‘Smash’ recap: Episode 9, ‘Hell On Earth’
Ellis finally gets some comeuppance; Karen and Ivy actually bond. And "Smash" teaches us all valuable lessons about stereotypes (chiefly, that they're all true). Metro's theater critic recaps!
Whoops, late on the recap again! Monday night we were at Speakeasy Dollhouse, which is definitely worth a click of your time for now - and we'll get the full review up on Well Played soon. Moving on ...
We're clubbed over the head with the simplest at-home dialogue between Karen and the Boyf. She's trying on sunglasses. Apparently one pair makes her look like the girl next door, and the other makes her look like a slut. (You hear that, ladies? There's no middle ground, so pick one!) He says she looks great in both, a big ol' clunker of a parallel between Karen and Marilyn Monroe. Karen also talks about all the jobs and auditions she needs to take now that the workshop's over and she can't sit around waiting to hear about "M!TM" all day. Plus, daddy's money was sure to dry out sometime.
Derek's sleeping at Ivy's, but she has to climb out of bed (which looks like it would be an impossible feat - he's even adorably grumpy in his sleep!) to go on an audition. Wait, oh no, you can't mean the same audition that Karen might be going on! (In the real world, there's actually a limited amount of roles these polar opposites would both be gunning for, but never mind.)
We've been hearing about Ivy/Marilyn as the gay man's fantasy. Now we get a look at the reverse: the straight girl's fantasy about gay men. That is to say, the famous Broadway book-writer and his handsome but charisma-deprived boyfriend are sitting at home with nothing better to do (ahem, sex?) than talk about her and wonder how she's doing. They're also both so busy in their respective fields they can hardly see each other once per week. To get in some quality time, Tom asks about going to a fundraiser with what's-his-name, but Lawyer's like: "It's not your kind of thing, it's political." (You hear that, people? You can only like theater, sports or politics but PICK ONE.) Anyway, Tom learns that his lawyer buddy means he's a Republican. As usual, Christian Borle's face does all the talking and acting for him. Let's take a look at the boyfriend's current list of crimes that just whirred through Tom's pretty little head: 1) Bad at sex. 2) Only recently came out of the closet. 3) Poor home décor. 4) Republican. Five strikes and you're out?
At Julia's, Frank discovers papers and stares at the ominously. We know Julia and Leo aren't home because we saw them ignore Frank's home-cooked breakfast to rush out five seconds ago. But you know we won't find out what those papers are right away, so ...
Ivy's out at a diner with Sam, going over all the pills she's on to stay balanced. Steroids, sleep pills, anxiety pills and something to take the edge off. Sam says he's not judging, but Ivy just needs to be careful. She confirms she's back in "Heaven On Earth."
At Eileen's office, Ellis rattles off a list of potential candidates to stuff the role of Marilyn more famously. You know, someone Karen's parents might have heard of even all the way out in Iowa. "Anna Paquin, Chelsea Wood, Anna Faris, Rebecca Duvall, Kate Winslet." Derek says it's cute that Ellis is trying to produce now, but Winslet's a little out of their reach. He says they're a lot of "pipe dreams," but we thought he said "porn dreams" at first, which might also be fitting? Now, you may be thinking "some of these things are not like the others," and you'd be right. That's because they just casually slipped Wood and Duvall into a list of nonfictional actresses. In truth - spoiler-y? - that's because Uma Thurman's about to show up and pretend to be someone we've already heard of (Duvall). Just play along! Pretend she's an old actress friend of Leigh Conroy.
Eileen kicks Ellis, Tom and Julia out. She tells Derek to put on his big-boy pants and stop griping just because he had a fight with his collaborators about the creative direction of the show last week. Derek says he won't chase stars until he sees a finished script, and then he can give notes and they can do another workshop in a year. He says Tom and Julia need the time. They haven't even come up with a title for the show yet! Derek leaves and Eileen buzzes Ellis to "get her Doug Hughes." Now that's a real name, but it's not one that they expect Karen's parents to know, so they add, "the director."
Ivy shows up to her audition late, because she was stuck in the subway. Not that anyone is ever actually seen taking the subway on this show! She should have gone with "stuck on an elevator." Ivy gets stuck places a lot, you guys. She's about to go inside but bumps into Karen, who's just leaving. They both drop their sunglasses, WHAT WILL HAPPEN. Probably what happens anytime two people drop keys or cell phones on TV. It's way more believable that people would make an effort to get their house keys back than have an interlude over some shades - but we'll see! Someone inside the audition room is saying that Karen was perfect for the part, then closes the door on Ivy's smoldering-yet-sad face.
Karen's talking to her former co-worker about picking up some shifts until she can get back on the schedule again. She then happens to receive the phone call saying she got the part for an orange juice commercial, which is the audition she was just on.
At Tom's, he's going on about how being a Republican is a deal-breaker for him with Lawyer. Julia's preoccupied trying to think of a name for the show. American Star? American Icon? She also says he's being too hard on the boyfriend, and Tom should be giving him (more of) a chance. She says Tom's not even that political, but Tom says he thinks Julia should care more because she, apparently, is.
We scoot over to the Shubert for a glance at "HOE." We're just in time for a horribly hokey musical number about St. Peter at the Pearly Gates called "(The Higher You Get) The Farther You Fall." Look familiar? That's Norbert Leo Butz. Do you really need a link for that one? Then again, considering the miniscule amount of screen time he gets, you wouldn't imagine he's actually famous. We haven't seen such an egregious waste of talent since, well, ANJELICA HUSTON.
Ellis is being, well, kind of awesome and trying to dig through his contacts and his contact's contacts in order to find a way to get a kickass Marilyn to fill in. What do you know: Ellis' friend's cousin slept with the sister of Randall Jones, who now works for Rebecca Duvall. Bingo! Can we also point out the "Catch Me If You Can" poster in the background of this scene? Oh yeah, kids, that would be Norbert Leo Butz.
Julia's getting home to see Frank playing piano - it's the song she wrote about her affair with Swift. (Please note that you are allowed to be both a science teacher and a musician, per "Smash" rules.) The lyrics are about a kiss on the Brooklyn Bridge. They have nothing to do with adultery in general or Swift in particular. But somehow Frank just knew! And he kicked Leo out of the house so that he could confront her! Don't look at us, we have no idea how this is supposed to make sense, either. It's not like writers ever write creative fiction, they're all secretly purging guilt and secrets through their words. Can someone please psychoanalyze us based on this recap? We've sprinkled in three heartfelt confessions in the subtext - it's like an Easter egg hunt.
Now Frank is yelling about the betrayal of 18 years of marriage, because Julia said what happened was "no big deal." She tries to touch him and he shoves her hands away and leaves (even though he confronted her in the first place?) and Julia begins to sob. We actually think it's probably best for everyone involved, especially Leo. Needing to keep a secret for one parent from the other is the worst, and it was selfish of Julia to expect that of him. So at least Leo gets something out of this, yay?
On the set of the commercial, Karen's dressed in a green bodysuit to go in front of a green screen. She says she looks like a frog, which is correct. Yet we hate her for being able to pull that look off on some level! She goes through her motions for the commercial in a dry run. (Hint: Anytime a show runs through how something is supposed to go, that's because it certainly will not actually go that way.) Morning Right orange juice looks a lot like Florida's Natural and Tropicana, for the record. At the end she tries to sip the juice and a curt costume/tech woman is like, "Don't drink that!" Lesson: In show business, nothing is what it seems.
Frank confronts Swift on the street, saying he just wants to talk. Swift tells him to just go home, where Julia is waiting for him. Frank says Swift took everything from him. Swift says it was over a long time ago - but hey, Frank didn't know about this happening before! Stupid move, Swift. Frank decks him - right in the pretty face! GOOD.
So Ellis is out at a swanky lounge with Randall Jones, who's working with Rebecca Duvall. He says it's hard to come back from movies, but she might consider it to work with the Rands. Ellis explains it's just Eileen. We explain that people don't typically sign on to projects based on the producers. But Ellis also lies that Eileen took all the money with her after the split. Jones asks for material to send over, like the book. Ellis says he'll come up with something. Jones is like, "Where did we meet again?" They cheers with martinis that definitely did not cost $7.
Now Eileen is courting Doug Hughes. Also over expensive martinis! No, Eileen, no! Time to open up your tab again, let's see: Earrings, $50, fancy martinis, $144, Nick's dirty martinis (in honor of the dirty bartender, not the drink): $21. Hughes says that Derek Wills was supposed to be her guy for this project. Everyone in show business knows everything about everyone else's prospects and workshops, fact. Hughes says he'd like to see what Tom and Julia have come up with so far. Into this white-tablecloth restaurant walks Michael Reidel, the real NY Post critic mentioned in the pilot. Hughes says he doesn't want to see his little rendezvous with Eileen making it into his column and Reidel says, "Of course not." This feels like a sneaky setup. Can't a producer and director just be getting dinner and drinks? What's the big deal anyway?
Ensemble members toast Ivy for "going home again" to "HOE." We're not sure why this deserves a party, but at this rate we're pretty sure people would line up to toast this chick for licking a stamp. Tom shows up and Sam leaps up to go greet him. Apparently Sam invited him so that his future boyfriend and his pretend-y times girlfriend could make up. They decide to have a drink alone. Sam orders two beers, but Tom is like, excuse you, I want an over-pronounced sauvignon blanc. (You can like sports and beer or you can like theater and wine, but PICK ONE.) Ivy spies Tom at the bar and thinks he's ignoring her. She whines that she was fired. Her "friends" talk about Karen's orange juice commercial (seriously, are they Karen's friends or Ivy's?). Ivy claims her competitor just strolled into Manhattan and the city's just bending over for her - which does in fact seem to be the case. Dancer Girl kindly says, "Well, she didn't book Marilyn!" and Ivy, having no concern for anyone's feelings but her own, retorts, "Neither did I!" She storms out and passes Sam and Tom at the bar; they say "hi" and she brushes past them.
Derek's hanging out in Ivy's apartment for some ludicrous reason. He has a key now? He likes her place better than his own? He just lurks there when she's not around? She's bitching about Karen, yet again, and Derek tells her to get used to the business she's chosen. Derek's reading a spec for a TV show. Ivy asks if there's a part in it for her. He asks, "How's your dead hooker?"
At home, Boyfriend is looking at Karen's sunglasses. He apparently pays more attention to her accessories than she does, because he notices that they're new and she just realizes that they're not new, they're Ivy's. They're also Marc Jacobs, so just keep 'em, sister.
At Ivy's, Derek is on the phone learning about Reidel's gossip re: Eileen and Doug Hughes. Meanwhile, Ivy is learning that she has the wrong sunglasses. She has the right idea and throws them in the trash. And then she pops some pills.
Derek storms into Eileen's office with Ellis on his heels. Derek says to call off the Chihuahua - hee! We did say we think Eileen should tote him around in an oversized bag. Eileens says Derek can't believe everything he reads, especially Reidel. She says Doug is an old friend. That's what we're saying - it's a small, incestuous world and people most often know each other and see each other socially, regardless of projects. Derek says Eileen is "worse than Jerry" and that Reidel showed up because he was tipped off. Eileen says she believes in this play, and wants to know if Derek is in or out. Derek storms out with the same oomph he carried in, hollering, "GET ME A STAR!" Ellis glances up like: I'm working on it, dude.
In the "HOE" dressing room, we see that Ivy still has pictures of Marilyn Monroe up just to torture herself. As soon as she's alone, she grabs her pills and makes a face at herself in the mirror, which is what Ivy and Karen seem to spend half of their screen time doing.
Ellis is meeting privately with Rebecca, somehow. Truly, at this point any good publicist would be arranging a sit-down explicitly with Eileen. But I think we're about to learn that this rep might not be at the top of his game. Because Ellis wants to know what he can do to ensure "M!TM" goes to the top of Duvall's list. And this is all just as suggestive as you're imagining that it is. The boys smirk at each other knowingly. Soooo lots of critics called Ellis being gay for pay from Day 1, but apparently "Smash" is truly going there. Now we really, really wish we didn't already know Uma Thurman was signed on for more episodes, because it would be awesome if Ellis put out and it was all for nothing. The casting couch is so much more devious when it doesn't actually work. Rule No. 1 for producers, Ellis: Get everything in writing!
A stagehand is pounding on the dressing room door because Ivy's about to miss her cue. We see her dazed out on the floor of the dressing room, but she stands up and starts giggling, high as a kite.
Tom is at his boyfriend's Republican party after all, and he greets Mr. Lawyer with a kiss. He's going to meet someone really important, but that scene just ended ... okay then!
We see Ivy performing the same scene in "HOE" from before, but now she's stumbling and slurring. See? When you see something done right the first time, it's just because it's supposed to be done wrong/differently later.
Outside, Karen's waiting at the stage door to give Ivy back her sunglasses, and also runs into this mutual Dennis friend. Is he one of the ensemble dancers? We didn't know they had names. Anyway, Dennis is clearly just getting off of his ushering shift, because he's dressed in a tuxedo. He says Karen should just give the sunglasses to the stage manager. Why can't she just give them to Dennis? Why can't Dennis just give them to the stage manager? Oh, because then we don't have an excuse for Karen to slip in and see Ivy falling all over herself, getting yelled at by Norbert Leo Butz and then running offstage.
And then she's running down the streets of Times Square in her full costume and Karen's chasing her. We'd like to believe she's concerned, but she's probably just still worried about returning those sunglasses and fulfilling her good deed of the day. We're surprised a costume mistress isn't running after both of them, screaming her head off about getting those wings back. Karen says Ivy's living the dream, having a gig on Broadway and playing Marilyn. She says she never got to do it once, much less for a little while, and Ivy needs to stop complaining about how bad her life is. Ivy retorts that Karen was weak and naïve and didn't want it badly enough. Karen says she mostly just didn't sleep with Derek when he propositioned her first. Then she apologizes. Ivy laughs at her for being so nice and says her mom said ruder things on a daily basis when she was growing up. Then she huffs down the street again, with Karen chasing her.
Back at the Republican party, Lawyer is introducing Gary Knowles as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives while Tom eyes a deer head. Of course all Republicans hunt and mount animals. You can either be a Democrat or hate Bambi, but PICK ONE. By the way is this Knowles guy a real person or a semblance of one? We didn't sign on to assess politics, guys, we're just here for the theater. (We're not allowed to do both, remember?)
At home, Leo is upset that Julia told Frank about Swift. Things were fine when it was a secret, but now Frank is packing up and leaving. Julia follows, saying they're still a family and she'll never make that mistake again. She wants to talk about it. Frank wants to know all the details and full honesty if she thinks he's going to stay. Julia asks Leo to leave the room but Frank says no, which is ... a debatable parenting choice. Frank says Julia either thought he wouldn't find out or thought he'd forgive her, but she wasn't thinking about them. Leo starts begging his dad not to go, which would be more touching if he were really a young teen instead of someone approaching his 30s.
Tom wants to leave his stuffy party because of Ivy's mess. But Lawyer points out that other people than the play's writer should be able to handle the mess at the theater, and Ivy's an adult who won't benefit from Tom chasing her around and trying to solve her problems. LAWYERED! Tom says he's right. And then says, "I like you" to his boyfriend about eight times, which is the least convincing thing ever. He adds, "BUT I DON'T LIKE REPUBLICANS" really loudly so the whole room can hear. However, he's choosing to be a good friend even if Ivy would be fine without him, because that's just who he is. We're having a moment of "I accept you as you are, so do the same." It actually works nicely, and is very good practice for when Tom wants to date Sporty Sam.
Ivy wanders into a liquor store and asks if she can borrow money from Karen. Karen says no but then Ivy says she's being a big meanie (the deepest insult they have in Iowa), so Karen breaks down and lets her buy a bottle. Tom shows up at Ivy's apartment and Sam's sitting on the steps. He says Ivy is with Karen, and that she's fine, and then he reminds Tom that the blonde is actually an adult. We think it would be really funny if Derek showed up to let these guys in. They could all hang out amidst the pink and purple pillows while they wait for the lady of the hour. They could have another confrontation, and this time we could learn Derek's racist. Conflict for everyone!
Drunk, the girls wander around midtown and seem to actually be bonding. Karen's thrilled to run into a keyboard player who has dancing dolls. Ivy's like, "Of course she loves the crazy people." Karen replies by breaking into song: Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink To That)." All of the songs in this episode have parenthetical titles - in case you were seeking a theme. Well, "both" songs - we've been relegated to only two numbers per episode, even though this is supposed to be a musical show. Ivy joins in on the singing, and we've got a duet. A big crowd forms and they're all dancing and cheering. As if two singers and a keyboard and an angel costume are the most interesting thing happening at any given time in Times Square. Whatever! We actually like it when the girls are getting along. Karen gets Ivy home, where all of the menfolk are suspiciously absent. Ivy faceplants on the bed and reminds Karen that they're not best friends now. "I know."
Tom and Sam went around the corner for a bite. Tom says he hasn't been up all night since 1996 when he camped out for "Rent." Sam hasn't been up all night since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. THEY'RE SO DIFFERENT YOU GUYS, HOW CAN THIS ROMANCE EVER WORK OUT? Tom tries to pay but Sam grabs the check. Tom gets a text from Lawyer, though he's disappointed it's not Ivy. Signs for realizing you're in a one-way friendship, Tom. Sam says if Tom's seeing someone then maybe they should go Dutch. Just kidding, he'll pay. He stabs food off Tom's plate.
Eileen is consorting with Reidel in her office. He's on to her that he was used, but he says he'll let it go just this once. When he leaves, Ellis announces that he'd like to not answer phones anymore. Eileen is ready for a smackdown as she asks, "Oh really?" He says he wants to be co-producer. He says he can get Rebecca Duvall. Eileen says she already spoke to CAA and Duvall's not available. Ellis says if the phone rings and it's her agents, and if they land her, then he wants a co-producing credit. She then lists some actual job duties of producers, making sure Ellis even knows what he's talking about (he doesn't): negotiate her contract, sell her to the investors, address her creative concerns. She says that what Ellis just did is called casting, and they can talk about all the rest of it after he answers the phone. YAY ANEJELICA HUSTON! Hope it was worth your smutty tryst, Ellis. Why was that off-camera, again? It was the best thing to happen all episode and possibly all season.
Julia meets up with Swift and sees his busted face, learning that Frank punched him. She also learns that Swift's sheltered from the fallout, because his family doesn't know. She says it's good, but seems a little envious. They both stammer over apologies to each other. She says it was both of their faults, and now her life exploded. Then she walks away. So that was a useful meetup! These people really need to learn to use GChat or something, it would save them a lot of cab fare.
She then meets up with Tom and they reveal the new play title: "Bombshell." Because her life just exploded, get it? And that's a wrap for this week, folks!