent at best), but I’m not gonna complain. Ivy Lynn IS Marilyn, dammit. Karen BELONGS in The Hit List. And now they’re paired with the exact right directors and producers. Can we get these productions to the stage already?

THE HIT LIST STEPS OUT OF THE FRINGE | Jesse L. Martin’s sexy producer dude (who apparently has some past experiences with Julia) decided The Hit List might be a better fit for his public theater’s underground space. “I might’ve left Broadway, but I did not do it for 80 seats,” huffed Derek (Evangelista), as Scott pointed out that The Hit List‘s themes needed to be more clearly articulated if it was going to play to a larger/older audience. Jimmy, naturally, pitched a fit, sticking his thumb in his mouth and screaming “You’re not the boss of me!” (Because in the real world, total neophytes with horrendous attitudes are perpetually rewarded and indulged by experienced professionals.) Sensing Derek’s exasperation, Karen dropped in on her playwright pals only to get brushed off by Jimmy. “I just wanna help,” she implored in a voice so void of emotion I wondered if Katharine McPhee was mentally compiling her grocery list as the scene was being shot. “It’s been really intense at Bombshell with Derek gone,” she added, with not a hint of intensity. (Honestly, if McPhee and Jeremy Jordan exhibited any less chemisty in that scene, I think the universe might have created a spontaneous tornado to lift Jack Davenport into the sky, drop him into the middle of the set, and flash a little of that natural Derek-Karen heat that I didn’t even realize I’d been missing. It’s weird because I used to prefer Ivy-Derek, but I’m digging them as friends now. But I digress…)

Karen made a really good point to Jimmy as she exited: “Did you really think you wouldn’t have to rewrite anything, bitch?” Okay, she didn’t use the b-word, but she totally should’ve. Plus, she gave him the theme his cowriter Kyle really should’ve come up with: Reinvention! After her Bombshell exit, Karen was able to team up with Jimmy to present Scott and his creative team with a new number, “Rewrite This Story,” that’s probably among the best two or three ditties we’ve heard in Season 2. And just like that, it looks like The Hit List is moving out of the basement and into the mainstream. Except, oh, Derek essentially threatened Jimmy that he’d better stop trying to romance Karen, because as a director Derek is the one who needs to obsessively focus on the leading lady while the play is rehearsing and he doesn’t need any stinking distractions. (Whoa!) Also, poor Ana has gotten displaced by her roomie — “you just go back to being the sister” — and is probably planning to put peanuts/arsenic in Karen’s smoothie, or some such retalliation. And could Kyle be any more self-loathing? “I will gladly get you coffee any time!” he yipped to a lighting designer who gave him just a smidge of lingering eye contact. Come on, Kyle! You’re a cute kid with nice hair and a promising career. Time to sack up and get some self-respect (or find a good therapist)!

A RAPSCALLION GETS HIS COMEUPPANCE | In the week’s most convoluted (yet satisfying) turn of events, Eileen wrestled back control of Bombshell from ex-hubby Jerry — on account of some old contract Eileen had made with the Marilyn Monroe estate and which Julia had used for 20 percent of the show’s lyrics. Did I buy the fact that the ladies had forgotten said contract even existed? Not for a second! (Eileen is way too sharp for such foolery, even after three martinis!) But Marilyn the Musical has been saved from the show’s Big Bad, and that makes me happy. Oh, well, the contract wasn’t quite enough to send the cad packing — did anyone notice how Eileen’s hand went to the stem of her martini glass as things got heated between ’em? — but when daughter Katie threatened to cut him off if he didn’t do right by her mother, Jerry relented. Eileen is back in control! And Derek has signed over the rights to his choreography so “National Pasttime” can go back to being crazy sexy cool rather than absurdly manic. Oh and now Bombshell will include sections of the book that Julia wrote about Marilyn’s mother and was really sad about losing from the show. “If you can’t live without it,” said Director Tom, “neither can I. End of conversation.” I love when those two get along, don’t you? Team Tom & Julia!

Anyhow, over to you! What did you think of this week’s Smash? Are you happy that Ivy Lynn and Karen have landed new and different roles? Are you happy Liaisons is dead? Sound off in the comments!