For every episode of Smash that seems like it’s finally finding its footing, there’s one that leaves me disappointed. Case in point: Last week the show crackled with promise by turning the spotlight on Anjelica Huston’s underutilized Eileen and sending a snarling Ivy Lynn down a boozy, pill-poppin’ path. This week, it’s as if none of that ever happened. Ivy is kinder, gentler and sober, and Eileen is back to having just a so-so storyline again. It’s official: Smash‘s inconsistency is starting to bug me.
But it’s Uma Thurman to the rescue! Well, not yet, really. For all the advertising hype about her joining the cast, she was in this episode for all of two minutes. However, there was a lot of chatter about her character, movie star Rebecca Duvall, who the Bombshell execs are banking on to save the musical from financial ruin.
Of course, Rebecca is immediately labeled a diva when she doesn’t show up as expected, disappointing a full house of potential investors waiting with bated breath for her arrival at rehearsal. Stuck in traffic, perhaps? Nope. Stuck in Cuba, where she’s on a “goodwill mission with Sean Penn.” Classic.
As angry investors threaten to pull out (they were in?), director Derek pulls country mouse Karen Cartwright aside to tell her she’s been chosen as the understudy for the part of Marilyn Monroe. As soon as it’s announced, the peanut gallery – a.k.a. the chorus – places bets on how long till Karen cracks or gets fired. With friends like these, no wonder Bombshell is such a, well, bomb so far. (Sorry, but they’re really asking for it.)
Newly jobless Ivy, who was fired from Heaven on Earth after taking a tipsy tumble on stage, putters around her apartment lamenting losing the part of Marilyn to a diva who doesn’t even care enough to show up on her first day. Adding insult to injury, Derek delivers a double whammy: Ivy lost the understudy role to Karen because of her inebriated antics, and she’s not even wanted in the ensemble. Oh, the humanity.
Tossed in here is an unnecessarily convoluted storyline about Karen’s boyfriend, Dev. It has something to do with a lost promotion, a doe-eyed reporter and a lack of communication between him and Karen. Aside from maybe being a catalyst for writing his character off the show, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for Dev to get so much screen time. Sorry, Team Dev. If there is a such a thing . . .
In other rocky relationship news, songwriter Julia spends her days speed-dialing her estranged husband and being ignored. While drowning her sorrows in grilled cheese and wine, she does what any good parent would do: throws her emotionally damaged son in the middle of things by trying to coerce him into being a liaison. When he refuses, she steals his cell phone and tricks her hubby into answering her call. If only she put as much effort into coming up with a better title than Bombshell for the musical . . .
Meanwhile, Ivy’s been reduced to lurking, longingly watching Karen and Derek walk into rehearsal. If she were inside, though, she probably wouldn’t be so jealous when directionally challenged Karen gets a tongue-lashing from Derek.
At home, Karen complains to Dev about how Derek treats her, letting it slip that he came on to her back in episode one. Oopsy. She forgot she never told him about that. When tempers flare over the revelation, she storms off.
Back in Investorville, Eileen is trying to keep everyone happy while Rebecca lives it up in Cuba. There’s $7 million on the line, without which Bombshell can’t live up to its name. With things falling apart at the seams, she visits hunky bartender Nick, who tries to cheer her up by plopping down a giant wad of cash. And I mean giant. But it’s not enough. Where’s seven mil when you need it?
Nick says he knows someone who has that kind of money – a burned out, boozing baby boomer who alludes to the fact he illegally came into his fortune with Nick’s help. Despite snoopy Ellis then digging up some undisclosed dirt on Nick, the usually whip-smart Eileen is enamored with the idea of ditching her stodgy investors for a scruffy bartender and a guy who answers to the name Cobra. Good plan, Eileen.
Hoping to weasel her way back into Bombshell, Ivy plays nicey-nice with everyone. First she tells Derek to take it easy on Karen – and he listens! Then she sidles up to Karen, offering gifts and advice on how to make the best of being an understudy. Will it work? Well, she can’t stay on the fringe forever or there’s really no reason for her to be on the show. So she’s either back in or planning to run off with Dev.
Speaking of Dev, Karen puts on some sexy lingerie in order to kiss and make up. When there’s a knock on the door, she assumes it’s him but – surprise! – it’s Derek, coming to tell her she’s back in the chorus because Rebecca Duvall is on her way. Oh, and also to apologize for hitting on her that one time. A phone call would have sufficed. But then he wouldn’t have run into Dev on his way out and gotten a fist to the face.
The next day, the elusive Rebecca Duvall finally shows up for rehearsal as Karen and Derek share defeated glances. Perhaps it just dawned on them that while Thurman is certainly a “get,” she’s a little too old, angular and lanky to convincingly pull off the curvaceous, forever-young Hollywood icon. Yeah, I said it . . .
Last episode: Cracking the Whip