We used to enjoy back-to-back episodes of our fave series — but when recapping is involved, it suddenly seems sadistic. Oh well, what’s one late (late, late) Tuesday night when there’s so much “Smash” packed into it? Here we go.
This episode cuts right to the chase: Karen is now stalking Jimmy. She’s hanging out on the steps of his restaurant in order to ambush him when he gets to work. We applaud her old-school Iowan tactics, but here in the big city we like to use a little stalking technique called Facebook. Apparently she’s also called him numerous times and he didn’t listen to the messages because usually girls usually only call to yell at him. So wait, how did he know a girl was calling him if he didn’t listen to the message?
Jimmy thinks she just wants to go out with him and says he gets off at 5, adding that she could be cute if she unclenched her jaw. She gets frustrated that he won’t talk about his music with her and storms off. Just then (of course) the other bartender from last episode shows up and informs Jimmy that he just sent away Karen Cartwright, adding that she’s “a big deal” and could help them with their musical. She’s not a big deal, kid, she did a short-lived run of a widely panned show all the way up in Beantown. Chillax, that is not Sutton Foster. It’s not even Laura Osnes.
Jimmy says that he and his friend are going to make it on their own, without help. But the gayer bartender has other ideas and chases Karen down the street, giving her the old line about his friend being “complicated, but a good guy once you get to know him” not to mention some kind of genius composer. Because of course he is. The friend tells Karen that they are, in fact, interested in what she has to say and invites her to come back again in a little while. Karen, being unemployed, seems to not mind this inconvenience.
The creative team behind “Bombshell” is congregating to talk about their next move. Eileen reminds us that no one associated with the show is getting paid, since its assets are frozen. Tom and Derek are getting into a spat about whose fault it was that their play was a mess, even though 5 out of 5 critics agree that the blame rests solely on Julia. Eileen says that their show isn’t dead yet, because Karen is singing that night at an American Theatre Wing gala and there will be a lot of Broadway people that she can impress to help them gain some clout. In the meantime, she asks Tom and Derek not to take on any projects until they know what’s happening with “Bombshell.”
An assistant pokes her head in to Eileen’s office. We just want to note that THIS IS THE CULPRIT — both for Jerry stalking Eileen (ostensibly, how does he know where she is all the time) and for replacing Ellis. So we obviously don’t like her. Anyway, she says something that’s not important, we just wanted you to share our rage.
Sam is walking with Ivy and cheering her up that she’ll find good work just like he did with “Book of Mormon” — which Tom presumably talked him into taking.
Savor Sam, because we won’t be seeing him again until next week. (Will Hart/NBC)
Just then, they run into Lisa McMann, a chipper blonde actress who gave up on looking for her big break and now sells stationery and makes loads of cash which is, errr, another kind of dream. By the way, everyone is chit-chatting in front of Amy’s Bread on Ninth Ave. (which is home to my own personal dream: the best lemon cake in the world).
Derek takes a meeting to learn what the next step is with “The Wiz,” starring Veronica Moore. But he learns that he’s been canned; not only due to rumors about his sexual exploits but also because of new harassment charges from numerous dancers.
And here’s Jerry again at Eileen’s office, rubbing her face in yet another piece of bad press about “Bombshell.” Eileen mentions the fact that the American Theatre Wing revoked her invitation to the gala that night. Jerry invites her to be his date. Eileen says that she will be going with her creative team — and Jerry will give them his own table. Jerry says that her creative team is a mess, and she counters that they’re a strong and unified presence. She storms away and he huffs, “You’re welcome.” Old people are so passive-aggressive when they flirt.
Eileen calls the team to tell them that they have to rally, even Julia. And that means Tom is responsible for getting her off the couch and into an evening gown. Julia reveals that although she left the house to meet Leo (her absent son who’s no longer on the show) in Riverside Park that day, she hasn’t actually changed out of her pajamas in awhile. She says that she can’t be seen in front of industry people because her life is too much of a mess and asks “her friend Tom to tell her partner Tom that she needs the night off.” Tom totally caves to that emotional manipulation and says he’ll cover for her.
Karen is meeting with Bartender Boy (he’s officially gone too long without a name, so now this is what he gets) at those notorious red tables in Times Square. He shows her a bunch of scribbles on paper that are supposed to stand for the show that he and Jimmy are writing. He says the concept isn’t complete, but the songs are ready. Karen mopes (to the restaurant industry worker) that she’s so sad to be an unemployed actress and was really looking for a new project to cheer her up. Most selfish thing on this show yet, probably — does she think the writer and composer aren’t also hoping to rise above their base-salary-plus-tip existence? Karen starts to flounce off (we’re pretty sure that the repeat practice of flouncing is what’s left her braided hair so wispy and unkempt) but Bartender Boy tells her to just find someone to play the music for her and then she’ll believe in them. And if she does, she should drop by their place that night because they’re having a few people over. Well he’s just dictating her whole social schedule today, now isn’t he?
Julia has to get off the couch at long last because Ivy is at the door and needs something.
Derek is chasing down the dancers who are trying to sue him for sexual harassment. One of them, Daisy, says she didn’t get the part in “Sweet Charity” because she didn’t sleep with him. Well look, sister, Ivy Lynn did sleep with him and she didn’t get cast as Marilyn, so maybe there’s not as much causal effect as you might think. Daisy then proceeds to tell Derek that women only sleep with him because of his power, a power that he doesn’t respect and abuses constantly. Welcome to the patriarchy, girl.
Well that was an odd back-and-forth with the scenes, NBC. Now we’re back at Tom’s apartment. Ivy and Julia are having a heart to heart. (Again? Didn’t we employ this duo for an unlikely bonding session in the last episode?) Ivy asks if Julia’s ever thought about giving up and Julia says she barely could get up to answer the door. But Julia says that it’s just when she’s ready to give up that something good happens for her, and that’s how she gets sucked back into her abusive relationship with theater.
Outside of Bond 45 on 45th Street, Tom bumps into Harvey Fierstein (as himself, in an amazing cameo).
Tickle, tickle, tickle! Yes, this is really happening. Sort of. (Will Hart/NBC)
Fierstein says he’s heard terrible things surrounding “Bombshell.” Tom says that no one should believe all theater gossip. Fierstein starts listing all of the horrible stories that he’s heard: sleeping around, financing from drug lords, nervous breakdowns. Tom’s face is like, “Oh, well, uh, on the other hand maybe everything you’ve heard is accurate.” But he does stand up for Julia and says she’s totally fine. So Fierstein calls his bluff and says he looks forward to seeing them both later that night at the American Theatre Wing soiree. Tom carries the lie beyond his abilities and says that he and Julia are even giving a speech together, cohesively, as a team. So now he’s stuck with that.
Eileen tells Derek he’s only made matters worse by confronting the people suing him (natch), so he’s uninvited to the gala. Also, Derek is getting wastey-face in the middle of the afternoon at Jimmy’s bar, mostly for the purpose of conserving sets. Because Derek learns lessons never, he flirts with a girl at the bar and winds up in a (short-lived) fight with said woman’s boyfriend. He apparently hits his head and descends into a hallucination about the actresses and dancers he’s either slept with or sexually harassed (allegedly!!). That includes both Karen and Ivy. They’re all vamped up in hot pink high heels (want!) and LBDs, singing the Eurthymics’ “Would I Lie To You?”
Yes, it seriously took nearly 15 minutes to get to this episode’s first song. (Will Hart/NBC)
Back at Tom’s, Julia’s already heard through the grapevine that she’s supposed to give a speech at the gala tonight. She didn’t want to go when it meant just sitting around and being the object of everyone’s scrutiny, but she’s actually excited to get to stand in the limelight and make a good presentation in front of the entire theater world. So Tom has to pretend that Miriam Abramson, fictional head of the American Theatre Wing, personally called him and asked the duo to speak. Why do people get themselves into these kinds of situations on TV? This never really happens in real life, right? Like, what’s the extraction plan? Jessica Chastain’s “Zero Dark Thirty” counterpart would never be this sloppy. Claire Danes on “Homeland,” though, totally yes — and then she’d go bang Derek.
Regardless! Back at Karen’s place, her still-nameless roommate can play piano and runs through Jimmy’s song on a keyboard. We only hear a few notes, but Jessica (maybe?) and Bobby, the two main recurring ensemble dancers, seem to think he’s “the next Jonathon Larson.” Bobby says he wants to date this guy, who’s clearly gay because he’s into musical theater. Sigh/yawn. The roommate alludes that Karen can try to sleep with the guy to hear more of his music, and that “gives her an idea.”
Next Ivy discovers drunken Derek on her stoop. Ugh, we never find hot sarcastic sloppy British men sprawled at our front door! Although we did one time find our roommate’s college buddy sleeping on top of his knapsack in the hallway because he’d been locked out, so that’s almost the same. Not really.
At the gala, Julia confronts Miriam (Margo Martindale) about her time slot to speak with Tom. Miriam, of course, is confused since she never asked them to speak. Harvey Fierstein is there just making the best dramatic eyes back and forth between the two ladies. (As a side note, can we add that there’s no way in hell Julia wrote a speech, got into a dress and did her hair/makeup all somewhere in between afternoon and evening?) Tom and Julia go fight. Tom explains why let his best friend embarrass herself at a time when she was already depressed: He misses her and wants her back.
Great moment alert: Some woman comes up to lie — er, we mean, say — how great “Heaven On Earth” is and how she’s seen it three times. Tom and Julia shoo her away. This is the perfect example of their lack of perspective and ingratitude. Probably, the show was just trying to give the audience some reason to continue believing that this writing pair is actually good at what they do, considering that we haven’t had any reason to believe it based on what we’ve seen.
Out in Williamsburg, where all bartender/musicians live, Karen and her crew of secondary cast members show up at the apartment of Jimmy and Bartender Boy. (His name is apparently Kyle, by the way, and he’s played by Andy Mientus. Now we can all sleep easy tonight — except probably not us, since this episode is lasting forever.) So the two boys work together, write together and live together? Are we sure they’re not together together? Oh wait, Jimmy’s conveniently in a flannel and chugging a beer, just to continue to enforce his straightness. Bobby wanders off to flirt with Kyle like he’s got a gay homing device (homo-ing device?).
Watching Karen and Jimmy flirt is probably the most awkward and boring thing on the planet, so it’s good that the scene quickly cuts away to Derek and Ivy. They’re still on the stoop, because why go inside where there are just silly old chairs? Derek drunkenly babbles about how Karen might be his muse, but Ivy is his friend. And he says that Ivy was also his Marilyn (yeah but, who wasn’t?). Then he goes on about how talented she is and tries to kiss her until: “Nope, not gonna happen.” Good girl!
Oh wait, I have a brilliant idea! Instead of talking about how talented everybody is, why don’t we actually try to show it? Ugh, this episode has been so weak with the song-and-dance numbers, already. Part 1 of the premiere might have fooled us, but Part 2 is reminding us a lot of the mistakes of Season 1.
Eileen confronts Miriam, who asks the “Bombshell” team to leave. Seriously these are such baby scandals; Broadway chews up drama like this and spits it out every day! The whole situation reads false, and the American Theatre Wing is being painted in such a weird light that it’s no wonder they had to put Martindale’s fictional face on it.
Oh no, back to Jimmy and Karen. He calls her uptight, and she says he’s snobby. She means snobby about music, because again: Williamsburg. She tries to seduce him and things just get worse and worse. Karen starts acting drunk (off one beer!), but we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. She starts singing in the middle of the party and being a weird narcissist. It’s “Cutting the Storm,” another original song from the boys’ unnamed show. As annoying as the setup here is, at least there’s another musical number?
Jimmy gets pissed that Kyle gave away his music to some unknown chick. He storms out. Kyle follows. Jimmy threatens to beat him up, which would be awesome just to spice things up. For the first time, we like Jimmy. He doesn’t do the devil-may-care thing well (especially not the faux-devil-may-care-because-I’m-sensitive-deep-down-inside) — however, he’s good at simple and direct emotions like anger. Karen comes running out too, great, because that will help anything. Wait, wait: “I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP.” Angry Jimmy is the best Jimmy. He says if she believed in herself the way that he believed in his own work, she wouldn’t be out in Brooklyn begging for some unknown’s music to get her back into the limelight. Guys, she’s been unemployed for like two weeks, can we please chill out with the desperation? Anyway, Karen runs off. We’d think after working under (and working under, har har) Derek for so long she’d have a thicker skin.
Back at the gala, Eileen and Tom conspire for the “Bombshell” creative team to make a mark on the crowd before they’re kicked out. Julia saunters up and says she wants to help, apparently signaling that she’s forgiven Tom. Julia and Tom have the shortest blowouts in all of TV, and we sort of find that refreshing and realistic.
Anyway, they’re going to pull a Karen and assault these poor people at the party with a song whether they like it or not. In fact, they want Karen to come sing — but as we know, she’s unavailable. But hey, guess who’s able to shimmy into an evening gown and get up to the Plaza in what looks like five seconds? (Seriously, how would they have not been escorted out before she was able to change and get up there with drunken Derek?)
So things get even more suspicious, no matter how much we try to suspend our disbelief. First Julia takes the stage and Miriam lets that happen for some reason. She introduces Ivy Lynn who is performing a song that I first thought was titled “Coming to Broadway This Season” (because she said that Ivy was performing a number from “Bombshell,” coming to Broadway this season). It’s late, you guys.
Still no one escorts them out, so Ivy does indeed sing original number “Moving the Line,” with Tom on piano. We don’t know why the other musicians onstage know how to play the song, but why start looking for realism now? At the end of the song, the “Bombshell” team slips out quickly. From the look on Miriam’s face, we’re thinking this may not be the last we see of her.
Jerry (stalker!) is walking with Eileen and comments that she made a big impression last night. Eileen says that she got permission to resume work on the show as long as it’s not for profit or public consumption. Jerry asks how they’re going to do any of that without money. Then he asks how much she needs. Eileen says a lawyer will send over a contract. Awww, yet another message in mass media that if men stalk and harass women enough, the women will come around and take them back. That’s heartwarming.
Back at work, Jimmy and Kyle square off. Kyle’s upset that Jimmy ruined their big opportunity and says he’d been cleaning up Jimmy’s messes since they were kids. Aw, they’re childhood pals as well! Okay, but really “Smash,” please stop forcing their closeness down our throats. SHOW, DON’T TELL. “Would it have killed you to do anything for me for once?” “I made you coffee this morning.” Kyle also asserts that he’s writing the book for this play, it’s his project too.
Julia made muffins for Tom to say sorry for what a mess she’s been lately. But now she’s ready to get back to work on the show. He also apologizes for lying to her last night. And there’s something else he’s been wanting to tell her for a long time in the spirit of honesty: “It’s time to lose the scarves.” HA! Okay, well Lena Durnham may swear that “Girls” will never change its model to appease critics, but “Smash” definitely isn’t afraid to take at least one giant note from its fan base to ditch the awful scarves!
Karen is eating cereal and watching her roommate’s hookup slip into the bathroom. “At least someone had a good time last night.” There’s a knock on the door and of course it’s Jimmy, acting contrite. He has a picture of Karen’s head shot with her new address on it (roommate stuck it on his fridge last night), so he just randomly showed up like a creeper. Probably the best moment of the episode is roommate’s lover being like, “Oh hey Jimmy” and knowing him from the party last night. It’s almost like a beat stolen straight from “New Girl.” It’s also a great little moment of realism — they’re fleeting on this show, which makes us appreciate them more. Jimmy has brought all of his music over for Karen to check out, but he says he’s only trusting her because he owes Kyle.
The next morning, Ivy brings Derek hangover breakfast. She also tries to cheer him up in the same vein that he did for her last night. (Ew, no, not kissing — comaraderie and praise.) He says he has company. It’s Karen. Of course. She wasted no time rushing to Derek’s to play him Jimmy’s songs.
The casting couch doesn’t get more literal than this, folks. (Will Hart/NBC)
Obviously there’s weird tension once Karen and Ivy are face to face. Ivy leaves. Karen asks what that was about and Derek answers, within Ivy’s hearing range (OF COURSE): “Nothing important.” And with a few bars of Jimmy’s music, and the closing of the elevator door, we reach the end of the premiere of Season 2.
Recapping just one episode next week is going to feel so excellent that we don’t even care if it’s as good as Part 1 or as lackluster as Part 2. For brevity of work alone, we can’t wait.
Follow Metro’s theater editor on Twitter: @TMichelleMurphy.