Smash: Hirings and Firings

By Lily Sparks

Mar 27, 2012

Smash S01E08: "The Coup"


Well, a lot of you are probably relieved that Smash put a fork in Julia and Michael's relationship. As part of the two firings that bookended this week's episode, Julia met Michael and his wife and kid in a park to let him know he was fired. He said he would have quit anyway (nice!) and sauntered off to embrace his children. That means Julia is free to enjoy all this:

He's like Adam Carolla, but with none of the personality or wit! Bathe in it, Julia! Roll about in it! The ponderous screeches and thumpings of your lovemaking will only make your weirdo son feel that much happier in his weirdo way.

Last night was supposed to feel like a major shake-up. Marilyn as an auto-tuned dance number?! Tom and Julia might be replaced?! What is happening!? But everything kind of reset to normal immediately. The whole episode felt like the executives at NBC were like, "We have a contractual obligation to have Katharine McPhee sing this 'Touch Me' song while writhing around on a bed. Fit it in! Get out the shoe horns and make it work."

I think there is TONS of potential in a more abstract imagining of Marilyn. Dreamlike dance sequences, throbbing contemporary music, I think these things could be successfully considered and employed in a Marilyn musical. However, I do not appreciate McPhee singing like a g-d robot and them trying to pass it off as live. She sounded so silly produced. She has a good voice, right? Let her just sing something to a contemporary beat. Also, if you're honestly trying to sell her as Marilyn, slap a blonde wig on her. It felt too much like Karen just sopping up the spotlight. I didn't see anything Marilyn about it or any of the much-vaunted purity that Derek said she held in common with the icon.

For one thing, I really loved that Derek said that about Marilyn. It was an eloquent point and I hadn't ever heard it stated so baldly. Marilyn refused to marry Johnny Hyde to pursue true love and turned down many commercial opportunities to pursue her art. She was definitely a purist in a lot of ways. But Karen a purist? I don't see that. Just because someone is from Iowa does not make them pure and guileless. Karen has pure ambition, maybe? Or maybe Derek's like, "Any woman who refuses to sleep with me after answering a booty call text must be a spire of integrity."

Sure, Karen at first balked at going into the crumbling warehouse with Derek and writhing around on a mattress because it wouldn't be fair to Julia or Tom, but that's not exactly purity, is it? She did the performance once she realized there was a songwriter she liked involved, and "stabbed Tom and Julia in the back" because she was jonesing for a spotlight. McPhee is perfectly cast for what Karen is, and its not a radiantly pure artist, it’s an ambitious, self-centered starlet who forgets everything else in her life when you put a microphone in her face. There’s an un-self-conscious innocence to that, like a little girl so charmed by her own reflection playing dress up she gives her reflection a kiss, but the grown-up version of that is vanity, not purity. I could go on, but I do not want to go on a tangent about Marilyn because I'll end up looking as silly as these guys:

Tom and Derek finally had their throwdown about Derek smearing Tom after a creative partnership and trash-talking him around town, and then Derek started throwing gay conspiracies at Tom, who was like, "How about your specific behavior?" and then things moved away from the interesting reveals going on and both men segued awkwardly into shouting about Marilyn. That was pretty silly. Derek answered some charge that he betrayed his friend with a gritty whisper about how Marilyn is the most dangerous sexual icon the world will ever know? Like, way to change the subject. Tom brought it back by revealing, "Hey homophobe, your dad was having sex with the critics who liked you. What now!!" Is that a thing? I have been going about this whole critiquing thing all backward. Anyway, King of the Mind Games was then all gross and like, "How does it feel DOWN AT MY LEVEL!" Oh SNAP, Derek, except you just admitted you're a bottom-feeding scuzz-bucket who operates on a road much lower than Tom's. Diss? Derek has self-esteem issues.

I really liked Eileen's daughter. I am kind of sad that she just stopped in for an episode on the way to count salmon, but I definitely believed her as a do-gooder, she had exactly that "privileged billionaire's daughter makes good with third world" vibe. She was kind of a deus ex machina to get Eileen some money, and she definitely has a Pier One Imports club membership card. Like, I would love if someone came into my empty apartment and bought me a ton of nice new furniture, but I hope she cleared all those busy patterns and wicker with her mom first. Eileen strikes me as more of an Eames chick.

Tom "firing" Ivy was a really sweet moment. Christian Borle is one of those actors who makes me completely forget he's acting and just becomes a canvas for pure emotion, and when he teared up telling Megan Hilty, it just came across as completely authentic. It was a heart-wrenching moment for Ivy, except we all have seen the promo material and we know damn well at some point she and Karen do the Showgirls staring-into-your-eyes-while-standing-next-to-you-in-a-mirror thing. Seriously, this show is already very captivating, but if I had never seen a piece of printed advertising for it, I would just be beside myself trying to figure out the outcome. As it is, it's kind of like, "Let's continue the countdown to Karen becoming Marilyn. Will it be this episode? Hmmm." I'm guessing they'll have a "star" come in for a week, then fire her and re-audition Karen and Ivy or something.

Meanwhile Dev courted scandal as zzzzzzzzzzz. I'm sorry, Dev is so handsome and charming, but there's a reason I'm watching a show about Broadway: Fake politics make my head hurt. Although I will say, as I've said before, if Dev is from the U.K., is there a precedent for a Brit becoming an American public official? Like, could I move to England and become a Mayoress in Sussex? If so, hey, rad, I got some posters to make. Regardless of everyone being a jerk to him because of his Oxford ways, Dev remains as gallant-knight-boyfriend as ever, even while leaking sex photos, and his reporter lady pal continues to piss off Karen. Yeah, it's completely sad and hypocritical, because Karen is, after all, spending time she should probably spend finding a new job to go hang out in Brooklyn and have eye-sex with Derek. And yeah right she can cook! I do not trust skinny chefs.

I bet her curry was milk heated up on a broiler with a bunch of ketchup and mustard squeezed into it. Dev probably ran out of the room and sob-vomited five minutes after dinner.

With all these firings, there was one career upgrade: The nefarious Ellis has wormed his way from Tom to Eileen, without even the benefit of two weeks' notice. He just let Tom know as Tom and Julia exited an awkward meeting with Eileen. (Eileen was all, "NBC wanted an auto-tune dance remix to sell in conjunction with the show, so we slapped something together with Katharine McPhee. I mean, whoops, we wanted to spend a lot of time and money to pitch the idea of someone else doing your job. Sorry!") I love how for the second week in a row Julia was wearing giant bug-eyed cryglasses. Poor Julia. No more orgasms or mascara for you.

Finally, while the episode gave Julia and Michael's show-affair a mercy killing, it ended with Derek reappearing to get freaky with Ivy after she found out she was fired. I told you he had low self-esteem! The pair of them, talk about co-dependency. Although as her mom pointed out, why let go of a literally and figuratively hot director? Even if he's obsessed with another woman and you just watched him pitch another star to your BFF after SNEAKING INTO A BROOKLYN WAREHOUSE. Thanks, Ellis. Honestly, Ellis is a slimebag and just a perpetual fly in the ointment, but this show would be so boring without him. His devious little Iago is the grease that keeps the wheels turning.

All in all, a very interesting breather. The song was interesting if terrible, and the idea of going in that direction is compelling. The shake-up and the firings really beautifully illustrated how the workshop dictated so much of its participants' lives. So well done in painting another stunning truth about theater life, and thanks for reminding me how excited I am to see Smash back in the studio.


QUESTIONS:

– Julia and Michael: done for good?

– WTF with that bowling scene? Who are these back-up dancers, the Jets?!

– What do you think of a more abstract take on Marilyn?

– Tom and Derek's argument: major revelation or you figured it was a vague professional falling-out so it was kind of anti-climatic?

**** Congratulations to Vaso_P for being the first commenter to give the correct answer to last week's Marilyn Trivia!! This week's Marilyn Trivia question: What poem did Marilyn refer to when she wrote in a letter, "P.S. Love me for my yellow hair alone." ****

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  • JolarEQ Apr 03, 2012

    Really kinda curious what you have against Katherine. It's obviously not a "Karen" thing, this hatred seems to go all the way to a personal level. Katherine is great in the roll, and Karen is an awesome character. So she doesn't "look" like Marilyn. How many times to people play other people in movies, on stage, etc., that look nothing like the person that they are portraying? Why does it matter??



    Also, the show is about putting on a musical, yes, but it's also about the lives of the people that are putting on the musical. And, in some cases, that involves the people that are IN those people's lives! Hence, the Dev storyline. There is a possibility that it will affect Karen at some point, which will, in turn, affect the musical, so why not have it in there?



    In regards to the abstract number. Karen was doing a favor for the director, AND the producer. I'm sorry, but if you're trying to make it in a business, and one or two of the top people come to you and ask you a favor, aren't you going to do it? Hell, I would. It wasn't until she saw the reactions of Tom and Julia that she realized that it was a very bad decision. She went into it with the best of intentions, and then saw it was a bad idea, and I believe she was truly sorry. Ivy, however, was a royal bitch afterwards. But, then again, Ivy IS a royal bitch, phony as hell, too, so I expected nothing less of her.



    I agree with you on Ellis, though. I'm waiting for some sniper to take him out, and make everybody happy.



    Now, to your questions.



    - Hopefully. They have feelings for each other, obviously, but they are with other people, so it shouldn't be happening.



    - Didn't like the bowling scene. Saw no point to it. Other times, when Ivy or Karen are singing alone in their rooms, those scenes I can understand. This? This was filler.



    - A more abstract take would be nice. I rather enjoyed the number, honestly, and if you listen to the lyrics, it was all Marilyn. It wouldn't fit in with Tom and Julia's songs, though, too different, and would give a jarring feel to the show. But a full on abstract show? That would be awesome.



    - It was a revelation. Wasn't sure what had happened, but it was nice to have some kinda confrontation.

  • CludiaSalga Apr 01, 2012

    I think that the scene between Tom and Derek was great. I agree, Marilyn wasn't a person who had a beautifull life, full of hapiness. She was unstable, a drug addict and mentaly decaying. So the music's about her should be more harsh like Derek said.

    Regarding to the music "Touch" i only have a word for it SERIOUSLY?????

    No one sees Karen as Marilyn, and this scenes are not helping guys!!! I just don't know what is the plan for this caracter, is she the rival of Ivy (not one that show!!) so what is??

    Well Dev is very charming but the story not so great :S sorry!!!

    Julia and Michael are over, I really hope. It's more interesting to see a couple trying to fix is mariage than a old passion come back when they met again, it's just lazy writting!

    Ellis, that "scumbag" :D not a original caracter but always fun to watch!!

  • bostonbeliever Mar 29, 2012

    Re: your comment about the actress playing Eileen's daughter looking like Meryl Streep-you know she's Meryl's daughter, right?

  • KayWatkins Mar 29, 2012

    I hope Julia and Michael are done for good. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one!

    WTF with that bowling scene? Who are these back-up dancers, the Jets?! - LMAO!!!

    NO! I thought that "abstract" version was AWFUL! I like Tom/Julia's version MUCH better.

    The arguement threw me off only due to the gay/straight part. I was like what? This is a problem between these guys all of the sudden? Does Derrick have something against gays?? It disturbed me.

  • scyfymum2 Mar 29, 2012

    I don't know if Derek has something against gays or it was just Tom having a childish response. I agree on the overproduction of the touch me song. I too am glad the Michael Jullia thing is over but find it a little hard to believe it from Michael as he REALLY pursued her.

  • Bayleis84 Mar 29, 2012

    I completely agree, especially about Katherine. Ever since the pilot, I've somehow naturally taken Ivy's side, and then with every episode my position gets justified...Katherine has a brilliant voice, but her 'goody two-shoes' manner and innocent battering with eyelashes kind of tickles my gag reflex, because she certainly is NOT as helpless or unprivileged, as she is trying to act. Ivy, on the other hand, puts on a brave and confident face, but underneath there is real fragility and vulnerability, and - even if we dismiss her physical resemblance to Marilyn, isn't precisely that the core essence of her?

    Ellis - that little curly weasel makes me want to reach within the screen and bitch-slap him to his senses...Frustrating, but I guess - also necessary character. I just can't wait for someone to put him on his place, with bells on.

    About the musical's concept - I prefer its original direction, and really really hope they will return to it, after straying a bit. In fact, this episode has been the first one so far, that has left me a bit disappointed, or at least not with the same inspired sensation, that each of the previous episodes has managed to so far.

  • kresnak Mar 28, 2012

    Eekk, the bowling scene! Horrible! I had to fast forward through that bad boy.

  • ben45tpy Mar 28, 2012

    I also found the Touch Me number to be over-produced and un-Marilyn. The bowling scene almost worked but not quite.

    I disagree about Tom and Derek's scene. It started out predictably but when Derek told Tom that the songs were all too happy and Marilyn wasn't a gay fantasy it really rung true that that might be one of the main things holding the show back thus far.

    I'm sceptical at the moment about an abstract take on Marilyn but I'm prepared to be surprised. Modern music could work but modern fashion/appearance would be wrong.

  • VirginiaProud Mar 28, 2012

    Love your take on this episode. I did laugh out loud when daughter said "now I've fixed all your problems Mum and reminded you to be a better person I'm off to count Salmon..."



    Struggling to figure out why we should care about Dev's politics and my conclusion is that he's going to either get into bed with the other chick/have a career crisis/go back to Oxford. This will upset Karen's equilibrium and force her to CHOOSE. So we can see the emotional turmoil which will make her a really convincing Marylin, and everyone will go WOW why didn't we cast her immediately.



    My biggest hate on Karen is she's never really struggled for her art, we need some genuine depth to her character. She's played too naive and innocent at the moment. So SMASH, mess with her life!

  • scyfymum2 Mar 28, 2012

    I want to know what you have against Katherine she has a good voice. I do agree that she doesn't look like Marilyn but stop bagging her out. I don't know if the song suited the musical they were trying to make & I can't stand Ellis. Can't believe Eileen is so gullible with him. The episode itself seemed a little disjointed to me but still enjoy the show. I think Julias husband is boring!

  • estella87 Mar 28, 2012

    Arnie became governor of California. But not sure whether you could be a politician in an important position in any other country in the world when you weren't born there.

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