Smash: Rebecca the Diva

Smash S01E12: "Publicity"

For me, part of the fun of watching television is thinking about the actual actors behind the characters, what they're thinking during a given scene, what fight they just had with the hairdresser, whether their trailers smell like drugs or if their parents DVR the show. Which is a huge part of why I love Smash—it really invites that kind of thinking and takes it to a meta level. (Who would be better to play Marilyn—Katharine McPhee or Karen? Aha! I just got you to admit there is no difference between Katharine McPhee and Karen.)

This "movie star" interlude really brings that up to a fever pitch—how much is Uma Thurman "faking" having a weak voice? And who's idea was it that Rebecca Duval would eat only kale shakes and potato chips; is that based on an actress she knows? When is the last time paparazzi chased her and does it feel weird to simulate that, like PTSD? Does she give her $2,000 coats away in real life or was that something the character did because Karen the character was running around looking like a rag picker from Star Wars? I mean, what was going on with her coat? How does one even get into that thing and why was she pretending you can use the pockets?

Anyway, the episodic promos for Smash are very tricky. I never miss promos, and I extrapolate a lot from them, so when they're deceptive about where the plot is going (like the bait-and-switch with Uma's first episode), I get very antsy. This episode was no exception, because the promo featured Uma yelling "YOU NEED TO FIRE KAREN!" or something and so the whole episode I was waiting for that ax to drop, already penning my review: "Finally, Karen gets the adversity her character has so long lacked…"

NOPE. Instead, Karen got what Karen always gets: a bizarre amount of approval from someone who barely knows her, as well as a weird, inauthentic moment of stage time in a very public place. Like, when is the last time you went to a club an stood around and ACTUALLY LISTENED to the entertainment? You're there to chill out with your friends, not watch some daft bitch with auto tune in her throat, right?

The other half of the episode was Julia trying to find Leo, which—and I am NOT trying to be funny here, I am not making a joke about this, SERIOUSLY: Is Smash trying to make a brave/progressive choice by writing Leo as a mentally handicapped kid but never explicitly saying it? I've been making jokes about Leo all season and now I'm worried that it was my bad, because maybe he's supposed to be a little bit specially abled? The wave of fear that passed over Julia's features—which are always poised for rage/tragedy anyway—when she found out that Leo's whereabouts were unaccounted for is simply not the reaction the mother of a fully functioning 16-year-old would have. But then again, I'm not a mom to teens, so what do I know?

Although when I saw those sunglasses I KNEW rageful Julia had come out to play. She only wears those sunglasses when she wants to secretly roll her eyes at Eileen during notes and scare adolescent boys. Although I gah-RON-tee you that was not the first time the streets of New York have reverberated with Debra Messing's screams of, "I'M FAMOUS! I CAN DESTROY YOU!"

So how amazing was Dev in the Bollywood number? I never expected to see Dev dance, but he killed it! The whole piece was freaking spectacular, in the literal sense of the word (though the context, set-up, and fantasy segue was very bizarre and Smash has officially used up the one time it gets to use that device, no more, that's it, thanks!). Did they film that in a cathedral?! How many weeks did it take?! Every character was involved!!! And the whole Bollywood thing of taking a heartbreaking moment and turning it into the happiest song you've ever heard, I forgot how much I love that, and man I'm going to watch Dola Re Dola the second after I write this.

Here's the tragic thing, according to Dev's a.k.a. Raza Jaffrey's IMDB profile, he created "the dance-show spectacular RED," which combines like every kind of dance you've ever heard he's a musical theater geek like the rest of us who somehow got railroaded into Smash's only non-singing, non-dancing part? Oh man, that sucks. I hope they let him sing a lot more because his pipes are THRILLING.

As usual, everything bad that happened in this episode came from Ellis. Smash is really leaning awfully hard on his character to create conflict. He absorbs all the unlikable traits the other characters and shoots it out at people in high-frequency rays of annoying. Yes, Ivy told him to do the worst thing he did all episode, which was basically sending Karen home so Ivy could sing the "Baby Grand" song, but still. The show has him running around like he's wearing a cloak of invisibility instead of color-blocked sweaters, peeping over people's shoulders and conniving so hard. He's going to need a long curly mustache and some train tracks pretty soon.

Ivy has been such a villainous pot-stirring ho recently. Stop stirring all those pots, Ivy! Or else do your own dirty work so Ellis can get back to copying Eileen's email contact list and selling it online or whatever he does for fun. Although all Ellis's evils will be forgiven if he is the one who scheduled Eileen's appointment with her new hairdresser.

Looking good, lady! Was this Anjelica Huston's doing, did she hint that her character had made enough of an emotional turn that she could be allowed an attractive hairstyle? These are the questions that haunt me.

I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what the point of this episode was. Nothing really changed, besides Karen appearing in tabloids. Tom and Sam did share a passionate kiss, but as usual Tom's romantic entanglements got about half the nod that Julia's normally does. (Speaking of which, Michael might be coming back! Don't fight it Julia, you're a single woman now! Bathe those flapjacks in the moonlight once more!) And Ivy proved she knows how to make life difficult. Sigh. Still, unlike past episodes that didn't move things forward, this one did it like a champ. This was the synchronized swimming of treading water—helicopter shots, paparazzi freezes, and mother-effing Bollywood. No complaints! Loved it! What did you think?


– What did you think of the fantasy segue into the Bollywood number?

– Must Michael definitely come back?

– Leo: What is going on with him?

– Just what actress is Uma's character kind of based on? Shakes and potato chips? Weirdly racist curry jokes? Is this what Kelly Ripa is like in person?!

– How is Rebecca going to leave the production?

– What were your thoughts on this episode?

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