'Smash' recap: Episode 5, 'Let's Be Bad'
Everyone's getting it on this week, with mixed results (some of the sex is called "terrible"). There's hardly any singing and even less Anjelica Huston. Metro's theater critic (belatedly) recaps.
Sorry it’s late this week! We were busy attending “Broadway Backwards 7” last night and could not catch the show when it aired. You’ll forgive us in the name of charity, right? You’re the best!
And it looks like an opener worth waiting for! The first face on our screen is good ol’ ANJELICA HUSTON, who is hustlin’ to make it work but learning that more people have defected from her camp in order to work with her ex-hubby, Jerry.
In the rehearsal room, Derek asks Karen to run through some moves with him (reminder: he’s not just the director, but also the choreographer). She’s all awkward and rigid with him because dancing is like third base in Iowa. Karen is still not a great dancer. Derek says her problem is her “follow through” – which is not a double entendre at all.
Tom admits that he and Julia share a brain, so only one of them needs to be updated about anything of import having to do with “M!TM.” Good thing, because Julia is busy making a post-rehearsal “date” with Swift even though we all know that’s a terrible idea. Mostly from the commercials, where we’ve already seen these two kids getting all adulterous. The writers meet up so Tom can humblebrag about his lawyer boyfriend. Ivy walks in and catches Karen and Derek dancing, of course.
At dinner presumably that night, Tom finds his beau boring and keeps checking his phone. Eileen is harassing him via text message about the script, but he blames Julia for not pulling her weight.
In a diner somewhere (we know this because it's open late and there's pie), Swift is worried about DiMaggio not coming across as likable. Julia says she wanted to use the show to explore bigger themes. Swift licks whipped cream off his fork and asks, “What’s bigger than love?” By the look in Julia’s eye, this is the setup for a size joke (if you know what we mean). But Julia musters her control and replies that she will make sure DiMaggio is not the play’s villain (aka, "Smash" will not let Swift become a hated homewrecker -- we're calling it that somehow the husband will be portrayed as a dick in coming eps). Oh, and why has her husband been conveniently absent in the past few episodes? He’s getting recertified for some teaching thing – rivaling Tom’s date for most boring character of this episode. THEN WHO IS WITH YOUR POOR, MENTALLY UNDERDEVELOPED SON, JULIA?
Tom’s boring lawyer man friend invites him over for a “nightcap.” Tom says he’s tired. His date replies bluntly, “Are we not ever having sex?” Tom answers his phone instead of addressing that extremely important question. It’s Julia’s son, calling from the police station because he was arrested. WE REALLY DIDN’T KNOW THAT WAS HAPPENING. But it’s awesome that our concern had some payoff, since we use it sparingly toward characters on this show. Well, good thing Tom was already sitting across from an attorney!
LIGHT BULBS, RED LETTERS, CAPSLOCK: "SMASH"!
Oh good, it’s a drugs-are-bad/kids-acting-out PSA! Julia’s son was standing in the proximity of some kids using a vaporizer (Tom: “I don’t even know what that is”), so he got arrested for loitering with the intent to buy/use drugs. Tom’s boyfriend gets all legal-speak toward the cop who’s babysitting this minor instead of planting evidence, eating donuts, stalking Muslims or whatever police in this city do (just kidding NYPD, love you and thanks!). This smackdown is admittedly extremely hot, and Tom finally starts paying attention. Then the boyfriend yells LAWYERED. We wish. In all seriousness though, neither of these adult men are related to the child whatsoever and the parents can’t be reached. How ARE they supposed to spring him loose, exactly?
Across town (or right around the corner, who knows), Karen’s boyfriend is learning from some hot girl that he’s probably not going to get his promotion to press secretary. Karen shows up to meet this co-worker of his who looks a lot like her, actually, except Iranian. Maybe it’s time to put the jealousy shoe on the other foot in this relationship?
Somehow Julia’s teenage son is released to these total strangers. This about to become another type of PSA. Leo's lounging on the couch at his house while Tom is being perfectly obnoxious and Randy Newman-ing everything the kid says by putting it to music. That’s kind of what we’re like when we’re overtired though, to be quite honest.
Julia shows up in a tizzy, having just gotten her voicemails. Tom calls this entire evening a “wake-up call” so Julia can curb this flirting habit before it becomes something worse (NOT GONNA HAPPEN). She just needs to be less like Karen – who accidentally stood her boyfriend up two eps ago for phone-related reasons – and more like Tom, who is willing to answer his phone in the middle of dinner, meetings, funerals and probably sex.
Ellis delivers a book about Marilyn to Eileen and then offers to show the old lady how to work her computer. Because Baby Boomers don’t know about drug paraphernalia or computers or any of these newfangled things! When she was texting Tom all night, she was probably just trying to change the channel on her TV and thought her phone was a remote control. Old people are so funny!
Ivy’s friend Sam walks into rehearsal and starts talking about the game last night to Tom, and he’s like I’M GAY, I DON’T KNOW WHAT SPORTS ARE! Way to be a cliché, “Smash.” We are disappointed. “Even the Knicks?” Sam asks, in shock (because he’s supposedly straight, etc.).
Ivy begins practicing “Let’s Be Bad” but she can’t belt with vibrato, so Karen’s called in to show Ivy how it’s done. Karen’s face looks exactly like you’re imagining it would, but with more lipstick. She’s totally overcompensating for last week’s episode, where she couldn’t hold color on her face to save her life. Karen’s all demure now that the spotlight’s finally on her, and she needs to grow up or she’s going nowhere fast in this ambition-driven industry. She does “Happy Birthday” the sexy, tremulous way she did in a private attendance with Derek in Episode 1. We don't see how this is relevant, since she's not belting it. Derek tells Karen she should work with Ivy. Ouch! Ivy starts the refrain again with daggers in her eyes.
Julia and Tom are trying to get some work done at her place because her son, Leo, is grounded. She wants to try staying at home with him for a change – probably this is part of his punishment. Tom complains about the piano being out of tune; we don’t know if this will be relevant later, so whatever. Noted!
Ivy and Karen are alone in the rehearsal room, and Karen tries to make nice with some compliments. Ivy isn’t gracious whatsoever, so Karen says, “I’m no threat to you, I’m not anything.” Awesome self-esteem for a hot and talented young woman from a loving home whose career is on a fast-track. It really is just so hard to feel sorry for this one, no matter how much the show tries. Ivy notes this weakness and pounces: “I’m a grown-up and I have a pretty clear sense of what I bring to the party. … Don’t get ahead of yourself.” And then she compares herself to Marilyn and adds, “What she had couldn’t be taught.” When the pianist/vocal trainer shows up for this private session, Karen fakely giggles at him – exemplifying her claim.
Somehow Leo getting detained but not arrested is impacting Julia’s adoption process. Obviously social workers get calls directly from the police station anytime anyone affiliated with baby-buying is handcuffed for any reason. So that’s where our tax dollars are going! We thought they were fixing mass transit. Swift walks up at that moment and asks if everything’s OK, and Julia just says NO.
Ivy does a bit from “Let’s Be Bad” (again); when she’s done singing her heart out, the folding table full of powerful people turns inward and begins whispering. Her face is horrified and hurt. “Should I try something else?” She holds her pose, but the table ignores her and then calls for 10.
Leo’s listening to angry-kid music, but Julia wants to talk things over so that she can stop being his prison warden and go back to being Swift’s whipped-cream buddy. And so that Tom will stop whining about her piano. “Were you smoking pot with Mason?” she asks. Suddenly we feel like we’re the ones back in sophomore year. Except Leo actually says, “I’m 16 and live in NYC, mom.” Duh, he smokes pot! What else can kids do around this one-pony town except drink and screw and get baked – oh wait, so small-town kids are like “duh, I smoke pot” AND big-city kids are like “duh, I smoke pot.” Alert FOX, it’s an epidemic! He says he’s just tried it a few times. Julia says it can never happen again because then it’ll be on his permanent record and he won’t get any babies from China. Actually his record will be scrubbed when he turns 18, Julia. You can ask Tom’s boyfriend if you don’t believe us. Leo accuses her of only caring about her future daughter and she assures her present son (with convincingly teary eyes) that she cares about him. “And I know we both want this adoption,” she guilts.
Back in rehearsal (this show has approximately three sets, you guys), Swift asks Tom where Julia is, and he says, “She’s having a FAMILY issue so she needs to be with her FAMILY.” Emphasis his. The ensemble gathers to do the number. Despite all of her bravado, Ivy lacks confidence so she screws up during the opening notes. She gets flustered and starts to cry. Her hair looks really cute right now. As do her symbolic star earrings.
We cut to the live-stage version of “Let’s Be Bad.” We’re 23 minutes into the episode and we’ve only had one song – “Glee” would never stand for this! We’re happy for some costumes and a change of scene, though. Ivy enters as Marilyn in a stunning, fringed, glittery red dress; we’re going to try and grab that for your picture later (update: DONE). She’s playing the timeframe surrounding “Some Like It Hot” where she’s all doped up and overworked and treated as a commodity; that is, most of Monroe’s career.
We jump back to the rehearsal room and everyone is thrilled by Ivy’s last performance – except Derek, who walked out without a word. Karen comes to congratulate her, but Ivy says “don’t condescend to me” and brushes her off yet again.
Ivy, Sam and Swift go out for drinks. Apparently Swift’s been mooning over someone at rehearsal but he won’t say who it is – and Sam doesn’t want to pry. “This show has too many drama queens as it is,” he says, and rudely segues: “By the way, I tried breaking the ice with your friend Tom.” Right, because he’s gay so he’s automatically a drama queen. He’s pretty much the only one keeping his personal life out of this production right now. Sam says Tom’s too gay, Ivy says Sam’s “so gay,” which we called two episodes ago! Sorry, “Smash,” but making a gay dancer who likes sports isn’t going to make up for every other stereotype happening each week. By the way, Ivy is now wearing a symbolic star necklace. Megan Hilty is going in and out of drunk right now; one minute she’s supposedly wasted (with rows of empty shot glasses in front of her), but then she forgets and delivers perfectly lucid lines. She vows to confront Derek about “where they stand.” That’s funny, two weeks ago she was confronting him about where they laid. Guess she’s moving up in the world.
Karen and Boyfriend rehash what just happened re: privately tutoring Karen. Grrrrr. Karen thinks its payback from Derek, but Boyfriend sees it as him having faith in her skills. Karen says she was raised to look down on desperate girls trying to be sexy all the time (truth: those good God-fearing folk are always on about who to look down on). Then Boyfriend asks her to wear something sexy to their event this evening because City Hall is even more superficial than showbiz, and Tom’s every career move rests on him having a hot chick on his arm for his co-workers and clients to ogle. He wants a promotion, so he wants her showing off some cleavage. “Poor Marilyn, this is what her life was like,” sighs Karen. “A sexy dress is not going to kill you,” Tom banters. But he will if she’s late. She says to go ahead and she’ll catch up. BAD IDEA! Hasn’t he learned yet that whenever he lets Karen act on her own volition she messes up or disappoints him in some way? Ugh, girls, right?
Alone, with sexy music playing in the background, Karen makes kissy faces at herself in the mirror. Maybe we should give her a little privacy … Oh, no, she’s just about to start singing “It’s A Man’s World” while she undresses, presumably to redress again. She puts her shoes on before she takes her shorts off. We just wanted to point that out.
Swift shows up to Julia’s house – after a late night of drinking, even though it's only dinnertime on this side of town – and says he just needs to talk to Julia. She tries to kick him out. Leo bounds happily down the stairs and says, “Is that Swifty?!” – at least he didn’t call him “Uncle Mike” or something, on the creepiness scale, yeah? They’re old pals. Because Swift used to be here all the time, banging his mom.
Speaking of drunk mistakes, Ivy shows up at Derek’s place hollering about how she deserves some respect. “You blow so hot and cold, I don’t even know what day it is.” So Derek’s love is basically like this winter; it was freezing last night but it will be 60 tomorrow – which is completely whacked, or should we say, completely Dereked. “I feel like I don’t even exist for you in there!” “No one does!” He basically tells her he’s all about work, and it’s not a romantic statement. He wishes everyone would pretend not to have “all those annoying feelings” while they’re at work. WE CONCUR. “Theater is about feelings!” Ivy screams. Spoken like a true actress. Derek tells her to save her feelings for Marilyn, not him. Then he invites her to stay over. Derek, you know that if you reward her for bursting in like that, she’s going to make a habit of it. It’s basically the relationship equivalent of “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”
At this big black-tie gala with a helicopter (!), Karen shows up in her deep-plunging, draped-in-all-the-right-places dress. She’s sent to sit at the table with unimportant people, because there wasn’t enough room at Boyfriend’s table for her after all.
Leo and Swift are bonding at Julia’s and she’s very uncomfortable about it. She has every right to be, because Swift starts telling Leo that he and Julia used to smoke out after stressful rehearsals. The kid spazzes because she told him she’d only tried it once at camp. This goes right up there with Santa Claus, old dogs moving to farms and babies coming in the mail from Beijing. No one who grows up in Manhattan is this gullible past elementary school. In other news: If Leo can get his hands on his mother’s royalties from past box-office hits, we have a bridge we’d like to sell him. Leo is sent to his room and Julia calls a cab for Swift. “What else does my mom do after a tough rehearsal?” Leo calls down. Ew, Leo. Why.
Karen is entertaining herself at the gala by talking about her workshop, except she’s pretending she got the part of Marilyn. She winds up hate-flirting with the guy who’s in direct competition for the mayoral press secretary with Boyfriend. He offers to buy her room service at his hotel if she’ll sing for him. In case you weren’t sure, this is the episode's Bad Guy (to reiterate: NOT SWIFT). Karen scurries off to tattle on this guy to her boyfriend, having used her wiles to help someone get ahead. Now you’re getting the hang of it!
Karen is very proud of herself and tries to get it on with her boyfriend in the back of the chauffeured car on the way home. Then suddenly we see Tom and his beau naked between the sheets explaining for our sake that they just had sex. Apparently it was bad. (Quit toying with our emotions, show! Are we supposed to like this dude or not? Should we bother to learn his name or cite the actor who plays him? Give us a hint!) They wind up laughing about how terrible they are in bed together. If at first you don’t succeed … ?
Ivy wakes in the middle of the night to find herself alone in bed. She tiptoes downstairs, probably thinking “waaaateeeer” the way we do after a night of drinking like that. She spies on Derek having some kind of quiet moment with newspaper clippings. As long as he isn’t cutting out the letters and reassembling them on a white 8.5x11 while wearing gloves, it’s not the dramatic moment the show makes it out to be. We just hope Ivy thinks to stick her head under the sink upstairs; the tap water’s surprisingly good in New York. Anyway, Derek’s kitchen is under construction, right Derek??
Sitting on the stoop, Julia tells Swift they’re not going to make the same mistakes twice. He says he wants to be with her. They are on two very different pages, here. Swift tries the ol’ trick of singing his way into a kiss with “Song For You.” Good, we were starting to worry there’d only be 1.5 songs this week! Julia tells him to go home, but he grabs her for a kiss and she totally returns it! Better be getting that red letter ready, missy, because your son is peering out the window at you. Busted!
Speaking of busted, where the heck did ANJELICA HUSTON go? Did they nix a subplot about her trying to seduce some cash out of her philandering husband? Did they have to make a difficult budget decision between paying for the helicopter or Huston? Will she ever sing? WHO KNOWS. Guess we'll have to keep watching this rivetingly unrealistic show to find out.