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'Smash' Recap: The Final Callback

The next Marilyn Monroe is crowned

February 14, 2012 10:25 AM ET

smash mcphee
Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright in 'Smash.'
Patrick Harbron/NBC

During the series premiere of Smash we got a glimpse of what it takes to launch a Broadway musical, as small-town girl Karen Cartwright and busty blonde Ivy Lynn competed for the lead role in Marilyn: The Musical.

This week was all about which woman would ultimately play the iconic Ms. Monroe. The decision took up most of the hour, with the four main execs ping-ponging between experienced Ivy and newbie Karen. It was like Team Edward vs. Team Jacob – only with women and dance numbers and … eh, maybe not.

Episode two kicks off with Katharine McPhee’s Karen daydreaming about singing in front of an enamored audience. In reality, she’s still waiting tables. Well, actually, she’s just standing around with a coffee pot in her hand while wearing a black top with a dog collar-meets-Playboy Bunny bowtie wrapped around her neck. (What’s up with this show and distracting necklines?)

Meanwhile, the Broadway execs are battling it out behind closed doors: Who should play Marilyn? Ivy’s got the chops and sex appeal – and the eye of womanizing director Derek since Karen shot down his advances last week. But they still can’t seem to shake the idea that Karen could be Broadway’s next big star. So, how do they plan to make their final decision? Setting up a good old-fashioned dance-off between the two hopefuls.

Across town, Karen’s boyfriend needles her about what happened the night she went to Derek’s apartment for a private “coaching session.” She coyly claims “nothing,” despite the fact she wore nothing but a white button-down shirt while straddling her potential director. Watch out for that slippery slope, girl.

Shifting gears, I’m forced to delve into the adoption storyline featuring Debra Messing’s Julia. I was hoping it would disappear after dragging down the tone of the pilot, but it has unfortunately turned into a major plotline. One that makes me want to do a shot every time Messing overacts by bugging out her eyes in cartoonish surprise, dissent or joy.

Previously, Julia’s hubby was on her case about her returning to work as a songwriter before they completed the adoption process. Now, in an about-face, he’s the one who doesn’t want to pursue the matter anymore because he wants to go back to work – leaving her to single-handedly deal with a pile of paperwork to potentially bring home a little bundle of joy from China. (For inquiring minds, Julia’s man eventually comes around and rejoins the adoption choo-choo train – and I opted to skip the booze in order to coherently write this recap.)

Once the baby blues are pushed aside, it’s back to the good stuff: A Marilyn-themed sing- and dance-off. Both Karen and Ivy step into the spotlight as fresh-faced Norma Jeanes to sing what seems to be the show’s theme song, “Let Me Be Your Star.”

Then, in lurks songwriter Tom’s creeper – oops, I mean assistantEllis, coming from out of nowhere to declare that he gets “so excited watching my idea come to life.” Somehow a seasoned Broadway professional let a 20-something Corbin Bleu lookalike think he came up with the idea for a potentially lucrative musical. But leave it to crazy-eyed Julia to quickly put him in his place, sending him to fetch Tom’s dry cleaning. On his way out, Ellis does what he does best: creepily stand around eavesdropping. Doesn’t he have some sock drawers to organize?

In preparation for their final face-off, Karen and Ivy take turns rehearsing with the equally creepy director Derek. It’s here they meet face-to-face for the first time, and it’s obvious who Derek wants to be his star, as he clears out the room and shuts the door in Karen’s face so he can have some alone time with Ivy. There’s a new conquest in town.

Later, Anjelica Huston’s Eileen meets Derek for dinner and drinks, where she runs into her soon-to-be ex-husband. When the waiter delivers the quickest 10-second Manhattans ever made, the no-nonsense producer douses her pesky ex after he insults both her and her new musical endeavor.

It’s not the first dinner of the night to be ruined. Karen leaves her boyfriend hanging at a sit-down work soiree where he’s trying to impress his bosses who are considering him for a promotion. Where was she, you ask? With the womanizing director, of course. It’s all very innocent this time, though, as she hangs back after rehearsal to go over some lines.

The same can’t be said about Ivy and Derek’s next encounter though, as the two wind up in bed together, virtually sealing Karen’s fate as runner-up in the Ms. Monroe pageant. Welp, that’s one way to secure a role.

Despite the director’s romp with Ivy, the two women have a final, official showdown in front of the execs. It’s here we see Karen transform into Marilyn for the first time, wearing a blonde wig and slinky gold dress while singing a song entitled “20th Century Fox Mambo.”

But alas, she is not destined to be Marilyn, as – surprise, surprise – Ivy receives the news that she’s won the role. We’re seemingly supposed to be left wondering: What’s to become of Karen? But I think it’s safe to assume that Katharine McPhee is sticking around …

Last week: Marilyn Monroe is Broadway-Bound

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