Well, let’s start with the good news. With tonight’s final scene, Evil Producer Jerry sends a clear message to everyone’s favorite worst character ever – “Don’t ever contact me again,” accompanied by a bona fide maniacal laugh (actually, that part might have just been in my head). So at least Ellis is never, ever, ever, getting back together with Smash.
The bad news is that the show no longer needs him, as it has plenty of wholly detestable characters to take his place. This might not be a huge problem, except for the fact that said characters happen to be the show’s heroes.
Each week, I harp on the fact that Jimmy Collins is a wholly unsympathetic character, but this is the first week that asked us to root for him, and it made things worse off than ever. Essentially, he’s been positioned as this “unpolished bad boy who learns the ropes from Karen”, rough around the edges and being guided into “the biz”.
The problem here, though, is that it’s not just him needing to learn how the game is played – he is actually just a bad person, one who nobody, in any industry, should want to work with. In tonight’s episode, Jimmy is gifted with a huge break, the chance to write a song for Veronica’s one-woman show. With this will come instant national exposure, as the concert will be broadcast on Bravo.
And at every turn, Jimmy treats the people who gave him this chance – Derek, Tom, Karen, hell, even his buddy Kyle – like dirt.
There’s a degree to which this is the whole point of this week’s story, but it’s not having the right effect. We have no reason to want this kid to get a second chance. After his moment of intensely talking back to Derek (and…physically threatening him?), Jimmy storms off, and I noted that in real life, this is where this story would end. No matter how talented the person is, no one wants to deal with that. He writes good songs, but he isn’t the Last Great Songwriter or anything. He blew it.
But that’s not how Smash wants us to see it, so of course Karen tracks him down (after Jimmy runs away and Kyle laments their situation in what is actually a pretty solid musical number), and of course he’s down-and-out and “aw shucks, I’m such a mess-up.” And, after sharing the most weirdly pleasant rock bottom conversation of all time, Jimmy kisses Karen, who giggles like a bobbysoxer who just got to second base with the Fonz. “Let’s try that again when you’re not high.” Awww.
Maybe they deserve each other, though, because Karen was barely fairing better this week. She, too, has her moment of talking back to Derek in the middle of rehearsal. We’re being asked to believe that she is now a Magical Songwriting Fairy, too. At this point Karen Cartwright is so many peoples’ muse that the only conceivable explanation is that she is in fact an actual muse.
Meanwhile, there is, in fact ,a show being produced, and here Derek has to contend with Veronica Moore’s crazy stage mom, played by Sheryl Lee Ralph, lording over her daughter and her image (watching one generation’s Effie White being subjugated by another’s Deena Jones is rather strange, actually).
Ralph is wasted in this one-note role, and Jennifer Hudson, for the first time, is shown to be horrifically miscast in this role (or the storyline was just a tremendous misfire, which is the more likely scenario actually). We are asked to believe that the sensual, mature-voiced Jennifer Hudson is a starlet locked in a good-girl image, basically an ingenue not allowed to escape those roles.
Over in the B-plot, things fair a bit better, as Julia is literally taken to writing school by Peter. He organizes a class reading of Julia’s new book, to better highlight the issues that need fixing, using changed names to hide that it’s about Marilyn. Afterwards, Julia complains that nobody will understand the character of Marilyn with a different name, confirming that Julia has never, in fact, seen After the Fall.
Fortunately, this plot actually does lead somewhere, with Julia eventually cluing in to how stubborn she’s being, and agreeing to finally allow Peter into her process in earnest. They write into the wee small hours of the night, and boom, get their epiphany…we idolize Marilyn, just like the men in her life! She had no voice except for them! We should tell the whole story from their point of view!
It’s ok to buy that Julia thinks this is a brilliant new idea, since we’ve already established that she’s never seen After the Fall. Or My Week with Marilyn, apparently.
Along the way, Eileen manages to save Bombshell from limbo thanks to Selfless Sex Bartender going to jail on her behalf, and Evil Producer Jerry picking up the primary producing duties on the show once Eileen is forced to remove herself from the project. And thus we come full circle.
And off on our merry way we go. See ya next week, Smash!