“Smash” 204: Big Breaks and Second Chances

Previously, on Smash

We open at rehearsal for Veronica Moore’s big concert, which in true Smash fashion is missing a number the day before it’s set to go. Ronnie’s singing something that based on the repetition of the phrase “I got love” approximately eleventy-billion times is called “I Got Love”. It’s boring as all hell, but the chorines seem to like it. Derek agrees with me, but it’s apparently Veronica’s signature piece. He tries to convince her it doesn’t fit into the new adult image she’s trying to create for herself but her newly-arrived mother Cynthia “They don’t call me Cyn” Moore (Sheryl Lee Ralph) sees no reason to mess with the two-time Tony-winning persona. Stage Manager Linda, aside to Tom: “Isn’t she a little old to have a mom-ager?” I demand more Stage Manager Linda now!

As the ensemble takes a break, Linda informs Derek that a dancer called Beth will not be participating at the request of her boyfriend who wants to keep her away from Derek’s meathooks. He tells her to find someone “who isn’t afraid of the Big Bad Wills” and then turns to Tom, wondering why as musical director he hasn’t found some fresher material. Tom declares allegiance to the diva, but Derek demands “something raw.” In the house a tiny light switches on in Karen’s brain.

Tom takes a call from Julia, who’s more excited than she ought to be about guest-lecturing at Peter the dramaturg’s acting class. Tom’s suspicious of this sudden turn in Peter’s favor, but I’m not. They have to set up the inevitable banging two episodes hence.

Out in squalid Brooklyn, Jimmy Charming is pitching pennies in a jar (productive!) while the half of the writing “team” that cares about having a career tries to hustle a gig. Everywhere Kyle calls has given him variations on “we’re booked for months”. Even dropping Derek’s name doesn’t get them in the door since he won’t direct their concert. Jimmy Charming bitches that the internationally renowned director won’t shepherd their nobody asses into instant stardom. Kyle plays devil’s advocate, declaring that there are no shortcuts as a call from Karen lights up his phone. “Tell that to our shortcut” Jimmy snots and much as it pains me, point Jimmy. She summons them to Manhattan.

Jerry arrives at Eileen’s office in advance of tomorrow morning’s deposition about the non-specific legal problems attached to the Bombshell financing. He’s arranged for a friendly prosecutor to take her depo and insists all she has to do is paint herself as the hapless victim of the unscrupulous and currently in the wind mobbed up bartender Nick. Eileen’s all, “Me a victim? Have you met me?” And Jerry’s all “Do you want to get the show back or not?”

Julia visits the next stop on her Humiliation 2013 Tour when she learns that Peter has not invited her to speak to his class but to hear them read the revised book. Julia refuses at first, but he convinces her that with just ten days before she turns in her new draft to Eileen she needs to hear the words spoken. But it’s OK because he’s changed all the names. No one will ever figure out that an actress who married a baseball player and a playwright is Monroe because Peter changed her name to “Mary”.

Ivy arrives to pinch-hit for the missing Beth. She and Ivy know her from when Ivy was the swing when Ronnie played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. As I try to wrap my mind around both that casting and how playing that part has somehow perpetuated some “innocent Broadway waif” image for her, Ronnie reminds us about the upcoming Liaisons plot by congratulating Ivy on landing the lead. Karen and Ivy are totes fine with working together on this and Karen heads over to greet the arriving Jimmy and Kyle, who going forward will be known as “Team J/K”. Derek wonders why they’re there and Jimmy offers up his trunk songs. Tom gets there first with his self-described “raw” contributions to which Derek reacts, “No…no…no…oh no…what’ve you got?”

They get introduced to Tom and Kyle describes them as big fans while Jimmy Charming denies having seen any of his work. This guy never misses a trick. Derek gives them six hours to come up with “something vital”.

Mama Lee Ralph arrives back on the scene and she and Derek break the news to everyone that Bravo will be taping tomorrow night’s concert for later broadcast. The last concert Bravo broadcast was an old Marlene Dietrich gig in 1991 (and she was fabulous) so unless the Real Housewives are attending, I don’t buy it. Kyle assumes that this means they’re out, but Karen begs to differ. If they bring the right song they’ll not only get noticed; they’ll get famous. Title card!

Or title sequence, actually. Have I mentioned how much I loathe the title sequence? The first season, with its simple fade-in on the name of the show in lights, was simple, understated, classy and cool. Now it’s like every other sitcom from the 1980s. I’m surprised there isn’t an up-tempo Alan Thicke-penned theme song rhyming “Eileen’s Manhattan splash” with Marilyn Broadway smash”.

Tom listens while Karen auditions Team J/K’s material. He likes it, but it’s not right for the show. Jimmy Charming sings another one, but when he catches Tom glancing at his watch snits about whether Tom has someplace else to be. Tom: “Let’s see, I’m music directing a concert for a huge Broadway star in less than 24 hours that is apparently going to be televised, and I don’t know what songs she’s gonna do, so no, totally free.” I love you, Tom.

Karen suggests another song and Kyle suggests just the chorus. Jimmy Charming balks and Tom smacks him down again, telling him how back in the day he and Julia would walk through the snow uphill both ways for five seconds with a music director and by God they liked it! He gets called to the stage. He offers a parting piece of advice, that they need to offer something that Ronnie will sing and that Derek will accept. Kyle offers to write a new song; Tom says they’ll need it by the end of the day.

Peter’s acting class is dissecting Julia’s new book and Julia’s seething. Drama girl one says the play is supposed to be about a strong woman, but “Mary” is totally defined by the men around her. Julia explodes that Marilyn was defined by the men around her, that she was their object. Drama girl one goes to drama girl two, “totally knew it was based on Marilyn Monroe.” Julia says not based on, is, which they would know had Peter not changed the names and the setting. Peter says he did the same thing with Hedda Gabler and the drama girls squeal that they just loved it.

Back at the theater Team J/K is feverishly trying to compose. Jimmy Charming demands intoxicants and space; Kyle provides space. Karen joins him and he sings a four-word phrase. She fixes it because she’s Jimmy’s goddamn muse now too. She moves to return to rehearsing the concert that will be staged tomorrow but he calls her back and she actually stays.

Julia arrives home, talking with Tom on her cell. She calls Peter a sociopath who enjoyed seeing her humiliated. If seeing Julia humiliated is the mark of a sociopath then lock me up right now. Tom invites her to the theater where there are only sane well-adjusted people. She’s bought a copy of Peter’s one play produced under his own name, called The Singing Bird, and rather than join Tom she settles in to hate-read it.

Ivy and Ronnie eat salads in Ronnie’s dressing room while Ronnie complains about not having a life outside of show business. She wonders why Ivy dated Derek: “Was it the accent or the hair?” Ivy says it’s because Derek’s a genius and she can’t resist geniuses. Ivy, I love you, but get real. You didn’t “date” Derek. You slept with him to land the lead role in a musical. And that’s fine that you did, but girl, own it.

Ronnie wonders why if Derek is such a genius she’s so reluctant to go on stage. Ivy tells her that Derek will push and cajole and demand until you want to give up and then you’ll give the performance of a lifetime. Ronnie: “So you’re saying I should give his way a shot.” Yes Veronica, 24 hours hours before show time with a missing song and a potential audience of millions you should consider listening to your director.

Cut to Ronnie and the ensemble working on a sexed-up version of “I Got Love”. It doesn’t work for a second with Ronnie alternating between giggling and pulling “why are these people touching me” faces. Derek berates her for acting like a virgin in a whorehouse and she tries it again, with him screaming at her all the way. Tom calls him on it but it’s not until Mama Lee Ralph thunders down the center aisle that Derek takes notice.

They go back and forth until Mama Lee Ralph threatens to replace him with Tom. He tells her to do it but she calls his bluff, wondering how it will affect his already tattered reputation should the story break that he was replaced for pushing his star in an unwanted sexual direction. Derek drops his petals and folds his tent.


Eileen arrives home to find Nick waiting in her apartment. She gently scolds him for coming out of hiding and he tells her that he’s going to turn himself in. As long as he’s out there she’ll continue taking the heat and it’s not fair to her or her career to suffer for “falling for the wrong guy”. I think she did that when she married Jerry. Eileen agrees with me, insisting that Nick isn’t the wrong guy, and she invites him into her bed.

In the alley behind the theater Derek starts complaining to Ivy about how he doesn’t believe in the show. “Even my Mustang commercial had more of me in it than this does,” Ivy’s not having it, saying he’s talking at her like he always does when he’s wrong. To him it’s just a concert but to Ronnie it’s her life and he needs to let her sing whatever she wants.

Karen bustles up just then with Jimmy Charming and his new song, but with Derek’s new “let the Wookie win” philosophy he doesn’t need any new material. Jimmy Charming is outraged that the internationally famous director isn’t falling over himself to listen to the nobody’s song. Derek remarks that if this is how Jimmy Charming handles not getting his way then their terrible Hit List musical is unlikely to happen. Jimmy Charming insists that he deserves five minutes to play his song but Derek bites back that he deserves nothing. “You wait your turn and you earn it!”

Jimmy gets all up in Derek’s face but Derek knows a peacock when he sees one. Jimmy backs down. He wants Karen to leave with him and is shocked that she decides instead to stay and do the professional job like she is a professional. Great work, Jimmy. You’ve made me want to use the words “Karen” and “moral high ground” in the same sentence. Ass.

The next morning Karen calls Kyle. Jimmy’s gone and Kyle has no idea where he could be. He explains that Jimmy has a “trigger” and that when the trigger is pulled he disappears, sometimes for days. She offers to help Kyle look some more but he declines.

Julia finds Peter on campus and hits him with her copy of The Singing Bird. The title is literal; the play is about an actual bird that sings. Well-played, Smash, you’ve inverted the usual cliché. He acknowledges that as a playwright he sucks, but he’s a great teacher. She pushes back and he accuses her of using banter to deflect. She denies it but has a moment of clarity and realizes, yes she does. She builds on that moment and confesses she wants Bombshell to be good but isn’t able to figure out what’s wrong.

While Ronnie fiddles with her makeup Mama Lee Ralph chatters away about flowers from the The Wiz producers and the importance of going out after the show with the Bravo people. (Stop it, you’re killing me.) Then she notices Ronnie’s trepidation. She’s concerned that Derek is getting to Ronnie and Ronnie replies that she’s worried about how all anyone sees of her is the good girl. Mama Lee Ralph says that it’s the good girl that people want to see. She then confirms that her character is entirely based on Mama Rose by speculating that if her mother had “loved” her as much as she “loves” Ronnie then she might have had a singing career of her own outside of church. Too bad the show already blew “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” last season, but they still have “Rose’s Turn” in reserve.

Derek and Tom are going over the new set list. “A Sleepin’ Bee” (House of Flowers? Now you’re just showing off) will go into “If I Loved You” and “Ease On Down the Road” will transition into “I Could’ve Danced All Night”. Tom’s being curt and Derek calls him passive-aggressive. “I prefer you aggressive-aggressive”. Tom’s pissed because Derek shined on Jimmy Charming’s new song. And he accuses him of caving, which makes him like Derek even less. Derek denies caving, preferring to look at it as “coming around”. Tom pulls out a copy of Jimmy’s new song, saying he’s the real deal and warning Derek never to tell anyone Tom said that.

While Derek peruses it, Kyle resumes his search for Jimmy to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Everybody Loves You Now”. He winds up on a bridge and it’s the strongest taste so far of the unrequited feelings that Kyle clearly harbors for Jimmy.

Halfway through the scene and the song shift to Ronnie, first backstage then on a bare stage alone. Ivy hears the end of her performance and suggests she sing it in concert. Ronnie thinks it’s too late to be making changes. It is literally never too late to make changes on this show.

Karen arrives in the theater alley to find Jimmy, stoned out of his gourd. Jimmy claims to be sick of letting everyone down, but I predict that he will in no way reduce his instances of letting everyone down. She suggests they go inside so he can rest and come down. He thinks everyone will see what a loser he is (like they haven’t already), but she says the takeaway will be that he’s learning how to handle rejection. The way she learned to handle rejection when she wasn’t cast as Marilyn only to be cast as Marilyn like four episodes later. He says he was waiting there for her, and he kisses her.

His reaction is “Wow, and I’m not just saying that because I’m rolling.” Liar! Karen suggests trying it again when he isn’t high. The series will be canceled well before he isn’t high.

Julia and Peter get their afternoon drunk on while they talk about the show. Julia has this big epiphany that in this musical about an iconic woman every scene should be from the point of view of a man because Marilyn was defined by men. The show isn’t about Marilyn at all; it’s about how the men around her perceived her.

Jerry checks in with Eileen about her deposition. She lets him know that Nick turned himself in, but she still told them she knew where the money was coming from. And she has news on the fate of Bombshell which she does not yet share.

Backstage, Mama Lee Ralph finds her daughter and is shocked by her dress, which is a cute very short white and silver number.

Onstage at the concert that has been completely revamped, rehearsed and blocked for television in about 17 minutes, Veronica does the slow slutty version of “I Got Love” and it’s still boring as all hell even if it does have Karen and Ivy dancing together and a couple of hot chorus boys.

Jimmy Charming apologizes to Kyle for being a generalized dipshit. They’re dressed like Mormon missionaries which feels like a Book of Mormon in-joke. Kyle says that it doesn’t matter since Ronnie won’t be doing Jimmy’s song.

Then Ronnie does their song, “I Can’t Let Go”. It’s utterly pedestrian but J-Hud sells the hell out of it, so I approve. When she finishes the audience leaps to its feet for sixteen and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation and she calls Team J/K out to take a bow as rose petals rain down from the sky and the Bravo reps wet themselves in blind panic since these two are not under any sort of contractual obligation to allow their song to be the closing number of their broadcast.

Julia has missed the concert because she and Peter have been working on Bombshell. He suggests that he rent a car to take them to his home in the Berkshires and finish the draft. Before she can either respond to the offer or wonder how a dramaturg can afford a home in the Berkshires, Eileen summons her for a meeting.

When Julia arrives Eileen informs them that Bombshell is free and clear of the nebulous legal constraints. “You’re going to Broadway.” Tom picks up on the “you’re” instead of “we’re” and Eileen reveals that the one stipulation is that she relinquish the producer reins. The cabal fails to address the blatant First Amendment violation and insists that no one could have brought Bombshell as far as Eileen has. Eileen drops the other turd in the punch bowl, informing everyone that Jerry will be taking over as producer.

Cut to Jerry’s office, where he gloats over the phone that with him involved Bombshell will be the biggest hit Broadway has seen in years and that everyone will know that Eileen couldn’t succeed without him. He thanks Ellis (eek!) for his assistance with bringing Eileen down and informs him that the check is in the mail and that Ellis is never to contact him again.

Love it. Love. It. It pays off Ellis’s departing threat thus wrapping up that loose end. I would have liked to have had Ellis actually in the room as part of the reveal but it’s hilarious that the hatred of the character kept that from happening. But, a check? Sure, Ellis is dumb as a brick, but Jerry should know better than to create a paper trail. What did he write in the memo line? “For nefarious services rendered”?

With this episode we’ve finally cleared away the last remaining scraps of dead wood from season one. Next week sees a Will & Grace reunion with the arrival of Sean Hayes playing a movie star looking to enhance his rep with an appearance on the legitimate stage, so expect Liaisons to move to the forefront.