Smash: "Let’s Be Bad" Wasn't Kidding About Being Bad

Smash S01E05: "Let's Be Bad"

Oh, Smash. After four excellent episodes in a row, last night's "Let's Be Bad" wasn't being euphemistic with its title. It was bad, babies, it was bad.

One of the major appeals of the show has been its ability to make both Ivy and Karen sympathetic despite being in the same diva vs. ingenue relationship as say, the one in Showgirls. But thanks to a little maneuvering by Derek (and the writers), the two protagonists were forced into a confrontation with all the grace of two roosters being thrown at each other before a cockfight.

Derek sneered to Karen that she's afraid of anything below the neck and proceeded to dance with her like a groper as Ivy came in, then further strained Ivy by having Karen do a solo in front of the class to show Ivy how singing is done. Adding shame upon shame, he further scheduled a private lesson between the two of them so rank noob Karen could teach Hilty how to sing. Which would have been a great plot device on its own, except Ivy came into the lesson like a Dynasty grande dame just moments away from a full-body roll into a water lily pond. Ivy told Karen she "knows what she brings to the party" meaning, THE SEX. (Not literally intercourse, but being sexy, exuding sex, being comfortable with her own sexuality, and using it like a grappling hook to claw her way upward.)

And Karen, after using her impromptu solo to seduce Derek and every chorus person in the room with her shivery vibrato, was launched into a weird "empowerment through being a ho" arc that culminated with her essentially giving herself a lap dance. Like, how awkward was that scene where Karen was braying "It's a Man's World" and bucking around on a chair?

Never mind the psychological torture it is to force a former bulimic to undress while looking in a mirror, or how any person dancing alone in her room and trying to make it look GOOD instead of JOYFUL is going to appear necessarily maladroit, but how corny is it to leer at yourself, "Yeah, I know what I bring to the party"? Karen, I effing hate you now.

Aside from how cringe-worthy the interlude was, the ultimate message it illustrated just sucked. Smash, getting real with us like an aging chorus teacher on a martini lunch after a budget cut, drilled in the message that in this man's world ladies can achieve more with their sexuality than with a combination of, say, effort and brain power.

After Dev insisted Karen look hot for his political dinner party (and then did nothing when she was seated at another table, which I'm pretty sure they DON'T DO to plus ones, ever), she managed to flirt her way to some key information about a press secretary that Dev's brainy girl reporter friend hadn't been able to stir up. Karen declared giddily that the dress had done all the work. And if this is supposed to be the show's effort to illustrate how the pressures of the entertainment industry warp women's senses of self-value, pause before you give Smash that much credit. Consider Karen's bitchy attitude the second she saw Dev's reporter friend RJ. After Dev's continued offers to support her and his endurance for untold numbers of karaoke bar nights, all she has to do is see one neatly dressed young lady and it's all "She's not a big ugly white man!? I DON'T LIKE HER." Awesome. You’re right, your boyfriend shouldn’t have a young female coworker. In fact, maybe all the women should go home and sit down and put bags over their heads so you feel secure, Karen, despite the fact that you’re hell-bent on seducing your director by volleying back at every weird mind game he throws at you.

And also, well done Karen, you beat a reporter to the scoop by getting the right seat at a party purely by accident. I felt really bad for the people sitting at Karen's table, listening to her get increasingly drunk and offering to do Marilyn impressions. They just wanted to have a nice dinner and suddenly they were neck-deep in her workshop drama.

I do appreciate Derek's return to form as a cad, I understand that Smash has promised us two girls battling over a role. But the characters up until now have been so thoughtfully sketched, and then in this episode the writers just flicked the bitch switch on Ivy (she was cruel to Karen and showed up at Derek's house crying and screaming and throwing things, like women do!), and reduced Karen's quest for stardom to putting out for Derek. The promo for next week's episode promises that both ladies get EVEN MORE EXTREME! After the hot and cold ratings, it seems the series is desperate to give the audience exactly what it wants: Frank trapped off-screen, the adoption petering out, and the two heroines as dueling divas in openly hostile competition. And while all of these are theoretically positive developments, the dialogue of the episode made my skin crawl. I like these ladies, I don't want to see them reduced to whiny, scheming stereotypes.

As for truly enjoyable moments, Tom provided a lot of those, waiting with Julia's kid while knocking out little musical flourishes and even getting a little post-coital scene with his new boyfriend. It's very refreshing to see that the show is not going to neuter Tom, and that it's wiling to give a gay relationship on network TV a real sex life (and therefore real stakes).

Michael is making moves on Julia, including singing at her on a stoop. That would make me laugh hysterically if I were Julia, but the My Fair Lady-esque moment was sweet. Too bad the son saw! Hopefully he reports Julia to the adoption board and that clinches it for good.

And the actual musical number: okay! Entertaining! Costumed! The first big full Broadway stage number we've seen since the pilot, and it was captivating, except... it was kind of exhausting to watch. For Derek being such an incredible director, the Busby Berekley knock-off and Ivy being cranked around like a robot while belting the lady equivalent of "I am the very model of a modern major general" was a bit much. Marilyn had a lot of subtlety to her singing, keeping it breathy and restrained. Maybe the show is intentionally giving Megan Hilty big, broad, non-Marilyn-y songs and when Karen eventually does more Marilyn it will come across as more restrained and convince us she deserves the role. Karen will need all the help she can get in that department.


QUESTIONS:

– Is Smash frantically trying to give fans what they want?

– Did you cringe when Karen got buck wild on that chair, or did you think it was sexy?

– Michael and Julia: sweeping romance or double adultery?

– Would a guy singing to you a capella on a street be super romantic or super uncomfortable?

– Will we ever see Frank again or will his plane be torpedoed or something? (I would NOT complain.)


MARILYN TRIVIA:
Congratulations to fernkelsey for the first correct answer of "Whitey Dear, While I'm still warm, Marilyn" to last week’s question, which was the inscription on the money clip Marilyn gave to her makeup artist. This week’s Marilyn trivia question: What was Marilyn’s first movie role?

Comments (32)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Is it just me, or is the guy playing Leo (that's his name, right?) the worst actor ever? I cringe listening to him talk.
Reply
Flag
This episode was a little down from the usual quality but I'm hoping that everyone acting catty was a standalone stylistic decision for the episode. I don't think it was intentional that everyone was behaving in a less subtle and civilised way and the feminism aspects were unconvincing (and of course I wasn't blown away by the mirror song). Maybe next episode will be called Let's Be More Sophisticated Than Last Week.



For the question I don't want to look it up so I'll just say the earliest Marilyn film I've seen is The Asphalt Jungle.
Reply
Flag
The scene with Karen and the chair made me CRINGE! Awful.



Reply
Flag
Really? That scene was amazing and hot!



I guess it takes all types, though.
Reply
Flag
The Karen scene was absolutely sexy and hot.
Reply
Flag
Actually, this time I do not agree with the review....



I did not think it was that bad - the musical numbers were more irritating true (but I really hate musicals, so I can't tell...) but overall I liked how things went...



Tom & the lawyer saving the potty kid was fun...



And more than anything, I love Derek's character - excellent as the super jerk, manipulative abusive 'boyfriend' / director... (clearly channelling childhood issues, let's get Freudian for example) - Ivy clearly should send him packing which should happen in an excellent episode soon...

Reply
Flag
I had to fast forward the whole Karen & chair scene, blah!

As for Frank, I'm hoping the son tells him about the smooch really quickly so they can end this marriage. It's too dull and irritating!
Reply
Flag
Uggh, any more of this sexy-showgirl-bitch fighting and I won't be watching anymore, there's a reason I don't watch Gossip Girl and other crap like that.

Also, I think I need more info on the Julia/Michael relationship, we've barely seen either of their home lives or their old fling before I make any judgements. But the acapella love song was sort of super romantic and I wish my bf could actually sing so he would do that haha
Reply
Flag
The theme of this episode was stupid , it is a man's world so i need to get half naked to please my BF , you stupid if your BF is worth you then he is not going to force ya to wear something that you don't wanna wear nor seducing others for promotion.

Ivy got the role because she had sex with director , Julia is kissing that guy infront of her home and her son.GEEZ! this show shows a bitchy-image of the girls!



Reply
Flag
The karen scene was very very VERY uncomfortable! Who does that? No-one does that! Maybe, just, maybe, if she had stopped all that singing nonsense and gotten ready she'd be at the party on time or on time to any her boyfriend related event, for a change and wouldn't have to be sat in another table... I'm obviously rooting for michael and julia, cause, first of all, michael is wonderful and 2nd, frank is disturbingly boring. So frank you would not be missed! Is that so bad if the show is giving the audience what they want? So many shows, forget the audience and others care about audience ratings more than anything... a show that actually listens to its audience would certainly be refreshing!
Reply
Flag
Marilyn Monroe's first movie role was the uncredited "girl in canoe" in Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay!
Reply
Flag
I'm with you here, Lily. This was not my favourite episode of the show thus far. I liked both of these girls before tonight. I still like them both, but not quite as much. I'm hoping they chalk it up to normal fluctuations in emotions.



-I hope they keep it with the artsy feeling, and that the fans just follow, rather than catering to them. That's almost never good for a show.

-I didn't cringe, but it didn't do anything for me in particular.

-Double adultery. There isn't anything about their situation that I like.

-Super uncomfortable. But that's because I'm a man and I'm straight. If it was a girl singing to me, I think it would be kind of awesome.

-We'll see Frank again. Though I also would not be sad not to.



In other notes, I also was a bit thrown by the dinner party thing. I work for a performing arts venue that quite often hosts nice dinners. Plus ones are specifically designated and don't get moved. Not like that. Though I did approve of Derek being a jerk, just because I like thinking of him as a jerk. And the piano improv with Tom and Julia's kid was inspired. And quite realistic. He had one or two short bursts, then a "something... something... [rhyming word]". Hilarious. I still have high hopes for this show. Let's hope that things aren't quite as caddy as they were here.
More+
Reply
Flag
Here's the thing: I want to like this show. I think it's positive that there is a show with music aimed at a more mature audience. But what bugs me is that the show hasn't managed to figure at what style it's going for. It's trying to appeal to adults, but at the same time it's mixing in some high school drama. This episode showed it clearly. Mostly the story flows nicely, but then there are those moments where the characters wallow in teenage angst and the dialogue is like borrowed from Clueless.
Reply
Flag
Did you cringe when Karen got buck wild on that chair, or did you think it was sexy?



it was sexy i loved Karen like that she became more sexy to me if that was even possible.
Reply
Flag
Although this episode wasn't my favorite and it definitely loses points for the Karen getting ready song, I don't think it was as bad as you thought Lily. Although its frustrating when characters are seemingly de-evolving and succumbing to cliche portrayals, in reality we all have times where we become our worst selves. Like Ivy we react defensively when we're scared of losing something important. Like Karen, we project our insecurities on someone else or blame someone else. I think its a little tired to portray these all at once so that the episode fits a theme, but as long as Smash is showing us that these characters make mistakes and have bad moments and doesn't reduce them to 2-dimensional portrayals of "bitchy girl", "insecure girl", and "girl who cheats on husband bc of true love" --I think its ok to show the characters' weakness. And ss long as it is reciprocated for the male characters.
Reply
Flag
I really liked the episode and I don't mind one bit that Ivy is turning bitchy (hello, it's theatre!) Let's face it, she's been slowly turning since the moment she slept with the director. I like Karen and I thought the dance was weird at first , but then figured, "Hell, why not, she's certainly got it".
Reply
Flag
role not roll haha sorry
Reply
Flag
want her first roll in all about eve? i remember watching it on tcm and that poping up she was on the stairs at a party
Reply
Flag
i think that wasnt it... there was a movie where she was pretty much an extra, not sure.. someone will gogle it soon enough
Reply
Flag
Feel so bad for Micheal's wife and little boy, she was so unrealistically supportive o fhim doing this (Like being Joe Dimaggio was such a big deal, over tv work, what is she 90?)

LOVE the two dudes cuddling in bed having banter, love it!!

Karen needs acting classes more than she needs dance classes!
Reply
Flag
Staff
That's hilarious, I hadn't even thought of that but you're right, why is a woman in her thirties freaking out about her husband playing Joe DiMaggio. In a workshop no less! Like thats a several thousand dollar a week difference. Like, what?
Reply
Flag
it's always super weird on tv shows when people sing at somebody else.. inner monologue/fantasy is one thing, but this was supposed to be reality.. super weird.



Ivy being a bitch to Karen is annoying, but not nearly as annoying as Karen not fighting back.
Reply
Flag
well, think of it this way: he's a broadway performer, so I guess he pretty much loves going a capella out of nowhere, and it was a sweet move (I personally found creepier the man's world scene) :P although I like both Karen and Ivy
Reply
Flag
I saw Ivy's turn this week and the conflict that came to the surface as pretty organic. In the past few weeks Ivy's nastiness has clearly been brewing just below the surface, with her attempts to subtly get Karen fired, and with the dirty looks she's been shooting her at every opportunity. That scene with the two of them waiting for the teacher to show up was (I believe) the first time they've been alone together since Ivy got the part, so it was the first time since the dynamic between the two of them took its current form that Ivy could say what she really felt, without having to be polite or professional in front of the rest of the production team.



Someone also mentioned Ellis, which reminded me: I think they're DEFINITELY setting the stage for him becoming a big villain who's going to blackmail someone for some as-of-yet-unknown purpose. Because this week he totally learned Anjelica Huston's password, so now he has access to her computer, in addition to Julia's notes, and whatever he wants from Tom. I love the building tension in the fact that we know he's up to something but none of the characters do.
More+
Reply
Flag
PS. sorry for my English (not a native...)
Reply
Flag
I actually enjoy a lot Michael and Julia's storry: I hope they develop their romance and they even show some more flashbacks or someting of their past affair. I found the serenade at her door very sweet (and LOVED when he double-thought it, came back and kissed her).



And C. Borle rocks!! his comments to Leo and Julia on the piano were hilarious. Also, I'm glad Ellis didn't appear much. I kind of dislike him (Ellis and Frank are my two least favourite characters).



In short, I hope they end the Julia storyline about the adoption and focus her on her relationships with Michael and Tom.
Reply
Flag
Yeah, I only knew about the poodle's name because I read it somewhere a looooong time ago, otherwise I really don't know much about her.

I think the episode was ok, I also hate that they are turning Ivy into a diva but it sorta feels genuine. After getting the lead she started behaving b*tchy and it's just getting worse, hopefully she'll snap out of it.

The chair scene... was weird? But I didn't cringe, neither did I thing it was sexy. IMO Katherine (or however her name is spelled) is pretty, but I don't think she's sexy (sue me!).
Reply
Flag
Though it's getting soap opera-y and the storylines are stretched but I still find myself interested in Smash's characters and what they're doing. Less of the dull adoption storyline and more scenes of them writing the book and working out the musical. More scenes with Anjelica Huston too!
Reply
Flag
Totally agree with your review of the episode. Also hated Karen's lap dance to herself and loved Tom's musical snippets when Julia's son was worrying about what his mum would think. Where have I seen the actress who plays RJ before?



The Shocking Miss Pilgrim was MM's first role I think....



Reply
Flag
This show seems good, but I dislike the fact that Ivy is just being a super-bitch, and am I the only one who really hates Julia? She just seems like an awful person to me.
Reply
Flag
Am I the only one who is extremely irritated by the COMPLETE lack of acting skills of the kid who plays Julia's son?? I'm really close to skipping every scene he's in, because it is one of the worst things I have ever seen.
Reply
Flag
it was an uncredited role but cant remember the movie and googling it would be cheating now wouldnt it?!?



Still on Team Karen!!
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook