Last week’s Smash ended with Eileen’s rotten ex-husband Jerry (Michael Cristofer) paying off the skanky Ellis for helping him get his hands on Bombshell. Now the question is, did Jerry do it to get his hands on a show he couldn’t get without Eileen’s talent for spotting something good? The two did work together before the divorce.
And yet, the first scene in this episode had Jerry being a complete jerk about Eileen going to the read-through of Julia’s new book for the show. (Eileen had to give up the show as part of a deal to lift the freeze on the cash from her drug dealer boyfriend to mount it.) I can’t help but wonder if Jerry has another motive. After all, he spent much of the first season taunting Eileen about her ability to get a show up without him. It could be the other way around, and he wants to bury her to prove she can’t do it without him.
Interesting speculation aside, these first couple scenes — including the wonderful fantasy production number featuring Christian Borle, who unfortunately doesn’t usually get much of a chance to strut his stuff — didn’t have that much to do with what the episode was really about: writing.
If the episode fell a tad flat, I suspect it had something to do with the difficulty of the ephemeral nature of the act of writing. It’s not a very visual activity. While you can show someone pounding keys on a computer (or using a typewriter, or scribbling with a pen), you can’t show the actual process because that’s going on inside the character’s head. Then there’s the incredible joy — nay, ecstasy — of getting it dead right, writing something that you know is good, or finding that perfect turn of phrase.
The writers of the episode tried to jack up the stakes by putting Julia’s entire career on the line, but that didn’t ring true. It’s also possible that while actors always appreciate good writing, these actors don’t quite get it. Which could also have something to do with their insane production schedule.
Or I could have been totally distracted by just how very cute Daniel Sunjata is, wondering how someone who looks like the high school quarterback could possibly have been on the planet long enough to rack up Peter’s supposed reputation. Nonetheless, he’s got Julia happy with her work for the first time, which has Tom freaking out and me wondering, yet again, how much longer we will have to wait before Julia and Peter end up sleeping together.
The fact that we’ve got four separate stories going on right now was not helping things either. First up, Derek wanted to get Jimmy and Kyle to do a fringe festival with the book for their new musical, Hit List. So Karen set up a read-through for them. The problem was, she’s falling hard for Jimmy, who already has another girl in his bed. However, the nice thing about Karen’s crush on Jimmy is that we get more excuses to hear her sing lovely sad ballads like “Some Boys.”
Then there’s Ivy’s new lead role as Cecile in Dangerous Liaisons opposite comedy actor Terry (Sean Hayes, who, oddly, has no scenes with fellow Will & Grace alum Debra Messing). It seems Terry wants to do the show as a broad comedy, partly because that’s what he does and partly because he is a total mess. Ivy, being Ivy, confronted Terry about it. I was more than a little suspicious when he thanked her, figuring that was how the writers were going to get Ivy back into Bombshell. Nope.
Back at the Bombshell read-through, Julia ran into an old acquaintance, who spread an evil rumour about Peter that echoed some of the things he has actually said to Julia. So she was freaking out, which, in turn, soothed Tom. Then we got Eileen’s issues with the show. Oddly enough, Derek showed some compassion too. But that can be the fun thing about Derek — there is a germ of a decent human being buried in there somewhere.
Nikki Blonsky, best known for her work in Hairspray, was one of the guest stars featured on Tuesday’s show, but it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her role, as she played Jerry’s assistant. But there’s something weird going on, because she started talking to Julia and Tom about the version of Bombshell she read. Apparently there’s all sorts of stuff in there that she didn’t write, plus a title change. So, Julia’s worries about Peter increased.
The fun thing was that when Peter explained his side of the story, it was just plausible enough. So, when Julie all but sobbed “I’m so confused!” you got it. She’s just produced some of the best writing she’s ever done and she knows it, but at what cost? And it just doesn’t feel right that Peter is out for her back. Either he’s really good at faking people out, or he really did get some bad press.
Speaking of bad press, poor Kyle’s book was awful. But the nice thing was that Karen made a point of letting him know that there was good stuff about it, and then she and Jimmy came up with a way to make it all better. Julia got the opposite reaction, as Jerry wanted an earlier draft that Tom liked. Naturally, Derek sided with Julia, with Tom and Jerry (did I just write that???) taking their own stand. I loved how they resolved it by agreeing to let Eileen have the final word, and have to wonder if she is going to side with Julia and Derek, just to spite Jerry. But that hasn’t been her style all along. Jerry’s maybe, but not hers. Maybe a little of both visions would work…
But the crux of the episode was when Ivy ignored direction to go for the comedy in Liaisons, which blew Terry away. She didn’t let it lie either and reminded him that “if you’re not scared, your work won’t be good.” I don’t think she bargained on the end result though, with Terry going off his meds. I get that he was probably in a fog, but his mania has been a bit much.
Smash airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CTV Two/NBC.
Anne Louise Bannon is the editor of YourFamilyViewer.com. You can follow her on Twitter @YrFamilyViewer.