Smash Recap: Excuses for 'Bad' Behavior

katharine mcphee smashIn a certain sense, Smash lived up to its title this week by repeatedly making me want to smash several characters heads together — and amazingly, that little weasel Ellis didn’t crack the Top 3! Not that I’m entirely complaining, mind you: If all of the show’s characters acted wisely and ethically all the time, we’d be looking at a pretty boring hour of television. It’s just a little hard to swallow that Debra Messing’s otherwise fabulous Julia would do something as boneheaded as make out with her former (and possibly future) illicit lover in plain sight of her teenage son’s bedroom window.

Let’s recap who needed a good solid thwack upside the noggin’ during “Let’s Be Bad.”

* I knew Julia was in trouble the minute she agreed to a “working dinner” with Michael — and had the audacity to paw his dessert and eat whipped cream off her finger — gross on multiple levels! — and then again when she let him drunkenly barge into her apartment for dinner with her and her teenage son Leo. (Hot hubby was away for work.) But here’s what I don’t get: Are we supposed to be titillated by Julia and Michael’s naughty behavior? Do we even believe Julia would be attracted to a guy who would blurt “your mother and I used to smoke a little doob” to her son — less than a week after said teenager had been arrested on suspicion of smoking weed in Central Park? Girlfriend seems way too sharp and self-possessed for such nonsense. I got the impression the show’s writers felt like Michael walking away from his limo and kissing Julia was the climax of the episode, but I was far more inclined to pump my fist earlier in the hour, when Julia met Michael’s probing into her private phone call with a terse “What can I do for you?” More of that Julia, please!

* I know Ivy is being painted as our “starlet with insecurity issues,” but really, a 10-year veteran of the New York theater/dating scene is gonna show up drunk at her director/boyfriend’s house and whine that he’s not paying enough attention to her during rehearsals? Oh sister, where art thou’s self-respect? I did, however, love the way she played through the pain during rehearsal: Fighting back some tears, re-centering herself, and performing “Let’s Be Bad” with the kind of committed gusto that makes you understand exactly why she snagged the title role in Marilyn the Musical. When Megan Hilty sings, I am perpetually in awe.

* Every time Derek speaks, I’m reminded of Tom’s series-premiere quote: “He is a terrible human being!” And really, dude is foul as the sight of a swarm of Manhattan pigeons fighting over a chicken bone. His misogynistic comments to Karen that “you’re terrified of anything below the neck.” The way he screeched at Karen to perform an uncomfortable “Happy Birthday” in front of the entire cast, then smirked at both Karen and Ivy’s discomfort. The way he stormed out of the room without so much as a hand clap for Ivy’s stellar “Let’s Be Bad.” His whole b.s. to Ivy about “You can have feelings: They just need to be about Marilyn.” Honestly, the man is fascinatingly repugnant, albeit an interesting study in what some men do when all the power is in their hands. All together now, “He is a terrible human being!”

Kvetching aside, this was a good week for Karen and Tom. I liked that the former character tried to be an adult and address the discomfort of having to give a vibrato lesson to Ivy, though it struck me as ironic that she basically played her rival’s role by getting jealous of superhot Dev’s work colleague. I’m not sure her rendition of “It’s a Man’s World” bubbled over with raw sexuality, but I liked how she switched from casual flirtation mode to stealth spy the minute she realized her tablemate was Dev’s rival for press secretary.

Oh, let’s talk about TOM! How fun was his improvised ditty when he and Leo were waiting for Julia to arrive home and bring down the motherly hammer? “She’s gonna kill me twice/ I’m so dead, I’m so dead/ I wish I’d gone to the movies instead.” I also loved how he tried to knock some sense into his BFF, noting that her failure to pick up the phone for Leo’s arrest was a “wakeup call” to stop playing with fire. And even if Michael was too obtuse to get the hint, Tom’s bitchy announcement — “She’s having a family issue. And that’s where she needs to be — with her fam-uh-lee.” — was pitch perfect indeed.

* Ellis gets one significant line, and naturally it’s carefully worded espionage to Eileen: “Tom’s in a holding pattern while Julia catches up with her pages.” Your move, Julia! Act now and crush the man who puts the “ass” in “assistant.”

* This episode desperately needed more Eileen, don’t you agree? A full hour of Smash without a bitchy retort or a blithely tossed drink is kind of like a Broadway musical without an earworm refrain.

What did you thihk of this week’s Smash? Are you feeling the Julia-Michael chemistry? Sound off below!

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