‘Smash’ recap: Episode 7, ‘The Workshop’
Who cares about who'll be Marilyn Monroe, can either Megan Hilty or Kat McPhee outshine guest star Bernadette Peters? Metro's theater critic recaps.
This week offers an ominous episode title (the day we've all been waiting for/warned of!), an amazing guest star (Bernadette Peters!) and plenty of preview shots taking place in people's bedrooms. Let's get started!
Julia and Swift are meeting on the streets and holding hands in broad daylight. But then Derek and Eileen walk up, so the infidels have to act like that wasn't happening. Not that either of those two could have said "nay" about it, considering that the director(/choreographer) is sleeping with the lead and the producer(/ANJELICA HUSTON) is sleeping with the book writer's fake-straight assistant. Okay, not really, but that would certainly be an eye-opening storyline worth watching.
Derek begins freaking out about how hot their rehearsal room is because, as Ellis informs us, the boiler's broken. Eileen says she'll go talk to the building manager and take care of it. You see, we told you there was more to producing than just making phone calls and throwing drinks! Sometimes these people come in handy to fix the plumbing. Also, considering they're probably paying $10K/day for that space if it's indeed in Manhattan, as we're led to guess (since no one's ever told us), they most certainly have a right to bitch about the climate control.
Derek reminds us that the big workshop is just a day away!
Speaking of exorbitant costs, NBC hefts out a fortune for a single shot of Karen running across the street in Times Square. The man she's meeting says she's late, and she blames the train. We'd like to point out that we have yet to see anyone use the subway on this show. She gets into a recording booth and starts belting, and the mysterious man accuses her of trying to blow out the speakers. She says apologetically that she's usually a stage performer. Hopefully as an effort to make up the two lone songs of last week, we jump right into this week's first number, Colbie Caillat's "Brighter Than The Sun." Katharine McPhee never, ever sounds natural - but the backup vocals tuning in at just the right time don't help this karaoke moment. The man in the recording booth, however, disagrees; he says she was wonderful. Not only that, he adds that he thinks he loves Karen.
At rehearsal, Swift and Julia are sneaking around and going at it like teenagers. Much like teenagers, they're too wrapped up in themselves to think of the outside world or lock the door, so of course Tom walks in on them making out. Ellis is also lurking around the corner, of course. We're not sure why this matters, since he discovered that Julia was with Swift back in Episode 3. Maybe NBC thinks the audience is too dumb to remember about that? We're offended!
Instruments tuning, the reminder that Teresa Rebeck's still involved though she hasn't written an episode in a month, "SMASH"!
The building manager is telling Eileen that he can make some calls, but the people who fix things might not be able to come right away. Something tells me that a management company that stands to lose a day's rent if they don't fix their system can find someone in all of Manhattan who will repair a boiler. But that would be less dramatic, now wouldn't it?
Karen enters rehearsal all friendly and chipper, even though for all we know she hasn't socialized with any of her new dance buddies since Episode 4. Right as she's about to sit down and pretend to like them long enough to brag about her own amazing day in the studio, she gets a text that they want her to come back in - even though she has rehearsal. (We should note that the name "Bobby Raskin" is being bandied about, the big music producer who's going to try and woo Karen away from her dreams of being Ivy's understudy forever.) Karen gets permission to leave for a few hours just as Ivy runs in late - with her mother, Leigh Conroy, played by the inimitable Bernadette Peters (and we say that with full knowledge of how many theater geeks and drag queens in Manhattan are probably imitating her right this moment). They're late because Mommy Dearest insisted on taking a car rather than the subway, because traffic used to never be that bad when she lived in the city. Also, because no one on this show ever takes the subway.
Momleigh Dearest goes to kiss up to Derek and shows off her shoes to everyone, which for some reason makes them all laugh and smile delightedly. These poor dancers and their poor feet have never even seen high heels, have they? That must be it. Apparently she's also famous, even though Ivy's never mentioned her before, which seems extremely out of character to us. Even Julia and Tom are a-twitter, and a little ensemble girl begs her to sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from "Gypsy." Bernadette says, "Oh no, I couldn't!" and everyone watching at home chortles knowingly. Linda, the Asian woman we've seen hanging around a few times, says the pianist isn't there yet - but good news! Tom knows this classic by heart. Ivy looks fairly mortified. Karen hangs around to watch.
And then Bernadette does her thing, duh! And she turns and sings right to Ivy, "You can do it, all you need is a hand. We can do it, Mama is gonna see to it!" On the nose, "Smash." Except for that part where you cut a verse, don't think we didn't catch that. Derek attempts to reconcile with Ivy after she flipped out at him last week, and he tells her that she's wonderful.
Later during rehearsal, Derek notes that it's hotter than before, and we should say that no one actually appears sweaty or uncomfortable, so this climate exists entirely in words. Then Swift's wife and kid come running in because they were in the neighborhood, but mostly as a device to make the adulterers in the room feel bad. We can't think of a creative team in the world who would stand for that on the day before an important workshop. Or in most rehearsals, really. Derek says, "The child thing never ceases to perplex me." Tom says, "That's because you're a reptile." Julia runs out, very upset. Derek says, "That's the least offensive thing I've said in days!" Hee!
Outside, Julia's crying and Tom derives that she actually slept with Swift again. She says she can't do the rest of the day and goes home instead. Okay, but seriously, no creative team on earth would stand for that. Derek is understandably enraged that Julia simply disappeared in the middle of their crucial final day of rehearsal. Ellis asks to speak to Eileen for a moment, and then tattles on Julia and Swift. She says it's useful information, but if he ever tells anyone else, Ellis will never work in this town again. We love that line! Not everyone can pull it off, but ANJELICA HUSTON most certainly can.
At home, Julia catches her kid smoking pot with his bad friend Mason. As she kicks him out, he apologizes, and she snips, "Oh don't be so polite, you little drug addict!" Love it. Then of course she funnels all of her self-hatred into a tirade against her rebel son who's basically only acting like any other teen on earth, but she really just resents him for having that excuse for his behavior when she does not. He tells her that she sucks and says he knows what she's doing. That seems to take the wind out of her, even though he doesn't explicitly name Swift.
Ivy's mom counsels her not to let Derek get away from her because he's a hot director and could be useful. Ivy says she's worked up from the prednisone but she doesn't want to take sleeping pills on top of that. Momleigh Dearest says she won a Tony without any supplements. And then she says Ivy should be nervous, because she (MD) doesn't know how she'll (Ivy) pull this whole thing off. So Ivy gives in and takes the sleeping pills.
At a trashy bar we wish we were at right now, Eileen and Ellis are getting cheap martinis again. Ellis is trying to explain that he found a Chinese plumber who might be able to help them with the boiler, and Eileen says she's never heard of that before. The bartender swoops in and calls her out for living in the Lower East Side and not knowing about Chinese plumbers. She says she's new. He says a guy lives upstairs who knows about plumbing and wiring and even speaks English. Eileen says, "Get him down here!" Next he can head over to Derek's neighbor's place and fix the gas line so Ivy will finally be welcome there, right Derek? Sorry, we like any chance to give him a hard time.
Speaking of: A montage of anxious, sleepless faces begins with Derek in bed. Then it rolls over Tom - whose lawyer boyfriend sleeps next to him, but symbolically far apart. Oh, so he's still around despite the cocktail party from hell? Then we see Momleigh Dearest getting up, but Ivy's still wide awake. Then there's Julia and her husband, but she's also wide awake. Maybe whoever broke the boiler also spiked the water at the rehearsal studio. We suspect that nameless dancer who never talks! You know the one. We also retract our comment that this episode would be exciting because there were a lot of beds in it. This must be why. We feel scammed!
Karen leaps out of her boyfriend's arms to a phone call from Bobby Raskin. The next day she's telling her friends that he wants to meet with her today before he leaves the country, but she's got this workshop. They're like, "You're making $200 and you're in the chorus of a workshop. Go meet with the big producer!" She looks shocked by this clear breach of professionalism. "I just would never do that!"
Eileen breaks into the boiler room so an illegal immigrant plumber recommended by her bartender can fix the heat in time for the workshop. Swift's at the water cooler getting a little H2O but it turns into H2NO when he tries to kiss Julia. Yeah, we went there. She tells him that Leo (that's her pothead kid, by the way) knows about the two of them. From what we saw, she can't be sure what he knows. But we think kids should always say, "I know what you're doing!" to their parents, just to keep them on their toes. (Side note: We're available to babysit, you know how to reach us.) Julia asks how Swift can do this to his beautiful son and Swift is like, Are you freaking kidding me right now?
He marches into a rehearsal with Derek to do a scene where Joe's confronting Marilyn about being too slutty; his lines are hitting a little close to home and he gets flustered. Then Ivy's apparently stuck in the elevator, conveniently, so Derek asks Julia to read Marilyn's lines in this scene. But they can't stick to the book, and start having a conversation of their own. Julia says Swift can't decide how this is going to go, because she doesn't belong to him. Derek loves the line and wants to add it. Julia storms out, Swift follows, Derek says to stay off the elevators. (Derek is our favorite tonight.)
Then he's alone with Eileen and has his first-ever conversation with her, despite the fact that he was supposedly the Tom to Eileen's Julia back in Episode 1. He recounts how he had a very promising show one time, but then the theater fell apart and everything went to hell. He says sometimes a project is just cursed. And she scolds him that the workshop is happening no matter what, and it's going to be brilliant. She even adds that he's a good enough director to justify his bratty behavior. You see, producers really do so much more than making phone calls and throwing drinks and fixing boilers!
Just then, the building manager comes in yelling about the strange guy in his boiler room and says he's calling the cops. Eileen says he can, but she'll call the Shuberts and the Nederlanders and let them know how poorly their buildings are being maintained. The guy rejoins that if anyone gets hurt it's on Eileen's head. "No one's going to get hurt," she sneers. Dundundunnnn.
Tom's attorney beau John walks in and bumps into Sam, and Sam sizes him up. We hate this Sam/Tom ship already, just because it's being shoved into our faces so much. Karen and her dancer buddy are peering at the important people filling the folding chairs. They have amazing clients that could play Marilyn, they squeal. Sam admonishes them because Ivy can hear them getting excited about her Broadway replacement. They look genuinely apologetic. Sam storms away in a huff and slams right into Tom. Seriously, dial it back! He tattles on the ensemble for being insensitive and getting Ivy disheartened. John walks up and kisses Tom hello and Sam backs away abruptly. Julia's husband is also in attendance; he asks Swift to drop by the house sometime so they can hang out. Julia looks like she's going to be sick. Presumably, she is the one who invited her husband, so we're not sure exactly what she was expecting to happen.
Ivy wants to know why Tom's so weird about Sam. Tom says he's "too straight," and he backed away when he saw two guys kissing. She insists Sam's gay and she's known him since she was 18, so she's pretty positive about that. Tom glances back into the audience and tries to reevaluate the situation based on this new information. Even though he learned it last week, too. NBC thinks we're too dumb to remember what happened one week ago! Ivy says he has "stupid gaydar," and Tom says he hates that word. (Us: "Stupid?") Ivy asks what Tom cares anyway, since he's seeing someone and can't stand Sam. Tom's like, "That's right!" but he convinces no one. He changes the subject and asks if Ivy's okay. She says her mom is undermining her and Karen's having success handed to her on a plate. Tom tells her that she was born to do this role, she has ice water in her veins. They take a deep breath together. Ivy thanks him, but when he leaves she seems unconvinced.
Eileen's schmoozing with potential investors, but she's more focused on the bartender and his secret plumber friend. They've almost got it fixed, but the show's already about to start. She invites the bartender, Nick, to stay and watch the show. He says he just wants to wash up and she's all smiles because she has a big fat crush. Remember how old people are so cute when they play with technology? (FROM TWO WEEKS AGO? REMEMBER?) They're even cuter when they're flirting.
Derek's apologizing to the investors for running late. If these people have ever seen a play in their life, they'll know they always start late. Then he apologizes for the heat, which is slightly less typical. However, almost everyone in this episode is wearing some kind of pants and long sleeves, so we're still not convinced they've been inconvenienced at all. Derek explains that this is a work in progress, and the scenes they'll be seeing focus on the Joe DiMaggio years. Then Momleigh Dearest enters, draws all the attention to herself and earns a round of applause. She jokes of the temperature: "Some really do like it hot!" Backstage, Ivy's freaking out that her mom is stealing her spotlight.
The show starts! First it's "Let Me Be Your Star" (Ep. 1). Everyone in the room looks truly interested or enthused. We segue into the "20th Century Fox Mambo" (Ep. 2). As Ivy's doing these snippets, Karen is watching and imagining herself in all of the roles. Swift steps in for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (Ep. 3), which leads to "History Is Made At Night" (Ep. 4). We start to see a few glitches, but it's not exactly a polished show yet. Then it's "The National Pastime" (Ep. 1). Karen is so exuberant she falls off her barstool. Derek calls intermission. (Note: We thought this was going to hearken back to the ominous "no one will get hurt" comment, but no dice.)
Swift tries to talk to Julia, but she says not here, not now, and goes to receive congratulations from her husband. Swift storms off. Derek tells Ivy she's great but needs to focus. Tom tells Derek not to speak to an actor like that during intermission, and Derek says he will if his actor's off her game.
Next we see DiMaggio confronting Monroe, and then Swift sings from a new song, "Lexington and 52nd Street." This song is very "Sunset Boulevard," no? Maybe it's just the names. The crowd disappears and it's just Swift singing to Julia. When we come back to reality, the air-conditioning finally comes on just in time for bows. Momleigh Dearest is teary, and Eileen looks very pleased. John tries to talk to Tom, but he disappears to be backstage with his people (aka especially Sam). And everyone makes fun of Karen for falling down, and rightfully so. She says she was so blown away by Ivy that she lost her balance, but we know she was only thinking of herself the whole time. And then the group reiterates that despite how well it went, she should have taken the Raskin meeting. She says she wouldn't have missed this for the world.
Nick apologizes again to Eileen for not fixing the plumbing sooner. Derek asks who that is, and Eileen says he makes the best $7 martinis in Manhattan. Derek is less than impressed. Momleigh Dearest compliments the show and Joe DiMaggio, and Ivy's like, "What about me?" She says Marilyn had an overbearing mother, too. Momleigh is like, "She was a legend." Ivy says she was drug-addled and self-loathing — all because her mom didn't love her. Well, that is a wee bit harsh, Ivy, yeesh. Go see a therapist if you want to blame everything on your parents. It's your job to blame everything on yourself until your self-esteem implodes, like any good artist.
Back at home, Momleigh Dearest is like, "I never wanted this for you!" Ivy says that's obvious. MD says it's just too heartbreaking, and she's watched people pass Ivy by for years. But now she believes Ivy's day will come because there's no question she's a star. Mother-daughter crying ensues, and MD disappears into the night. It might seem heartless to let her go out alone at this hour, but at least Ivy knows her mom's not taking the subway.
There are mixed reviews of the workshop. One producer said the show was confused. Eileen says they need to regroup and repackage. Tom says Ivy was terrific. Derek says Ivy hasn't performed the way she needs to be because she's too used to being in the ensemble and blending in. Julia hides behind giant sunglasses. Tom says he won't let Ivy be the scapegoat. He then adds that the weakest link was Swift, and Derek thinks that's insane. Julia agrees with Tom, of course. Eileen says she'll leave it up to everyone else, and Derek's outvoted. So it's decided, there's a new scapegoat.
At home, Julia tentatively greets her son and offers him some food. Leo asks how the workshop went. "There were some problems," she says. "There's always some problems," he retorts. So true! This kid will make it in showbiz yet. And Julia would make an excellent stage mommy. Julia laughs, but then comes around to say Swift's fired because he wasn't right. She repeats that part, making sure her son knows she's not cheating on daddy anymore: "Swift's fired. He wasn't right." Her son starts crying. Okay, admittedly we haven't been paying much attention to this character but - that's a different actor, right? When did that happen? Oh wait, while we were trying to figure that out the episode ended. This show always ends on extremely strange notes!
Despite the fact that this one felt almost like a season finale, there's still three episodes to go. What do you think will happen? Will Karen finally replace Ivy? Will Swift stick around to torment Julia? Will Tom get over Sam's love of sports so we can have new romantic melodrama in the rehearsal room? Will Eileen save enough money on martinis to finance this show all by herself? We want to hear what you think.