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.
– 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." ****