NBC Announcer: “And next week, the twist that no one. Saw. Coming.”
I hope you’re not referring to Karen quitting Bombshell for Hit List and Ivy rejoining as Marilyn, NBC Announcer. Because everyone sees that coming. I could see it coming from midway through this week’s episode.
I’m irked, dear readers. After last week’s surprisingly solid episode, we’re back into somewhat maddening turf this week. And honestly, it has little to do with the aforementioned predictability of the plot – predictable can be ok, and often very entertaining, and smart. Beautiful, even. Just look at tonight’s name-dropped musical, She Loves Me, for a perfect example.
No, what got my feathers ruffled was how much of this week’s storyline hinged on straight-up unprofessionalism, and how we were actually supposed to root against it. Karen can’t do Fringe because it violates her contract. Derek gets pissed at Tom for directing a scene of Bombshell under his nose (never addressed: the cast openly taking this direction without immediately consulting Derek or Thankless Ann Harada, SM).
Jimmy takes Karen’s honoring of her freaking contract as a personal affront. Terry is allowed to steamroll the rehearsal process of Liaisons because he’s the marquee name.
Strangely enough, the last situation is the one that turns out the best, as the egomaniac in the room proves strangely receptive to blunt, honest criticism. Everybody has a loosening laugh, and resolves to do something, anything, to save their show. It reminded me a bit of Slings and Arrows in that, and I thank Smash for finally evoking my favorite theatre show ever, albeit momentarily.
Ivy is allowed to keep her big number, “Dear Sophie”, a legitimate old-school showstopper. It really does have the feel of that kind of “burst out of the shell” number you’d find in a show like that. Maybe it was the letter writing motif, or maybe it was because they mentioned She Loves Me earlier, but it reminded me a lot of “Vanilla Ice Cream”.
Is Liaisons supposed to be a lost Bock/Harnick show? I’d see that. Anyway, bravo Ivy, and nice to hear that killer legit range of yours at last.
While we’re on positives, I did appreciate all the little throwaway details of what producing at a Fringe Festival is like (highlights: “Is this a theatre or a bar?” “We’re on in 10 hours.” “Hey, there’s a performance going on upstairs, so can you guys, like, shut up?” Thank you, dear Production Manager; “Our Year” was kind of a throwaway number anyway).
Jimmy, however, was back in sociopathic manipulator mode. I hate seeing Karen’s action influenced one iota by his temper tantrums, especially when, and I echo Eileen’s oft-used remark here, Jerry’s right. I keep expecting Jimmy to go, “oh, well in that case I understand; please don’t jeopardize your job!”, but we’re not that lucky.
Karen actually DOES come do the last performance, she and Jimmy sing “Starting Over” (and they both sound great, both voices well served by the pop sound), Derek sees it through the eyes of Baz Luhrman (though with an NBC-mandated brand shift from Coke to Pepsi for the garish red sign), and Hit List keeps rolling on its merry way thanks to Jesse L. Martin’s artistic director, and Derek’s newfound availability.
Because, oh yeah, Derek quits Bombshell! He does so for the totally irrational reason of the producers letting other people monkey with his direction. Completely insane, right? In this case, it’s because Tom retools “Never Give All the Heart” into a completely different number. To be fair, I like the driving new arrangement, Karen’s vocal benefits, and it’s an interesting concept for the number (Marilyn sings as the specters of all her lovers loom over).
But Derek is right on this. Tom is paying homage to Julia’s lost men-centric, “artistic” version of the book with the new number. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t fit one iota within Derek’s unified vision of the show. I can’t blame the guy for walking away.
On their own, these events are annoying, but taken in context of what is obviously happening make them intolerable. Karen’s Fringe-breach is going to be absolved as Eileen takes down Jerry via recently learned details of Ellis’ defection (Ellis’ ex-girlfriend: “Turns out he was a bit of a psychopath…also gay.”)
Meanwhile, Karen will prove useless to Tom’s version of Bombshell, so she’ll defect with Derek to Hit List, to costar with her awful soulmate Jimmy. Ivy will somehow be persuaded to screw over the show she’s helping save to be Tom’s Marilyn. All that’s in question is how drawn out it all is.
This is the downside of predictability, the knowing that the story is inexorably headed to a place that can’t be stopped. There’s still plenty of season left, though. I can’t help but be curious to see where it veers after hitting this point so early.
Ever the optimist, I am. And as long as you keep feeding me a juicy new Shaiman/Whitman tune each week (or two!), I even stick around with a smile!